Review by neonreaper

"A good start for a classic series."

Sonic was essentially SEGA's answer to Mario. Where Mario was built to be 'the opposite of Superman', and lucked his way into success as a quirky icon, Sonic was designed from the ground up to have a more obvious appeal, providing a fresh and modern alternative to Nintendo's fat plumber. While Sonic has never really matched the wide acclaim and sales of Mario, he's had a terrific run that has included numerous great (and.. not-so-great) sequels, spin-offs and cartoons. It all started back in 1991 with the original Sonic The Hedgehog.

The main theme for Sonic games has been Sonic's speed. He's a blue hedgehog that can use his spines as a means for attack, he can jump around and avoid traps, but the gameplay element pushed most has been his speed. In the original game, his speed is used a good bit early on, and it's really fun. Everyone who had played games to this point hadn't really played a game like Sonic, so it was often a lure for getting friends to come over and taking turns playing the game.

Beyond his speed, the levels were also well designed to lend themselves to a bit of exploration, though I found this to be more of the case with the earlier levels than the later ones. Without a save game mechanic, a player would probably find himself in the first levels often enough that SEGA had to include a bit more to do.

For the most part, levels are decent though they don't really have enough speed elements. The robot enemies inhabiting the levels are bland and uninteresting. There are plenty of little traps to avoid, from lava to spikes. And tons of little power-ups hidden here and there. Sonic's first step feels a little slow.. he doesn't control poorly, but he's not as sharp as you'd like him to be.

Sonic can collect rings, which add to the gameplay - they act like armor, so if Sonic gets hit, he loses his rings but won't die. The rings don't just vanish right away, so Sonic can reclaim some lost rings if you're quick enough to pick them up. This works very well as a way to give the player a chance to recover from a mistake without making Sonic invincible - it's not always easy to retrieve the lost rings before they vanish. Having 50 at the end of a level brings Sonic to a trippy bonus level, which is really fun to play. Collectin 100 grants the player an extra life.

There are 6 Zones, each with 3 acts. At the end of each Zone is a boss fight against Dr Robotnick, which are usually fun battles. Not all Zones are created equal, and some even work to suppress Sonic's speed. Some function as solid action levels but don't really seem well-designed for a speed action platformer.

The graphics are pretty good. Brightly colored sprites are a good size, and all the background and level elements are terrific. The music is even better, with classic songs and effects adding to the world, Sonic really stands out among games of its time.

It's a good start to the franchise, and at the time this was truly a must-play game, though it didn't ultimately live up to other classics of the time. For one, Sonic's speed isn't used enough, and there aren't enough gameplay elements to really give the game lasting value. Once you beat it, the only real thing to take care of is to collect all the gems from the bonus stages for a different ending that didn't really mean a whole lot. If you're looking to see what the early Sonic hub-bub is all about, this game is pretty good but Sonic 2 is so much better and covers pretty much all the bases of the original title.

Except for the bonus stages.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/13/09

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

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