Make no mistake about it: the old-school games still rule the roost as far as many gamers are concerned. Sonic the Hedgehog is one of these old-school titles, with one of most iconic characters in the whole of gaming history at the centre of it all. For many, the Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Master System is the very first encounter they had with the long-running series, and thanks to emulators like Fusion, it is possible to enjoy the classic ring-collecting, super-speeding platform action without owning an actual Master System. This is a short review of the original (and arguably the best) Sonic the Hedgehog played using the ever-reliable Fusion emulator.
For those with little knowledge of the days of gaming yore a little bit of information about this game. This version of Sonic the Hedgehog is one that has been ported down from the 16-bit version for the Sega Genesis. The 16-bit version was the very first Sonic game to exist in the world; it marked Sonic's debut and went on to become a much-loved and hugely successful series. Essentially, the 8-bit version being reviewed here was released so that those who didn't yet own the then next-gen Sega Genesis could fully enjoy.
Anyone that has experience with any of the old Sonic the Hedgehog titles (or even the Mario games) will be in familiar territory with this Master System version. The gameplay is of course identical to the 16-bit version and involves controlling Sonic as he works his way through some pretty standard platform-based action. Playing the game with the Fusion emulator has the jump command set to either the A or S key and movement set to the directional arrows. You can tuck into a ball while running by pressing the downwards arrow; this allows you to roll through certain enemies, destroying them in the process.
After getting to grips with these simple controls, it's simply a case of guiding our blue hedgehog through the ups and downs (literally) of each level. You'll encounter a variety of enemies along the way as well as pitfalls with spikes, dead drops, loop the loops, and frequent power-ups that do things like make you temporarily invincible or super-power your boots temporarily to make you run faster.
Also take note of the 'health' system, which is intertwined with the collecting of the characteristic gold rings found scattered around each level that go a long way to making Sonic, Sonic as it were. You can collect one hundred gold rings to get yourself an extra life, but if you accidentally bump into an enemy at any time you will lose all the rings. Bumping into an enemy or falling onto spikes when you have 0 rings is a bad thing: this leads to you losing a life. If you have rings about your person (or more accurately about your hedgehog) when you hurt yourself, you lose all of your rings and hear the distinctive jingling sound which accompanies the loss, another hallmark of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.
Structure and Differences Between Versions
The of this version of Sonic is identical to that of the 16-bit iteration, with the player playing through different areas, each comprised of several zones, all the while catching up to and attempting to destroy the hell out of your nemesis, the evil Dr. Robotnik.
If you're looking for differences between this version and the 16-bit one, there are quite a few. The music, for example, being simpler because of its 8-bit nature, as well as the graphics being blunted by the same restriction. You'll notice it is less responsive than some of the best sonic games out there possibly including the Sonic flash version , due to the marginally slower hardware that the Master System possessed. Other little details also stand out, such as the inability to pick up dropped rings as well as the different design of each of the stages in the game.
Playing through Fusion
Fusion is one of the best emulators that you can choose to play your Master System games (as well as those on other Sega platforms of course) because its interface is clean and simple. You can load up a .sms file through the interface or even drag and drop. For those that wish to cheat with Sonic the Hedgehog you have the option of entering Game Genie codes as well, or even saving the current state so that you can load it if you happen to make a mistake.
In all, this version of Sonic is just as entertaining and enjoyable as the 16-bit version, whether played through Fusion, the Wii, or on an actual Master System. Some would prefer modern Sonic titles for mobile such as Sonic Dash , but for the retro feel, you can't beat the Master System version!