“Why would you choose that game?!” I hear you shout? Two reasons! It was the first Sonic game I ever played, and if I don’t review a Master System game soon that area of the blog will remain “Coming soon!” forever. So let’s take a look at 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog, a fun, though much slower, experience!
Enclosed spaces and few enemies: welcome to Master System Sonic!
The 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog was created by a company called “Ancient”, separate from the Mega Drive original, and was actually released after that game by several months, making it an odd case of an 8-bit game in a series being released after a 16-bit one. It was released specifically on December 28th 1991 in Japan for both the Game Gear and the Master System, and was also released around that time in other areas of the world (accurate release data for Master System games are hard to come by, seemingly…)
As with all old games with any kind of reputation, it has been ported and released several times on more modern consoles since then.
Dr. Robotnik deploys his latest deadly machine: the one-man sub that comes to the surface now and again!
At its heart, it’s a simple platformer. Start on one side of the screen and keep moving right until you reach the goal, you can defeat enemies by jumping on them, or rolling into them if you can curl into a ball with momentum (okay that last bit is less common…) It has the classic Sonic mechanic of collecting rings as health, if you have at least one ring on you, you can take a hit, manage to get the ring back you can take another hit, get hit with no rings on you? Death. Collect enough rings and you can earn an extra life.
Throughout the levels there are power-ups you can collect by jumping on TVs, like shields (can take one hit without losing any rings), speed shoes (speed up!) and pretty much exclusive to this game: Check points (instead of knocking posts like other games…)
Each of the six Zones are split into two regular levels and a boss fight with Dr. Robotnik. All in all it still looks like Sonic, but it’s just at a slower pace. The Master System can’t handle the fast movement or too many things on screen at once, so there is more emphasis on platforming than any other Sonic game and often no more than one or two enemies on screen at a time…
Graphics and Sound:
*hums the Bridge Zone theme*
It’s safe to say it looks a lot worse than Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive, but for an 8-bit game it looks good! The sprites are nice and chunky, and the levels and backgrounds may be missing a lot of detail, but they still get across what they need to get across.
The soundtrack is really good too. Some levels and themes are borrowed from the MD version, but some are exclusive. The Bridge Zone music in particular is a favourite, I used to love that tune as a kid, then at some point completely forgot about it until I was roughly 28-30 and happened to come across the music being linked to on some random forum for some random reason. Man, the nostalgia rush when that started playing in my ears after so long of completely forgetting it… it’s a really fond memory of mine now.
The sound-effects are fine, but less… clear than its older sibling.
Behold: South Island, the most unoriginally named island in the world!
Dr. Robotnik has turned the animals of South Island into Badniks (robots) and it’s up to Sonic to race (or platform, in this case) through the island, free the animals and stop Robotnik for good… or until next time, really… Simple, but effective in terms of giving a vague reason to play as a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog, anyway…
The bonus stage music is another fine piece of nostalgia, even if the bonus stage itself is a bit crap.
I loved it! I had seen my sister’s boyfriend play it on the Mega Drive and I was thrilled when I got a copy on my Master System. I played it lots, got quite far though I never completed it. Once I got a Mega Drive it was goodbye MS Sonic games, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment I had with the original.
*Sigh*, there has to be one in every game…
It’s not the Sonic we all know and love, but it’s still… okay. It’s slow, sometimes awkwardly so (accurately jumping can be a real pain) and it has stretches with practically no enemies to fight, so… Taking off the nostalgia goggles and … yeah, it’s not that good, and I won’t be playing it again… I’ll be listening to the Bridge Zone theme again though!