I’ve been replaying Sonic Adventure lately. As the game’s been fresh in my mind, I took the opportunity to discuss Big the Cat, a personal favorite of mine. Given my unconditional love for the admittedly clunky Dreamcast title, I wanted to follow that piece up by discoursing another significant figure within its world: E-102 Gamma.
As we addressed last time, 1998’s Sonic Adventure was a flagship title for SEGA’s Dreamcast, breathing new life into their mascot and reaffirming his place at the top of SEGA’s hierarchy. Sonic’s inaugural 3D platformer redefined his brand, pioneering many new concepts.
And one of Sonic Team’s bold ideas generated a sleek new protagonist unlike anything seen in Sonic’s prior adventures.
E-102 Gamma’s History
E-102 Gamma’s the second formal member of the E-100 genealogy. While the design template for the E-100 series was a unique creation for Adventure, it most closely channels the Eggrobo Badniks from Sonic 3 & Knuckles; the connection between them can be visibly discerned in Gamma’s concept art. Notably, Gamma’s model was also used as a placeholder for his younger siblings – E-103 Delta, E-104 Epsilon, and E-105 Zeta – in developmental footage of Adventure.
The battle-adept bot was the first android to attain a playable position in the mainline games, aptly procuring his own shooting-oriented gameplay. Zebei commented on the unimposing difficulty E-102’s crusade offered, though he appreciated how it provided a different spin in regards to the series’ obligatory timer, as Gamma’s counted down; if it reached zero, Gamma’s out one life. Shooting enemies, especially simultaneously, restored precious seconds to the clock, encouraging players to lock on to multiple targets at once.
E-102’s activation occurred at Dr. Eggman’s Mystic Ruins base, his first sight being the mastermind behind his existence. Gamma, victorious in a fight against his older brother and alleged superior E-101 Beta, earns the privilege to serve onboard the Egg Carrier, although an envious Beta secures permission to come along. After Gamma’s successful acquisition of Froggy put him in his boss’s favor over his younger brethren, he erroneously walked into a certain room. Therein, Gamma discovered Beta’s discarded limbs littering the ground, as his nigh unrecognizable brother underwent a horrific transformation.
Dr. Eggman may’ve constructed Gamma, but Amy and her Flicky companion were the catalyst in unlocking his veiled nature. Gamma was fixated on the cyan bird accompanying Amy and her resolve to help it. Seeing the feathered creature triggered the conscious of bird dormant within Gamma, causing it to begin overriding his programming. Gamma allowed them to escape, though he still deferred to his master when ordered to attack Sonic. Amy interrupted their altercation, signifying to Gamma that he should freely follow his own path.
Gamma took his newfound friend’s advice to heart, manually rewriting his programing as he abandoned the Egg Carrier. Our metallic lead proceeded to write his own mission, one in which he would liberate the renounced E-100 series – his friends – from their prisons. As he neared the end of his journey, Gamma counted the remaining units on his hit list, the first being Beta. However, two animals were still lodged away, not one, spurring the renegade robot to thoughtfully assess his hand…
E-101mkII interrupted his younger brother’s mulling, incurring their rematch aboard the once airborne fortress; the vessel they were built to serve would in turn serve as their final battleground and mutual resting place. Although Gamma technically defeated his more advanced peer once more, Beta used the last of his strength to strike Gamma at point-blank range, mortally wounding him. Gamma, limping as he met the Flicky who had been encased in Beta’s body, manually self destructed, with an image of the three-member Flicky flock being his last vision before his death.
Given Sonic Adventure’s profound success, its iconography bled over into other mediums. E-102 Gamma was an infrequent participant in the Archie continuity, eventually passing on the torch – and a fragment of his data – to his descendant, E-123 Omega. Likewise, Gamma reprised his role in the Sonic X anime. While details concerning his journey were altered, he ultimately shared the same fate as his mainline counterpart. Amy, however, was present for her friend’s demise in this realm. Adventure’s influence could also be felt in the Dreamcast spin-off Sonic Shuffle. Thanks to the power of dreams (not to mention asset reuse), Gamma managed to appear as an unlockable character for use in Shuffle’s multiplayer mode.
Speaking of Sonic Adventure’s influence, it also affected 2003’s Sonic Battle partially through Eggman’s latest assassin, Chaos Gamma. Sonic and Tails politely greet him (notwithstanding they did not part ways amicably with Gamma in Adventure, they merely humored Amy’s request to stop fighting him), though they quickly learn this Gamma harbors a very different – and far more violent – disposition despite his familiar veneer. Rouge later expositions how Chaos Gamma, who’s fortunately less adept at his job than his namesake was at his, was built from salvaged E-100 scraps. Also of pertinence were Eggman’s mass-produced Guard Robos, which were grayscale replicas of Chaos Gamma.
Gamma’s legacy can be perceived in other ways. Sonic Adventure 2 featured a new Badnik called E-1000. Regardless of their physical resemblance to E-102, Eggman neglected to augment his E-1000 units with a comparable arsenal, nor the capacity for independent thought. Moreover, E-102’s playstyle persisted through Tails and, in a historic playable role, Dr. Eggman. The next core title, Sonic Heroes, introduced the aforementioned Omega, the final robot in the E-100 lineage. In a cute memorial to his predecessors, Omega laments his presumed inability to beat Gamma and Beta upon receiving an E Rank.
E-123 Omega remains a recurring character in the franchise, filling in a niche his forebear birthed. Furthermore, similar story beats that characterized Gamma’s arc can be seen in subsequent titles. E-102 Gamma may have only been a prominent player in a single game (and its numerous re-releases), but his remnants transcend Sonic’s experimental 3D days.
So, what’re my thoughts on Gamma?
Truthfully, if I were asked to point to the pinnacle of storytelling in the video game industry, I would not point to Sonic the Hedgehog. That said, Gamma’s solemn life seemed to resonate with people, myself included. Our friend zoniken professed his love for Gamma’s campaign, especially its emotional ending. Likewise, one of my friends appreciates the memorability of when Eggman callously disowned Gamma’s siblings.
E-102 Gamma was hardwired to be an obedient cog in Eggman’s operations, yet he managed to question his purpose and nurture a sense of free will. What existential crisis provoked Gamma’s HAL 9000-esque internal conflict, his assessment of who he is and what he should value and act upon? Well, seeing displays of his master’s cruelty and his friend’s compassion certainly helped. The pink Flicky encased within E-102 must also be credited for his fratricidal voyage of emancipation.
Gamma’s campaign novelly elaborated upon a facet of the Sonic franchise that dates back to its inaugural game: the little animals who power the Badniks. It’s no secret that Takashi Iizuka’s vision for Sonic Adventure began as “an RPG-style Sonic game” with an emphasis on storytelling. This allocated a greater focus on the unlucky critters Eggman ritualistically abducts, exploring the psychological impact these imprisoned beings could have over the mechs encasing them. Moreover, given how the Flicky species is the most emblematic of the miniature animals, it’s a nice touch it was selected for this plotline.
I’m sure we can all agree Sonic Adventure’s presentation and voice acting doesn’t hold up to modern standards… or even 1998’s standards, honestly. Yet even within that subterranean bar, I feel the late Steve Broadie’s performance as E-102 is one of the stronger performances in the game. Gamma maintained a deep, monotone – if stereotypical – robotic voice, portraying Gamma’s minimalistic dialog with a levelheaded demeanor while occasionally accentuating it with inklings of emotion. (We can gloss over his 4Kids voice actor, right?)
Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest strength awarded to Gamma’s story is the simple fact that it concluded. Series stalwarts like Dr. Robotnik or Amy are irreplaceable to the franchise, so they’ll always remain a part of it. Recurring characters, from Rouge to the Chaotix to Big, may skip a game or two, but they aren’t intricately tied down by a resolved story arc. And even characters who have had closure could still inelegantly be thrust back into rotation, as Sonic Team has demonstrated copious times.
Gamma’s tale, however, remains complete and whole. He was a harmless bonus character in Shuffle, and Sonic Adventure 2 tastefully paid tribute to Gamma, it didn’t lean on him. Sonic Battle isn’t a beacon of stellar writing and Chaos Gamma wasn’t much more than fanservice, but at least they honored the original Gamma’s saga by not undoing it.
Nonetheless, Sonic Adventure’s lore regarding the lost Echidna tribe and Chaos could just as easily have been explored without Gamma’s involvement. Amy and Eggman were the only major characters he had any meaningful interactions with, yet they merely influenced Gamma’s worldview, not vice versa. But this is a moot point because E-102 Gamma was in Sonic Adventure, and that game and the series it hails from are richer for it.
And, thankfully, I presume it’s unlikely SEGA will ever decide to properly revive Gamma. Given how he has an active successor in Omega, Gamma should remain free to rest in peace undisturbed.
Congratulations, E-102! Mission complete!
You may recall last time I mentioned I was working on two pieces. Well, one of those was postponed for a bit because another character took priority on my to-do list.
Who’s next, then? Well, considering how minor of a character he is to his home series, I had a hard time deciding how to hint at the greenhorn’s identity. Instead, I’ll give you the anniversary of his debut: November 10.