In the early days of consoles, manufacturers decided it would be a good idea to have a video game character as a company mascot. Not becoming a console owner until the Playstation 2, I had assumed Nintendo’s Mario and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog had always been rivals. I later discovered this was not the case and that they both made their debut in the arcade a decade apart – Mario as the protagonist in Donkey Kong in 1981, and Sonic in the racing game Rad Mobile. As an air freshener.
Later in 1991 Sonic appeared in his own right as the star of Sonic the Hedgehog, ousting Alex Kidd as the Sega mascot. By this time Mario was already established, having been the main character in several titles (including Dr Mario and three Super Mario games) and a cameo a few others (such as Punch Out!!, Tennis and Golf on the NES). Importantly, when Sonic the Hedgehog was released on the Mega Drive, Mario had yet to star in a 16-bit game.
Fittingly, Sonic the Hedgehog is a platform game. Compared to the amply built, moustachioed Italian, Sonic is a lot faster and exudes an impatient attitude. Pause too long on a level and he puts his hands on his hips and taps a foot.
The manual says that the mad scientist, Dr Ivo Robotnik, is capturing innocent creatures and turning them into evil robots for whatever reason. It is up to you to reach Robotniks secret lab, defeat him and save the animals.
The game is set across six zones with every zone divided into three acts. Each zone has a distinct look and feel. Green Zone is the one that everyone knows. It contains loops, springs and several routes through. I like to zip through the stage a fast as possible whereas my wife likes to take her time and collect all the items (this is the only game she has liked on by blog thus far). Marble Zone slows things down. It is a linear stage containing some simple block puzzles and requires careful jumping in parts. Spring Yard Zone is fast level built like a pinball machine with lots of springs and bumpers. Labyrinth Zone is a convoluted stage with underwater sections where Sonic has to jump into large bubbles to avoid drowning. The Star Light Zone has parts constructed like a roller coaster. Scrap Brain Zone I haven't yet had chance to play properly.
|An underwater section in the Labyrinth Zone. Game play is the same only slower.|
The aim of each act is to move from the far left of each level to reach the goal at the far right. Inhabiting the levels are Robitnik's metallic minions. These can be dispatched using the Super Sonic Spin Attack which involves Sonic rolling into a ball and barrelling into enemies. It is performed by using the jump button for a high attack and the down button for a low attack. Some of the robotic animals have spikes which must be avoided. When an enemy is killed it releases the animal trapped within.
|This creature can only be killed by jumping on it's head. Anywhere else and you die.|
To aid Sonic there are several types of power ups dotted around including extra lives, extra rings, shields, speed boosts and temporary invincibility. Lamp posts act as checkpoints so you don't need restart the level should you lose a live. There are also rings that can be collected. Collecting 100 rings in an act rewards Sonic with an extra life. If you should get hit by an enemy while carrying rings you lose them all. The rings get scattered but you can normally collect a few before they disappear. If you get hit and have no rings you will lose a life.
Reaching the end of an act with a certain number of rings sends Sonic into a bonus screen, known as the Secret Zone. This is a spinning level where the goal is to get the Chaos Emerald. If you pick up enough rings here you can also collect another life. The manual says you must collect six Chaos Emeralds but doesn't say what they are for. I assume they are needed to complete the game.
|The Secret Zone|
At the end of each zone you face off against Dr Robotnik. He flies a different contraption for each zone and can be defeated by hitting him a number of times with the Super Sonic Spin Attack. Once defeated you can release all the animals from that zone.
|Releasing the animals at the end of Sprint Yard Zone.|
In all, Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive is an excellent game. The graphics are smooth, colourful and very fast, with slick animation. The sound and music are top notch. The controls are spot on and for the most part it's your fault when you die. There are some very difficult sections and a couple of places where there are unfair deaths. The unfair deaths can be avoided once you start to memorise the levels. It also speaks volumes that of all the games I have played so far, this is the only one the Mrs Wingnut has wanted a go on. She told me used to play it when she was younger, so I let her do the gameplay video. Bless.
|It's not all running. There are some simple puzzles such as pushing this block onto the switch.|
Example gameplay (courtesy of the missus)