How did one of Sega’s most well-known villain wind up with two names? Here’s a look at how the dual identity came to be within Sega’s flagship series.
Sonic the Hedgehog has remained an enduring icon for 30 years, but the franchise’s primary villain has had more than one identity over that period of time. The series saw its start in 1991, with Sonic the Hedgehog positioned to be both Sega’s mascot and its flagship franchise on the Sega Genesis and beyond. The creation of the new mascot for the platform led to the development of an opposite to counter him, and Sega Character Designer Naoto Ohshima went on to tweak a pre-existing design to create Sonic’s main rival.
The character that went on to become the primary antagonist of the Sonic franchise is Dr. Eggman. Dr. Eggman was introduced alongside Sonic in the very first game of the franchise, with Eggman enduring as Sonic’s rival through the series’ entire 30 year history. As the first human character in the series, Eggman stood out in a world full of various creatures as he sought to create his own Eggman Empire and seek dominion over the planet. His debut in Sonic the Hedgehog’s first game, however, introduced a unique problem that was brought on by the localization team in Sega of America.
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Translating and localizing video games from one region to another remains a challenging prospect of development when a game is to be released in more than one region. Nowadays, Sega has sought to improve their localization practices, with the Yakuza series serving as a catalyst for the increased focus on localization. Localization in the past was not given the same oversight as it is today, however, resulting in changes being made in one department that weren’t cleared by the other. Sonic Team Development Head and Game Designer Takashi Iizuka touched on one such instance as it relates to the name of Sonic’s antagonistic scientist.
Sonic: The Origin of Dr. Robotnik’s Name
Speaking with Game Informer, Iizuka touched on the original name of the villainous scientist while also explaining where his alternate identity came from. Iizuka stated, “When the game was originally developed in Japan, they called the character Eggman. That was the name of the character, but when the game got localized and ported into the Sonic the Hedgehog that we know in the West, they decided to, without confirming with the development team, change his name to Ivo Robotnik or just Robotnik.” As this happened just as Sonic the Hedgehog was making its debut the world over, it created a unique problem with the presentation of the character.
As it was the first appearance of their franchise’s villain, Dr. Eggman would be known as Dr. Robotnik to fans in the United States. Iizuka went on to say, “That’s kind of when everyone first learned about the character. Of course, this was without consulting the people who made the game. They just kind of went off and did it. It became super popular and everyone in the West kind of learned about the character as Robotnik.” This created an issue regarding the perception and the name usage of the character, as one region would know him by the Robotnik name while the character’s region of origin knew him strictly as Eggman, a problem that persisted through Sonic’s early days.
Iizuka mentioned that the problem “went on through the “classic” series in the Genesis/Mega Drive era, but as far as the developers are concerned – the ones who made the character and the leaders of what this character is doing next – we really didn’t want to have anyone in the universe with two names. To us, he’s Eggman, but in the rest of the world he’s called Robotnik.” The problem regarding Eggman’s dual identity would only be fixed later on when the Sonic franchise made the transition to its 3D era.
Sonic: The Answer to Dr. Eggman’s Identity
As the Sonic series entered its 3D era with Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast, Sonic Team used the opportunity to consolidate the identity of their long-running villain. Iizuka stated, “We wanted to unify that into one name moving forward. This is something I actually did in the Sonic Adventure series. I made it so that we understand the character’s name is Robotnik, but his nickname is Eggman, and as far as everyone is concerned in the world now, we’re just going to call him Eggman as his official name.” This change brought both names in line with one another moving forward while allowing Sonic Team to separate themselves from the Robotnik name entirely.
In later installments in the Sonic franchise, characters would refer to him entirely as Eggman and hardly ever mention the Robotnik name at all. The Robotnik name would only see a few scant mentions in titles such as Sonic Generations while the series generally began to move away from the localized name. However, other characters within Eggman’s family use the Robotnik surname, owing to the consolidation done during Sonic Adventure, and officially make Robotnik his family name, while Eggman remained his most common alias.
The reconciliation of Dr. Eggman’s name has grown to serve a purpose in the series. While some pieces of media list Eggman’s full name as Unknown, Eggman’s relatives Gerald and Maria use the Robotnik name and fit as a vital piece of backstory through the 3D era of the franchise. The name may have originated as something created by Sega of America without the Sonic Team’s initial approval, but it has remained a permanent mark in the history of Sonic the Hedgehog‘s most enduring antagonist.
Source: Game Informer
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