This is a new review. To see my original review of Sonic 1, click on this link.
25 years Sonic the Hedgehog has been around in the world of games. His legacy is…a complete and utter mess. Not to say it’s an entirely bad thing but for Sonic, it really is a mess. Yes, there are some great games, from both the classics and new, but since everyone remembers the bad times more than the good times, there are some awful titles and Sonic’s fate is unknown. With that said, I grew up playing Sonic games, my first game was Sonic Advance 2 and I loved it and still love it to this day. But it did get me interested in the classic series, but I’ll get to that later. So because it’s 25 years of Sonic and Sonic was pretty much was my childhood, I’ve decided to re-review some of the Sonic games from a while ago and even some new titles including the Adventure titles and some others depending on the dates.
So we begin with Sonic the Hedgehog (ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ Sonikku za Hejjihoggu), developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega and was released in June of 1991 in the US and Europe, in fact, in the same day, that’s rare. Japan got it a whole month later in July.
Dr. Robotnik has kidnapped the animals of South Island and put them in robots so he can get the Chaos Emeralds and harness their power and take over the world and Sonic has to save the animals, collect the Chaos Emeralds and defeat Dr. Robotnik. Yeah, the story is basic…very basic, but it’s the first game and it’s a retro game, it’s about the gameplay and when it comes to this game, it’s the pure definition of that.
The game is a momentum platformer where you simply run fast, jump on springs, go around loop-the-loops, roll on slopes, bump on enemies and defeat Dr. Robotnik around six times. The gameplay is simple and to the point, like Mario except that you can run fast; I know some Sonic fans may be irked that I thought I compared it to Mario, I’m just saying that a common Mario game and Sonic 1 are similar in simplicity, any one can play a Mario game and anyone can play this.
As well as Sonic’s speed and his attitude design, the levels are pretty much what makes Sonic what he is; there are about six levels split into three acts.
Green Hill Zone – The most memorable level in Sonic’s history and the one Sega used as a template for first levels in future Sonic games. It’s a nice colourful zone and Act 1 is one of my favourite levels to finish and I can finish it in 29-30 seconds, I’ve just played it so many times. It’s a true classic and makes for an iconic stage. The grandfather of Tropical levels with rocky landscapes, palm trees, checkered hillsides?
Marble Zone – Say, do you like Green Hill and it’s speedy level design that you want more? TOO FREAKING BAD, the developers thought it would be too much for you so made a level that slowed things down. It looked very desolate, like it was inhabited at some point. An underground dungeon with lava and spike traps everywhere, it’s not an interesting level and you just want to go fast but the level design will not let you do such thing, which kind of defeats the purpose of making a game in which it was marketed as ‘FAST, FAST, YOU GO FAST!!!’. Is this misleading? Kind of.
Spring Yard Zone – A somewhat prototype Casino of what we would get in future Sonic games, it has a mixture of elements of Green Hill and Marble, you can run fast on occasions but still has slow platforming. Also TONS OF BUMPERS and METAL BALLS. I absolutely love the music, it’s just perfect, a melody of the feeling of loss and overcoming obstacles and winning. The colours are mostly brownish and murky but a decent level nonetheless. Question, why is there the word ‘COPE’ in one part of the level and what does it mean?
Labyrinth Zone – SCREW. THIS. LEVEL!!! The water level, the one I could never get past as a child, especially Act 3’s supposed boss. So apparently, Sonic can’t swim because the developers thought that hedgehogs couldn’t swim. Japan, ten years ahead of technology, ten years behind common sense. Remember how Mario can breathe underwater because he’s Mario, well Sonic can breathe underwater for a short period of time. To prevent drowning, you must breathe air bubbles, but if you don’t reach it, prepare to hear the drowning sound, probably the most dreadful sound to hear as a child, where you immediately enter full panic mode, desperate to find any air bubbles nearby, relief when you catch one, feel tons of dread as Sonic drowns to the bottom of the sea. And that’s why I absolutely hate this level. Nowadays I can find the short cut in act 1 and save time and I can get through the other zones now and survive to tell the tale, but back then, NO, it was too hard and too annoying. The level is set in an underground cavern ruined by probably space, time and water itself.
Star Light Zone – Another mixture of Green Hill and Marble but with more speed and loop-the-loops, it’s a very forgettable level, the music is OK but it has some irritating bits too. There are also fans but there are some where I have to jump up a platform but I can’t because the fan behind me won’t give me any speed to get up there, so I have to try another method and it works. Also, HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW TO BUMP ON CERTAIN PLATFORMS TO MAKE THEM GO DOWN AND ALLOW YOU TO PROGRESS FURTHER? It’s a night sky super highway and it a great relaxant after Labyrinth Zone.
Scrap Brain Zone – The final zone and oh boy, it feels like it. A dank, dark dystonia-like place where machines are deadly, dangerous and it makes for an overall difficult zone. Zone 3 however ends up being Labyrinth Zone Act 4 and I hate this level, this is where air bubbles murder you faster than any of the enemies combined, for me, when I needed one the most, it never popped out, maybe just once but that was when I lost all my lives and had to start Act 3 all over again.
Final Zone: The penultimate zone where Sonic has to defeat Dr. Robotnik once and for all. Avoid his pistons and hit him, whilst avoiding lighting balls. It’s a simple final boss and it’s quite easy once you know what to do. And that’s the end of the game!
So yeah, these levels were a mixed bag with Green Hill Zone being the best Zone in the entire game, but they’re near enough memorable to me since I used to play this game all the time.
The bosses are pretty simple if you know the patterns, and since I’ve played this game for many years, I can remember most of these patterns.
If you collect 50 rings in any Act 1 or 2 stage and actually manage to keep them with you without getting hit, a giant ring will appear at the end of the level and you can jump in and you’ll enter the Special Stage. The Special Stage is weird and annoying, weird as in it looks like someone’s drug trip, but I guess it’s a dream-like stage since Naoto Ohshima, the designer of Sonic, also designed Nights, and that game revolves around dreams. Oh, apparently the backgrounds are also inspired by M.C. Escher, imagine if the designer had too much inspiration from him. The goal is to traverse around a rotating maze to find the Chaos Emerald, but most of the time, especially in the later stages, you’ll immediately fall into goal bars which end the level and you don’t get that Chaos Emerald, making the stages annoying.
I love the graphics, it’s colourful, it’s stunning, it actually holds up, I especially like the pseudo 3D bits, like the ground’s inverted holes on it’s wall and Spring Yard’s weird looking blocks with a chain fence, so striking. The level design is really good though there should have been some more speed elements and Marble Zone was the stop post.
Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t a perfect game, it’s a heavily flawed game, not awful but it’s not truly the speedy game it was once marketed as, you don’t get that balance of speedy moments and platforming, but I don’t hate it, it’s just that the other games are a much better. If I had to play this game, I would have no problem with that, since I still appreciate it for many, many reasons. First, I grew up playing this as a child, it gave me so many memories, even as a critic and I still have to take off my nostalgia-specs and see it for what it is now. Second of all, I appreciate him for kicking Nintendo to the kerb back in the day.
You see, Nintendo in America dominated the gaming market, to the point where they made up some shady rules where some companies couldn’t develop for other platforms, just for the NES. It was a restricted console but it was popular, not even the Master System could get a footing. The same thing happened when the Sega Mega Drive…well Sega Genesis was released in America, and then Sonic came along and said to the kids ‘Do you want some faster, something cooler, something much better, then play my game and ditch Nintendo in the process!’. And it worked, Sonic and Sega was Nintendo’s competition and it charged with full force.
That’s the Sonic we should remember him for, the blue hedgehog that once dominated the console market, for a while, even if it was for a while, but it was a sweet, sweet victory. Happy Birthday Sonic, but I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m going to review a certain port…I just feel the need to do so, just so I can get some closure.
And so The Every Gamer played it for a while the very next day. This is what he thought about it.
Sonic Team. What was that? It’s just that people who do ROM hacks and conversions can do so much better than you. I don’t care what Sonic 06 brings to the table, this is the definite worst Sonic game I’ve ever played in my entire life. I’m talking about Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis for the Game Boy Advance. So think of a list of issues a 2D game could have like screen crunch, framerate being incredibly choppy, and a huge number of bugs and glitches, it has it all and then some. Once you start the game, the framerate starts to go insane and that’s the start of not having a good time. By Marble Zone, I run into all sorts of traps and it’s not my fault, the framerate and the poorly emulated physics are the cause of this. I just couldn’t play anymore after that. As a child I had heard of this game being out but it was never released in Europe and I was disappointed that it never came here. But after playing this, I’m happy to say that for once, I’m glad this never came over here. Never play this and if you do due to curiosity’s sake, emulate it, don’t waste your money on it.
You can get it on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn (via Sonic Jam), Nintendo GameCube (via Sonic Mega Collection), PlayStation 2 (via Sonic Mega Collection Plus & Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Collection), Xbox (via Sonic Mega Collection Plus),
Game Boy Advance, PC (via Steam and more compilations), Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (via respectable digital stores and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Ultimate Collection), Nintendo DS (via Sonic Classics Collection), Nintendo 3DS, iOS and Android.