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Video Game / Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)

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The fun-sized edition.

The first 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog game, created for the Master System and Game Gear, and anonymously developed by Yuzo Koshiro's game company Ancient in their first commercial release. While having the same basic plot, it wasn't a port so much as it was a unique alternative to the 16-bit version. It has a mostly-unique Zone lineup, and unlike its 16-bit counterpart, Chaos Emeralds are hidden in the stages themselves. Special Stages are only for extra lives and continues.

Due to playing on weaker hardware, the high-speed element of gameplay was scaled back quite a bit, and it really didn't help the Game Gear gain an advantage over the Nintendo's Game Boy in the handheld market. Nevertheless, it's still pretty fun in its own right, and features a catchy soundtrack of its own composed by Yuzo Koshiro (with some adaptations of Masato Nakamura's work for the 16-bit game), the most notable sample being the Bridge Zone theme.

Followed by Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit).


This game provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: While Green Hill, Labyrinth and Scrap Brain make it in, Marble, Spring Yard and Starlight are absent in this version. The former two are replaced by Bridge and Jungle, while Scrap Brain takes Starlight's original spot as the fifth zone, with Sky Base becoming the new final zone. Marble Zone's theme is left over in the game files though, suggesting that it was at least considered.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Sky Base Zone, the first of many in the Sonic series.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore:
    • Sega of America edited Sonic's appearance on the Game Gear box and in all promotional media to make him look more "punk"-like, shaping his quills to look like a mohawk and giving him a more smug expression.
    • This is averted with the Master System version, which uses Sonic's original Japanese design instead of the Americanized redesign by Greg Martin, due to the Master System version being a direct export of the European version.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The Eggman fight in Labyrinth Zone takes place underwater. To compensate for this, Sonic can breathe underwater and not drown.
  • Assimilation Plot: Eggman's entire plan is to turn literally everyone into a robot that he can command.
  • Attract Mode: Leave the title screen alone, and you'll get treated to short demos of the first acts of Green Hill and Jungle Zone.
  • Auto-Scrolling Level: Bridge Zone's second act.
  • Big Storm Episode: The first act of Sky Base Zone takes place during a thunderstorm. As Sonic travels to Dr. Eggman's airship, he must dodge the lightning from the barriers as they flash.
  • Boss-Only Level: Sky Base Zone Act 3, which is also the final stage. The first four zones play with this by having small platforming/running segments prior to the boss, a tradition that would continue for the other Game Gear games. Scrap Brain does not count since there's no boss.
  • Bottomless Pit: While this isn't the only Sonic game to feature them, these are a lot more prominent here than in the later installments. Half of the zones have at least one in almost every act.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: There is a 1-Up monitor in every level. If you break them all, an extra 1-Up monitor (which you most likely won't need at all, due to your massive amounts of lives) is added to the final boss arena.
  • Canon Immigrant: While this game is largely not considered canon to the classic continuity — being superseded by the 16-bit version — it was the first to include a full view of South Island, which later installments have taken as its canon appearance, including Sonic Origins, which features the 16-bit version.note 
  • Cap: Strangely, this version makes the default speed cap even tighter than in the 16-bit version, but compensates by making Sonic move blisteringly fast if he rolls down any slope.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover art of the Master System version depicts Sonic standing on a loop despite there being no loops in the 8-bit version.
  • Cyberpunk: Sonic is a Nature Hero fighting against an Evil Genius who is systematically turning the world's inhabitants into robots.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: No, there is no Spin Dash.
  • Developer's Foresight: Normally if a player beats an Act under 30 seconds, they will get a 30,000 point bonus. But if some player by chance manages to beat a Zone in just 20 seconds flat (only possible in Green Hill Zone Act 1 and Sky Base Zone Act 2), you'll get a jaw-dropping 200,000 point bonus. Beat that same act and Sky Base Act 2 in under 20 seconds? 300,000 point bonus for you.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: If you want to access the special stages, you have to complete an act with at least 50 rings. However, if you collect more than 99 rings, the ring counter resets to zero, so you may have to deliberately avoid some rings to meet the requirement since no level has 150 of them.
  • Down the Drain: Labyrinth Zone.
  • Dub Name Change: Sega of America's marketing department changed Dr. Eggman to Dr. Ivo Robotnik for the Western release. Later references reconcile the two by explaining that Dr. Eggman is his nickname or alias while Robotnik is his actual name.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • No Spin Dash, no Super Sonicnote , and only six Chaos Emeralds. Emeralds are not obtained from Special Stages; instead, the game features a freestanding Emerald hidden somewhere in one of the first two Acts of each Zone. There are also a few zones with rather bland one word names (Labyrinth, Bridge, Jungle), whereas every subsequent 2D Sonic game would either give the zones two word names or one big word as a name.
    • Unlike in practically every other Sonic game, rings cannot be recollected after Sonic takes a hit.
    • Act 3 of each zone has no timer; you can take as long as you want.
    • Sonic cannot carry more than 99 rings. This means that when you grab your hundredth ring, the counter resets to 0 and Sonic again becomes a One-Hit-Point Wonder. Even more oddly, this means that getting 100 rings locks you out of the special stages, which are accessed by completing an act with at least 50 rings.
    • The first act of Sky Base Zone does not have its own music, but instead uses Scrap Brain Zone's theme. Sky Base Act 2 does have its own music, though.
    • Scrap Brain Zone has no boss in any of its three acts.
    • This is the only 8-bit game where Robotnik is a Recurring Boss, as with the 16-bit games. In every other 8-bit game Robotnik is only fought as the Final Boss, with the bosses of each stage bar the final one being a King Mook or a Giant Mook.
    • In lieu of title cards, a map of the game's world is shown between levels, a rarity in the classic Sonic era.
    • Many changes were made to the Game Gear version to accommodate the smaller screen and reduce the difficulty from the Master System version, like Sonic's sprites being redrawn, adding "warning signs" to stop the player from unwittingly running into danger, removing the Ratchet Scrolling from Jungle Zone Act 2, and the final boss being completely different. Later 8-bit Sonic games that appeared on both systems had much fewer differences between the Game Gear and Master System versions as to be nearly identical.
    • Bosses in this game and the second 8-bit game are fought with no rings, which new players will likely find to be overly harsh.
    • This is the only one of the 8-bit platformers in which all sixnote  Chaos Emeralds have to be collected — in the rest of them, you actually only collect five and the sixth is automatically given to you by the final boss if you have collected the rest.
    • If you have a shield at the end of the level, you will bring it to the next, which predates the use of this in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. This is extremely useful for the ringless boss stages.
  • End-Game Results Screen: After the ending, the game tallies your points, adding bonuses for things like finding the Chaos Emeralds and entering Special Stages, and also turns your remaining lives into more points, all adding up to your final score.
  • Eternal Engine: Scrap Brain Zone is both Eggman's headquarters and the engine powering his entire operation. Sky Base Zone, a massive airship controlled by Eggman, is an extension of Scrap Brain unique to this version.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Jungle and Bridge Zones are exactly what they sound like.
  • Excuse Plot: The entire plot can be summed up as this: "Dr. Eggman is kidnapping the animals and trying to take over the island, and Sonic has to stop him!"
  • Fan Remake: The Sonic SMS remake is one (specifically the Master System version) by Creative Araya that aims to faithfully replicate the original game, but also adds in several features such as widescreen support, the addition of the Spin-Dash and the Super Peel-Out, Tails, Knuckles, Mighty and Ray as playable characters, Super Sonic and even a playable Marble Zone. And on December 2021, Mr. Sid did a Commodore 64 port of the game.
  • Final Boss: Two variations depending on whether it's the Master System or Game Gear version. Both have Eggman in a glass capsule on the right and a lightning ball generator above him, and Sonic needs to break the glass. On the Master System, there's a pair of electric pylons along the floor and ceiling that create a current between them, but on the Game Gear, there's only three flamethrower machines on the ground, and only one of them shoots at a time.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: At the end of the Green Hill Zone Act 2, if you descend through the final ramp at full speed while spinning, you'll exit the world being unable to do anything until time runs out and you die.
  • Green Aesop: The nature vs. technology conflict is retained in the 8-bit version, with the contrast between the beauty of Green Hill Zone and the dystopic nightmare of Scrap Brain Zone being just as clear as before.
  • Green Hill Zone: As in the 16-bit version, Green Hill Zone is actually quite difficult compared to most first levels, being full of instant death obstacles like bottomless pits and spikes that ignore Mercy Invincibility.
  • Green Rocks: The Chaos Emeralds magical gemstones that contain the power of nature. In both the 16-bit and 8-bit versions of Sonic 1, there are six of them; however in this game, they are all blue, possibly as a result of palette limitations. Obtaining all of them is necessary to earn the Golden Ending, in which their power is used to restore nature and remove all of the pollution that Eggman created.
  • Idle Animation: If you leave Sonic alone for a few seconds, he will impatiently tap his foot and glare at the player to get him moving again.
  • In Case of Boss Fight, Break Glass: The final Eggman boss shields him inside a glass/metal chute that you need to jump into when you get a chance.
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: Jungle Zone's second and third acts and Scrap Brain Zone's second and third acts.
  • Jungle Japes: Jungle Zone, which serves as the third stage. This stage is filled with vines, waterfalls, and logs that Sonic can run across the water on.
  • Kaizo Trap: The end of the Jungle Zone boss, where you must jump from the tightrope you're on to the capsule on the land (or fall into a bottomless pit). It's actually a fairly tough jump.
  • Level 1 Music Represents: Green Hill Zone, one of only three themes that appear in both this and the 16-bit version (Marble Zone was originally going to feature in the 8-bit version as well but was cut, leaving only its music embedded in the ROM).
  • Levels Take Flight: Sky Base Zone Act 2.
  • Logo Joke: In the Game Gear version, when you start up the game, Sonic jumps back and forth, forming the Sega logo, a reference to Japanese Sega ads that would end with a clay model of Sonic doing the same thing.
  • The Maze: Scrap Brain Zone Act 2 and to a lesser extent Act 3 feature this as a gimmick.
  • Mercy Invincibility: The game also has this, but with one odd distinction from the 16-bit version; taking damage while using a Shield does not grant you Mercy Invincibility.
  • Missing Secret: If you're playing the Master System version, Scrap Brain Zone Act 3 has only 99 Rings, so don't waste your time looking for the last Ring to get a 1-Up. Only the Game Gear version has a hundredth Ring.
  • One-Wheeled Wonder: Several Badniks have only one wheel as their entire propulsion, most notably Moto Bug.
  • Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: Present throughout Labyrinth Zone.
  • Oxygen Meter: Sonic has the ability to hold his breath for thirty seconds before drowning. Warning bells sound at five, ten, and fifteen seconds. At twenty seconds, a 10 second countdown starts, at the end of which Sonic drowns. The Labyrinth Zone is full of Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles to keep Sonic alive. Labyrinth Zone Act 3 is an exception: you are entirely underwater with no air bubbles and can never drown.
  • Pinball Zone: The Special Stages.
  • Player Nudge: To encourage players to take advantage of the extra momentum Sonic can get from spinning, as well as realize they have another means of attack besides jumping, Green Hill Zone put strong emphasis on steep sloping hills that make you go faster as you move down them (particularly in this 8-bit version due to just how slippery the slopes are and the huge boost of speed you get from spinning off the ramps at the end of the hills).
  • Protagonist Title: Sonic the Hedgehog is the game's Hero Protagonist.
  • Ratchet Scrolling: In the Master System version only, Jungle Zone Act 2. If you jump up to the next platform, you can't jump back down without dying.
  • Reformulated Game: The level designs, physics and boss fights are completely different from the 16-bit version.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: There are computer monitors scattered throughout the game that contain powerups. You get the powerups by breaking said monitors.
  • River of Insanity: Bridge Zone.
  • Rolling Attack: Sonic's signature attack move. He runs at his opponent, and then tucks into a rapidly spinning ball, ramming into them and shredding them with his sharp spines.
  • Sampling: Most notably, Janet Jackson sampled Bridge Zone's BGM for her hit 1997 single, "Together Again".
  • Scoring Points: They don't do anything, though.
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • In Scrap Brain Zone Act 2, there's a puzzle involving two doors, with a switch opening the one that cuts you off from the rest of the level, but cutting you off from that door in turn, forcing you to go all the way back. However, if you found the Checkpoint earlier and die on the spot nearby, you'll respawn with the door open for you, letting you finish the level much quicker.
    • In Sky Base Zone Act 2, you can finish the level in roughly 15 seconds by simply jumping straight up around the ships cannons and then walking over the top of the level straight to the exit.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Sonic does not need to breathe while underwater in Labyrinth Zone Act 3. Considering this act has a boss battle and no rings, this at least gives the player one less thing to worry about.
  • This Is a Drill: A few badniks have drill-based weapons.
  • Underground Level: Parts of Green Hill Zone, and the entirety of Labyrinth Zone, take place underground.
  • Underwater Ruins: Labyrinth Zone.
  • Unique Enemy: There are two enemies that appear only once. There is a single Burrobot, found in Labyrinth Zone Act 2, and a single Bomb, found in Sky Base Zone Act 2.
  • Unwilling Roboticization: Eggman's Badniks are actually organic beings that have been unwillingly stuffed into a servile robotic shell. The fleshy being inside serves as little more than a Living Battery for the robot to get energy from: they have no say in what the robot shell does under Eggman's orders.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Eggman always flies away every time you defeat him. Also, at the end of Scrap Brain Zone Act 3, Eggman runs away from you and gets away by taking a floating platform up in the air to Sky Base Zone.
  • Warm-Up Boss: Green Hill's boss is even easier than in the 16-bit version, with Eggman simply floating in his regular Egg Mobile to the edge of a screen with no wrecking ball, slowly descending to ground level, and then trying to ram into you. The Game Gear port's low screen resolution makes it possible for Sonic to jump high enough to hurt Eggman and defeat him before he even gets the chance to attack you. It's even easier than the drill car.

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