Sonic The Hedgehog review
Sega's Supersonic Savior
NOTE: This review is based off of what I played on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, so if there are any differences between it and the original Genesis version written and you're going "wait what that ain't true", well, now you know to watch for those instances.
A saviour comes from out the skies...
I'm not sure if I've made it clear over the years, so let me use this review to reiterate it - I love the Sonic The Hedgehog series. It was the first game I ever played on the Sega Genesis that made me want to beg my parents to buy me one, and even though I never got one, I had friends who had the system so I could play with them while I had the Master System version for them to play. The experience at the time was like a whole otherworldly one, with some colorful graphics and excellent music that I could never get out of my head, and nowadays... I'd actually say I like the music a lot more than I did then, and that every element of design stood out a lot more. The levels, the control, the graphics, it was all there, pushed to 11 and beyond, and if you ask me, it's easily one of the best games on the Sega Genesis.
Dr Robotnik was doing it before it was cool.
One day on the planet of Mobius, Sonic was chilling out when suddenly, Dr Robotnik (or Eggman as he's known as now) comes out of nowhere and turns all the animals into robots. Sonic has to defeat Dr Robotnik to save Mobius from becoming a mechanical wasteland. At least it doesn't have the usual "damsel in distress" kind of set up. But yeah, it's your typical old school setup that doesn't really develop or anything until the end. Moving on...
Faster than a bullet.
The idea is to get from start to finish by running, jumping and sometimes rolling. Sounds simple, and for the most part, it is, but what gives this game some real muscle is the level design. Simply put, these are some big *bleep*ing levels, often with diverging paths that offer different sorts of goodies (like rings, which keep you alive if you get hit by an enemy, and powerups like an extra hit, temporary invincibility, speedy shoes and extra lives) and badniks (aka the bad guys). I've often found myself replaying this just to check out every nook and cranny of these levels because it's always interesting to see what they've done to make these levels feel big and expansive. Not to mention that these levels manage to really balance out the different styles of play - the speediness, and the platforming. The platforming usually involves jumping across gaps (either bottomless pits, spikes or lava) and ascending up some pillars every now and again, while the speediness comes from using momentum to go through loop-dee-loops and getting enough air from lauching off of a half/quarter pipe to get to the highest ledge that's further along the track. That's what it is, kids - momentum, as in, you go faster if you're running on a downward slope, slow down when going upwards, and launch off of the ends of a curved pipe-like surface to get to a higher ledge. We didn't have constant speed boosts and all that shit you guys have in Sonic Heroes or Sonic Rush - I mean, there were a few speed boosts here and there, but they were there only to give us a push... even if they sometimes lead to spikes on a nearby wall, but they just gave us a push. They didn't drag us along a loop, they gave us a little extra speed for a loop that's still quite a while away, and I think that's what makes the older games feel better. It's not just constantly speeding through a level, there are also times where you must slow down and do some platforming, because at the end of the day, Sonic The Hedgehog is a platformer with momentum attached to it as a means of separating itself from the competition (primarily Mario and his fat ass), and the levels are designed to reflect that. It's not "hold right to win", contrary to what the GBA and DS Sonic games would have you believe.
Enraged and full of anger.
But they're not all winners... meet Labyrinth Zone. For some bizarre reason, Sonic doesn't know how to swim, so when he's underwater, he must slooooowwwwwllllllyyyyy walk and deal with floaty jumping. While this works well in the sense that that's how you'd move underwater, it's pretty damn tedious to actually play BECAUSE you're going so slowly. It feels like there's some really bad framerate issues when it's obvious that that's not the case. Oh, did I forget to mention that you need to keep a decent supply of oxygen in order to not die? Throughout the zone are bits where big bubbles will pop out, and if you jump into them, you'll get all of your oxygen back. Rather than try to explain how that could make sense, I'll instead explain that there's always a sense of urgency because this is one of those zones with levels that aren't the easiest to navigate through because it's big and unlike the rest, you don't have speed to make them seem smaller - indeed, you'll be feeling every square inch of this zone's level designs, and coming close to running out of oxygen will be an inevitability more often than not. Not to mention the boss... you have to quickly get up to the top of that room while avoiding obstacles, praying to god that you don't get left behind to drown. Great ideas, definitely. The sense of urgency could more than make up for the floaty controls underwater, but said floaty controls really make this zone a pain in the ass to play. Will not play again.
He's half man and half machine.
Ah yes, bosses. Every boss in the game consists of Dr Robotnik controlling a piece of machinery that he's put together for the express purpose of killing Sonic. For a guy with an IQ of 300 though, he isn't the smartest cookie in the jar. While the bosses seem tough at first glance, they have patterns that can be easily exploited. Course, that's the point - there's meant to be a pattern, and you have to find the right moment to attack. I'm just saying that there are a few holes in his brain, that's all. But yeah, the idea is to take note of his pattern and attack him when he's vulnerable without getting yourself hit. With the exception of the final boss (which requires a decent amount of patience, especially since you have no rings entering that fight) and the Labyrinth Zone boss (and even then, that's only because of other hazards and the fear of drowning), they're not really that hard. Their patterns become obvious and the timing to attack is fairly widely open. They're still a lot of fun to fight, there's no doubt about that, but if you're expecting a challenge from the bosses, look forward to the final boss.
Flashing light; imminent collision.
If you have 50 rings by the end of the level and jump inside the big ring, you'll be able to enter the Special Stage. Basically, you're falling down a constantly rotating structure, and you have to find where the Chaos Emerald is. There are circles that you bounce off of and there are circles that reverse the rotation of this cage you're in. This sounds really cool, right? Well... it does sound really cool, but the execution is sloppy. A lot of the time, you have to rely on gravity to get you in the right direction, and sometimes, it's just a bitch because you're off by like a millimeter and then you end up in the "goal" zone (which, ironically, is not where you want to go, for it ends the Special Stage and you get nothing) instead of where the Chaos Emerald is. Even if you get it right, it's a case of being lucky enough to get in that sweet spot, because if you're off by a bit, you won't finish going through the protective barrier around the emerald (basically, these squares that you have to be on for a bit before it disappears), and will instead end up in the goal zone. Then there's the fact that it'll go faster as you remain in the Special Stage, so timing is important. It might sound good to you - me, I just get really frustrated by this because failure always feels unfair, like I didn't do it exactly as it was intended to be done, or land on that magic pixel or whatever... just that kind of shit that really annoys me. Just warning you guys ahead of time, those of you have haven't played it either recently or ever...
Let me see the banners fly.
I have to say, though, this game really shows people what 16 bits of graphics can really do during a time when Genesis games looked no better than a Master System or *shudder* an NES game. While the colors are a bit dull in comparison to the other two games in the Genesis trilogy, they feel well defined - that is, they're sharp and to the point while adding plenty of detail to everything. There's some shading here and there, which adds some depth to the visuals. Despite me saying that the colors are a bit dull, they're still fairly colorful. There are plenty of colors used here to give each level the appropriate amount of color - that is, bright and colorful for outside environments, and dark and cold for what is basically Dr Robotnik's fortress. I only pointed out some dullness because some bits here and there just aren't too vibrant, that's all. As far as animation goes, it always feels like Sonic is moving at the appropriate pace. When Sonic gets faster, his legs look like they're animating faster, and the background moves in tandem with his speed. So yeah, there's always that sense of speed when looking at the game.
Louder than an atom bomb.
But what really gets this game going is its soundtrack. I mean, the sound effects themselves aren't bad, but there isn't much oomph or bass to them, especially the explosions. But the soundtrack... that's where it's at! Each track fits the location to a tee, with Green Hill Zone being upbeat and cheerful just like the zone itself, or Marble Hill Zone being slower and downbeat. The highlight is the boss song, which has that foreboding yet heroic feel to it that really gets you going. Each of these songs will do a damn fine job of getting stuck in your head all day and there's nothing you can do about it... partially because some of the songs are short 30 second loops, which is the only problem I have with the soundtrack, but they sound pretty good too, so there's no huge issue there.
Lightning fast or sluggish?
Sonic The Hedgehog did a lot of good for the Sega Genesis when it was packaged with the console. I mean, who would've thought that a great game would save a system from being curbstomped by the NES? Thanks to this little critter, Sega gave Nintendo the middle finger and they started to really butt heads from there on. Besides a terrible set of levels and the Special Stages, this really is a great game. This has a lot to offer - colorful designs, big levels with plenty to find, and a lot of attention to detail. These are the kind of things that really gives your game some steam to kick ass and take names, especially if it's a system seller. Not to mention, it's just a lot of fun to play through every now and again, and since it's pretty well designed, I don't know what's stopping you from playing this, shy of not having it.
Your basic old school thing - a set up and nothing more. At least it sounded interesting.
A near perfect example of fast paced platforming. The levels were big with a fair few diverging paths while the bosses were a tad on the easy side, but it's all in good fun. What wasn't fun was Labyrinth Zone and the Special Stages.
While they're simple (the d-pad does more than the buttons do), they work out pretty well... except in the water where they seem weightier than they should.
The scrolling and animations gives this game a sense of speed, and everything looks just right. Even the psychedelic Special Stages.
The sound effects are alright, but the soundtrack is what makes everything feel right. Every song is appropriate for where it's being used and it just sounds excellent... even if half of them are like 30 second loops, they're never grating, which is an accomplishment if you ask me.
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