SegaFanatic here, and I'm finally doing an actual Sega-related article. Today's article is going to be a big one, so I apologize if it's too long. This article is a tribute to one of the most well known cultural icons ever, Sonic the Hedgehog.
Ah, Sonic the Hedgehog. I grew up with this franchise ever since I was little. Now, I don't really have a "first" memory with Sonic the Hedgehog. So, what I will be doing is going through each game and giving my personal experiences, along with trivia and talking about spin offs and T.V. shows. Part 1 will be dedicated to the main series Genesis titles. Let's go!
The First Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 1
Sonic the Hedgehog 1 was released for the Sega Genesis in 1991, or the Mega-Drive for anybody not in America. My first point is that this is not the first Sonic game I ever played. I do distinctly remember getting this game at Wal-Mart one day, but it was over 10 years after the original release, and it wasn't even the Sega Genesis version, it was the PS2 release on the Mega Collection.
This game was really good, and it still holds up today. For the most part. My earliest memory of this game is one I know none of you will share. When I was a kid, my mom always took me grocery shopping with her to a grocery store called Giant Eagle. I didn't particularly enjoy following my mom around with a list, checking things off when she threw them into our shopping cart. So, one day, my mom dropped me off at the kid's center at Giant Eagle, and inside there they had puppets, movies, toys, and games. Most of them were educational games like "Bert and Ernie Create Bombs" or something, but, for the original Sega Genesis, they had Sonic 1. I don't know why they had the original Genesis, for this was when the Nintendo 64 was out. This is where I got my fix, for I didn't get Mega Collection for quite some time.
Firstly. I was the biggest Sonic nerd at the time. I had plush dolls and Mcdonalds toys and everything. So, when I sat down to play, all the kids would watch me play. Take note, I was only five years old, so I wasn't that good, but I was better than any of them, thus making me feel powerful. I always remembered watching the demo when nobody was playing, and I'd see Spring Yard Zone, and I'd be in awe. As a five year old, I could never get past Marble Zone Act 3. Some issues I noticed while playing the first two zones over and over again were that:
1: the pacing was terrible, the game was so slow if I wasn't in Green Hill Zone. For a so-called speedy game, it sure is sluggish. 2: there was a speed cap when Sonic was running on his feet, which meant Sonic wouldn't be moving really fast unless he was rolling.
The game proved to be quite challenging, but each time I played, I got a little bit further. When I got to Spring Yard, I began to explore around the game and this is where I began to truly appreciate the level design in this game. Looking around the stages trying to find every shortcut or ring monitor was very fun. It was always quite exciting to find a new pathway I didn't know was previously there. The best part of this was that certain shortcuts would completely change the layout of the entire stage.
Fun Fact! Most people know about Sonic's original character design ideas, such as an armadillo, a rabbit with long ears, and a few others. But, I came across a character design for Sonic that is a fat character who's hair resembles Bart Simpson. Now that I think about it, this guy could have been part of the inspiration for Robotnik. Hmm, interesting.
Sequels Arise: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic 2 was released for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive/whatever in 1992 on a Tuesday. I'm pretty sure everybody knows the Sonic 2sday pun, and yes, it is terrible. I had to wait a few years until I could play this game, for Giant Eagle didn't have this one. Anyways, Sonic 2 was a massive improvement over the original. Gone was the clunky pacing, gone was the speed cap, this was pure Sonic. Chemical Plant Act 2 was pretty annoying for me as a child, specifically the frustrating water section with the moving blocks. As I got older, I got progressively better. Some of my greatest memories with this game were the 2-player mode. I'm not talking the "co-op" mode where Sonic does all the work and Tails gets left behind except for the special stages where you try to get the Chaos Emeralds and boss battles where you battle Dr. Robotnik. I'm talking the split screen mode. So many memories playing this mode with friends. It's a shame there are only 3 stages and all 7 special stages.
Another great thing I remember from this game was the Super Sonic feature. Basically, you have to collect 50 rings and hit a checkpoint. A group of stars would then form around the checkpoint, and you would have to jump into the stars. You would then be transported to a checkpoint. You had to run through half-pipe structures and collect rings. After doing this 7 times, you win a new feature. However, Sega made sure completing these special stages was the hardest thing in the whole planet. My best friend and I would often sit down and try to complete all 7 special stages, but we could never do it without getting so angry we shut off the console or my friend just had to leave and we could never complete the game. But, one day, while being determined to beat Sonic 2, in Hill Top Zone, I got Super Sonic, a immortal, faster, higher jumping, generally more powerful version of Sonic. I spent an hour just messing around, finding glitches and killing every one.
But then I would know that once I shut off my game, I would loose all my data. Then, one day, my friend told me about not ONLY the level select cheat (sound test, 19, 65, 09, 17) but the Super Sonic cheat (level select, sound test, 4, 1, 2, 6) and the Debug mode cheat which allows you to basically make your own levels(I don't remember the sound test code, it's a long cheat code), and I just went around going to every stage, scrolling through the items, making really weird challenges and death traps and my friends and I would swap the controller, making our own little death traps and abusing Tails with stupid death traps. No wonder this was the best selling Sonic game. I've been rambling long enough. There was one more Genesis game, but first...
Many people know about Sega removing stages from the final version of Sonic 2. Some of the more infamous ones are Dust Hill Zone, Genocide City Zone, and Rock Zone, but the most well known stage is the Hidden Palace Zone. The stage was so far in development, music was made, a full, finalized layout was made for Act 1, and enemies were programmed. But, for some odd reason, it never saw the light of day. Or did it? If you hack into the game's data using Game Genie, the whole stage is there. Well, the programming is. No graphics load at all, and it looks weird.
Ack. Weird, I know.
Did the Hedgehog See It's Shadow: Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic 3 was released on Groundhog's Day, allowing Sega to do another pun with the release date: Hedgehog Day. Not as ridiculous as Sonic 2sday, but still really terrible. Sonic 3 had so much to hype up it's release, it wasn't even funny. Cameos on Seinfeld, Michael Jackson working on the soundtrack, magazines, Right Said Fred dedicating a song to the game, Happy Meal toys, a brand new character, promotional deals, it was crazy. But, for some odd reason, Sonic 3 is the worst selling Sonic game on the Genesis. It still did sell like hotcakes.
Sonic 3 introduced a whole lot to the franchise. This was another game I have good memories with. Firstly, Tails can fly! This was a surprise because, in Sonic 2, Tails could not fly, at least not manually. Here, Tails could fly, and lift Sonic up when playing the co-op mode. This allowed the second player to do 5% more, because Tails would be a requirement for getting some items and special stages. Tails was also very glitchy in co-op mode, and one of my memories with Sonic 3 is incredibly weird. So, my friend and I were playing Carnival Night Zone, a obvious play on Casino Night Zone from Sonic 2, and Tails got stuck in the wall. He could move freely, but he couldn't get out of the wall. The same thing happened in Marble Garden Zone, except I also got stuck in the wall, and since I couldn't get out, we had to wait for the clock to run out so we could retry the stage.
If you also look at the screenshot above, the art style changed. The character sprites were changed, and personally look much better than the sprites in Sonic 1, 2, and CD. But, I think some of the memories we all share with this game are the encounters with Knuckles. He followed you around throughout the whole game, and always obstructs your progress, usually destroying a bridge, thus sending you to a boss fight with Robotnik. I always hated this character in the game, and watching him get burned up from the Death Egg's huge exhaust at the end of Launch Base Act 2 was so satisfying. If only there was an actual boss fight, that would've been cool.
Another great part of this game is the earlier mentioned Special Stages. Although they may be easier, they are actually pretty fun and getting the Perfects (collect all the rings in the Special Stage) is a real challenge. I remember my dad would watch me play, sometimes join me. He HATED the Special Stages for two reasons. One: the way the stage rotated made him incredibly dizzy. I never understood how he got so dizzy, until I got older, and felt the same way, and two: THE NOISE. Just watch this video clip and you'll see what I mean.
Video credit to "x977". But, yeah. These special stages were always memorable to me, and with SEGA rehashing all the special stages with their recent "Sonic 4" titles, they better bring back the Blue Sphere stages. That would be awesome. Anyways, the game also sports a save feature! This may not mean much nowadays, but back in the day, this feature was great! Not to mention, the first two games didn't have a save feature, so this was an amazing thing. One memory I have to share is of the final boss.
8 PM. My babysitter is there watching a 7-Year-old play a game released years ago. As I got to the end of Launch Base Zone, I cheered with joy, because I found out about a mysterious glitch beforehand called "The Mysterious Seat" (see video above), but my friends and I called it back then the "Yellow Block Feature". Not only could you skip the first Launch Base boss, but I found it kept your rings from falling through the platform at the end of the final boss. So, I fought the final boss, called "Big Arm", and I kept dying. My babysitter didn't say much, he was just watching quietly. So, with one life left, I used the earlier mentioned seat glitch to keep my rings and defeat the final boss. As I screamed with joy and watched Sonic jump towards the screen, I was so proud of myself, but I also was disappointed. What the, why did the game just end? No real conclusion, the game just abruptly ended. Wait, that wasn't where the game was meant to end? Let's look into it a bit more.
As some of you may know, Sonic 3 was originally intended to be a much bigger game. Sonic 3 was originally meant to have more stages, more gameplay options, and more gimmicks. Some things would be the ability to play as Knuckles, stages like Mushroom Valley, Flying Battery, and Sandopolis, and brand new special stages! However, due to cartridge limitations and deadlines for the game's release, it was never made. Luckily, later in 1994, that missing section of the game was released, as Sonic & Knuckles.
DLC in the 90's: Sonic & Knuckles
Sonic & Knuckles was released in late 1994, and it didn't have a pun involving it's release date. Thank the lord. Anyways, one of the most intriguing things about this video game is the cartridge slot built into the top. The unique thing about this is that you could connect your Sonic 2 and 3 cartridges to Sonic & Knuckles and play as Knuckles in those games! Neat, huh? Well, I'll explain how this affected Sonic 3 drastically later on. But, this only added to the re-playability of the previous games, except Sonic 1. Sonic & Knuckles was not compatible with that game. Huh.
Knuckles played somewhat differently than Sonic. While Knuckles maintained Sonic's speed, he could not jump as high as Sonic, but Knuckles could glide and climb up walls, which is very awesome. Knuckles always felt as if he was meant for you to go exploring. As a kid, I would spend hours roaming around Sonic & Knuckles, looking for every ring box, shield, special stage, the works. Nowadays, when I go back to play the game again, I find shields and special stages I must have missed all those years ago. That is my favorite thing about this game: the level design. It still keeps the fast-paced platforming while still adding plenty of exploration and puzzle solving to the game.
As a kid, I could never even beat the Flying Battery Zone, which is the second stage on Sonic and Knuckles. Nowadays, I can absolutely DESTROY this game. However, you should never play Sonic and Knuckles alone. Firstly, you should snap in Sonic 3 into the Sonic and Knuckles cartridge. Then, make a new file and play the game from there. It combines both games into one giant experience, the way the game was originally meant to be played. This meant not only could you play this huge game, but you could play the whole game as Knuckles! In addition, you could play the Sonic and Knuckles stages as Tails, because he wasn't in Sonic and Knuckles for some reason. Finally, there were 7 more Special stages you could play once you reached the Mushroom Hill Zone. The ring you jump through to get to them flashes a bunch of colors. I always thought this was very weird. I wondered why it was flashing. I thought is was a glitch back then.
(this video shows off what the rings looked like, just lower your volume, it's pretty loud) Anyways, if you collected all 7 of these new emeralds(called Super Emeralds) you would gain the ability to become Hyper Sonic/Knuckles and Super Tails. These characters are amazingly broken. All of these characters can breath underwater, and move much faster. Hyper Sonic could do a mid-air dash that not only acted as a double jump, but as a screen-nuke that killed every enemy on screen. Hyper Knuckles could glide longer distances and climb walls faster, and when Hyper Knuckles glided into a wall, it would kill every enemy on screen. Super Tails did not have any screen nuke, but he could fly much faster, and he was surrounded by a bunch of immortal birds called "Flickies". These Flickies would move all around the screen and kill the enemies. This also annihilates bosses. This is one of the most fun parts of the whole experience.
I would ramble so much more with this game, but I'll just share one more memory with this game. This one, once again, involves the Final Boss. OK, so I'm at the Death Egg Zone, the final level. I can't believe I made it this far. So, I get to the battle with the giant walker. Basically, the stage falls apart as you fight him, and one little mess-up could send you plummeting to your doom. I had Tails as my partner, and I didn't have anybody else playing with me. There was a glitch where if Tails hit the boss and you tried to hit it right after, you would fall through the boss. I had to time my jumps very specifically and ease on the d-pad at just the right time, and with 2 lives left, I defeated Robotnik. OR DID I? After that fight, you would have to pursue Robotnik through space in your Super form. You had to mash "jump" to boost to Robotnik. I couldn't afford to lose, I didn't want to fight that boss again. But, with my amazing skill/luck, I defeated Sonic 3 and Knuckles.
Knuckles was supposed to be playable in Sonic the Hedgehog 1. However, due to palette issues involving the Knuckles sprite, we was never added in. This feature was mentioned in a Sega magazine in Australia, but that was meant to be a joke. Instead, when you jack Sonic 1 into Sonic and Knuckles, you enter a collection of randomly generated special stages. There are well over a million stages to play, and if you played them all, you have no life.
Well, there was part 1. Life has been pretty hectic lately, so this took over a month to complete, but now it's out, and I hope you all enjoy this one. Part 2 should be released some time in June, but for now, I'm gonna play more Sonic games. Until then, I'm SegaFanatic, and I will see you next time.