System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: Sonic 1 – 1991; Sonic 2 – 1992
First Played: Sonic 2 – Christmas 1992; Sonic 1 – Summer 1994
Status: Sonic 1 – DEFEATED, August 20, 2014
Sonic 2 – DEFEATED, August 27, 2014
Sonic the Hedgehog.
He’s one of the most recognizable videogame icons in the world…well, next to Mario. This cool, rude, blue, dude with attitude was the start of a vicious battle between Nintendo and SEGA for supremacy over the multimillion dollar video game industry of the early 90’s. And even though SEGA’s Sonic Boom would eventually fade away, Sonic is still, over 25 years later, making a name for himself, even if it is, ironically, on Nintendo systems for the most part.
Nowadays, I’m not the biggest Sonic fan. I recently played the game “Sonic: Lost World” for WiiU and found it lacklustre, repetitive, and even annoying at times. Definitely not worth the $50 I shelled out for it. Other recent “3D” Sonic games have met with similar criticism, the most common thing you will hear is, “It’s nothing like the classic Sonic games.” Well, I decided to put that to the test by playing THE Sonic game, the one that got the ball rolling in the first place. But before I go there, I need to talk about Christmas 1992…and its appropriately named sequel Sonic the Hedgehog 2…
When First We Met…
As a 9 year old, I was all for team Sonic. I still remember some of the brilliant Sonic commercials SEGA came out with, one was kind of a rap song, “Come on, just show me what you got! Going fast is Cool! Going slow is NOT! SONIC! (sonic) SONIC THE HEDGEHOG!!” or my personal favourite, one with a flight attendant on a plane; at the end of the commercial she asks the camera/you, “Coffee? Tea? SEGA!!!!!!!” As a weird kid, these even weirder commercials spoke to me and I (along with my brother to add some credibility to the argument) asked my parents for a Sega Genesis for Christmas. I remember that Christmas very well; my parents even taped it and a few years ago I was able to watch it! It starts with me receiving a VHS copy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and running around like an idiot, while my brother tried his best to show excitement over his new pair of Church pants. Some shirts, socks, a couple of Game Boy games (very nice!), I got a hammer and a tool belt (though my memory swears that this was a separate Christmas) which I was less thrilled about. All the presents gone, I came to the sad realization that Santa forgot the one thing I really wanted…
Then my Dad speaks up, “Oh, you know what? I think I remember Santa saying something about leaving a present downstairs…something about him needed to hook it up to a television…?” My brother and I look at each other…No…it couldn’t be! We run off to the basement, my Dad struggling to keep up with the video camera sitting on his shoulder. You can hear our excitement before you actually see it, “Oh? What is that? What did you get?” my Dad asks innocently.
“SEGA!!!!” I scream “And Sonic 2!!!” “All right! Mario Lemieux Hockey!” adds my brother, but I don’t hear him or anyone anymore. I don’t remember opening the package for Sonic 2, the cartridge seemed to just appear in my hand. I slam it home into the Sega Genesis and grab the first player controller. A white screen appears, Sonic zips by and I hear a chorus of angels sing “SE-GAAAA!” The Title screen pops up and I play! My brother grabs player 2, he plays as Miles “Tails” Prower, Sonics sidekick. Having tried this game out previously in a store display, I know that Tails is shit, so I blast off through the level, “Hey! Slow down Adam! I can’t play!” My brother says, elbowing me. But Adam left a while ago; there was only a pair of thumbs dancing on a controller and eyes floating in mid air looking at everything a boy could ever want in life.
I was hooked. I would play Sonic 2 for hours every day. I thought everything about it was fantastic! The music, oh the music! Even today I randomly find myself humming Emerald Hill Zone or, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, find myself making the sound of Sonic being launched into the air by a red or yellow spring. Broing! It’s kind of similar to when I’m driving and I need to quickly change lanes, I’ll unconsciously say “Here I go!” like Wario in Mario Kart……this concerns some people, but trust me, I’m fine! Really! One thing that really impressed me was the bonus stages, these are accessed by passing a save post with more than 50 rings and jumping into a spinning circle that appears. Once inside, Sonic has to try to get enough rings to get 1 of the possible 7 Chaos Emeralds. Getting these allows you to turn into the invincible “Super Sonic”!
These levels were fun, but hard. The most I could get was 3 Chaos Emeralds, but at the time, I was more concerned with beating the game than collecting emeralds. I would occasionally try the 2 player versus mode where you race through a level against a friend, but I found these boring. Another very small thing that bothered me with the game was Tails. In the bonus Stages he would always take too much damage, since he basically mimics whatever you do about a second after you do it, leaving plenty of time for him to get hit by enemies and lose precious rings in the process. Also, in boss fights, if Tails hits Dr. Robotnic (Also known as Dr. Eggman) just before you do, you’ll miss, and this often lead to me falling down a pit or into a lake of fire!
Each zone was surprisingly vast and left you different options to reach the end goal. My guilty pleasure was revving up a Spin Dash to its maximum and then flying into an enemy or launching myself into a loop and watching the screen barely being able to keep up with Sonics speed! But alas, the farthest I could get was to the “Oil Ocean Zone”, which is maybe just a little past the half way point of the game.
Ok! It’s called Oil Ocean! I get it!!
No matter what I did, I just could not get any further, so eventually, I moved on to other games in my quickly growing SEGA library. But I would come back every once in a while, just to get my need for speed fulfilled…
2 years later, I’m looking around an Electronic Boutique (Now known as EB Games) and looking through the used Sega game section when I stumbled on this…
For all this time, it never occurred to me to play the FIRST Sonic game; I guess I was just so busy enjoying the second one! So, $10 later, I’m finally the owner of Sonics first adventure. I pop in the cartridge, and just like in Sonic 2, Sonic runs by followed by “SE-GAAAA!!!” I grin stupidly as my brain releases a healthy dose of endorphins, making me slump just a bit further into my beanbag chair. I press start at the title and I’m in “Green Hill Zone”. Everything seems to be exactly the same; catchy music, the rings, power-ups, I’m running as fast as I can but run into a pit of spikes! There is nothing as disheartening as seeing Sonic in that slow motion fall as ALL those rings explode out and around you, going from 75 rings to 3. My momentum stopped, I’m at a vertical ramp that I can’t run up. No problem! I’ll just Spin Dash my way up and…….until I come to the horrifying realization that I CAN’T SPIN DASH. WhatwhatWHAT??? In order for me to get up this incline, I need to back track, pick up momentum and then go up it. For a game whose selling point is speed, this really slowed things down. I noticed as well that there are fewer instances where Sonic can just let loose and run! There are a few loops in Green Hill Zone (And throughout the game), but a surprising amount of obstacles that either stop you completely or force you to tip toe your way around them.
Just like its sequel, there are Chaos Emeralds, but only 6 this time. To get them, you need at least 50 rings at the end of the zone where by the sign post you run by, a gold ring will be in the air that you need to jump through to access the bonus stage that holds the emerald…which looks like this…
Where the hell am I?!?! The stage spins and you are stuck in a ball and forced to navigate a maze in search of the emerald. The background is very distracting, changing colours and pictures; I found it was hard to concentrate. Hitting an “R” will Reverse the spinning of the stage; hitting “UP” will speed up the spinning. Throughout the maze are red areas that say “Goal!” that will send you out of the special zone and into the next level of the game, WITHOUT a Chaos Emerald. When I first played this, I thought “Goal” was, you know, the goal I was going after. But it’s not, you have to find the Chaos Emerald buried behind breakable diamonds and only THEN will you get it and then proceed to the next level. Jumping around is next to impossible, and I got frustrated very easily; a poorly timed jump would make me miss an emerald and go crashing through a “Goal” line.
I played this a few times trying to find the magic I had with Sonic 2, but I quickly felt that this was vastly inferior to its sequel. So, I put this game aside, never being able to beat Dr. Robotnic or get the Chaos Emeralds but deciding to focus on the sequel instead. But even the sequel bested me, and soon I decided that other games deserved my attention…and so Sonic 1 and 2 were left to collect dust in my ever growing game collection to be forgotten…
Meanwhile in the Present…
When making my list, I was shocked to discover that I had not beaten ANY of my Sonic games! So, despite my previous misgivings with it, I had to put Sonic 1 on the list. I decided to combine this Blog with Sonic 2 mostly because of how much I felt they contrasted with each other and that Sonic 1 would not be in my collection were it not for Sonic 2. So, off I went with Sonic 1; it was just as I remembered it. Running fast lead to injury or certain death…which is when I realized that, by taking Sonic 1 slowly, I was able to have much more success. It makes no sense, I know, but on a stage like Green Hill Zone which you could beat in maybe 30 seconds with a handful of rings; I could beat it in 5 minutes, with over 100 rings (which earns me a free man) and I was guaranteed to be in the bonus level! The bonus levels were still stupid hard; half the time, if I was able to get to the Chaos Emerald location, it was by pure luck and not skill. On my slow play through, I was able to get 4 of them.
The Boss fights didn’t live up to their previous hardness. I found them predictable and I could easily out manoeuvre the “good” doctor. But before I knew it, maybe a little over an hour after I started playing (I had 12 lives and 3 continues at this point) I was on the final level and the FINAL BOSS…which is still Dr. Robotnic.
Robotnic is in 1 of 4 possible pistons that try to crush you; you have to hit the one he’s in to do damage. After he goes down/up off screen, a row of electric orbs appear up top and slowly descend towards you. These were hard to avoid at first, but I quickly found that rolling under the one on the far right was the best way to avoid them. Eventually I’m VICTORIOUS! Everything blows up; suddenly, Robotnic runs away into his flying egg machine trying to escape! I run after him and hit him once, which makes him blow up again and fall off screen! YES!!!
What’s your problem???
TRY…AGAIN…????? Robotinic is juggling the 2 Chaos Emeralds that I wasn’t able to get! So…I didn’t beat the game? That hour and a half was for NOTHING!?!?
I’m not happy. I thought I could get by NOT having to do those ridiculous bonus stages, but my OCD will not be denied! I must play this game…AGAIN. I’m able to breeze through this game a second time…the bonus stages, however are another story. They are so frustrating!!! I find myself just yelling at the screen, half the time I’m not even aware of what I’m saying, I think the backgrounds are causing my brain to do back flips or something…eventually (after 5 tries for the final one) I’m able to get all the Chaos Emeralds! So, I beat the game a SECOND time and instead of the ‘tude, this happens…
(It’s hard to see, but a bunch of flowers pop up on the screen…)
So, the Chaos Emeralds made some flowers appear on screen…I don’t go Super Sonic? Ok……though this time I get an actual “The End”
So the point of getting the Chaos Emeralds was just so Robotnic wouldn’t have them to power some weapon of mass destruction; but once I have them I just grow flowers? Lame Sonic…LAME.
No time for complaining though, Sonic 2 awaits!! Glorious Sonic 2!! It becomes so very clear just how much the second game improves upon the first. One thing I like the most was that you access the Chaos Emerald bonus stages via check points, not the end goal. Some levels have at least 3 check points, so I was able to get 3 Chaos Emeralds on the first level alone! It took me almost 10 minutes to do this, but it’s great that the game gives you so many opportunities! Plus the sooner you get the Chaos Emeralds, the sooner you become Super Sonic, something I have never been able to do!
I take my slow and steady approach I had from Sonic 1 and before I know it, I’m racking up the lives and continues! Which is good, because the bosses after “Oil Ocean Zone” (which was actually really easy if you go slow!) got really tough…
This is Robotnic in Metropolis Zone. Those orbs are a barrier that is really hard to get past, and I died quite a bit. My success with this came through Tails, who up to this point has done literally nothing helpful. I was able to time my jump over him so that Tails would get hit, and therefore get stuck on the other side of the stage. Since he mimics what you do, when I jump, he jumps into Robotnic and deals damage, all while I’m safely on the other side of the screen! Though later I discovered an easier tactic to beat him, and Tails became useless once again…
Before I know it, I’m shown a fun cut scene where Tails hops into a plane with Sonic on top and flies after Robotnic, who has escaped to a sky fortress! I battle my way through the sky (a unique level that made me want more of it, but there is only 1) and into his fortress until I come face to face with…
METAL SONIC??? With Robotnic laughing behind a window! I died a lot with this guy, but I had a ton of lives and continues, so I was able to learn his pattern through trial and error. He’s tricky because if you jump on top of him, you’ll hit his spikes and die, so you have to hit him in the face. Once he’s destroyed, Robotnic starts to run away with Sonic giving chase! He somehow is able to stay ahead of Sonic and is able to jump into this…
His spiked hands prevent me from hitting his weak belly and I die…which takes me back to my fight with METAL SONIC! So, I best Metal Sonic again and try my slow and steady tactic with Robotnic. Basically, I ran to the opposite side of the screen, let him do his attacks, and let him fly in the air. A target appears around you, indicating that he’s trying to land on top of you! I run to the far right and get out of the way just in time. When he lands, he bends his knees, which exposes his belly! I’m only able to get in one hit though. So basically I repeat this until I defeat him…I have to say, I was expecting a bit more from the Final Boss. Kind of underwhelming…
Suddenly, the place starts to explode!! Sonic runs but seems to get caught in the explosion!! Then I’m shown some still pictures of Tails and some of the other animals looking at the explosion (It’s black and white for some reason…) Tails sees Sonic falling and gets in his plane to save him! After catching Sonic…
YEAH!! Freeze frame! Then roll credits. This time there is an actual end screen, no TRY AGAIN. But I know deep down that I didn’t actually beat this, because I didn’t get all the Chaos Emeralds!!! So *sigh* I do it again…I can put aside ANOTHER 3 hours, right?? More like a week!!
The special stages, though a vast improvement from Sonic 1, are still tough. I found it hard to get the timing down for these stages; if I’m able to try a stage over and over again, I can figure out the best way to deal with it and via “learning” I can beat the stage. It’s hard to do this because, after you exit a bonus stage, you go back to having zero rings, so you have to collect 50 again, which can take some time and back tracking. On top of that, you have to discover where the next check point is, so a lot of time has passed and I found myself forgetting the correct paths to take in the bonus levels. But FINALLY dispite Tails’ best efforts to thwart me, I collected ALL 7 CHAOS EMERALDS!! But is it worth it?
HELL YES! Once you have all the Chaos Emeralds and collect 50 coins, you can jump in the air and go Dragonball Z on everyones ass! And much like the legendary Super Saiyan YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE…..except you can die by drowning, being squished and falling down a bottomless pit…but still! It was a rush to transform into Super Sonic and totally worth the pain of the special levels. So as an unstopable golden hedgehog of justice, I blast through the remaining stages and bosses to get to the ending; though you can’t be Super Sonic while fighting Metal Sonic and the Big Robotnic Robot since there are no rings in the level. Once you beat them, it’s the same deal as before…except THIS HAPPENS…
Tails: Oh! Sonic, I…I thought you needed me to catch you in th-
Tails: Ok…hey, you want to grab a coffee or-
Sonic: Shut the Fuck up Tails!!! Yeah! Freeze Frame!!
I hate to say it, but Sonic 1 does not age well. The lack of speed dash really slows things down. The camera movement was also a bit finicky which bothered me; every time I ducked down, the camera moves down; a lot of the time this prevented me from seeing an enemy above me leading to many needless deaths. The bonus stages are a bloody nightmare! Sonic 2 does better, offering at least a bit of story and a great payoff for collecting Chaos Emeralds, as well as a variety of boss battles though this only occurs at the end of the game with METAL SONIC and the Giant Robotnic Robot.
All in all I think my fantastic memories of these games as a kid kind of over hyped things for me and in many cases it was a bit of a letdown. The music in both games however is fantastic and gets better with age! It’s one of the best soundtracks in gaming in my opinion. Tales is a shitty pile of crap, sorry, he is. I had to say it.
I recently read a Book Called “Console Wars” by Blake J. Harris. It goes over in pain staking detail all the major events of the Nintendo v.s. SEGA era of the 90’s, and obviously Sonic is a big part of it. It’s presented more like a story than just plain facts (I hear they are even making a movie about it!) and the forward by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg is hilarious! One fun fact I learned from the book was why Tails is named Miles “Tails” Prower. Take out the middle name and say Miles Prower fast…sounds like “Miles Per Hour” doesn’t it? It matches the whole “Speed is everything” vibe SEGA was going for! Give it a read!
Well, that’s that! What do you think? Have you played Sonic 1 and 2? Do you think the sequel is better or vice versa? Do you ALSO hate Tails? Sound off in the comments below!
Stay tuned next week for #17 when I take on another game whose sequel is far superior to its original! It’s also known for quite a bizarre level ending…how fitting for such bizarre “Children of the Atom”!