Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis) review
"We all know the history of Sega vs. Nintendo. Nintendo probably had at least an 80% share of the market, and it was hard to imagine a company doing better than becoming Pepsi to Nintendoís Coca-Cola. So here comes Sega with its version of a mascot that could presumably outrun the fastest cheetah, Speedy Gonzales, and of course, Mario. "
We all know the history of Sega vs. Nintendo. Nintendo probably had at least an 80% share of the market, and it was hard to imagine a company doing better than becoming Pepsi to Nintendoís Coca-Cola. So here comes Sega with its version of a mascot that could presumably outrun the fastest cheetah, Speedy Gonzales, and of course, Mario.
Having been attached to Nintendo for years, I was one of the thousands that looked down on Sonic and Sega with a bit of bias to begin with. But I was soon blown away by the perfect first impression that Sonic The Hedgehog made with Green Hill Zone. Before even moving youíll notice the sun glistening off the gorgeous crystal blue lakes as you canít help but to listen to the fitting, cheery tune that will be a mainstay in your head long after you stop playing for the day. Once you take a moment to get over the awe of your immediate surroundings, you canít wait to see what else is around you in all directions. Thus, you take off, assuming that Sonicís middle name has got to be Speed as he defies gravity by running through upside down loops and seemingly hurdles through rings so fast he seems to collect twenty of them a second. With speeds this blinding, the last thing you should do is blink, but you canít help doing so in amazement.
The lush territory of Green Hill isnít all speed, however. Sonic sure wasnít at his fastest when he was jumping from platform to platform as they plummeted behind him, while he tiptoed from one swinging platform to the next to avoid falling on sharp spikes, or the whole time he was searching for every ring and box of goodies he could find. This actually foreshadows whatís to come throughout the rest of Sonicís first night out.
The abrupt change to slower paces is never more evident than the very next set of levels, Marble Garden. Set mostly underground, youíll be patiently waiting for elevator-like barriers to move out of the way, pushing heavy boxes into the lava and then riding them as they scoot across the hot magma at seemingly 2 MPH, and hopping across the tops of several chained platforms in a row to reach the sunlight you see leading out of this cold, dark area.
Many players scorn Sonic The Hedgehog for having more slow instances (roughly 60-70%) than speedy ones, after it was heavily marketed for being the latter. But Iíll argue with you all week long that thereís still loads of enjoyment to be had. Most levels have a nice mixture of slow, platforming elements and reckless hurling through slopes and loop-de-loops. The important thing is that you'll find yourself wanting to search every little crook and cranny for these items, and you often do so involuntarily. The speed asset is just the cherry on top of the sundae.
The main thing that keeps me engrossed in the game are the great level designs. Each world has its own interesting theme and sticks to it. Spring Yard reminds me of Sonic Spinball (another foreshadowing, perhaps?) with its starry bumpers, and there are easily detectable hidden rooms to find! Labyrinth Zone isnít meant for hedgehogs, but to progress any further, this blue rodent must get his fur wet! Fat and bald, Dr. Robotnik is your stereotypically ugly dude. He has a special hatred for tender hearted heroes like Sonic, so he has mean fishies, drowning water depths, and robots that stay hidden underneath the ground waiting for Sonic to come close so they can dive out at him, but he forgot to remove the air pockets. Sonic can only stay submerged for so long before devouring a monstrous bubble and going ďwoo-wahĒ in relief.
My favorite environment is Star Light. It's dynamite, literally, with all the living bombs that set themselves to self destruct when you get too close. For this reason, Sonic is gracious for all the steep hills and towering loops for building up his fastest speeds yet and the seesaws to propel himself up, up, and away from danger's grip. The tune that accompanies Star Lightís crisp, nighttime atmosphere is one of a soothing nature accompanied by a nice beat, and itís one Iíd call an all-time favorite. Up to this point, none of the aforementioned places has hardly ever had more than two or three enemies per screen, but just wait until you see what Robotnik thought up for you in Scrap Brain Zone.
Originality doesnít seem to describe Sonic The Hedgehog very much, but get (and keep!) a certain number of rings in any non-boss stage and then bury yourself into that life-sized ring at the end of any non-boss stage and youíll experience a type of bonus level unlike any youíve ever seen. Sonic stays rolled up into a ball as the humongous maze heís in spins 360º and 3D graphics so beautiful they appear to be virtual reality scroll by in the background. You can get rich in rings quickly and have fun toggling with the speeds and directions the maze spins, but your goal is to find the hidden chaos emerald that Robotnik has stolen from you. Unfortunately, you canít see very far ahead of you, so youíre left creeping shyly around the edges to see if itís the way to go or not.
Sonic Team and Sega really gave Mario a run for his money, and itís easy to see that from the start. Itís like they wanted to make fun of Mario. Rather than having a damsel in distress, Sonic is a hedgehogitarian whose main mission is to free his little animal buddies. Instead of making coins the collectorís item, Sonic goes for rings instead. Dang, why didnít Mario think of that? If heíd been collecting rings all these years, perhaps the Princess wouldnít stray away from him so often and put herself into the realm of Bowser. Everybody and their tenth cousin knows that Mario is known to be a cutesy, smiling fellow, but just look at that intimidating expression Sonic wears on his face. Let him stand around a few moments and heíll give you a hateful stare as he stamps his feet thinking to himself, ďSometime this millennium, pal!Ē Who do you think would win in a fight? Sonic or Mario? Heh, I almost want to call those tactics INNOVATIVE!
Nostalgic. Thatís a word that describes this gem, hands down. Man, I have a lot of nostalgia for this game. But not the type of nostalgia to where I enjoy it just for the fond memories. What I have for Sonic The Hedgehog is true love, baby. Since the gameís challenge is about average, it didnít take me long to complete it the first time. Unlike many platformers, this oneís not too long or short, too hard or easy, and itís just..plain..fun.
Classic is the term I give to a game that I canít get enough of, and Sonic The Hedgehog is definitely that. The only glaring flaws it has to me are that you canít see enough of your surroundings in the otherwise excellent bonus stages, and the boss bouts seem to lack imagination and are too easy. But Robotnikís just a mindless wimp anyway.
I included five capitalized words in this review that spell SONIC. Speed, Originality, Nostalgic, Innovative, Classic. Who knows? Perhaps Sega intended Sonic to stand for something. He did. Heís become a cultural icon in the world of video games, cartoons, etc. Did the great Sonic The Hedgehog oust Super Mario World as the best 16-bit pack-in title? Well, Iíd say itís a toss up, but if I had to give a nod to one of them, it would be this one because I find myself coming back to Sonicís world more often than I do to the plumberís escapades.
Community review by retro (March 16, 2005)
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