1993 was a huge year for Sonic. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was still high in the sales charts and breaking records, there were cartoons on TV and comics on both sides of the Atlantic (one of which I’ll be talking about shortly). There was merchandise, books, stuffed toys, t-shirts and pretty much anything else that you can think of. And, of course, there were a lot of games:
Sonic’s first full length arcade outing, SegaSonic the Hedgehog features Sonic and newcomers Ray and Mighty have to escape from seven stages of Eggman’s island full of traps. It’s a game I always wanted to play due to the great cartoon style graphics which still look pretty nice now.
It’s a kind of tricky game to play through emulation these due to the original game using a trackball controller and this input mismatch greatly increased the difficulty of the game – the inability to continue at the end certainly doesn’t help either. I’d love to try and track down the original hardware one day and give it another try, and hopefully it would be a little less frustrating that way.
Released as a flagship title for the Mega Drive’s Mega CD expansion, Sonic CD will be instantly familiar to players of the Mega Drive titles, using the same art style and very similar sprites for Sonic. The big gimmick is the ability to time travel between the past, present and future of each act – early advertising for the game would tout ‘over 75 levels’ as a selling point which is fudging the numbers a little really as it counts each time frame of each act as a level.
While a good game in its own right that features a fantastic soundtrack, Sonic CD is mostly remembered for the introduction of Amy Rose and Metal Sonic. It would be a couple of years before Amy would be seen again, but Metal Sonic became a recurring villain almost immediately, and both now appear in the vast majority of new Sonic titles.
The last ‘proper’ Sonic title of the year, Sonic Chaos was the only 8-bit title for 1993. In terms of structure and gameplay it’s very similar to the 8-bit Sonic 2, and consists of three act zones with the third act being a boss area.
I didn’t have a Master System or Game Gear in 1993 so I missed this at the time and hadn’t properly played it before, so most of the game was a complete mystery to me going in. Aside from a few new power-ups there were no major new features or characters introduced, but it still provides solid Sonic gameplay and was quite an enjoyable run. As a bit of an oddity, as I discovered on my playthrough, if you don’t find all of the Chaos Emeralds you don’t even get the end credits on completion.
Ordered as a last minute fill in for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 as it wasn’t going to be ready in time for the all important Christmas sales window, Sonic Spinball was apparently made within just a couple of months.
I definitely remember playing it over and over as a kid and finally being very impressed with myself once I completed it, but looking back it’s a very harsh and unforgiving game. There are no continues, and extra lives are very sparse. The slightest mistake in some areas can lead to death, and if you game over on the last level there isn’t even a password system so you have to start all over again. While that’s not entirely uncommon with older games, it’s not very player friendly by modern standards and I had to start this run several times just to be able to finish the game.
The first Sonic title not to feature Sonic himself (though not the last), Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is yet another oddity in the franchise. It wasn’t originally even a Sonic game, but it was decided at the time that Puyo Puyo wasn’t particularly marketable in Western regions so the characters were all scrapped and replaced with Robotnik and a number of his badniks from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon.
The gameplay was completely unaltered from the original game, with you needing to create groups of at least 4 of the same colour beans. Chaining multiple strings of beans is the key to success, as bigger combos will cause solid beans to drop onto your opponents screen and give them trouble.
Much in the same vein as Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car before it, Cosmo Fighter was a short game built into a childrens ride. This time around, Sonic flies a space fighter jet and uses it to shoot through a number of Eggman’s robots before finally confronting him while he’s piloting a dragon mech. With Eggman defeated, Sonic makes it to a space station filled with his friends and celebrates.
As I mention in the video, a ROM for this game was only discovered earlier this year making it quite fortunate that I’d not decided to do this earlier.
There’s not a whole lot that can be said about this one, as it’s barely even a game. A Sonic branded popcorn machine from Japanese arcades, it’s really more of an interactive animation that plays while the popcorn is being cooked. You mash a button to make Sonic run along a conveyor belt, and then spin a wheel to cook the popcorn, the end. It does feature some pretty nice animation at least, in particular Eggman’s fabulous running.