Review by nastynate3118
"Sonic's legendary debut may be rough on the edges but at the core is brilliant."
Sonic the Hedgehog was the first game in the popular Sonic series and introduced a number of innovations to the video gaming world. The game aimed to have speed as the central focus of the game, as opposed to the object of negotiating hazards in the Mario games. Sonic the Hedgehog may be far from a perfect game, but it was very different for the time (1991) and is still a lot of fun to play in the modern world. It is also far better than most Sonic games released after the Sega Genesis era.
Speed may be the name of the game here, but this formula would not be perfected until Sonic the Hedgehog 2. There are a lot of things in this platformer that do not encourage you to race through the game. For one thing, Sonic himself moves pretty slowly. This isn't much of a problem as the game still seems to be very Mario-like in terms of Sonic always having to stop and get through a bunch of obstacles and platforms. Speed is apparent in the first level of the game and appears now and then throughout various levels, but it is not truly achieved as the main impetus of the game. This does not really detract from the overall experience, however. Sonic the Hedgehog is still a very fun platformer that is both challenging and creative.
There are a few annoyances, however. The special stages in the Sonic games have never been a strong point, but the end-of-level bonus stages in this game are atrociously bad. The controls and physics are way off for them and they are basically a game of luck with very little control involved. Another problem I have is that the levels seem to drag on and get very repetitive. This is the only Sonic game in the original Genesis collection that has three acts to each zone, and you can clearly see why the designers chose to reduce the acts to two after Sonic the Hedgehog. The only level that actually varies with each act is Scrap Brain Zone. The repetitive level design makes this game something of a chore to play through.
Despite these drawbacks, Sonic the Hedgehog is still a classic and one of the greatest Sega games ever. There is a timeless quality to this game and you can still discover new secrets while playing today. Although the formula of speed was not yet perfected, this game offers a wonderful platforming experience that will keep your hands glued to the controller.
I'm not sure why old platforming games despised having a save or password system, but that seemed to be the norm in video games at the time. Unfortunately, Sonic the Hedgehog does not escape this fad. While there is a cheat code available that allows you to select a level you want to start at, there is no password or save system. To be fair, the game is pretty short and it is not the most detrimental thing in the world that there is no way to save your progress, but I hate when game designers expect you to beat a game in one sitting. I was also disappointed by the lack of a multiplayer mode; it does not really take anything away from the game but still seems like a necessary addition that would not be present until Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
I will say that the continue system in this game is pretty merciful. If you get a Game Over and use a continue, it starts you at the same act you were on, which is a nice thing considering how challenging this game is.
The story to this game is extremely straightforward. Dr. Robotnik (aka Dr. Eggman) has enslaved animals in the land that Sonic the Hedgehog lives in, and Sonic is fighting to liberate them and put an end to the mischief caused by Robotnik. The primary source of this information is the instruction manual, leading to the problem of a lack of presentation in the game. There is no real story or even a point to what Sonic is doing as far as the game is concerned. In a way, I think this takes away from the experience because you really don't know what Sonic is fighting for.
One positive thing I will say about the story is that there are two different ending screens that will appear depending on if you get all of the Chaos Emeralds or not. It's not much in the way of presentation, but it does add some replay value and technically falls under the multiple endings category. All in all, the plot to this game is very generic and any chance of it being interesting falls by the wayside with the lack of presentation.
Sonic the Hedgehog had very advanced graphics for the time that the designers worked very hard to achieve. The sprites look great and enemies are animated very well.
The graphics, however, are certainly flawed and do not utilize the full power of the Sega Genesis. The backgrounds in this game look dull. There is very little thought or detail put into them and as a result levels look repetitive very fast. It seems that the basic foundational graphics are superb but there are no little touches that really bring the game to life. I will not say that the graphics in this game are bad, but I certainly think that they are extremely average and do not have anything about them that looks particular y special aside from the fluid animation.
Sound/Music - 10/10
What can be said about Sonic the Hedgehog's soundtrack that has not already been said? It is one of the greatest video game soundtracks ever and has some of the catchiest music I've ever heard. I clearly remember as a kid my first time hearing these songs and having them stuck in my head for weeks. Each level has a very distinctive song that adds atmosphere and fits the level really level. The sample may be small (only ten songs or so) but they are all superb and among my favorite video game songs ever.
The sound effects are perhaps even more famous. I have gone to gas stations in Wisconsin and when they ring something up at the register I hear the <Sonic the Hedgehog ring sound. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not but there is no mistaking it comes from this game. The sound effects are instantly recognizable, whether it is the ring sound, the jump sound or the bubble sound. This game rivals Super Mario Bros. for having the most memorable sound effects ever, and for that reason I award this category a perfect 10/10.
Play Time/Replayability - 9/10
I was surprised upon replaying this game to find how challenging it is. There are a few parts to this game that are very difficult to get through but it never gets to the point where the fun factor begins to dissipate. I love playing this game and trying to get all of the Chaos Emeralds and get the good ending (I have only done it once). I have been playing Sonic the Hedgehog since I was a kid. I do not play it as much as the other Sonic games because of how repetitive it is, but it still fun to revisit at times.
+Emphasis on speed
+Plenty of secrets to be discovered
+Simply a lot of fun to play
+Continues start you at the same act you were on
+Animation is very smooth
+Legendary soundtrack and sound effects
+Challenging (in a good way)
+High replay value in trying to collect the Chaos Emeralds
-Levels are repetitive and negate speed factor
-Special stages are frustrating
-No password or save feature
-No plot presentation in the game
-Graphics lack detail and look repetitive
Sonic the Hedgehog may not be the greatest game in the franchise but it was the first and was an excellent start to the series. Although the sequel would ultimately be the perfect Sonic game, the original still has a very strong foundation and premise that is a blast to play today. You owe it to yourself to play this game if you have never done so. If you are like me, you probably have the urge every year or so to break out this game and blitz through it. It is very easy to find on multiple platforms and is a great deal for being such a great game.
Final Score: 8.167/10 rounded to 8/10
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/02/12
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog (Not for Resale) (US, 06/25/91)
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