Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)

From Bvio.com
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Sonic the Hedgehog Title Screen

Sonic the Hedgehog was the video game that started off the career of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Team.

It was released on June 23, 1991 in North America for the Sega Genesis. The European version was released later in June, 1991 for the Sega Megadrive. The Japanese version was released on July 26, 1991 for the Megadrive. The game was also re-released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 as part of the Sonic Mega Collection.

The American version lacked parallax scrolling, moving clouds, rippling water, and other minor details. The original Japanese included the details, and the Japanese version 2.0 fixed the "spike bug".

This game was the first game to really propel the Genesis into mass popularity in North America. After it was released, it eventually supplanted Altered Beast as the bundled game with the console.

Sonic the Hedgehog added the element of speed to the standard platform formula, and introduced other unique elements as well, such as the loops and springboards now permanently associated with the game series.

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Screenshot of Sonic the Hedgehog

In the game, Sonic has to prevent Doctor Ivo Robotnik (Doctor Eggman in Japan and in later games) from collecting the Chaos Emeralds in an attempt to rule the world - canonically this is Earth, but for a lengthy period of time was commonly believed to be Mobius, due to outside sources using the name.

There was also a version of Sonic the Hedgehog released for the Sega Master System and the Game Gear, which loosely followed the design of the Genesis version, although with some different zones and a level map.

The main villain, Doctor Eggman, has always been called that in the Japanese titles. However, in the European and American versions, his name is localized to Doctor Ivo Robotnik, and has stayed that way until Sonic Adventure, where it has been changed to Doctor Eggman.

Although its Genesis counterpart was extremely popular in the United States, Sonic the Hedgehog only received lukewarm responses in Japan. Sonic wouldn't catch on in that locale until Sonic Jam.

All three versions (American, European/Japanese Original, and 2.0) are available to play on the Sonic Mega Collection.

Features

The game featured many novel elements,utilising the Parallel processing capabilities of the Genesis, which contributed to its popularity and helped to promote the uptake of 16 bit consoles.

Gameplay

The gameplay centered around elements that exploited the increased performance of the Genesis console. It is notable for being both simplistic and engaging for players.

The game was arguably the one of the fastest platformers that had yet been released. Sonic could run, jump and roll at significantly higher speeds than most platformers of the time. Unlike other platformers, the game's levels were designed to encourage the player to progress quickly. Springs, slopes, high falls and loop de loops were all available to both boost and challenge the player to reach high speeds. This was all accomplished without any slowdown in framerates, adding to the experience.

Sonic's method of attack was also novel. As a hedgehog he could curl up into a ball, by either jumping or by rolling along the ground, a state in which he could damage enemies by simply colliding with them. This was a change from most other platform games, where a the player could only damage enemies by shooting, attacking or jumping on top of them. While rolling along the ground Sonic could roll down slopes, gaining speed as he did so. Most slopes were irregular, as opposed to the fixed angles seen in older titles, and the game had physics to match. Sonic's acceleration down a slope depended on its steepness; he could run around 360-degree loops, if travelling fast enough; and he suffered from drag under water.

Sonic could collect rings to protect himself. As long as Sonic had at least one ring he would not die when injured. Instead he would lose all of his rings, which sprayed out and could be collected again. There were also shields available which allowed Sonic to be hit once without losing rings. However, neither shields nor rings could protect against instant death, brought on by crushing, drowning or falling off the map.

Progress through the game was made easier by special checkpoints called lamp posts. When Sonic passed a lamp post, changing its colour, he could restart from that point - rather than the beginning of the level - when he next lost a life.

The games featured no passwords or game saves. The player had to start from the beginning every time he ran out of continues or reset the console.

Graphics

The game's 16-bit graphics were impressive for its time. Colours were lush and varied, taking advantage of the Genesis' enhanced colour palette, and the sprites were richly animated. Flowers moved, rings spun, lights blinked, and water shimmered in the background. Destroying an enemy robot produced a puff of smoke as a small animal flew or hopped away from its prison.

Leaving the game idle for more than a few seconds made Sonic tap his foot impatiently.

Sound and music

The game took full advantage of the onboard Zilog Z80 and Yamaha synthesizer sound chip. The game was filled with sound effects, with chimes, bops and beats following the player through the levels. Many sounds played on top of one another and most of the games sounds were unique and of higher quality than earlier 8-bit sounds.

The music of the game affords special attention, with many fans proclaiming it to be the most memorable feature. The music used 8-bit stereo sound, and was very rich and detailed. The music for Green Hill Zone in particular is a very well recognised tune, by many fans of the series and by other gamers. Many MIDIs and remixes of this track, and of other tracks in the game, can be found online.

The music was composed by Masato Nakamura, a member of a then-popular J-Pop band.

Zones

Green Hill Zone

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An enhanced image of Green Hill from Sonic the Hedgehog

The Green Hill Zone is the first (and most famous) zone in all of the Sonic the Hedgehog games, especially to the older gamers. Sonic the Hedgehog shipped with most Mega Drive/Genesis systems, and thus Green Hill Zone was the first Genesis experience for many people. It is a picturesque paradise with green forests and beautiful blue lakes and is brown checkered soil. Hazards include crubling platforms and spikes. At the end of Act three, Dr. Robotnik appears with a wrecking ball that swings back and forth trying to hit Sonic, who must avoid it by standing on some platforms.

This Zone is so famous in the Sonic series that it reappears in later games such as Sonic Battle and Sonic Adventure 2. Even Sonic Advance 3's Sunset Hill Zone has a remix of Green Hill Zone music.

After completing the game, Sonic makes a brief return to Green Hill Zone for the ending sequence.

Marble Zone

A zone with ancient buildings made of marble and an underground castle with spiky chandeliers. There is a lot of lava that can harm Sonic in this level. You can destroy certain bricks for points. One collection of such bricks allows you to get over 30,000 points by smashing them all. At the end of Act three, Dr. Robotnik comes with a craft that can shoot fireballs into one of the two platforms Sonic can stand on, briefly setting it on fire. Sonic must hit Robotnik while his fireballs and the lava poll between the platforms.

Spring Yard Zone

An urban level with many springs and bumpers, resembling a pinball machine. Bumpers bounce sonic while awarding ten points for hitting them. There are many secret areas in this zone. This zone's design inspired many similar stages in future Sonic games. At the end of Act three, Dr. Robotnik attacks with a drill-equipped craft that slowly removes the blocks Sonic stands on.

Labyrinth Zone

A maze ruin like zone most of which is underwater. It features many spikes and water-driven contraptions. The greatest hazard of this zone is not the enemies or the traps, but the water. Sonic, being a hedgehog, is terrible at swimming. After staying underwater for a limited amount of time a countdown starts, at the end of which Sonic automatically drowns. Collecting air bubbles found in certain points resets the counter and prevents Sonic from drowning. This element has found its way into many more Sonic games, much to the dismay of most players. At the end of Act three, Dr. Robotnik does not attack Sonic. Instead, the hedgehog has to follow him through an ascending passage filled with poison-spitting statues and tridents that is soon after flooded with water, with no air bubbles in sight. To beat the level, Sonic must climb to the top without dying or drowning.

Star Light Zone

A rather peaceful zone set in space, with many loops. There are not many enemies here, at least not many which can be destroyed by Sonic. The most prominent foe is smart walking bombs that will explode a short while after Sonic approaches them. The greatest hazard is the featured giant drops into which Sonic can fall to his death. Fans, descending stairways and see-saws hanging in thin air make navigation harder. At the end of Act three, Dr. Robotnik shoots mines on three see-saws. The mines detonate soon after, but Sonic can use the see-saws and the mines to either shoot the mines at Robotnik or use them to propel himself towards him.

Scrap Brain Zone

A trap-filled industrial level with many dangerous machinery such as saws, flame vents, disappearing and rotating platforms. At the end of Act two, Robotnik appears behind a force field and pushes a button which sends Sonic into Act three. This is a level similar to the Labyrinth zone and has no encounter with Robotnik. Instead, it leads directly to the...

Final Zone

The final fight with Dr. Robotnik inside his private laboratory, and without a single ring to help, too. Robotnik will attack using special pods that can crush Sonic. Every time two out of four pods come down; one decoy, and one with Dr. Robotnik in it. Sonic is supposed to attack pods with Robotnik in them a total of 8 times. Between each pod movement spark balls come from the ceiling towards Sonic, who must dodge them. After clearing this level, Robotnik flees and the player is treated to the end sequence and credits.

Special Zones

Get 50 rings in an act (except the third act of each zone and the second act of Scrap Brain Zone) and jump through the big ring at the end to enter one of the six special zones. Each zone rotates 360 degrees and has Sonic tumbling through it and into blocks on which he can stand or whoch can make the maze rotate faster, slower, or in the opposite direction. There is a Chaos Emerald hiding in each Special Zone. Sonic is supposed to collect it without touching a "Goal" block, which will end the stage. If he collects 50 or more Rings in a Special Zone, he will earn a Continue. If all six Chaos Emeralds are collected, a better ending sequence will be viewed.

Pirated versions

The game was converted into a Famicom game called Somari by a group of software pirates in Hong Kong. The game is mostly playable.

A pirated version of Sonic the Hedgehog that was widely pirated in Asia has all of the SEGA logos removed.

Hacks of the game

Sonic the Hedgehog has been modified by hackers and two hacked versions have been floating around the Internet.

  • One has Mighty the Armadillo in place of Sonic, and had been called Sonic 1 beta sometimes to disguise the fact that it was a hack discovered in 1999.
  • Another version has Metal Sonic in place of Sonic.