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Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (GBA) - 15th Anniversary - Sonic '06's Little Brother


Gloved Frontiers
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Gloved Frontiers

Two days ago, the 15th anniversary for Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis came and went with no real attention at all. It makes sense, given that '06 is the infamous game that gets talked about (both were released the same day). However, Genesis is notable for not only being on the same level of quality as '06 (and maybe even worse), but that it also arguably had an effect on the direction of the franchise and served as a catalyst for bigger and better things.

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For those who don't know, Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (not to be confused with the Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog (not to be confused with the 360/PS3 Sonic the Hedgehog)) was a Game Boy Advance port of the original Sonic 1. It was meant to be a celebration of the 15th anniversary and included some QoL additions, such as the spindash and an unlockable level select and sound test after beating the game.

And it was terrible. Slow, chugging frame rates, physics are all wrong, small field of view making you susceptible to unseen hazards, music and sound effects are laughably bad, and the Sonic 1 levels were not designed with the spindash in mind, meaning you usually hit a wall quickly or careen off a ledge if you do one.

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I remember being in GameStop on a vacation, seeing it, and trying to buy it. Only they didn't actually have a cart in the back, so I went away empty handed ("If it doesn't exist, it goes in the abyss," the employee said as he chucked the empty box into a bin behind the counter). 

I probably should have taken that as an omen. Instead, I got it from my local GameStop. It only took me a minute before I realized that something was amiss. Getting hit with a lot of rings and watching the game go into slideshow mode told me everything I needed to know. 

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I didn't have a 360 or a PS3, so Sonic '06 came and went without having any effect on me. It actually wasn't until quite a bit later that I learned about how awful the game was. But that still didn't stop me from having a bad Sonic experience that year, and the fact that Sega released two or the worst games ever made on the same day is an achievement(?) that may never be topped.

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The poor quality of the game inspired well-known Sonic ROM-hacker Stealth to create his own GBA port of Sonic 1. Consisting only of Green Hill Zone, it was nonetheless an excellent conversion that eliminated most of the problems of Genesis, and even added Tails and Knuckles as playable characters. And it was made by a hobbyist programmer in his spare time. 

Stealth (along with Taxman) would successfully pitch Sega on the prospects of better Sonic ports and created excellent conversions of Sonic 1, 2 and CD. And those, of course, served as a springboard for them to pitch and create Sonic Mania.

It turns out, before you can run at the speed of sound, you first have to crawl. At 5 frames per second while an awful MIDI of Labyrinth Zone plays.

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So I tip my hat to Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis, now as old to us as the game it badly ported was to it. It was terrible, but it paved the way for much better ports and conversions. And hey, at least it isn't Mortal Kombat Advance.

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This is a really weird one for me. It’s awful, yes, but it’s also the first Sonic game that I could truly call my very own, and it was one of the first GBA games I had when I got mine back in 2006-07. Regardless of its quality, I owe a lot to it for helping me in my introduction to such a personally influential series.

But with that said, it’s jank as all hell. But as a six year old with no sense of quality and taste whatsoever, I didn’t know that! So you bet your ass that I eventually trudged through the whole darn game. Twice. Once without the emeralds, and another time with all of them. I wish the save battery on my cartridge still worked so that I could show the glorified sound test you get for beating the game 100% as proof that I actually did it, but alas.

Marble Zone and Labyrinth Zone were especially a pain in the ass in this version due to the slowdown and the screen crunch. Though oddly enough I remember the game being a lot more manageable to play in Original Mode compared to that Anniversary Mode. Yeah, the spindash is neat I guess, but I think using it honestly just made everything worse due to those aforementioned reasons. And how about that? Making a whole separate mode that just has one singular change. So odd.

I’m surprised I still fell in love with the series after such a rough introduction. But then again, six year old with no taste. I can’t imagine the absolute fury the older fans must’ve felt back when it came out. Hope my perspective as someone who actually grew up with this was somewhat interesting for you all. 

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