Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Ancient
  • Publishers:
    • Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    SMS
    • US UK 10/25/1991
    • Brazil 1991
    GG
    • JP US UK 12/28/1991
    • Brazil 1991
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/17/2018.

Sonic the Hedgehog is a side-scrolling platform video game originally developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive in 1991. A few months after the 16-bit version came out, Sega contracted an external development studio named Ancient to develop 8-bit versions of the game for the aging Sega Master System and Game Gear. The Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog was the last officially licensed game to be released for the console in North America, whereas the Game Gear version was the first portable title starring the blue blur. While the Master System and Game Gear versions of Sonic the Hedgehog are nearly identical, they're both vastly different from the Genesis original. Unsurprisingly, the 8-bit versions are no match for the 16-bit original, not only because they have inferior graphics and sound, but also because they're mechanically far more basic. Even though it compares unfavorably to the 16-bit version, the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog beats most games on the Master System and Game Gear with relative ease.

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As with most of the early Sonic the Hedgehog games, the plot is simple. Dr. Eggman, known as Dr. Robotnik outside of Japan back then, is a mad scientist with a robot army who's hell-bent on conquering the world. In this game, he's invaded South Island and is turning all the animals there into subservient robots, referred to as "badniks," to bolster his forces. Sonic the Hedgehog, the titular blue hedgehog who runs real fast, saw this terrible injustice and elected to do something about it. Thus, Sonic's never ending battle against Dr. Eggman began. It's unclear as to whether this game's story is supposed to be a retelling of the Genesis version's plot or an entirely separate entry in the timeline. That won't matter to you unless you're a hardcore Sonic the Hedgehog nerd, though. Also, seeing as how this was before Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came out, Tails didn't exist yet.

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The controls couldn't be simpler: you use the d-pad to move around, duck, and look up, and both buttons make you jump. When Sonic jumps, he curls up into a destructive ball that can damage enemies. Similarly, if you attempt to crouch while running, Sonic will curl up into a ball and roll along the ground, smashing through any vulnerable enemies that are in the way. There are a few power-ups Sonic can get by destroying CRT monitors, such as a shield that allows him to take an extra hit, sneakers that briefly increase his speed, temporary invincibility, and extra lives. Strangely, checkpoints are also contained within these monitors, which wasn't the case in the Genesis version. Additionally, the whole game is filled with rings for Sonic to gather, and they allow him to take a hit if he has one or more in his possession. He loses all his rings when injured, though, and he'll die if he sustains damage with no rings. A significant mechanical difference between this and the Genesis version is that Sonic can't pick up his fallen rings here. That's one of the main reasons this version of Sonic the Hedgehog is substantially harder than the Genesis original.

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Upon initial inspection, it'll appear that this is merely an 8-bit recreation of the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog. However, all of the old stages have been completely redesigned, and there are some entirely new ones. For instance, while you'll instantly recognize Green Hill Zone from the Genesis release, this version's interpretation contains flooded caverns that weren't present in the original. Other familiar stages include the watery Labyrinth Zone and the mechanical cityscape of Scrap Brain Zone. New stages include a scenic route with bridges called Bridge Zone, a vine filled jungle unsurprisingly titled Jungle Zone, and a dangerous airship named Sky Base Zone. Likewise, all the boss battles against Dr. Eggman are entirely new. However, similar to the final boss of the Genesis version, there are never any rings present during the boss fights in this game. In other words, bosses will always kill you in one hit. This is the second big reason that this version of Sonic the Hedgehog is way harder than the Genesis release.

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Similar to the Genesis version, you'll enter a Special Stage if you manage to bring fifty rings to the end of a regular stage. However, the Special Stages in this game are totally different. Instead of rewarding you with Chaos Emeralds, these Special Stages merely serve as a fun opportunity to gather extra lives and additional continues. The Chaos Emeralds certainly aren't absent in this version of the game, though. Like the Genesis version, there are still six optional Chaos Emeralds to collect. Unlike the Genesis version, these emeralds are simply hidden throughout the various normal stages in the game. If you have all six emeralds by the end of the game, you'll get a slightly better ending. It's not exactly worth the trouble, but this does give you some incentive to thoroughly explore everything.

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While there aren't too many differences between the Master System and Game Gear versions, there are a few that are worth mentioning. The biggest difference is the fact that the Game Gear version has a smaller screen resolution than the Master System one. This translates to a smaller viewing area, which is a big problem in a game where you move so fast. On the bright side, the Game Gear version has brighter colors, a neat Sega splash screen, tighter controls, some tweaked level designs, redesigned Special Stages, and some of the bosses have been modified or even replaced. To help with its tinier resolution, the Game Gear version also has some warning signs in the first stage to indicate when pits or spikes are nearby. However, the bigger resolution of the Master System version still trumps all of those improvements.

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If you've already played the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog, then you aren't missing much if you elect to skip out on this one. However, if you're a diehard Sonic the Hedgehog fan, then you may want to check this one out, even if you've played the Genesis original. It's different enough to warrant a try. This is also one of the better games in the Master System's and Game Gear's collective libraries.

Word Count: 1,067

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