Two Retro Classics Gloriously Unite As Sega's Sonic Spins Onto The Commodore 64
For gamers of a certain age, Sonic the Hedgehog is synonymous with blazing speed, intricate two-dimensional platforming, and of course Blast Processing on the Sega Genesis, which was reborn on the Genesis Mini. However, gamers on the go who opted for Sega's handheld Game Gear got a very different version of Sonic in the summer of 1991, which also found its way to the Master System in Europe that fall. Now thanks to a fan-made port of that 8-bit title, the Blue Blur is spinning his way onto the Commodore 64 home computer.
The MOS 6510-based C64 doesn't have much hardware in common with the Master System or Game Gear, which both featured Zilog Z80 CPUs, so the developer known as Mr. SID had his work cut out for him, as well as the crew that put the port together. This is mostly a straight port from the 8-bit version of Sonic, but there are several quality-of-life improvements. For example, there's no auto-scrolling in Act 2 of either Bridge Zone or Jungle Zone, which is a relief. Full graphics and music are present, as are each of the game's six zones, and the quality here is pretty spectacular. Let's have a watch as the game boots up on a Commodore 64, including loading screens and scrolling 8-bit graphics galore...
There are some caveats to the game if you plan on playing Sonic C64 with original hardware. First up, a RAM Expansion Unit with at least 256KB of memory is an absolute requirement. The game just won't run on the C64's paltry 64KB.
Second, if your C64 has a super-charged processor like the SuperCPU Accelerator, it'll take full advantage. Neither of those upgrades is exactly common, though, so it'll probably cost a pretty penny to upgrade a stock system. Fortunately, emulation is an option, and for example MiSTer can provide both the memory and turbo-charged CPU to get the most out of the game in a super-cool FPGA micro console. If you're looking for something a little cheaper, perhaps a Raspberry Pi 4 is in order.
The story goes that youthful game music composer Yuzo Koshiro wanted to get into making his own games, so Sega turned him loose on the 8-bit Game Gear port of its platformer featuring new mascot Sonic the Hedgehog as a trial run. That scaled-down version of the game turned out great, and with nothing more than a higher resolution, it made its way to the Master System in Europe.
Interestingly, Sega beat out Nintendo's NES in Europe in the third console generation, and Sonic was a big success across all of Sega's hardware platforms. Because of the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega turned Koshiro's nascent development studio Ancient loose on a sequel to Streets of Rage and we got one of the best side-scrolling beat 'em ups in gaming history with a killer soundtrack that still grooves today.
If you're interested in diving into the 8-bit version of Sonic complete with its own rendition of Green Hill Zone and its iconic theme, head on over to the game's CSDb page and download a disk image.