Seething Cauldron of Pop Culture Talk

Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

SNES vs. Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sega, fighting a grueling battle against gaming juggernaut Nintendo, had some success with its Master System, but the time was coming when they’d need a new console to fight the battle. That console, the Mega Drive/Genesis, arrived in Japan in October 1988, North American slightly less than a year later, and became a serious contender for Nintendo’s throne. But a console alone wasn’t enough, they needed a figure who could be pitted directly against Nintendo’s mascot king Mario. That figure, designed by Naoto Oshima, Yuji Naka, and Hirokazu Yasuhara, was Sonic the Hedgehog. Unlike the portly plumber, Sonic dripped attitude and cool. He could run at insane speeds and leap wide chasms with ease. Upon its release, it was an instant hit and even launched the Genesis past the SNES during the 1991 holiday season. Despite being released nearly seven months after Super Mario World in Japan, it actually slipped into North America a month and half before Nintendo’s latest entry in the Mario series. The title was developed by Sega’s Sonic Team, originally known as AM8 but renamed to mark their first release as a group. The game’s amazing soundtrack was handled by Masato Nakamura, who also returned to compose the sequel.

The basics of the gameplay in Sonic the Hedgehog are similar to those of other platformers. As Sonic, a speedy hedgehog out to save his animal friends from being turned into robots by the evil Dr. Robotnik [Eggman in the Japanese version], you must traverse from one side of a level to the other, jumping on the heads of enemies you might come across or simply avoiding all the while also avoiding various pits and other traps. Sonic, however, is not without it’s little quirks that set it apart. For one thing, Sonic is fast. Really fast. At times he’s little more than a blur on the screen. In giving this speed a good use, there are lots of loops, open spaces, and tunnels for Sonic to traverse. His speed, however, is not without its price. Enemies can appear very quickly, as can deadly obstacles like the dreaded spikes [some of which can hide in seemingly innocuous areas only to spring out as Sonic approaches]. It’s very important that player be aware at all times and not simply attempt to speed through a level as quickly as possible.

Also, rather than a health bar, Sonic must collect rings. As long as Sonic has a single ring, he can survive being hit [although any rings he has will instantly explode through the air, though they can be recollected after a second or two], except from being crushed or falling into a bottomless pit. These rings also give extra points at the end of each level.

The level set up is three levels based on a certain theme [Green Hill Zone, Marble Zone, and so on] with the end of the third level featuring a boss fight against one of Dr. Robotnik’s latest inventions, usually a modification of his personal airship. There are seven sets of levels in all, including the final zone. There are also special stages that can be accessed at the end of the first two levels of each zone by obtaining fifty rings and jumping through a giant ring at the end of the level. Each stage has at least one checkpoint that will act as a restarting point if Sonic dies elsewhere in the level.

As stated before, the soundtrack is one of the better 16-bit soundtracks out there, rivaling the best of Nintendo and Square. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I could listen to the soundtrack over and over and never get tired of it. Graphics-wise, it’s a very vibrant looking game with nicely detailed sprites that are just the right size for the game. Backgrounds feature scrolling elements and there’s even some trickery used to give the far background an element of depth that most games back then didn’t have.

There is one aspect of the game that I find a bit aggravating: you get three extra lives and then it’s game over. There’s no continues here, none at all. Giving the nature of the game, it means that you’ll more than likely get a few game overs before making it all the way to the end. It’s a bit unforgiving in that respect, but it’s certainly not a big enough issue to hurt the game all that much. It’s still a genuine classic and one of the greatest games ever made.


April 28, 2010 - Posted by | Console Wars, Games | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Continues are acquired in the bonus levels by collecting the rings there. Gotta do your research 😛

    Comment by Alex | May 20, 2010 | Reply

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