July 13, 2011

Refresh Rate – Sonic the Hedgehog

Filed under: Archives — Tags: , , , — Nathan White @ 4:37 pm

Sonic the Hedgehog Refresh Rate Sega Master System
Nostalgia is a funny thing. I got into collecting old videogames around eight years ago, in part to re-establish a connection with my inner child; to transport myself back to a simpler period in my life. At the time I started snatching up the initial bricks and mortar of my current collection, I was in a strange place in my life. I had just completed my (somewhat delayed) post-secondary education, but couldn’t find a job in my field and was therefore employed as a “sandwich artist”. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were living in an cramped apartment in a not-so-great area near downtown (complete with corner dwelling hookers, an adjacent coffee shop populated by recently released psych-ward patients and a psychotic drug dealing downstairs neighbor).

I had never gotten rid of any of my old videogames from when I was a kid, and I even made enough use of them to justify taking them with me when I left the comfort of my parent’s basement.

I don’t remember the exact moment I started “collecting” videogames, I just started buying the old games that I remembered liking but never owned as a kid – some I’d rented, others that I’d played at friend’s houses. From there I got into games and systems that I never had access to, such as the Turbo Grafx-16 and Sega Master System. It was during my introduction to the Master System that I heard about the numerous ports of popular Genesis games that had graced the console. Titles such as Altered Beast, Streets of Rage 2 and even Mortal Kombat all saw 8-bit Master System releases. Intrigued, I started collecting and discovering them for myself, and the game that intrigued me most was the Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Released on Oct. 25th 1991, just four short months after North America saw the release of the original Genesis Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog also holds the dubious distinction of being the last Master System game released on the console in North America. Sega’s 8-bit darling could never make any headway in North America, what with the total dominance of the Nintendo Entertainment System, and thus fizzled out of existence.

The 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog is a game that I really wished I had access to when I was a kid. My brother and I got a Genesis instead of a Super Nintendo back in the halcyon days of our youth, and didn’t regret it for a second, although I did get a SNES a few years later. I was one of the many who had been swayed by the “extreme attitude” and “radical speed” of Sonic the Hedgehog and the Genesis itself.

Sonic the Hedgehog may have represented the dawning of a new era on the Genesis and for Sega as a company, but it also symbolized the peak of the Master System. Few games released for Sega’s 8-bit console pushed the hardware limits as far as Sonic the Hedgehog did. Nearly everything from the Genesis version made the transition; a catchy, memorable soundtrack, the plethora of power-ups, the speed, the hiccup free gameplay, the smooth-as-silk animation… everything. About the only thing that couldn’t be recreated on the Master System was the ring-explosion. Instead of having all of your collected rings bust loose in every direction when you take damage, 8-bit Sonic just spews forth a few symbolic rings.

The 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog is partially based on the Game Gear version, although the Game Gear has less than equal sound and lower resolution graphics, as well as a different Sonic sprite. The level design more closely mirrors that of the Genesis version, not having to account for the Game Gear’s smaller screen size. That being said, the level design is superb, with two zones created specifically for the Master System port.

The Master System enjoyed unmatched success and longevity outside of North America. In regions such as Europe and Brazil it was a serious rival to Nintendo’s under-supported PAL NES console. The North American release of Sonic the Hedgehog is so rare and sought by collectors that complete copies routinely sell for around $200 USD. Strangely, the only difference between a $10 UK copy of the game and the North American version is a sticker over the UPC bar code.

My love of collecting videogames may have started with a wave of nostalgia, but it was driven forward by my love of great videogames, regardless of their age and sophistication… and that’s what Sonic the Hedgehog for the Master System is – a great videogame.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress