Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis, 1991)

As a kid, I used to lay awake and think about how Nintendo was "where it's at", while never giving Sega a real chance. Now I'm all grown and I realize that rooting for one side or the other is pointless when they're both good. Competition from Sega, spearheaded by Sonic the Hedgehog, is what pushed Nintendo to bring their absolute best in the mid 90's. Competition from the Sony Playstation pushed Nintendo to finally let go of the cartridge format. Competition from the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 has ensured that Nintendo won't be putting out another non-HD system in the age of HD. Competition from the PS4 and XBox720 will ensure that the Nintendo 7th doesn't have a game lineup consisting primarily of Princess Toadstool hentai RPGs, at least after 2015. Competition is good. With this appreciation in mind, I finally gave Sonic a go.

SEGA! WE DO WHAT NINTEN-DON'T!

This is the only zone that I played as a kid. I think I played the first world of this game and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and that's about it for the series. UNTIL NOW. Speaking of green hills, is there a rule somewhere that the first world of any Mario-type platformer needs to be the "plain one" before you get into the fire and ice etc element-themed worlds? Come to think of it, that also happens in some Metroid and Zelda games. Ocarina of Time springs to mind. I'd like to see a game start out with an ice world. Just really let the player have it right off the bat as they struggle to control their character and slide to their death repeatedly.

The first thing to note is the absolutely vibrant color palette. This is the first 16-bit game I've played in my chronological journey through the years, and it brings the new technology with a bang.

The whole point of this game seems to be to A) Run fast and B) Grab lots of rings. I can dig this. Rings are kinda like coins in Mario in that Sonic gets an extra life for getting 100 of them. However, they also function as a shield, and as long as you have more than zero rings you are effectively insulated from death-by-enemy.

All of the boss fights in this game are Dr. Robotnik, and none of them are particularly difficult. I like how Sonic can damage foes (including bosses) by merely somersaulting into them. It puts a spin (hee) on the traditional platform game convention of enemies being able to damage the hero by contact but not vice versa.

After winning, Sonic sets a bunch of woodland critters free. PETA will hear of this, Robotnik!

The second world is pretty snazzy-looking right off the bat. I like that the primary colors in this game are green and blue.

The game has a little bit of a puzzle element to it, seen when Sonic has to push blocks onto switches. That switch looks suspiciously like the top of a Mario pipe. I was expecting a pirahna plant to pop out of it.

There are several powerups of note in this game, like this barrier that absorbs a hit. Said power-ups are very important, because this game is DIFFICULT.

NOOOO! WATCH OUT FOR THE LAVA!

Robotnik's second form is a lot more difficult than his first. The huge lava pit in the middle of the room doesn't help.

What's up with this word hovering in the middle of the next stage? Was Sonic's creator going through a bad divorce? Does Sonic the Hedgehog have a dark undercurrent?


That city in the background looks vaguely like it's in ruins. Does Sonic actually take place in a war-torn post-humanity future? That would explain why everything is so green, actually. I'm surprised that Fallout 3 doesn't have "COPE" floating in the sky. That would have been reassuring to see as I battled Super Mutants with gatling lasers.

The Chaos Emerald bonus areas are wild gaming LSD trips. In Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PS3, there's a trophy for getting a CE. There's also a save function in that version, which is invaluable.

The next Robotnik features a boss convention that I'm a fan of (and has appeared in numerous Mega Man games) - he can destroy parts of the floor. In situations like this, it's best to lure your foe to one side of the room with their floor-breaking attacks so that you have more even ground to work with.

Later in the game, the stages become crystal-filled ruins that would be at home in Square-Enix's next masterpiece, Final Fantasy XIII: Whispering Dawn of Thai Ladyboy.

PROTECT YOUR BALLS, SONIC!

These things are similar to the fire chains from Super Mario Bros, but not nearly as deadly since the actual chain part is harmless. Also: these underwater sections are horrible. This is the only part of the game where you effectively have a time limit on your actions, and it's more unforgiving than OJ Simpson getting home early it's unforgiving.

Later stages have these sweet accordion-bridges. Speeding through is out the window at this point, and it becomes a platformer all the way.

The next Robotnik fight features a bunch of see-saws. You can use these to catapult spiked balls towards him... or use the spiked balls to catapult Sonic towards him, which is what I opted for. I made sure to yell "WEEE" out loud every time I launched Sonic towards his foe. At least until the police arrived.

Conveyor belt + deadly saw blade + world existing only on a two-dimensional plane = BAD NEWS

Dr. Robotnik is hanging out behind some sort of energy barrier, doing a jig. I half expect him to unhinge his jaw, separating the top half of his head like the saucer separating from the rest of the Next Generation version of Enterprise, upon which it will hover around the screen disappearing and reappearing like Dr. Wily's saucer.

The final level of the game isn't really a level, it's a hallway with the final boss. Good stuff, because at this point I was pretty much ready to wrap things up.

The final battle looks difficult at first, but it isn't. The falling sparks are simple to dodge, and from there...

...it's just a matter of hanging out in the corner here and hitting Dr Wily Dr Robotnik every time he appears on the right pillar.

Robotnik makes his escape, leaving room for plenty of sequels.

So what did I think about this game? All things considered, it was pretty good, but it has a number of issues. It seems like they were trying to give this game the distinction of being super-fast while at the same time still being a Mario-like platformer. Sonic's constant forward momentum, coupled with a relative lack of extra lives compared to most platformers, is a recipe for frustration when compared with the average Mario. If I hadn't been able to save between levels, I probably wouldn't have finished this game. I hear that the rest of the games in the series embrace the speediness and dial back a bit on the platforming. If so, I'm sure I'll like those more. I liked this enough to give a shot to the other three on the Genesis, at some point.


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8 comments:

  1. YEAH it's great to see all these environments again! Green Hill Zone is still lovely. Star Light Zone has the best music. I never really thought about how unfair it was the game frequently drives you forward into getting hit, but that's how it is. To go philosophical for a moment, freeing forest creatures trapped inside robots is a really worthy goal and makes killing bad guys much more rewarding than it is in other games like Mario where THE GOOMBA JUST WANTS TO WALK FORWARD DAMMIT!

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    1. So you’re saying Sonic is the kind, gentle game while Mario is the heartless badass? Damn, Nintendo’s marketing department could have used you in 1992.

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  2. THIS GAME
    I played Green Hill Zone 1 in Best Buy as a wee boy and my life was a richer place FOREVER AFTER!

    "I'd like to see a game start out with an ice world. Just really let the player have it right off the bat as they struggle to control their character and slide to their death repeatedly."

    LOL sounds like a Penny Arcade in the making

    "The first thing to note is the absolutely vibrant color palette."

    Yeah, it looks amazing compared to everything before it and I still like the polygonal look now.
    The ring system is really good, I think. It's cool they never changed it.

    "PETA will hear of this, Robotnik!"

    The darkness of what Robotnik does was explored well in the Saturday morning TV series, which I recommend you all see sometime.

    "Does Sonic actually take place in a war-torn post-humanity future?"

    Yes. Isn't that awesome?

    "The Chaos Emerald bonus areas are wild gaming LSD trips."

    Ahh, man, I am loving you flipping through my childhood memories like this.
    I've never gotten all the emeralds in one run.
    Nice job on getting the final shot.

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  3. The rocket skates propel him. There is also some firepower in Shadow, which helps him fight the enemies. How does Shadow defeat the rivals is fun to play.
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  4. Sonic the Hedgehog was originally a game character and hero in many games created by Sega for the Sega Genesis.
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