Sonic the Hedgehog has been one of the most beloved video game characters since the early 90s. With the platform of Super Mario Bros. and at a pace never seen before, the series has grown into a franchise that spans the third dimension, comics, TV, and film. While the story and characters have always been part of the allure of the series, there’s also the simplicity in the mechanics and how the game manages to hold on without changing the formula too much. One of the most important aspects of this is the character’s gold ring collection.
As players race through different worlds Sonic the Hedgehog, they will constantly be met with a golden ring that emits the now iconic bell every time they are collected. Unlike Chaos Emeralds, this ring has no narrative weight and is never sought after by Eggman or the other main villains. Instead, they function as the game’s health system, meaning that when Sonic gets hit or hits a spike, all of the coins collected will explode from his body. However, when players collect 100 rings, they will get an extra life. However, veteran Sonic and Sega developers Yuji Naka revealed on Twitter that the iconic mechanic is actually an afterthought.
During the original development Sonic game, Naka explained that with two weeks before the release, “…we changed the specs to one where if you have just one ring, you don’t die….” Players may have noticed for years, but when there If an attack or obstacle hits Sonic, he will lose his ring but there is always one left. With no health bars to track, this becomes an important aspect of the character. It still pushes the player to get the perfect run. It also provides the opportunity to complete levels or defeat bosses, even when it seems like there’s a chance to fight them.
Since then, it’s been common to Sonic game to have the affected player rely on one ring. While rings can be quickly reclaimed during traditional levels, boss levels are where the stakes get higher. Depending on the game, Eggman battles will have a certain number of rings to collect or none at all. That meant if Sonic was hit, he had to quickly collect the missing rings before they disappeared or rely on a single ring to complete the level. This adds more tension and difficulty to the process and shows the players the importance of being attentive because attacks can come from anywhere.
Naka also added that he and his team are still trying to make the game great at the last minute so they can give the players the best possible product. He stated, “…I believe that this game is still enjoyed by people all over the world today.” One could wholeheartedly agree, as Sonic has become a household name and celebrity to fans around the world.
The history behind some of the industry’s most iconic games often has unique stories that show how certain changes and additions can make or break a title. In Sonic the HedgehogIn his case, last minute attempts to make the game as perfect as possible fundamentally changed the experience forever. Now, players new or old can experience the speed and thrill of battle with just one ring left. Whether skilled in the game or a novice, it is a feeling that cannot be replicated and would not have happened without the last minute efforts of Yuji Naka and his team.
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