This was Sega’s first Sonic game on the Master System and the Game Gear. The objective? The classic – Dr. Ivo Robotnik wants the cute little animals to turn into mega metal monster machines. With the help of these machines, Robotnik (more commonly known as “Eggman”) plans to rule all of Mobius.
The only problem for Robotnik is that he still needs the seven Chaos Emeralds. These gems provide awesome power and if he gets his hands on them, Mobius as we know it will cease to exist. Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it? Well, there is hope considering that the fastest hedgehog alive has vowed to stop ‘Eggman’, and collect all of the Chaos Emeralds before he does.
Platform: Master System, Game Gear | Developer: SEGA Japan
EU Release: 25 Oct 1991 | US Release: 25 Oct 1991 | JP Release: 28 Dec 1991 (GG)
Ah, the flashbacks of childhood. This was my very first Sonic game, and indeed my very first VIDEO game. I still go all dewy eyed at the sight of it today…
If you haven’t yet grasped the concept of Sonic yet, then you must have been living under a rock for the last ten years. You play as the titular Sonic the Hedgehog (no duh) and you must reach the end of each Act with the aid of the super sonic spin attack and the vertigo-inducing jumps that Sonic can perform. Things get nasty though, as each of the six levels get progressively harder and feature unique traps.
At the end of each Zone (every three Acts) you have to face a boss in the form of an overweight blimp in a hovercraft – Dr. Robotnik. Robotnik comes in a wide variety of guises at the end of every Zone, each one harder than the last.
You must overcome this piglet-in-a-machine by figuring out the pattern and attacking when he is at his weakest. The final Act consists of just one mega-boss, which requires quite a bit of pounding before you can truly beat the game.
This game can be tough at the worst of times, but all is not lost for Sonic. He can earn extra continues if he completes an Act with over 50 rings, and enters the special stage. These twisted levels are filled with bumpers and rings which can count towards a massive bonus should you reach the goal marker in time.
A Continue monitor is hidden within each special stage – destroy it, and you can fear death no more (well, at least for another three lives). Then if Sonic has the misfortune to lose all of his lives, you can use up one of these continues and start the level over again.
To truly complete the game Sonic must find the special Chaos Emeralds, sneakily hidden within each zone. In either Act One or Two of each Zone, one of these treasures is to be found. Naturally, the further you progress throughout the levels, the harder it is to find these precious gems.
Collect all six within each zone – Green Hill Zone, Bridge Zone, Jungle Zone, Labyrinth Zone, Scrap Brain Zone, Sky Base – and you are treated to a special ending when you complete the game.
Similar as they may be, the Game Gear version of Sonic the Hedgehog differs vastly from the Master System version. As well as looking partially different, the levels that Sonic has to encounter are more or less simplified versions of the Master System levels.
For the Bridge Zone boss, for example, you’re situated on three dodgy platforms on the Master System version, whereas you’re standing between two bridges in the Game Gear counterpart. The second level of Jungle has been shortened on the Game Gear version too – on the home console version you have to jump between three or four extra floating logs to get to the finish.
Why did Sega do this? My guess is that the Game Gear eats up batteries faster than the blue blur himself, so the handheld game was made shorter to give players a chance to actually complete it (that doesn’t mean it’s any easier, though).
To play this game is bliss itself. The speed feels manageable and natural – even when you’re walking it ‘feels’ like you’re going way over the speed limit. The variations in format also mean variations in game material, such as bosses and power ups – so if you have the money to buy both the MS and GG version, you’ll be playing into a slightly different experience each format – but not much.
Finding the Chaos Emeralds within each stage is an excellent idea – no fanny-brained special stages here. You gotta use your brain to catch those gems, and the game as a whole is both challenging, rewarding and exciting all at the same time.
I don’t know which between the 16-Bit or 8-Bit versions is better, but I’m inclined to say that the Master System version beats the Mega Drive version. That might just be because of my many hours playing it. Either way. this game is certainly worth every minute of your attention.