Feline Friday is my chance to celebrate famous cats across the arts, whether their origins are in gaming, film, anime, literature or anywhere else.
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Big the Cat
First Appearance: Sonic Adventure (1998)
From its very inception, Sonic the Hedgehog has been a franchise built on the premise of speed. The eponymous Mr. Needlemouse blazes recklessly across plains and through loops at such a pace, Sega marketed the Genesis’ ‘blast processing’ as the only thing that could possibly handle it.
There have been missteps here and there — hello, Sonic Labyrinth — but this attribute was adhered to, for the most part, for the better part of a decade. This was up until 1998, when a lumbering purple behemoth would stumble onto the scene at a snail’s pace, a fishing rod in his hand and a vacant stare on his face.
No, this isn’t Grimace on vacation. I’m talking about Big the Cat, yo.
First introduced in Sonic Adventure, Big was one of multiple characters that players would have to experience firsthand if they wanted to unlock the game’s true ending. In Sonic’s levels, you ran like the wind. In Gamma’s levels, you channeled your inner Frank Reynolds and start blasting. In Big’s levels, you fish.
Oh Sonic Team, how did you know this was just what we always wanted?
In fairness, Big makes up a small portion of gameplay, with his stages coming in limited sizes befitting his limited mobility. They are completed once his amphibious comrade Froggy has been snagged on his reel, and despite their jarring tonal shift, they come across as fairly innocuous.
The main question you’re left asking is, why are they there at all? Perhaps this was an effort to show off the Dreamcast’s capabilities for a wide range of genres, or maybe someone on staff lost a particularly elaborate joke. The resultant apathy has created an aura around the character; one that the franchise would later embrace in an ironic show of self-awareness.
Big himself is a rotund feline of few words. He possesses what the Sonic wiki delightfully describes as ‘prodigious strength’, hefting large boulders around with absolute ease. His arsenal and capabilities would be fleshed out, mostly out of necessity, when he later resurfaced as a playable character in Sonic Heroes.
Now he could grind on rails (or objects of his affection in the club) and wielded a parasol that he used to glide
gracefully through the air. Basically, he picked up whatever tricks were required to insert him into the lineup as part of Team Rose.
Since then, our boy Big has been largely dormant, a sedentary role that suits his laidback personality quite well. He will spring up in bit parts here and there, sometimes getting behind the wheel of high speed vehicles — which seems like a really poor choice by whoever handed out his driver’s license.
Short of another entry in the Heroes vein, it is unlikely Big will ever see another starring role in a Sonic game. He’s simply too unspectacular, and acts as an antithesis to everything the blue blur is all about. We are here for speed, and Big has none. He probably has some weed, but that’s pretty much it.
Despite this, there is a certain delight in knowing that this girthy muppet had a playable role in a 3D platformer. As unlikely a protagonist as any, some may even consider him to be an inspiration of sorts. If he could do it, then maybe you can, too.
You might just have to corner a niche that’s not currently being catered to, so I’d recommend you start casting a wide net to increase your chances. Funnily enough, that’s also good for fishing. Big loves him some fishin’.