Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis)

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Introduction

The greedy Dr. Robotnik– what is it with scientists being jerks in games?– is constructing his Death Egg space station. What’s he doing with it? I dunno, taking over the world I guess– he’s just the bad guy okay. The Death Egg’s got death in the name, how good could it be? Go beat him up, because he enslaves animals to power his robot minions. Play as Sonic the Hedgehog, or team up with Tails the Flying Fox, to defeat Robotnik.

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Why didn’t anyone mention that the Death Egg is just the Death Star with a creepy mustache on it?

Development

 Sonic 1 had been developed by Sonic Team in Japan but Sega had Sonic 2 developed by the Sonic Technical Institute in the US. Key members of the original team, such as the Lead Programmer and the Game Planner, were moved onto this new team.  I’d say that it worked out well for them. This game had a small pile of innovative elements– but still no plot. With a little preparation Sonic could take off at max speed with his spin dash. Bonus levels revealed powerful secrets. And now the game supported cooperative and head to head multiplayer with the addition of Tails. I don’t think this innovation would have been possible without the addition of these fresh faces and their new ideas.

It was released on November 24th, 1992. It was up against Star Control 2 (PC), Flashback (Sega Genesis and later ported to the SNES), Mortal Combat (Sega Genesis and SNES), and Dune II (PC).

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With everything that made it into the game, it’s got a surprisingly large amount of cut content. This is a restored version of a cut area know as the Hidden Palace Zone, which would later appear in Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Nostalgia

This was one of the few games that my cousin owned for the Sega Genesis. I was a Nintendo kid so this was my opportunity to see “how the other side lived”. This was one of the few games that we were actually able to play cooperatively. It was usually about competition but I’m not a competitive player, I wanted to achieve. He would always play Sonic– it was his system after all– and I would play Tails. Tails can’t die. He can get knocked out, he can fall in pits, but he always comes back twirling his little tails and ready to get back into the fight. My cousin would dodge bosses waiting for me to come back and take the hits because there was no risk if I got knocked out. I was an invaluable sidekick for the first time.

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Tail, ever the brave squire, gets repeatedly beaten up but always comes back for more.

Gameplay

Time for another 2D platformer– THE 2D platformer depending on who you ask. Sonic can jump on enemies and accelerate to alarming speeds, his starting speed can be frustratingly slow though. Most enemies are defeated with a simple jump on their head but others have spikes on their noggins, these enemies are usually defeated with a spin dash. The spin dash is a move that allows Sonic to store speed and take off. It’s somehow more satisfying than accelerating by running even though it takes the same amount of time.

Throughout the levels there are rings floating in the air that Sonic can collect, collecting 50 unlocks bonus levels at checkpoints and collecting 100 will give Sonic an extra life. If he gets hit, don’t worry, this will just make Sonic lose all of his power rings which he can collect again. As long as Sonic has one ring then he’ll be able to keep going, just catch that ring before it disappears.

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There’s a limit to the amount of rings that actually burst out of Sonic, so if he has a lot the excess is lost.

The Gush

This game is all about going fast and when Sonic goes fast he goes fucking fast. There’s something viscerally satisfying about going running so fast that the momentum is enough to perpetuate Sonic’s movement through a loop. The game’s all about speed, defeating enemies is the challenge and the reward is the straightaway.

Completing a bonus level awards Sonic with a Chaos Emerald and he gets all of them then if he’s got 50 rings he can become Super Sonic. Pun aside, Super Sonic is immune to all damage except falling in pits. Spikes can’t stop you, enemies can’t stop you, damage is irrelevant. Speed is supreme! Becoming Super Sonic is just difficult enough to feel really rewarding.

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The bonus levels offer an interesting alteration to the gameplay as well, bringing something new.

The environments are super pretty– my personal favorite is Aquatic Ruin Zone. When I first played it and would die all the time I was always really excited to see what the next level would look like. The music is also really good. My cousin and I would get to certain levels just to listen to those sweet Genesis tunes.

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You’ve seen all the screenshots. There are so many small decorations, and then there are the backgrounds.

The Kvetch

The ring requirement of Super Sonic is an understandable limit but the final bosses area has only 5 or so rings in it so it’s impossible to face the boss as Super Sonic. There’s just something about it that’s intensely dissatisfying, I spent the time to get over powered and have been denied it when it would be most useful.

Sonic can’t swim and there are sections, especially in the Aquatic Ruin zone where Sonic will be plunged into lakes and such. It’s so stressful and frustrating having to move so slowly with the looming threat of drowning hanging overhead. If you’ve played this game then you know that the drown countdown theme is the scariest thing in the world.

I’ve complained about passwords in the past but Sonic doesn’t even have the option. If you want to play through Casino Night Zone before bed then you’ve got to play to it.

The story is really difficult to gather from the events of the game. I only knew that the bad guy’s name as Robotnik was because my cousin told me and I don’t know where he figured it out.

The Verdict

Sonic the Hedgehog is a great platformer, it’s got fun gameplay, good mechanics, something for the completionists, great music, and solid visuals for the time that hold up today. I might have a lot of complaints but I had to dig pretty deep to find them. It’s a game about going fast and it delivers.

Next Week: Lemmings

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