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Sonic the Hedgehog

The classic 1991 Sega Genesis video game featuring the popular character of Sonic the hedgehog.

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  • May 24, 2011
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.... Wait, those last two are no good. So how about this: Sonic, he can really move, Sonic, he's got an attitude, Sonic, he's the fastest thing ALIIIIIIIIIIIIVE! Now, since I just scared myself out of any sleep for the next month, I might as well kill my newfound spare time by writing about the game that made everyone's favorite speedy blue hedgehog famous.

Sonic the Hedgehog is a video game starring an environmental lobbyist who actually knows how to get people to listen to him. When the bad guy, Dr. Robotnik, sweeps into town and starts turning Sonic's friendly, cute little animal friends into robot weapons of destruction, Sonic doesn't go complain to Congress because he knows they won't listen to him. Instead, he sets out wearing nothing but a pair of boots that give him the ability to leave the Road Runner in the dust and takes on the not-so-good doctor with no weapons other than the hedgehog spikes on his back.

Contrary to popular belief, Sonic the Hedgehog's licks of originality are few. In Sonic the original, we get simplicity. There are none of those weird powers that go with the shields, no moves outside of the basic spin attack, no attempts to be fancy with 3d graphics, no bad voice acting, no emerald search levels that make the Sonic Adventure games such a pain, and no extra characters outside of hero and villain to make things ridiculously complicated. Nope, Sonic's first outing featured just Sonic, Dr. Robotnik (if you don't recognize the name, you were obviously introduced to Sonic through the Adventure games. Dr. Robotnik is the Americanized - and much cooler - name of Dr. Eggman) and six levels filled with cute, fuzzy little animals that Dr. Robotnik turned into machines.

So what? It's just another platformer, what's the point? Well, it's all about speed, baby, and lots of it! If you're one of the Dreamcast-raised Sonic players, you have every assurance that Sonic moves just as fast in two dimensions as he does in three. Sonic may be nothing more than a platformer where you run from left to right bouncing on everything in between, but it's raised above the crop of the normal because Sonic is in a real hurry. This is an environmentalist who truly cares - he doesn't hurry up, his forest friends become faceless robots, and he even times himself with ten minutes to a level. One of the most fun things about Sonic the Hedgehog is just setting Sonic down an incline, sitting back, and letting the terrain speed you to whatever location is next up on the map.

The only other elements of Sonic the Hedgehog that are original are some of the best level designs ever seen. Amazing level designs were a trademark of the Sonic the Hedgehog series right up until Sonic made the leap into the third dimension, and most gamers agree that 2d Sonic beats the living crap out of 3d Sonic any day. These levels, although easily the smallest in the entire series, are still quite large and mostly nonlinear. Every level is different from the others, and they all offer up some very creative ways of killing hedgehogs. The game begins with a romp through the standard greenery run, and takes you through worlds featuring lakes of hot lava, water, and machines before putting you face-to-face with Dr. Robotnik for the final battle. The most linear level in the game is probably Marble Zone, which features trips through underground marble caverns. Spring Yard Zone has nothing to do with the season in which trees re-leaf, and everything to do with those little metal coils that make things bounce. Star Light Zone is a twilight level in which Sonic has to use teeter-totters to get himself to higher levels. The most annoying level is Labyrinth Zone, an enormous maze that often takes you through water - very bad, because some sadist decided that Sonic should be equipped with the ability to drown if not fed air bubbles at regular intervals.

Sonic's power-ups are nothing special - standard stuff like boots to make him run faster, a shield that absorbs a hit from a bad guy, invincibility. But as Sonic zooms from end to end of the levels he inhabits, he picks up little gold rings that someone conveniently left lying around. These are the most important items Sonic finds, not just because he gets an extra life for every 100 he gathers (although that's pretty cool too) but also because these sparkly wedding bands provide Sonic with free health insurance - he can't die as long as he's holding on to at least one. If Sonic happens to get hit while carrying rings, they fly off him in a shiny shower for you to re-gather before the thing that nailed you hits you again. The policy, unfortunately, doesn't cover Sonic in the event he nosedives into a bottomless pit or gets turned into a pancake.

Perhaps the biggest importance attached to the rings is that if Sonic is carrying 50 of them when he gets to the end of most of the sub-levels, he can hop into a giant gold hoop for a chance to grab one of the six Chaos Emeralds in the special stage. (History, anyone? 2d Sonic had no Master Emeralds. There were just the Chaos Emeralds. While the first game had six, every other 2d Sonic game had seven.) The Emeralds hold no bearing on the story, and very little bearing on the ending you get. However, each Emerald has the all-important power of granting you a continue, and that importance is one which can never be understated. And the special stages the Emeralds reside in are very cool and a lot of fun - they're giant mazes that rotate.

Sonic's graphics are colorful, detailed, and cheery. When Sonic is running at top speed, his legs are a cartoonish blur. Sonic himself is an impatient little sprite. He taps his foot if you go too long without pressing any buttons. The sounds are outstanding. The main theme is just as memorable as the first world theme from the first Mario game. The music to Spring Yard Zone is the audio gem of the game. The Music not only sounds springy, but whenever Sonic actually hits a spring in that level, the sound of the spring sounds more like a note in the soundtrack than a sound from the game. In my opinion, that qualifies it as one of the greatest video game tracks of all time.

The gameplay is about as simple as it gets. There are no weapons or special attacks to master, so Sonic the Hedgehog could be played with an Atari 2600 joystick is someone ever found the need to do such a thing. Since this game is based on speed, there are a lot of inclines. The controls are built so Sonic has trouble climbing hills unless he's running really fast. This causes problems at some points, where you have trouble going forward because Sonic just won't climb fast enough or build speed going up inclines, but this only adds depth to a game which would be a lot worse if worlds were entirely level.

Simple can be better sometimes. Yuji Naka really screwed up when he tried to replace the expansive levels of 2d Sonic with fancy 3d tricks. Few games beat the 2d Sonic the Hedgehog games in terms of simplicity. And in this case, that's a good thing.

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May 24, 2011
Oh so nostalgic review! I've only ever played it on NES I believe, and I loved the TV shows. So classic :)
May 25, 2011
I loved the Saturday morning serial! But you didn't play Sonic on the NES - Sonic was a first-party game, which means he was developed by Sega for Sega consoles. Sonic only started appearing on other consoles in the last several years, and that was because Sega stopped making consoles.
May 25, 2011
I must've played it on a Sega system then because I definitely remember playing a Sonic the Hedgehog game way back in the day. That's an interesting tidbit to know!
May 24, 2011
fun review to read! I love Sonic!
May 25, 2011
Yeah, shame what's become of him in three dimensions though.
More Sonic the Hedgehog reviews
review by . June 06, 2012
posted in Siliconera Bounce
I'll admit that whenever I think of this game, I do get pretty nostalgic over it since this was really the first videogame I ever got heavily engrossed in, since I got this at the age of four on Christmas Day of 1991 (I honestly don't remember much of my life before then). However, the nostalgia factor does NOT influence the rating I have for this game, I'm strictly rating this game on how much quality I think it has. Anyway, on to the review.         STORY …
review by . April 21, 2011
When gaming fist got off the ground again Nintendo pretty much dominated the world of gaming and Mario had become a more recognizable icon than Mickey Mouse at that time.  Seeing an opportunity to really add to variety of gaming, Sega developed Sonic the Hedgehog.  Notably enough (at least to most gamers) the entire conception of Sonic and Sega, for that matter was just done for the sake of competing with Nintendo.  That doesn't mean they didn't set out to make a fun game.  …
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Nicholas Croston ()
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this video game


Sonic the Hedgehog is a platform game developed by Sega and published by for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis system. It is the inaugural game in Sega's flagship Sonic the Hedgehog video game series, and was the first title developed by Sonic Team. The game was released in 1991 in North America, Europe, and Japan. It is sometimes retrospectively referred to as Sonic the Hedgehog 1 or Sonic 1 to differentiate it from both its main character and sequels in the same series.
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Number of Players: 1
Publisher: Sega
Console: Sega Genesis
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 1991
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