Media Essays: The History of Tails (Tails 30th Anniversary Special) Part 2
Suggested by TCH2
Continued from Part 1
The 2010's began for Tails in Sonic Free Riders and Sonic Colours. For the first half of this decade, Tails would be voiced by Kate Higgins, whom many would view as an improvement over Amy Palant as she sounded more like a boy with her voice than Amy did. Sonic Free Riders would see Tails return as a playable character given it was a racing game and racing games have multiple playable characters but Sonic Colours would see him in an NPC role in where he is now just the tech guy who helps Sonic out and is mostly on the side-lines instead of fighting himself like in the previous decades. Naturally, many Tails fans are less than impressed with this depiction of him. And sadly, it only gets worse from here...
Sonic Generations came out in 2011 to celebrate the franchise's 20th anniversary and you better believe this thing was hyped up like crazy! We had the return of Classic Sonic, now depicted in 3-D, and also Classic Tails would make an appearance in the game too, giving us the modern and classic versions of Sonic and Tails teaming up to stop the Time Eater and the modern and classic Dr. Eggmen. Weirdly enough, Classic Tails is able to talk (also voiced by Kate Higgins) while Classic Sonic remains mute, which I don't get because Classic Tails didn't talk either so why he has a voice is a mystery to me. Same with Classic Eggman too but that's another story. Sonic Generations would go onto be praised for its fan-service and call-backs to previous games while being fun to play on its own and was hailed as a great celebration of the franchise. It remains for many either the best game of the 2010's or at least one of them alongside Sonic Colours.
In 2013, SEGA released Sonic Lost World for the Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and the PC. The game has become a black mark on the franchise with frequent criticisms directed towards the game seemingly being a rip-off of Super Mario Galaxy, poor controls and the Deadly Six being lacklustre villains (yet that didn't stop SEGA from shoving them into every Sonic media going forward) and the story itself especially gets a lot of flack with the portrayal of Tails being one of the most common points of criticism. Many see him as being a spoiled brat who loves to be right about everything and that he's getting unnecessarily confrontational over Sonic relying on Eggman to solve the problem despite the fact Eggman is the one that CAN solve the problem and the game seems to think Sonic is wrong for "not trusting Tails enough". There's also a wasted opportunity in where Tails is made into a cyborg puppet for the Deadly Six which could've given the game a cool boss fight where Sonic has to face his best friend turned enemy...only for nothing to come out of it because Tails sabotaged the process so he still remains his old self. Sonic Colours also received criticism for wasting this kind of plot point as well. Needless to say, this game did NOT do Tails any favours at all.
Then came 2014 where we got Sonic Boom, a spin-off franchise from the Sonic games that included a few video-games, a TV series and its own comic that was very short-lived. The franchise really didn't turn out as well as SEGA hoped for with Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric practically destroying any chance it had of being a success by being one of the worst-selling games in the franchise and one of the worst-reviewed alongside Sonic 06 for being an unplayable, unfinished mess of a game with a story that didn't really help matters. The other games in the franchise, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal and Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice weren't as badly received as Rise of Lyric but they weren't considered anything special either. The TV series would gain better reception but it would only last two seasons and would quietly be cancelled without any fanfare at all.
Tails would receive a new design for this incarnation of the franchise alongside Sonic, Knuckles and Amy. He was given thicker gloves, a pair of goggles on his head, a belt with a shoulder strap and sports tap around his shoes. Of all the Boom redesigns, Tails is considered one of the better designs alongside Amy due to him still looking very much like Tails with the design's new features not doing anything to make him look off like with Sonic and Knuckles. Also starting from this series, Tails would go on to be voice by Colleen O'Shaughnessy, whom many of you may recognize as the voice of Sora in Digimon. Colleen actually started off as the new voice of Charmy Bee in Sonic Generations so to have her also voice Tails is pretty cool.
The show could portray Tails as more combat capable than before and making good use of his gadgets but they'd also go wrong for the sake of comedy and he'd also be depicted as not as intelligent as he usually is, once again because of the show's more comical nature. He also gains another love interest in the form of Zooey in the episode Tails's Crush, an episode which creator Bill Freiberger considers it his favourite episode of the show. This love...goes nowhere and Zooey is barely even a presence in the show afterwards. Talk about a waste of time, am I right?
After that, the franchise wouldn't gain another main series entry until 2017 with Sonic Forces. This game was hyped up as Sonic's big comeback with a story that was promised to be darker and more intense, a premise similar to Sonic SatAM, the return of Classic Sonic (for some reason) and a customizable avatar gimmick which no doubt exists purely to pander to the Sonic OC crowd. The hype was real for this game and...it failed to deliver. HARD! While it sold decently, fans and critics gave the game a hard time for its crappy story, underdeveloped main villain, overly scripted levels and gameplay, Classic Sonic's forced inclusion and short length. The backlash against this game was so harsh that it caused another hiatus for mainstream Sonic games and it wasn't until 2022 until the franchise returned with Sonic Frontiers, which was influenced to make some of its own decisions and creative choices in response to the backlash of Sonic Forces.
Tails's depiction here reached an all-time low and is one of many things fans hate about the game as Tails is depicted as too cowardly to even face Chaos 0 despite taking on a stronger version of Chaos by himself in Sonic Adventure and he has a particularly dumb moment where he stands there spewing exposition while Infinite's beating the crap out of Sonic. Like read the room dude! Now's not the time to be talking! Also the game claims that "he's lost it" yet Tails doesn't show any signs of being emotionally distraught so one has to wonder what that's about. His cowardly depiction here got to the point where Tails has become a Memetic Loser and there's a Sonic the Hedgehog 2 mod that has him constantly crying for help whenever any danger is nearby. Yeah...you see why Tails fans resent this game so much? This was the same Tails that saved Station Square on his own in Sonic Adventure and joined Super Sonic and Super Knuckles in stopping Metal Sonic in Sonic Heroes and yet his moment of weakness here has made him a joke for the fandom and now they just see him as a helpless kid that cries for help when danger is around. How things have taken a turn for the worst for the poor cub...
The 2010's also saw IDW Publishing make a new Sonic comic after Archie Sonic cancelled their own. Sadly, IDW Sonic does Tails no favours either with him being portrayed as considerably dumber than usual and being used by Dr. Starline to create a water-powered clone of himself called "Kitsunami".
Sooooo...yeah, the 2010's was NOT good for Tails at all. With Sonic Lost World and Sonic Forces damaging his reputation, it was going to take a lot to repair it. So let's see how that went with...
Now the 2020's have barely begun so I don't have a lot to talk about here, only that Sonic Frontiers is the next big game for the franchise and I'll be reviewing that in due time once I get a chance to play the game. What I CAN talk about is Tails's big-screen debut.
In 2020, we got a live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie, a movie that people such as myself expected to be a colossal failure and a complete disaster-flick and yet it surprisingly turned out not to be terrible. Yes I'm still shocked at that. XD Tails's appearance was teased at the end in a mid-credits scene where he appears through a warp ring looking for Sonic. What followed was a sequel titled, what else, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in where Tails gets to join the cast alongside Knuckles the Echidna. While Sonic and Knuckles have new voices for this movie, Tails keeps his voice from the games with Colleen O'Shaughnessy reprising her role. Naturally this made a lot of fans happy and after some push from the fandom, Colleen was given head-lining credits in the film and the posters alongside the other celebrity names. For a voice-actor, that's a VERY rare occurrence and I imagine Colleen was so thrilled at that.
For his appearance in the movie, he was naturally given a redesign so he looked more "realistic" and as such as an appropriately furry and cuddly appearance that stays true to the games. His design was worked on after Sonic was redesigned following the fan backlash to his original design in the first movie so thankfully, that means we never have to imagine what Tails would've looked like in THAT style. Like Sonic's redesign, Tails's movie appearance was designed by fellow Sonic artist Tyson Hesse.
The movie was released to critical acclaim from both critics and audiences with Sonic fans especially enjoying the film for feeling closer to the games, the inclusion of Tails and Knuckles, Jim Carrey's performance as Dr. Robotnik and a lot of great fan-service. Tails's inclusion was especially praised with many enjoying how well the film captures Sonic and Tails's friendship and how Tails isn't useless in the movie with him getting in on the action and making use of his gadgets, although some like me hate how he gets knocked out at one point just so Maddie and Rachel can steal his thunder at one point. Some also feel Sonic and Tails's friendship could've been further developed. As is, this film redeemed the character for many and now they're keen to see what's in store for him come Sonic the Hedgehog 3 in 2024. The film also, as of the time I'm writing this, has gone on to be the 10th highest grossing film of the year with $403.8 million made worldwide and it has broken numerous records too including best opening for a video game film adaptation (a record previously held by the first film), best opening for a live-action animated film (again something the previous film held), best opening for a family movie since the COVID-19 pandemic and best opening for a film starring Jim Carrey since Bruce Almighty in 2003. It is also the highest grossing video game film in North America. Not a bad showing eh?
Tails would also appear in the short film Sonic Drone Home, voiced by Alicyn Packard instead of Colleen O'Shaughnessy.
As of now, Sonic Frontiers is the latest Sonic game to be released so this will serve as the conclusion to Tails's history for the time being. Released on November the 8th for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, the Switch and Windows PC, Sonic Frontiers marked a huge new direction for the franchise due to featuring open-world gameplay (a first for the franchise) and it also drew attention for the fact that Sonic comic writer Ian Flynn would be working on the script's English dub. The game was released to mixed-to-average reviews with most of the praise going to the story and open-world gameplay while the graphics and technical issues received criticism. As I'm writing this post, I am yet to currently play this game but I plan to do so and will review it sometime soon. I HAVE seen all the cutscenes so I can comment on the story and how Tails is depicted here.
Sonic Frontiers has a story that is noticeably more character-based and emotional than the past few Sonic stories have been with some notorious attention given to Tails's character and how he's been inconsistent over the years, no doubt a shout-out to the criticism the character has received in recent years for his Badass Decay and being delegated to just being the tech guy who spews exposition and hardly ever gets in on the action these days. I love how SEGA and Ian Flynn don't just try to pretend the 2010's era didn't happen and sweep it under the rug regarding the character writing here. No, they don't retcon it or ignore it, they built story on it and it was just so fascinating to see the flaws in Tails's character being addressed and the possibility that he could grow and become better as the story ends with Tails deciding he needs to go it alone for the time being to properly grow and reach his full potential. He especially has a great scene with Sage in where the two discuss Sonic's character and how much faith the two friends have in each other. This is by far the best portrayal Tails has had in the games since the Sonic Adventure era and hopefully his character can grow from here...
And there we have it, Tails's complete history from 1992-2022.
The little guy has definitely had a rough time with a great showing in the 90's, a middle-of-the-road showing in the 2000's and an embarrassing time in the 2010's but the 2020's has started off strongly for him and will hopefully be a sign of greater things to come for Tails in the future. One thing's for sure, the Sonic franchise would feel very different without him and he's one of those characters that's as synonymous with Sonic the Hedgehog as Sonic himself. He remains beloved amongst the fandom even to this day and is still one of the franchise's most popular characters. Whether it's his cute appearance, his role as Sonic's best friend and sidekick, his gadgeteer genius that proves valuable to his friends in any situation or his kind and humble personality, Tails has earned his fans for a reason and I'm proud to call myself one of them. This twin-tailed tech whiz is one of the shining stars of the Sonic franchise and I hope it'll shine brighter in the following years.
Happy Birthday Tails. Maybe you continue to be awesome for the next 30 years...
And that's it for this history essay. I hope you found it an interesting read and learned something new about Tails in the meantime. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below about what you think to the history of Tails.
Join me later this week as I have another two-part essay, this time about Doctor Who as I delve into a reflection on the latest era that's concluded in the show. See you then everyone!