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SegaSonic the Hedgehog
Coin-Op Arcade Game

by Michael Thomasson

You may be surprised to learn that one of the least well-known Sonic games may actually be one of the best. Marking Sonic's first entry into the coin-op scene, SegaSonic the Hedgehog Arcade paved the way for Sonic's only other arcade outing – Sonic Fighters .

SegaSonic the Hedgehog was released only in Japan arcades in June of 1993. It did make it across the ocean unofficially to other areas such as the United Kingdom, where Sega itself imported the game for its Sega World arcade in London. Since the game was never meant to leave the island of Japan, the menus and dialogue are available only in the native Japanese language. However, the game play itself is universal, easy to navigate and a blast to play!

The game stars Sonic the Hedgehog, and also introduced two new characters to the Sega franchise. If you think that Mighty the Armadillo looks a lot like Sega's long lost brother, it was not by accident. Mighty was actually the original design concept for Sonic before being dumped. Other than this arcade outing, Mighty only makes a brief appearance in the 32x game Knuckles Chaotix . Ray the Flying Squirrel is just plain abandoned after his debut in this coin-op, never to be heard from again in videogame format. Ray's adventures did continue in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series.

Dr. Eggman, known as Dr. Robotnik stateside, has set up base on an island and hatched yet another plan to conquer the world! When Sonic, Mighty and Ray unexpectedly find themselves on Eggman Island, they are captured and incarcerated in a large foreboding tower.

SegaSonic the Hedgehog plays like, and has many similarities to, the classic coin-op Marble Madness . It has a similar isometric layout and players use an optical trackball to traverse a linear obstacle course to reach the end of each level. The island is beset with many assorted environmental dangers such as flowing lava, falling stalactites, rolling boulders and other traps set by Dr. Eggman.

SegaSonic features three-player simultaneous co-op play and to date is the only coin-op game to feature three trackballs on a single cabinet! Sonic, Mighty and/or Ray can journey alone or play together. Beware, although the other players are your friends, they also serve as obstacles, crowd the screen and use resources.


This article was
originally published
in the fall 2010
issue of
Video Game
Trader Magazine.

The SegaSonic
The Hedgehog
Arcade Flyer


To play, press the jump button to perform a jumping spin attack to crush enemies as in other Sonic titles. Since the game pushes the player to traverse the island as fast as possible, the player can also simply zoom past enemies to avoid direct confrontation altogether. WHIMPS!

Unlike other Sonic titles, and more like a traditional game, Sonic has an energy meter. When damaged by an enemy or hazard, his energy is partially drained. Grabbing rings scattered throughout the levels replenishes Sonic's energy meter.

Between levels, animated intermissions move the story forward by showing Dr. Eggman tracking the three heroes across the island and feature him formulating catastrophe!! SegaSonic the Hedgehog Arcade also introduced dialogue to the Sonic franchise and gave voice to the characters for the very first time during these cut scenes.

Sadly, SegaSonic the Hedgehog was never released on a home console. At one point it was being considered for the Sonic Gems Collection . However, upon porting the game it became apparent that the trackball control scheme did not translate well to the traditional control pad.

The game's hardware was designed and built upon Sega's own proprietary System 32 motherboard arcade platform originally created for Rad Mobile in 1991. Of similar interest, Rad Mobile marked the first appearance of Sonic, two years prior to his own series debut on the Sega Genesis . Rad Mobile was obviously a driving game and Sonic appeared as an air freshener that dangled back and forth from the rear view mirror.

You may be interested to know that when those “in the know” sort through the game's code, they find sprite graphics of the SatAM Robotnik character from the Sonic the Hedgehog animated television show. This is curious since this artwork never appears in the game. It is possible that the game was being prepared for the North American market and perhaps would have replaced the Japanese Dr. Eggman character with SatAM Robotnick, a character more familiar to our region.

If you ever spot SegaSonic the Hedgehog in the wild, be sure to deposit any coins you might have jingling in your pocket. It is a very rare opportunity and a wild ride sure to please Sonic fans and others alike.


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