Looking back on it the 90s were great, we had quality programming, awesome gaming magazines, The NBA was legendary, and Sonic the Hedgehog on full momentum.
While it is impossible to turn back time (the Delorean’s in the shop), I will take a moment and look back on a great entry in the Sonic Collection. It isn’t a core Sonic game but it was a great area to take him and we owe it all to the majority of fans that loved the Casino Night Zone or any Pinball based zones in Sonic games.
The love of this idea lead to a full game where you can play Pinball with Sonic himself as the Ball and it’s an addicting game to play. There are no areas where Sonic runs at top speed but there are moments where you can control him to use the spin dash, and keep him in play unless you’re in an unwinnable situation.
At its core, Sonic Spinball has fast mechanics, physics, and enjoyable controls that make it easy to understand and play. The music is outstanding from beginning to end, and there are only four large levels in the game.
The level line up starts from Toxic Caves, Lava Powerhouse, The Machine (Possible Pink Floyd reference), and finally the launchpad/rocket level against Robotink/Eggman.
The objectives throughout the game are
Collect all Chaos Emeralds in the Levels.
Unlock the boss arena.
Defeat the boss.
Unlike the the core Sonic series, there are numerous emeralds varying from level to level though the magic number is usually 3 (the games were new at the time so canon was open). This game features some pretty wicked moments such as using a minecart to collect rings, destroying switches to locate other areas on the playfields, and if you are in love with Pinball it’s an instant classic (Try it on fast setting). The downside to the game is much like regular pinball, there are unpredictable moments and it all comes down to your reaction time and where you direct Sonic.
The game is notable for having characters from the Sonic animated series (SATAM) making appearances during one of the bonus levels where Sonic is playing a traditional pinball machine.
The bonus levels can be frighteningly difficult especially as the gameplay is fast and the deflection of the Robotink objects can be brutal in knocking you to the dead zone of the table. The best part is you’ll only get better with practice (3 chances!) and you see them every time you beat a level. The bonus levels objectives are some of the most zaniest ones ever made in a Sonic Game. For example you’ll have to destroy robotizers to free Sonic’s friends in one level, and you have to knock out Robotink’s teeth in another. There’s a total of four bonus levels but you can only reach the 4th if you’ve managed to collect every ring in the level you are in, and jump through a star portal that will direct you to it.
I will attempt to find this level at some point in the future because if it wasn’t for the Sonic News Network’s article on the bonus levels, I wouldn’t have known.
This game left a notable impact in other mediums as well. There has been a comic book stoyline from the popular Archie series based on the first two levels. Other references have been made in the two early Sonic Cartoon series (AOSTH and SATAM) respectively.
There was even a roller coaster in England named after it along with a special Sonic hotel suite sponsored by Sega from 2010 to 2015 (It had since reverted to its original name Spinball Whizzer this year). It’s such a staple to the series, I love how there will always be a pinball based level in a Sonic game that brings back fond memories of Spinball. For the 20th Anniversary Sega created a special rendition of Casino Zone mixed with Sonic Spinball gameplay for Sonic Generations.
There is a Game Gear version of Sonic Spinball as well, and I’ve been meaning to try it out. While there are reviews that speak negatively about it, I’m all about giving things their fair shot (Especially a Sonic game) but if it’s really bad, I’ll write a response post to this article about it. I may do a follow up on my experiences with the Game Gear because despite its flaws, it was an enjoyable system.
If you ever want to play the Genesis version I’m speaking of, it has been re-released on many Sega compilations/retro shops such as Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (PS3/XBOX360), The Wii Shop, Sonic Mega Collection Plus (PS2, XBox, Gamecube), Steam, and all of the various emulations outlets out there.
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