Review by TakuShaya

"What Really Made Sonic Special, And It's More Than Speed"

Many people believe Sonic is about insane speeds and endless hype, because SEGA has drilled that into so many people's heads, and so many people have, sadly, fallen for it. But if you look back at Sonic The Hedgehog for the SEGA Genesis, you'll find that it isn't that fast. Now, it was going to be faster, but before it was officially released, people were overstimulated by the speed, so SEGA slowed it down to prevent motion sickness. But this isn't a problem. Sonic 1 was a platformer. Any speed you somehow manage to build up was a result of skill-fully surviving the harsh platforming, and let me tell you, this game is hard. Not so much that you can't get better with practice, but challenging to the extent that you'll need a LOT of practice. For starters, the physics are wacky, but in a fashion that adds depth and balance to an already complex game.

Depending on your acceleration, how steep the slope you run along is, and exactly WHEN you jump, your kinetic energy will add up and propel you at great distances, but it all depends on your collected force. You can even curl into a ball and gain even more momentum whilst rolling down a slope instead of running on foot.

The level designs are complex and stretch in all directions, and once you master the momentum concept, you can manipulate your environment in satisfying ways, like Parkour. You can also build up an amazing amount of force, and then bounce off an item or enemy, sending you soaring across the sky at tremendous speeds. The more force you had built up before hitting the enemy or object, the more hang time you earn. Personally, it's not that big of an accomplishment on the player's part to pull this off effectively and skip most of the stage's platforming, but the fact that you can is awesome! Just that it was possible to do things and go to places that the developers probably hadn't intended for players to reach, because the physics were this rewarding, made this game wonderful! None of this felt automated in any way, except for a few brief moments here and there.

If you would like to move fast, you would have to work for it. The game wasn't about speed. Speed is just a highlight that compliments the player's skill. Recently, there have been many speed lovers who see this as their least favourite Sonic game and absolutely loathe stages like Marble Zone and Labyrinth Zone because they're "too slow", and I have to admit, stages like this are claustrophobic due to not being in the open like other stages, but the platforming is still awesome, and the developers must have put a lot of thought into this to prevent a feeling of repetition. There are also fans who don't like having to be so calculative all the time. They despise having to catapult themselves off a ledge or a ramp to cross a bottomless chasm at just the right speed and just the right angle because it IS hard to get it just right, but would rather whisk by with little to no effort and have the work done for them, like an animated cutscene.

For a long time, I've had difficulty with this game and it's sequels, and it took me years to master them, but once I did, I was having more fun than I thought I would. The possibilities of manipulating the environments to my skill and desire became much more satisfying than simply holding a boost button, and blazing through levels clustered with loops and corkscrews with little to no effort put into the level design. The physics are hard to master, but once mastered, the game becomes much more fun than it seems. Some think that the platforming should be best left to Mario, and that Sonic himself should be all about speed, rather than an intuitive blend of speed AND platforming. But SEGA got it right here.

The graphics are quite good for their time, and stages look very detailed and intuitive. The art style, however, is luscious. I love how creative and colourful some levels look. This is what Sonic stages should look like. Creative and cartoony, and not based on the real world like Sonic Adventure 2. I really do like this whole "Nature Versus Technology" theme the later levels adopt. Scrap Brain is a good example of what we could become. The enemies look very creative and whacky. There is a huge variety of enemies and levels, and each has it's own feel. I like Sonic's sprite and how emotional and stern it looks.

Music is mixed. Amongst bland and repetitive tracks like Laybrinth Zone, there are some emotional tracks like Starlight Zone. The Final Zone music is gripping and climatic, and it sounds as if the game is crying.

Sonic The Hedgehog is an amazing game. This is one of those Sonic games SEGA got right. This one Sonic game demands a lot more interaction on the player's part than any other. To recap:

Gameplay
Good:
Manipulating the environment with these wacky physics is very satisfying, and surprisingly deep. These level designs are complex and there is plenty of unique platforming ideas.
Bad:
Levels like Marble Zone and Labyrinth Zone are quite claustrophobic, and the difficulty in levels is unbalanced.
Rating: 7/10

Graphics
Good:
Overall graphics are very good, and environments are wonderfully wacky and colourful. Nice "Nature Vs Technology" theme.
Bad:
Levels like Spring Yard look quite realistic.
Rating: 9/10

Music
Good:
Some tracks like Starlight Zone and the Final Zone are very gripping and emotional and sound effects are very wacky and unique.
Bad:
Tracks like Laybrinth and Spring Yard are repetitive and bland.
Rating: 5/10

Final Rating:
I give this game an 8/10 with a title of "Amazing". Not perfect, but very fun.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/12

Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog (EU, 06/23/91)


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