Sonic the Hedgehog is 30 this year and it seems some forgotten games exist, maybe this is the time to revive them?
Sonic the Hedgehog is probably one of the most well known gaming characters of all around the world, almost up there with the likes of Mario and Pikachu in my opinion. This may change between demographics – older people may know Sonic more than Pikachu and vice-versa; but there is no doubting Sonic’s fame. For example: I’m not American (funny that from the sites name…) but even I know that Sonic has featured in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as a giant balloon which as far as I’m aware is a big deal in the US.
Probably most known of all are his good old 16-but adventures with Tails and Knuckles on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (delete as appropriate). The look and theme of the Green Hill Zone is probably set in the mind of many people who were kids in the 1990s, and would be instantly recognisable to this day.
But there exists a whole other world of Sonic the Hedgehog from that era that doesn’t seem to get the mentions, acknowledgements or respect it deserves. I am of course talking about the 8-bit mainline Sonic games that featured on the Sega Master System – Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 2 and Sonic Chaos.
Yes, these games were also available on the Game Gear and being able to play them on the go in the early 90s would have been ana amazing experience, alas it is one I do not know as I have never owned a Game Gear (yet). This is something I intend to fix, despite the heavy battery cost.
However, for this article, I am focusing on the Master System ports of these games for two reasons – one, I know these games (well, two of them) really well and much better than the Game Gear ports, and secondly, i do own the first two on Game Gear and have played the GG versions on Sonic Adventure DX. My basic takeaway is that the games are really good to look at and play, but the resolution hinders this spectacularly, most prominently on the first Sonic 2 boss in the Underground Zone. Despite being the first boss, you can hardly see anything due to the resolution making it a bitch to beat. On the Master System however, this is not the case.
Away from the resolution, we need to look at the games themselves. Sonic 1 and 2 arent ports of the Mega Drive version, theyre brand new unique games with the only shared level being Green Hill Zone at the start of Sonic 1. Green Hills Zone (yep, a different zone found in Sonic 2) also shares a common feature with Sonic CD.
They play really well though – the graphics look great for an 8-bit system, you get the feeling of speed as you go through some of the levels – note you don’t in all 16-bit versions e.g. Marble Zone and the music sounds clear and very Sonic-esque. This is particularly felt on levels like Bridge Zone, Jungle Zone and Sky High Zone. They present their own challenges with bosses such as that on Bridge Zone and Aquatic Lake Zone.
These games feel and play just like the old 2D Sonic games but adapted for a less powerful system. They provide their own experience, but one that should be familiar to any old school Sonic fan.
Sure, they have issues but which game doesn’t – the hang gliding in Sonic 2 can be a nightmare to get right (but that could just be me) and some jumps are really hard to get right. But if you stick at it, and look at the games as a whole, you can easily see these are games worth of the Sonic universe.
The issue is they haven’t had much exposure. Sure we had the Game Gear versions which have their own limitations with the aforementioned battery life and resolution; but the Master System versions are neglected. This is further emphasised in America where only the first one came out on the system so many have not got to experience the Master System adaptations.
So. Sonic turns 30 next month on 23 June and I think re-releasing these 8-bit classics to the whole world will give these games a new life, the Sonic universe a breath of fresh air and allow many people to experience the joy that is these games. We already have Alex Kidd in Miracle World on many modern systems (and of course the remake is coming) so why not do these Sonic games? I’m sure they’ll be popular and would definitely be a day one purchase for me.
Sure, they had a release on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console but I think they were kept quiet and were mostly picked up by people who knew of the games or found them by chance. I’m sure most people instantly went for the 16-bit versions. This was also about 10-15 years ago.
But given Sonic’s big birthday this year, now seems the time to release these gems to the world again and make a big song and dance about it this time so they can get the attention they fully need and deserve. They shouldn’t be a dirty, little secret, they should be cherished by Sega.
Come on Sega, do it and share these classics with the world.