image copyrightSEGA

It's been 30 years since one of gaming's most-loved characters, Sonic the Hedgehog, first raced across our TV screens.

In the early 1990s it was Nintendo and its moustached mascot Mario who dominated when it came to gaming.

However, Sega with their new Mega Drive console, were determined to take on the Japanese giant.

They turned to Tom Kalinske, former head of toy company Mattel, to help.

Coming-up with a character to rival the popular Italian plumber was tricky – even for the man credited with re-branding Barbie.

'He looked pretty ferocious'

"One of the characters was this hedgehog but it had sharp fangs," Tom tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The early designs sent over to Tom and his team also had "very sharp spikes and looked pretty ferocious."

Add to that a human girlfriend, called Madonna, and the early versions of Sonic were very different to what gamers across the world came to know and love.

The character was toned down, ultimately resulting in the classic version we remember today.

image copyrightSEGAimage captionSonic was a big part of Sega's success in the gaming market in the 1990s

Tom remembers being really excited by the final product and knew they had something special: "The character moved very, very quickly across the screen.

"I'd never seen anything like that in a video game before," he says.

Following the original release of Sonic the Hedgehog on 23 June in 1991, the game reportedly sold more than 15 million copies.

It was Tom's decision to later make it free with every Mega Drive console.

image copyrightNetflix/segaimage captionSonic Boom is a spin-off series based on the character Tom helped create 30 years ago

After the success of his debut, Sonic's popularity continued to rise with the release of sequels, spin-offs, merchandise, comic books and TV cartoon series.

Tom says he was sure the blue hedgehog was exactly what they had been looking for.

"From day one, once we saw that Sonic was the character we were going with I wanted to have a television show and we ended up actually having two different ones.

"It was really frankly an amazing accomplishment."

Following a highly successful period where Sega did successfully leapfrog Nintendo in terms of sales, Mr Kalinske left the company in 1996.

Sega's short-lived Dreamcast

Three years later came the release of Sega's Dreamcast console.

It was competing against Sony's highly successful PlayStation 2 and following a decline in sales, was discontinued in 2001.

It's the last time the company released their own console, switching instead to developing games only.

A number of original, as well as classic Sonic titles, started releasing on other consoles soon after.

image copyrightNintendo image captionMario and Sonic now appear alongside each other in games

Today, it's not unusual to find Sonic and Mario playable in the same game but at the height of the 1990s console war, it was unheard of.

Tom admits it's still a shock to see the two great rivals in the same game, but feels it was the logical thing to do: "I understand the business reason.

"I mean, obviously Nintendo is [one of the] top dogs and so Sega not doing hardware anymore, they have to be cooperating with the big manufacturers."

Over his 30 year history, things haven't always gone to plan for Sonic.

In recent years, a number of game titles have been criticised for being poorly made and rushed.

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Ahead of the movie release in 2020, fans responded so badly to how the character initially looked that Jeff Fowler, the director of the movie, changed the design to please potential audiences.

image copyrightPARAMOUNTimage captionSonic's big screen adaptation

Despite this setback, the movie went on to make $306 million (£247m) worldwide and had the biggest ever opening weekend for a video game to movie adaptation in the US.

And Sonic is showing no signs of slowing down.

Coming in September, Sonic Colours: Ultimate, is a remaster of the 2010 Nintendo Wii game which is being released as part of the 30th anniversary.

A two-part animated series is also due and 2022 will see the release of a brand new game, a movie sequel featuring Sonic's two-tailed fox sidekick Tails and a 3D animated series coming to Netflix.

All this leaves Tom optimistic for the future of the world's most famous hedgehog.

"I think the brand is going to continue to be very, very strong in the future and presumably even stronger than it is today."

For more gaming content head to Press X To Continue on BBC Sounds.

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