Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, also known as Sonic Spinball (ソニックスピンボール Sonikku Supinbōru?), is the first adventure/pinball game released for the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It was originally released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1993 and later ported to the Game Gear system.
It was also released in 1995 on the Master System in Europe by Sega Europe and was later released in Brazil by TecToy and in Portugal by Ecofilmes. This version is a port of the Game Gear version.
The Mega Drive/Genesis version was released on the Wii's Virtual Console on 12 March 2007 in North America and 5 April 2007 in Europe, and also appears on the Sonic Mega Collection compilation for Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC. The Game Gear version also appears as an unlockable minigame in Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut for the GameCube and PC, as well as Sonic Gems Collection for the Nintendo GameCube and the PlayStation 2.
The game title is a pun on pinball and Sonic's famous spin move. It is the only Sonic game to feature characters from the Saturday morning cartoon Sonic the Hedgehog and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, other than Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. The game's musical score was composed by Howard Drossin.
Sonic Spinball is essentially the logical continuation of a tradition of pinball themed levels that started with Spring Yard Zone on Sonic the Hedgehog. The game features four large pinball 'tables'—a sewer level, a geothermal power station, a Badnik factory, and a launchpad system. The player must guide Sonic through each of the four levels and collect all of the Chaos Emeralds, then fight Dr. Robotnik.
The main difference between this game and an actual pinball game is the ability to influence the "ball" (Sonic) directly by using the D-pad. The , and buttons operate the flippers and can be assigned in the Options menu. Sometimes the player can control Sonic on foot, but for the majority of the time he is rolled into a ball controlled by the flippers. The traditional Sonic the Hedgehog platformer gameplay is kept to a minimum.
Dr. Robotnik has assumed control of Mt. Mobius on Planet Mobius and turned it into a mechanical base. Utilizing energy produced by the magma flowing under the volcano, this new monstrosity base (the Veg-O-Fortress) has the power to transform helpless animals into robot slaves at an astounding rate. Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles "Tails" Prower fly onto the scene to mount an aerial assault, but Sonic is knocked off the wings of Tails' airplane by a blast from the fortress (in the 8-bit version, he intentionally drops down instead). He falls into the water, but is rescued 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. Dr. Robotnik, however, is also aware of the fragile relationship that exists between the Emeralds and the mountain, and he has established an elaborate Pinball Defense System to make sure the precious jewels don't go anywhere.
- Toxic Caves: Sonic is flushed into a stinky cavern full of toxic sludge and mine carts, which just so happens to be the place where Robotnik dumps all of the industrial waste. There are three Chaos Emeralds to collect here that must be obtained by hitting multiple switches. In the 8-bit version, it is known as Toxic Pools with a completely different layout design - though the remaining levels retain simplified versions of their Genesis version boards.
- Lava Powerhouse: Sonic ascends to the next level, a power station of sorts that uses magma and steam energy to run various machines. There are three emeralds here.
- The Machine: There are five emeralds here in this high-tech level. Sonic can also find a giant-sized animal prison in the very middle of this zone.
- Showdown: Sonic has to find five emeralds and reach the top of the Launch site to defeat Dr. Robotnik before he manages to escape.
At the end of each of the first three stages, Sonic gets to play a bonus round. Although it is not a true Special Stage, these bonus rounds are set up like real pinball machines, with Sonic at the controls. The player is given a task to complete and three balls to play with. Flipper controls are the same as in the normal game, but the ball cannot be controlled with the D-pad like Sonic. Pressing all the flipper buttons at once will make Sonic shake the machine, though repeated shakes will cause a 'tilt' and lock the flippers.
Completing the bonus stages are optional and serves only to increase the player's score. The three bonus rounds, in corresponding order to the normal zones, are:
- Trapped Alive: The object is to destroy all the robot machines and free the helpless animals trapped inside them and then destroy Robotnik. Among the prisoners are Sonic's Freedom Fighter pals from the SatAM cartoon and Archie comic: Bunnie Rabbot, Sally Acorn, Muttski and Rotor. Also imprisoned are Tails, a gray Flicky and Wocky.
- Robo Smile: A grinning Robotnik face moves across the machine. The objective is to knock out all of Robotnik's teeth.
- The March: Similar to Trapped Alive, the object is to destroy the capsule and free the animals and Freedom Fighters within. The capsule is circled by a ring of Scratch robots.
- The Clucker's Defense: An additional, a hidden multi-ball bonus game, Clucker's Defense can be played on any stage, but only if the player manages to collect every Ring in the zone. Several star circles will appear in the stage, hidden at various points on the board. By leaping into them Sonic will be warped to this bonus round. The object is to destroy a Crawl Badnik who is protected by a pair of Cluckbirds.
The 8-bit versions of this game feature only one unnamed Bonus Stage, which has Sonic on a 2D plane collecting rings and power-ups (such as lives) in a time limit.
The Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comics made an adaptation of this game in Sonic the Hedgehog #6. The story covered the first two levels of the game and introduced Hip and Hop in the comics for the first time.
In the episode "Attack on the Pinball Fortress" in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik has a fortress where the inside is like a giant pinball machine, much like the fortress where this game takes place. In the episode "Robotnikland" Sonic hops into a pinball machine and faces off against Robotnik to see who can get more points with Sonic acting as the ball.
There's loose reference to the game in episode Game Guy of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series, where Dr. Robotnik traps Sonic in a giant pinball machine and uses Sonic as the ball. Much like the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Robotnikland", Sonic and Robotnik face off in to see who can earn more points both using Sonic as the ball.
Alton Towers is a theme park and resort located in Staffordshire, England. It attracts around 2.8 million visitors per year, making it the most visited theme park in the United Kingdom. In February 2010, a new Sonic attraction by the same name of this game opened.
- The total Chaos Emerald count in Sonic Spinball is sixteen as opposed to the standard set of seven, and they are all the same color - blue. It is possible that Sonic is collecting the same three/five Chaos Emeralds that appear in each level. It is also very likely that this before the max number of Chaos Emeralds was determined in the series' Mythology.
- The third level, The Machine, is based on a scrapped Zone, Genocide City Zone, from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
- The Game Gear and Master System artwork shows Dr. Robotnik from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
- This marks the first and currently only appearance of the characters from SatAM in a Sonic game, and the first attempt to introduce them to Japanese markets.
- This game and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine are the only Sega Genesis games that have an actual counterpart on the Game Gear and Master System.
- They are also the only two games to use the term "Mobius" worldwide; the Japanese version of the storyline even mentions that Dr. Eggman already conquered the planet, putting Sonic and Tails in a "Freedom Fighter" role similar to that of early western depictions.