Sonic Underground: Rock On
Studio: DiC Entertainment
Publisher: Beyond Home Entertainment
Release Date: 27/06/2012
Price: $19.95 Available Here
Any gamer who grew up during the 90s will tell you just how huge Sonic the Hedgehog was, in particular his days on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). While the popularity of the franchise is still quite strong today, but back in the 90s and even during the Dreamcast era, the franchise became a pop culture phenomenon and Sonic himself attained superstar status. The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise would venture to other forms of media, which included a highly successful and long running comic book series, several Western animated series, and even an anime feature films and series.
Sonic Underground was one of the major animated series based on Sonic the Hedgehog, alongside the early Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the immensely popular (and arguably the best Sonic animated series) Sonic the Hedgehog: The Animated Series.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog offered an extremely goofy and slapstick portrayal of the games and the characters. Sonic the Hedgehog: The Animated Series was strongly based on the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series, borrowing much of the premise and characters from it, and was perhaps the most popular of all the animated adaptations produced in the West. The show was dark, had serious character development, and a very compelling story. Sonic Underground followed after the two aforementioned shows, and is perhaps the most unique and unusual adaptation of them all.
Sonic Underground is an oddity, for one thing it’s a very large departure from the Sonic franchise in general as unlike the other animated series, it seems to be very loosely based on the franchise and its known canons. Sonic Underground offers its own unique take on the Sonic story and in a way, presents an alternate universe and canon.
Sonic Underground, like most canons in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, takes place in the planet of Mobius. The planet was once ruled by the loving and caring Queen Aleena, however a war breaks out and her rule is overthrown by none other than the primary Sonic the Hedgehog antagonist, Dr. Robotnik and his robotic army. To save the Kingdom and her lineage, and in line with an ancient prophecy, she separates herself from her three newly born children by hiding them. Her three children are actually triplets, Manic, Sonia, and yup you guessed it…Sonic himself. So here’s a world where Sonic has siblings, and is an heir to royalty.
Sonic, Sonia, and Manic lead separate childhood, but in line with an ancient prophecy, they were reunited and formed a rebel group by the name of Sonic Underground, and together with other freedom fighters, fight against Dr. Robotnick and his tyrannous rule. The show essentially follows the adventures of the Hedgehog siblings, as they fight against Robotnick and his army, while also pursuing their long lost mother, Queen Aleena. The series ran for 40 episodes, which is a pretty impressive run, but the show was never concluded. This DVD collection by Beyond Entertainment covers the first 18 episodes of the series, spread across two discs.
Each episode features Sonic and his siblings going up against Robotnik and his henchmen, in particular Robotnick’s loyal sidekicks, Sleet and Dingo. They involve several unique scenarios and situations that the hedgehog siblings need to fight out of, and in just about every episode they seem to catch a glimpse of their mother, but always letting her slip away. Their journey is mostly driven by the search of their mother, and unfortunately for them, Robotnik and his henchmen too are in pursuit of Queen Aleena, so they cross paths more often than they would like to.
What’s unique about Sonic Underground is how it’s centered on music, as Sonic, Sonia, and Manic, each carry a pendant, which allows them to summon a mystical electronic instrument that can blast enemies. So instead of the usual Sonic attacks, he and his siblings fight by playing music, and to go with the musical theme, most episodes feature a special song performed by the Sonic Underground band.
It’s a very strange depiction of Sonic, and while it is decent for what it is, it ends up feeling like a work of fan-fiction rather than a properly produced canon. From the music elements, Sonic having twin siblings, and the whole premise, it’s all just very odd and unusual. The episodes, while offering a different plot, still follow a predictable pattern where the good guys somehow triumph over bad guys even with odds stacked against them. The main characters are actually not too bad, as they are interesting and have decent development throughout the series. Manic for example, was raised in a very poor environment and struggles to let go of his old habits, such as stealing. The siblings have an interesting dynamic, and there are even some appearances of other characters from the Sonic universe, such as Knuckles the Echidna.
The storytelling in the end, feels a tad bit generic and shallow, but still has sufficient unique elements to make it an interesting viewing experience. This show is going to be a love/hate thing for Sonic fans, simply because it is so very left-field and unorthodox. For everyone else, there isn’t anything particularly remarkable about this animated series.
Visuals and Audio:
Sonic Underground has been reproduced really well for this DVD collection as the production is crisp and everything looks really nice on updated resolution. The show has aged well, far from being the best example of Western animation, but it does the job well enough. The soundtrack is probably going to be an acquired taste, the cringe-worthy rock opening theme will get stuck in your head (not a good thing to be honest) and the songs featured in the episodes are pretty corny and cheesy. Sonic Underground was obviously meant to be a children’s show, and so the nature and content of the songs are aimed at a much younger audience.
Apart from the 18 episodes, there really isn’t anything in terms of extras. That said, this is a very well-produced re-issue of a very obscure cartoon series and the price isn’t bad either.
Sonic Underground is a hard show to recommend, due the obscure nature of it. That said, it’s actually a nice opportunity for Sonic fans to revisit a rather experimental era of the Sonic franchise. For everyone else, there really isn’t anything special here and you’re not going to miss out on much. Overall, this one is for the curious Sonic fan.