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Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic The Hedgehog -EUR-
Developer(s) Sonic Team
Publisher(s) Sega
Release date(s) Genesis/Mega Drive
JP July 26, 1991
NA June 23, 1991
EU June 24, 1991

EU Q3 2005

Game Boy Advance
NA November 14, 2006

Wii Virtual Console
JP December 2, 2006
NA November 19, 2006
EU December 8, 2006

Xbox Live Arcade
NA July 11, 2007
EU July 11, 2007

NA December 18, 2007

NA May 20, 2009

NA August 21, 2009

NA October 26, 2010
Genre(s) Platform,Adventure
Players Singe Player
Rating(s) VRC: GA ESRB:E
Media 4-megabit cartridge
System Sega Mega Drive, Mobile phone, Wii Virtual Console, Game Boy Advance, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam
Preceded By
Followed By Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog is a platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Mega Drive system. It is the first game in Sega's flagship Sonic the Hedgehog series, and was the first title developed by Sonic Team. It was first released on June 23 1991 in North America, and the next day in Europe. The Japanese Mega Drive version was released on July 26 1991.

This game propelled the Genesis into mass popularity in North America. After it was released, it eventually replaced Altered Beast as the game bundled with the console, and was later replaced with its first sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The game featured many novel elements which contributed to its popularity and helped to promote the uptake of 16-bit consoles.

Sonic the Hedgehog added the element of speed to the standard platform formula and introduced other unique elements as well, such as the loops, springboards, high-speed devices, and the rings now permanently associated with the game series.

The game was both a critical and commercial success. As of November 19, 2007, the game has sold 4 million copies, the second-highest amount for a Genesis game, behind Sonic 2, which has sold 6 million copies.


The mysterious South Island, a veritable treasure trove of gems and ancient ruins, moves in circles along the surface of the ocean. It's said that the island's movement is caused by the power of the seven legendary Chaos Emeralds that sleep in its lush hills. The Emeralds distribute energy to all things and are sought for the development of nuclear and laser weapons. However, none have been able to locate the miraculous gems, and their existence remains a legend.

The brilliant scientist Dr. Eggman, having heard the legend of the Chaos Emeralds, establishes a base on South Island to unearth the jewels at any cost. With his high-tech machines, he has managed to transform the hapless animals of the island into robot slaves and is forcing them to tear their home apart in his relentless search for the Emeralds. The evil doctor seeks nothing less than world domination and he is confident that once the Chaos Emeralds are in his grasp, nobody will be able to stand in his way. Not even his long-time nemesis...

Meanwhile, a certain speedy blue hedgehog has rushed to the island after hearing of the turmoil. He is shocked to find all his friends transformed into vicious robots, but there is one hope: Dr. Eggman doesn't realize that the Emeralds exist within a torsion created by the circular movement of the island and hence can't be found on the surface. If this heroic hedgehog can locate the seven Emeralds before Eggman, his game will be up. And so the stage is set for another confrontation between Dr. Eggman and his arch enemy: Sonic the Hedgehog!



In the game, Sonic has to prevent Dr. Robotnik from collecting six of the Chaos Emeralds in an attempt to rule South Island. He must traverse six "zones", each comprised of three stages or "acts", until he confronts Robotnik for the last time in the Final Zone.

The gameplay centers around elements that exploit the increased performance of the 16-bit console over its 8-bit forebears. It is notable for being both simplistic and engaging for players.

At the time of its release, Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the fastest platformers that had yet been released. Sonic could run, jump and roll at significantly higher speeds than most platformers of the time. Unlike other platformers, the game's levels were designed to encourage the player to progress quickly. Springs, slopes, high falls and loop-de-loops were all available to both boost and challenge the player to reach high speeds. This was all accomplished without any slowdown in framerates, adding to the experience.


Sonic's method of attack was also novel. As a hedgehog, he can curl up into a ball by either jumping or by rolling along the ground, a state in which he can damage most enemies by simply colliding with them. This was a change from most other platform games, where the player could damage enemies only by shooting or jumping on top of them. While rolling along the ground, Sonic can roll down slopes, gaining speed as he goes. Most slopes are irregular, as opposed to the fixed angles seen in previous platform games, and the game has the physics to match. Sonic's acceleration down a slope depends on its steepness; if travelling fast enough, he can run up and around 360° loops; and he suffers from drag underwater. In sonic the hedgehog 2 on sega drive he can spin on the spot and gain speed.


MD Sonic the Hedgehog

A typical in-game screen-shot of Sonic the Hedgehog, taken from its first level, Green Hill Zone.

Essential to the gameplay are the golden rings the player collects along their way in each level; a feature which would become one of the defining characteristics of the series. These items are regularly placed around the level map and serve multiple functions. First, the player collects rings to protect himself. As long as they have at least one ring to their name, the player will not lose a life when injured. Instead, when hit, all rings the player has collected will fly outward and scatter around the immediate area, some of which can then be retrieved before they disappear. If the player runs into an enemy without a single ring, they will lose a life. If the player collects 100 rings they will gain a life, and gain an additional life for every 100 rings after that, provided the rings are not lost.

If the player has at least 50 rings at the end of an act, a giant golden ring will float above the finishing sign which can be jumped through to enter one of the special stages. At the end of each act, the total number of rings the player has is multiplied by 100 and added to the player's score. During the score-tallying, the player can also jump through the air to find hidden emblems which can range from 100 to 10,000 points. This was the only console Sonic game until Sonic Adventure where the player could get more lives by collecting over 200 rings (acquiring 300 rings in the later 16-bit titles resulted in no additional lives).

Also scattered throughout each level are monitors which, when broken by the character, reward the player with one of a variety of bonuses. These include a shield which will protect Sonic from a single hit, a 10-ring bonus, an extra life, temporary invincibility (accompanied with a temporary change in music), and "Super Sneakers", which give the player a temporary speed boost (and increase the tempo of the music for the duration). The item monitors have become another long-lasting feature in the series, though they have been changed to bubble-like containers in later games.

Despite the various types of protection available, neither the shield, rings, or invincibility will prevent the player losing a life if Sonic is crushed (by a trap or between a wall and a moving platform), drowning, running out of time (each act has a ten-minute time limit), or falling into a bottomless pit.

Progress through the game is made easier for the player by lamp posts that act as checkpoints. When Sonic passes a lamp post, its colour changes from blue to red, and the next time a life is lost, gameplay will restart at that point rather than at the beginning of the act. However, unlike later 16-bit Sonic games, if a checkpoint is activated and a life is lost as a result of running out of time, the time at the checkpoint will reset to 0:00.

Hazards the player experiences include a wide variety of "badniks" - these appear as animals trapped inside mechanical bodies which are released the moment the player hits them. Each badnik takes one hit to destroy, but they vary greatly from Zone to Zone; some will walk in a set path, others will try blasting the player, and some cannot be avoided at all. The player must also avoid rows of sharp spikes, cliffs, and elaborate death traps. There is also the threat of drowning, as the player can only survive 30 seconds underwater (locating air bubbles can extend this).

The game features no game saves or passwords. This means that the game has to be restarted from the beginning when the player runs out of continues or turns off the system.


walk -- Push left or right on the D-pad to initiate Sonic's movement in either direction. As you hold the button down, Sonic gains speed.

run -- Begin walking and hold down the button to make Sonic gain speed. After a few seconds, he'll break into a run.

screech -- While running, quickly press and hold the opposite direction on the D-pad to make Sonic screech to a halt. He'll skid for a short distance, based on how fast he was moving.

look up -- While standing still, press up on the D-pad to make Sonic gaze to the heavens. As you hold up, the camera pans upward, giving you a view of Sonic's overhead surroundings.

crouch -- While standing still, press down on the D-pad to make Sonic sniff his crotch. As you hold down, the camera pans downward, giving you a view of the stage beneath where Sonic stands.

spin -- While moving, press down on the D-pad to make Sonic curl into a rolling attack. He'll remain in this position until you jump or slow down. The speed of Sonic's movement while in spin mode is based on how fast you're moving when you launch it, and also on the terrain Sonic rolls along.

spin jump -- Press A, B, or C at any time to make Sonic leap into the air with a spin attack. The height of the jump is proportional to how long you hold the button down.

push -- Certain blocks can be pushed by running up against them. Continue holding the D-pad against the offending cube to have Sonic push it along the ground.


Ring -- As long as Sonic has some of these, he won't lose a life if he takes damage. Sustain a hit and all your collected Rings will scatter, giving you a brief opportunity to grab a few back before they disappear. (Note that Rings will not protect Sonic from getting smashed or falling off the screen, both of which result in instant death.) A 1up is awarded for every 100 Rings collected and each Ring is worth 100 points at the end-of-Act score tally.

Item Box -- In each stage, you'll find a number of these power-up bearing monitors. Pop them open with a spin to procure one of five power-ups:

  1. Big 10 Ring - Worth 10 Rings
  1. Barrier - Absorbs one hit
  1. High Speed - Temporary speed increase
  1. Muteki - Temporary invincibility
  1. 1up - Gives Sonic an extra chance

Sai Start Marker -- These hold your place in a stage: should you lose a life, you'll start back at the last Start Marker you crossed.

Bobbin -- Round bumpers found only in Spring Yard Zone and the Special Stages. Bounce off one for 10 points, up to 10 times for a total of 100 points. (They stop dispensing points after the tenth hit.)

spring -- Leap onto the broad side to catapult Sonic into the air. The yellow ones send him flying a short distance and the more powerful red ones send him farther.

spikes -- Don't touch the pointy side, stupid. They're usually found in sets of three, but that's not a steadfast rule. Sometimes they're just lying out in the open, and sometimes they pop in and out of the ground (or the ceiling, or the walls).

switch -- Jump on the button to cause a change in the nearby scenery, usually necessary to proceed.

air bubbles -- Large, oxygen-filled bubbles periodically rise from these clusters: tag one to fill Sonic's lungs with air and prolong the time you can spend underwater.

bonus points -- As you approach the bonus plate at the end of an Act, leap into the air to find invisible bonus points that are added to your score. They can be worth 100, 1000, or a sweet 10,000.

bonus plate -- These signs can be found at the end of each first and second Act. Cross them to end the stage.

Special Stage ring -- These giant Rings appear above bonus plates when you cross with at least 50 Rings on hand. Jump in to warp to the Special Stage. (Once you've collected all 6 Chaos Emeralds, the Special Stage rings no longer appear.)

capsule -- These are found at the end of each third Act, after defeating the boss. Push the button on top to destroy the machine and free the helpless animals within.


Green Hill Zone -- Sonic's first steps into the tropics introduce the visual staples that remain trademarks of the series to this day: checkered hillsides, palmtrees, loop-de-loops, etc. Overhanging ledges crumble as you stand on them, so don't stick around unless you're looking for a quick trip down. Rotating logs are adorned with a spiral of spikes, so time your movement accordingly.

Boss: Eggman attacks by hovering around the top of the screen, swinging a giant, pendulous checkered sphere. Two floating platforms on either side of the arena provide refuge as well as a means to reach the rotund foe.

Marble Zone -- These crumbling ruins were (perhaps injudiciously) built in a steamy volcanic region. Move quickly along platforms floating in lava - the dry grass on top easily catches fire. Push stone blocks into pools of magma for a safe ride. Bonus points are awarded for the destruction of priceless historical architecture: the gray bricks provide the same multiplier bonus as enemies. (At one point in Act 2, it's possible to smash 17 blocks in succession. The last two are worth a whopping 10,000 points each.)

Boss: A wide lava pit lies smack in the middle of the arena, leaving the two edges as the only safe havens. Eggman flies back and forth at the top of the screen, dropping little flames onto one edge at a time: when the flame hits, a brief fire explodes across the platform.

Spring Yard Zone -- This dark mountain city forms a giant pinball arena with steep slopes and bumpers aplenty. Elevator platforms offer slow escape from deep pits. Look for hidden shortcuts behind walls, but watch for spiky rotating bars. Act 2 features two possible exits.

Boss: Eggman hovers overhead above a bridge of blocks. When he's right above Sonic, he'll drop down and attempt to make shish kehog with a long, probing spike: dash out the way and the Doc instead skewers whichever block you were standing on, shattering it in the process. As the battle wears on, the block bridge becomes increasingly sparse, so make with the haste.

Labyrinth Zone -- The ancient ruins form an underground maze, sometimes submerged, sometimes dry. When underwater, Sonic's movement becomes slow and sluggish, and he can only hold his breath for so long. As his oxygen supply begins to wane, a countdown appears above his head: if it reaches zero, you lose a life. If you can't get to the surface in time (and sometimes you just can't), leap into one of the giant air bubbles that rise from clusters on the ground.

Boss: The bad Doc makes his escape through a narrow vertical corridor laced with spears and other traps. Water is rapidly filling the passage from below, so dodge the obstacles and keep moving up. Survive all the way to the surface (a tricky affair) where Eggman is helpless.

Star Light Zone -- This starry aerial highway is laced with large fans that impede your progress: some shut off periodically while others continue running for all eternity. Use seesaws to bounce to higher regions of the stage, but be mindful of the flashing mine: you need it for ballast, but it inflicts damage if touched.

Boss: Three teeter-totters line the arena. Eggman, as per usual, flies around overhead, occasionally dropping mines onto the seesaws below. The mines explode upon impact or after a few seconds, so you have to work fast. You can either catapult the mines back up at his eggness or stand on one end of the totter and let a falling mine spring you into the air.

Scrap Brain Zone -- Eggman, who is probably not an environmentalist, likes to while away his days in this grimy, polluted industrial city. Conveyor belts make for dangerous passage with smashing pistons looming overhead. Spinning platforms offer no support: wait until they stop moving before you leap on top. Large round platforms have their own gravitational pull: jump to break free of their clutch. The factory scenario is dropped entirely for Act 3, which is a gray chunk of Labyrinth Zone.

Final Zone -- In the final confrontation, Eggman escapes into a small room lined with 4 giant, pounding pistons. Only 2 pistons thrust forth at a time, and Eggman can be found cowering in one or the other: anticipate this location and attack quickly. After each thrust, 4 sparks form at the top of the screen and home in on Sonic's general direction. Note that Sonic has no Rings with which to do battle, so if you sustain even a single hit, you have to start the whole thing over.


Motora  -- Beetle bots that roll innocently along the ground.

Beeton -- Bee bots that fly across from the right side of the screen, pausing once to fire a large flashing projectile downward.

Bata-bata -- Piranha bots that leap upward from beneath bridges. ("Bata-bata" is Japanese for a clattering noise.)

Gani-gani -- Crab bots that crawl along the ground and fire projectiles from their pincers. ("Kani" is Japanese for crab.)

Meleon -- These chameleon bots hang out on the side of cliffs and remain invisible until approached. They come in two flavors: blue ones transform into missiles and jet along the ground. Green ones appear just long enough to fire an energy blast at Sonic.

Nal -- Caterpillar bots that crawl slowly along the ground. The safest method of disposal is to roll into their spherical noggins: venture a poke anywhere else and you'll sustain damage and send their segments flying.

Basaran -- Bat bots that latch onto ceilings until approached, then drop down and fly through the air a ways before returning to their roost.

Arma -- Armadillo bots that roll down long slopes after Sonic. They tumble faster than Sonic runs, so leap to avoid being steamrolled. At the bottom of the hill, Arma pauses and briefly opens up: this your only chance to attack.

Yadorin -- Hermit crab bots that crawl along the ground. Their shells are cloaked with spikes, making them invulnerable from above. ("Yadokari" is Japanese for hermit crab.)

Mogurin -- Mole bots that spring from below ground and roll along the surface. Look for their drill bit noses poking out of the earth to avoid a booty ambush. ("Mogura" is Japanese for mole while "moguri" means diver.)

Puku-puku -- Piranha bots that swim around underwater. ("Puku-puku" is Japanese onomatopoeia for a bubbling noise.)

Unidus -- Irritable sphere bots that hover around very slowly. They're orbited by 4 spiked balls which they fling off in rapid succession upon being approached. It's a dangerous assault, but once it's done, Unidus is completely open to attack. ("Uni" is Japanese for sea urchin.)

Bomb -- Mindless kamikaze bots that waddle along the ground or ceiling and explode into a shower of projectiles when approached. They can't be damaged, only avoided.

Uni-uni -- These guys, palette aside, look exactly like Unidus. They're a bit more cool-headed, though, and won't fire off their barrier of orbs. While this means you don't have that tricky attack to avoid, they're virtually impossible to hit.

Ton-ton -- Pig bots that hop in place atop steep banks and roll balls down the slope

Japanese version differencesEdit

The game was released one month later in Japan. A bug was fixed where you could hold down buttons during the demo and ending scenes to disrupt Sonic's movement. In addition, the clouds in Green Hill Zone now moved to the right instead of remaining static, and a water ripple effect was added to the water in Labyrinth Zone.


In April 1990, Sega challenged its employees to come up with a game that would demonstrate the power of their 16-bit Mega Drive console along with a character who could become the company's official mascot. An enthusiastic young staff in the AM8 R&D division began brainstorming ideas, and the final consensus was that the game should be fast and simple. The lead character needed a strong personality and a unique look, and toward this end designer Naoto Ohshima created a series of preliminary sketches ranging from bulldogs to bearded samurai. In the meanwhile, lead programmer Yuji Naka (who had previously worked with Ohshima on Phantasy Star II) constructed a high speed graphics engine with numerous layers of parallax scrolling: exactly the sort of visual tour de force Sega was looking for to separate the Mega Drive from other systems available at the time.

As the game began taking shape, it became evident that a full-time lead designer was needed to coordinate the project, but none of the staffers were free to take the responsibility. World politics, however, produced a quick fix: Hirokazu Yasuhara was scheduled to move to the US and join Sega of America product manager Mark Cerny in establishing a Western-based R&D group. However, the start of the Gulf War postponed Yasuhara's scheduled departure by three months. Naka, seeing that Yasuhara was free, asked him to fill in as a temporary director until a permanent replacement could be found. The delayed traveller agreed and became quite engrossed in the project, drawing out detailed level maps on paper. In the end, Yasuhara's departure was postponed a full year and he remained with the Sonic project all the way through.

Among the early concepts was that of a speedy rabbit character with the ability to pick up and throw objects using his long ears. This idea was ultimately rejected because the team felt that the extra mechanic slowed the game down. Eventually the idea of a rolling attack was formed and from this concept Ohshima narrowed the potential heroes down to an armadillo and a blue hedgehog. The hedgehog won out due to its "spiky" nature, but it wouldn't be until the very end of the project that a suitable name was chosen for Sega's edgy new star. (The runner-up armadillo, Mighty, was revived several years later for a starring role Sega Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic's coin-op debut. The long-eared rabbit reject, meanwhile, rose from the ashes as cult favorite Ristar the Shooting Star.)

With all the energy being put into perfecting the game's look and feel, the enthusiastic staff decided that professional talent from the music industry should be tapped to compose the accompanying soundtrack. Sega approached up-and-coming Japanese pop band Dreams Come True, and successfully wooed band leader Masato Nakamura. Dreams Come True was preparing a tour to promote their third album, Wonder 3, and Sega stepped in as a sponsor for the campaign. Sonic was painted on the sides of the tour trailer and pamphlets advertising the game were handed out to concert-goers, offering a glimpse of the game even before media coverage.

Despite strong enthusiasm for the project in the studio, it drew only scorn and concern from Sega's American marketing division. Sonic was conceived as a global mascot, and key players on the US side felt that the character lacked the appeal needed to achieve success in the Western market. In those days there was a large rift (almost a rivalry) between the home and overseas branches of the company, but the Japanese office had the final say, and Sonic was released without changes. Despite Sega of America's predictions, the game became an instant hit in the US, catapulting the company from an also-ran in Nintendo's shadow to the market leader. (Ironically, Sonic achieved only modest success in Japan, a trend which continues to this day.)

Sonic games Sonic2006
Console games (main series): Sonic (SMD) · Sonic 2 · Sonic CD · Sonic 3 · Sonic and Knuckles · Adventure · Adventure 2 · Heroes · Shadow · Sonic (360/PS3) · Unleashed
Handheld games: Sonic (GG/MS) · Sonic 2 (GG/MS) · Chaos · Triple Trouble · Labyrinth · Blast · Pocket Adventure · Advance · Advance 2 · Battle · Advance 3 · Rush · Advance 2 · Genesis · Rivals · Rush Adventure · Rivals 2 · Chronicles
Spinoffs: SegaSonic · Spinball · Drift · Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine · Tails' Skypatrol · Tails Adventure · Knuckles' Chaotix · Fighters · 3D Blast · R · Shuffle · Pinball Party · Riders · Secret Rings · Mario & Sonic · Riders: Zero Gravity · Black Knight
Compilations: Compilation · Jam · Sonic & Knuckles Collection · Mega Collection (Plus) · Gems Collection

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