Review by SniperNightOwl
"Weakest 2D Sonic game, but a strong start to the series"
Introduction- This iconic game marks the rise of the legendary console war between Nintendo and Sega. Nintendo was dominating the video game market share with their NES, while Sega's Master System wasn't catching on. Sega put their heads together and concluded they needed a mascot to compete with Nintendo's Mario- thus Sonic was born. Not only was Sonic made to be the answer to Mario, but he was also formulated to be the anti-Mario. Unlike Mario, Sonic had attitude and his key selling point was his speed. Sonic is indeed fast but the issue I have with this game was due to the level design, you really couldn't take advantage of it in most levels. In fact, not including Sonic Spinball and 3D Blast/Flickie's Island, this is the slowest Sonic game in that regard. Still, this game and it's premise was revolutionary for it's time while being a solid start to the 16 bit era of Sonic games.
Story- There isn't much of a story, nor is it needed for this type of game and the time it came from. The small background you get is a scientist known as Dr. Ivo Robotnik (or Eggman in Japan) is capturing and turning innocent animals into robots to aid him in his goal of world-domination. It's Sonic's job to free them and stop Robotnik. I will give Sega credit for not having something rather overused such as saving a princess. Again, Sonic is the anti-Mario.
Game play- Sonic is a side scrolling platformer, so you spend each level going from left to right collecting rings which safeguard you from death as long as you have one (they won't protect you from falling into pits, drowning, or being squashed.) Rings also share another important role- if you intend to attain the best ending you need to collect at least 50 of them as you pass the goal at the end of each act. Doing so will grant you access into a special stage which is quite unique and graphically impressive for the time. If you manage to navigate through the spinning maze without touching the "goal" bumpers, you will be rewarded with a chaos emerald. There are 6 of these to collect and serve no purpose outside of getting a different ending. You cannot transform into Super Sonic in this game.
In addition to rings and the emeralds there are a few power ups in monitors scattered throughout the levels such as the shield which offers you a free hit before losing your rings, running shoes which makes Sonic even more faster for a brief period of time, invincibility where you are impervious to damage and can destroy enemies by walking into them, and the extra life.
Each area has a theme to it and is divided into 3 acts. The 3rd act will have you battle Dr. Robotnik. I enjoyed the first area- The Green Hill Zone because it played how the game was marketed- fast. (Fast as in being able to run at Sonic's top speed, not the framerate-this game doesn't have any framerate issue unless you place too many sprites down in debug mode or possibly lose a lot of rings with lots of enemies onscreen.)
After Green Hill Zone, you enter Marble Zone and that's when the game starts to really slow down. You have to tread carefully unless you wish to be crushed or slip into lava. You even have to push blocks and use them to cross distances and they are very slow. The next area, Spring Yard Zone is slightly faster but not on the level of fun as Green Hill Zone with all of the bumpers spammed throughout the level. Things get even worse with the next area which is Labyrinth Zone. It is an underwater level and Sonic is SLOW underwater. Real slow. This isn't like the later Sonic games when you had a choice to take the upper land route if you didn't wish to tread in the water. You MUST make your way underwater and it's very boring. Sonic can drown so you will also be required to make pit stops to breathe air bubbles. The boss for this area can be rather frustrating and I was never able to get past it as a child. Thankfully the developers left debug mode and a stage select in the game so I was able to try the rest of the game out.
The next level is Starlight Zone, which is pretty fast but I found it to be a very forgettable stage with a dull level and graphic design. In fact, it felt like the only area that was crafted with true effort was Green Hill Zone. However this changes with the final area, Scrap Brain Zone which had lots of varied obstacles and an intense background music, it being one of my favorite areas in the game.
So basically, the game play, as a stand alone platformer and side scroller is solid, however it nearly fails to really capitalize on Sonic's speed. This was fixed in the sequel, Sonic 2 which has levels designed for you to really blaze through (Chemical Plant Zone says hi.)
Another complainant I have before concluding gameplay is the difficulty. Unless you exploit (read: grind) extra lives in a certain act early on in the game you do not have many lives until you get a game over. There are some glitches in the game such as the spike one which is auto-death if you happen to land on one. Hit detection can be a little off in certain parts of the game which results in you getting crushed and killed when you didn't even expect it. As said before the labyrinth boss can be rather frustrating too. However I can look past these for the most part as the game has level select. Also this is Sonic's first game and Sega fixed these problems in the sequels so it's forgivable.
Sound- The sound effects are all classic and appropriate. They worked so well you'll hear them again in later Genesis games, some even sneaking into the modern 3D games. Perfect!
Music- There's some very catchy music in this game, however the consistency of it isn't like the sound effect department. This is preference but some songs sound bland such as Spring Yard Zone. Final Boss song had a lot of potential but was underdeveloped and loops after around 30 seconds or so. Marble and Starlight zone didn't sound bad, they just didn't stand out or I didn't care for the choice of instruments. On the other hand Green Hill, Labyrinth and Scrap Brain Zone are very catchy. So basically I only liked half of the soundtrack.
Graphics- Very vibrant and eye pleasing. Sprites are animated very well and when appropriate the game is very colorful. I say appropriate because some levels such as Marble Zone and Starlight Zone aren't as colorful as say, Green Hill or Spring Yard Zone but this is because Marble Zone is mostly a dark dungeon level while Starlight Zone is at night.
Play Time/ Replayability- This isn't a long game, in theory it can easily be beaten in one sitting but there's a few trial and error parts that may result in you getting a game over. There are two different endings, 1 when you collect all the chaos emeralds and one when you don't so that may give some incentive to replay. If you input a code you can activate debug mode and do all kinds of crazy things like place enemies, I found this to be pretty amusing. Finally you can always play through to improve your score (game doesn't save it though), in the manual for this game towards the end they supplied you with little tablets where you could write down your high scores if you really wanted to milk everything out of this game.
Final Recommendation-This game is a classic and if you are curious to how Sonic started his career I encourage you to try out this game. It isn't the best 2D Sonic game, so if you played 2, 3, or Sonic and Knuckles this will actually be a step backwards. If you disliked those games, it's safe to pass on this one .
Final Score- 7.6 ( C+ )
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/18/11
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog (US, 06/23/91)
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