How I got it
Sonic the Hedgehog came with my Mega Drive console. It was (if we don’t consider some ‘Chinese console’ I got when I was a kid), the first game, for the first console I owned. I was only 8 years old and still remember the feeling I had after my father connected it to the TV for the first time. “Look at all the colors” he said. But I really could not reply anything. It was just too exciting for words to express and few moments later I was already jumping on robots (and releasing furry animals) and collecting rings. Sonic also has the privilege of being one of the few games my father liked to play (I honestly only remember Tetris, Columns and Psycho Pinball besides Sonic). Unfortunately, a couple of years later the game magically disappeared from the “games’ shelve”, which at the time didn’t seem that big of a deal (and probably that’s why I never tried to know who stole it) – after all, I’ve played it from start to the end a lot of times, and had a lot of other games to play. Of course that when starting the collection, it became mandatory to have a copy of this game. Fortunately, my sister showed me that I taught her well, and got me the game. Thank you, sister, for now Sonic The Hedgehog is back to the place which is legitimately his.
Condition and Description
The box and the cartridge are in excellent shape. The manual, I’m pretty sure is also “like new”, wherever it is!
“SEGAAAA” (insert familiar voice here) is easily one of the most notorious sentences of all time in videogames. The first thing that we listen as we turned the console on worked like an announcement that what we were going to play next was not a simple game. We were getting ready to control Sega’s mascot. While Nintendo was giving us an Italian plumber dressed in red, Sega hit the market with a blue, high speed, spinning hedgehog. Released in 1991, developed by Sonic Team (AM8, by the time), Sonic was a colorful game about a hedgehog that must prevent an evil genius (Doctor Ivo Robotnik/Doctor Eggman in Japan), from collecting seven Chaos Emeralds, which would allow him to rule South Island (the world where the game is set). Sonic the Hedgehog is a side-scrolling platformer, set in 6 zones plus special stages. Each zone is composed of 3 acts, with a boss battle occurring in the end of act 3. In every boss battle, Dr. Robotnik uses a different robot, and the player must use the scenario on his strategy to victory. Sonic uses his speed, together with his ability to jump and his spin-attacks to go through the levels, filled with obstacles, enemies, pits, power ups or springs, among other elements. Every level also has golden rings, one of Sonic’s franchise’s icons. When Sonic gets 100 rings, he gets an extra life. When completing the first two acts of each zone with more than 50 rings, the player will be able to play a special zone. Besides this, rings also provide protection. When Sonic is hit by an enemy while carrying a ring (at least), he will lose all rings in his possession, while when hit without any ring he will lose one life. Acclaimed by critics and a success among players, Sonic was (and still is) one of the best platformers of all time. Its simple and easy commands, a simple learning curve, and the “almost” invincibility Sonic has while spinning (and he spins while jumping) made it great for the inexperienced players. Its great level design, bright color, multiple paths through the level (with hidden zones), and character charisma (which manifested even while player was idle), made it a success, becoming the game which sold more copies in Mega Drive/Genesis. Still today, is a pretty cool game to play and one that will live through history.
Unique and Notorious
Sonic the Hedgehog has a set of characteristics which made it a success. In fact, even in our days, on top of its glorious 16 bit graphics and music, it’s a very enjoyable game. Next, I will list the main “points of strength” of this title: Sonic – Sonic is a cool character, created to be “the face” of Sega. And he did become that. Besides his appealing design (simple lines and big expressive eyes – traits which can be found in a lot of designer toys, with this being a good indicator of how good they are), the blue hedgehog had tons of personality. And that personality is visible even in a platformer, without any cut-scene. You just had to start the game and do nothing, to see Sonic impatiently telling you that there was no time to lose, he needed action. Speed – Unlike other platformers, Sonic the Hedgehog is all about speed. The game physics were designed to play fast. The big acceleration, the fact that you need a minimal speed to spin efficiently on the ground, and that you can only reach some platforms when above a minimal speed threshold made you play fast, even if it is not needed. Let’s just say that Mario would need 5 ‘B’ buttons to be as fast as Sonic (maybe a little exaggeration here). And I had (as I recall) a 36 seconds personal best in the first level. Beat that! Ha! Easy to play, hard to master – This is a characteristic I really like on games (although, the “hard to master” part is really “harder” in other games). But to clarify what I mean: I do believe it’s a good strategy to make games where the player can easily learn the basics (if a 6 yrs’ old can play it, you’re on to something), but where you have a lot to improve to become “good” at playing them. In Sonic the Hedgehog, one can easily start playing the first levels with relative success, but needs to improve the play as levels get tougher, and even more so in order to reach all the areas. And the bonus levels are not easy at first… On the other side, you only needed one coin to be “protected” by enemy hits. That made the game easier on one side, but also allowed you to play in high-speed, without the fear of an unexpected encounter. Again… low speed Sonic is for sissies. No one tells me where to go – The game starts “on the left”, and ends “on the right” (typical). But you can return to the beginning if you want to, to explore other areas or try different paths. It gives a different feeling of freedom than other games. In fact, I still remember beating a tough obstacle “left-to-right”, only to find that now I had to beat it on the opposite direction. Those were some adrenaline-pumped moments (I was 8). And yes, there was no stupid mushroom escaping me through the left, never to be seen again.
Formal Elements (as defined by T. Fullerton)
Objective: Complete the levels while avoiding/defeating foes and collecting rings and power-ups. Defeat the Boss in the end of all scenarios. Get the chaos ring in the bonus levels. Defeat the final Boss in the end of the game.
Procedures: The player can run left or right, spin and jump. The player may destroy foes by touching them while spinning. When the player jumps, Sonic automatically spins.
Distinctive Rules: Sonic eliminates enemies when he touches them while spinning. Sonic spins when the player presses down while running at a minimal speed. Sonic spins while jumping. Touching an enemy while not spinning causes Sonic to lose all rings he is carrying. If Sonic is not carrying any rings when hit, he loses one life. The shield power-up can block one hit from an enemy (no rings or lives are lost). The shield power up lasts until the player gets one hit. The invulnerability power-up makes Sonic almost unbeatable for a limited time. Sonic also gets damage by touching spikes or lava. Lava also causes damage even while Sonic is invulnerable (I think). When Sonic is crushed, he loses one life. The Bosses are defeated when hit a certain number of times. 100 rings give Sonic one more life. Ending a level with more than 50 rings allow Sonic to play a bonus level, by jumping to a giant ring that appears.
Resources: Rings. Power-ups. Conflict: The player tries to beat levels while avoiding enemies and hazards, fighting against time while trying to get rings. The player tries to finish each of the 6 zones after defeating each boss. In the special areas, the player tries to get the Chaos Emerald while the level spins, avoiding to hit the ‘bricks’ which end the level.
Boundaries: The game is limited by the “navigable” areas of the level, which tend to allow more than one path (or at least allow some bifurcation in one path) from the beginning of the levels to its end. There are no shortcuts between levels, and the player must play all areas of all zones to finish the game.
Outcome: The player may lose (lost all lives), defeat the final boss (winning the game), or defeating the final boss after collecting all 6 ‘Chaos Emeralds’ (never done this one, actually).
Name: Sonic the Hedgehog
Platform: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis
Game Designer: Sega’s AM8 Division (later Sonic Team).
Fullerton, Tracy, Game Design Workshop, 2nd Edition: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. Morgan Kaufmann, February 2008.