Video Game Review: Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)
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Video Game Review: Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)

The game that started it all!

Video Game Review: Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)

For over 25 years, Sonic the Hedgehog has been around in the world of games. His legacy is…hit or miss. Some say that Sonic had some bumpy roads, while others say that his franchise is a complete and utter mess. Me, I love this franchise...despite the bumpy roads he had. There are some great games, from both the classic and modern age, but since everyone remembers the bad times more than the good times, there are some awful titles and Sonic’s fate is still unknown. With that said, I mainly grew up playing Sonic games. My first Sonic game was Sonic Adventure 2 and I loved it and still love it to this day. However, that doesn't me I don't like every other Sonic game, depending on how they play. If it wasn't for Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo Gamecube, I would never get so into the classic series like I am with most of the modern titles. Now because it has been over 25 years of Sonic, Sonic was pretty much my childhood and I still play his games, and with Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces on the way, I’ve decided to review all the Sonic games that I've played from when I was little to now, and we're going in chronological order here. One more thing...I won't do a re-review of Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric, especially with my opinion on that game staying the same.

Well, let's begin with the game that started it all, Sonic The Hedgehog (1991) for the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive if you live in the UK)!!! This game was developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega, and was released in June of 1991 in the USA and Europe. On the same day?! That’s rare. Japan got it a whole month later in July... I feel bad for them!

1) Story

Dr. Robotnik (or Dr. Eggman in Japan) has kidnapped the animals of South Island and put them in robots so he can get the Chaos Emeralds and harness their power and take over the world. It's Sonic's job to save the animals, collect the Chaos Emeralds and defeat Dr. Robotnik once and for all. Yeah, the story is basic…very basic, but it’s the first game and it’s a retro game, it’s about the gameplay and when it comes to this game, it’s the pure definition of that.

2) Gameplay

The game is a momentum plat formeer where you simply run fast, jump on springs, go around loop-the-loops, roll on slopes, bump on enemies and defeat Dr. Robotnik around six times. The gameplay is simple and to the point, like Mario except that you can run fast; I know some Sonic fans may be irked that I thought I compared it to Mario, I’m just saying that a common Mario game and Sonic 1 are similar in simplicity, any one can play a Mario game and anyone can play this.

As well as Sonic’s speed and his attitude design, the levels are pretty much what makes Sonic what he is; there are about six levels split into three acts.

Green Hill Zone – The most memorable level in Sonic’s history and the one Sega used as a template for first levels in future Sonic games. It’s a nice colorful zone and Act 1 is one of my favorite levels to finish and I can finish it in 30-45 seconds, I’ve just played it so many times. It’s a true classic and makes for an iconic stage. This is the grandfather of tropical levels with rocky landscapes, palm trees, checkered hillsides.

Marble Zone – Say, do you like Green Hill and it’s speedy level design that you want more? TOO BAD, the developers thought it would be too much for you so made a level that slowed things down. It looked very desolate, like it was inhabited at some point. An underground dungeon with lava and spike traps everywhere, it’s not an interesting level and you just want to go fast but the level design will not let you do such thing, which kind of defeats the purpose of making a game in which it was marketed as ‘FAST, FAST, YOU GOTTA GO FAST!!!’. Is this misleading? Kind of.

Spring Yard Zone – This level has a mixture of elements of Green Hill and Marble, you can run fast on occasions but still has slow platforming. Also, TONS OF BUMPERS. I absolutely love the music, it’s just perfect, a melody of the feeling of loss and overcoming obstacles and winning. The colors are mostly brownish and murky but a decent level nonetheless.

Labyrinth Zone – F**K. THIS. LEVEL!!! The water level, the one I could never get past as a child, especially Act 3’s supposed boss. So apparently, Sonic can’t swim because the developers thought that hedgehogs couldn’t swim. Japan, ten years ahead of technology, ten years behind common sense. Remember how Mario can breathe underwater because he’s Mario, well Sonic can breathe underwater for a short period of time. To prevent drowning, you must breathe air bubbles, but if you don’t reach it, prepare to hear the drowning music, probably the most dreadful sound to hear as a child, where you immediately enter full panic mode, desperate to find any air bubbles nearby, relief when you catch one, feel tons of dread as Sonic drowns to the bottom of the sea. And that’s why I absolutely HATE this level. This level is set in an underground cavern ruined by space, time and water itself.

Star Light Zone – Another mixture of Green Hill and Marble but with more speed and loop-the-loops. It’s a very forgettable level. The music is okay, but it has some irritating bits too. It’s a night sky super highway, and it's a great relaxant after Labyrinth Zone.

Scrap Brain Zone – The final zone and oh boy, it feels like it. A dank, dark dystonia-like place where machines are deadly, dangerous and it makes for an overall difficult zone. Act 3, however, ends up being Labyrinth Zone Act 4 and I hate this level just as much as the zone itself. This is where air bubbles murder you faster than any of the enemies combined. When I needed one the most, it never popped out!!!

So yeah, these levels were a mixed bag with Green Hill Zone being the best zone in the entire game, but they’re near enough memorable to me since I used to play this game all the time.

3) Special Stages

If you collect 50 rings in any Act 1 or 2 stage and actually manage to keep them with you without getting hit, a giant ring will appear at the end of the level and you can jump in and you’ll enter the Special Stage. The Special Stage is weird and annoying, weird as in it looks like someone’s drug trip, but I guess it’s a dream-like stage since Naoto Ohshima, the designer of Sonic, also designed Nights, and that game revolves around dreams. Oh, apparently the backgrounds are also inspired by M.C. Escher, imagine if the designer had too much inspiration from him. The goal is to traverse around a rotating maze to find the Chaos Emerald, but most of the time, especially in the later stages, you’ll immediately fall into goal bars which end the level and you don’t get that Chaos Emerald, making the stages annoying.

4) Presentation

I love the graphics, it’s colorful, it’s stunning, it actually holds up, I especially like the pseudo 3D bits, like the ground’s inverted holes on it’s wall and Spring Yard’s weird looking blocks with a chain fence, so striking. The level design is really good though there should have been some more speed elements and Marble Zone was the stop post.

5) Overall

Sonic The Hedgehog was one of the best games during the 16-Bit era, and a big jump for Sega. Having a Sega Genesis meant that you have Sonic The Hedgehog... You were considered an idiot if you didn't. If I had to play this game again (incase if I hadn't played it enough, haha), I would have no problem with it, since I still appreciate it for many, many reasons. First, I grew up playing this as a child, it gave me so many memories, even as a critic and I still have to take off my nostalgia-specs and see it for what it is now. Second of all, I appreciate him for kicking Nintendo's butt back in the day.

You see, Nintendo dominated the gaming market, especially with the Super Mario Bros. series. This went to the point where they made up some shady rules where some companies couldn’t develop for other platforms, just for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a restricted console but it was popular, not even the Sega Master System could get a footing. The same thing happened when the Sega Genesis was released, and then Sonic came along and said to the kids, "Do you want some faster, something cooler, something much better, then play my game and ditch Nintendo in the process!" And it worked, Sonic and Sega was Mario and Nintendo’s competition and it charged with full force, and Sonic and Mario's rivalry continues today.

Anyways, that’s the Sonic we should remember him for, the blue hedgehog that once dominated the console market, for a while, even if it was for a while, but it was a sweet, sweet victory.

Rating: 4 / 5

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