Review by GavLuvsGA
"A classic game that led to a classic series"
I have to admit to being nonplussed all those years ago when a kid in Sunday School showed off his copy of Sonic the Hedgehog. A few years later, I witnessed someone playing it on the Master System, and was impressed. That wasn't anything compared to how great the original Genesis version is.
Gameplay - 9/10
The gameplay is virtually flawless. It's a straightforward platform game, where you run through the levels, killing enemies, but there's a lot of fun to be had. You also collect rings in order to protect you from getting hit (and 100 gets you an extra life, but you lose them all if you take a hit without a shield. There is the sidequest to collect all the chaos emeralds in order to get the best ending, and there is the fact that there is so much variation in playing style. Some of the levels (particularly Green Hill Zone and Spring Yard Zone) are based on speed, while on others (particularly Marble Zone and Labyrinth Zone) you are forced to slow down and take your time.
Another cool feature about the game is the underwater levels, which appear to be a somewhat new feature to games at the time this game was released. They take a while to master, and it is always nerve racking as you try to get Sonic to the next air pocket while his oxygen runs out.
The bosses are cool too. At first I felt disappointed; the first Sonic game I'd seen was Sonic 2 on the Master System, which features a number of different bosses, whereas all six boss fights here are against Dr. Robotnik, but it is actually quite fun. There are some very inventive boss fights (including one where the floor is literally being removed from under you by means of a dangerous spike that also doubles up for an attack weapon, and another where you have to chase Robotnik up a shaft full of traps). The final boss fight features no rings, but would be too easy otherwise.
Similarly, each zone has a number of interesting minor enemies to kill, and considering this is the first game in the series there is quite some variation, ranging from enemies that are easy to kill to ones where you have to take more care because of their spikes (such as the Caterkiller), and I need to give mention to the Roller, one of the most unique enemies on the entire game, who appears without warning from behind you and tries to mow you down.
The final levels are really fun, with some of the most amazing surprises ever (particularly at the end of the penultimate level); see saws which you must use to propel you to higher levels, giant machines that try to squish you and buzz saws that chase you along corridors. The final zone features one alternative route that is probably one of the hardest, most dangerous, paths in any Sonic game.
Another plus point about the gameplay is the number of secret areas you can access. One level features a shortcut so impressive and secret that I'm actually amazed that I found it by accident, while other levels have secret areas with numerous items. Try looking for items in trees in the first level, too.
I have only a few complaints about the gameplay. First of all, there is Sonic's ability to break down walls with his spinning attack. It's great, but it just isn't used enough.
Also, there is one annoyance regarding the spikes that are found in a couple of the zones. Whenever Sonic takes a hit, he will normally become briefly invincible, but not after he hits the spikes. This means that if there are a number of spikes together, you can be sent flying onto more spikes, losing your rings and then lose a life, before you know what's happened. This is the only Sonic game where this actually happens.
Story - 7/10
Okay, it isn't much of a story, and it's not that original, but it is Sonic's first game. Dr. Robotnik is trying to take over the world and has captured animals and turned them into robots. That's about all there is to it, really. It isn't as complicated as later Sonic games, but its fun.
Graphics - 9/10
These are great. There are a range of different kinds of graphics for each of the levels, and the detail (particularly the backgrounds) is amazing. For example, the Spring Yard Zone features an extremely detailed background, with buildings and mountains, and a number of cool neon signs scattered around the place. Scrap Brain Zone features a number of different backgrounds to show that Sonic is travelling into the heart of a giant factory.
Glitchiness is minimal (only the occasional bit of flashing scenery). Sonic and Robotniks' animation is hilarious in places, with Sonic's worried look as he teeters on the edge of a cliff, his toe tapping when you don't touch the controls for a while, and Robotnik's reaction when his machines are destroyed. Even Sonic's reaction to being hit and his death pose are somewhat amusing.
Sound - 10/10
This game has probably the best music of any Sonic game, or indeed any Genesis game. The pinnacle of this comes in the Star Light Zone, which has an absolute classic tune (its just a shame they murdered it in its remix on Sonic Advance). But, every tune here is worthy of note, including the boss themes. Not only that, but the tunes are also very memorable.
Play Time/Replayability - 9/10
If you're good at this kind of game, you should clear it in no time, but a lot of people may think otherwise. I got stuck for ages on one particular level. The only reason I dropped a mark here was that some parts (namely the Labyrinth Zone) can be really annoying to first-time players.
There is no end to the replayability of the game. Some levels are worth playing again just to look for how many different routes you can find to get through the level, and trying to beat your previous best times.
Final Recommendation - Buy. This is an absolute classic. And if you have a Gamecube, get Sonic Mega Collection, which features this and a number of other great Sonic titles.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/29/04
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