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Hello, fellow Sonic fans, happy 2015, it is I, Dream Era, though some of you might know me on YouTube as Dreamer.
Now if anyone of you knew me on Sonic News Network (SNN), you might recall a series of Sonic reviews I’d had posted. They covered most of the console Sonic games I’d owned, excluding some spin-offs here and there, as well as Heroes-06. They were simple thoughts on what I thought made them so great.
Well, most of those reviews are actually quite old, some even having been crafted in say, 2011. As a result, most of them are incredibly out-dated, and with Sonic Boom out, I guess it’s only right to take a look back at the original Sonic the Hedgehog. With that said, time for my Sonic marathon!
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Any of you guys remember 1991? I sure as hell do. It was the year Nintendo’s follow up to the popular NES was launched, but not against un-soiled competition. Sega had struck back at Nintendo with the Sega Genesis, which would soon become the dominant force in the 16-Bit war. It was also the year Sega’s new mascot was tested against the world-wide sensation that was Mario. Sonic the Hedgehog hit store shelves in June 1991, and was a critical and financial success. By bundle copies alone, Sonic the Hedgehog sold 15 million units. Super Mario World’s overall sales were about 20 million.
With that said, back in 1991, kids round’ the world were dazzled by the 16-bit graphics, the surprisingly high quality soundtrack, Sonic’s famous attitude, and of course, the speed the game possessed. With momentum and no run button, as well as a spin-jump and roll, it didn’t take long for Sonic to steal Mario’s thunder. By the tail end of the 16-Bit war, Sonic the Hedgehog was the best selling game out there, and is still the best-selling Sonic game ever. So then, we all know the game was amazing back then, and I am always happy to go back to it in present day.
STORY ZONE; ACT 1
The story is simple, as most good 2D platformers were. However, thanks to a few manuals here and there, I managed to stitch the whole story together; Sonic the Hedgehog was born on Christmas Island. His reputation quickly grew established as being the fastest thing alive, with the potential of surpassing the speed of sound. Along his travels, he stumbled upon Dr. Ivo Robotnik, and the two quickly became friendly rivals, nature vs. machine. However, something went awry, as not long after, Robotnik declared his quest for conquering the world, and began capturing the furry woodland creatures to power his machines. Sonic, being the most capable of South Island, rises to repel Robotnik from his homeland, and attempts to stop the mad doctor once and for all!
Gameplay Zone; ACT 2
With that said, as Sonic, it’s your job to race through six zones in your quest to drive Robotnik out of South Island. Sonic handles mostly like what you’d expect from a 2D platformer. Pressing the D-Pad left or right will move Sonic in said direction, and all three buttons make him jump. Holding up will allow Sonic to scope out higher areas, and holding down will have Sonic crouch, allowing him to avoid certain projectiles, such as the spike balls thrown by Orbinauts, but it also allows Sonic to scope out lower areas of the level.
Sonic of course has something to make him unique from the rest, and that comes in the form of the roll attack. Pressing down while running will have Sonic roll into a spiky ball good for both defense and offense, as it allows Sonic to roll under certain threats and obstacles, as well as having damage property to it.
However, what makes this move so unique, as well as this game, is perhaps the world’s first gaming physics engine. Sonic will react to terrain appropriately, and as such, this is also the first video game that had non-block styled platforming, almost always refining things down to slopes, hills, half pipes, and other wonderfully morphed terrain. When you run up a slope, you’ll gradually lose speed. When going DOWN a slope, you’ll gain as much speed as the speed cap allows. Try that the next time you roll down a hill, or half way through a loop.
Green Hill Zone;''' The first stage of Sonic history, and still perhaps the best. Not only does it have the most recognizable set-piece and boss of gaming history, it also has the second most recognized level theme, behind you-know-what. It has the perhaps the best level design, graphics, music, and is the most kickass way to start a franchise.
Marble Zone; '''While a rather abrupt change of pace, it’s still a very fun stage. Lots of hazards for Sonic to bypass, but its level design is top notch, the set-piece is very cool, though the music is a bit annoying at points. Overall, it’s a good zone.
Spring Yard Zone; '''It has quirky enemy placements, and coupled with un-cooperative hit detection and rather infuriating bumpers, this might turn off some people. However, I still get a kick out of some pretty creative uses of rolling and challenging yet fun platforming. On-par with Marble for sure… AND THE MUSIC! What a horrible night to have a rave.
Labyrinth Zone; '''Why does everyone treat this zone like Satan? Well, it is one of the weaker courses of the game, but I still had fun here and there. I despise the obstacles quite a lot, but in the end, I like its aesthetics, its music, and I even liked it as a zone. However, I’ll grant haters one thing; I hate drowning. Sonic can’t swim due to Yuji Naka having an idiot moment and not believing that hedgehogs could swim, and as such, not only is water mobility limited, he also has a timer to his breath. IT’S COMPLETELY NERVE WRECKING.
Starlight Zone;''' Best zone period. We’ve got a balance of platforming and speed DONE RIGHT, with all sorts of rewards for playing skillfully. We’ve got a kickass starry night in the background, the foregrounds look pretty swell (dig the city theme), and to top it all off, the best music in the game is HERE.
Scrap Brain Zone; '''This is without a doubt the most challenging of the stages. But it’s still fun. We’ve got ALL sorts of enemies, old and new in a final attempt to bring Sonic down, as well as the trickiest traps to deal with, though the music is pretty unfitting and somewhat bland.
Final Zone; '''You and Robotnik, one on one, head to head, toe to toe, and while the fight is somewhat anti-climatic, I have to say, it’s still fun, and the music is certainly the most emotional of the game. You know it’s the end, and it just seems like the game itself is crying out to Sonic.
Scattered across the stages are gold rings, which act like life insurance. If you have at least one ring, Sonic will survive at the price of dropping all the rings. Get hit with none, and not even the vet can heal our heroic mammal. Other items that will help Sonic can be collected via busting open a monitor. These either carry 10 rings, a shield that will allow an extra hit, temporary invincibility, and running shoes that will make Sonic run so fast, Mario has more dust for desert.
Obstacles come in all flavors, whether it’d be the common bottomless pit, spike traps, or stage-exclusive hazards, i.e., getting crushed, lava, gargoyles, etc. Of course, there will also be the assortment of badniks that will attempt to destroy Sonic, ranging from Goomba-like Moto-bugs, aerial threats such as Buzz Bombers or tougher opponents like Rollers. They all normally have the first move, but if you know how to counter or avoid their attacks, they’re left wide open, and a simple jump will cut through, freeing the animal inside.
There are three acts per zone, the third being the boss round. From the instantly recognizable Ball-and-Chain, to the pain-in-the ass air attack missions, they all are pretty fun.
Presentation Zone; Act 3
The graphics were awesome back then, and they still are. Sonic’s model animates smoother than ANYTHING we had seen at that point. His unstoppable spin-jump, the fleeting running animation, and of course, the famous attitude, because from the moment you see that arrogant smirk and his trademark finger-wag, you know Sonic ain’t your regular hedgehog. Even in game, he can express his agitation at you when he’s not active for a while, with that toe-tapping.
Not only are the characters alive with energy, it’s refreshing to see how gorgeous the stages are. The framerate is constant, and I love how each stage looks, as the backgrounds are beautiful and gorgeous, and the foreground never disappoints. Stages that stick out as eye-candy have to be Green Hill, Marble, and Starlight.
The music came out around the time Nintendo fans were revealing how dated the Genesis sound chip is too the SNES. Well Sonic, among a few others (cough) *Streets of Rage*(cough), comes out and kicks Nintendo back down. This soundtrack, while not the best, is still a great one, and the only tracks that irked me were Marble Zone, where the instruments began to annoy me, and Scrap Brain Zone, which has the same problem with Marble, but even worse. Other than that, this is one swell soundtrack, and is still one of the high rankers.
The bosses in this game are cool. I always feel as if they were one-on-one bouts, Sonic’s moveset being put to the test. They had great music, creative designs, and overall, are a fun time.
Sonic the Hedgehog has its collectables. By collecting 50 rings and jumping into the giant ring at the end will allow you to enter the special stage, where you guide Sonic through acid-trip mazes to win a Chaos Emerald. I don’t really have a solid opinion, good or bad, but I DO know that ironically, Special Stage 3 is the worst of them, and the only time I ever fairly got all of them was in the 2011 re-release by Christian Whitehead, where I abused the save file system. Overall, I wouldn’t go into them if I were you.
VERDICT ZONE; FINAL ACT
Sega knew they hit something with this game and I still strongly believe this is a great game. It has some very memorable and fun zones, eye-catching presentation, and an unbelievably catchy soundtrack, it’s a recommendation. The first Sonic game, is still one of his finest. It may lack the polish of its many successors, and it isn’t close to being the best of its series. But the game is still a good one.
Story; While simple, and only sporting two scripted events, it still is relatively engaging, and overall somewhat enjoyable.
Interface; Sonic’s control rounds up to perfection, as the characters weight and acceleration feels completely natural, with little too no hindrance, and as such, makes this game still more than playable till’ this day.
Graphics; Sonic and others animate smoothly, and the worlds he travels through are bright, vibrant, and screaming with their own personality. Nothing ever got stale, and this is certainly one of the best looking Mega Drive/Genesis titles out there.
Sound; Even though I deem certain tracks weak, for the most part, everything else is certainly enjoyable, and I do find none of the sound effects out of place at all.
Gameplay; This game certainly is one of the more polished games out there you can find on the Mega Drive and you’ll never be bored with the colorful and unique zones thrown at you. The level design is easy to like, and the physics engine set new limits for gaming. Only a handful of acts piss me off.
Length; The game is a good length of six zones, three acts per each, capped off with seven special stages, and a seventh final stage. You’ll have plenty of fun replaying your favorite stages, blasting out with HQ Mega Drive music, and being captivated by the unique graphics, as well as trying for those Chaos Emeralds.