Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear)

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Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear)




And so it begins.
                             
                 

 When someone mentions the game Sonic the Hedgehog, your likely first thoughts are either the 1991 SEGA Genesis original or the cringe-worthy 2006 offering.  What you likely aren't to consider is the 1991 game's Game Gear/Master System counterpart.  This title was an 8-Bit version of the original developed by Ancient for SEGA's two other consoles: the handheld Game Gear and the Genesis predecessor, the Master System.  While both of the 8-bit games are very near identical, this review will focus on the Game Gear version.

                                                                              
                                                                    The classic logo: 8-bit style!
 
 The first thing that you should know about this game is that it is not a port of the Genesis version.  On the contrary, it’s a completely original title, with some different zones, unique level designs, and exclusive bosses.  For this reason, I will focus on comparing this game to the Sonic series as a whole, not just the Genesis version.
                                                                         
                                                                           
                                       
                                                                                           You are here.                  
 
 The story is pretty simple: the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik has kidnapped the animals of South Island and is using them to power his mechanical monstrosities.  It’s up to our hero Sonic to free them and bring peace back to the island.  Not a very elaborate story, but it doesn’t need to be.  It does its job of giving the game a goal and establishing Sonic’s world.
                                             
                                                              Guess which one’s the bad guy.
   
 The controls are simple: make Sonic run with the D-pad and jump with a button press.  He can also roll by pressing down.  There’s not much more to it than that.  But’s these simple controls work very well and allow a variety of options with minimal effort.  The gameplay is equally simple.  Guide Sonic through the various obstacle-laden tracks to the sign at the end.  You’ll have to use his trademarked Spin Jump and rolling abilities to defeat enemies and zip through shuttle loops.  He can collect Rings along the way to gain extra lives and protect him from harm.  These mechanics are pretty solid; simple, but intuitive.  Sonic himself handles very well, if not a bit buttery.  However, this excellent gameplay is hampered by the Game Gear’s small screen.  With little time to react to any enemy or pit that suddenly comes into your small range of sight, you’ll probably choose not to fully utilize Sonic’s speed in many levels.
 
 The art is very good.  Sonic still looks snazzy in 8-bit (even if it is hard to see his nose sometimes).  Enemy Badniks are also made the transition well, though they are smaller.  The six zones each look beautiful.  The extra colors of the Game Gear are put to good use in each background.  Each act provides a different look at the zone you’re currently in.  For example, Green Hill Act 1 has you racing over the aforementioned hills while Act 2 has you take a detour through an underground cave.  This change of scenery within each zone makes sure that each level feels fresh and different.  I have noticed a few graphical issues, though.  When several items or enemies are on screen, a drop in frame rate usually accompanies it.  Luckily, these slowdowns never occurred (in my experience) during crucial moments.  Sprites occasionally flicker as well, such as when Sonic is underwater or has a shield.
                                                 
                                                                   
                                                                    Sonic, is that you?
 
 The level design is as varied as the environments.  Each zone introduces new types of enemies and traps to overcome.  For example, Green Hill Zone is pretty straight forward, with basic spike traps and enemies thrown into the mix.  By the time you reach Scrap Brain Zone, however, you’ll be narrowly avoiding electric generators and flamethrowers.  Many acts have alternate paths and hidden items as well, which encourages taking risks and paying attention.  Exploring is often worth it, as you may just stumble on a rare power-up or one of the six Chaos Emeralds (try to collect these for a secret!).  Some levels even break the tradition of simply going from right to left.  Bridge Zone Act 2 is the only level in Sonic history to vertically scroll.  Jungle Zone Act 2 has you scaling a massive waterfall.  I love the idea of the environments and gameplay changing throughout the game.  Again, however, some of the levels suffer due to the small screen.  Leaps of faith and surprise collisions occur and require careful navigation to avoid.  I feel like this costs the game some of its speed.  Luckily, the exploration involved doesn’t make this a total loss.
 
 The music present sets the standard for the series.  The tracks are catchy and fit each zone.  Green Hill Zone still sounds amazing in 8-bit and Bridge Zone’s theme is delightful.  In fact, Bridge Zone’s theme was later remixed as part of “Believe in Myself” in Sonic Adventure.  Check it out!




 
 The game consists of only six zones, but that doesn’t mean the game is cakewalk.  The game starts off fairly easily, but becomes far harder approaching the end.  While some of this difficulty can be blamed on the Game Gear’s small screen, a good deal of the challenge comes from the game itself.  Carefully placed cannons, deadly lightning storms, and precarious pits all cost me several of my hard-earned lives.  It should also be noted that getting a game over means that you have to restart from the beginning.  While I did not have the luxury of restore points, I can see them being useful for trickier portions or when a break is needed.  Boss difficulty varied greatly.  The first boss was, without any exaggeration, the easiest Sonic boss ever, while others were more of the controller-chucking kind.  This can be explained very simply: you have no rings against in boss levels.  One hit from ol’ Robotnik and it is lights out for Sonic.  This means that you’ll have to learn each bosses patterns and rely on quick reflexes.  This was an interesting mechanic for some matches, but aggravating for others.  Another aspect that adds to the difficulty is the general lack of items.  While most Sonic titles have a fair share of helpful items hidden throughout the stages, Sonic the Hedgehog seems to have only a very sparse few.  Lives are also difficult to come across and continues can only be found in Special Stages, which can be reached by passing the goal with 50+ rings.  Another oddity is that once Sonic takes damage, he drops all his rings and is unable to catch them.  All other Sonic games (with a few exceptions) allow you to collect a few of your scattered lifelines before they vanish.  This is not the case in this title.  Luckily, rings are common enough that careful players should be able to compensate for this.
                                             
                                                                       
                                                              U Mad, Sonic?

Conclusion
Overall, I’d say Sonic the Hedgehog is a good game.  Not great, but still quite good.  Unique levels and catchy songs offer a good deal of enjoyment while leaps of faith and slowdowns hamper the experience.  The difficulty will intrigue some and discourage others.  High scores, alternate paths, and Chaos Emeralds will encourage replays.  While Sonic games have certainly improved from this humble debut title, there is still fun to be had with Sonic the Hedgehog.
7.5 out of 10
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True Hero
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Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear) :: Comments

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:36 pm by True Hero

So, this is my first review.  I hope you guys enjoy it.  If you notice any errors or the like, please let me know.

Sorry about the picture centering.  The darn things just wouldn't sit right.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the pictures in my reviews came from the Master System version.  Apparently, it's pretty difficult to find Game Gear screenshots.

Anyways, be sure to give me honest feedback.  Enjoy!

P.S. - Let me know if you want to see more reviews for Sonic's Game Gear adventures. I have access to them all and am game for it if you guys are. Wink

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:43 pm by NoUsernameHere

Nice review. Smile
I started playing most of the Sonic Games,And the only one I didn't like was Sonic Generations on 3DS. This is the only one I haven't played,But thanks to this Review,I'll have to try it out. Smile

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:12 pm by True Hero

@NostalgiaMaster - I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Wink

As a side note, I just want to make sure that you all know that I reviewed the version of the game included with Sonic Adventure: DX. I can't vouch for any of the improvements that the VC release added.

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:28 pm by Knuckles

How dare you use Master System pictures in place of a Game Gear game!

Edit: I haven't really read your review yet True, waiting to finish mine first so I'm not influenced.
But I noticed the MS screenshots before I read your comment about them. But if I didn't, you would know someone has hacked my account right?

Mine should be up today as well.

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:15 pm by Knuckles

Scratch my review being done today. I had the entire thing almost typed, and then the page refreshed, deleting all of my work. SadSadSadSadSadSadSad

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:29 pm by Knuckles

I had a completely new version typed, 2/3rd done, and as I was looking for a picture and switching tabs, I accidentally closed the one I was typing on.
/cries

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:37 pm by Ideal Hero

Good review, @True. The Eggman Empire could use a good propaganda newsletter author like you.
@Knuckles - Ouch. Sounds like Murphy's Law is hounding you hard. Sad

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Post on Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:44 pm by True Hero

@Knuckles - I thought you'd notice. I just couldn't find any good GG screen shots on the fly. If I find some good ones later, I'll swap them out.

Bummer on your review. I hope you can get it up and running soon.

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Post on Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:23 am by NoUsernameHere

I'm renting this Game from my local Game Rental store. So far,I'm enjoying it. I ordered a Never Played Before copy,But it costed alot of Pounds. (Pounds are the UK Version of Dollar Bills,Euros,and Yeng.)

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Post on Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:29 pm by Professor Clayton

Solid review, it agrees with my points on the small screen and lack of speed.
Although that first boss was difficult. ;-;

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