Review by darthjulian

Reviewed: 11/10/06

A true Jump & Run all-time classic!

Actually, there is not much to tell about "Sonic the Hedgehog" for Sega Genesis in view of the franchise´s status today: Sonic still is Sega´s mascot, and there are still thousands of gamers who enjoy playing super fast Jump & Runs starring him (even though a lot of his new-generation adventures lack the charm of his old forays into the J&R genre) short, he is a video game icon in general that is widely known even beyond the realm of hardcore video game fanatics, much like Nintendo´s direct rival mascot Super Mario. And the game that started it all and gave Sega a strong and charismatic icon was of course "Sonic the Hedgehog" for Sega all-time classic and fan favorite until today...and rightfully so.

Basically, "Sonic the Hedgehog" is a somewhat traditional Jump & Run at heart with quite some unique and innovative twists for its age. As the title suggests, you play as Sonic the hedgehog through several J&R levels, trying to spoil the plans of the evil Dr. Robotnik. As in so many other platformers, the story in "Sonic the Hedgehog" is utterly unimportant to say the least and merely a means of giving the hero a reason for going on his adventure. Nevertheless, at least the characters are well done, and they certainly are still popular for a reason: Sonic is a likable and very cool protagonist you will love to play as, while Dr. Robotnik is a wacky mad scientist you will have a lot of fun defeating at the end of each level. Since the story is not really an aspect of any true importance in any Jump & Run, the genre´s main attraction is of course the gameplay, and in this regard, Sonic seems simple at first. In stark contrast to Mario´s impressive set of different moves, Sonic´s is very limited. He can jump, making him change into a ball-like shape that will in most cases take care of your enemies once you hit them. And Sonic can run...VERY fast, and while doing so, he can roll into a ball by pressing the down direction on the D-pad, enabling you to defeat your enemies while blasting through the levels (even though it´s not wise to use this feature that often, because you could easily run into a wall with spikes, or you´ll simply have to stop in order to get over an obstacle). And as a counterpart to the coins you can collect in Mario games in order to get extra lives, Sega has introduced the golden rings, with dozens to be found in each level, and just like in Mario´s adventures, collecting 100 of them will provide you with an extra life and will push your high score up. You´ll have to be careful, though, since being hit by an enemy will make you lose all your rings (though you can manage to get a few of them back if you´re fast), and if an enemy hits you again without you having a single ring, you´ll lose a life. That can make the game rather difficult at times, since a lot of the enemies have been placed in the levels in an unfair way, making it almost impossible to run into them sometimes while you´re running. So, in view of Sonic´s limited set of moves as well as the unfortunate positions of some enemies, one might wonder why this game exactly is so much fun to play even after all these years. It´s a little difficult to explain, but part of the reason surely is the almost insane speed with which Sonic can run through a level, which is quite a fresh feeling compared to a lot of other Jump & Runs, and luckily, it´s rather comfortable for the player to control, since Sega did everything right in that regard and made the controls as good as possible in such a fast intense Jump & Run. What makes this game such a treat to play, too, is the fantastic and creative level design. Sure, there are some levels that might seem rather generic and typical at first, like the Green Hill Zone right at the beginning, but the variety and creativity of later stages like the Casino world is really cool and unique, making you want to explore them and search for secret rooms even more. Every world in this game is divided into three levels, and at the end of the third level in each world, you´ll have to face Dr. Robotnik as a boss enemy in one of his vehicles, and most of these battles are intriguing and challenging. Apart from defeating your enemies and exploring the worlds, there are also some weird but fun to play pinball-like bonus stages that can provide you with tons of bonus points if you do well. All in all, "Sonic the Hedgehog" is outstanding gameplay-wise, despite the lack of more moves for the main character.

Without a doubt, "Sonic the Hedgehog" is by far one of the most beautiful early Sega Genesis titles. Not only is the game far more colorful and pleasant to look at than most of the other first-generation Genesis games, the amount of detail that can be seen in the character sprites and locations is superb and definitely on par with quite some SNES titles. One of these cool details that make the charm of this game, for example, are Sonic´s animations. Not only are they surprisingly fluid for the Genesis, they´re also full of life, so to speak. If you stop running with Sonic and don´t use any of the buttons for a few seconds, he will begin to stare at the player with an annoyed look, for example, and his facial expressions in such situations are indeed great. Actually, it even makes Sonic seem a little more likable than Super Mario in that regard. What gives this game a vast advantage over its early Genesis competition, too, is the amount of detail in the backgrounds of each levels, as well as their very design, bringing the Sonic universe to life on TV screen and adding a lot to the charm of the game. However, there is one rather annoying flaw in terms of graphics: the incredibly fast gameplay in combination with the action that is taking place at the same time results in some bothersome slowdowns sometimes, which could be considered to be the price for Sonic´s speed. It´s not detracting too much from the experience, though, but it´s still a little unfortunate that in such a fast game, breakdowns of the frame rate could not be avoided. Nevertheless, "Sonic the Hedgehog" still is a visual treat on the Genesis.

Aurally, "Sonic the Hedgehog" succeeds as well, featuring some very cool and fitting musical pieces for each world in the game, giving them their own distinct atmosphere. You will indeed find yourself humming to some of the tunes for sures. Surprisingly, the music is not only very well composed, it sounds great as well, which is quite a feat in view of the Genesis´ rather weak sound chip performance. The musical piece I liked the most, by the way, is the famous main theme that can be heard when the title screen pops up - it is not really a surprise that this theme is THE Sonic theme today. The sound effects, while not remarkable, are well done as well and rock solid, and nothing to complain about at all. Overall, "Sonic the Hedgehog" features one of the best soundtracks ever heard in any Sega Genesis game.

All in all, "Sonic the Hedgehog" is an awesome Jump & Run that is able to compete even with the Nintendo/Rare elite consisting of games like Super Mario Bros. 1 - 3, Super Mario World 1 & 2 and the Donkey Kong country trilogy, and while these games might be slightly better than "Sonic the Hedgehog", it´s at the very least in the same league of magnificence and gaming goodness for sure, and despite its slight flaws, it´s a Jump & Run every fan of the genre and every Genesis owner MUST have, no two ways about it. "Sonic the Hedgehog 2", "Sonic the Hedgehog 3" as well as "Sonic & Knuckles" are on the same high level, but "Sonic the Hedgehog" will always remain the masterpiece that initiated the dawn of a new age for Sega.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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