Month: October 2017

Sonic Playthrough: 1992

There were just two Sonic games released in 1992, but in no way was it a small year for the franchise.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)

First up was the Master System version of Sonic 2. The most notable element of this of course is that it’s the very first appearance of Sonic’s best friend and sidekick, Miles ‘Tails’ Prower. Terrible pun name aside, Tails is a huge part of what makes the Sonic series what it is, and appears in almost every game from this point on. While Tails is generally characterised as a super smart inventor, here he’s just a plot device. Kidnapped by Dr. Robotnik in the intro sequence, he doesn’t appear at all until the end of the game aside from the title cards for each act.

As I mention in the video, the Game Gear version of the game was massively more difficult due to the smaller screen and this was particularly evident from the first boss – you can’t see the balls that are being thrown at you until they’re very close and while I only got ones that were going low they can also bounce higher so you got hardly any time to decide between jumping or going under. I honestly can’t remember if I ever beat it as a kid.

It’s also slightly odd in that the bosses are all mechanical animals, you don’t fight Robotnik himself at all until the very end – and even then that’s only if you get all of the Chaos Emeralds as otherwise you finish the game on the Scrambled Egg Zone after beating Mecha Sonic. Much like the 8-bit Sonic 1, the boss stages are all completely devoid of rings, adding to the difficulty quite substantially.

Much like the first Master System game the music is pretty solid all the way through, especially the Green Hills Zone which is presumably an early version of Sonic CD’s title track You Can Do Anything.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit)

As good as the 8-bit version was, November’s Mega Drive version was the main attraction. Released in a media blitz on ‘Sonic 2sday’ it was a huge success and is widely regarded as one of the very best games in the franchise. For me, it’s always been my favourite. I got it along with a Mega Drive 2, my first brand new games console I’d ever owned, for Christmas that year as it was a revelation. There were more stages that let you run fast and the special stages, particularly for the time, were fantastic looking.

While I somewhat intentionally didn’t get all of the Chaos Emeralds on this run (I’d usually play as Sonic by himself so Tails can’t lose any rings in the special stages, and I’d hunt out all the Star Posts in the first couple of stages to get them while rings are more plentiful) collecting them all gave us the first appearance of Super Sonic which absolutely blew me away as a kid but does make most of the game far too easy in retrospect.

Plus of course Tails is now fully playable, either by himself or along with Sonic with a second player in pad 2. Tails, and more specifically his ability to fly, brings additional exploration abilities to the game (which will in later games be added to with Knuckles’ climbing)

Sonic Playthrough: 1991

So, my big new project to take up all the free time that I already don’t have: I’m playing every Sonic the Hedgehog game ever released in (as close as I can to) the order they came out, and streaming them too.

After each year’s worth of games I’m then going to collect my streams and write a little about each game. For this first post, it’s of course the very earliest Sonic games.

Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)

July 1991 marked the release of the the first ever Sonic the Hedgehog game and he quickly became Sega’s new mascot, leaving poor Alex Kidd all but forgotten.

Gamers at the time were blown away by the faced paced gameplay, colourful graphics and catchy soundtrack. While I don’t quite feel the speed aspect is quite there yet, particularly after the Green Hill Zone, it still holds up really well and is an enjoyable play.

A lot of enduring elements of the series are set up right from this first installment including the Chaos Emeralds and of course Dr. Eggman (although at this point he was called Dr. Robotnik in the West) as well as the iconic rings that I’ve heard jingle several hundred million times over the years.

Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)

Seeing how massively popular Sonic was on the Mega Drive Sega was quick to make sure that he made it over to their previous console, the Master System. While Nintendo were the market leader in North America it was a different story elsewhere in the world such as Europe where Sega had a sizable lead. Naturally, they wanted to continue this and so a number of Sonic games were eventually developed for the console – lower sales in the States meant that this was the only Master System title released over there and the remaining 8-bit Sonic titles were Game Gear exclusive while we continued to get Master System versions.

Featuring a mixture of stages similar to the Mega Drive version as well as entirely new ones such as the Bridge and Jungle Zones, it’s a pretty faithful interpretation of the spirit and gameplay of the original game. Invincibility and barrier power-ups function in the same way, and Sonic himself has the same moves (though at this point really that’s just jump and roll so nothing too complicated) however some small differences like the inability to collect dropped rings and third acts that are entirely roads leading to the boss without any rings do stand out.

As you’ll hear me lament if you watch the video, the Master System has a rather irritating mechanic on the second act of the Jungle Zone where the screen is unable to scroll back down. This means that you die if you drop off the bottom of the screen, even if there was a ledge just below you that’s out of sight. The Game Gear version fixes this and makes the stage substantially easier as well as improving the colour palette and some additional animations, at the expense of a significantly reduced resolution.

Sonic Eraser

The Sonic series is littered with odd little entries, and this is just the first. Sonic Eraser was released only in Japan on Sega’s online service for the Mega Drive. It’s a rather simple puzzle game and almost certainly had Sonic added to it to make people more likely to play it – other than appearing in the middle of the screen in competitive games and occasionally if you pull off some impressive combos he’s barely in the game and there’s nothing other than his sprite to really link it to the series.

Like many Japanese exclusive games from the era, this was once thought lost until Sega re-released it on a Japan only download service in 2004 and it was subsequently ripped to a ROM.

Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car

The last Sonic game to be released in 1991, Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car was kind of a cross between a full size arcade cabinet and a kid’s ride that are fairly common in the west. It featured a plastic police car that kids could sit in as well as a screen and steering wheel to play the game. The game itself is very short, taking only a couple of minutes to finish which is about the amount of time most of the western equivalent rides last.

For reasons unknown Sonic drives a police car in this game (despite being quicker on foot) and drives up a road. Using the steering wheel you can avoid traffic, and move lanes but there’s no alternate paths to take. Eventually Dr. Eggman turns up, you fight him by jumping from your car to his while avoiding the bombs that he throws and when he’s beaten Sonic returns to the police station and the game is over.

While short and largely forgettable, Sonic Patrol Car is notable for being the first time Sonic (and also Dr. Eggman) have voices recorded for them.

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