In this series of blogs I’ll be examining things I missed out on as I was was growing up. Don’t worry, it’s not meaningful things like food and shelter, my parents were pretty solid with keeping me alive. These are completely useless, almost completely pop culture oriented things. I had a pretty fortunate childhood, these are just things that were skipped, for whatever reason. Time to catch up and see if I really missed out on anything important.

                         Chapter 2- Sonic the Hedgehog 

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I’ve always been a Nintendo guy, especially during my formative years. I never owned a Sega system and grew up using my d-pad bruised 1st digit to thumb my nose at the idea of ever getting a Genesis. So, even if I were that spoiled kid whose parents bought him every video game system  (looking at you, that kid I knew who was the nephew of former NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd), I would have just said “no, the SNES is more than enough for me.” I had access to a lineup of the greatest game franchises of the era, maybe of all time. Nintendo supporters, like myself,  had Super Mario Bros, Zelda, and my personal favorite, Metroid, among many others. What more could a kid ask for? Granted, had anyone decided they wanted to throw a Neo Geo my way, I would have gladly have taken it, but I digress. Due to my budding elitist attitude in the early 90’s, I avoided a whole catalog of Sega games.

Their first attempt at home gaming, The Master System, wasn’t worth fooling with. There wasn’t a lot of classic material to be found on that one (although I always thought it cool that they got a Rocky game) (man I’m using a great deal of parenthetical statements in this post), but the Genesis could have been a different story. I mean, it was very popular. I had friends who swore by it, telling me my Nintendo games were kid’s stuff. “How could I even fathom playing a port of Mortal Kombat sans blood?” they’d say.  Did I miss out on any true gems because I just couldn’t get behind what Nintendon’t? This series seems like the perfect place to find out.

The game most identified with the system was Sonic the Hedgehog. It came out in 1991, 2 years into the lifespan of the Genesis. Sega needed a mascot to compete with the portly plumber from the other guys. The Super Nintendo was on the horizon and pushing Sonic was a stroke of advertising genius. Sonic provided the perfect counter programming to Mario. He had a permanent scowl and was even giving you the Dikembe Mutumbo finger on the game’s cover. If that’s not 90’s attitude, I don’t know what is. Sonic is the perfect Poochie, but was his game any good? Does it hold up?

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90’s attitude encapsulated

I still don’t own any Sega systems, but I do possess a copy of Sonic Mega Collection for the Gamecube. To say I own it is a little misleading. The story of how I obtained it also is a bit dicey, as I technically stole it from a church. Well, I borrowed it from a youth group room, then moved. It wasn’t an intentional steal. I contend that I broke no commandment and let’s be real, I’m pretty sure the Lord didn’t need Sonic the Hedgehog to further his kingdom anyhow. So, sorry that church.

The disc contains all the main Genesis titles from the Original Sonic to Sonic and Knuckles but, weirdly, the game that got played the most frequently on this disc was the puzzle game, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Me and my old college roommate got obsessively into this title for a brief period of time, but that’s not the game I’m here to discuss. I’m sure we can all agree that the Mean Bean is a classic, destined to go down in the annals of video game history… wait, I’m being informed that we can’t actually do that… sorry.  The game I’m revisiting is the original, the Sonic the Hedgehog. I had played this game as a kid, but really only on the demo setups in retail stores. There was one in the Navy Exchange (Navy base version of a Target) that I played from time to time while my mom was shopping for groceries and whatnot. I only ever had so much time to play it. Not enough time to really dive in and try to beat it.

The last few days I’ve been really making a dedicated go at it, but I’m really disappointed with it so far. I think the game, on a visual standpoint, holds up really well. Most Genesis games, especially when compared to SNES games, have really bland and muted color palettes.  This was due to the Genesis not being able to display nearly as many colors as the Super Nintendo,  but I think Sonic does a great job of dealing with this limitation. The sprites are big and well animated, and the colors are bright and used well. It’s a great looking game, no doubt about it. Sonic and Robotnik are well designed and look great. Unfortunately, after those characters were designed, the developers took off for the day, as there are no other memorable enemies in the game. Mario has goombas, bloopers, koopa troopas, Lakitu, among a cavalcade of other classic baddies. Sonic has robotic versions of crabs, monkeys, and other animals that are all, basically, the same. They seem to be leftovers from a Mega Man game. You don’t have to develop any new strategies to defeat any of them. Jump on them… unless they have a spike on top. It’s really that simple.

There aren’t any puzzles to solve. The purpose of the game is simple, get from left to right… quickly. Can’t let all that “blast processing” power go to waste, you know. Which leads me to my biggest problem with the game. You can’t, actually, go fast. It’s a game designed around a character that can run… his name is Sonic…. you know… indicating speed, but the level design doesn’t lend itself to this. Every time you get going, you run into a wall or an unforeseen enemy. Sonic 2 does a much better job with level design. Those stages have a lot more opportunities to open up and move, but the original Sonic, unless you’re a speed runner, seems to be designed to be played like a typical platformer… a platformer with crappy jump controls. Jumps onto small platforms are horribly imprecise. Now, it is very possible I’m just terrible at this game and I’ll concede that, but I just didn’t find it very fun. I’d say my Nintendo bias is probably showing, but I also fired up some Sonic 2 and really enjoyed it. They made great strides with the sequel.

So, did I really miss out that much by not playing Sonic the Hedgehog during my formative years? I’m going with yes, but only for the reasoning that it would have provided me with more playground ammunition as to why Nintendo was so much better. I was a jerk kid.

Importance to my adulthood meter-2 out of 5

By the way, everything in this series of blogs won’t revolve around video game. Just a coincidence.

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