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Sonic the Hedgehog - 50Hz Effect

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by D.A. Garden, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. D.A. Garden

    D.A. Garden

    Sonic CD's Sound Test Member
    This is a strange topic to bring up, but I thought I'd ask, as it's been on my mind for a while now.

    First, a note. This topic focuses on the Sonic the Hedgehog Sega Mega Drive (PAL) 50Hz, version, for many reasons. Please ensure that you consider this while reading this post.

    My initial introduction to the Sonic franchise was with Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Mega Drive. Since then, I have been a huge fan of the franchise and, as some of you know, collect copies of the PAL (UK or EU) Sonic Games. I have been recently playing Sonic the Hedgehog in 50Hz. Some people may think I'm crazy (and question why I'd do that, when an emulator is more than capable of playing it in 60Hz), but allow me to explain.

    See, this is how I was introduced to the franchise, and no matter how much I play the game in 60Hz, it doesn't contain that same level of nostalgia for me. Hell, it sometimes feels like a completely different game due to this small difference. I played Sonic the Hedgehog at this speed for years as a kid, before I started playing Sonic 2. I became accustomed to the speed of the game, the music (the tone, the speed, the somewhat negative [might be the wrong word, but I'm going with it for now] vibe to some tracks that feel different in 60Hz), and the general tone set by it all. The game felt like a typical 'platformer' game of the time, in the vein of Mario but with a neat rolling mechanic and a simple attack system. This change in game speed also took away from the huge emphasis on speed seen in the US marketing campaign.

    Where am I going with this, you may ask? Well, this initial introduction made me grow to love and appreciate the game. I enjoyed 'platformer' games anyway, so this felt like another one, just with some extra things that seemed to hit the right spot. Nice, fluid controls. A simple attacking mechanic. Rolling into a ball for safety, or for going down a hill. The 'speed cap' that is often changed in hacks feels more at home in Sonic the Hedgehog's 50hz gameplay, as this restriction pushes you towards more of a methodical platform-based affair. When I got Sonic 2, I was surprised at the speed change, and how different the game felt. Not only was the game faster, but the layouts accommodated this speed with long stretches of running, corkscrews, running based objects (Metropolis' nuts, for example) and even the Special Stage where you were always running forward. These changes continued into Sonic 3 (& Knuckles) and while I love them as games, I still see Sonic the Hedgehog as a different beast entirely.

    I think that, somewhere along the line, I realised that my love of 'platformer' games was what drew me to the franchise, and that Sonic the Hedgehog cemented that feeling. However, this has also had an effect on (and still does, now that I think about it) how I perceive modern Sonic games in relation to the classic games. My opinion is different to others in what I'd like to see in newer games in the franchise, but how many of us are still influenced by our initial experience? How may of us enjoy the 'platforming' aspects of the franchise? How many of use see the fast-paced gameplay and running as a secondary thought, that should be included only if the rest of the game works? While that last sentence may seem a little extreme to some, it's still the same sentiment I follow when making levels in ROM hacks, so...

    What I'm curious to know is, 'How many of us have the 50Hz effect on our view of the Sonic game franchise?' Am I talking rubbish, or is there some merit to this small issue having such a large impact on how some of us see the franchise, and ultimately how it may have contributed to such a differing opinion on what is important in a Sonic game?
  2. Blue Blood

    Blue Blood

    Well, I grew up with the 50Hz PAL versions S1 and S2 too. A few years later on got SKC on PC. And until I got Advance 1 for Christmas 2001, those were the only Sonic games I had. But these days, I can't touch the old 50Hz versions. They feel so wrong and don't give me a sense of nostalgia at all.

    Speed is an important factor in Sonic games. The platforming and controls/physics need to be on par too, but speed really is essential to make Sonic what it is. Sonic is, one way or another, and fast paced platforming series. S1 is still a relatively fast game, even with the likes of Labyrinth and Marble Zone. But the version doesn't just make the game slower, it makes it feel unnatural and floaty.
  3. I grew up with the PAL version of Sonic 1 on the Sega Master System and later on the Sega Mega Drive, so I also played the 50Hz version. Nowadays I prefer the 60 Hz version of Sonic 1 because of the faster gameplay and music and I don't like the 50 Hz version for the difference in gameplay and music, it's just slower. I don't hate the 50 Hz version, but I just prefer the 60 Hz version.
  4. I've never really thought about this in depth before DA Garden (apart from when I got SA1 on DC and you could easily switch it). It makes sense it would feel a little different so I'm gonna try it out! :)
  5. Wait... Aren't all 4 games slower on PAL? I thought Sonic 2 (and the next 2 games) fixed only the music, no?
  6. Mastered Realm

    Mastered Realm

    Yep, that should be the case. But Sonic 2 was 'faster' than 1, due to the level layouts and spindash, though.
  7. ashthedragon


    Sonic Paradise Researcher
    Sonic Paradise & Sonic Ages
    I grew up with PAL Master System Sonic 1 and 2, so I know what you feel. Even if I know it's not how it is suppoeased to be, I enjoy them much more when played at 50th than at 60th. the music, the pace, everything, feels more "real" that way.
    As it if it was always meant to be like that.
  8. GerbilSoft


    RickRotate'd. Administrator
    Not exactly related to the MD and SMS games, but there's a bug in Sonic Adventure 2 where, if running at 50 Hz, some button inputs are randomly duplicated. This results in e.g. instant homing attacks instead of jumping. This applies to both DC and GCN; it *might* still happen on Windows if you set your monitor's refresh rate to 50 Hz.
  9. Blue Blood

    Blue Blood

    This bug was the worst thing. It happens, on the PAL versions at least, regardless of whether it's set to 50 or 60Hz. And it seems to happen more in certain areas than others, particularly in during both of the Egg Golem fights.
  10. Ell678


    Am I Annoying You? Member
    Barrow, England
    Sonic Incursion
    I had a huge gap between playing the originals on the Megadrive before emulating them. When I emulated them, it didn't feel different at all, and in fact, it's how I remember playing them when I was younger. I dug out the Megadrive shortly after just to get the entire nostalgic package, and I couldn't do it. It just felt wrong, and I couldn't believe that I used to play them like that.
  11. I think it's perfectly natural that those of you who grew up with the 50Hz version feel at least a bit nostalgic for it. For years that was all you had, and as far as you knew, that was the real Sonic. For those of us who always played at 60Hz, however, the PAL versions are unbearably slow! It's like we're pushing harder on the D-pad trying to make Sonic go faster and it just doesn't work! It feels like the opposite of the speed shoes power up.

    As a retro programmer, I can see why games were hardly optimized for PAL back in the day. Too many things about the engine were locked to the frame rate, such as animation delays and physics constants. Adjusting such things would mean tweaking fractional numbers, which back then were always represented as fixed-point values, and had limited precision. The lack of precision would cause small errors between the two versions to accumulate over time, and eventually things would be noticeably out of sync. There are also problems caused by limitations in the engine... For exemple, if the engine can only scroll a maximum of 16 pixels per frame (due to how fast the map can be decoded and the amount of changes that can be made to the tile map), you can safely allow Sonic to move that fast. But on PAL, which has less frames per second, you'd need to move more pixels per frame to cover the same distance, and the scrolling system would simply not be able to keep up. In this case, supporting both PAL and NTSC would mean slowing down the NTSC version, which would be unacceptable.

    EDIT: Well, I just played the first act of all 4 games and I have to say that the problem is not as bad as I remembered (the effect is much more pronounced in Sonic 1, due to the slower music constantly reminding us that everything is slower!). If I had only played the games in 50Hz, I'd probably have loved them just as much. And if I could only play them in 50Hz from now on, I'd still do it. It's still Sonic, just a bit slower. After a while you get used to it. =)
  12. I'll play 60Hz if I just want to play Sonic 1 normally, but sometimes I'll dig out my Mega Drive to play it in 50Hz for nostalgia. I do find the slower pace makes the game seem more...sad? That's the impression I got as a kid, especially with the slower music.
  13. Josh


    This part really jumped out at me. I've never played it at 50hz, but I've seen it.

    One thing I touched on while I was doing that Classic Sonic retrospective was how it seems like generally, European Sonic fans tend at least a bit to have quite a bit more affinity for the exploration and platforming elements of Sonic, whereas Americans, myself included, generally like to play through stages as fast as possible and focus more on the whole "skill=spectacle" thing. It's the difference between whether you'd rather play Sonic CD or Sonic 2, or put in more modern terms, Sonic Lost World or Sonic Unleashed.

    At the time, all I really attributed this to was that perhaps the fact that the Master System was so much more popular in the UK, and the 8-bit Sonic games HAD to be more traditional platformers, could have had something to do with it. But you're right, whether you first played the series at 50 or 60hz really would have done just as much to set your perception of what Sonic was all about. Strange, isn't it?
  14. ExecByte


    Sonic: The Lost Worlds
    I prefer platforming more then speed so I see your point. I don't mind having parts of levels be fast but I don't like when you just get going fast and then watch as 1/4 of the level is played for you. You can miss out on a lot of a level when you just speed through.
  15. Pigeon


    Nothing really
    My first Sonic experience was with Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive, and when I got Mega Collection Plus on my PS2 I remember thinking that Sonic 1 felt a lot slower than 2, since even on that collection, Sonic 1 ran at PAL speed. I think playing quite a bit of Sonic 1 at that speed has kinda gotten me more accustomed to the slower elements of Sonic (probably why I love Colours so much, and even liking some of the Werehog stuff too) but at the same time, I was getting speedy thrills from Sonic 2. Usually if I'm playing Sonic 1 now it's at it's intended 60fps speed, but every now and again I'll put in my (newly acquired) Sonic 1 cartridge in my Mega Drive (or bust out the PS2) for some nostalgic gaming. I especially love the music for Green Hill and Star Light at PAL speed, they're just so relaxing and nostalgic to me, and the boss theme at PAL speed always used to make my heart race!

    tl;dr, I only really play PAL Sonic 1 for nostalgia but playing like that in my childhood probably formed my preferences for a Sonic game.

    (Also this is my first post in aaaaaaages)
  16. redhotsonic


    Also known as RHS Tech Member
    United Kingdom
    In Sonic 2, the drowning music is still slow. And in S3, it seems all music is slow... not as slow as it would have been in S1, but it's definitely slower than it's60Hz counterpart. Not sure why because S2 doesn't suffer from this problem.

    This happens in pretty much any game that had a 50/60Hz option. This bug you mention happens in Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, and I remember Crazy taxi being a bit of an issue too. I remember getting a new TV when I was younger and it supported 60Hz, and all them issues just disappeared.
  17. MarkeyJester


    Original, No substitute Resident Jester
    I always have my emulator set to 60hz, simply on the basis that most are accustomed to it by comparison, including those who grew up with 50hz. The audience is therefore larger, thus common sense is to make/play/test roms on the most used settings to improve the quality (catering to the larger audience). I may also point out that while the frame rate is faster, the CPU speed is not (at least not by a significant amount to be taken into consideration). Since the CPU isn't any faster at 60hz, this will mean that the processing time available within a frame for 60hz, is less than 50hz. So logically, if something is fast enough for 60hz, it will always be fast enough for 50hz, so working in a 60hz environment covers you for both in this aspect.

    However, I do occasionally set my emulator to 50hz when playing Sonic 1 in my own personal time, and will often hop onto my 50hz Mega Drive to play it. In my opinion, the slower speed gives me the subconscious feeling that the game is solid, and not liable to break, even though the game in question isn't any more solid than 60hz, it's simply the matter of reaction time, you have more time to react, therefore feel more in control. An example would be having a high jump, having it at a slower speed as if you're on the moon as opposed to earth gravity gives you the better feeling of control.
  18. Aerosol


    Not here. Moderator
    Not where I want to be.
    Sonic (?): Coming summer of 2055...?
    I think the crux of this 50Hz shock is that we haven't had to consume media at that refresh rate for a long time. 60fps has been the golden standard for a long time.
  19. Flygon


    Which's kinda dumb, because, 24fps films scale up to 50fps way smoother than 60fps. But I suppose American AC electrical frequencies won out in the end!

    I grew up with Sonic & Knuckles Collection on PC myself, so, I was accustomed to 60Hz from the onset. The only Sonic game I actually had on Sega hardware was the first Master System game. Given that one is in a completely different category to all the other future products, I don't think it quite fits the scope of this discussion. No matter how much I prefer it over the Mega Drive edition.
  20. Puto


    Shin'ichi Kudō, detective. Tech Member
    Portugal, Oeiras
    Part of Team Megamix, but haven't done any actual work in ages.
    S3 music is not slower at all. That only happens if you start the game in NTSC mode in an emulator and switch to PAL mid-game. (and if you do it backwards, you get super-fast music)