Review by Aussie2B

"Dude, I thought you said there was gonna be speed at this party?"

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog is everything that I expected it not to be and nothing that I heard it to be. Sonic the Hedgehog is about speed, right? That's what the hedgehog's name would imply, no? Aren't you zipping through all of the levels? Nope... Most of them? Hardly... At least half? I wouldn't bet on it... Or how about those loop the loops? Isn't the game chock-full of 'em? Quite a few in two levels and a couple in the first area; everywhere else is devoid of them.

So what is Sonic the Hedgehog? It's a game with quite a bit of depth, actually. You can play it in any way you wish. Sure, you could try speeding through all the levels, but that isn't the best way to play. You won't gain many extra lives, and you will likely run smack right into an enemy while dashing at supersonic speeds. The best way to play is to thoroughly explore the levels. Search every nook and cranny. You'll find tons of rings and other goodies. There are even some walls that you can walk through. Not only will you make your gaming experience much more enjoyable, but you'll also make the game easier for yourself. You'll gain extra lives and often times access to the secret areas.

Sonic reminds me of the golden days of gaming (well, it should, it's from that time period) in that it has all this depth, but plays very simply. Seriously, you will use ONE button throughout the entire game. That's it. You jump. You can do various things with the control pad, such as ducking, rolling into a ball, looking up (completely useless), pushing something, and, of course, running, but that hardly makes the gameplay or play control complex.

The play control itself, though, feels a bit... loose. Sonic is simply in the wrong game. He wants to blaze through the levels, but the levels force him to move slowly and be careful. He apparently doesn't like it... In some areas you have to jump on platforms as small as the width of Sonic. Sonic practically slips off these platforms. Precision of movement just isn't sharp enough.

Then there's hit detection. Mentioning such a thing probably invokes images of getting hurt by enemies nowhere near you, but it isn't quite that bad. Yet sometimes I felt I was fighting hit detection more than the enemies themselves. The final fight involves little more than dodging various things in a small area (which describes pretty much every action game...). For the most part, those things are electrical spheres that home in on Sonic. They're not particularly difficult to dodge, but you'll probably waste several lives doing hit detection guesswork before you know when Sonic can jump between them and when it's too late.

The premise... Every game needs a premise. Well, in case you've been living under a rock for the last ten years, Sonic the Hedgehog stars... a hedgehog named... Sonic (Remember when hedgehogs were the hip pet to have? Yeah, neither do I.). Dr. Wily... errr... Robotnik has turned all of Sonic's fuzzy little friends into robots or stuffed 'em in big tanks. Why? Because he felt like it. You, being the tough as nails hedgehog that you are, travel across many different landscapes to save your buddies.

You know, another thing I've always heard was that Sonic had attitude. Well, unless you count Sonic tapping his foot when you leave him idle, Sonic the Hedgehog is the antithesis of attitude. Sonic is cute, the monsters are cute (there's a monster that looks like a teddy bear, for crying out loud!), and when they return to their normal shapes (remember, the monsters are your critter friends robot-ized) they're even cuter (baby seals, little birds, piggies, you get the idea). But this ain't Silent Hill. Sonic the Hedgehog was meant to be a game that the whole family can play, and it succeeded at just that.

Technically speaking, the graphics are very nice for the Genesis. This is definitely not one of those Genesis games that you could mistake for a NES game. Sonic the Hedgehog holds its own against the excellent looking games of the SNES. Sonic has many different animations. There are ones for breathing, running at different speeds, jumping, standing idle, getting hit, sliding down a waterfall, coming to an abrupt stop, pushing against something, etc.

The backgrounds have just as much variety. There is a lush green paradise with palm trees; an area with marble monuments and lava; an area that's sort of a cross between an amusement park, a casino, and the inside of a pinball machine; a factory with fire and bolts of electricity spewing forth everywhere; a secret area that'll make you feel like you're tripping on acid; and a building under construction against the sparkling lights of a city at night. It's enough to give the game atmosphere, but not to the extent of Metroid or Castlevania.

One thing very irritating about the graphics sometimes is the slowdown. While it's not constant, there are areas with lots of moving enemies or platforms, and it can really throw you off.

Not much to say about music and sound effects. While my experience with Sonic the Hedgehog was on the Dreamcast's Sega Smash Pack, which supposedly butchered the sound, I still found many of the songs enjoyable. Sonic the Hedgehog doesn't try to do that atmospheric crap. It's got catchy songs that will get stuck in your head. The opening track and Green Hill theme have spunk, which captures the whole Sonic essence. Hence why these songs were continuously used in later Sonic titles. The Marble Zone has a slower, more serious track, which isn't particularly exciting, but matches the area well. Spring Park zone is probably my favorite. It's upbeat and peppy yet at the same time kind of... sleazy. The area looks like a casino, so it's only fitting that it has the type of music you'd picture being played in a casino. Labyrinth Zone has horrible music to match that horrible area... Star Light Zone is like soft rock. It's upbeat and relaxing at the same time. Sure, that contradicts itself, but it's as good of a description as you're gonna get. ;) Scrap Brain Zone's music is terrible simply because of the fact that it repeats itself far too quickly. I mean, c'mon Sonic Team, write a few more bars to this tune, for goodness sakes.

Sounds are very clear, and at times rather cute, such as when Sonic breathes. The Sonic Team is still using the original ring sound in Sonic games, so that should give you a good idea of how appropriate it is. Then you got the ''bonks'' of hitting enemies and such, which blend in well with the game.

True story time: I was once bitten by a pet store hedgehog. I was just petting him gently and all, and the mean little bugger bit me between my thumb and index finger. After shaking my hand for a good long time and making a complete fool out of myself, he let go and plopped back down into the tank. Did this traumatizing event cause me to not be able to play a game starring Sonic until 2001 without breaking down into tears? Probably not, but it's fun to think so, no?

But, anyway, for whatever reason, I never got caught up in the Sonic craze, thus I have no nostalgia for it. Going by the merits of the game alone, I will answer the pivotal question: is Sonic the Hedgehog the classic that everyone makes it out to be? Sure, I'll give it that. It's most certainly a solid platform action game and probably one of the best the Genesis has to offer. But is it one of the greatest games of all time? I don't think so. Sonic the Hedgehog is both short and easy. A deadly combination. Not to mention, two areas, the Labyrinth Zone and the Scrap Brain Zone, were incredibly boring and not enjoyable for me, so it took everything I got just to push myself to get through them. It's not good game design when the player has to force him/herself to get through a certain area.

In the end, Sonic the Hedgehog is a great game if you need a 2-D platform action game fix, whether you have nostalgia for it or not. There's even a bit of replay value to it with two different endings.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/26/01, Updated 06/26/01

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