Gameplay
Basics
Time for your basic Sonic 101. In its simplest form, Sonic 1, and pretty much all of its true sequels, are based on simple platform game rules. Reach the end of each stage by moving and jumping along the platforms and across the paths, tackling enemies and obstacles and making use of the various objects you encounter. The difference, of course, is that Sonic moves fast and the game's engine utilises acceleration and friction properties, allowing the levels to throw in all sorts of twists and loops along the paths, many of which require Sonic to be running at a certain speed so that he may pass them. There are six consecutive stages, each one being broken up into three subsections, called "acts", with a boss at the end of each third act.
Sonic standing still, ready for you to move him.
Begin moving left or right and Sonic will start off at a relatively slow pace..
Keep holding the directional button to increase speed and at maximum, he will launch into his trademark 'spinny leg' sprint.
While running at top speed, quickly press the opposing directional button to make an emergency stop.
Press the up or down button while standing still to scroll the screen in the corresponding direction, and view your surroundings a little better.
Push against blocks and walls using the D-pad, toward it.
You play as Sonic only, and can make him run left and right via the D-pad on the Mega Drive controller, and he'll gain speed gradually as you hold it, until reaching his maximum speed. At this point, you can make an emergency skidding stop by quickly pressing the opposite directional button. When standing still, use the up and down buttons to scroll the screen up or downwards a little to view your surroundings, and press left or right towards a wall or solid object when standing in front of it to push against it, also used to move certain objects slowly across the ground.
Famously, Sonic will tap his foot impatiently if he's left without anything to do for only a few seconds.
In this first adventure, Sonic only utilises two different methods of attack, in order to keep the game nice and simple. Two forms of the classic Spin Attack:
Jumping Spin Attack
The jumping spin attack.
While standing or running, the A, B and C buttons on the Mega Drive controller all fulfill the same function; they make Sonic jump. When Sonic jumps, he always curls into a smoothly spinning ball (apart from when up against a wall sometimes, possibly due to a glitch, but it's no biggie) and will destroy most enemies on contact with them while in this form. The majority of traps however, and some parts of enemies such as their spikeballs will still cause harm regardless. The longer you hold the button for when you press it, the bigger the jump will be, so use this technique to make suitable jumps according to the obstacles you are faced with.
Rolling Spin Attack
A more advanced maneuver is the rolling spin attack, where Sonic can launch into his offensive, spinning state while still remaining on the ground. Press the down button only while you're running to roll along the ground. This has the same effect when you hit enemies as with the jumping spin attack, and you're still vulnerable to traps etc, but it can also greatly increase your speed if you hit it at just the right time, such as on downward slopes where you can roll straight down very quickly. This is how you unlock the real speed in this game, in certain portions of levels, but if you happen to hit it at the wrong time, such as on upward slopes or along straight patches without much speed, you will slow down. When your speed is at its lowest, Sonic will break out of the roll by himself, but you can jump out of it at any time if you wish. May take some practise to perfect.
The rolling spin attack.
Sonic's health is controlled in an innovative way. There are no hearts or health bars, it's all handled by collectable gold rings, which you'll find all over the place, floating just above the ground or in the air. When Sonic takes a hit, he loses all the rings he's collected and they physically scatter across the area. If he takes a hit while carrying no rings, he'll lose a life, so as long as you have at least one ring you won't die when you get hit by something. When you are hit, Sonic's sprite will flash for a moment, during which time you'll be under temporary invincibility to ensure that you don't get hit again. It's a good idea to use this time to re-collect some of the lost rings that are bouncing all over the place, before they disappear. The more rings you have, the more there are to lose (and pick up again) when you get hit, thus the better chance you have of surviving. Also, every hundred rings collected awards you an extra life. You start off with three lives, and upon losing one of them, you restart the level from the last checkpoint you touched, or the beginning of the act.
When hit by a harmful object, Sonic will fall back and his rings will scatter. Recollect them quickly to remain protected from death.
When you touch a harmful obstacle without any rings, or get crushed or fall to your death at any time, you'll lose a life. Sonic will fall out of the screen, assuming this, rather dramatic pose.
When all lives are lost, the game will either reset to the very beginning, or bring you to this screen if you have a continue. Press the start button before the ten second countdown is over to resume the game with three more lives.
Bear in mind that there are some exceptions that can kill you instantly; when you get crushed between two solid objects, drown underwater or fall off the bottom of the level, and this is regardless of however many rings or what power-ups you have at the time. Lose all of your lives and it's game over for you. Continues, however, can be obtained in the Special Stages by collecting 50 rings there. When you lose all of your lives, a continue gives you the option of picking up from the beginning of the act you were on, with a fresh new set of three.
In the top left hand corner of the screen, your current ring count, timer and score are displayed, while the number of lives you have remaining (including the current one) are detailed in the bottom left corner. The timer records how long you spend on each act, but you have a 10 minute time limit for each. If you don't complete it in 10 minutes, you'll lose a life and be returned to the last checkpoint with a fresh timer. Most acts however are way shorter than that, so it shouldn't be a problem. The score doesn't really have much to do with what happens in the game, and mainly occurs in the background (I personally never pay it much attention, but I'm sure some will, and benefit from the following knowledge). You obtain points by defeating badniks, 100 for each, and you'll get bonuses for taking more out during a single spin (see badniks in the Common Objects section below). Defeating a boss is worth 1000, and you can earn bonuses at the end of an act according to how many rings you're carrying (100 points per ring) and how much time you have left on the timer, as listed to the right..
Time bonus points are awarded at the end of each act according to these completion times:

29 seconds or less: 50,000 points
30 - 44 seconds: 10,000 points
45 - 59 seconds: 5000 points
1 - 1:29 minutes: 4000 points
1:30 - 1:59 minutes: 3000 points
2 - 2:59 minutes: 2000 points
3 - 3:59 minutes: 1000 points
4 - 4:59 minutes: 500 points
5 minutes or more: 0 points
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#1. Comment posted by Anonymous on Monday, 19th November 2012, 3:30pm (GMT)
It should be noted in this game Sonic's top speed was capped in a much more hard-enforced way than in any other Sonic game that came after it. Sonic could even run down steep slopes and still be reasonably slow, not gaining anything more than Sonic's top speed on a level surface. To get really fast in this game you'll need to know when and how to use the rolling dash at all times. This dashing technique does serve well through the Genesis/Mega drive series to not only get impressive speed Sonic just can't reach by running alone, but it allows him to be a veritable juggernaut in many sections of many games.
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Items
Collectibles and other objects that directly affect certain aspects of your play.
Rings
Collectable gold rings.
Touch one to make it disappear, and a value of one is added to your ring count. As I've described in more detail above, rings represent Sonic's health. He loses them all whenever he gets hit, but when he gets hit without holding at least one, he'll lose a life.
Item Boxes
Use either version of the spin attack to open up one of these item boxes which you can bounce off of on contact. Depending on the picture, you'll either get 10 extra rings, an extra life, a blue shield, a speed boost or invincibility. The blue shield surrounds Sonic and when you take a hit, you'll lose the shield, rather than any rings. The speed boost lasts for 20 seconds and will increase the speed of Sonic's movement, plus the tempo of the music. Similarly, an invincibility power-up will surround Sonic in small stars for the next 20 seconds, and he'll be invulnerable to any attack (except falling off the screen, drowning or getting crushed). Any badniks that you touch will also explode, and the music is temporarily changed to that of the main theme of the game.
Ring item box; Gives you ten rings in one go.
Earn an extra life by opening up this box.
This item surrounds Sonic in a blue shield that will be lost when you next take damage, instead of rings.
A speed boost that lasts for 20 seconds and increases Sonic's acceleration and top speed.
Surrounds Sonic in a flurry of stars and makes him invulnerable to everything that would normally cause damage, for 20 seconds.
Checkpoints
An untouched checkpoint, which will save your progress in the act, until you lose all your lives.
A checkpoint that has already been touched.
Also known as point marker, starpost, etc throughout the series, but I'll be consistent and refer to them as the universal name of "checkpoint". Touch one when it's blue and your position is saved so that if you die afterwards, you'll return to that place, rather than starting from the beginning of the act. They turn red to indicate that you've already touched them or that you've already passed one that appeared later in the level, and is therefore inactive.
End-of-Act Signpost
This signpost showing Dr. Robotnik's ugly mug can be found at the end of every Act 1 and 2. Touch one to get it spinning, where it'll eventually land on a picture of Sonic's face, and bring up the act completion procedure. This is the only way to end the act, and continue to the next one, and Sonic will automatically walk off-screen to the right after a moment. Before that, you can jump around the area and make contact with certain invisible places to earn bonuses in the form of 100, 1000, or even 10,000 points.
Found at the end of almost every act, touch it to get it spinning and land on a picture of Sonic, thus completing the act.
Special Stage Rings
A giant ring that appears at the end of every Act 1 or 2, when you have 50 or more rings. It grants access to the Special Stage.
If you manage to complete any Act 1 or 2 (except those of the final level, Scrap Brain Zone, in which they never appear) with 50 rings on hand, a huge ring can be found to the right of the signpost. Jump in it to access one of the six Special Stages, where you'll get an opportunity to obtain one Chaos Emerald. See the Special Stage section for details.
Animal Capsules
These only appear at the end of Act 3, after you've defeated the level boss, and instead of the signpost. In order to finish the level, you need to jump up and hit the button on top of these things. Sonic will run off to the right, while the capsule will open and the final load of trapped animals will pour out, thus securing the zone as being officially free of Eggman. The score is then tallied up and bonuses are added, before moving to the next level.
This capsule is found at the end of every third act. Press the button at the top to perform a final act of heroism by freeing the remaining animals trapped inside.
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#1. Comment posted by Reckoner on Saturday, 2nd August 2008, 10:56pm (BST)
You talk about the 100, 1000, and 10000 point bonuses you can get by tagging the invisible markers. However, this is partially incorrect: due to some bug or oversight, the 100 point markers only give a 10 point bonus; they are not labeled correctly (tested with both initial release versions). You can read about it in the posts at http://forums.sonicretro.org/index.php?showtopic=8256&view=findpost&p=156175. The 1000 and 10000 point markers work as expected.

I'd also suggest giving the bonus markers their own paragraph (with a picture), as they are a distinct feature.
#2. Comment posted by Brady Meyers on Sunday, 29th July 2012, 1:56pm (BST)
Errr... for once I disagree... the 100 point markers ARE the real 100 point markers used in the original game, even in the modern-day world of Sonic The Hedgehog.
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Common Objects
The levels are littered with different objects to utilise, each explained on the particular level pages. Here are a few simple ones that are common across multiple levels:
Springs
Yellow vertical spring in action.
Red horizontal spring in action.
Red vertical springs. Reds are more powerful than yellows.
Come in both horizontal and vertical forms. The verticals are used to send Sonic flying upwards when he jumps on them, and you have a certain amount of directional control, using the left and right buttons. You will not be spinning, however, so be careful of badniks and harmful obstacles on the way. The horizontals can be used as a quick speed boost across the ground, and red springs are more powerful than yellow ones.
Spikes
Used in many a 2D level, in some form. Each set used in Sonic 1 consist of three sharp grey spikes that are placed a little further apart from each other than in following games, though they are more frequently arranged in a long row of sets, in deadly pits. The pointy edges are obviously harmful, but the sides are ok to touch. You need to be particularly careful in this game, because in all but one of the three slightly different versions, you won't be temporarily invincible after landing in a set of spikes, so should you stay in there when you fall back, you'll die instantly. Some also slot in and out at regular intervals.
Fine to touch on the sides, but don't land on the tops of these spikes. Also found on walls and ceilings and in various amounts.
Buttons
Land on buttons like these to trigger another object to move for you.
Small blue and grey buttons found in some levels that cause something nearby to change when you land on top of them. They usually open a doorway or move a block or obstacle.
Air Bubbles
For sections where you have to go underwater, Sonic can last only 30 seconds without air. During the final 10 seconds, a countdown will begin, and you'll drown at the end of it if you don't get to the surface, or obtain some air from these bubble clusters, which are found at various points along the ground. They produce small bubbles and big bubbles, and its the big ones that give you another 30 seconds worth of air, although you may have to wait a little bit before they are produced. Just touch them to suck 'em up.
When underwater, touch large air bubbles that emerge from clusters of small ones to refill your supply of air, and avoid drowning.
Badniks
Badnik Buzzbomber, found in Green Hill, Marble and Spring Yard Zones.
Badnik Crabmeat, found in Green Hill and Spring Yard Zones.
Badnik Caterkiller, found in Marble and Scrap Brain Zones.
A variety of enemy robots created by Dr. Eggman that are fuelled by real animals inside. Each one moves and attacks differently, and some appear in multiple levels, others just the one. Each is explained on the level pages where necessary, but most can be defeated by spinning into them, and each one is worth 100 points on your score. Bop some more while maintaining the same spin without breaking it, and you'll score 200 for the second badnik, 300 for a third, and 1000 for each subsequent one. That is, until you're lucky enough to get at least sixeen in a row, at which point they start coughing up 10,000 points each. Upon destruction, the trapped animal inside will be set free and skip along the ground happily, before exiting the screen. A beaten badnik does not regenerate in the level, unless you lose a life.
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#1. Comment posted by Anonymous on Friday, 22nd October 2010, 12:42am (BST)
The 3rd badnik gives you 500, not 300.
The 16th onwards gives you 10000.
#2. Comment posted by Brady Meyers on Sunday, 29th July 2012, 2:23pm (BST)
There are several different kinds of enemies to face-off against in each zone. They are: 6 enemies in Green Hill Zone; 2 enemies in Marble Zone; 2 enemies in Spring Yard Zone; 3 enemies in Labyrinth Zone; 2 enemies in Star Light Zone; and 1 enemy in Scrap Brain Zone. In total, there is about 16 different types of badniks to destroy. Each individual enemy that you encounter has it's own movement & attack capabilities. So, to destroy each badnik, plan your attack accordingly.
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#1. Comment posted by Anonymous on Thursday, 28th July 2011, 7:45pm (BST)
I need to remember: due programing issues, 100 points are 10 points to the game engine. You can fix this bug on Sonic Retro SCHG: http://info.sonicretro.org/SCHG_How-to:Fix_the_Hidden_Points_bug_in_Sonic_1
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Content for this page last edited:
12th January 2009

Files last uploaded for this page:
4th January 2009

Recent Notes
Basics
Posted by Anonymous on 19th November 2012

Features and Obstacles
Posted by Brady Meyers on 29th July 2012

Items
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General Notes
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Features and Obstacles
Posted by Anonymous on 22nd October 2010

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