Sonic The Hedgehog will forever hold a place in my heart – and library. He is one of the most recognizable and revered game characters of all time. Countless hours have been spent racing through levels at high speeds that rival Tasty Nade’s bedroom game. To put it simply, this game is about a veterinarian at a petting zoo who gives a hedgehog four hits of acid, which of course results in superhuman speed and a carnal lust for coins. Today, we take a trip down 90’s memory lane and visit arguably one of the greatest games of the Sega Genesis era. Let’s go, try to keep up!
Blue Ball Score: 21.5 out of 25 balls
Simple yet elegant. Challenging yet captivating. There are no save files. Once you extinguish your last life, it’s truly game over. You don’t start from the last checkpoint. You start from the beginning. As in the start of the game, Act 1. However, the difficulty only added to the charm of the games from that era. These were the days when video game lives mattered. Few games these days have true “game over” screens, as restarts have faded into the void of obsolete nostalgia. New gamers these days have no idea of the level of difficulty from 80’s and 90’s games. The struggle was real.
At the game’s core, you’ll find a layer of simplicity. The game mechanics are comprised of only 3 main concepts: running, jumping, and spinning. Seriously, that’s it. Throughout the entire game, you’ll only utilize these three basic controls. The original Sega Genesis controller had the traditional d-pad and three buttons. In Sonic The Hedgehog, all 3 buttons performed the same action. Controls could NOT be simpler. To run, simply push left or right on the d-pad. Sonic will quickly speed up and begin his best Usain Bolt impression as he races through the level. While running, you can push down on the d-pad to start spinning. This was useful to take out enemies, as your only other method of defeating them (in most cases) was to jump and hit them while spinning. Sonic will jump by pressing any of the three buttons.
Along the way, Sonic will begin to amass coins that are spread throughout each level. Collect 100 coins to gain an extra life, and have at least 50 coins by the end of the level for the chance at a mini-game to obtain one of the six chaos emeralds. The rings are also your only chance to survive damage. When Sonic takes damage from enemies or certain hazards, he will die if you do not have any rings. If you do have rings, then the rings will spew out like a fountain which can be re-collected for a very short time before disappearing. Levels also contain various power-ups such as shields and extra coins, along with posts that serve as checkpoints in case you die. The goal is simple – survive and reach the end of each level.
Fast-paced platformer action was unheard of prior to the era of the Genesis. Sonic paved the way to a new genre of platformers and it was truly the perfect example. Amazing gameplay earns a well-deserved 5 balls.
You start the game with only 3 lives. Additional lives can be earned through power-ups or by collecting 100 coins in a single level. The game has six unique zones, which are themed with special graphics and scenery. A zone is broken into three acts, for a total of 18 levels. Acts 1 and 2 of each zone have the same simple goal… survive and reach the end of each level. Act 3 will contain a boss fight at the end of each zone, where you fight a different version of Dr. Robotnik each time. During the “Final Zone” boss fight, you must defeat him without any rings so bring your A-game. If you are able to collect all six chaos emeralds, you are shown a special ending sequence so make sure and hit those special mini-games!
Obviously, the difficulty steps up with each zone. However, the gradual increase brings you along at a steady pace so you don’t get left behind. In the end, I would expect you to play through a few times before you are able to actually beat the game. At this point in gaming history, they were designed to require a few play-throughs as a way to make you feel like you got your money’s worth. What fun would a game be if you beat it on your first play through? A fun, addicting and first-of-its-kind experience earns the campaign 4.5 balls.
Running is the name of this game, and the animations certainly does the job. As you begin to speed up, Sonic’s legs begin to churn like rotors on a ROFLcopter. Your attention will quickly change focus to what lies ahead. Spike traps, bottomless pits, enemies on the ground, enemies in the air, and projectiles will require your fastest reflexes to avoid death. At times, it’s difficult to take the time to admire the graphics in their 16-bit glory. I’d recommend taking a moment when you can to look around and enjoy the scenery.
The beautiful zones with unique graphics earn 4.5 balls.
Sound effects were typical of the era. Dings, doops, pops and zings. Think 90’s arcade sounds. While they would certainly be met with scrutiny in today’s time, they were definitely up to the standards of early 90’s. The sound of collecting a coin was pleasing, while the opposite was true for dying. However, the small set of sounds available didn’t detract from the overall experience. If anything, they were fun and entertaining.
Standard sounds with soothing melodies earn 4 balls.
In conclusion, Sonic The Hedgehog brings back a lot of great gaming memories for all the right reasons. I’ll always consider it one of the games in my life that was pivotal in nurturing my love for video games. Sonic brought a whole new element to platformers with its lightning pace. It showed the gaming industry that speed can equal fun with the right mix. Sonic earns a blazing total score of 21.5 balls.