In 1990, Sega's new Genesis (Megadrive) system was doing well enough in its own way -- but few people really knew what to make of Sega, and people were reluctant to put forth money on an admittedly-impressive system by a dodgy, imageless "nobody" of a company, as famous as Sega was for various arcade feats.

What Sega needed was a niche -- they needed to draw people in. They needed to be identified by something other than sporatic, disconnected arcade achievements.

They needed a mascot. Nintendo had their stupid plumber; Disney had their mouse; Kellogg's had a zoo.

Alex Kidd and Opa-Opa didn't seem to catch anybody's imagination. Sega needed a mascot.

So Yuji Naka (and Naoto Ohshima) created one!

The mascot, Sonic, and his eponymous first game, did exactly what they were intended to do; they gave Sega an actual, real public image -- something with which people could identify. Suddenly, Genesis sales skyrocketed.

Sega pretty much stayed on top, as a result of the Hedgehog, for the next four years.

Sonic is a Super-Deformed, blue hedgehog with large eyes, white gloves, and Red shoes. He's also, according to the relevant lore, the fastest creature alive. This shows in his games, which are, frankly, zippy as hell.

Sonic, being a hedgehog, can roll into a ball and whomp enemies with his spines. He collects rings to prevent damage, and, well, again, he just runs very quickly.

Sonic's goal in each of his games is, essentially, to foil the plans of the required nemesis in a situation such as this, a certain Dr. Julian Ivo Robotnik (known as Eggman in Japan).

Robotnik's plans always seem to revolve around "roboticizing" various mammalian and avian lifeforms, while Sonic's involve destroying these robots and setting the animals free.

It's worth noting that, thanks to DiC's short-lived but very well-made ABC cartoon, which expanded and fleshed-out the Sonic universe in very "real" and rather sophisticated ways, Sonic has made a rather big contribution to the furry subculture. When asked to describe the concept of "furriness," the example of Sonic's comic universe is often given right off the bat -- the extrapolations made by Dic and, later, Archie Comics, give a perfect example of how anthropomorphic characters can have complex, relatively mature interrelationships. Admittedly, the comic exists on a much lower level of sophistication and quality than did the original cartoon, but the concept still holds.

Sonic was mostly gone from the limelight, so to speak, for several years after the Genesis was retired.

His absence has been bandied around in almost every discussion on the topic as a major reason for the perceived failure of Sega's 32-bit console, the Saturn. This may be partially the case, but Sega did make a number of other strange errors in judgement as well during that period.

To make up for lost time and respect, Sega released on 9/9/99, along with the launch of their Dreamcast console, the first new Sonic game -- the first real game, anyway -- in five years, Sonic Adventure. This title, along with a few other stunningly strong launch games, a relatively strong ad campaign, and lots of word-of-mouth, helped Sega earn the largest single-day entertainment revenue in history ($97m) -- not to mention whallops of critical acclaim.

In essence, The "Blue Blur" has both saved and (re-)established Sega on two seperate occasions. Every time he's been absent, Sega has, more or less, floundered. Yuji Naka is as important to Sega's fate as Miyamoto is to that of Nintendo.

Me? I've always dug hedgehogs, anyway. They're keen.

Sonic The Hedgehog was created as a showcase game for the Sega Mega Drive and debutted in 1991. Up until that time, Sega had sold the machine on the strength of their arcade conversions, and had no mascot to act as a face for the company. The character was created by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima. Their goals were to exploit the Megadrive's technological strengths (i.e. colours, speedy hardware scrolling and stereo sound); and create a timeless iconic character (there are echoes of Mickey Mouse - who Sega had previously licensed for the successful Castle of Illusion - and Felix the Cat in Sonic's appearance). He had enough "attitude" to pitch to the American market while being cute and aesthetically pleasing for the Japanese. (And they couldn't get enough of him here in Europe - Sega plastered his visage all over their Sega buses and trains, and ran promotions with Coca-Cola.)

The canonical Sonic games were 2D scrolling platformers. Each started in an idyllic coastal environment and progressed through 6 or more themed stages filled with the usual enemies, traps and obstacles as well as huge rollercoaster loops, rising tides, pinball machines, and whatever else the developers could throw at you. Each stage was split into 2 or 3 acts, the last of which culminated in a showdown with Dr. Eggman in one of his vehicles. Levels could raced through to earn a time bonus, or explored to allow the collection of gold rings (you would not die if you were hurt while carrying at least one ring - but you would drop all your rings), of which 50 gained you access to a special stage, and multiples of 100 would gain an extra life. The game was designed to be as self-explanatory as possible - no menus, no status bar, minimal text, one controller button - even the story was kept to a minimum.

I was going to include a list of all the Sonic games here, but you can see most of them for yourself at sonicfoundation.org (they miss a few, mainly coin-ops). You can also see the utterly shameful American box art for the later games. So far the blue spiky one has appeared on the Sega Mega Drive, Sega Master System, Game Gear, Mega-CD, Sega Saturn (just), Dreamcast, Arcade, mobile phone handsets, Neogeo Pocket Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Gamecube and PC.

There are a couple of different versions of the game; later production runs featured ripples underwater in the Labyrinth Zone stage, and some other graphical tweaks.

Sonic debuted on the Sega Master System and Game Gear in an 8-bit conversion of his premiere game. Aside from having scaled down graphics and sounds, this version of the game had fewer levels and easier objectives. The famed Chaos Emeralds, for example, were not hidden away in a bonus stage but where sitting out in the open in the main levels themselves. Sonic's only weapon was his spin jump and rings were plentiful. A skilled player could rack up nine lives before the end of the third zone.

Speaking of zones, each of the following zones is divided into three acts (with the third act being a boss act):

  • Green Hill
  • Bridge
  • Jungle
  • Labryinth
  • Scrap Brain
  • Sky Base

The Game Gear version of this title is readily available at online auctions and used game shops (as well as emulators if you can find the ROM), but the Master System version is harder to come by in terms of overall searching, but it's an easy find if you can track down used Master System cartridges. Even easier is to get the Nintendo GameCube release Sonic Adventure DX which includes the game as a hidden bonus.


When Sonic's first adventure became a rousing success Sega knew their had found their mascot and, in the years to come, released dozens of games featuring Sonic and his friends over a wide variety of systems.
Like Nintendo's Mario, Sonic enjoyed a life of luxury in the world of marketing. The hedgehog was plastered all over almost any product you can imagine, including clothing, toys, coloring books, comic books, and other items.

One Sonic product that always stuck out in my mind, however, was the Segasonic Soda. It was a carbonated fruity drink sold only in Japanese vending machines. The cans were red and blue and had a picture of Sonic on the front in his famous "finger wagging" pose. The editors of the gaming magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly were so mystified by the soda that they sent one of their reporters to Japan back in 1992 to buy as many cases of the stuff as he could and bring them back to the EGM offices for the staff to drink.

This Writeup contains spoilers and excessive writing about a particular small, blue, spiky mammal!


Released: 1991 - SEGA
Platform: Megadrive/Genesis
Genre: Platform
Other: 1 Player


Sonic Team
Presents


That spiky blue blur first charged across our screens in 1991 in all his 16-bit glory and changed our world forever, with fast scrolling levels, catchy soundtracks and gold rings flying everywhere. I don’t think many people will disagree when I say that Sonic took platform gaming in a distinctly different direction to the antics of a certain plumber but we won’t go into that age old rivalry here. The game revolved around speed, hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes. Anybody could have walked through the levels and probably completed it flawlessly, the challenge was to get that spiky critter to pound through the levels as fast as his little flailing legs would carry him and not die in the process. Invariably this ended in disaster when some well placed spikes sent ripples of rings radiating from the ‘blue one’ and you spend the next few seconds running backwards and forwards trying to get as many back as you can like someone who has just opened the change section of their wallet the wrong way up.


Storyline
I think I’ve heard just about every explanation possible as to why Robotnik is evil, why there are all these rings lying around, what the Chaos Emeralds are and why powerups are hidden in computer monitors. There was a fairly explanatory plotline given in the manual for the Japanese version of the game which was cut from the U.S. and U.K. release. Here is the general swing of things:

The game is set on South Island some sort of mysterious place on the Planet Mobius. Hidden somewhere on South Island are the seven Chaos Emeralds which are very powerful jewels. Dr. Robotnik wants the jewels and the power for his own evil ends and has been turning all the cute little animals in evil robot slaves to help him find them (Little does he know that they are in some sort of parallel dimension). Sonic must now save his animal friends, get the emeralds before Robotnik and defeat the evil doctor himself!

Yes, it’s as simple as that! No, Robotnik was never a nice man called Kintobor as the book ‘Stay Sonic’ would have you believe, and the computer monitors?… Well, I guess it’s just something to do with the search for the emeralds…


Controls

    D-Pad (Left/Right) – Controls the direction of running and movement in the air, can also be used to push certain items.

    D-Pad (Up) – When standing still Sonic will look upwards and give the player a view of what is above

    D-Pad (Down) – If pushed when running then Sonic will curl up into a ball and roll along the floor in his spinning attack. If pushed when stationary, Sonic will crouch down and the player will get a view of what is below.

    A, B or C Button – Jump, Sonic jumps and spins in a ball and can be used to attack things in his spinning attack.


Game Structure
The game is split up into 7 Zones each with three acts (Except the Final Zone) and an appearance by the Boss (Dr. Robotnik) at the end of the third act. The ends of the first and second acts are marked by the Robotnik sign which Sonic spins as he runs past it (In early development Sonic was going to jump and punch the air after completing an act). By jumping past the sign you stand a chance of revealing bonus point scores. After the boss on the third act Sonic will find an animal prison container; Jump onto the handy button on top and it will explode releasing the animals trapped by Robotnik in that zone. On finishing an act you are awarded a bonus based on your clear time and rings collected as well as a boss bonus of 1000. Your score, rings and act time are displayed in the top left of the screen and your remaining lives are displayed in the bottom left of the screen. Points are earned for killing enemies (100 each, going onto 200, 500, and 1000 for each one after that in a single attack) and in addition destroying or hitting certain things will award you points.


Sonic
If I have to describe what or who he is then where have you been for the last decade and a bit? But for completeness, here goes:

Sonic is a Blue hedgehog who can run at unusually high speeds. His spines are razor sharp and can be used as a formidable weapon. He wears very distinctive redsneakers’ with a white stripe across the top. Always the hedgehog with attitude he gets bored very quickly and will give you disapproving looks if you keep him in one place for too long.


Dr. Julian Ivo Robotnik
Known as Dr. Eggman in the Japanese version of the game and universally in the more recent games. He is an egg shaped evil doctor with thin black legs, bald head and a large ginger moustache. Generally seen travelling around in his egg-o-matic. As the archenemy of Sonic he builds many ingenious machines to kill sonic but fails to make then strong enough to take 8 hits from the blue hedgehog.


In-game Items

Rings
Golden Rings are scattered around the zones These have several functions. Firstly they determine the ring bonus you gain at the end of the act. They also shield Sonic from damage on one occasion, but are scattered and usually most are lost. Just after losing your rings Sonic will flash for a short while indicating that he is invulnerable just after the damage has been done. If Sonic posses no rings when damaged he will die (Note: Rings do not shield Sonic from the big three instant deaths Falling off the screen, being squashed and drowning). Finally if 100 are collected then you are awarded an extra life.

Springs
These can both help and hinder you depending on their placement. They propel Sonic away from their top surface either up into the air or speeding along the ground. The yellow springs only send him a little way whereas the red springs send him further.

Lampposts
Who can forget that classic ‘Ding-Dong’ sound effect as you run past one sending it spinning and changing it from blue to red. They record your present score and time as you pass it, and should you die you will return to that point with that score and time. A lamppost is always found just before the boss.

Buttons
Jump on top of these to activate moving scenery or a secret door.

Monitors/Item Box
These PC monitors can be smashed either by jumping onto, or rolling through them. They give you one of 5 different bonuses:

    Ring – This gives you 10 rings instantly

    Shield – This gives a force field around you which will protect you once from losing your rings when damged (This does not protect you against the big three deaths falling off screen, being squashed and drowning)

    Power boots – These allow Sonic to run even faster than usual. Be warned, like so many things in life they are just as dangerous as they are fun!

    Invincibility – Gives Sonic a starry trail and makes him immune to damage.

    Extra Life – The Picture of Sonic’s face should give it away and the tremendous fanfare as you collect

Spikes
He may be Spiky, but razor sharp metal spikes of death are too much for even the bluest of hedgehogs. Stay away from the sharp side of them. They can be found in groups of three on the floor, covering entire areas, moving in and out of walls, and many other places. It is useful to note that only the spike-side damages you and if protruding from a wall Sonic can stand on the topside quite safely.

Lava
It’s molten rock! It will hurt Sonic!

Underwater Bubbles
Found in Labyrinth Zone, these little bubbling cracks will give off one big bubble regularly which Sonic can breathe when underwater.


Enemies

    ChopperRobotic piranha that jump up at Sonic from under bridges

    Moto Bug – Resembles a ladybird and trundles through Green Hill Zone on its wheel. No real threat, just don’t run into it.

    Crabmeat – A robotic crab which scuttles slowly side to side sometimes stopping to fire two projectiles out of its claws.

    Batbrain – Evil rocket powered bats which hang upsode down on the ceiling waiting for Sonic to come along. They then fly in his general direction.

    Buzz Bomber – A wasp type enemy that will stop to fire a projectile at you from its sting.

    Newtron – Cleverly blending itself into the background this enemy will appear when Sonic is near. The Green ones will fire a projectile at him, and the Blue ones will activate their rockets and fly towards him like a missile.

    Caterkiller – A Caterpillar type robot with dangerous spikes along the length of its back. Hitting the back will damage Sonic so aim for the undefended head (The easiest way is to Roll at it).

    Roller – Robotnik’s attempt to imitate the movement of our hero. These blue robots roll towards you down the long slopes of Spring Yard Zone occasionally stopping and opening up from their ball form. Unlike Sonic however they are not spiky and can be easily destroyed by rolling through them.

    Spikes – Looks a bit like a crab and patrols some areas in Spring Yard Zone. They are spiky on top so be careful. If you’re really accurate you can try and bounce on their unprotected front, or roll through them for the easier option.

    Jaws – Yes, It’s a shark! It swims thorough the underwater world of Labyrinth Zone and makes fish food out of anything getting in its way.

    Burrobot – They hide underground and are only visible by the spinning drill on the end of their noses. As Sonic approaches they jump out of their hiding places and continue towards him. They can be found both on dry land and underwater.

    Orbinaut – A Spherical being surrounded by four spiky objects which spin around it menacingly. The underwater ones will release the spiky balls as Sonic approaches and are left defenceless as long as you manage to avoid their attack. The Green ones will hold onto the spiky balls and there is no safe way for Sonic to attack them, these ones are best avoided.

    Bomb Bots – Are activated as Sonic approaches and will explode shortly after shooting four harmful projectiles out. There is no way to kill them apart from letting them explode.

    Ball Hog – A Robot which looks like some sort of deformed pig. They stand at the top of ramps and release bombs which bounce down.


Zones

Green Hill Zone
Miles of grass covered hills all set against the backdrop of blue skies, waterfalls and that characteristic checkerboard ground. Sonic finds himself tearing across the zone, round loop-the-loops, spinning down underground tubes and crashing through walls. Although it is tempting to allow yourself to just run through it as fast as you can there is more to it than first impressions would have you believe. Try exploring the platforms under the main ground level or climbing up to high places using the moving platforms, both of these can reveal areas rich in rings. Also try and find out how to reach the areas on top of the loop-the-loops which usually contain a bonus of some sort for your trouble. Some of the palm trees contain monitors and some contain springs that will send you up to rings in the sky.
Enemies: Moto bug, Buzz Bomber, Chopper, Crabmeat, Newtron

Boss: The boss screen contains two elevated platforms at either side. He will fly in from the right hand side, slowly unveil the great swinging pendulum and begin to patrol backwards and forwards swinging it below his ship attempting to hit Sonic. The best idea is to get as many hits in as possible before he even starts swinging the ball. You can then get into a rhythm by jumping at him from each platform just before he hits and then running to the other platform.

Other info: Originally the large pendulum that Robotnik uses was going to be free rolling in parts of the game and from various screen shots it appears as though Sonic would have been able to ride upon it. This was removed in the final version, however the large ball sprite can still be seen when scrolling through the items in the debug mode (See codes section). Also the clouds in the Japanese version scrolled across the screen.


Marble Zone
The ancient ruins of Marble Zone are built upon an area of high volcanic activity. There is lava everywhere. Sonic must carefully negotiate through this perilous maze of ruins avoiding slow moving pistons, falling metal weights, and blocks of spikes all of which will crush him. Watch out for the flames as they chase you over small islands floating in the liquid rock and use the blocks to float safely across large pools of it. There are some secret passages here which will lead you to areas containing lives and rings. The classic memorable moment in this zone is when the lava chases Sonic down the narrow corridor in act 2.
Enemies: Caterkiller, Buzz Bomber, Batbrain

Boss: The boss screen consists of two brick areas either side of a lava pit. Robotnik will fly in piloting his egg-o-matic and drop a flame on of the brick areas. The flame spreads across the area and then dies out. Basically you should be able to hit Robotnik a couple of times before he drops the flame, then quickly jump to the other platform (Where the flames should already have disappeared). Repeat this until he dies. Watch out for the fireballs shooting up from the pool of lava.

Other info: In early beta releases of the game UFO’s appeared in the sky above the ruins of Marble zone. They can be seen in the arcade commercial for Noah’s Arcade in the film 'Wayne’s World'.


Spring Yard Zone
Sonic finds himself high on the rooftops of a large metropolis. This place is full of Springs, bumpers and ramps. Spin, bounce and run through this colourful level full of meaningless signs which are illuminated in brilliant golden stars. Pinpoint jumping accuracy is required on several sections when jumping between moving aerial platforms and split second timing is required to run around basins being followed by huge spiky balls. For some reason when I used to play Sonic as a kid I thought that the huge ‘U’ sections were the coolest thing as you can make him run down one side and up the other whilst facing in the wrong direction… No, wait that is the coolest thing! All is not what it seems in Spring Yard Zone, and there are several secret passages to be found which lead to a bonus of some sort.
Enemies: Crabmeat, Buzz Bomber, Spikes, Roller

Boss: The boss screen is a platform made up of large blocks. Falling down through a hole leads to instant death. Robotnik flies in and with the large spike under his egg-o-matic he removes and destroys each block one by one. They key to defeating him is speed. Make sure you hit him as many times as you can when he comes down to steal a block and you should only have to avoid 2 or three holes at most.

Other Info: In early development Spring Yard Zone was called Sparkling Zone.


Labyrinth Zone
Ah, the frustration of underwater zones! Sonic must make his way through a maze of flooded ancient ruins filled with moving spears, stone heads which fire lava and the ultimate hassle of having to breathe. Underwater Sonic has to obey the laws of physics so he moves much slower, there is also a ‘submarine’ type noise which is played to remind you that you are underwater. When Sonic is running out of breath the panic music will start and a countdown from 5 will begin, I don’t think I have to tell to what happens if time runs out. At times he is sucked through tunnels on fast flowing currents and be warned that he can be killed by being squashed between floating rocks and the roof. The first time you reach act 3 you will send the first few minutes just sliding down the slippery ramp expecting it to end, trying to get off that thing is probably the most memorable moment in the zone!
Enemies: Jaws, Orbinaut, Burrobot

Boss: You don’t actually destroy Robotnik’s machine this time. You have to chase him upward through a stepped tunnel which is filling up with water. There are lots of moving spears and fire shooting stone heads to try and destroy Sonic as well as the always present menace of running out of air. The best idea is to take your time, a mistake will send you falling quite a way downward and may cause Sonic to drown eventually. Once at the top Robotnik will run away and all you have to do is to release the animals.

Other Info: The Japanese version of the game has ripple effects going upwards across the screen when underwater. There were plans for a pair of goggles which could be obtained from a monitor to appear in this zone, but were never included. Presumably they would have given Sonic infinite air.


Star Light Zone
Easily one of the best zones in the game! It makes a refreshing change to find a tranquil and fun stage this late in a game, but Star Light satisfies both criteria and is very much the clam before the storm of Scrap Brain Zone. Sonic is put on what appears to be the construction site at the top of a large skyscraper area on a peaceful quiet night and he must find his way across the steel girders scattered with lamps and warning cones. The zone contains very fast runs of springs, loops and steep hills which Sonic can roll through with ease as well as some tricky moving platforms. For some reason there are what appear to be desk fans left all over the place and if they are blowing against Sonic then he will not be able to run past them, but will go through the action of running on the spot. Star Light contains many areas where falling from a platform will mean falling to your doom and also beware of the bomb bots!
Enemies: Bomb Bots, Orbinaut

Boss: You enter the boss area and are faced with three see-saws in a row. Robonik will enter and drop spiky balls from his egg-o-matic onto the ends of the see-saws. Obviously you want to avoid touching the spiky balls, but also they will explode if left for too long and expel 4 projectiles. Defeat him by either sending the bombs back up to him, of using their weight to send Sonic spinning up toward him.

Other Info: The Music for this Zone was loosely based on the song ‘Kusuriyubi no Kesshin’ by Japanese band ‘Dreams Come True’.


Scrap Brain Zone
Tread carefully! You’re in Robotnik’s evil industrial city. There are traps and things that will harm Sonic everywhere and one false move will probably send you falling into oblivion. Sonic must make his way past flame jets, electrifying beacons, circular saw blades on conveyor belts and heavy machinery designed to squash him. Even the platforms he stands on might suddenly move from under his feet or crumble beneath them. The first act takes place mainly outside with Sonic trying to find a way into Robotnik’s lair and act 2 takes place inside the main factory. At the end of act 2 you are confronted with Robotnik who has hidden himself behind a force field. He destroys the ground beneath Sonic’s feet and he is sent down to face act 3 which is basically another act of Labyrinth Zone (With a slightly change colour scheme!). There is no boss at the end of act 3, just a bank of springs which send you flying back up to face the evil doctor in the Final Zone!
Enemies: Caterkiller, Bomb Bot, Jaws, Burrobot, Ball Hog

Other Info: Scrap Brain Zone was originally going to be called Clock Work Zone.


Final Zone
The final battle with Dr. Robotnik. Run along and you find yourself in the boss area. There are four large squashers which can contain the doctor , two in the roof, and two in the floor. Two of them move at a time and this is your chance to hit him if you can get to the one that he is in. After that four balls of energy will materialise at the top of the screen and move downward vaguely towards Sonic. He must jump to avoid these. Then the process is repeated again. It still only takes 8 hits to beat Robotnik and you can destroy his Egg-o-matic as he tries to escape after for the satisfaction of it!


Special Stage
The Special Stage is your chance to collect the six chaos emeralds and see the good ending to the game. To get to the stage you must finish acts 1 or 2 holding at east 50 rings ad then jump through the giant ring waiting for Sonic at the end of the stage. You will then be transported to the rotating maze where you must bounce and spin through to try and find the emerald. The emerald will be hidden behind some coloured crystals which must be hit several times (depending on their colour) until they are destroyed. Once Sonic touches the crystal the stage is over. He can also end the stage by touching a goal area, but that loses you a chance to gain an emerald. By collecting 50 rings in the special stage you gain a continue. There are several ‘block’ types which help you to control the maze. The ‘R’ block changes the direction of rotation, the ‘UP’ block speeds up the rotation and the ‘DOWN’ block slow the rotation. It is much harder to collect the emerald than it first seems!


Cheat Codes

Level Select (Engraved in all our memories!) – At the title screen press UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT and you should hear a bell, then Hold down A and press START

Slow Motion – At the title screen press C, C, UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT you should hear a bell. Then start the game and pause. Pressing A will reset the game, holding B will go into slow motion and C will give frame by frame animation.

Debug Mode – At the title screen press UP, C, DOWN, C, LEFT, C, RIGHT and you should hear a bell. Hold down A and press START, but continue to hold A until the level actually starts. There should now be some Hex numbers where the score should be. Press B to toggle between Sonic and the item, press A to change the item, and press C to place the item.


Continue?

There, finished! I think that covers just about everything, but if you think I’ve missed anything major them message me! Most of this was written from my own experience and replaying the game, but the information about changes in development and the storyline details was written using information from the following sites:
http://sost.emulationzone.org/sonic_1/ghz/index.htm
http://ghz.emulationzone.org/museum/index.html

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