This article is to celebrate the special occasion that is Sonic’s Birthday – Today, on June 23rd, 1991, the first Sonic game was released upon a crowd of unsuspecting video gamers. It was due to Sonic’s coolness and the way that the Sonic games instantly made platform games fashionable, plus with the backing of the greatest games developer in the world, that Sonic the Hedgehog became more popularly known in the video game household.
Very soon, cartoons were spawned, figures manufactured and comics, music and god knows what else were created, sold, and loved by many fans out there. And even now, after the horrific times that Sega has been through after the Mega Drive, Sonic has still been the world’s most popular video game character.
This feature is dedicated to that special hedgehog, and Sega. you’ll find a whole 10 year history of Sonic up to the present day, unforgettable Sonic moments, where you can send your moments in too, Sonic’s rivals battling for platforming crown, and what the future may hold for Sonic, including info on rumour Sonic games that may be released in the near future.
This article was updated in 2007.
1991: The Platform Revolution
The year 1991, where it all started. The Sega Mega Drive was already released, and the prospect of the Super Nintendo bringing Mario made Sega rethink their strategy. They needed a mascot… Surely no-one expected the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, and when people found out about it, everybody across the country went to grab a shiny new Mega Drive and a copy of the platform hopping video game. Here’s the games that came out this year…
June 23rd: Sonic the Hedgehog (USA)
This was THE platform game that blew everyone away – Mario set the platform genre, and Sonic was the one that manipulated this genre for fantastic speed, extra routes through levels and special stages above all things. This game had it all for its time – speed, anti-gravity stages, stupidly big loops to run around. This was the game that revolutionised platform games – forever.
The funky tunes were composed by Masato Nakamura – he was a member of a massive Japanese Pop band, Dreams Come True. Nakamura’s collaboration with SEGA on Sonic was a sure-fire popularity cracker for the Land of the Rising Sun.
At this time SEGA credited their games with codenames for their staff, and as such Yuji Naka (or “Yu2”) and others who created the game did not get the credit they deserved. Matter of fact, Naka-san left SEGA and was lured back to SEGA of America shortly before working on Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
June 23rd: Sonic the Hedgehog (UK / Europe)
Pending the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in Europe, and particularly the UK, SEGA Europe cannily slid Sonic onto everything TV-wise: Sonic 1 featured heavily in SEGA’s “Pirate TV/Cyber Razor Cuts” Television Advertisements, and appeared on various store adverts across the Christmas period, including Argos.
July 26th: Sonic the Hedgehog (Japan)
The Japanese version of Sonic the Hedgehog came in several different versions. Version 1 was the Western copy, and was also released in Japan. Versions 2 and 3 were only released in Japan: Version 2 included moving clouds in Green Hill Zone and a rippling effect in Labyrinth Zone.
Version 3 had a bug fix – when Sonic hits spikes, you’re not allowed any recovery time if you hit spikes while on the rebound, right? Well, Version 3 had this all fixed up. Only Versions 1 and 2 have been publicly found.
October 25th: Sonic the Hedgehog (Master System – UK / Europe)
Shortly after the Mega Drive version of Sonic 1, the Master System was treated to Sonic the Hedgehog too. What most people don’t know was that, although it was released in Latin America, the Master System games were being shipped to Europe and other PAL regions too.
Whereas the Master System (or Mark III) didn’t make much of an impact in Japan or America, where Nintendo reigned supreme, SEGA’s machine was a success in Europe, where Nintendo didn’t care much to release the NES in our land until “they were good and ready”.
This game wasn’t a port, but rather a standalone 8-bit outing, which performed well and entertained many. Of course, some of the features could not be managed on 8-bit machines, but it still had a great element of speed, puzzle and waterfalls in it. It was a great game in its own right.
The Master System Sonic 1 is considered by many as a challenger to the Mega Drive version as the best Sonic game, for those who owned the 8-Bit wonder-machine.
December 28th: Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear – Japan)
The SEGA Game Gear was released in 1991 to combat the Nintendo’s Game Boy. After a very long and arduous battle between the two handhelds, the Game Gear eventually gave up the ghost in 1996, as short battery life and a slowly declining number of games during its last years killed it off.
The Game Gear has the same power as the Master System, which makes this no surprise that this is a port of the Master System 8-Bit adventure. The Game Gear has a higher colour palette however, which makes the colours more vivid and exciting.
Despite the port, there are slight differences between the handheld and console versions – for example, the second act of Jungle Zone does not have a bottomless pit if you fall in the Game Gear version.
1991: Sonic Eraser (Japan)
The Mega Drive dabbled in the World Wide Web way back when, it’s true. In Japan only, you understand though. Naturally. Gamers could purchase a “Mega Modem” and subscribe to the online service, to download games and limited content. One of the games up for exclusive download was ‘Sonic Eraser’, which was a puzzle game that had Sonic in a little window in 2-Player Mode. Suffice to say, it’s a bit crap really.
International / Other Releases
- December: Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear – USA, UK / Europe)
- 1991: Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car (Japan)
- 1991: Cosmo Fighter Galaxy Patrol (Japan)