Sonic the Hedgehog (Video Game Review)

Sonic Cartridge

Sonic the Hedgehog
Video Game Review
Sega Genesis
1991
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega

There are some who immediately discount Sonic the Hedgehog because of how the game was created. Sonic was created by Sega to make a title that could be more popular than Mario. Sonic was going to be the poster child for 16-bit gaming whether the final product was any good or not. Luckily for Sega and all the gamers out there, Sonic the Hedgehog is an incredible fun 2-D platformer. The game is built for speed which both helps and hurts at the same time. Sonic the Hedgehog is the pinnacle of gaming for the Sega Genesis.

Sonic the Hedgehog is tasked with saving his homeland from the evil Dr. Robotnik. Robotnik has sinister plans that involve capturing all the cute little critters in South Island and turning them into robot minions. Robotnik also is trying to get his hands on all the six Chaos Emeralds to give him an extraordinary amount of power. Sonic needs to find all the Chaos Emeralds before Robotnik and save his animal friends from the wicked doctor to prevent turning paradise into a nightmare

The controls are really simple. The D-pad moves Sonic and the face buttons make Sonic jump into the air. Sonic can run really fast although there is no button that causes him to dash. This means that there are only two speeds you can do with Sonic: stopped or break-neck speed. Sonic can attack enemies by using the spin jump as long as Sonic doesn’t land on the part of an enemy that can hurt him (like spikes on an enemy’s backside; Sonic has to hit them from the front). If you’re launched into the air by a spring or by other means, Sonic doesn’t do a spin jump and can be vunerable to a meandering enemy.

The game is divided into six zones with three acts (levels) in each zone. There is a seventh zone which is only one level and it is the final battle with Dr. Robotnik. In each level, Sonic has to get from the beginning of the stage to the end goal. Each zone’s final act offers a twist in that when you reach the end of the stage, you have to battle Dr. Robotnik. Some levels allow for Sonic to race right through them although as the game progresses, there are more obstacles and enemies in the way that forces Sonic to be more careful while traversing the level. Throughout the level, Sonic collects rings which serve both as a way to get points as well as protecting Sonic from getting hurt. When Sonic gets hit by an enemy, he loses all his rings but doesn’t die. If Sonic gets hit again without being in possession of at least one ring, he’ll lose a life and have to start all over again at the beginning of the level or at the last checkpoint reached.

There are also bonus levels in the game which are accessed by being in possession of at least 50 rings by the end of an act (only in the first two acts of any zone) and jumping through the giant bonus ring at the goal. The bonus game is basically a giant rotating level with bumpers and other obstacles. The goal is to find the Chaos Emerald located somewhere in the level. It’s not an easy task as the level is in a constant state of motion and the laws of gravity don’t help as it’s too easy to take a misstep. A mistake means prematurely falling through to one of the exits without even getting a glimpse of the emerald let along being able to grab it. Finding all six Chaos Emeralds throughout the game will grant access to the best ending once the game is completed.

Graphically, it looks good for a Genesis game although there are better looking games for the system (including the three Genesis sequels). Everything is incredibly colourful and the sprites look nice and clear. The game is plenty fast and the system is able to handle the blazing speed with no hiccups. At the time, Sonic proved that the future was 16-bit gaming. Today, with 16-bit gaming long buried a couple of video game generations back, it still manages to stand up well as 2-D platformers go.

Where this game stands out is the music. The theme to the Green Hill Zone is one of the best rhythms in video game history. Sure, many may enjoy it because of its familiarity and its nostalgic factor; however, it sounds great and since it’s the first theme you hear when you start playing, it makes the game feel very welcoming. The other levels have themes that sound good but they don’t stand out as much as the first zone. Still, it’s miles above most of the games on the Genesis, which was had a underpowered sound card compared to the Super Nintendo. Sega’s pedigree in the arcade is witnessed here as the amazing arcade-like sound effects really bring out a strong vibrancy to the game. The chimes of Sonic collecting rings and other little sound bites add a layer of depth to the gameplay.

Sonic the Hedgehog is an incredibly fun game. It draws you in with its speed, sound, and look but it’s not just all flash and no substance. This game is one of the best platformers of the 16-bit generation. It offers solid gameplay mechanics. Too many games of the era tried to copy Mario but were not even half as fun as the moustached plumber. Sonic was its own game; it was a unique experience that was unlike anything anyone had seen at the time. It really helped Sega’s Genesis define itself against the Nintendo brand. It holds up well today as many games have tried to copy Sonic’s formula and rarely succeeded. Even those who are new to Sonic will take to this game immediately.

But it’s not all perfect. While Sonic starts off fast, it slows down quite a bit during the later levels. This isn’t due to hardware limitations but because of the level design. While it does help balance gameplay and prevent the game from developing into little more than a gimmick, it does get a bit boring at times. Also, navigating in water is hard to do and could have been made easier. It does take away from some of the excitement felt from the first levels.

All in all, Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog is a great game. It has its problems but it is still is a must-play platformer. Usually when games are born in the board room and not through someone’s imagination it doesn’t spell good things. Sonic was lucky that some of the best developers in the business tasked with coming up with a cool mascot to derail Mario. Many haven’t had a chance to play a good Sonic game since it’s been years since there has been one. However, since Sega has made the game available through various compilation discs, digital distribution on multiple platforms, and the newest toaster-ovens on the market(probably), it is very easy to get one’s hands on this game. You would be doing yourself a favour by playing the blue blur’s first adventure at the next opportunity.

☆☆☆☆

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