SDA logo

Released in 1991, the Sega Master Sytem and Game Gear game titled Sonic the Hedgehog followed the hugely successful release of the Genesis game of the same name. This game did not see the commercial success of its counterpart, in large part due to frustrating level design, copious quantities of lag, and some very poor coding.


Timing note: The game is timed using the in-game timer in the stages that have it, and manually timing the stages without the timer.

Best time with deaths: 0:11:08 by Mike 'mike89' McKenzie on 2009-06-29.

Get Flash to see this player.

Author's comments:

The usual thanks:

mikwuyma, Enhasa, etc - for keeping the site up and running, and continuing to improve it... as is the speedrunning way
Nate - for all the encoding work he does for SDA

The Sonic Center - - Still the most comprehensive resource on competitive Sonic playing anywhere.
Sprint - for all the IL videos he posted (which have since disappeared from the internet :/)
And all of you who gave me a helping hand along the way. You know who you are.

I had expected this run to be a "cheap and nasty" - spend a couple of days at most relearning the level strategies, and then put together a run with no visible mistakes and call it a day.

After a month of failures, and one finished run in a similar time that apparently failed to record to disc, the finished result awaits.

Welcome to my nightmare.

Green Hill 1 (0:19)
Ways you can fail this level:
* Overrunning the signpost at the end (ie. running past it before it appears on screen)
* Overshooting/undershooting the speed shoe

Neither of the above happened, so no complaints. Also hooray for 50 second long bonus countdowns. Seriously, why would they not give you the option to speed it up?

Green Hill 2 (0:24)
Ways you can fail this level:
* Rolling onto the crab faster is much more likely to result in you not making the distance. Damn you, unintuitive physics!
* Overshooting or undershooting those springs. ARGH. This one is exacerbated with the crappy D-pad on the Gamecube.
* Another one is a variant on "overrunning the signpost" - when you hit the ground near the signpost, it jumps off the ground in response, and also can't be hit until it reaches the height of its "jump". Feel free to muse over why they would do that.

I have to slow down before that last ramp to make sure I actually catch it. The ideal case is you get thrown off at a slightly higher angle than the one I did (though the one I got was pretty good), which means you can just hold right all the way to the end while both going fast and not making the signpost jump. You could also try and hit the signpost from above, but that's a total crapshoot.

Green Hill 3 [0:27] (Bosses don't display the in-game timer so I timed them manually. This actually isn't an accurate representation of what the in-game timer would display (thanks to copious amounts of lag) but there's not really any credible alternative timing mechanism. Manually timed (sections of) levels will be indicated by [ ].)
Ways you can fail this level:
* Er, stop watching the screen and fall into one of the pits? This level is beyond a joke.

Moving on...

Bridge 1 (0:27)
Ways you can fail this level:
* The two rolls. If the enemies don't cooperate the third fish won't be in the way on the first roll and that's a mandated restart cause you then don't have enough speed to so much as get up the hill. In the case of the latter sometimes it will simply not throw you up high enough to make the platform and you'll just die.
* The game lags up fiercely at multiple points in Bridge (not least when you touch any of the bridges) but one bizarre place in which it does so is at about :19, after jumping over the rock. The margin for error on the following jump is already smaller than it looks, but when you consider that you can't register a jump that starts on a lag frame, it suddenly gets a lot trickier where it should be routine.

On the note of the rolls, I really should explain how that works. Basically Sonic 1 GG's physics dictate that "if Sonic is not on the ground and he is in ball form, his x-acceleration is set to some number higher than 0 because I don't know specifics". This permits you to pull some crazy stunts with the seesaws, but I opt for the slightly less crazy so that I can actually see where I'm going, and in so doing, ensure my survival rate out of this level is higher than about 1 in 100.

Bridge 2 (1:53)
Ways you can fail this level:
* Boredom.

Yeah, let's all sit around for two minutes and let the current take us along! Worst of all, the worst levels in the game are immediately coming up. Jungle 1 is a particularly bad place to lose a run cause then you have to get back to here again... only to fail Jungle 1 again, and endure Bridge 2 again, and so the cycle continues. One point of strategy, though, was to lose my shield as it does nothing but cause shitloads of lag and therefore tons of pain in the next two zones.

Bridge 3 [0:28]
Ways you can fail this level:
* Jump on the boss too early and not be expecting it. If this happens you just switch into a roll (and indeed it is slightly faster to do it this way, though not enough to be worth a second) but even then it is possible that your roll will break at just the wrong time and kill you.

Amusingly, I discovered on a failed attempt why there are so few explosions in this level. If you run across the bridge instead of rolling (substantially slower) the game will have had time to load everything by the time the boss triggers. However rolling gets you there quickly enough that the game just doesn't have enough time... meaning 50% less explosions and (even more amusingly) the removal of Robotnik's only attack. Seriously! It's not even invisible: stand where the shots should be fired and you won't get a scratch.

Jungle 1 (0:34)
Ways you can fail this level:
* EVERYWHERE ARGH. Pretty much every precision jump in the level happens to have one of those seizure-inducing waterfalls behind it, which also cause lag. This can mess up your jump in two ways: firstly, the timing of the jump (more lag = early jump = death, especially on that first waterfall jump) and if it's not a full-size jump, the height of the jump can be affected too.

In short, this level is a total luckfest. And I hit everything in it. Whoo!

Jungle 2 (0:36)
Ways you can fail this level:
* Same as above, only worse, because every advancement in the level requires a jump, and every jump has that waterfall behind it. In all there's about 50 jumps in the 36 seconds this level takes to complete. 50 chances to only slightly miss a jump and fail. It could be worse; in the Master System version the screen locks every time you jump, which, aside from making you decidedly slower, means any missed jump is an almost certain death.

The jump on the crab at :27 makes or breaks a run. If the jump is too high, it triggers the moving platform above to start its sequence, meaning it's too far across to make the jump without losing precious time to wait. Too low and you don't clear the second set of spikes. Thankfully this had happened enough times for me to adjust - all in all I probably lost a quarter of a second at most. Unfortunately, that was the difference between 36 and 35.

Jungle 3 [0:25]
Ways you can fail this level:
* By far the most common is what happened on this run. Something about the way Sonic runs up steep slopes makes landing a jump bizarrely difficult. No exception here.

Otherwise things went pretty sweet. I don't know how but I didn't even lose a second on that jump - I must've made up a bit of time on the others.

Labyrinth 1 (0:38)
Ways you can fail this level:
* The single worst trick in the game (but the second worst part of the game... more on that later). It is indeed possible to jump off the slippery slope, and it is indeed possible to land exactly where you want to... doing so is an exercise in frustration. Slightly too early and you jump into the overhang, and you can't recover the situation because you then are given no opportunity to jump. Slightly too late and you don't jump at all, and fall on the enemy below to your grisly death. Then there's the times when you hit the jump dead-on and the ceiling behaves differently than you expect and overshoot the platform anyway.
* Water = lag. Especially so when the water level is on screen. Throw in a shield and things get really messy... to the point where the game sometimes just gives up and sends you back to the title screen. I'm not kidding. Another good reason why I lost the shield in Bridge 2.
* On one attempt the water level didn't even appear where it was supposed to, so I spent the remainder of the level underwater. Until the signpost, when the water magically disappeared. And then it sent me to the title screen.

Nothing wrong with this run. I have got 37 before but that is just ridiculous.

Labyrinth 2 (1:09)
Ways you can fail this level:
* RANDOM AIR BUBBLES. You can't complete the level without one, so you have to stop somewhere. There's two locations, so your odds are pretty good, but even so... I don't care if I have to wait for two or three seconds for a bubble, but give me some fucking consistency. I once waited at the first stop from the time the countdown timer read 3 (which in real terms is about 8 seconds) and no bubbles appeared. On the contrary I often see two air bubbles from the second location that spawn about two seconds apart. :/
* The wall statues at the end are pretty nasty too. If your timing is even slightly out they'll get you. What makes them cause more problems than they should is that their shots actually extend a slight way into the wall... and slightly above it, meaning you can get hit just standing on the platform.

Both of these issues got me on this run, though not nearly to the extremes I described. This was by far my worst level.

First, an air bubble appears miles up in the air on the first location, Naturally, this had never happened on any previous attempt. Being risk-averse after such an awesome start, I decided to take the air bubble I was given, even though it was dreadfully out of position... only to see another one appear as I went past. Oh well.

At the end the third wall statue shot a bit earlier than I expected, setting off a chain reaction that had the end result of me getting hit. Probably only lost a second on it though... but it compounded what was already a bad level.

Labyrinth 3 [0:40]
Ways you can fail this level:
* Taking too much risk. 2-4-2 is a really easy strategy here but I recently started doing 2-5-1. This would be simple if you could reliably get your jumps out, but the aforementioned lag issue rears its head again. It's not very pronounced, but it's there, and if you miss one jump you can't get five hits and the timing on the fourth has to be adjusted.

In this instance it works out fine... but only just. If you slow it down after I fall from the fifth hit on that pass, you see just how close it got. I suppose you could theoretically get 3-5 but while it would be a pretty large payoff the risk profile was probably too high.

Scrap Brain 1 (0:29)
Ways you can fail this level:
* There's one moderately tricky jump between the electric shocker and two flamethrowers, but other than that this level is a walk in the park.

And so it proved.

Scrap Brain 2 (0:44+0:16=1:00)
Ways you can fail this level:
* Surprisingly few. There is a blind jump at :33 that I miss occasionally, but apart from that it is surprisingly easy for a minute-long level.
* I suppose if you killed the enemy you're supposed to die to that would mess you up...

First half was ok, got :44, that's enough. I haven't beaten 44 for this section.
Second half seemed ok but I didn't get 15 :(

Scrap Brain 3 [0:40] TIMING NOTE: I timed until Sonic stepped on the rising platform that takes him to Sky Base. If there's a better/more consistent timing point, feel free to use it.
Ways you can fail this level:
* I did once lose a run by falling in the hole just before the switch. It would've only lost a second, but it was just so embarrassing that I couldn't keep it.

Simple. Moving on.

Sky Base 1 (0:30)
Ways you can fail this level:
* That first jump sometimes falls into the gap for a death. Of course it didn't matter in this instance as I didn't make the jump in the first place. Oh well.
* Just when you think you're safe at the end of the level, instead of jumping against the wall you simply jump through it, and fall to your death. This is perhaps the most frustrating type of death in the whole game... and that's saying a lot

I missed the jump at :15 - if I had hit this jump the cannon shots would've played much nicer. Having said that, it actually wouldn't have saved me any time because of the way the lightning bolts work. They shoot every six seconds or so, which basically means that there's certain points where I just stop and wait for them to disappear. What it does mean is that the level can virtually be divided into five six-second segments, which makes it much easier to attack.

Sky Base 2 (0:12)
Ways you can fail this level:
* THE FUCKING CANNONS. There are three of them, all of which shoot in RANDOM DIRECTIONS. The first one is particularly grievous because you don't get a look at it before it fires its first shot and (if it's facing down-right) kills you. The second one isn't really a troublemaker but then you have the dreaded third, which generally gets in your way and which can break a run. However as long as you get a sighter on all three without dying, it's generally smooth sailing from there, thanks to a trick discovered by Sprint. If I had to play the rest of this level normally I think I'd still be waiting on a completion.

I got a really interesting combination this time. First cannon shot right which I initially thought was a dangerous shot, but you can run under it just fine apparently. Second one was shooting down-left but rotated around to up-left which actually got in the way when I got to the third which was shooting up-right. Now all the cannons rotate clockwise, so the third cannon now starts shooting to the right while I wait for the up-right shots to move out of my way. The cannon also shoots through the walls, apparently, so when you reach the end the cannon shot is just waiting there for you to fall on it. So I pulled back towards the end to ensure it didn't get in my way, which might've cost me 11 but I don't give a damn.

Sky Base 3 [0:17]
Ways you can fail this level:
* Way too many. Compared to the Master System version, this boss is an absolute joke. For the most part you can just stand next to him and rack up hits all day long. But that doesn't mean that at the end of a speedrun you are safe - quite the contrary. Multiple times I just fell on the flamethrower after hit 8 or 9.
* Even worse, though, is when you think you've got it won, and instead of registering a hit, all Sonic does is stand inside Robotnik's glass chamber. (If this happens in the first few hits it's beneficial, because there's no knockback which makes it possible to get all the remaining hits without a break.) On hit 10 or 11 this does you no good because in the time it takes you to realise that you didn't bounce off the glass, you're not dealing damage. From there, all you can do is wait for the electric ball to come down and kill you.

Completed without incident! And about time too, I lost way too many runs here.

What I really wanted out of this run was something that looked flawless - in other words, without visible mistakes. I felt the run was short enough that I could pull this off. However, with so much of the game not under your control, it was not to be, even in a month's worth of attempts, which disappoints me as I know how much a single mistake detracts from the viewing experience in a run this short. But without wanting to sound arrogant, I can only ask that if you aren't impressed, try it for yourself. You'll be surprised.

Return to the Game List, the FAQ, or the Home Page.