Saturday, 20 June 2009

Sonic characters' name etymologies are interesting

Probably not where Robotnik's name came from...

An interesting blog called "Back of the Cereal Box" has posted a history of game characters' name etymologies. It includes explanations of names in the Zelda, Mario and Street Fighter series, as well as the Sonic series.

Most of the etymologies are fairly well-known in the Sonic community, but make an interesting read nonetheless:
"Robotnik happens to mean worker in Polish and peasant in Czech. Robotnik was even the name of the newspaper of the Polish Socialist Party. Is Sonic, then, crusading against socialism? Probably not. Robotnik comes from the same origins as the word robot, and the Sonic villain should be known for robot creation if nothing else. Today, Robotnik goes by the far less cool name Doctor Eggman, in apparent reference to his rotund physique. By the way, on the subject of the character’s appearance, his looks — including his trademark moustache — were inspired by Teddy Roosevelt.

Similarly, Sonic’s sidekick Tails has two names as well — the one everyone knows and his “real” name, Miles Prower. It might seem like a useless footnote, but it brings the added benefit of being a pun on the phrase miles per hour. (Ha.) It should probably be noted that joke would make a lot more sense if Tails was known for his ability to run quickly instead of uselessly flying about with an anatomically anomalous helicopter tail.

The majority of Sonic characters aren’t of much use for this article as their names are straightforward. (Knuckles the Echidna, for example, is an echidna who has pointy knuckles. Brilliant.) There are, however, two characters that time has essentially forgotten, Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo, that I think deserve a mention. Both debuted in an arcade game, SegaSonic the Hedgehog, that allowed players to control Sonic, Ray and Mighty with a trackball and a single jump button. The three moved identically.

Despite what their names might imply, Ray could not fly and Mighty was not especially powerful. Lame, I know. And I think Sega did too, as Ray never appeared again and Mighty appeared only once more. However, latter-day Sonic games such as Sonic Heroes frequently feature characters grouped into threes — one that can move fast, one that can fly, and one especially that is strong. If you think about it, these three attributes are reflected in the names of the leads in SegaSonic the Hedgehog. In the sense of sunlight, a ray is an airborne thing, while the associations with the word mighty are obvious. In this sense, SegaSonic the Hedgehog’s take on the three-man team could be seen as a precursor to what appeared in these later games.

Two other quick ones: A few Sonic games feature a ninja chameleon named Espio and I only recently realized that the reference to the word espionage makes the name the most appropriate one ever for a ninja chameleon.

Sega jumped on the fighting game craze in 1996 with Sonic the Fighters, which had the various Sonic characters kicking the crap out of each other for no apparent reason. The cast included a character whose name bucks the pattern of “name + the + animal species” — a bomb-tossing duck saddled with the baffler Bean the Dynamite. The odd name references the lesser known Sega title Dynamite Düx, which starred ducks named Bin and Pin who also specialized in explosive devices."
I never realised that Espio was short for "espionage", and that Sonic Heroes may have been based on SegaSonic the Hedgehog. Weird. Anyway, aside from Sonic, there is an entry on Golden Axe:
"Ax Battler is one of the three playable characters in Sega’s sword-slinging beat-’em-up Golden Axe, the other two being Red Sonja rip-off Tyris Flare and feisty dwarf Gillius Thunderhead, the latter of which himself has a pretty terrific name. Upon hearing the name Ax Battler, you might think the name is actually a description of the character. It’s not. You might also think he’d be the one of the three characters who fights with an axe — if not the very axe referenced in the game’s title. Nope again. Mr. Battler carries a sword; it’s Mr. Thunderhead who carries the axe. Finally, there’s the strangeness in the fact that the game officially spells the character’s name Ax — that is, without the “E” at the end. Now ax is an acceptable spelling of the word more commonly represented as axe, but the fact that both would feature in the game so prominently is just stupid. Even worse: a later spin-off that focused specifically on Ax at the exclusion of Tyris and Gillius awkwardly included both spellings in the same title: Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe. Fortunately, this title is now remembered as little more than a rip-off of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, even down to the structure of the title. Sequels Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder and Golden Axe III replace Ax with clones with equally awkward names: Stern Blade and Kain Grinder, respectively."
Ax Battler is almost as cool as Captain Ace Gunn and Major Rock Hardy from Xybots. Why aren't characters named so ridiculously now?

[Source: Back of the Cereal Box via Kotaku]

1 comment:

KARMINA said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.