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Sonic & Tails

Sonic the Hedgehog
by Poe Ghostal

While Nintendo seems to have won the pop culture war for most identifiable mascots - Mario, Link and Pikachu are recognized in the smallest corners of the world - it's easy to forget how incredibly popular Sonic the Hedgehog was upon his debut on the Sega Genesis system in 1991. Sonic was the Genesis's killer app. I know he was the main reason I asked for a Genesis for Christmas that year.

Sonic the Hedgehog makes me think of weekend sleepovers with my cousin Mike, staying up all hours of the night eating Cheez-Its, cursing the stupid spikes, admiring the awesomeness of the soundtrack to the Spring Yard Zone and making fun of that part of the Marble Zone music that sounded like "I'll Be Home For Christmas."

OK, so Sonic may lack the odd charm of an Italian plumber in overalls. OK, his "cool dude with an attitude" thing may be a bit annoying, he may seem a bit too much like a Poochie-style marketing creation. But he still had a series of great games (in the 1990s, anyway), and he's probably the most recognizable non-Nintendo videogame character after Pac-Man.

Jazwares has been making Sonic figures for a few years now, and in general they've been hit-or-miss. Most of them have been in a 6" scale, which, for some reason, just doesn't feel right for this sort of license (we feel the same way about Mario and so forth - 4" or under). At larger scales, the simple, cartoonish design makes the figure look like a toddler's toy. (The exception to this is the Sonic the Werewolf figure, which looks pretty damned cool.) Finally, however, Jazwares has finally produced some 3" Sonic figures. Once I saw them, I knew they had to be mine.

First up is Sonic himself. He doesn't have a complicated design, but it can be tricky sometimes to translate a 2D character into three dimensions. Fortunately, Sonic has been 3D for quite a while now, so some of the work has been done for them. The sculpting looks good. The legs and arms are perhaps a little thicker than artistic depictions, but that was probably inevitable; if the arms were thinner they'd be too brittle, and certainly wouldn't be able to hold the articulation. Tails looks sharp, too. Both characters closely resemble their videogame incarnations.

I haven't actually held one of the larger Sonic figures, but most of them appear to be made almost entire of hard, glossy plastic, which is unappealing. However, don't quote us on that, because we could be wrong. Fortunately, the 3" figures are made from more durable material. Each is molded almost entirely in the character's respective color. There's not a whole lot of paintwork here, but what there is is relatively clean and smooth, considering the 3" scale. There's a little bit of missing paint around the torso joints, but that may be more noticeable due to the joint itself.

On the one hand, we applaud Jazwares for working so much articulation into these figures. Both Sonic and Tails feature balljoint-style shoulders and hips, hinged elbows and knees, and swivels at the neck, waist, wrists, and ankles. This makes for some excellent playthings for young and old alike - these are great toys.

However, there's a problem: due to the weight of his head, Sonic can't stand on his own. You can play around with him for a half hour, as I did, trying to find a sweet spot, but the first good jolt will send him tumbling under the weight of his huge noggin. The only way to get Sonic to stand consistently is to drill holes in his feet, then stick him on a display stand.

Tails is easily supported by his tails, but look closely when purchasing him. The initial shipments of Tails came with his tails inserted up into his rump (as they are when he flies), which causes an even worse standing problem than Sonic. If your Tails has "up" tails, you may need to remove the plug and re-glue it.

One reason I really wanted these figures was to put them alongside my ToyBiz Mario Kart Mario figure. Sonic ends up looking a little small next to the good plumber, but that makes more sense than him being taller than Mario anyway - I mean, he is technically a hedgehog, right?

These are great toys based on a fun license. Jazwares has been around for quite a while now and a lot of their stuff can be hit-or-miss, but this is definitely a hit in my book. If they could just solve the Sonic head/weight issue, they'd be set. There's one other set of these, a two-pack featuring a clear Sonic and Knuckles the Echidna. Hopefully they'll sell well enough that we'll also get a Dr. Robotnik and the rest of the Sonic gang.

-- 07/22/10

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