Sonic 2 Beta (unreleased)
While Sonic 3 saw a total redraw, Sonic 2 looks just like the original at first glance. However, as seen in early screenshots of the game and uncovered by ROM hackers, there was another complete set of Sonic sprites in Sonic 2, dropped in favour of the version we know and love.
His head is shinier and his eyes more pronounced. He's also running with his arms higher and farther back - probably to make way for the artsy swirl that replaces his legs. Perhaps it didn't look like a natural pose... although quite how anyone can say what the posture of a blue hedgehog running at supersonic speeds would look is beyond us.
Above: A magazine image from the Sonic 2 Beta - Sonic looks different
The 3D 'Sonic World' section of Sonic Jam on Saturn was basically Sonic Team testing out Sonic in a 3D environment to see if he worked. The answer was a definitive YES.
Sonic looked brilliant in chunky 3D and he still had his attitude intact. He also had sublime analogue control thanks to NiGHTS pad compatibility, though he didn't actually run that fast and never even attempted a loop-de-loop. Crucially, he was still mute. Does that image need a voice with it to let you know what he's thinking?
We can understand why Sega chose to make his stages in Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast so damn fast - the new hardware needed a showcase game and Sonic was it. But if only we'd had a full Saturn Sonic game using this engine... it would have been amazing.
Sonic 1 (GameGear)
This Sonic was redrawn to better fit the smaller screen of Sega's battery-thirsty handheld. We like him a lot, probably because he leans slightly forward when he runs, compared to the straight-backed Master System version. Yes, we really are going that detailed on this.
He seems to sit better in the environment too, not only because the fuzzy screen blurs his outline, but because his movement feels less arcadey than the bolder Master System version. It's a pity Sonic 2 went with the Master System sprite instead of continuing with this one. Sadly, we only ever knew this Sonic for one game. Sniff.
Above: Game Gear Sonic is better than Master System Sonic. Fact
While some of Sonic CD's animations may be clunky (such as the rotating spring jump), the whole look of the game was exactly how next-gen Sonic should have looked. That stylised figure-8 ribbon instead of feet appears when Sonic's at top speed, which we love.
However (and this might just be because we've been looking at Sonic for hours), we can see a turning point here. Think about it - what else can you add to the character without redesigning him completely? A new sprite for Sonic 3 (this game's immediate successor) meant a new art style, which changed the feel of the games. This is the original Sonic sprite's final, most evolved state - and it's awesome.
And so we come to our favourite. Sadly we just don't feel the same love of 3D Sonic as we do for his 2D self. And every new version of the sprite seems to take something away, rather than add to it. So while this all points to Sonic 1, we're actually going with Sonic 2.
Above: You were never meant to see him this close up. Pixel-tastic!
The artwork is refined rather than reworked, the character movement is similar yet even faster, and he's totally uncluttered by special shields and super uber moves. The Spin Dash remains the only addition to Sonic's moveset that genuinely enhanced the experience. He doesn't talk, yet there's so much expression in his little pixelly face. Ladies and gentlemen: the ultimate Sonic.
What's your favourite and least-favourite Sonic? Let us know in the comments, then check back on Friday when we'll be giving Mario the same treatment.
01 April 09
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