Since this article’s title, as well as my last article, reveal this month’s topic, let’s quickly thank everyone who helped me write it:
- Wolfman_J who, despite feeling ethically uncomfortable reading a Big article, offered edits and commentary.
So, friends, something’s biting! It’s…
Big the Cat! He first graced Sonic’s world in 1998.
Sonic the Hedgehog suffered through a period of aimlessness following the release of Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, as Sonic Team pursued other projects while SEGA’s western branches struggled to keep their mascot afloat. However, Sonic Team soon returned to their namesake character and begun brainstorming a comeback for the blue icon.
And a fat cat who spent his time livin’ in paradise was going to accompany him.
Big the Cat’s History
While Sonic Adventure maintained continuity with the four prior mainline titles, it also established a new tone and direction for the brand, one based more on the “edgy” and faux-extreme attitudes of the late Nineties and early Aughts. Reflecting this, returning characters were redesigned, with some receiving fairly miniscule tweaks whereas others saw more drastic makeovers. New faces were also introduced to help flesh out Sonic’s world, two of whom assumed playable roles in Adventure’s story.
Big the Cat was one of those newcomers. Naoto Oshima (perhaps facetiously) accredited Big’s creation to Yuji Uekawa, and while Big’s design was toyed with during Adventure’s development, all of its iterations carry his identifiable shape.
An easygoing, peaceful creature, Big spent his days with his best bud, Froggy. The duo bunked together in their humble cottage nestled in the Mystic Ruins, although their ordinary routine was disrupted when Froggy inexplicably grew a tail. Upon witnessing his muddled friend run away with his Chaos Emerald, Big slowly followed in pursuit.
Since Adventure was the series’ first proper 3D installment, it functioned as a proving ground for reinterpreting Sonic while establishing potential new linchpins. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and fellow greenhorn E-102 Gamma represented differing gameplay styles and mechanics, yet they all retained varying degrees of the decorum one expects of a Sonic title. Conversely, fishing up the mutated amphibian was Big’s objective. Heretofore, this type of gameplay was unheard of for this series, and it failed to resonate with players.
Regardless, Sonic Adventure was a hit. And since it was such a pivotal title, it was used as a reference point for both of Sonic’s then-ongoing printed publications, Sonic the Comic and Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog. In the latter continuity, our feline friend eventually joined the Freedom Fighters, sharing sage-like wisdom whilst maintaining a levelheaded demeanor. Years later, Adventure’s story was adapted once more, this time by the bland Sonic X anime. The cat-and-frog pair appeared periodically throughout the show, notably cameoing in its pilot episode, and they also showed up in Sonic X’s tie-in comic by Archie.
Big waving from space from the Eternal Engine level of Sonic Adventure 2.
— Sonic The Hedgeblog (@Sonic_Hedgeblog) May 20, 2017
Big reemerged in 2001 for Adventure‘s direct sequel. Removed from the playable lineup, Big was instead relegated to convert cameos throughout Sonic Adventure 2, making quick appearances in every Action Stage. He could also be spotted in cutscenes, infusing levity into the game’s “epic” tale. Finally, Big could be earned for use in the multiplayer mode as an alternate skin for Dr. Eggman.
Tragically, Big was almost completely exorcised from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, the GameCube re-release of the Dreamcast’s swan song. Only a few of his cameos were preserved (although most of them were reinstated in Battle’s 2012 HD re-release), and he was replaced by the Dark Chao Walker, a new entity, for Battle’s otherwise improved multiplayer component. Over a year later, Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut retold Big’s origin (even if his model wasn’t particularly enhanced in the process), introducing him to Sonic’s expanded audience. (This was my formal introduction to his character, and I quickly grew fond of him.)
Upon its announcement, Sonic Heroes was confirmed to host the then-largest roster of any core Sonic title, offering twelve playable characters split into four three-man teams. Big filled the Power Type quota for Team Rose, which was assigned Heroes’ beginner-friendly campaign. Their story began with Amy yearning for her blue knight while Cream wondered where her homicidal pet’s sibling was. Shortly thereafter, the lightweight rabbit gets swept away by a gust of wind, spurring Big – who stumbled onto the scene looking for an absentee Froggy – to catch her. Amy gratefully greets Big (addressing him by his name in spite of them never exchanging names in Adventure), and the entourage embark on their search for their missing persons. Heroes’ initial release occurred in December 2003, but it homed in on computers a year later, bringing with it a batch of cursors to spice up your user interface. This seemingly innocuous bonus is actually quite groundbreaking – it’s the first time Big was rendered in pixels rather than polygons.
Sonic Shuffle, a 2000 mascot-driven party game by genre pioneer Hudson, was the first console spin-off to include Big. 2007’s Sonic and the Secret Rings, a canon side-story, saw Sonic getting sucked into Arabian Nights. Big was somehow whisked away too, allowing him to partake in Adventure 2-esque misadventures throughout the fantasy land. (Sadly, only a few passing nods were made to Big in Secret Rings’ sequel, Black Knight.) Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, released in 2010, is the most recent console title to include Big in a playable manner. His motorcycle, the Green Hopper, dutifully carried him across the game, and his enlarged Pollywog Pal happily stampeded their competition once Big initiated his All-Star move. Big later spectated Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’s Ocean View racetrack, owing to how SUMO Digital employees a Big fan.
In terms of Big’s portable appearances, he aptly starred in Big’s Fishing, one of the LCD games that spawned from SEGA’s partnership with McDonald’s in 2003 and 2004. His next somewhat relevant role in the handheld sector was in BioWare’s Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood for the Nintendo DS. After their reunion at the Mystic Ruins, Big joined Sonic’s team, contributing his immunity to toxic gas. Afterwards, the DS iteration of Sonic Colors hosted a plethora of familiar faces tasking Sonic with assignments, Big included. He remains a recurring face in the Mario & Sonic series, sitting on the sidelines as his friends compete for the gold, and a sticker and trophy modeled after the anthropomorphic cat can respectively be obtained in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Nintendo 3DS. Finally, Big was one of the many characters you could play as in the now-defunct 2015 smartphone title Sonic Runners.
Although Big has reentered SEGA’s radar, fans of Sonic’s lovable co-star were confronted with an unappealing revelation in 2012: Ken Balough, Big aficionado and former Sonic 4 brand manager, relayed how Sonic Team formally retired Big. While it was tragic news to hear, it wasn’t surprising since, missable Easter eggs notwithstanding, Big was absent from 2011’s Sonic Generations. (Curiously, Kyle Hebert, Big’s current voice actor, even recorded dialogue for Generations.) Takashi Iizuka’s reception to the concept of a Big-led title was pleasant to hear, however, and Sonic Team’s overseer might harbor some affection for the cat, even if Shadow remains his most adored talking animal.
Nonetheless, although it may not be Sonic Team-helmed, Big the Cat will soon be thrust into the spotlight! Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3, an upcoming fan game, is set concurrently during Sonic Adventure 2. Using the cameos Big made as a basis, Adventure 3’s story will finally explain his permeance throughout the Dreamcast title. Matt Mannheimer joined us during our SourceFest 2017 celebration, and he kindly discussed the big project he’s collaborating on. Additionally, while it’s “no longer in any way indicative of the final game,” a trial version launched on April 1, 2016. SEGA endorsed it on Twitter, and it’s still available.
We apologize for the lack of updates and thank you all so much for being extremely patient.
We will provide news on the game when we can! pic.twitter.com/9pcKPmKv9d
— Big the Fishing Adventure (@BigsFishingAdv3) September 27, 2017
Until Big’s anticipated headlining role, fans of the portly mammal can enjoy his inclusion in LEGO Dimensions. Purchasing the “Sonic Dimensions” expansion nets you a campaign starring Sonic and his posse. Players can also receive missions from Sonic’s friends, with Big’s challenge, “Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 4,” presenting a predictable premise centered around a green frog.
Finally, if you’d like to listen to two of Big’s voice actors, Jon St. John and Hebert, have fun in commemoration of the character they’ve loaned their talents to, you should check out the “Battle of the Bigs.”
So, what’re my thoughts on Big?
Sonic characters tend to be bluntly named after one of their dominant traits. Nevertheless, Sonic’s titular speed not only characterizes him, it also characterizes his brand and people’s expectations for its gameplay.
Our friend Zebei recently began playing through the Sonic series with minimal exposure to it beforehand, meaning he wasn’t encumbered with preconceived notions regarding Sonic’s mechanics nor was he influenced by nostalgia. In his experience, Big provided Adventure with its “strangest story,” asserting how “it isn’t good.” Zebei is not alone in his dissatisfaction with Big’s corresponding gameplay, and it’s an opinion I happen to share. (That said, Sonic Team at least kindly situated Froggy near the beginning in most of Big’s stages, so you can finish them quickly if you want.)
However, while he hasn’t appealed mechanically in Adventure or Heroes, I respect how the cat added something fresh to Sonic’s roster. Yes, fishing is incongruous and it didn’t stick, but there was a vacancy for a relaxing stroll to exist alongside Adventure‘s other five, more hectic stories. Sonic Retro’s defense of Big’s campaign incidentally shares this stance.
Do you recall how Metal Sonic’s silent demeanor is a contrast to his peers? Big, likewise, operates as a counterpoint to his series’ norms. Sonic supplies fast-paced thrills, Big doesn’t. This seeped into his personality, with Big’s tranquil, dimmer vibe serving as a foil to his more excitable colleagues. Big’s design is, of course, the antithesis of his slender co-stars. Really, his entire existence is an anomaly.
Sonic Adventure 2 and Secret Rings delineate an entertaining way to keep Big visible; his stray cameos were not only amusing, they were also entirely optional and harmless. If Sonic Team were to keep him around in this capacity going forward, even those who dislike Big shouldn’t be irritated.
So, let’s close by discussing Big’s brainpower and how it was portrayed in one of the few titles I’ve mentioned yet haven’t played: Sonic Chronicles. I realize this might be unfair given my limited exposure to the game, but these quotes give the impression BioWare exaggerated Big’s unintelligence for “comedic” effect. Perhaps the chemicals emitted by the Marauders inadvertently crippled the purple cat’s gray matter? Moreover, although Big was one of the few heroes immune to Voxai mind control, it’s implied his simplicity was the reason.
Thing is, while Big was previously written as a plodding character, he was never outright dumb. He successfully piloted Tails’ Tornado 2 biplane in the climax of his Adventure saga, he’s dependable during a crisis, and, between him and Froggy, it’s presumably Big who scrounges for food and supplies. On the plus side, I suppose BioWare maintained Big’s commitment to his friends, which was consistently one of his most admirable traits.
Big the Cat’s a loyal guy and I hope he sticks around. He’s endearing, kindhearted, and there’s no one else on Sonic’s world like him.
Congratulations, Big! Now you’ve got nothing to worry you!
Occasionally I’m unsure who to prioritize on my massive to-do list. But, after some deep soul searching, I decided to write about both characters who currently sit on top of it. Regardless of which piece is finished first, we’re going to be treading familiar territory again.
However, if I had to guess which article will be completed first, I’m betting it’s the one that’ll be excellent!