Halloween Special: Playing with Dolls

Today is Halloween! Those of you that were here last year might recall that I celebrated by discussing a spoopy spooky head canon concerning the game Sonic & Knuckles. Since this series has been a hobby of mine for well over three quarters of my life now, I have no shortage of head canons to talk about, and today we’re going to explore the one you’ve all been waiting for. The one that every Sonic fan mentions at least once every October.

Oh yes, my friends. Today, we’re going to discuss the infamous Tails doll, and what exactly makes it tick.

TailsDoll-1

Treat it like a weeping angel: Don’t blink.

For those of you not so deeply entrenched in the Sonic the Hedgehog fandom that are wondering what the hell you’re even looking at, Tails Doll is an unlockable character in Sonic R, a racing game for the Sega Saturn from 1997. No, I’m not making this up, this is an actual character that appeared in an actual Sonic game. If you’re getting the feeling that something is amiss here, even by Sonic’s standards, you would be correct; one doesn’t have to be a superfan to tell that the Tails Doll is a stark outlier from the average StH character. It’s not organic, and it’s debatable if it even qualifies as a robot. According to its Sonic R description on Sonic Channel:

As a last resort, Eggman manufactured this to catch Sonic unprepared. This, except for the power plant embedded in its head, is a mere stuffed animal, whose meager form nevertheless exhibits considerable ability in races due to its lightweight design. Still, it is also able to float in the air for a long time.

Even back in ’97, fans and non-fans alike reacted with confusion and discomfort over this odd character. It was clearly meant to be a doppleganger of Tails in the same way that Metal Sonic and Robo-Knuckles were intended to copy their respective hosts, but why a doll? What in the world inspired the use of “a mere stuffed animal” while the other characters got the ‘bots Eggman is known for? Furthermore, why did it handle so oddly? Why was it so shoddily put together? Why did it force the song “Can You Feel the Sunshine?” to play regardless of what track it was on?

Why was this particular one-time character just plain so damn creepy?

There has been a lot of speculation as to what exactly Tails Doll is (let alone how it operates), especially following Sonic R‘s inclusion in the Sonic Gems Collection in 2005. Coupled with the rise of creepypastas, Tails Doll is now often associated with a “curse” that is said to befall gamers that get 100% in Sonic R. Allegedly, Tails Doll will appear and… …and…

…and I’m not sure what it does, actually. Despite the popularity of the meme, Tails Doll’s curse is surprisingly vague. The only real consistent consequences I’ve heard are that it will kill you (although I’ve never seen an account of how exactly this is done), curse you with bad luck, or perhaps stalk you for a few minutes in a bathroom mirror. Prior to actually looking into the story for this article, I’d always heard that Tails Doll was prone to stealing souls, perhaps because it doesn’t have one of its own as “a mere stuffed animal” (I guess the robots have their robotic versions of souls), but I actually never saw any mention of this while reading up on the subject.

But hey, who really cares, right? It’s just a fun little urban legend for Sonic fans to enjoy. I for one never thought much of it — or at least, I didn’t until a few years ago.

Despite my long history as a fan of the series, I’ve never done a proper playthrough of Sonic R. As a kid I simply used the game to screw around and listen to the tunes, and I’ve not taken another crack at it in my adulthood. As such, I’ve never unlocked Tails Doll, nor any other hidden character in the game. It wasn’t until I joined a text-based online RPG in 2006 that the character came to my attention again, as the game environment had its own lore for the notorious plushie. I took it with a grain of salt as much as I ever did, but once the character was on my radar again, I noticed something that’d never caught my eye before.

Tails Doll actually has a zipper on its back.

TailsDoll-2

I was surprised to see it, but in retrospect I suppose it’s not that odd. Other video game characters, such as Zipper T. Bunny (from Animal Crossing) and Killerman (from Illbleed) are known to have visible zippers if one manages to view them from the rear; however, in both of those instances, the characters are confirmed to literally be suits. Killerman is simply a character attraction for the Illbleed park, and Zipper has been known to make comments about the difficulties associated with wearing a mask.

TailsDoll-3

Then again, it may just be all the more damning that THESE freaks are my reference points.

However, Tails Doll is not intended to be a suit. As we recall, its official profile posits that it’s “a mere stuffed animal.” What could that zipper possibly be for? Was Tails Doll made out of a plushie backpack or something? One could argue that Eggman might’ve put the zipper there in order to access the machinery within, but the profile suggests that the mechanical parts are limited to the top of its head. Why would it need a zipper that goes all the way down its back?

That was when I connected this curiosity with another bit of Sega lore I happened to be familiar with — which Sega themselves brought up again in 2011 as an Easter egg in Sonic Generations.

TailsDoll-4

All five of these characters had a brief career in the mid 90’s, but have since dropped off into obscurity over the years. Fans have begged incessantly for their reappearances, and the inclusion of these three posters in Generations was Sega’s nod toward those requests. However, I couldn’t help but note that every game featuring any of these characters came out prior to 1997 — that is, prior to the release of Sonic R.

Could it be possible that one of them was trapped inside of the Tails Doll?

Among the five characters, there are only a couple of candidates for whom it’s even possible; Bark the Polar Bear is far too large to ever fit into such a small space, and Fang the Sniper’s proportions are too bulky. When left with the remaining three, we find that Bean’s bill is too long to fit within the Tails Doll muzzle, and Mighty doesn’t really have the defined neck that Tails Doll would necessitate. That leaves us only with Ray the Flying Squirrel, a character that’s known to be a little short, shares Tails Doll’s measurements, and has been missing the longest.

The longer I thought about it, the more I realized it made sense. For one thing, Ray is the only one among the group that had only appeared in a single game. The “missing” sign’s suggestion that both Ray and Mighty had been off the grid since 1993 (as of the release of SegaSonic Arcade) is actually incorrect; Mighty went on to appear in Knuckles’ Chaotix in 1995. In addition, Fang debuted in the game Triple Trouble in 1994, then moved on to Sonic Drift 2 in 1995 and would later join both Bark and Bean in Sonic the Fighters in 1996; the latter two also went on to cameo in Fighters Megamix later the same year.

But Ray? No sign of him since his first appearance in ’93.

Sonic Channel’s Tails Doll bio specifically notes that it was created as a “last resort.” Perhaps Tails Doll was originally meant to encapsulate Tails himself, with the intent of using his abilities against Sonic. As is the common trope, when a villain can’t get at their opponent directly, they often turn to the ones closest to said opponent, and Tails was the first sidekick Sonic had ever allowed to tag along. The plushie styling may have been an attempt to get Tails to drop his guard and allow Eggman to make his move, since his official age in Sonic 2 is five years old. Fortunately for Tails, this apparently didn’t work, and the Tails Doll project moved to the back burner… Until Ray came along, that is.

As another budding sidekick (and one that is often depicted as having far less confidence than his contemporaries), Ray would’ve been a much easier target than Tails. He may not have had the same abilities, but he did still have abilities — and most importantly, he’d fit in the damn suit. This could very well explain why Tails Doll not only doesn’t fly, but instead has the longest jumps, causing it to quasi-glide. Gliding is, after all, one of the foremost traits of a flying squirrel. I’d even venture so far as to say that Tails Doll’s theme, the ever-haunting “Can You Feel the Sunshine?” could also be an obscure reference to Ray — or rather, to his brilliantly yellow fur, which has been sealed away inside the doll amidst the stuffing and machinery. The worst part is, we can’t even check if it’s true Five Nights at Freddy’s-style; Eggman was smart enough to keep Tails Doll’s mouth sealed, preventing its occupant from calling for help (or subsequently showing their real teeth).

TailsDoll-6

I guess Eggman was a fan of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

Honestly, the more one thinks about the scenario, the more horrible it potentially becomes. Was Ray alive when he was stuffed inside, or was Eggman merciful enough to kill him first so he wouldn’t starve or suffocate? Did the machinery keep him on some form of life support in order to utilize his abilities, or has he rotted away in there year after year after year? Does this mean that the mysterious rod with the red gem on top is actually jammed straight into Ray’s brain so it can make use of his skills? If there really is a dead body inside that god-awful plushie, it’d certainly explain the doll’s eerie limpness and the way it sways whenever it moves…

I suppose we can’t really know (and I for one wouldn’t want to know), but I do know one thing: If you ever get caught in the so-called “Tails Doll curse”, and the doll comes out of your TV or appears in the mirror or… whatever the hell it supposedly does, do us all a favor and DON’T open that zipper.

Obligatory Legal Crap

Tails Doll, Tails, Ray, Mighty, Fang, Bark, Bean, Sonic, and Eggman, as well as all associated games, are all the property of Sega. The idea that Ray’s corpse is roaming the earth inside of Tails Doll’s stuffing is my own, but I suppose it’d technically belong to Sega too if they ever wanted dibs. I just really, really hope they’d never actually want it.

Killerman and Illbleed are also the property of Sega. Considering the sort of insane and gory shit that goes on in that game, I suppose it wouldn’t be out of character if they DID use this idea about Ray, but I’d like to think they wouldn’t inject it into Sonic’s lore.

Zipper T. Bunny and Animal Crossing are the property of Nintendo, and stand a fair chance of being the focus of my next Halloween article. Seriously, that’s supposed to be a rabbit suit, but the mask’s mouth moves and the eyes blink just a liiiittle too naturally for my taste.

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About Leedzie

Leda "Leedzie" Clark is a writer and game designer with a sharp eye for detail and a kooky sense of humor. She's been a nerd as long as she can remember, and always seems to notice the wrong thing first in any given situation.

Posted on October 31, 2014, in Feature Articles, Game Characters, Humor, Journalism, Retro Games, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi! Your theory about the tails doll is very interesting, but the comic books seem to contradict this theory. All the characters mentioned in this post have appeared in the comic books recently. One could argue that game continuity and comic continuity are not always the same, but in this case it seems very unlikely.

    On another subject matter, I did enjoy your post about the lost hedgehog tales. You did some excellent detective work with those early drafts of “Endangered Species” . You really have an eye for detail!

    • Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment, and I’m really glad you enjoyed my articles! I understand where you’re coming from about the comics contradicting things, but the article is meant to take place just within the game universe. I am one of the folks that don’t consider them the same, even though they involve a lot of the same characters. They each have their own continuity — as evidenced by the fact that the “Missing” poster appears at all. Ray and Mighty have been seen plenty of times in the comics since 1993, but the games don’t acknowledge this. That’s the angle I was writing from.

      I’m very happy you enjoyed the Endangered Species article. It was very exciting to write, and it continues to be one of the most-viewed pages on this site. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it! I appreciate it very much!

  2. This was a treat to read. Many thanks for posting!

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