Something strange happens around this time of year when darkness falls earlier in the evening and the cool winds blow as I get the craving to play classic Sonic the Hedgehog games, particularly the Sega Genesis titles (including spin-offs like Sonic Spinball and Sonic 3D Blast) and even the lesser Master System/Game Gear titles. That's not entirely unusual, but the desire to play is rooted in memories of growing up with my game systems and taking time off from life to relax over the holidays, so you'd think that I'm trying to recapture a bit of my youth through Sonic, but here's the twist: I never owned any Sega hardware or Sonic titles when I was growing up. The first Sonic game I owned was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 midway through my college years, and then Sonic Mega Collection shortly after that. I've never been able to figure out why I equate playing Sonic with this time of year until just recently when I finally made the mental connection that explains it all.
When I wasn't playing video games as a kid, I was usually reading about them in the magazines of the day such as Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro which were both publications that leaned heavy on Sonic coverage. The speedy hedgehog was all over those issues in the early 1990s, first as pre-release rumor, then preview, then review, then maps/guides, then finally as part of a year-end recap. I followed Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD, Sonic Spinball, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and Sonic & Knuckles through this printed path year after year, wanting to play them all but never owning the hardware required to do it. The nostalgia I feel for these games isn't for playing them, it's for vicariously experiencing them through print!
Now, thanks to retro compilations, I own the classic Sonic catalog several times over across a few different platforms, so the old games are never far from my reach, but I do still think back on the magazines from time to time and the thrill of finding a Sega Genesis demo station in a store like Sears where I could play a round or two of Emerald Hill Zone in the Funtronics section while my parents were shopping. I've been playing Sonic games lately to scratch that old memory itch, but maybe I should be reading about them instead.