Sonic the Hedgehog – Sega Genesis
Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date (NA): June 23, 1991
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
*NOTE: This Sonic the Hedgehog is not to be confused with Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Gear, Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Boy Advance, or Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360. This is a review for Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) on the Sega Genesis.
The year was 1991, early June. One pudgy little plumber and his goofy brother had the video gaming world on lockdown. If you weren’t on the Mario bandwagon, then you weren’t cool. Oh, you own a what? A Sega? WTF is a Sega? Never heard of it. The Sega Genesis system had already been around for nearly 2 years in North America. Although vastly superior to the Original Nintendo Entertainment System, the Genesis had failed to capture any market shares with their current line of gaming. But all of that would change on June 23, 1991.
Like a fireball blowing up a turtle, Sonic the Hedgehog (typically simplified by calling the game Sonic, or Sonic 1 upon future releases) burst onto the gaming scene on June 23, 1991, much to the dismay of aforementioned mustachioed plumber. The introduction of the blue hedgehog to the gaming nation set the world on fire and instantly established Sonic as the new Sega mascot. Sega already had an unofficial mascot in Alex Kidd until Sonic came by and kicked Alex in the face and took his spot. The goal of Sonic the Hedgehog was to be something different and not just a Mario-clone. And “something different” it was. The main focus behind Sonic the Hedgehog was speed by taking advantage of the Genesis’ strong processing power – Blast Processing, as Sega so strongly advertised. Sonic the Hedgehog crushed the competition, and their marketing strategies led the Genesis to being more popular than the Super Nintendo. One could go on for days about the history and marketing of the Sega Genesis or the Sonic series, but in order to really view the majestic blue blur that kids still love today, you needn’t look anywhere other than Sonic’s beginnings. Sonic the Hedgehog may have changed your world as a kid, but Sonic still has the power to change your world today. Don’t believe me? Go grab a 3-button Genesis controller and tell me I’m wrong.
Dr. Robotnik is out for world control and has discovered the chaos emeralds of South Island. In his efforts, he has kidnapped all of the animals on the island and either encapsulated them or put their bodies into evil robots, called badniks, all over the island. Sonic takes it upon himself to free his trapped friends, stop Dr. Robotnik, and collect all of the chaos emeralds himself.
The story of Sonic the Hedgehog is a cool one and different to some extent. Sonic the Hedgehog features an antagonist character, much like any platformer, and features a boss at the end of each zone, also much like any platformer. Sonic also is tasked with getting from one end of the stage to the other in the allotted amount of time (in under 10 minutes) collecting items and rings along the way. In these cases, Sonic the Hedgehog is anything but unique. So why did Sonic the Hedgehog make such waves and how did the game help define a generation?
The uniqueness of Sonic the Hedgehog comes in the solid, simple, and damn near perfect gameplay found within each act. There are only 6 zones altogether, but each zone is broken down into 2 or 3 acts. The sheer beauty of the animation, graphics, speed, and the variety of each zone is immeasurable. Sonic is a speed demon and the Genesis is strong enough to process, and showcase, his acrobatic moves and highflying spins. Now, when I say Sonic the Hedgehog is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It is simple in the fact that there will be very few moments where you don’t know what to do or where to go. For most people, the linearity of the game, paired with the lively and vibrant colors and animation, make Sonic the Hedgehog ideal for all ages, sexes, races, etc.
To beat Sonic the Hedgehog, you can do it one of two ways: With or without the chaos emeralds. Earning all six chaos emeralds is no easy feat, but is achievable only by finishing each act with at least 50 rings and jumping through the giant gold loop at the end, thus entering the Special Stage. The special stage features Sonic in a constant state of spin-dash attack while the stage rotates 360 degrees, with the chaos emerald at the center. His ultimate objective is to reach the chaos emerald in the center of the stage, but the stage is littered with traps that make it more and more difficult to reach the center. If you get caught in one of the traps, then the special stage will end and you will have to try again after the next act. Along the way, Sonic can collect rings to put towards points, continues, and extra lives. Collecting all six chaos emeralds is the only TRUE way to beat the game in its entirety.
Each zone is entirely different from one another, which is part of the beauty of Sonic the Hedgehog. Some games feature nearly identical stages with the only differences being colors and some animation. Sonic the Hedgehog actually features completely different platform set-ups from stage to stage, but the real game-changer is the variation of the perilous “traps” in each stage. Each stage has a different sort of trap-theme which really keeps each level fresh, interesting, and non-monotonous. For example, Marble Zone features plenty of lava and spitting fire, Labyrinth Zone features deep and treacherous waters that Sonic can easily drown in, and Starlight Zone features deceitful trap doors and large platform gaps in an effort to send Sonic plummeting to his death. When you pair the trap variety with the variety in animation and stage design, you will immediately see why Sonic the Hedgehog is something unique, special, and worthy of historic recognition.
I think the music of a game is arguably one of the strongest factors for creating a timeless and memorable game. Everyone remembers the tunes from Super Mario Bros. and I know there are plenty of people out there who remember the tunes of Sonic the Hedgehog. The composition of every individual tune in this game is a masterpiece in its own respect. The upbeat synth composition really sets the tone right off the bat with the title screen music. From there, each successive song jumps right out of the screen and right into your earhole. The boss-battle tune is perfectly dark, ominous, and somewhat anxiety-ridden – appropriate for the situation at hand. One of the most interesting tunes is found in Spring Yard Zone. The score in this zone has hints of R&B/Hip-hop fusion with the percussion and bass-line.
Perfectly catchy, complex, and detailed, every zone features its own music specially catered to the level’s design and look. Chip-tunes have reached perfection here. Some of these songs will stay stuck in your head for days, especially the one in Green Hill Zone.
There’s a great deal of subtle beauty that we take for granted in 2014, but was cutting edge in the 80s and 90s. Sonic has the keen ability to change directions mid-air, giving you the ability to fine-tune certain jumps for pinpoint precision and accuracy. And not only can you change Sonic’s direction mid-air, but you also have the ability to control how far, or how high, Sonic will jump by how hard you depress any of the jump buttons on the controller. This is a marvelous feature that helps polish up Sonic the Hedgehog into perfection. The controls in Sonic the Hedgehog are exceptional and spot-on, even though they are extremely simplistic with only a directional pad and one button needed. Sonic is very responsive in his movements and controlling him is easy to master. Sonic has an exceptional jump, and when he gets some speed behind him, can really get some good distance.
My love-affair for Sonic actually started with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as it was the first Sonic game I ever played. Then later, trying to play the first Sonic the Hedgehog, I found myself struggling mightily without my controllable spin-dash attack. In Sonic 1, Sonic uses all three buttons but each has the same effect: jump. Sonic can destroy his enemies by jumping on them, but some have spikes on top, and Sonic will get hurt. Others carry a shield, so jumping on them has no effect. So you can charge those particular enemies, and press down on the d-pad while moving forward to enter into a spin-dash that will kill most all enemies. In Sonic 2, Sonic can stand in place and perform a spin-dash by holding the down button and pressing A, B, or C over and over. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, as I’m sure the Sonic Team would have included this feature in Sonic 1.
Sonic the Hedgehog is an exceptional game and is truly timeless. Due to the simplistic graphics and gameplay, it is virtually impossible for this game to become outdated. The colors still pop out of the screen no matter how you play it… CRT TV, Hi-Def TV, computer screen, tablet, cell phone, etc. It doesn’t matter. Sonic the Hedgehog deserves an immense amount of credit for its contribution to video gaming as a whole. The Sonic Team was a talented group of developers who took a brilliant idea and made something special. Sonic the Hedgehog is neither too short, nor is it too long, thus resulting in a game with high replayability. I know the hidden spots and little details of every act from experience, but the difficulty still gets the best of me sometimes.
The only thing keeping me from giving Sonic the Hedgehog a perfect score is the small level of monotony going through three acts in each zone. Two would have been the perfect number, but by the time I reach act three in the Marble Zone, I’m dying for some new tunes and new scenery. Also, the tremendous difficulty cannot be controlled, leaving casual gamers unsatisfied and wanting to pull their hair out in anger.
Despite two minor negatives on Sonic the Hedgehog, the positives outweigh the negatives by far. Sonic the Hedgehog will forever be remembered as a turning point for Sega’s fortunes and will forever remain in the hearts of many. With plenty of variety in setting, solid control scheme, ease of play (not to be confused with ease of difficulty), and a memorable soundtrack, Sonic the Hedgehog lives on today and will live on forever. With a multi-platform release in so many different formats, this game can be picked up individually or as part of a compilation for the Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Network, iOS, Android, and probably some other formats I’m unaware of. What I’m getting at is: YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO NOT BUY AND PLAY THIS GAME!!!
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
So, you’ve got skills huh? Finally beat the big bad Dr. Robotnik? I’m not talking about beating him in the first zone! I’m talking about putting him down for good! With all six chaos emeralds! Oh, you did that? Then congratulations! You’re a Sonic expert! Reward yourself with some bonus Nerd Bacon content, click the button below!
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