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Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Master System) artwork

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Master System) review

"I absolutely loved it."

8-Bit Rework, Rather than Port
Sonic the Hedgehog is a platforming game on the Sega Master System (SMS). Many consider this one of the best games on the system, it even being programmed into some of the later SMS consoles released. There is a bit of confusion surrounding this game, however. Some people believe this to be a simple port of the groundbreaking Genesis game to an 8-bit system, and some people even believe this to be the game that actually started the Sonic franchise (I guess since it was on an older console than the Genesis). Both are wrong. Sonic the Hedgehog on the Master System was released after the Genesis game and developed by a different company than Sonic Team, who developed the famous 16-bit game. While it draws its inspirations from the 16-bit game, it was totally redesigned for the SMS. The principle difference being a focus on platforming rather than insane speed (although Sonic is still speedy). As it is a different game and on a different console, I will focus this review (and score) on comparing Sonic the Hedgehog to its 8-bit peers rather than its 16-bit cousin.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Master System) image

Be Sonic! Be Atomic!
Let's start with what makes or breaks any platforming game, the controls. As Sonic you run fast, jump high, and spin hard. The best part is, that it all feels spot on. No sluggishness. No slipping and sliding around. Sonic is both intuitive and responsive...which is good as the game feels faster than anything else offered on the Master System at the time. You need to make sure Sonic stops on a dime or he'll just hurdle right into the bottom of every bottomless pit in the game...of which there are a lot. Even though Sonic may be known for speed, Sonic the Hedgehog has designed its levels to force Sonic to slow down and measure his movement...both to survive and to explore. There are a lot of tricky platforming sections in the game, from climbing up a waterfall (where if you touch the bottom of the screen you die) in the Jungle to dodging lightning and cannons in the Sky Base. Oh, by the way, while you are dodging traps, performing perilous jumps, and spin attacking badniks (the enemies in the game), you need to find the Chaos Emeralds. These are hidden throughout each of the six zones that Sonic must battle through. This encourages the player to explore the levels, and, to be frank, some are really difficult to find! However, if you do manage to find all the Chaos Emeralds, you are rewarded with the "good" (or full) ending. If you want something in Sonic, you have to earn it! If you want continues, you need to get them from the bonus stages. If you want to go to the bonus stage, you need to finish a level with over 50 rings. While something like this was not unheard of, it was certainly not that common for an 8-bit game.

All of that is well and good, but, let's be clear, playing games is about having fun...and here Sonic delivers as much as any game on the Master System. The levels are well-designed. Challenging, but not frustratingly so. The gameplay feels more fast-paced than any other platformer on the system, setting it apart as unique as well as adrenaline pumping. And the sound! Nothing inspires greater nostalgia and memories than some of those unforgettable game themes...and Sonic the Hedgehog is filled with those timeless chiptunes. These themes are so great that they not only stuck with gamers, but were sampled from and incorporated into future games and media (even with the Bridge theme sounding curiously similar to Janet Jackson's hit single, "Together Again"). Now, to be sure, the game isn't perfect. There do seem to be a handful of issues with hit detection...with some enemies and hazards having a larger hit box than their graphic. Also, the Labyrinth zone is almost exclusively underwater and ends up being really tedious since Sonic moves much slower underwater and must constantly manage his air supply. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that the game resets your ring count (after giving you an extra life) if you reach 100 rings. This usually isn't a bad thing, but, because you need over 50 for the bonus stage, you may find yourself dodging rings if you want to go to a bonus round. However, these points don't end up detracting too much from the overall experience, with Sonic still being one of the most fun games on the system.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Master System) image

Wow...Just WOW
Let me be honest, I never owned a Genesis back in the day. I did get to kind of demo play some of the Sonic games on that system at video game stores or the like, but my first real experience with Sonic was this game, Sonic the Hedgehog, on the Sega Master System. I absolutely loved it. It has one of the best soundtracks for any game on the system. It had a different feel to it than any other platformer I had played on the system. It has great levels that are challenging and require a bit of exploration (I certainly remember getting lost in the Scrap Brain zone). It is just plain fun, and a lot of it. This game is a must play for retro gaming enthusiast, but especially Sonic or Master System fans, even if they have played the Genesis game. Regardless, I guarantee that It will deliver a great experience for any gamer.

Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog is a 4.5 / 5 for being one of the best platforming games on the Master System with a couple of minor flaws that keep it from being "perfect".


Never3ndr's avatar
Community review by Never3ndr (November 24, 2015)

Retro-Gaming Enthusiast!

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