Sonic The Hedgehog – Sega Genesis – 1991
*Companion Video Review Here
*All Screenshots Are Pictures Of My CRT Television
There’s only one way to review a game like this; to focus on your own memories and make fun of other’s reviews. It’s iconic; you need not have played it to know of it, so why do I still see reviews and playthroughs where commentators are explaining how a spin-dash works? Does anyone not understand he was created to combat Mario and that he’s fast? Let the historians of tomorrow worry about the ignorant, I’m going to assume you’re all gamers…
In the early 90’s my mom would often go to her best friend’s on Saturday’s and they would go out and play Bingo. If my dad was working my sister and I would be brought along for the eventual destination of our grandparent’s. While they prepared themselves I would often be let loose on the local console, which happened to be the Sega Genesis. I can remember playing Alex Kid, Moon Walker, Golden Axe… The early Genesis titles gained a slow foothold on Nintendo because of the obvious graphical differences between it and the NES, yet it was by no means a “must own.” I had an NES and the Amiga and while I enjoyed my time with the Genesis, it didn't feel like anything special…
^ The Back Of My Sonic Box
June, 1991: Sonic the Hedgehog is released and I played it at my mom’s friends. December 1991: Parent’s cave and get my sister and I our own. It came with one pack in game; Sonic. In that fancy “NOT FOR RESALE” label that I’m positive I saw for resale later on… The character of Sonic would become my favorite video game character of all time, knocking down Mario…
^Greenhill Zone - Notice waterfalls which is utilizing the CRT to create the illusion
Green Hill Zone has got to be the most memorable. Not simply because of the lush greenery or the watery backdrops, nor even that unforgettable music… We remember it because as kids we were forced to play it over and over again until memorization slowly took hold. I never liked how this game is described as “easy”. I remember sucking at this game, and even if you don’t remember, you did as well… I’ve let 10 year olds take their shot and I know I was better at 6 than they are at 10. It’s easy because we memorized it but many game over’s were issued along the way.
I feel I play this game differently than most others. Everyone I see play it these days seems to zoom from left to the right as fast as they can… Sonic is about “speed”, or so it’s said. Thing is, I remember finishing the game as fast as I could a few times, but that always seemed to lead to the “bad” ending… Curious about the “good” ending, I started to slow down, explore… Take it all in… To this day I never race through a sonic level if given the choice. I go the way everyone else goes, and then I stop and turn around. I go down and check out the bottom area. I go up and check out the top… I want to get in as much of the level as I can. As a 30 year old who comes back to this game, it’s hard for me to understand why so many are content to zip through, likely being unaware of all the secrets one of their favorite games hold.
If you’re anal about that “good” ending like I am, you’ll be doing your best to get the rings necessary to enter the special stages. They’re my favorite of the series. They’re the most challenging. You’ll need those reflexes, you’ll need to memorize, but the rotating aspect of the stages always leaves this randomness that can screw you over. Add to this the fact that you can only enter a special stage at the end of act 1 and 2 with 50 coins, and even the best may find themselves gasping with fear should they fail one or two. What do you get upon collecting all 6 emeralds? Not Super Sonic, he hadn’t been thought of yet, thank God. That’s a topic for another game, however… No, you simply get the good ending, and I love it.
Marble Zone adds my favorite little badnik, the Catakiller! You’ll either learn how to be precise with your jumps or you’ll learn how to go scrambling for your lost rings. Marble Zone slows things down a bit and platforming becomes prevalent. Puzzle elements are introduced. And Robotnik, as always, is waiting at the end with a new and unique contraption to try and kill you.
To me he will always be Robotnik. If you want to call him by his Japanese name in newer games, I’m all for that decision. But I shake my head when people play these original games and call him “Egg Man.” Listen; Eggman is a bad name… and he was never called that until the 3D games, not exactly a point in time I think anyone should hark back to. Robotnik is not the most original name either, but I’ll take it hands down over Egg Man, and, at least in North America, all documentation is on my side.
^Spring Yard Zone
Spring Yard continues the platforming element (hmmmm) and introduces a staple of the Sonic games, pinball mechanics! Bumpers will have you going in all kinds of directions in this zone. Far from being annoying, the developers and fans seem to have adored it, as it kept getting added to newer games. This zone is also oozing with secret areas begging to be found along with all sorts of interesting new enemies and obstacles… Even an oddly friendly looking “Metal Sonic”. I’ll always remember the first few times facing the boss here. How he’d pick up all the blocks till I was left making huge jumps from one area to the next. Piece of cake these days, however.
The third zone in a row that will not feature speed. Boohoo… Where does everyone get off saying Sonic is all about speed when the original itself gives you no indication that’s what it’s about? It’s a fun factor, indeed, but platforming was always what the 2D Sonic games were about. Sega… You’d do good to figure this out finally… Not only does it have platforming, but it’s “that” stage… The one every game seems to “force” in… The water world…
I LOVE Labyrinth Zone! It’s my 2nd favorite zone of this game and my favorite water zone in all the Sonic games, perhaps all games… Yeah, you’re slowed down when in the water, a good mechanic. Sonic needs air to breathe… Fantastic mechanic! The change in atmosphere, the funky music… I’ll go 12 rounds on anyone that wants to give this zone crap! If you complain endlessly about water levels I’d like to question your abilities as a gamer…
More puzzle elements start off the 3rd act with a never ending waterfall that’s perfectly content to run out the time limit should you not figure it out… As a kid, I sure as hell took my time to figure that one out. Of course the boss sequence going up a terribly trapped platforming section with the water rising and no air… Many continues were used up here, but it felt so good to finally beat it!
^Star Light Zone
Star Light is my favorite zone. I love the universe, I love the cityscape graphics, and I love the music. Speed returns to “select” sections, though platforming is never far away. It’s just a simple joy to play this zone, as long as you stick to the top. Venturing to the bottom you’ll find many bottomless pits… Somehow I always found those areas as a kid. The boss here is my favorite fight in the game. There’s nothing like that satisfying crunch when you hit Robotnik with his own mine. The last zone that will leave a smile on your face.
^Scrap Brain Zone
Bottomless pits everywhere, enemies placed in ways guaranteed to hit you, and the only bad music in the entire game… This zone is not fun. But I wouldn't have it any other way… We’re almost there everybody… It’s not supposed to be easy and I guarantee you’ll be worn by the time you make it to the end, where that sniveling fat bastard taunts you… I always did enjoy the industrial backdrop to this zone, it reminds me of Southwest Detroit’s factory skyline.
^Scrap Brain Act3 or Labyrinth Act4?
Guess the designers kind of had a thing for Labyrinth Zone as well :p Scrape Brain Act 3 is really just Labyrinth Act 4 with a color swap. I kind of dig the grey and purples for this final area. All the traps are pulled out. Even I start to hate the water here. The bubbles are quite infrequent with releasing air and you may well find yourself having drowned. A couple areas get a little trollish when you find out the bubble of air you’ve been waiting and drowning on was not necessary to wait for… A couple jumps away just out of the view of the screen is the air you seek…
The final zone forces you defeat the game legit. No rings, no running for that grasp of invulnerability… Nope… Either you have what it takes or you’re toast. Imagine making it here as a kid only to see no rings… But we persevered. This is my favorite final boss of the series. Similar to the special stages I love that you need your reflexes, your memory, and that luck can bring even the best of us down from time to time. Final boss time was always so damn unique for Sonic, always a joy. A known glitch I experienced several times as a kid is that if you manage to hit Robotnik a 2nd time on his death animation, the hit counter will be reset to 255… A number you won’t reach before time runs out. And yes, that’s one I found for myself several times as a kid…and it sucked to have beaten the game only to have to start that fight from the start.
You beat Robotnik; the fat man amazes with his ability to run faster than Sonic when in danger, and the end credits roll…
Your good ending is in this nice animation sequence where the emeralds fly out of Sonic’s hands and transform the surrounding flowers into flowers you almost want to eat! And Robotnik angrily stomps on an “end” sign. If emeralds remained he would juggle them to taunt you. The end credits feature a remix of all the games songs along with an extended demo reel that I’m sad didn’t make it to the other games. I learned a few “tricks” from watching the end credits demo as a kid.
Sonic The Hedgehog is the first, it deserves a certain something for being an original. I love all the 2D Sonic games but I’ll always love this one most. Truth be told, it’s not really because it was my “first”… I got Sonic 2 only a couple months after I got the first Sonic. I had the same amount of time to love that one just as much, and at times I loved it more… But looking back, it’s the first one all the way. The music, the bright and colorful graphics (later games would use dithering or more somber tones) and the challenge make me want to stand apart from all the rest who say the 2nd game was the best. For me, it’s this one through and through!
*Please check out my companion video review for even more fun