Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

by June 23, 1991

Sega unveils their rude, crude blue hedgehog with attitude

For many years now, arcade juggernaut Sega has been trying to break in to the home console business with middling success. The 8-bit Master System, while good for what it was, failed to set the world on fire – but Sega’s hitting back hard with their 16-bit Genesis, and while that’s been great at bringing true arcade experiences like Altered Beast home, the machine’s really been lacking an original “must-have” title like Alex Kidd or Phantasy Star. With Nintendo’s Super NES looming on the horizon, Sega doesn’t have long to establish themselves in the 16-bit arena before their biggest and most dangerous competitor catches up. It’s a good thing then that Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog is primed to run loops around anything Nintendo’s shown from their portly, slow-poke plumber.

Don't keep Sonic waiting!

Sonic the Hedgehog is a next-generation game the likes of which we’ve never seen before. The game’s sharp, high-color graphics are only the appetizer to this visual feast. The game’s parallax scrolling gives the world of Mobius an unprecedented level of depth. The game is also like a cartoon come to life with large, expressive character sprites that display plenty of attitude. But the most impressive spectacle Sonic the Hedgehog holds is perhaps the rate at which everything moves – Sonic is fast unlike anything else. Nothing on the NES – or even the Super NES, for that matter – can currently match the speed of Sonic when he really gets going, zipping around gravity-defying loop-de-loops and up radical half-pipes. And just when you think the game’s maybe moving a little too fast, ball up in to a Super Sonic Spin and watch this cool hedgehog really take off, blasting through environments at such speeds that the screen’s scrolling can barely keep up with him – now that’s fast.

But the game is more than just a speedy spectacle – Sonic is backed up by solid platforming that would make even Mario blush. Whereas most jump-and-run games typically only let you follow the one path, levels in Sonic the Hedgehog sprawl out in all directions, often with multiple pathways and shortcuts layered on top of one another. If it wasn’t for the game’s hard limit of only ten minutes per stage, I would expect one could spend hours hunting for secrets and alternate routes. Part of that is due to the game’s musical presentation – Sonic works magic with the Sega’s Yamaha sound chip in ways few games have, with crisp drums and up-beat basslines. I only wish the game had more levels, so I could hear more of that sweet music; Nintendo’s upcoming Super Mario World later this summer reportedly has over 70 stages of play spread out across eight worlds – Sonic, at six “zones”, has only 18 total stages. But what an 18 those are: forgoing the already tired Super Mario Bros. 3 cliches of yet another “Ice World”, or “Sky World”, Sonic takes us to forgotten ruins, starlit cityscapes, and massive smoke-belching factories.

PROTIP: As long as you hold one ring, you can survive most damage.

And what Sonic the Hedgehog lacks in volume, it more than makes up for in challenge. Not only does the game’s extreme speed require equally sharp reflexes, but the game is not shy at pitting the player against up to three enemies on screen at the same time, demanding the player constantly remain on their toes. Newer players may need to take some time to get acclimated to the momentum-heavy controls, as well – but when you have a character that moves as fast as Sonic does, a bit of a learning curve is to be expected. True to Sega’s arcade roots, expect Sonic the Hedgehog to take weeks to master – or longer, should you try and collect the six ever-elusive, super-secret “Chaos Emeralds”. What’s a Chaos Emerald, you might ask? We don’t know – but the bad guy wants them for some reason, so that can’t be good. And as for where to find them – it wouldn’t be a secret if we told you!

Sonic the Hedgehog shows that Sega means business in the console arena, and they won’t give up until they’ve taken a piece of Nintendo’s pie. If they continue to produce games of this caliber, they just might have a shot. Sonic the Hedgehog earns its position as the company’s “Mario Killer”, with speed and attitude few games can replicate. If you’re planning on getting a Super NES, you owe it to yourself to see what Sonic is offering beforehand.


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