During the holiday season of 1991, the Sega Genesis was already two years old. Jumpstarting the 16-bit era, its sales still paled in comparison to the Nintendo Entertainment System, and with the Super Nintendo finally coming out in the United States, it might have been a safe bet to think Nintendo would continue its dominance in the market. But SEGA had an ace up their sleeve, something that could directly compete with Super Mario World – Sonic the Hedgehog. Suddenly, that safe bet was called into question. Come January ‘92, SEGA had done the impossible – market share in the U.S. for the home console market was split down the middle, with SEGA just ever so slightly having the edge.
Aggressive marketing, mall tours, a character design that instantly encapsulated everything that was hip and cool in the new decade. There was no doubt “Sonic Mania” was just beginning. It’s easy to look back and go “of course Sonic would succeed.” But what was it like to have lived in that moment? Not even as a kid who got a Genesis for Christmas, but as someone who picked up Sonic the moment it came out? Imagine being one of the SEGA faithful, having already bought a Sega Genesis, playing Thunder Force II and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker late into the night. Waiting impatiently for that one game that would prove without a doubt the system was here to stay.
Imagine being one of the first to experience Sonic the Hedgehog. Walking into an Electronics Boutique, and seeing Sonic’s self-assured smirk on the shelves. Finger pointed, a rendition of the Green Hill Zone teasing the obstacles that would block their way to saving South Island. Did they know they were buying a piece of history as the clerk rung them up? Or was it not until they went home, sliding that cart into their Genesis, flipping the switch, and running through that first checkered loop? So filled with excitement, they just needed to tell someone about how great this new game was. Rushing to their computer, firing up that blistering 14.4 kbps modem, sharing with the world what they had experienced. No doubt, June 11th, 1991 became a date they would not soon forget.