Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
They said, ‘Adrian, review Sonic The Hedgehog on the Master System.’ ‘Ha!’ I scoffed, ‘It won’t be a patch on the Mega Drive game. The graphics will be flickery, the scrolling dodgy and the gameplay unbearably dull.’. Hush my mouth, I scoffed too soon!...
MS Sonic is just as prickly, fast and all round wonderful as any glitzy ‘Mega’ sprite. The character which amazed everyone as the pinnacle of 16-bit wizardry is perfectly recreated: he runs, he leaps, he looks up, he crouches down, he rolls, he gasps for breath underwater, he dies — there ain’t nothing this critter can’t do!
Obviously the backdrops aren’t quite as detailed as the MD, there’s no animation, but heck — they’re damn fine coffee anyway and the scrolling is flickerless and super-fast. The speed when Sonic picks up a pair of well-radical training shoes is simply amazing.
There’s also a collection of amusing tunes running through the acts: like the MD they’re simplistic but enjoyable, and the ditties for special events like meeting Dr Robotnik help create a real sense of occasion.
A hedgehog’s lot is not a happy one! For young Sonic, not only is there the threat of being mown down by passing juggernauts, or turned into a packet of crisps, the evil Or Robotnik has turned all the animals in the forest into robots and it’s up to our mate to save the day.
Starting in Green Hill Zone, Sonic negotiates hills, dales and underground caverns. The Bridge Zone is filled to the brim with crumbling platforms, lakes and high cliffs. Roll Sonic into a ball and he’ll scale those heights, no sweat. Watch out for piranhas, lizards and flying beasties in Jungle Zone, and don’t forget to collect those life-saving items. The Labyrinth Zone is set under water, so ensure you breathe in plenty of air bubbles when the timer appears. There’s a maze to negotiate in Scrap Brain Zone, with booby traps to avoid and conveyor belts to slide across. Dr Robotnik throws just about everything at you in Sky Base Zone, the final level. Fending off deadly laser beams and missile shots, Sonic has to find the Doc’s trusty blimp.
The basic gameplay still isn’t all that complicated — get to the end of the level as fast as possible, avoiding nasties such as mutant fish, angry wasps, crazy crabs and wheelie porcupines! They’re all beautifully animated.and add a real sense of fun. Kill them with a supersonic spin attack, automatically activated whenever Sonic leaps (press any button). Hit a creature when you’re not in a ball and you lose a life, unless...
Unless you’ve got some rings. These are scattered all over the place and give loadsa bonus points at the end of the level. More importantly they act as a sort of shield. When hit by a baddie you lose all your rings first, and only if you’re hit again do you lose a life. This makes Sonic very friendly to newcomers: you can muddle through the first few levels in no time by grabbing rings as soon as you’re hit. Further help is provided by TVs! Spin-attack them for power-ups such as super-speed, limited-time invulnerability, a shield and extra rings!
The game is split into six Rounds, each divided into three Acts. Hold enough rings at the end of an Act and you get to play a special stage. This takes the form of a rather large pinball machine, with rings and game-continues to collect. Be warned, there’s a time limit: escape before it runs out or you won’t receive any bonus points. It’s a great touch to the game watching young Sonic bounce off walls and landing on springs!
The most satisfying part, though, is when you complete a Round and set free little bunnies and birdies from the Doctor’s huge alloy containers. Before that there’s the little matter of defeating Dr Robotnik himself, who has different attack methods for the end of each Round, but few of which are all that tough.
MS Sonic isn’t a straightforward conversion though. There’s so many changes MD fans are advised to get a Power Base. The map layouts are completely different and the actual graphic style is often radically changed, culminating in a superb skyship which wasn’t even on the MD! Where the styles are the same, such as the wondrous underwater levels, the graphics come so close as to be almost identical. Then there’s the Map which appears before each level, showing your progress so far. It all makes you wonder which is the better machine! It never pays to be a cynic. This version of Sonic The Hedgehog is undoubtedly the best thing I’ve seen on the MS. It just goes to prove how some software companies are copping out by releasing inferior games with poor graphical content, presentation and gameplay.
Sonic sets new MS standards and gives the MD something of a red face, with its most famous game equalled if not bettered!
The only serious flaw in Sonic is game difficulty. One reviewer here completed the game in days, which was a problem with the MD game too. Collecting all the Chaos Gems secreted through the game adds some lastability, but in truth this is such a wonderfully playable game I’ve no doubt you’ll come back again and again, even if you do complete it. Simply amazing and, via Master Gear converter, unbelievably brill on GG!
Sets a new standard for MS games