As we approach the end of our official Sonic month (although coverage of the games will continue as there are still several more I’d like to write about!) it’s time we took a look at a less frequently seen member of the Sonic ensemble cast.
In stark contrast to the series’ previous feline companion, the huge, lolloping idiot that is Big the Cat (voiced by Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem, fact fans), Blaze is more in line with what you’d expect from a cat character. She’s lithe, agile, smart and deadly — the kind of badass you’d want on your side when things are going south.
Let’s see where she came from, and where you might track her down if you want to spend some time in her company.
Blaze first appeared in the 2005 Nintendo DS game, Sonic Rush. This game, one of the well-received titles developed by Dimps, featured both Sonic and Blaze in leading roles, each having their own intertwining stories to follow as they both attempted to deal with Eggman’s latest shenanigans.
Blaze was developed as something of a “counterpart” to Sonic, hailing from another dimension. Her narrative role in Sonic Rush is similar to that of both Sonic and Knuckles in that she is a highly capable, heroic figure and the guardian of the “Sol Emeralds”, her world’s equivalent of the Chaos Emeralds.
In Sonic 2006, meanwhile, she is seen to be a companion and friend of Silver the Hedgehog in the future time period, but ultimately banishes herself back to her original dimension in order to seal the fiery power of Iblis, the incarnation of the deity Solaris’ raw power. Her reappearance in subsequent games can be explained by that game’s true ending; Sonic and Elise rewrite the timeline by extinguishing Solaris’ flame before it causes the chaos depicted throughout the game’s narrative, and thus Silver’s ruined future never exists, Blaze doesn’t have to “sacrifice” herself and everything is just peachy.
Blaze is typically depicted as something of a stern, serious, stubborn and stoic individual. This partly stems from the fact she takes her role very seriously, but also from the fact her status as royalty tends to distance her from “normal” people. Her original lore and concept art also notes that her pyrokinetic abilities — designed to be a contrast to the command over the wind element Sonic is sometimes depicted as having — were a source of anxiety to her during her childhood. Indeed, her original concept art suggests she once wore a cape to try and conceal herself as much as possible, though in her appearances in the games she tends to be depicted dressed in a stylish but practical manner.
Her adventures throughout Sonic Rush — and particularly Cream the Rabbit developing something of an attachment to her — cause her to soften her somewhat antisocial approach to life somewhat, and in subsequent appearances she’s seen actively spending time with her friends. In Sonic Generations, for example, she’s shown attending Sonic’s birthday party and enthusiastically chatting with Cream and Cheese, with whom she has, by this point, developed a rather more genuine friendship than the one-sided infatuation depicted in the early stages of Rush.
Blaze’s design is an interesting contrast to the other female characters in the Sonic series in that she neither plays up her “girliness” (as in the case of Amy) nor makes any particular attempt to be “sexy” (as exemplified by Rouge) — though an internal Sega design document that was leaked prior to Sonic 2006’s release suggested that she was bothered by her “underendowed chest”. There’s always one.
Boob envy aside (and who wouldn’t be jealous of Rouge in that regard?), Blaze is obviously designed to be a particularly strong, confident figure in the overall ensemble cast — eminently fitting for someone introduced as a secondary playable protagonist rather than just a supporting character.
All this isn’t to say Blaze has abandoned the concept of femininity altogether, mind; it’s just she’s somewhat more subtle about it than her compatriots elsewhere in the cast. Her outfit is understated but unmistakably feminine, for example, featuring form-fitting trousers, a stylish tailed jacket and some impractical-looking high heels — which, impressively, don’t seem to affect her ability to rival Sonic in terms of maximum velocity. Her coat and trousers have a soft, fluffy fur trim, and her whole appearance makes use of colours particularly associated with femininity, such as pale pastel shades of lavender and purple, strongly contrasted by vibrant red accents.
Blaze’s subtle femininity carries across into her fighting ability. She’s highly capable in combat, but emphasises fluidity and grace in her movements, with her attacks often being described as “ballerina-like”. Indeed, in Sonic 2006, her main attack is a high-speed pirhouette that allows her to temporarily become a whirling, flaming and deadly tornado. These graceful movements and her strong jumping ability are clearly an attempt to play up her feline characteristics, since cats are typically associated with agility. This also makes her a strong contrast with Big the Cat, who is more a personification of the other stereotype of cats as lazy creatures who enjoy comfort. The fact these two depictions of feline characters are different genders probably isn’t a coincidence, either.
Despite being a relatively late addition to the overall Sonic cast, Blaze has been positively received over the years by press and public alike. She has been praised for being a capable character in her own right rather than a sidekick primarily there for moral support, and even those critics who would prefer that Sonic games focus more on the blue hedgehog and less on his friends have admitted that she “doesn’t suck” (IGN, 2009) — high praise indeed for a series whose more modern installments have had a fair amount of scorn heaped upon them for various reasons.
Although not putting in an appearance in the most recent Sonic game at the time of writing — the excellent Sonic Mania — Blaze hasn’t been forgotten. Indeed, she’s set to appear as part of Team Vector in the upcoming Team Sonic Racing alongside Silver the Hedgehog and Vector the Crocodile. And if that game is half as good as developer Sumo Digital’s past work on Sonic racing games, that’s going to be a very good time indeed.
More about the Sonic the Hedgehog series
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