Character Insight: Miles “Tails” Prower

Miles “Tails” Prower serves as the sidekick to Sonic the Hedgehog, and Tails is a character who has shown that he can be his own hero when the situation calls for it. Tails is one of the mainstay characters in the Sonic franchise and is recognized as being in the Top 3 of popular Sonic characters, ranking along with Sonic and Shadow.

Tails made his official debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear/Master System, and then shortly after appeared in the more popular Genesis Sonic 2 on November 21. Tails would move on in the mid 1990’s and star in his own Game Gear games in Tails Adventure and Tails’ Skypatrol and a Sega Pico game in Tails and the Music Maker.

Miles Prower is a pun on “miles per hour”, a reference to the core theme of Sonic the Hedgehog, which is speed. The creation of Tails came from the mind of Yashushi Yamaguchi by way of winning an internal contest held within Sonic Team. The contest determined what Sonic’s sidekick would look like. Though Sonic Team only wanted the Tails nickname, Yamaguchi managed to fit the Miles Prower name in along with it.

Tails is generally described as a humble fox with a very sweet nature. Before he met Sonic, Tails was often picked on because of his two tails. Being a long-time friend of Sonic’s he admires the main hero and aspires to be just like him. Lacking courage it is often hard for Tails to take the initiative, but he presses on to prove that he can be reliable.

Tails’ main characteristic is that he specializes in flying. He will twist his two tails around and then take off like a helicopter when taking flight. He has the unique ability to push himself in the air in various directions for a short amount of time before he loses steam and has to reset. Tails is described as a mechanical prodigy who has yet to realize his full potential.

Tails has proven to have success as a playable character in multiple games such as Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure 1 and Sonic Mania. Throughout the entirety of the Sonic franchise Tails has remained a constant fixture in game plots, whether canon or non-canon.

Miles Prower has also appeared in various other forms of Sonic media such as the long-running Archie Sonic comic book series (which ended in 2017), a feature length movie in Sonic OVA in 1996, the animated series Sonic X from 2003 to 2005, and the CGI cartoon series Sonic Boom since 2014.

Tails has ultimately received wide praise for his role in the Sonic franchise, being one of the most influential sidekick characters in video game history. Official Nintendo Magazine lists Tails as the second best Sonic character. Maximum PC lists Tails as their third greatest sidekick. ScrewAttack lists Tails as the greatest sidekick in gaming.

Value: The value that Miles “Tails” Prower brings to the Sonic franchise is hard to ignore. He has been around since the very 2nd game of the franchise and has remained an important figure in general Sonic media. In recent years, however, Tails’ role has diminished from being a playable character to just being “tech support” or giving Sonic advice in his adventures.

It is certainly important to acknowledge the longevity of a character like Tails as he has been active for 25 years. It’s really a matter of how to use Tails in Main Sonic games, how to properly implement Tails in game situations where he will be really needed, and that includes being in a playable role once again.

The Why Behind the What

FoxCordova17:  So how did we get here? How did we get from the point the Sonic franchise was at Sonic 06 to now with the soon to be released Sonic Forces in 2017? What took place after Sonic 06 was surely a “rebuilding phase” for the franchise, which everyone understood, but not many could see what that rebuilding phase would actually be.

The period from 2007-2017 is considered by many gamers, Sonic fans and non-Sonic fans, to be the “Solo Sonic Era” where the Main Series of games feature Sonic as the only playable character. Sega and Sonic Team have maintained a firm stance on how they view the Main Series, that they insist on continuous experiments with the Modern Sonic gameplay in 3D games, adding gimmicks ever so often to try and enhance the gameplay experience.

Around 2011-2012 questions from the Sonic Fan Base started to emerge, around the Summer of Sonic Q&A events, asking what has happened with Sonic’s friends as playable characters in the Main Series and why they haven’t shown up in this capacity. Sadly, Sega nor Sonic Team have been able to provide a straight-forward answer to these questions other than to reiterate what they are trying to do with only Sonic.

I will happily provide you blog readers with some information that has been found by article interviews and comments from Sonic fans on various fan forums. You can view this information below.

So a new Famitsu interview with Nakamura about Sonic Forces was recently made (along with Iizuka briefly discussing Mania a bit). Among the questions asked included the inquiry on why classic Sonic was included into the game, and Nakamura had this to say:

For story, Nakamura wanted to depict heroes that would feel like Sonic. He hopes that by controlling different characters, he can show a story that extends to explaining the world setting as well. The story concept has been “Hero Army vs. Eggman’s Army” from the start. When wondering who should be made playable among the heroes, he came up with Classic Sonic.

“It’s like nobody at Sonic Team realizes that other characters don’t have to play so drastically different to Sonic that it feels like you’re playing a different game.”

I’ve heard Iizuka is fantastic at dodging questions and giving non-answers, so this doesn’t surprise me in the least that he’s passed on his arts.

From one Summer of Sonic in the UK – (2011)
Question: “What was the decision to make Espio a Ninja in Sonic Heroes?” (hoping for some cool behind the scenes answer into the design process)

Takashi Iizuka: “Well when we created Sonic Heroes, we wanted an important balance between Speed, Flight and Power. This was so that players could work together to complete the game using all three characters. Team Chaotix were important in this regard but we hope players had fun with this and please look forward to Sonic Generations!”

Okay, this might be exaggerated a tad, but it was important to take away that he didn’t actually answer the questions at all and just sort of vaguely summarized the gameplay of Sonic Heroes..

While I’ve never met Takashi Iizuka, I remember something that always stuck from wayback when Nights: Journey of Dreams was released. It was an interview with Edge magazine where someone asked him about his games not appealing to critics or hardcore gamers.

Edge magazine: You’ve made games at the US studio that have sold very well, but haven’t been well received by critics or hardcore fans. Why do you think that is?

Takashi Iizuka: I felt that if I kept developing Sonic Adventure sequels, only core gamers would pick them up. I wanted to develop Sonic for more general users as well, so that’s why I changed the name each time. With Nights: Journey of Dreams, we didn’t call it Nights 2 because I wanted to create it for a mass market, not necessarily for fanatics who’ve waited 11 years. To make it appeal to that market, I needed to introduce the story from the beginning. There’s still the original gameplay the hardcore loves, but we’ve combined it with things that kids love – like roller coasters, or simple action-platforming with the children.

Here’s a wayback machine link to the interview.
https://web.archive….ights-watchman/

“I’m reminded why I stopped buying Sonic games after Sonic Heroes (which I thought was an okay game honestly). Iizuka can say some of the strangest things at times but this quote, I believe was him telling the truth. The irony being that what the ‘fanatics’ want has more appeal than his ‘simple action-platforming’.”

FoxCordova17:  While Sonic Forces may have some positives going for it, the end result regarding game reviews and sales is going to wind up being close to the same it has been since the Solo Sonic Era started. Forces is a game that while ambitious in some aspects, it won’t technically move the needle as far as what the Sonic franchise really needs at this point. Forces feels very similar to the recent games that came before it, such as Generations and Colors.

While only being a 2D side-scrolling game, Sonic Mania hit the mark when it came to giving gamers what was really needed in a Sonic game. Mania is already being considered as one of the best Sonic games of all-time, whereas Forces is not looking to reach such a level of praise.  One reason why Mania has done so well is that it’s a game that was treated with love by Christian Whitehead and his team of devs, which means that Sonic, Tails and Knuckles were all given the right polish as playable characters.

It is interesting to read what went into Iizuka’s response to the Espio question above. I have titled this post “The Why behind the What” because it’s important for us to know why certain characters are allowed to become playable in a game. In order to know what makes a character so appealing in the playable capacity, you have to know why that character is involved and why that character brings value to your game.

Using this as a foundation, one would have to ask what value does Sonic Team see in bringing back Classic Sonic for a 2nd time since Generations, and then introducing the Create-a-Character feature where gamers can make their own original characters as playable characters. Some would say that this is another way of experimenting with Sonic’s gameplay. Others say that this a bridge to finally bring back Sonic’s friends as playable characters in the future. Or maybe it really is just another quick cash-grab?

So again, how did we get here from Sonic 06? And is there any end in sight to Solo Sonic? What is the main goal Sonic Team is trying to achieve, and why are they going down this route? Know the why behind the what.

Cast of Characters and their Value

What is the value of a character?

One of the first things Sonic fans will talk about when discussing the franchise will be how many characters it has. Over the years many characters have been introduced to Sonic’s world, and through the years many characters have been abandoned by Sega and Sonic Team for a variety of reasons.

Some characters are simply essential to keep around for the sake of a Sonic story, which include Sonic the Hedgehog himself, being the main hero. Other important characters include Miles “Tails” Prower, Sonic’s loyal sidekick, Knuckles the Echidna, a powerful friend, Amy Rose, the lead female protagonist, and Shadow the Hedgehog, the cool anti-hero who more often than not helps Sonic in his own way.

Then you have everyone else, other characters who have briefly been involved in Sonic’s adventures from time to time, some of which have appeared a few times like Rouge the Bat and Espio the Chameleon, others who have appeared less frequently like Cream the Rabbit, Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee, and those who have made only one meaningful appearance in the Sonic franchise, such as Chip from Sonic Unleashed, Tikal the Echidna and Big the Cat from Sonic Adventure 1.

Many characters in the Sonic franchise have been made, but few today get the opportunity to hang around in Sonic’s world. Beginning in 1991 Sonic was introduced to the gaming world, then Tails followed close behind in 1992 (Sonic 2), and then Amy Rose first appeared (though not as a playable character) in 1993 (Sonic CD). Knuckles first appeared in 1994 (Sonic 3 & Knuckles).

Having a supporting cast of characters helps define what a game franchise’s world is going to be. A single character (in this case Sonic) can’t carry all the weight of driving the narrative of a game story along with the main antagonist Dr. Eggman. Sonic’s world really isn’t a world without unique characters that inhabit it.

What is the value of a character? That depends on how well the game development team actually develops a character. In this case Sonic Team have gone through many characters, experimenting on whether or not they fit in Sonic’s world. There are many characters who haven’t been used in a long time, such as Mighty the Armadillo, Ray the Flying Squirrel, Marine the Raccoon, and the machinery duo of Heavy and Bomb from Knuckles Chaotix. These characters appear to be the type that Sonic Team has no desire to look into and develop again in the foreseeable future.

Can any character have the potential to be more than what they can be? Yes! The fan community of Sonic the Hedgehog is filled with fans who are known to be creative. Sometimes for better, and other times for worse. It’s the creativity that Sonic fans have, the willingness to see potential in characters and expand on them, that drives the support fans have for certain characters. Whether it’s fan comics, single sketches of artwork, or even fan game projects by indie game devs, the creativity is used by fans to show different sides of Sonic characters, showcasing new twists to them that was previously unseen by other  gamers.

When you properly develop a character, it will matter more to a game world. Imagine if a character like Amy Rose received proper character development, a process that sees her become more than just a fanatic of Sonic in a game, that character’s stock goes up in Sonic’s world. One of Amy’s defining roles was in Sonic Adventure 1 when she was playable and she had her own storyline, with her being one of six characters to have a story.

Characters tend to matter more when they’re playable. While this may not be the case in every single game of a franchise, more often than not gamers are more inclined to emotionally invest in what a character is doing in a story if that character is a playable option. The chances of a gamer caring about what a character does goes down if that character is non-playable. There are less chances of a character becoming popular if that character is not actively involved in gameplay.

Gameplay mechanics are important. There’s only so much a playable character can do if his or her play mechanics are not up to par with everything else in a game. When you find the right kind of gameplay mechanics for a character and you know you can properly develop a character through those mechanics, there’s no reason to keep that character non-playable. The original Genesis games, bits and pieces of Sonic Adventure 1, Sonic Advance 3 and Sonic Rush are some examples of games that cater to other characters and their gameplay traits. Mix these examples in with being able to play similar to Sonic himself (spin dashing) and you already have the gameplay blueprint for the other characters.

 

Characteristics of the Post-Unleashed Era

Sonic Colours was the second Sonic game in a row to feature only Sonic. But it also introduced a whole host of other changes:

  • Different voice actors. (Mike Pollock had to re-audition)
  • Different writers.
  • Lowered difficulty.
  • No hub worlds.
  • Red rings.
  • Wisps.
  • Mario inspiration (in Sonic Colours and Sonic Lost World).

Wisps were to compensate for other gameplay styles. That’s why they were introduced to the gameplay in Sonic Colours, and remained also in Sonic Lost World despite holding zero plot relevance there. (Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations had alternate Sonics instead) Iizuka stated that they were to be a standard for the future games.

There was however one instance in which Iizuka said that he had thought of making a Tails game and a Knuckles game in that past, and that he actually considered making a game like Knuckles Chaotix at one point, but SEGA didn’t give him the green light to do so.

Perhaps this standardisation was why they used Sonic Boom as a sort of sandbox for testing other characters, but the problem was that Sonic Boom wasn’t even close to any of the Sonic games even when they did include other characters.

Relevant links:
Iizuka wanted such stories: Sonic Stadium
SEGA wanted Sonic to sound older: Sonic Stadium
Yuji Naka finds Sonic games nowadays too easy: gamesindustry.biz
Wisps were to compensate for other gameplay styles: Sonic Stadium
Wisps to be a standard: SEGA Nerds

Sonic Colours and Sonic Lost World inspired by Mario:
EuroGamer
TSSZ News
MyNintendoNews
Amusingly, Red Rings were mistakenly called “Red Coins” in a Gamespot video: Gamespot Video

Targeting younger audience:
Official Nintendo Magazine
Kotaku
Sonic Stadium
License Sheet
WiiUDaily

On page 101 of gamestm #100 issue from 2010, Iizuka says this: “Sonic has always been a character focused on speed and speed alone. If we wanted to incorporate some other type of gameplay into our previous games then we had to introduce a new character who would give the game a different layer of action. With the newest Sonic games, we’re going back to the fundamentals of having Sonic the only playable character, so the games should concentrate on the high-speed element. At the same time, however, we want to feature those different layers of action, so that’s why we came up with the Colour powers.” “The Colour concept is one of my favourite features in the Sonic franchise, and I think the team should be really proud of it.”
Source: TSSZ News (also in the article itself, you can see that Iizuka started standardising things when Naka left)

However, in an interview in August 2010: “NiGHTS isn’t the only Sega franchise that Iizuka is eager to revive. The veteran Sonic Team director was also behind the generally disliked Shadow The Hedgehog and has a surprising answer when we ask him why he’s never made a dedicated Tails or Knuckles game. ‘I’ve thought of both in the past’, he reveals, ‘and I actually considered making a game like Knuckles Chaotix at one point, but Sega has unfortunately not given me the green light to do so.'”
Source: Sonic Stadium