Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
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|Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball|
European box art
|Developer(s)||Sega Technical Institute|
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Release date(s)||Sega Genesis
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, or Sonic Spinball (ソニック・スピンボール Sonikku Supinbōru?), is a pinball video game developed by Sega Technical Institute and published by Sega. The game was originally released for the Sega Genesis in 1993, and later ported to the Game Gear and Master System in 1995, and iOS in 2010.
The term "Spinball" is a portmanteau on pinball and "spin dash", a move Sonic performs. Along with Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, it was the only two Sonic games released to use characters and elements from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is a pinball game in which the player controls Sonic the Hedgehog, who must navigate upward through (and ultimately destroy) the Veg-O-Fortress, the setting of the game created by the main antagonist Doctor Robotnik. The majority of the game takes place within the "Pinball Defense System", which resembles a series of gigantic pinball machines. The game is split up into four such levels, each containing numerous sets of flippers that can be used to aim Sonic's trajectory and launch him upward through the level. While Sonic is moving, he can be moved left and right with input from the directional pad, which can be used for better positioning following an impact with a bumper or target, or when Sonic is descending toward the drain, bumpers or flippers.
The goal of each level is to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds that serve to stabilize the volcano the Veg-O-Fortress is built upon and subsequently defeat the newly-accessible boss enemy located at the top of the level. Some Chaos Emeralds are blocked off by some sort of obstacle that requires certain switches or bumpers to be hit in order to be alleviated and create a clear path to the Emerald. The boss enemies at the top of each level each require a specific strategy to defeat. Hints toward such strategies and encouraging messages when progress is made are displayed on the "status strip" at the top of the screen.  Following the defeat of a boss enemy, a bonus round is initiated. These bonus rounds are depicted as regular pinball machines with Sonic at the controls. The player is given three balls to shoot around the board with the purpose of accumulating points by hitting as much bumpers and targets as possible. Pressing the A, B and C buttons simultaneously triggers a tilt shake that rattles the table and affects the ball's trajectory. However, if this mechanism is used too often, the flippers will lock and a ball will be lost. When the given goal of the bonus round is fulfilled or if all three balls go down the drain, the bonus round will end and the next level will commence. When all of the game's Chaos Emeralds are collected and all four boss enemies are defeated, the game is won.
Sonic starts the game with three lives. A life is lost when Sonic is allowed to fall through a drain and be victimized by the enemy or hazard below. An extra life can be earned by accumulating 20,000,000 points, which can be built up by hitting bumpers, navigating through loops, collecting rings and destroying obstacles and enemy characters. If the player runs out of lives, the game ends prematurely.
The evil scientist Doctor Robotnik has built a gigantic contraption, the Veg-O-Fortress, on top of the volcano Mt. Mobius for the purpose of transforming the animals of Planet Mobius into mindless robot slaves. The magma within the mountain fuels both the fortress and the pinball machine-like defense systems that act as fortification. Additionally, the volcano is kept in stable condition by a series of Chaos Emeralds. In response, Sonic the Hedgehog and his friend Miles "Tails" Prower mount an aerial assault on the fortress, only to be ambushed by the fortress's cannons. Sonic is knocked into the deep waters that surround the volcano, but manages to avoid drowning and surfaces in the caves below the fortress. From there, Sonic infiltrates the fortress's defenses, absconds with the Chaos Emeralds and frees the animals of Mobius. In the absence of the Chaos Emeralds, a massive eruption destroys the Veg-O-Fortress.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball was initially conceptualized by Peter Morawiec, who was asked by Sega to create a smaller Sonic the Hedgehog title that could be completed in six months due to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 not being complete in time for Christmas. Because Sega's marketing team observed that the "casino" stage was one of the most popular levels in Sonic, Morawiec decided to create a game based on pinball machine mechanics. John Duggan served as the art director for the game and designed the graphics for the bonus stages. The game's music and sound effects were created by Barry Blum and Brian Coburn of Sega Multimedia Studio, Howard Drossin of Sega Technical Institute and OUI Multimedia.
The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version of the game has been re-released on the Sonic Mega Collection (2002) compilation for Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC, the Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) compilation for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and multiple iterations of the Sega Smash Pack (1999, 2001, 2002) series of compilations. The Game Gear version appears as an unlockable game in Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut (2003) for the GameCube and PC, as well as Sonic Gems Collection (2005) for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. The Mega Drive/Genesis version was released on the Wii's Virtual Console on March 12, 2007 in North America and April 5, 2007 in Europe. The game is also available for iOS devices on Apple's App Store. On September 13, 2010, it was released on Steam as well.
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Game Gear version a 4.25 out of 10, commenting that the placement of the two flipper buttons right next to each other is awkward and difficult, the graphics frequently blur, and the player has very little control over where the ball goes. GamePro also criticized the button placement, but asserted the game is otherwise "almost exactly like the Genesis original" and that it is more fun to play on the go than on a home console. However, they rated the game itself a mediocre example of a pinball game, commenting that "the pace often feels slow and uneventful in comparison to other pinball carts. You spend a lot of time ricocheting back and forth to the same places where nothing new is happening."
IGN gave the Virtual Console release - i.e. the Mega Drive version - 7.5 out of 10, stating that "It's not a perfect game – there are aspects of the control that could have been tighter, and its difficulty level may be a bit too extreme for new players. But it's a good option for Sonic fans, or pinball fans." Pocket Gamer gave the iPhone version a 6 out of 10, stating that "while it isn’t a particularly good pinball game, it is a pretty decent video game."
In reviews of Sonic Mega Collection, 1up called Sonic Spinball "pretty awful" and that it "makes a fellow long for a real pinball table", GameSpot cited serious problems with slowdown, and IGN complained of a choppy frame rate.
- Neil and Carol Ann Hanshaw (1993). Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball Instruction Booklet. Sega. p. 7.
- Hanshaw, p. 8
- Hanshaw, p. 12
- Hanshaw, p. 13
- Hanshaw, p. 10-11
- Hanshaw, p. 14
- Hanshaw, p. 2
- "Peter Morawiec interview by ICEknight (December 2000)". Sonic Retro. December 27, 2000. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
With Spinball, I was asked to design a 'smaller' Sonic game, an offshoot of sorts, which could be completed in six months, in time for Christmas (since Sonic III would slip). Marketing concluded that the Casino stage in Sonic was one of the most popular levels, so I've created a more pinball-like design with Sonic elements, which everybody seemed to like. Ultimately, the short development cycle shows and the graphic quality is not quite on par with the work of the Sonic Team (we were primarily a non-Japanese team), but it's a fun little game that gathered quite a following, but it's definitely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of a thing. The bonus screenshot you sent is using an early table design I believe, which was probably replaced due to VRAM limitations (it's been a while, so I'm just guessing here). John Duggan, the Art Director on the project did the Bonus Table graphics.
- Hanshaw, p. 19
- "Review Crew: Sonic Spinball". Electronic Gaming Monthly (61). EGM Media, LLC. August 1994. p. 36.
- "ProReview: Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball". GamePro (62). IDG. September 1994. p. 136.
- Thomas, Lucas M. (27 March 2007). "Sonic Spinball VC Review - Wii Review at IGN". IGN Wii. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- Mundy, Jon (5 January 2011). "Sonic Spinball review | iPhone reviews". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- Parish, Jeremy (29 November 2004). "Sonic Mega Collection Plus for PS2 from 1UP.com". 1UP. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- Score, Avery (2 November 2004). "Sonic Mega Collection Plus Review - GameSpot.com". GameSpot.com. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- Mirabella, Fran (12 November 2002). "Sonic Mega Collection - GameCube at IGN". IGN GameCube. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- Oliver, Tristan (22 January 2010). "UK Sonic Spinball Roller Coaster, Hotel Confirmed with SOE Support | TSSZ News". TSSZ News. Retrieved 9 June 2012.