Review by Chunkey Simmons
"Great game, but Sonic 2 is way better."
Prior to Sonic the Hedgehog being released, the Sega Genesis' original pack-in game was Altered Beast. It was a mediocre beat em up sidescroller with simplistic gameplay and minimal appeal, and it didn't help the Sega Genesis sell all that well. It didn't help that Nintendo's SNES was soon to be released in the United States. Sega of America's CEO, Tom Kalinske, was aware of the problems regarding the Genesis, thus one of his propositions was to replace the lackluster Altered Beast with the more favorable Sonic the Hedgehog. This ended up being an excellent decision, because it drove sales of the Genesis. Did Sonic really save the day? Did Sonic succeed in what Altered Beast failed to do? Lets check it out.
I actually received a request to review this game by a user named segafever. I like that name, segafever. This guy likes Sega too, and that's pretty cool. I think others should buy a Sega Genesis so that they can experience a Sega fever of their own!
Dr. Robotnik plans to take over the world with the power of the six chaos emeralds. In order to prevent Robotnik from doing so, Sonic's objective is to collect them all himself by collecting 50 rings and entering several different special stages.
A plot like this definitely appeals to kids, and that's a big factor. Altered beast's plot was about Zeus resurrecting two soldiers to fight bad guys in ancient Greece. Sonic already sounds more appealing.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a fast-paced platformer with a lot of cool features. There are six different zones, and each zone has 3 acts, making it 18 levels altogether. There are several enemies, or badniks, you can jump on or roll into for more points, along with rings you can collect and TV monitors you can destroy to gain whatever's inside. By completing a stage with 50 or more rings, you have the option to enter a special stage where you have a chance to obtain one of the remaining chaos emeralds. The monitors can be used to obtain more rings, a shield that allows you to take an extra hit, fast shoes, or temporary invulnerability, depending on what the monitor displays.
The first act is Green Hill Zone where Sonic can test his speed by rolling down steep hills and bounce off badniks. Every stage has very defined slopes; such has 360 degree loops, half-pipes, and many different hill elevations that allow Sonic to boost his speed. No other game before it has ever had such defined slopes and fast speed before, and that's why so many people found Sonic to be so much fun.
Needless to say, Sonic the Hedgehog is extremely enjoyable. As the game progresses, more mechanics are introduced, including lava in Marble Zone, water in Labyrinth Zone, and many hazardous platforms in Scrap Brain Zone. Because of all these mechanics, the game has a lot of variety, which is something that Altered Beast lacked heavily. The special stages consist of a 360 degree rotating maze where you have a chance to obtain one of the chaos emeralds. Back then, seeing any kind of level rotate was mind-blowing, which only made the Genesis look better.
Final verdict: fast gameplay allows for a fun time.
Sonic the Hedgehog is very intricate in design, allowing the Genesis to show off its graphical capabilities. The use of parallax scrolling made the Genesis shine, as it gave the player a feel of depth, which no other console has ever done before. Specifically in Green Hill Zone, all the mountains in the background move a lot slower than the foreground, almost giving players the illusion that you're actually there. The game's sprites are all extremely colorful and larger than what the NES pallet design showed us, and therefore was a lot more appealing to consumers.
Final verdict: great graphics that showed the power of the Sega Genesis.
Another reason to enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog is because of his fluent movement. It's very hard to explain, but Sega did a nice job with trying to emulate gravity. Such simple elements, like rolling down hills makes you go faster, and walking up hills makes you go slower, made the game a lot more fun. Other games like Super Mario Bros. 3 were set up this way too, but no other game ever perfected it like Sonic.
Simplicity is everything. Being able to perform tasks easily, such as walking, jumping, rolling and ducking is enough for a gamer to enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog. More mechanics were introduced in later Sonic games, such as spindash and homing attack, but the original Sonic the Hedgehog is where things are simple. Forget all those fancy moves, stick with the basics. Sometimes having a general set of moves is all a platformer really needs.
The only problem with the controls is that sometimes Sonic can move a little too fast, making it more difficult to react to upcoming danger. The only way to be careful is by slowing down, and that honestly takes the fun away. Therefore, if you want to enjoy the game, you need to be reckless.
Final verdict: excellent controls.
While the game is near-flawless, there were still some things that needed improvement which were addressed in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and later Sonic games.
While Sonic is capable of running at fast speeds, sometimes it's difficult to find areas that allow him to utilize it, especially later acts like Labyrinth Zone. Yes, Green Hill Zone is filled with several steep hills that allow Sonic to reach fast speeds, but later acts are a lot blockier which is extremely unfortunate. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but later Sonic games fixed that problem by adding spindash: a technique that allows you to jolt forward at fast speeds without needing to roll down hills. This game could have benefitted by having a spindash feature, but we unfortunately don't get one until Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
In this game, there are three acts per zone, all of which have the same background, same enemies, same background music, same platforms and same mechanics. With that said, three acts per zone can be extremely redundant and somewhat boring. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and every Sonic game after it all have two acts per zone, making it less redundant. To make matters better, while Sonic 3 has two acts per zone as well, act 2 will always have different mechanics and slightly altered background music in comparison to act 1, so it's definitely not as redundant and a lot more enjoyable. I should also point out that, despite Sonic 2 only having two acts per zone, it still has more levels than the original Sonic.
A few other issues were fixed in later Sonic games as well. For an example, when you get hurt by hazardous spikes, you aren't given any recovery time and you immediately lose a life. In later Sonic games, that problem was fixed so that you're given recovery time. Another issue is that some of the walls and platforms, mainly in Green Hill Zone, are not fully patched, so therefore it's possible to fall through and lose a life. Thankfully this problem, along with many other glitches, was fixed in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Final verdict: Sonic 1 definitely had a lot of problems that the later Sonic games fixed, such as the redundancy of having three acts, somewhat-blocky levels, and several glitches.
It's definitely likely that any player is going to come back to this game after beating it. For one, there's chaos emeralds to collect, giving the game a lot of replay value. Not only that, but this game is an enjoyable experience, so I'm confident that you will come back to it. Considering this game is marked as a classic, just like Super Mario Bros, Pac-Man and Mega Man, it makes it a memorable title.
Sonic the Hedgehog definitely achieved what Altered Beast couldn't. Fast-paced, extremely enjoyable gameplay, great graphics, nice controls, all of which showed the true power of Sega Genesis. Altered Beast continued to collect dust on shelves and was quickly forgotten while Sonic the Hedgehog rose to fame and drove sales of the Sega Genesis. Looking at this game back then, it was nearly flawless, but looking at it now, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 definitely fixed a lot of the problems that the original Sonic had. So that's my final verdict: this game is great, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is way better.
If you own a Sega Genesis, then you probably already have this game. Otherwise, it's been re-released on many other consoles, including the Xbox 360/PS3/PSP (Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection), Wii Virtual Console, many cellular devices, the Nintendo DS (Sonic Classic Collection), and many others. The only one I don't recommend is Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the Game Boy Advance because I hear it's horrible.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/02/12
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog (US, 06/23/91)
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.