Looking at the sheer number of titles, cartoons, comics, and anthropomorphic cast members, Sonic the Hedgehog looks like the second coming of Mickey Mouse. Sonic has been around for over 20 years since his first title back in 1991. While he continues to be Sega’s cash cow (I use that term lightly), Sonic has gone through more growing pains than any other character in video games. There have been over 30 2D and 3D titles for the character on Genesis, Game Gear, Dreamcast, and so on. Not to mention the racers, sports, or pinball games. That’s more titles than Mario (Note: I have done zero research to back that up). For me, Sonic lived and died on the Genesis.
First there was the original Sonic the Hedgehog, eventually packed in with the Genesis. Quickly Sonic became Sega’s mascot, and the next bit of ammo in the console wars. The game was serviceable, playing like many first entries in a series tends too. The general ideas are there, though not fully realized or executed properly. Many of his later (somewhat game breaking) abilities weren’t even present. Most notably the spin dash. Try and beat this game now, I dare you.
Sonic 2 made a lot of changes. This is when Sonic gelled perfectly. The first of Sonic’s many, many dimwitted animal companions made an appearance with the two tailed fox Tails. He could be controlled by a second player, making the game somewhat co-op, but would often die easily, only to return a short time later. While he became incredibly annoying in later games, here he was easily ignored. What made Sonic 2 amazing was the level design. Emerald Hills, Chemical Plant, Casino Night, Death Egg. These were classic levels that defined Sonic for years. One of the best additions came with the 7th Chaos Emerald.
Numbering 6 in the first game, there were special stages to find and navigate, with the end goal of retrieving the Emerald. Same premise in the sequel, though the levels were different (quasi-3D!). With all seven Emeralds in hand, 50 rings and a jump would turn him into Super
Saiyan Sonic. Gold with spiky hair (quills?), Sonic’s speed, jumps, and acceleration increased along with being invincible. It was pretty sweet.
There’s some argument about Sonic 3. Some thought it took the series in a different direction, making the game to easy, others loved it. I was in the latter camp. The third of Sonic’s friends was introduced, Knuckles the Echidna with his super cool dreadlocks. Originally shown as an antagonist, he opposed Sonic during his third proper outing. While I think Sonic 2 was the original vision full realized, Sonic 3 definitely delineates from that. Double jump split second shield, element based shield power ups, and save files. The game was different on an execution level, but the same great level design and music remained.
The final entry in the series for the Genesis game from Sonic & Knuckles. This was a direct continuation of Sonic 3, allowing players to select either Sonic or Knuckles. Knuckles could run fast, glid, climb up walls, and remove certain obstacles. The main feature of the game was the lock-on technology (Sega-ism). The cartridge was designed to allow another cartridge to plug into the top. Combining this with Sonic 3 made one of the best gaming experiences ever (no hyperbole).
Using the save file system from Sonic 3, players would select either Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Sonic & Tails to play through the game. You would start in Sonic 3 with your selected character. Once completing Sonic 3, the game would immediately segue into the first level of Sonic & Knuckles. The Chaos Emeralds were also present in Sonic 3, accessed through hidden entrances throughout the game. In short order players could collect all 7 emeralds to become Super Sonic/Tails/Knuckles. The addition of Sonic & Knuckles added the 7 Super Emeralds, allowing them to turn into Hyper Sonic (or whatever). Unlocking this ability quickly made the later levels amazingly fun to traverse as an invincible god.
Connecting Sonic 2 with Sonic & Knuckles would insert Knuckles into the game. Doing the same thing with any other game would result in a screen with the characters saying “No Way.” Hitting A, B, and C would open up a randomly created special level similar to the types scene in Sonic 3. Later compilations of the Sonics retained these lock-on features.
I haven’t cared for a Sonic game since the Genesis (I’ve played many). Sonic was best here, delivering slightly different experiences while retaining what made Sonic best, speed. There’s compilations of the games everywhere. I don’t care where you do it, but play through Sonic 2, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles. You won’t regret it.
Wasn’t the lock-on sweet (only gimmick Sega did that worked)? What’s your favorite Sonic game? Comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter! You can now see my Saturday Morning Cartoon posts at The Two-Headed Nerd!
Sonic Generations was okay.