Friday, January 6, 2017

Top Five Sonic the Hedgehog Casino Levels

Sonic the Hedgehog celebrated his 25th anniversary this year. While his next major releases (Sonic Mania and the currently code named "Sonic 2017") won't happen until next year, there is still plenty to celebrate. Thinking back on Sonic's history, one of the prominent level types the Blue Blur frequented was that of casinos like seen on Casino Euro, where responsible gamblers can go (21 and up) to have all the fun of the casino without the smoke and excess.

Nonetheless, whether he's curled up into a ball to act as the ball in a gigantic pinball table or slot machine, or just jumping about in casino-themed obstacle courses, Sonic the Hedgehog has seen his fair share of casino-inspired levels. These five are my personal favorites.

5) Casino Paradise Zone - Sonic Advance (GBA)

Starting things off is a zone from the very first Sonic Advance, which by the way shows that Sonic really didn't stop being good unless you only focused on his console exploits. Nevertheless, Casino Paradise from Sonic's first Nintendo and Game Boy Advance outing sees Sonic bouncing along multi-colored balloons to gain altitude, moving along colorful conveyor belts, springing off a host of flashy obstacles like platforms and vertically aligned pinball flippers, and much more. The background is home to a lovely sight: a celebration of flashy fireworks and magnificent castles. Perhaps Casino Paradise is the type of place that Disney would create if they made a casino-themed zone for Sonic instead of being one of Eggman's creations!

4) Casino Street Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (PS3, 360, Wii, Mobile)

Neon trees, lit buildings in the landscape, gorgeous fireworks, and a number of elements related to another level on this list, Casino Street Zone serves as the second major zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I. While sharing many similarities to a certain Sonic the Hedgehog 2 zone, Casino Street Zone has its own obstacles and points of interest. The main thing being poker cards that serve not only as platforms that can flip, but also work as means to run along a deck of cards, each card being laid down in front of Sonic as rushes along. Other sights include cannons and pinball tables -- the later potentially allowing Sonic and players to strike it rich in rings. Though possessing a lot alike with Sonic the Hedgehog 2's casino zone, Sonic 4's Casino Street has enough to make it both unique and interesting a zone.

3) Casinopolis - Sonic Adventure (DC, GCN, PC)

The first of two 3D Sonic casino levels on this list, Casinopolis serves as the second level for Sonic's side of Sonic Adventure's six-character story. Sonic's goal in this level is to reach a specific platform in the casino's ring vault. This is performed by earning enough rings to create a pile that allows Sonic enough height to reach the goal platform, completing the level. Sonic needs 400 rings to reach the platform, and he can collect these in a myriad of ways, such as bouncing around one of two pinball tables (one themed after Sonic and one themed after the Sega Saturn's NiGHTs Intro Dreams), or by failing at the pinball tables multiple times, falling into a platforming obstacle course known as Dilapidated Way section of level. Here, Sonic can collect rings while trying to avoid taking damage from enemies or hazards. Casinopolis gives one part risk vs. reward in the pinball tables and one part action-platforming, making it a memorable casino level in Sonic the Hedgehog's history.

2) Casino Park - Sonic Heroes (PS2, GCN, XBX)

Casinopolis isn't the only casino-styled level from a 3D Sonic that makes this list. As Tails utters during Team Sonic's run through the level, Casino Park is a city that's like a giant casino. This point is immediately hammered home to the player with all of the neon lights, slot machines serving as buildings, platforms devised of red rotating dice (where getting snake eyes is the least of your worries as so much as falling into a bottomless pit from an errant jump), a generous helping of pinball tables, and spinning roulette wheels that serve as transportation through the level. Casino Park is a highlight of Sonic Heroes level-wise, and it would see three incarnations as tracks in Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing.

1) Casino Night Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)

What else could be at the top of the list but the quintessential casino level in a Sonic game? Serving as the fourth zone in the stellar Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Casino Night Zone is filled to the brim with flashing lights, as well as massive pinball tables and slot machines that both use Sonic in curled up ball form as the ball. This Las Vegas-inspired level sports a nighttime metropolis background and plenty of opportunities to strike it rich in rings or lose them all in one spin of the slots. Casino Night would later appear in both the HD versions of Sonic Generations, though in pinball table-only form, and in the Nintendo 3DS version as two full levels. That's not counting all of the future casino-styled levels that Casino Night influenced later on!

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