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Nintendo GBA Review: Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis

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Sonic the Hedgehog made a major impact on the videogame industry way back in 1991. Regardless of what you think of his adventures since then, any character that can last 15 years is special; or at the very least is “respectable.”

Nintendo got me into gaming but Sega and Sonic made me stay, Sonic made me a hardcore gamer. I love many of Sonic’s games so much that I plan on getting a Sonic the Hedgehog tattoo.

It won’t only honor my favorite videogame character, but also stand as a sort of monument to my commitment to gaming. Do you remember the moment you “went hardcore?”

When Sega announced they were bringing the original Genesis version over to Gameboy Advance (GBA) I was overjoyed. One of my favorite games coming to one of my favorite handhelds! This is a win-win right? WRONG – Not only is Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (Sonic) a horrible port, I’ll go there: this version is the worst game ever made.

Where do I start? When you power up the GBA the first thing you’ll notice is the background music has been changed. Sonic’s famous “jingle” has been reinterpreted.

Just about every sound effect (if not everything) has been re-recorded as well as the background music. This wouldn’t be an issue if the soundtrack and effects sucked, but this is Sonic. The original soundtrack and effects are iconic and didn’t deserve to be altered… but at least they fit with this mess.

I preferred to play with the sound low, the “new” compositions made my eardrums burst. Bone shards stabbed my inner ear, blood spilled everywhere – maybe I’m being a little dramatic.

If you look at Sonic in screen shots it looks like a pixel for pixel port of the original (besides some cropping). I wouldn’t expect anything less from the GBA.

The little system that could has handled breathtaking sprite heavy 2D (including the fantastic Sonic Advance series), so why but not a 15 year old Genesis game?

This game looks like the landmark Genesis original but it doesn’t move like it. It’s obvious all the bugs weren’t worked out of the game engine, there are few moments where the frame rate doesn’t drop to ensure maximum lag. Sonic feels like he’s constantly moving underwater.

Most stages can still be conquered easily until you make it to the Labyrinth Zone where you’re actually underwater part of the time. Thanks to the harsh graphic flaw, Labyrinth Zone 1-3 is far more difficult and frustrating than it should be.

Graphics aren’t everything, but this incredibly flawed engine is the chief contributor to this ports flaws. Had Sega released the original Sonic in this state no one would have bought it.

What else? The enemy patterns have been altered too, for the worst of course. When you’re a good five seconds into the game you have the ability to jump on a hidden “bumper” in a tree. It launches you in the air so you can collect extra rings.

In the Genesis original, you’re free to bounce off this bumper several times. In this shit version the second time you try for the bumper an enemy is waiting below. Unless you move you die. There are several annoying instances where this happened.

Why do you hate Sonic Sega? Are you intentionally trying to murder your cash cow… err… hedgehog?

The title controls well for the five seconds the engine runs correctly. Sega made it a point to mention the inclusion of the spin dash move (first appearance was Sonic 2), which is cool.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time a Sonic the Hedgehog port featured the spin dash. Sonic Jam for Sega Saturn holds the distinction of being home to the first Sonic port with the spin dash move! Sadly when the engine slows down the controls seem to be “altered.” Maybe it’s me, but 99% of the time the title controls like shit.

Do not mistake this as a mere misstep. No, this disturbing collection of thoughtless code represents the ongoing disarray at Sega. If Sonic the Hedgehog (1991 Genesis) represents Sega at their peak, this horrendous port, this clear contrast, represents Sega’s current state perfectly.

Bottom line, even the hardest-to-the-core Sonic fans (like me) must stay away from this game. We need to send a clear message to Sega that we’re not going to take this shit anymore.

Hopefully they’ll listen and turn things around. If not, don’t count on Sega or Sonic being around for another 15 years. To Sega: you disgust me. Through your lack of care for one of the greatest games ever you’ve engineered a new low point in gaming.

Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Rob Faraldi