Sonic the Hedgehog
Review by psyduck22
"Sonic's first outing was also his finest."
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
(NINTENDO WII: VIRTUAL CONSOLE)
Throughout the Nineties, anyone silly enough to dream of an existence where Sega and Nintendo worked in harmony would be laughed out of the playground/ pub/ arcade. Truth is stranger than fiction, however. Fast-forward into a new century and what do we get? Sonic The Hedgehog appearing alongside Super Mario 64 as a Nintendo Wii Virtual Console launch title.
From the moment the words- Sonic Team Presents' appear on the screen, you know you're in for something special. For a (then) fledgling developer to name itself after it's first title, you'd imagine that they were either pretty confident, or pretty stupid. Fortunately for them, everything turned out great........The rest is history.
The dastardly Doctor Robotnik has gone to considerable effort, not to mention expense, to ensnare Sonic's animal buddies in robotic bodies and turn them against his peaceful world. Sonic must speed through a series of zones, freeing friends along the way, to put a stop to Robotnik's anti-social behavior.
A game of this era lived or died on its gameplay, fortunately for Sonic The Hedgehog, the gameplay is more or less spot-on, though it doesn't seem as fast as it did back in 1991. With uncomplicated controls and absolutely no camera to contend with, simply guide the speedy blue hedgehog to the safety of the signpost at the end of each action-packed and colourful stage. The game consists of six zones, with three stages in each. The third stage of each zone (except the sixth, you'll see why when you get there), is concluded after a showdown with Doctor Robotnik and one of his deadly contraptions. Each zone has a distinct theme and soundtrack, such as Green Hill Zone's lush rolling fields and jaunty score, or Star Light Zone's twilight setting and heavenly tune. Points are scored by freeing Sonic's friends, encapsulated in robotic bodies. Robots are destroyed by jumping on their heads or (in some cases) spinning into them.
Several power-ups are obtainable, including invincibility (self explanatory, hopefully) and speed shoes. Speed shoes are great fun and can be used to help propel Sonic further up vertical walls or towards hidden bonuses. Momentum plays a big role in this game. Having difficulty making it to a higher ledge? Go back and take a run up. Many neat tricks can be toyed with throughout the course of the game; spring pads, conveyor belts and water slides are all present and correct. I guarantee you'll never forget the first time you successfully speed through a loop-the-loop.
Rings are littered around each level, owning one ring or more will protect you from an enemy attack, causing rings to spill in all directions and leave you unscathed. You have a limited chance to re-collect a small number of your lost rings before they disappear. Sonic is vulnerable without any rings, one enemy attack will cause our hero to lose a life. Rings will also help protect you from numerous obstacles throughout the game. Should you accidentally fall foul to a bed of spikes, Sonic will shed his ring collection in the same way. Collecting and keeping hold of a good supply of rings will award you with a Ring Bonus at the end of a stage. The faster you complete a stage, the better Time Bonus you will receive. Getting the best score (if you even care) requires you to balance speed with exploration. Collect fifty rings for a surprise at the end of each regular stage, or one hundred rings for an extra life. One or two checkpoints can be activated at intervals throughout each stage, allowing you to restart mid-level if you die. A life is automatically lost if you fail to complete it within ten minutes (a pretty generous time allowance). Continues can be earned also, but I'll let you find out how to get them for yourself. A bonus challenge of sorts is also up for grabs, challenging you to collect six Chaos Emeralds' for an extra reward. Once again, I wouldn't want to ruin the fun, so I'll say no more about this aspect of the game.
Naturally, there will be the odd gripe present in a game of any description; Sonic The Hedgehog is no exception. Occasionally you may find it necessary to stop on an upward slope, be it intentionally or due to an enemy attack or obstacle. Once at a standstill, Sonic needs to build up speed from scratch, making him practically crawl along until he reaches either a straight section or downward slope. This can be painful; fortunately it isn't a big deal and is encountered infrequently. Sonic Team obviously took note, as they fixed it in the sequel by giving Sonic a spin dash attack. A bigger annoyance can be found in some of the underwater sections in the Labyrinth Zone. Sonic moves like he's in syrup underwater and you don't know the word frustration until you've reached an oxygen point, only to run out of air before a bubble appears. Some of the Chaos Emerald stages can also be an exercise in frustration, missing out on an emerald after struggling to get to the Bonus Stage will result in a bout of cursing. These gripes account for only a tiny fraction of the game, look past them and you'll be left with a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The one and only new feature that the Wii hardware brings to this game is the ability to freeze progress at any point and return to the Wii Menu, thus allowing you to dip in and out at your leisure. This helps to make the game much more enjoyable and accessible, opening up the game to those who don't have the time or the patience to play for hours on end.
Gameplay earns itself an eight out of ten because Sonic's charms may not appeal to all tastes. Cute and colourful visuals combined with simple (if tricky at times) gameplay will be loved by most but loathed by some.
The visuals are superb. Everything looks, moves and smashes like it should. Bright, vivid environments come alive with scorching lava, shimmering water or beautiful twilights. Enemies are imaginative, likable and take on a life of their own, moving how you would imagine they should. Sonic himself is wonderfully animated, bounding, rolling and landing seamlessly from one platform to the next, without any dips in the frame-rate, something that many modern games simply cannot boast.
As with any re-release, many will be concerned as to how the controls will hold up. Will they be as fluid and responsive as the original? After all, this game has been lifted from its native format and placed on the Nintendo Wii. Fear not, as I believe that the controls have actually been improved by their transition. Although it is fine to use the standard Wii Remote, the Classic Controller is where it's at. The controller just seems better, the D-Pad and buttons are a joy to use- responsive, tight and comfortable. I cannot call the Mega Drive/ Genesis joypad inferior, it simply seems that controller design has improved since Sonic's debut.
Another triumph, they just don't make videogame soundtracks like this anymore. Every stage has an unforgettable score to accompany it, perfectly summing up the theme of the zone in musical form. What's even more amazing is that they manage to loop endlessly without grating on the nerves (excluding the tune on the last boss stage). In-game sound effects are equally memorable; the ring collecting' jingle is still used in Sonic games to this day. Enemies don't make annoying noises; Sonic doesn't have any annoying sound bytes (I forget if sound bytes were actually possible when this was developed). You simply get jumping, spinning, action type sounds. Turn the volume down at your peril.
Lifespan is purely down to the opinion of the individual; completing the game properly by collecting all six Chaos Emeralds will take a fair bit of time and skill. Only so many chances are presented to obtain an Emerald throughout the entire game. Miss out and there's no going back, you'll have to start again or wait until your next play through. For the casual' player, becoming good enough to do a full run-through will take a fair bit of time, as lives aren't ridiculously abundant like they are in modern platformers.
Sonic The Hedgehog is classic platforming action, born in a time when 2D ruled and 3D was just a glint in Sonic Team's eye. Sega and Nintendo have endeavored to bring old school Sonic to a new generation of fans.
OVERALL SCORE- 9/10 (not an average)
+ A great start for the Virtual Console.
+ Classic gameplay with excellent visuals and sound.
+ Added ability to suspend and resume progress.
- Perhaps too simple for some modern' gamers.
- Only available if you can get your Wii online.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/29/07
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