Sonic the Hedgehog Review

by

Date Released: 5 June, 1991
Date Reviewed: 23 April, 2010
Players: 1 Player Only
Length: 30 – 60 Minutes
Replayability: High

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Introduction

Sonic the Hedgehog
is the classic game created by Sonic Team Japan and released on the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive in 1991. It was and still is a best seller today, providing SEGA with a steady flow of cash ever since its release 19 years ago. This game quickly made its’ main character, Sonic the Hedgehog, the official mascot of SEGA. It is a platformer in the same genre as Nintendo’s mascot Super Mario; SEGA and Sonic’s old rivals.

Concept

As a platformer modelled to compete with Super Mario, it follows many of the conventional ‘rules’ of the genre at the time. The basic premise of the game is to collect items, gain score, complete levels, and defeat bosses until the game in complete whilst playing as a blue hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog takes a linear approach to this formula with no type of map screen as zones – that being the name given to the game’s stages – progress in static order until the player finishes the entire game. It goes in a style of each zone having three acts with a boss at the end of act three, with the last level being an exception. Throughout the game are also special stages where the player can collect six Chaos Emeralds to gain a higher score and to get the true ending of the game.

The game also features many similar items beyond the emeralds, as well as new items unique to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. The typical ones are rings, extra lives, and invincibility – as seen similarly in the Super Mario games. Unique items include a shield power-up, as well as a ‘speed shoes’ power-up, both being self explanatory. The speed shoes were a departure from the Super Mario franchise and are what made Sonic the Hedgehog feel much more unique, as the game had a much bigger focus on speed and took a lighter approach to puzzles.

Story

Sonic the Hedgehog’s story is very light, as was typical with most games at the time. The evil Doctor Ivo Robotnik has taken over South Island and imprisoned all of Sonic’s animal friends inside robots and capsules. It is up to Sonic the Hedgehog to free them all and have a final showdown with the evil doctor in the last zone.  There are also the Chaos Emeralds that Sonic must collect to truly save the island, otherwise Doctor Robotnik will collect them and win, even with just one.



Gameplay

Gameplay in Sonic the Hedgehog is very typical and unique at the same time. Instead of just being a standard platformer, it introduced more arcade-like gameplay and speed to the formula. Sonic can run quicker, collect ‘speed shoes’ for massive speed,  bounce off enemies and item boxes for large height boosts; and even spin through solid walls, loops, and almost anything that gets in his way. This coupled with his edgy looking attitude made him seem much cooler compared to the relatively childish and boring looking competition at the time. Physics played a significant role in the game as well with the ability to bounce, roll, use springs, and much more. Yuji Naka’s impressive programming skills are generally thought of as one of the main reasons for the success of Sonic the Hedgehog. Collecting rings and emeralds have also become a fundamental part of the ‘Sonic formula’ ever since.

Stages, or zones as the game refers to them, are also very unique from each other. Each one has its own unique setting complete with stage gimmicks, stage specific enemies, music, and much else. The multiple paths offered along with these features make the game have high replayability compared to other games, such as Super Mario, which focus more on a larger number of linear and repetitive stages in comparison.

Music

The music and sound in Sonic the Hedgehog is also a large factor in the series’ appeal.  The designers and sound artists created many unique sound effects which have become associated with video games in general, such as the ring noise and the jumping noise.

The high quality sound track in Sonic is often highly praised. The theme song, as well as the music for Green Hill Zone, have become very popular with fans of video games and have been used in many other Sonic the Hedgehog titles. Unlike many games even today, Sonic focuses heavily on creating a diverse, unique, and large sound track just as this first title did. It is widely regarded as some of the best music in video games.

Visuals

Its graphics mimic the sound in quality, with its qualities equally as diverse, unique, and well done. Each level contains its own art scheme and the game is overall great looking for its hardware and year of release. It is easily among the best looking games of its generation and its art style is still widely praised today for its interesting appearance.

Special Notes

The original design of Sonic the Hedgehog was meant to be a rabbit with different gameplay; however, the team scrapped this idea. Later they revisited this and created the game Ristar on the same platform, but it was too late in the console’s lifespan for it to be much of a success.

Sonic the Hedgehog is also credited with having created a flood of animal mascot platform games in the video games market, especially in the 90s, but still to this day. Although none of these franchises ever managed to top the Sonic the Hedgehog series and they mostly only gained huge success in Sonic’s darker years in the mid-90s, where the franchise was mostly inactive. Notable examples include Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot.

Conclusion

Sonic the Hedgehog is easily one of the most beloved classic video games of all time and the franchise is a big icon in the industry, along with others such as Mario and Pacman. Beyond just reinventing platformers as people knew it, Sonic also showed how games can be art with its beautifully designed graphics and great soundtrack. It will likely always remain a classic, as its qualities are timeless and do not age. This game is easily recommendable to anyone, from young children to adults.


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Format(s): Genesis/Mega Drive, Saturn, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Game Cube, XBox, Game Boy Advance, Playstation Portable, XBox 360, Wii, Gizmondo, Mobile Phones, iPod, Plug n’ Play devices, Arcades, PC, DS, iPhone

Two revisions exist: the first added scrolling clouds in Green Hill Zone and rippling water effects in Labyrinth Zone, while the second added a fix for the spike bug glitch (spikes still harming you despite blinking invincibility recovery still active). Versions for the mobile phone and the Game Boy Advance are also different, having lower quality gameplay/et cetera all around; the Game Boy Advance version also features remixed music and the addition of a spindash move. The XBox 360 version features 12 achievements to unlock. Finally, the Saturn version features the addition of a spindash move, an easy mode, a new ‘normal’ mode, and time trials. originalreviews

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