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  • :: General Info ::
    Title (USA)
       Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
    Title (Europe)
       Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
    Title (Japan)
       Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
    Developer
       Sega Technical Institute
    Platform
       Sega Mega Drive
    Format
       8M cartridge
    Genre
       Pinball/Action

    :: Release Info ::
    USA
       November, 1993
    Europe
       November, 1993
    Japan
       December 10, 1993
       6,800

    :: Game Credits ::
    Producer
       Yutaka Sugano
    Game Concept
       Peter Morawiec
    Programmers
       Dennis Koble
       Lee Actor
       Ken Rose
       Steve Woita
       Jason Plumb
       Earl Stratton
       Dave Sanner
       Scott Chandler
    Game Design
       Peter Morawiec
       Hoyt Ng
    Art Director
       John Duggan
    Art
       Katsuhiko Sato
       Tom Payne
       Craig Stitt
       Brenda Ross
       Kurt Peterson
    Music & SFX
       Brian Coburn
       Barry Blum
       Howard Drossin

    :: Platforms ::
    Sega Mega Drive
       Sonic Spinball
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       Sonic Mega Collection Plus
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       Sonic Mega Collection
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       Sonic Mega Collection Plus
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       Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
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       Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
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       Virtual Console

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       Sonic Mega Collection Plus
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    Sonic Spinball
    Last update: 05/20/07

    :: Quick Jump ::
       [ Story | Gameplay Info | Comparison | Lost in Translation | Codes | Behind the Screens | Notes | Miscellanea ]


    :: Story ::
       Dr. Robotnik has assumed control of Mt. Mobius and turned it into a mechanical base. Utilizing energy produced by the magma flowing under the volcano, this new monstrosity - the Veg-O-Fortress - has the power to transform helpless animals into robot slaves at an astounding rate. Sonic and Tails fly onto the scene, but Sonic is knocked off the wings of the airplane by a blast from the fortress. He falls into the water, but is rescued by some anonymous aquatic buddies and taken to the subterranean levels of the Veg-O-Fortress. The fortress must be destroyed from the inside-out and the only way to make that happen is to trigger an eruption in the volcano it's built on. Sonic knows this can be done by removing the Chaos Emeralds that keep the volcano stable. Robotnik, however, is also aware of the fragile relationship that exists between the Emeralds and the mountain, and he's set up an elaborate Pinball Defense System to make sure the precious jewels don't go anywhere.
    :: Gameplay Info ::
       It's an association that's fallen to the wayside in recent years, but in the earliest days of Sonic lore the series was, as a whole, commonly associated with pinball. Zones such as Spring Yard and Casino Night proved to be fan favorites, so of course it made sense to release an entire game focused solely on the pinball mechanics.

       While there are isolated nuggets of run & jump platforming sprinkled around Spinball's 4 massive boards, the vast majority of the game is played struggling to maintain the trajectory of a wildly careening Sonic, permanently stuck in spin mode. The A button raises left flippers, the B button raises right flippers, and the C button raises both at once. By holding left or right on the D-pad, you can alter Sonic's ascent/descent somewhat, but for the most part, you're at the mercy of Newtonian physics. The actual platforming segments are thankfully sparse, because Sonic's basic run & jump controls are slow, clunky, and altogether useless except to propel yourself back into the pinball arena.

    walk -- Sonic's basic ground movement. Hold left or right on the D-pad to make him go.
    screech -- While coming off a ramp, hold the opposite direction and pray that Sonic stops (he is not apt to do so).
    look up -- Hold up on the D-pad to have Sonic gaze to the heavens. The camera pans upward, providing you with a view of the level directly overhead.
    crouch -- Press down on the D-pad to have Sonic duck.
    spin -- Press A, B, or C while on flat ground to have Sonic leap into the air with his trademark spin. Note that Sonic will come to a complete stop before jumping.
    Super Spin Dash -- Press down on the D-pad to have Sonic duck, then tap A, B, or C to have him rev up with a stationary spin. Release the D-pad for a rolling attack.

       Stages are set up like giant pinball machines consisting of several smaller boards connected through various means. There are 3-5 Chaos Emeralds hidden in each stage and the goal is to locate all of them and proceed to the boss room. The catch is that the shiny gems are well protected by the local terrain and in order to access each one, you must complete a unique task that opens the path to it. This usually involves hitting certain targets or enemies which, when accomplished, causes a change in the nearby scenery, such as opening a gate or draining toxic sludge from a pit. Once the obstacle du jour is out of the way, the Emerald is free game. Once all the Emeralds in a stage have been collected, the path to the boss at the very top of the board opens.

       There are numerous ways to rack up points: collect Rings, hit targets, perform loop-de-loops, etc. Some (such as collecting Rings) are bonus points awarded only after a stage is complete or a life is lost. Rings are worth 12,500 points each, Chaos Emeralds are worth 500,000, and loop stunts vary based on the stage. Hitting targets can have a couple of different effects, such as accessing safety lids (to keep you from falling to your doom if you miss the flipper basin), or, in some instances, activating 2 and even 3X multipliers. A time bonus of up to 10,000,000 points is awarded based on how quickly you're able to complete the stage (if you can manage it in a single life). There's a Jackpot bonus for clearing the game that starts at 10,000,000 points, but rises by another 10,000,000 for each successfully completed bonus game. A 1up is earned for every 20,000,000 points and each remaining life is worth 5,000,000 points at the end of the game. (Most scoring techniques are level-centric and are discussed in greater detail below.)

       The only way to lose a life is to fall beyond the flippers into the toxic abyss. Rings are only for points (and access to the hidden multi-ball bonus stage), and since enemies are only ever encountered while in spin mode, they can't inflict damage. Being that enemies exist for no purpose other than to serve as moving targets and get in your way, there isn't much variation in their attack patterns... they all hover around helplessly waiting for Sonic to smash into them.

    Worm -- Giant worm bots that peep from holes in the cavern walls. They take 3 spins a piece.
    Cluck -- Mean-looking chicken bots that fly through the air. (Cluck is based on the bot of the same name that sits on Robotnik's shoulder in parrot fashion, as seen in the "Sonic the Hedgehog" Saturday morning cartoon.)
    Ferron -- Soldier bots bearing menacing-looking machetes which they are utterly incapable of using. They simply hover in place or fly through the air. The red ones, which only appear in the Roboboiler boss chamber, are identical.
    Buster -- Chopper-headed bots of some mammalian sort (possibly feline) that hover through the air.
    Krondor -- Condor bots that hover in place. They hold chute lids open in The Machine. (Note that when you defeat a Krondor, you're still given the victory message "Buster Busted")
    ??? -- Wasp bots that hover in place.

       There are 4 stages, each consisting of several connected pinball boards. At the pinnacle of each is the boss arena, which can only be accessed by collecting all the Chaos Emeralds within the stage. After the boss is defeated, your score for the stage is tallied and you have the opportunity to play a bonus game before proceeding to the next level.

    Toxic Caves -- The lowest level of the Veg-O-Fortress consists of a stinky cavern of toxic sludge. Hang around for too long on the platform just beneath the flippers at the lowest level and a mecha leviathan called Rexxon will attempt a quick brunch at Sonic's expense. The mine cart in the middle of the stage will lead you to two of the three Chaos Emeralds, but only if the draw bridges have been raised prior to the ride. There are 3 Emeralds to collect.
    • Great Escape -- While in the clutches of Rexxon's jaw, rapidly press all of the buttons to break free and score a 15,000 point escape bonus. (Fail and you lose a life.)
    • Loop de Force -- Once the slime above the first board has been drained, make three loop-de-loops through the pipes on the first board to score a 200,000 point bonus.
    • Detour -- Alter Sonic's direction on the minecart by pressing the flipper buttons for 100,000 points a switch (maximum of 3).
    • Switch Loop -- Pass through either minecart switch loop 5 times for 200,000 points.
    • Worm Loop -- Go through either worm loop on the left or right tables 3 times for a 100,000 point bonus.

    Scorpius -- The giant scorpion bot doesn't do much to attack except to release droplets of green venom from his stinger. The trick is to squeeze in between his tail and his back, and bounce between them for a rapid flurry of spin attacks. After a while the tail will fly off, but there's one other way to inflict massive damage in a hurry: hit all 4 targets above Scorpius to send a barrage of boulders falling onto his unprotected back.

    Lava Powerhouse -- The second level of the fortress is the power generator, supplied with plenty of heat energy courtesy of the magma flowing through Mt. Mobius. Creepy kangaroos use giant bellows to blow you back into the action when you get knocked off to the side. Press any of the action buttons in the Steam Arenas to leap on jets of vapor, but you'll have to pop a Cluck to gain enough height to reach the pipes that will lead you to the Emeralds. There are 3 Chaos Emeralds to collect.
    • Pressure Bonus -- Go through any of the marked piston loops 5 times for a 200,000 point bonus.
    • Cool Loop -- Go through any of the marked giant loops 5 times for 100,000 points.
    • 2X Multiplier -- Light the 3 gates at the top of either of the 2 lower boards.

    The Roboboiler -- Possibly the most bizarre boss in Sonic history. The goal is to enter the chamber with the four rotating Roboheads, then go pinball crazy. (The heads vomit lava each time they've been hit...) When any one of the noggins is destroyed, the others disappear and Sonic falls back out the bottom of the chamber. You have to bounce and flip your way back into it for another chance to smack the remaining heads around.

    The Machine -- The upper level of the fortress is where the furry forest critters are being mass transformed into robot slaves. There's a large prison chamber right in the middle of the board: bounce into the cells (they're like bumpers) to pop them open and free the animals within. There are 5 Emeralds this time.
    • Animal Prison -- Bust open all the cells in the prison chamber for a 500,000 point bonus.
    • Piston Lights -- Go into all 3 piston chambers located on the extreme right or left sides of the board for 200,000 points.
    • Power Chamber -- Enter either of the 2 power chambers on the lowest level 3 times for 100,000 points.
    • 2X Multiplier -- Go through the Mega Loop in the lower chamber 3 times.

    Veg-O Machine -- Robotnik's sadistic robotizing machine is easy enough to destroy. Flip your way up to one of the sides and use the electric currents to boost Sonic into either of the glass chutes. Once both chutes are destroyed, hop into the blue interior and, as usual, go pinball postal.

    The Showdown -- The Veg-O-Fortress is crumbling, the volcano is erupting, and Robotnik is escaping to the stars. The lower half of the stage consists of only three connected boards. The massive upper half is wide open, but is only used for reaching Robotnik's spaceship once all 5 Emeralds have been acquired.
    • 3X Multiplier -- Hit each of the 3 targets on either the lower left or lower right boards within 10 seconds.
    • Chimney Ramp -- Go through either one of the upper exits on the center board 3 times for 200,000 points.
    • Rumbling Loop -- Go through either of the small loops in the lower left or lower right boards 5 times for a 100,000 point bonus.
    • Robotnik Bonus -- Go through either of the socks on the lower left and right boards once, and for each successive time you enter the stinky footwear, your bonus is multiplied by 1,000,000.

    Robotnik's Ship -- Robotnik, who seems suspiciously large and off-model, is escaping to space. Once you've worked your way into his escape vessel, the object is simply to break through his glass cockpit. Unfortunately, he's got some well thought-out defenses, all of which are designed to knock you away and back down to the giant pinball table of a stage below. The object is to push the button directly underneath the cockpit to switch the arrangement of defenses on either side of Eggman's chamber: if the mechanical arms are out, they'll pick you away. If you get caught in one of Eggman's smelly socks, you're knocked into a window on the wall of the escape craft... on the third hit, the window breaks and Sonic falls back down into the stage. Keep hitting the bottom button until neither arm defends the cockpit, then head to the vulnerable top and pop the glass dome. 10 hits and the job is done.

       At the end of each of the first three stages, you get to try your skill at a pinball mini-game. These mini-games are set up like real pinball machines, with Sonic at the controls. You're given a task to complete and three balls to do the job with. You won't lose anything should you fail, but by completing them you'll be rewarded with a "Rising Jackpot" bonus which adds 10,000,000 points to the final jackpot once you've finished the game. As in the normal game, A raises the left flipper, B raises the right, and C raises them both at once. Press all three buttons simultaneously to shake the machine, but be careful or you'll tilt the blasted contraption and be unable to move the flippers at all.

    • Trapped Alive -- You play this bonus after completing Toxic Caves. The object is to destroy all the robot machines and free the helpless animals trapped inside them. (The trapped animals include Tails, Flicky, Wocky, and the supporting cast of the Archie comic book and Saturday morning cartoon show.)
    • Robo Smile -- You play this bonus after completing Lava Powerhouse. The object is to knock out all four pearly white teeth on Robotnik's grinning mug.
    • The March -- You play this bonus after completing The Machine. The object is to destroy the capsule and free the animals within. The capsule is patrolled by a ring of chicken bots based on Scratch from "The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" cartoon. You may have to destroy a few Scratch bots to get at the capsule.
    • Clucker's Defense -- This is a hidden multi-ball bonus that can be played on any stage, but only after you've accomplished the herculean task of collecting every single Ring on the board. Several star circles appear hidden around the table: leap into any one to be warped to this bonus round. The object is to destroy the crab (looks like Guardon from Sonic 2) who is protected by a pair of Cluckers (the US name for Sonic 2's Kokekko bots). Accomplish your task and you're rewarded with the usual Rising Jackpot bonus.

    Trapped Alive Robo Smile The March Clucker's Defense

       There's an options menu in which the game can be set for up to 4 players, though only one plays at a time (the controller is handed over to the next player when a life is lost). There are two speeds, Normal and Fast, referring specifically to the velocity at which Sonic whizzes around the table. The BGM can be toggled on or off, for those who prefer their pinball to consist of sound effects only, and the default button layout can be changed to any combination of A, B, and C.


    :: Lost in Translation ::
       Spinball was developed at Sega Technical Institute and was the first Sonic game to have been developed entirely in the USA by American staff. This fact was widely publicized upon the game's release in Japan, where it was advertised as an "American funky action game."

       Changes between the two versions are minute and mostly involve the status strip at the top of the screen. In the Japanese version, the message explaining how many Emeralds are needed to complete the stage is written in katakana. (All other messages remain in English.) In the US version, when you pause the game, you get a "Game Paused" message in the status strip, which interrupts any other messages that may be scrolling by. In the Japanese version, there is no pause message. Finally, the jingle that plays when you lose a life is different.

    US version
    Japanese version
    US version
    Japanese version

    :: Codes ::
    Level select: In the options menu, press: ABCA BACBC. You should hear a chime. Return to the title screen. To skip to Lava Powerhouse, hold down A and press START. To skip to The Machine, hold down B and press START. To skip to The Showdown, hold down C and press START.
    :: Behind the Screens ::
       When it became apparent that Naka and his team weren't going to have Sonic 3 ready in time for Christmas '92, Sega instructed STI to whip up a stopgap title to round out the holiday season. Marketing suggested a full game based around Sonic 2's popular Casino Night stage, but director Peter Morawiec opted for a more traditional pinball structure. The small team had only nine months to build the title from the ground up, so project manager Roger Hector commissioned a couple of outside programmers - Dennis Koble and Lee Actor - to aid with coding. The experienced contractors wrote the entire game in C, unusual in an era when most games were still programmed in assembly.

       On the final day of Spinball's development, the team was throwing their "end-of-project" party when the Japanese group working on Sonic 3 dropped in to see how things turned out. The start-up screen for the demo featured the title jingle from Sonics 1 and 2. Hirokazu Yasuhara, director of both games, wondered how the Spinball team managed to talk Sega into licensing the original theme. The rights to the original Sonic music composed by Masato Nakamura belong to his band, Dreams Come True - a fact the Spinball team was not aware of. DCT's licensing fee was more than Sega was willing to cough up, so at the very last minute composer Howard Drossin whipped up a new opening jingle that became Spinball's title theme.


    :: Miscellanea ::
    • Two DiC Sonic cartoons, the syndicated "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" and Saturday morning "Sonic the Hedgehog", had begun airing just two months before Spinball's release. The game contains references to both: the Cluck enemy acts as a pet of sorts for Robotnik in the Saturday morning cartoon. The Trapped Alive bonus stage features the supporting cast of the Saturday cartoon and Archie comic book: Princess Sally Acorn, Bunnie Rabbot, Boomer/Rotor, and Muttski. The March bonus game features Scratch from the syndicated cartoon show. "Mobius" is the name of the planet that Sonic and friends inhabit in both cartoons. Finally, while the name wasn't used in the final iteration, draft scripts for the Saturday morning cartoon refer to Robotnik's robot machine as the "Veg-O".
    • Issue #6 (January, 1994) of the Archie comic book features a cover story loosely based on Sonic Spinball.

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