Sonic the Hedgehog is a 16-bit platformer released for the Sega Genesis (known as the Sega Mega Drive in Europe). It was the first game in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, and also the first game developed by Sonic Team. It was released in 1991 in North America, Europe and Japan. It is one of the highest selling video games of all time, and thus a giant money maker for Sega, creating a popular evergreen franchise and also propelled the Genesis to widespread popularity.
As with most games of the era, the majority of the game's plot is contained within the instruction manual. Essentially, Doctor Robotnik is capturing all of the animals on Sonic's home of South Island to act as power sources for his robot army, and he desires the power of the six mystical Chaos Emeralds to help further his world domination plot. Sonic doesn't like the sound of this, and sets off to rescue his animal friends and collect the emeralds before Robotnik.
In the game the player takes control of Sonic (the Hedgehog) who is tasked with preventing Doctor Ivo Robotnik - or Doctor Eggman in Japan - from taking all 6 Chaos Emeralds in order to rule South Island, by instead collecting them himself. Sonic travels through 21 acts, split into 7 zones with 3 acts each. At the end of the third act of each zone the player fights against Doctor Robotnik in one of his many vehicles. The twist is Sonic's ability to run at extreme speeds which allows him to go through levels with loops, springs, high falls, and extreme slopes; and he must avoid rows of sharp spikes, bottomless pits, enemies, and other obstacles. Sonic has two attack moves: a spinning jump and spinning roll, and he can use both of these to combat enemies, break through certain walls, and smash open power-ups.
Gold rings are scattered around the map - similar, but quite different, to coins in Super Mario Bros. Collecting 100 rings gives the player an extra life - similar to how collecting 1000 coins in Super Mario Bros. garners the player a 1up. Rings also act as a layer of protection against traps, as Sonic will drop all his rings upon coming into contact with a trap, only losing a life if he has no rings when it happens.
There are six different zones (levels) contained in Sonic The Hedgehog, each of which has its own unique aesthetic. There are three acts to each zone. They are:
This first zone sees the first appearance of some famous Sonic trademarks. Players whirl through checkered loop-de-loops and speed past palm trees against a vibrant and colorful background. At the end of act three, Dr. Robotnik shows up in a pendulum-like device that swings a large ball back and forth across the screen.
This zone puts players in an ancient ruin that is apparently in close proximity to a volcano. Players are forced to avoid lava lakes and waterfalls and they jump from platform to platform. After, Dr. Robotnik arrives with a flamethrower mounted under his ship and proceeds to drop flames on the two platforms, which are on either end of the screen.
This mountainous zone places the player in a giant pinball themed stage. Players must push through copious bumpers and avoid steep slopes as they make their way to the end of act three, where Dr. Robotnik waits. Here, he has a giant spike attached to the bottom of his ship and proceeds to break apart the platforms the player walks on, effectively making this battle harder the longer it goes on.
Here, players are put into an ancient maze that has sunken into the sea. This is arguably the most difficult stage in the game, as players are introduced to a new gameplay mechanic, water. While submerged, the player can jump higher, but is slower and will drown if an air bubble is not consumed every so often. At the end of this zone, players must chase Dr. Robotnik through a vertical corridor, while avoiding spears and, of course, the rising water level.
This starry zone is set amongst an aerial construction site. Players will have to avoid some high-powered fans that will impede their progress, and will have to utilise others to advance in the level. At the end of act three, players will have to use see-saw like devices in order to hurls spike balls up at Dr. Robotnik, who will continuously drop spike balls down on the player.
The final zone of the game is set in one of Dr. Robotnik’s grimy, polluted industrious cities. Players will have to avoid saws and traverse conveyor belts as they make their way through the level. In act three, players have to re-live an environment similar to that in the Labyrinth Zone. This area, however, has a certain touch of Dr. Robotnik about it. The water is polluted, and the walls a dull grey. Once players finish this, they will face off against Dr. Robotnik in the final boss battle of the game. Here, there are four pistons. Two pistons will simultaneously move and try to crush the player, the doctor will appear in one of these and it is up to the player to use their reflexes in order to hit the right one. If you fail to concern yourself with Chaos Emeralds and complete the game short a few, your joyful ending sequence is spoiled by Dr. Robotnik, who triumphantly juggles the leftover Emeralds and challenges you to "Try Again." To get the good ending, you need all 6 Emeralds, which can only be acquired from the game's 6 Special Stages.
If you have 50 or more rings at the end of any act, you can warp to the secret zone by jumping through the giant golden ring. Use Sonic's spin attack to ricochet off the spinning maze. The aim is to grab the Chaos Emerald from the middle of the maze.
There are six Chaos Emeralds to find, one in each of the secret zones, if you collect them all you'll get an alternative ending to the game.
Items & Objects
- Rings: As long as Sonic has rings he will not lose a life if he is hit by an enemy, he will simply spill the rings on the ground and you are able to recollect them. If he is hit when he has no rings, he will lose a life.
- Lamp Posts: The only checkpoint system in the game, when Sonic crosses through a lamp post the player's score and time are recorded. If the player loses a life Sonic will restart the current act at the last lamp post he activated.
(The following items are obtained by smashing video monitors with Sonic's spin attack)
- Super Ring: Earns you 10 or more rings.
- Shield: Protects Sonic from losing rings by protecting him from one attack.
- Power Sneakers: Enables Sonic to run at super sonic speed, and increases the tempo of the music to give an extra sense of speed.
- 1-Ups: Gives Sonic an extra live.
- Invincible: Makes Sonic invulnerable to enemy attacks for a short period of time.
Music for Sonic the Hedgehog was composed by Masato Nakamura, Bass Guitarist for Japanese Pop Music band Dreams Come True. Masato would mail each song on cassette to Sega's offices, where they would then translate the melody to a music format the Sega Genesis could understand. A number of songs submitted were based off of similar melodies found in popular Dreams Come True tracks.
On April of 1990 Sega held a contest internally among development teams in an effort to create a game to define the company. Sega's AM8 development studio (later renamed to Sonic Team) decided that the game should be fast, but simple to control. Many design ideas were tossed around - a bulldog, a rabbit that picked objects up with his ears - but the decision came down to the act of the character rolling in to a ball and down hills to gain speed. It eventually came down to a hedgehog or an armadillo - and in the end, the hedgehog won out. Initially called "Mr. Needlemouse", he was brought to Sega of America's marketing teams for further refinement.
"Mr. Needlemouse" was originally the lead singer in a rock and roll band, tasked with rescuing a groupie named Madonna, a human female who was apparently in love with the Hedgehog. Madonna was to be captured by "Dr. Badvibes", leading to our hero to leap in to action. Sega of America requested a number of changes, including tweaks to Mr. Hedgehog's look, the removal of the "rock band" aspect, and a name change to Sonic the Hedgehog.
- Sonic was originally a light shade of blue, however testers had a difficult time telling Sonic apart from the blue sky. One of the last changes made to the game before being shipped was to change Sonic's palette to a much darker shade of cobalt.
- Though the concept of a Rabbit that picks up and throws objects with his ears was rejected for Sonic, the concept was revisited by SonicTeam and eventually became Ristar: The Shooting Star.
- The Armadillo concept also resurfaced later in SegaSonic the Hedgehog for Arcades and Knuckles Chaotix on the 32X, as the character Mighty The Armadillo.
- The "Sonic the Hedgehog Rock & Roll Band" concept was initially supposed to be kept for the game's fully-featured sound test mode, where Sonic and crew would play their instruments along with the game's soundtrack. This animation had to be removed in order to make room for the iconic "SEGA!" voice chime when you first start the game up, which Yuji Naka reportedly felt was a more impressive technological feat.
- Members of Sonic the Hedgehog's Band include Sharps the Chicken on lead Guitar, Max the Monkey on Bass, and Vector the Crocodile on Keyboards. Vector the Crocodile would return as a character in Knuckles Chaotix, and later became a staple of the Sonic roster with games like Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog.
- The Game Gear/Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog still features an animated image of Sonic standing at a microphone for its Sound Test.
- Much of this game's art style was inspired by early 3D Graphics work. In the Sonic Jam Official Japanese Strategy Guide (written personally by Sonic Team), Yuji Naka recalls that the team had a difficult time recreating the angular, vectorized 3D graphics visual style using hand-drawn pixel artwork.
- According to designer Naoto Oshima in an interview with Gametap, Sonic the Hedgehog's design was inspired by Michael Jackson's style and Bill Clinton's no-nonsense, "Get it Done" attitude. The color scheme for Sonic's trademark shoes were directly inspired by the color scheme of Jackson's Album, "Bad".
- In one of the first Japanese television commercials for this game, Sonic is shown to pilot a space ship where he drops a bomb on to a parody of the Death Star remade to look like Dr. Eggman's face. This concept was later re-used for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, where Dr. Eggman builds a nearly identical looking space station called the Death Egg.
Twin Galaxies is the world authority on video game world records and below are the variations/records tracked for Sonic the Hedgehog.
- 812,140 [Tournament Settings, 5 Lives Only] by Michael Sroka
- 38min. 12sec. [Minimalist Speed Run] by Jared Oswald
- 1hr 3min 7sec [Fastest Full Completion, All Emeralds] by Jared Oswald
SEGA Master System and Game Gear version
Overview and differences
Sonic The Hedgehog on the Master System is similar to the Mega Drive/ Genesis version in some respects, but is overall a very different game.
- Unlike the 16-bit version Sonic cannot recollect rings after being damaged by an enemy.
- The Chaos Emeralds appear in the levels as opposed to appearing in the Special Stages which only contain rings.
- With the exception of Scrap Brain Zone (Act 3) no boss zones contain rings or Badniks. This made the boss fights much more difficult than they were on the 16-bit version of the game.
Each level (also known as Zones or Rounds according to the back of the game box) are made up of three acts. The third act in each zone contains that zones boss which is always Dr. Robotnik in different machine. In addition to these levels there are eight Special Stages. These can be accessed by beating any of the first two acts of a level with 50 or more rings.
Zones in play though order:
- Green Hill Zone
- Bridge Zone
- Jungle Zone
- Labyrinth Zone
- Scrap Brain Zone
- Sky Base Zone
Varied level designs
Sonic The Hedgehog on the Master System/Game Gear contains two zones that contain unique design elements for the series.
The first one is Bridge Zone (Act 2) which features a scrolling screen that moves independently of the player. This effectively forces the player to keep moving until the end of the zone, but also means that the player cannot speed through the zone in true Sonic style. The other unique zone is Jungle Zone (Act 2), which features a vertical design rather than the traditional horizontal layout. The screen adjusts as Sonic moves up the zone but it does not go back down, so touching the bottom of the screen results in instant death.
Sonic the Hedgehog was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2006. This iteration of the game features the same 6 zones, as well an added spin-dash move and a save feature. The graphics are not down scaled in any way, and look the same as the original Genesis version. This GBA port of Sonic the Hedgehog is considered to be very broken and inaccurately recreates the Genesis title, with choppy frame rate issues and graphical and collision errors.
A port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog game was released onto the iPhone on May 20, 2009 by Sega America. The port features all of the original graphics and sounds and originally sold for $5.99 USD on Apple 's App Store. The controls for the iPhone version use a virtual D-Pad along with a virtual "A" Button. The iPhone and iPod Touch versions of Sonic the Hedgehog feature 7 different zones to play through. There are also two ways to display the game: Full Screen or "Arcade" mode.
This version of the game was eventually updated and released as an iPad app as well.
On May 16, 2013 the game was released to the Android platform, costing $2.99/£1.99/€2.69/AUD$2.99, the same as the iOS version at the time of release. This version of the game was updated for Google’s mobile operating system with widescreen support and a 60 fps frame rate, as well as a remastered soundtrack, leaderboards and achievements. This update also allows players to unlock Tails and Knuckles as playable characters.
SEGA also announced that the updates this iteration of the game debuted would be released to the iOS version of the game under the form of an update. An update released on May 16th in the US App Store, and on May 15th in certain international App Stores, read as follows:
- Enhanced graphics, performance, and sound!
- New unlockable characters!
**Note: This is an all-new port of Sonic The Hedgehog! Unfortunately, saves from previous versions are incompatible with version 2.0!**