A game that needs no introduction, or perhaps any review at all as it’s been covered so many times already! Sonic the Hedgehog for me, is era-defining. It marked the moment as it did with lots of other people, a move from 8-bit to 16-bit consoles.
It was when Sonic became the pack-in title with the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis that things really took off for not only Sonic but also the Mega Drive / Genesis, taking its sales to the next level.
The now iconic sega boot intro and the game title screen show you the game’s intent from the word go. It’s colourful, upbeat and immediate in every way, even the title screen sequence is short, it’s almost as though it cannot wait to jump into a rolling demo to show off!
Everything about Sonic the Hedgehog is quick and immediate, there’s no introduction to the game in terms of setting the scene, and you are thrown straight into the game. It is a testament to the game’s design that pretty much anybody can pick up and play Sonic without such an introduction.
It takes the tried and tested principle of jumping on enemies to kill them and to collect objects placed around each level, but somehow makes it unique with its speed, physics, visuals and sound. Sonic the Hedgehog is truly a game for the senses.
The game is set across 6 different zones each with 3 levels or acts as they are referred to in the game. In the third act in each zone, you face a boss battle against Dr Robotnik. There is a 7th zone which is the final battle against Dr Robotnik
There are two approaches to playing the game, aim to collect all the chaos emeralds on the special stages, or simply go through the game as quickly as possible, which is something which has become more popular with those who enjoy setting speed run records.
You can complete the game without collecting all chaos emeralds, but you are treated to a slightly different ending if you do manage to collect all 6 of them.
The special stages to collect the chaos emeralds can be quite challenging, you are placed in a rotating stage in which you and the level are both spinning. You have to navigate your way around the stage avoiding the bumpers which try to persuade you towards an exit point, you then have to persist and often break your way through blocks to get to the chaos emerald.
Sonic the Hedgehog’s gameplay is not overly hard. It does strike that balance between accessible and a challenge. The challenge is ramped up if you’re going for high scores, collecting all the chaos emeralds and competing for speed runs, but Sonic 1 is just more about fun. It’s a really fun game to play and is one I come back to at least a couple of times a year for a full playthrough.
Sonic’s roots are 2D and have still to be beaten, Sonic Mania proved it’s a formula that still has not been beaten, at least for the Sonic franchise.
If you grew up with Sonic, then this game I’m sure will always set off those nostalgia bells in your head, it’s impossible to resist giving it a quick go!
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of experience in the field, so producing retro orientated content for How To Retro comes is second nature to him. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).