Is it time to let go of Green Hill, Sonic?

Say goodbye to Green Hill Sonic. Please. Think of the children.

When Sonic burst onto our TV screens in 1991, he caused quite a stir. Players who had been previously constrained to the strolling pace of an Italian plumber suddenly found themselves defying gravity and somersaulting over cavernous spaces with all the finesse of a Russian trapeze artist. And the first time they got to do all this was in the lush Green Hill Zone of Sonic the Hedgehog – a chequerboard wonder lined with sunflowers and palm trees. It was a defining moment in video game history, and Green Hill launched a global franchise that continues to thrive to this day.

Well, it continues anyway 😉

For many Sonic fans, they choke with nostalgia when they think of Green Hill. Every time they play it, they are taken back to their childhood. A fuzzy feeling of excitement is rekindled – one which hasn’t been experienced since they first loaded cartridges into their shiny new Sega Megadrives.

Not for me though. Emerald Hill was my first Sonic experience. It’s completely different.

Anyway, such nostalgia means that Green Hill is an easy card for 21st century Sonic the Hedgehog developers to play when they are hoping to win over the hardcore elite. And I mean, I like Green Hill, but could we be getting too much of a green thing?

Nostalgia, bro

Most Sonic fans know that Green Hill Zone has been resurrected and remastered several times. However, there was a period when there weren’t quite as many places to get your fix. Yes there were variations such as the Green Hills level which featured in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Sega Master System, but for the most part it was a footnote in history.

“Do you remember the first ever Sonic the Hedgehog level?” “Yeah, it was Green Hill wasn’t it?” “Yeah bro. It was sick.” (They didn’t talk like that in 1998, but I’m tailoring this to a modern audience.)

Anyway – excitement reached (genuine) fever pitch for me when I discovered that Sonic Team was making a super-duper new 3D version of Green Hill Zone in the 10th anniversary game Sonic Adventure 2, which first launched on the Sega Dreamcast in 2001.

I was slightly less excited when I discovered that it was a secret unlockable that could only be played if you obtained all of the emblems.I was positively UNDERWHELMED when I discovered that there were 180 of these, some of which could only be obtained by achieving an A rank on every single mission, of which there were about 60.

So for a whole decade I abandoned my dream of ever seeing the lovingly recreated Green Hill Zone, until the wonder of YouTube made it possible to sit and watch somebody else grind their way through Sonic Adventure 2 and do all the hard stuff for me.

More Green Hill Sonic?

I needn’t have feared though – there was plenty more to come.When Sonic 4 Episode 1 came out in 2010, fans were treated to a brand new widescreen high definition version of Green Hill in all its remastered glory. Okay, it was called Splash Hill, but it was basically the same. It was very pretty.

This was followed by the announcement that Green Hill Zone would be remade FOR REAL in the hotly-anticipated 20th anniversary game Sonic Generations, in both 3D (using the super-fast, motion-blurred Hedgehog Engine) and in ‘classic’ style 2.5D, where it would be traversable as the old black-eyed Sonic of the early 90s. Incidentally, Sonic Generations also came with a feature that enabled the player to unlock the original Sonic the Hedgehog title from 1991, so in effect there were three versions of Green Hill for players to get their blue spikes into.

Let’s face it, by this stage I think Sonic fans had enough versions of Green Hill to clog up YouTube for centuries. But no. Green Hill Zone blasted back onto our screens in the 25th anniversary title Sonic Mania (“Look, we’ve added fire shields and stuff!”) And it was dragged out of retirement yet again in Sonic Forces, where the developers added lots of sand and some slightly frustrating mechanical hazards. Actually, in Sonic Forces you end up going through Green Hill a total of three times(?) meaning that Sonic Team and their associates have produced no fewer than 10 versions of the level over a six year period.

**If you count the Megadrive version in Sonic Generations as three separate acts, plus the standard Generation acts, as well as the two acts in Sonic Mania and the three in Sonic Forces.

And that’s why I say it’s time to let go of Green Hill Sonic.

Need more?

A rather diligent YouTuber with the catchy name of SFC mr Raccoon has produced a video chronicling the many, many, many, MANY versions of Green Hill Zone that we have been exposed to over the years. (It doesn’t include Sonic Forces though.)

And here is the exhaustive list of games that it features in, for your inner completist…

  • Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) Sega Megadrive
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) Sega Master System
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) Sega Megadrive
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) Sega Master System
  • Sonic Blast (1995) Sonic Game Gear
  • Sonic the Fighters (1996 – technically)
  • Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)
  • Sonic Advance (2002) Gameboy Advance
  • Sonic Battle (2005) Gameboy Advance
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) Nintendo Wii
  • Sonic Generations (2011)
  • Sonic Generations (2011) 3DS version
  • Sonic Dash (2013)
  • Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (2014)
  • Super Smash Bros (2014)
  • Lego Dimensions (2016)
  • Sonic Mania (2017)

I’ve probably missed a couple. But as you can see  – there’s A LOT.

Is it necessarily a bad thing? It depends how you look at it. Green Hill Zone encapsulates so much of what makes Sonic the Hedgehog great, so in a sense I think it’s only right that we embrace it.

But we have kind of reached the point where uneasy developers – desperate to win the praise of fractious devotees – think they can secure rave reviews if they just toss another Green Hill onto the Sonic conveyor belt, which isn’t cool. I think there’s a delicate line to tread between sticking to everything that’s intrinsically and fundamentally Sonic, and boldly striking out into new territory. (Just not too far – here’s looking at you Sonic Boom.)

What do you think? Do you have Green Hill fatigue? Or do you think there is so much more they can do with this sun-kissed zone of awesomeness?? Let me know in the comments below.


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