Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Master System, Game Gear)

Sonic the Hedgehog

Developer: AncientPublisher: SegaPlatforms: Sega Master System, Game GearReleased in JP: December 28, 1991Released in US: October 25, 1991 (Master System), December 1991 (Game Gear)Released in EU: October 25, 1991 (Master System), December 1991 (Game Gear)

This game has hidden developer credits. This game has hidden development-related text. This game has unused enemies. This game has unused graphics. This game has unused music. This game has unused sounds. This game has regional differences.

This game has a prototype article This game has a prerelease article This game has a bugs page

The 8-bit ports of Sonic the Hedgehog scaled down the Genesis game and included the all-new Bridge, Jungle, and Sky Base (not to be confused with Sky Chase) Zones. Given the limitations, it isn’t too bad.

Although they’re mostly the same content-wise, the Game Gear version has some unused sprites the Master System version doesn’t, and vice-versa. The Game Gear’s smaller screen also meant that things had to be scaled down, resulting in the Green Hill boss being laughably easy.

The Master System version also holds the distinction of being the last game released for the console in North America.


Prototype InfoPrerelease InfoBugs

Unused Graphics

Level Art

Artwork Name Description Green Hill Totem Pole Used in the Master System version, but not the Game Gear one. Green Hill Corner Tile An unused corner piece. Bridge Zone Tiles A spring in front of checkerboard, and a pole in front of some sky tiles. The bridges in this Zone are never high enough to hit sky level. Jungle Zone Spring A spring not set on grass. Probably intended for Act 2. Labyrinth Pillars Some unused big and small pillar tiles! These were created specifically for the 8-bit versions, and have no equivalent in the Genesis version. Sky Base Tiles A chain facing southeast and an unused cannon facing northeast. Sky Base 3 Tiles Some unused slopes, and what appear to be laser turrets. The latter tiles are not in the Game Gear version.


Artwork Name Description Ground Segment Appears amongst the object tiles for Bridge Zone. It almost looks like the top is melted. Door? Appears amongst the object tiles for Labyrinth Zone. Perhaps it was intended to be a switch-operated door, like the ones in the Genesis version? Unused Newtron An equivalent of the red-eyed Newtron’s flying animation from the Genesis version, found in Green Hill’s tileset in the VRAM. Despite always having red eyes in the 8-bit versions, they only ever act like the yellow-eyed ones from the Genesis version, and are only found in Jungle Zone at that. Master System version only. Shield May be an early shield animation. Game Gear version only. Unused Enemy Graphics for the enemy Batbrain appear among the Green Hill objects, and were probably meant to be used in the caves of Act 2. The Genesis version uses them in Marble Zone, not present in either 8-bit port. Game Gear version only.

Title Screen

Artwork Name Description “PRESS BUTTON” A This goes unused in the Master System version, as it simply reads “PRESS BUTTON”. This is used in the Game Gear version though, as that reads “PRESS START BUTTON”. Ancient Ancient handled the 8-bit ports of Sonic 1 and were evidently going to credit themselves on the title screen with the text “©SEGA/Ancient 1991”. In the end, though, only Sega received credit. 1992 An alternate 1992 copyright date, Game Gear version only. Most likely present just in case the game was delayed, since the Game Gear version came out in December 1991.

Early Credits Screen

An early version of the credits screen can be found in the Master System version at ROM offset 16AEE. The triangles in the background were replaced with yellow and blue stars in the final version.

Unused Music

An unused rendition of Marble Zone’s theme is present in the Master System version’s ROM at offset CD0A. This and the unused Batbrain graphics (present only in the Game Gear version) suggest that Marble was intended to be included in the 8-bit ports but was cut due to time or space issues.

Unused Sounds

This sound echoes twice. Might have been used for an early death sound effect. This would later be reused in the Game Gear version of Sonic Spinball and its port to the Sega Master System when grabbing a Chaos Emerald.

This is a heavy bubbling sound. May have had a use in Marble Zone before it was scrapped?

This sound is similar to the bumper sound, but at a higher pitch. Probably based off the Mega Drive version, as it is the same pitch.

Sounds like an alarm. May have had a use in Scrap Brain and/or Sky Base?

Unused Text

Developer Text

A copyright string starts at 0x3B:

Developed by (C) 1991 Ancient – S Hayashi.

Filler Text

A text string (with minor variations) used as filler in the ROM banks.

‘1991 (C)Ancient. (BANK0-4) SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Master System & Game Gear Version. ‘1991 (C)Ancient. (BANK8-11) SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Master System & Game Gear Version. ‘1991 (C)Ancient. (BANK12-15) SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Master System & Game Gear Version.

Version Differences

To do:This section is WIP: add more detail, elaboration, screenshots, etc. Extremely long and in-depth video.

The 8-bit versions of Sonic 1 are mostly identical, but besides the resolution there are some differences in the Game Gear version:

  • A white Sega splash screen with an animated Sonic and the trademark “Sega!” voice clip was added. This was done because the Game Gear doesn’t have a logo screen incorporated into the BIOS, unlike the Master System.
  • The smog clouds above Scrap Brain on the map screen were redrawn.
  • The sprites for Sonic, invincibility, and shields were all redrawn to be smaller, to account for the reduced screen size.
  • Most stages have altered layouts, from simply moving a few rings around to completely removing or replacing entire chunks of levels.
  • Warning signs were added near spike pits and cliffs in Green Hill in the Game Gear version. Various background elements were altered as well, such as the color of the mountains and the flower animations (which are closer to the Genesis version).
  • The Special Stages have different layouts in the Game Gear version. On the first “loop”, the stages have a time limit of 2 minutes rather than 1.
  • Due to the smaller screen, the Green Hill boss flies much lower and can be reached from the ground, making it a complete joke for some, maybe most.
  • On the other hand, the Bridge Zone boss is trickier, taking place on an actual bridge rather than an island.
  • Fruit appears in the background of Jungle Zone.
  • In the Master System version of Jungle Zone Act 2, the screen continuously locks as Sonic travels upwards through the stage, with the bottom of the screen acting as a bottomless pit. This would naturally have been completely unfair on the Game Gear, so it was removed.
  • Jungle Zone’s boss takes place in a steeper arena in the Game Gear version, making the bombs harder to avoid.
  • The first two Acts of Labyrinth Zone have radically different layouts between versions. Most notably, the Chaos Emerald is much easier to get:
    • In the Master System version, the Emerald is sitting in the middle of a spike pit. To get it, the player must collect an invincibility power-up a few screens below, run through a lengthy obstacle course to get to the spike pit, jump in, grab the Emerald, and jump out before the invincibility wears off.
    • In the Game Gear version, it’s just… sitting there, out in the open, very near the end signpost.
  • The final boss no longer enters a second phase, and attacks with three floor-mounted flamethrowers rather than a moving electric wall. The homing device was also moved from above Robotnik to the middle of the ceiling.
  • The credits text has been updated to reflect the hardware.
  • The end-of-Act panel prize mechanics are different between versions:
    • In the Master System version, Sonic panels are obtained by finishing an Act with a specific amount of rings, and ring panels are obtained by having a multiple of 10 rings.
    • In the Game Gear version, panel prizes appear to be random and do not seem to be influenced by the amount of rings you have. The Game Gear version also adds point bonuses to end-of-Act panels.

Master System II BIOS

To promote the Master System II in Europe, certain releases of the system came with Sonic 1 within the BIOS. Due to space limitations in order to fit the basic BIOS functions in, the credits sequence is removed, with the game instead hanging on the final results screen with Green Hill Zone’s theme playing.

Regional Differences

Japanese Game Gear International Game Gear File:Sonic18Bit SegaScreenJapan.png

Like the Genesis game, the Japanese version removes the trademark logo.

Japanese Game Gear International Game Gear

Shinobu Hayashi has different nicknames depending on the region; “Pinbot” in the Japanese version and “Machine” in the international versions, presumably changed since Pinbot is also the name of a pinball machine. The international versions also fix a typo in “Game Programmer”.

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Adobe FlashSonic Jigsaw 2 Educational Games ArcadeSegaSonic Cosmo Fighter Sega Master SystemSonic’s Edusoft WindowsSonic’s Schoolhouse Sega PicoSonic the Hedgehog’s Gameworld (Prototypes) • Tails and the Music Maker (Prototypes) LeapsterSonic X LeapFrog DidjSonic the Hedgehog Sonic Boom Wii URise of Lyric Nintendo 3DSShattered Crystal • Fire & Ice Adobe FlashLink ‘n Smash Compilations Sega GenesisSonic Classics Sega SaturnSonic Jam (Demo) WindowsSonic & Knuckles Collection • Sonic Mega Collection Plus • Sonic Origins GameCubeSonic Mega Collection (Prototype) • Sonic Gems Collection PlayStation 2Sonic Mega Collection Plus • Sonic Gems Collection XboxSonic Mega Collection Plus Nintendo DSSonic Classic Collection Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo SwitchSonic Origins Game.comSonic Jam Plug & PlaySuper Sonic Gold Other Game GearTails’ Skypatrol • Tails Adventures DreamcastSonic Shuffle (Debug Version) Nintendo DSSonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Windows, Mac OS XThe Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog J2MESonic Jump iOS, AndroidSonic Jump • Sonic Dash • Sonic Runners • Sonic Runners Adventure (Prototype) Adobe FlashSonic The Broad Jump • Sonic and the Black Knight: Knight in Training

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