Sonic Underground Volume 1 Review
Sonic The Hedgehog is obviously back in current fashion, Sonic Heroes has become a very popular platform game on all the consoles and Sonic X - the latest cartoon incarnation of Sonic The Hedgehog has been airing on ITV and Fox Kids. The lightening fast blue hedgehog is showing no signs of going away just yet. This is where Anchor Bay comes in; they are now releasing the first volume of the Sonic Underground series.
Before Sonic X, there were three main Sonic The Hedgehog cartoons. Allow me to scare you with my knowledge of all of these series. Adventures Of Sonic The Hedgehog was the first cartoon on the television showing the heroic hedgehog. It was based as well as it could be on the computer games at that time; I believe it came out just after Sonic 3 hit the Sega Megadrive. This show had Sonic and Tails going around the planet Mobius tackling Doctor Robotnik and his idiotic robots Scratch and Grounder. If anything can be remembered from this series it was a lack of a sensible plot and budget. I say this because the characters in this series were worrying. It's especially worrying if you have Sonic’s girlfriend being a robot and weird bizarre backgrounds that consists of splodges of paint around the place. Oh dear.
Sonic The Hedgehog was the next series to be commissioned. This one had plot and is the far superior of the collection. This Sonic series had the blue hedgehog leading a group of freedom fighters against Doctor Robotnik, who has managed to enslave the planet of Mobius and robotized all the citizens into mindless robot drones. With fellow friends such as Princess Sally, Tails, Antoine, Rotor and Bunnie, Sonic fights Robotnik for Mobius freedom. It later became a popular American comic from Archie publishing, which continued the story on introducing new characters and events. There are only a small number of episodes for this series because it got cancelled due to the craze of the Power Rangers.
Which finally brings us to the show I’m reviewing here, Sonic Underground. This throws everything away from the principles of Sonic The Hedgehog. All the computer game characters are thrown as far as possible away from this series all except Sonic and Robotnik. The creators had obviously thrown characters such as Tails across the room and into the nearest bin. Now, the plot for this series is extremely far-fetched. Yet, the creators have been watching its predecessor as they take the main design of Robotnik and also the idea of a Robotropolis into this series. It still has the feel of Sonic The Hedgehog, but it has been all mixed up.
The plot centers on Sonic The Hedgehog being the main guitarist of a rock band called Sonic Undergound (Didn't see that coming did you!). He has a keyboard-playing sister Sonia and drummer brother Manic. The threesomes are all children to Queen Aleena of Mobius who is overthrown by Doctor Robotnik when Sonic and his siblings were all babies. For the safety of the children, the Queen takes them away from danger and vanishes without a trace. Years later, the grown up threesome of hedgehogs go around Mobius playing music and fighting Robotnik while having the shred of hope that they’ll find their mother. So there you have it, the collection of Sonic The Hedgehog animated series spelt out clearly. Despite their different story lines there is only one connection to all of them. They all had Jaleel White. The child actor who played Urkle as Sonic The Hedgehog. But hey, look on the bright side, Knuckles The Echidna is in this series (for an odd episode) and there's plently of song singing to enjoy.
Yes, you did read that last bit correctly. There's plently of song singing.
Wedding Bell Blues
In an evil attempt to lure out Sonic and his siblings, Doctor Robotnik announces he is to marry their mother. Seeking to rescue their long lost mother, Sonic, Sonia and Manic get into the wedding by posing as classic musicians and start searching. The truth to the matter is that he hasn’t got the hedgehogs' mother at all. It is all ruse to capture the hedgehogs and the heroes aren't going to be fooled easily.
To Catch A Queen
The queen’s bodyguard, Argus, is captured on his way to a secret rendez-vous with Queen Aleena. However, before Sonic, Sonia and Manic can rescue him, Robotnik robotizes him. However, Sonic, Sonia and Manic manage to reverse the brain washing for a short time to get some information on where their mother could be. With very little to go on, the hedgehog’s try and follow the clues given by the captain before Sleet and Dingo intercept them and their mother and ends any hope of defeating Robotnik once and for all.
It’s Sonic, Sonia, and Manic birthday and they’ve decided to follow up a legend in the middle of a dark forest. It is belived that the city of Mobodoon becomes accessible every couple of years. After discovering the legend to be true, Manic finds it the perfect place for him to live and decides to stay there breaking up the band. However, the bounty hunters Sleet and Dingo have other plans concerning the takeover of Mobodoon, which could ultimately destroy the town.
The Price of Freedom
After getting messy following another encounter with bounty hunters Sleet and Dingo, Sonia decides it’s time for some rest and relaxation. Not to mention getting away from her fashion challenged brothers. So she heads off to spend time with Mindy LaTour, a wealthy girl. But, as relaxing as it gets, Sonia discovers there’s something more to Mindy and her father when she finds out that there are spying robots being made for Doctor Robotnik.
First of all, I must offer kudos to Anchor Bay for releasing some of the animation that I watched and often admired as a growing child. Sadly, I think they’ve picked the wrong Sonic series to use. Sonic Underground, however related to its core content of Sonic The Hedgehog has no concrete connections to any of the games. Knuckles indeed does make an appearance later on but apart from that, it’s extremely far from the games Sega created. This doesn’t mean that the series is a complete failure. No, it’s nowhere near that. At least it has a sensible plot which is similar to that of Sonic The Hedgehog but it does have it disadvantages.
One of these disadvantages is the characters, the creators of this series have seemingly gone back to Sonic The Hedgehog. However, they’ve copied the basic premise but change the whole storyline implementing new characters and plot lines. Sonic has a brother and sister, he’s royalty due to his mother being a queen and he plays in a band. It’s interesting for an alternate take on the Sonic universe but I feel that it might alienate people who have grown too attached to the previous Sonic cartoons or even the computer games. Sonic Underground is too creative for it’s own good and even though how much people might admit it’s got a good story and lively characters, the main flaw will be the lack of reference to the games except for characters. Strangely, there are only two characters from the game in this, our hero (Sonic) and our villain (Robotnik). To be honest, none of the Sonic cartoon series except for the brand new cartoon, Sonic X, have actually had real connections to the games.
The second, the most criminal and cringeworthy flaw to this series is the mandatory song sung in the middle of every episode on the disc. Okay, it’s a nice touch that will entertain young kids. It’s the main aim of the show isn’t it? However, for everyone else, they are either going to reach for the mute button on the remote or cover their ears. The songs aren’t great and not catchy at all. Only the opening theme song is an exception. It is something that I felt that the series really didn’t need but obviously seemed essential since Sonic and his siblings are part of a band. Regardless of whether these songs are needed or not, complete with tacky music video style, earplugs might be needed.
Sonic Underground is a very interesting take on Sonic The Hedgehog. Though the lack of computer game connections may distance itself from new fans due to Sonic Heroes while new elements of the show (I.E Singing) could push anyone who enjoyed previous Sonic The Hedgehog cartoons away. For those who give it a good chance to develop, Sonic Underground makes ideal children’s entertainment.
Video and Sound
Sonic Underground appears on dvd with a 1.33:1 full screen video presentation. Truthfully, I couldn’t remember how the show looked like but after seeing the cartoon again, I’m reminded that the show had good production values for a television show. The video shows this off very well but it’s nothing that’s going to win awards. The picture’s clear and colourful and has very little wrong with it.
The only audio track for the series is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track which makes the show, made over five years ago, sound better than expected. The dialogue is clear throughout viewing and like its video shows very little in problems. Anchor Bay has obviously made sure this series is well presented on DVD and they’ve done the job well.
You can skip this section as there is no need to read this. There are no extras on the disc. Not even a scene selection! All you get is a main menu allowing you to select the episode you want. I’m hardly surprised and I wasn’t expecting any additional extras to be accompanying the series except for the odd trailers that show no signs of existence on the disc as well. But the lack of scene selection might irritate some people.
Sonic Underground makes for ideal entertainment for the kids who love Sonic The Hedgehog a lot. But it's best to give fair warning as this cartoon of the hedgehog is completely different to the character seen in the computer games so it may alienate some people. Anchor Bay gets off to a moderate start with good picture and sound quality; though they've neglected a scene selection and hardly any extras for the disc. At the price of about five pounds on most dvd shopping sites, then it is quite a bargin for the major Sonic The Hedgehog fan. One volume down, another nine to go! Let's see how Sonic Underground really fares in the long run.