The VC Advantage: Sonic and the Secret

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JC Fletcher
February 7th, 2008
In this article: debug, genesis, sonic, vcadvantage

The Internet has made it easy to find cheats for games, but we miss the tips pages from game magazines, when the discovery of a new code could inspire you to go back to an old game. These codes aren't exactly new, but oldness is the essence of the Virtual Console! We're bringing back the classic codes every week on The VC Advantage.

There is one major reason that the Sonic the Hedgehog series peaked on the Genesis. It's not Sonic's redesign or the voice actor controversy found later. It's not the move from 2D to 3D. It's not the overloading of "friends" that weighed the series down with superfluous anthropomorphoid mascots. That stuff is all vaguely annoying, but it's not as big a loss as the debug mode.

Sonics 1-3 and CD all featured a mode accessible via controller combination that allowed you to turn Sonic into a scrolling cursor who could be moved around the screen unimpeded by objects, enemies, or game rules. In addition, Sonic could be turned into any sprite, which could then be dropped into the level at the press of a button.A major part of the draw of this weirdo code is that you can instantly go through any level with no damage. But the bigger attraction is that it not only allows you level design capabilities, but takes the game completely off the rails and lets you make what you want of the game. Want to slow the game down with explosions of rings? Go ahead. You can build structures out of enemies, run through hundreds of continue points, and attempt to send Sonic uncontrollably through a level composed of springs.

It's quite a bit more interesting than just running fast. In fact, since Sonic games are designed to be played at super-high "blast processing speed," taking Sonic off the ground and just shooting through the level still feels a lot like Sonic, except you don't get killed by the sudden appearance of a robot ladybug. Also you can turn Sonic into a robot ladybug.

This is one of the more bizarre secret codes we can think of. Its inclusion in four separate Sonic games means that it was left in on purpose, and probably specifically for the audience. We can't imagine Sonic Team actually working on levels via a controller code. It's far too buggy and unwieldy to be useful, and yet it completely breaks the game (both in terms of challenge, and, if you put too many objects down, performance.) Sonics

Sonic the Hedgehog
Debug mode: Press Up, C, Left, C, Down, C, Right, C at the title screen. Then hold A and press start. You will be in the level select mode. Press B once in the game and Sonic will turn into a floating ring. From there, press A to cycle through items, C to place them, and B to return Sonic to spiky form.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Debug mode: First, access Level Select mode by playing sounds 19, 65, 09, 17. Then hold C and press Start. Go back to the Sound Test and play sounds 01,09,09,02,01,01,02,04. Hold A and press Start to start a level in Debug Mode.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Debug mode: This code also builds from Level Select. After the "Sega" intro, press Up, Up, Down, Down, Up, Up, Up. This will open Level Select and Sound Test. From there, hold A and press Start to enter debug mode.
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