Five fine facts to celebrate Sonic the Hedgehog's return

There's a not so small section of the world's population out there rejoicing today at the news that Sega will be bringing Sonic back with the announcement of Sonic the Hedgehog 4. The title appears to be just the first of many with the sub-header "Episode 1" and will be available on the holy trinity of home consoles - the Xbox, Wii and PS3 - in the summertime later this year.

So, as a way of marking a few minutes off what must be an enormous countdown wall chart until the launch, here a few facts about our spiky blue friend - just in case you need to get reacquainted.

1) Origins - Mr Needlemouse?

In 1991, Sega wanted to come up with a new mascot character to take on Nintendo. Up 'till then it had been Alex Kidd, but the big cheeses didn't feel like the red suited monkey boy was up to the task of taking on the might of Mario and so sought out a new design.

After initial ideas of an armadillo that later became Mighty the Armadillo, a dog look alike of Theodore Roosevelt in pyjamas that later became the design for Dr Robotnik and a rabbit that could pick things up with his ears which later became Ristar, Naoto Oshima came up with the idea of a 15-year-old anthropomorphic hedgehog who can run faster than the speed of sound.

He was initially referred to as Mr Needlemouse, which is the literal translation of the Japanese word for hedgehog, and was classed as a non-swimmer from the mistaken belief that hedgehogs can't swim. Sonic was painted the same colour as the Sega logo and given a pair of red and white trainers based on a pair of boots worn by Michael Jackson. The Japanese design team originally gave him a set of fangs, put him in a band and gave him a girlfriend called Madonna, but that was all later softened for American audiences.

2) Character - "I don't look back, I've got no regrets"

Believe it or not, Sonic's character is based on Bill Clinton. If you take in all the associated official material from Sega, you'll read that Sonic is a character described as "like the wind". He's a habitual daredevil for whom life is a series of adventures. He's a fan of freedom, loyalty to friends, keeping promises, chilli dogs and cola. His dislikes include things that are slow, marital proposals, tears and oppression. His birthday is on 23 June, which makes him a Cancer, and his motto is "I don't look back, I've got no regrets 'cause time don't wait for me. I choose to go my own way". Not all entirely Clintonesque but certainly plenty of American ideals. Just short of a love of cigars really.

3) Legend - Once just a small brown hedgehog

Yes, according to one piece of supporting material, which has doubtless been ignored several times over with all sorts of other official media, Sonic was once just a small brown hedgehog. The transformation to super stardom came when he was on a treadmill testing out Kinobor's speed trainers. The story goes that Sonic was hungry, Kinobor came back with the only thing he could find - a rotten egg - and accidentally tripped on a cable and threw it into the machine. There was an explosion and when everyone came to, Sonic had been fused with the trainers and turned blue while Kinobor had joined with the rotten egg, become evil and therefore flipped his name around to become Dr Robotnik/Eggman. Not exactly the world's tightest tale but at least there's an answer for you.

4) Accolades - 1UP on Mario

In October 2008, Sonic was voted the UK's favourite ever video games character with 24% of the vote and ahead of Mario who polled 21%. Lara Croft came in third. At the same time, MSN held a survey for the most iconic character of all time and, again, it was Sonic who took first prize. 2-0 to Sega.

5) Fame - Sonic the fruit fly?

When the Walk of Game opened in 2005 there were three original initiates. Mario and Link were two of them and, of course, Sonic was the other. He was also the first video game character to have a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in the US and even has a fruit fly gene named after him which happens to be responsible for fruit fly embryonic development - if you really wanted to know.

How's that for some trivia? Any other facts out there the Sonic-o-philes can add?