Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sister Sonic??? I barely even know her Sonic!

at 1:33 PM
Got a good laugh earlier when I stumbled across the 1993 history of the would-be action-RPG Sister Sonic, based on, yes, the notion of Sonic having a long-lost sister: Popful Mail!

Makes a good exclamation, doesn't it? - that's what I just demonstrated for you using a technique I call "learning through reading". If American public schools could just discover this blog and this methodology, they'd be a lot better at making our youths today legible. Legetable. Literate. Whatever. Popful Mail! In fact, Popful Mail! (emphasis mine - this ain't no Tomba!) is a somewhat unknown Sega CD adventure-RPG-platfomer - you know, in the vein of Tomba!. I'm insisting on appending RPG to that genre description because the game was developed by Nihon Falcom*, so I have to assume it'll be at least slightly more RPG than Wonder Boy. In the sense of having worse/less platforming and more dialogue. Never played it myself. Popful Mail! It kinda puts a spring in your step. I'm really trying to say it without the exclamation mark here but I can't.

Uh oh losing you - you're here to hear about Sonic's long-lost sister and perhaps see a comedy MSpaint mock-up. I know what you're up to, guy. The idea was, since Popful Mail (!) had such a moronic title and featured such forgettable RPG stock-a-block characters (to my knowledge "Popful Mail" is the name of the main character), Sega would localize it in the west as a Sonic spinball-off with a few sprite swaps and dialogue edits. You'll recognize the technique from a little game known in the West as Super Mario Bros. 2, which began its life as Doki Doki Panic (hm does that one get an exclam.?) until Nintendo jammed Mario and Co. down its throat. The logic being that Americans needed to be gradually introduced to Shy Guys, even if they came quite naturally to the Japanese. The tradition is still alive and well - 2010's Kirby's Yarny Yarn could've come into being as a simple Yarnic Tragedy, but Nintendo wanted to hedge their bets by throwing in their most popular genocidal maniac. That's why the game plays so little like traditional Kirby - just like SMB2 is vastly different from SMB and Sister Sonic would've been from Brother Sonic.
This one came out really poorly; but also, really well?

Sister Sonic: the modern, empowered woman.
No Sonic post is complete without fanart (mine doesn't count because
I'm not a fan). In case you didn't get it the third time, this is SONIA.
After some delays, the deal fell through and Falcom was left to release Popful Mail into obscurity on the Sega CD. Not that a Sega-mascotted game would've done much better on that most misguided of platforms. Christ Sega's history is hilarious. But that's a tale for another day, and one Golem can tell better than I. The rumor goes that the Sister Sonic project was abandoned because of "a massive letter-writing campaign from fans of the original game". I am EXTREMELY skeptical of this - beyond the difficulty I have believing that there was an organized, non-trivial community of Western gamers who knew of Popful Mail (and cared enough to want its original characters), it just doesn't make any logistical sense. You're telling me that a handful of these supposed letters convinced Sega that the existing US Popful Mail audience was a bigger market than the existing US Sonic audience? At the end of the day, there's zero evidence to prove or even suggest a shred of truth to this rumor - the closest mention I could find was this interview with the game's actual localizer, Working Designs, who makes no mention of fan involvement. 

So that's about it for Sister Sonic. It's an idea that never got off the drawing board, and we lamentably had to wait until 2009 to get a glimpse of a hedgehog wielding a sword, and then until 2008 to get a Sonic RPG.
I made this image years ago and HA just noticed that I changed it from Seven Stars to Rings
*I'll tell you the story of Nihon Falcom in the near future

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