The original Sonic the Hedgehog was quite a groundbreaking title for Sega and their 16-bit Mega Drive console. Not only did it give Sega a true mascot to wrap their video game business around, but it also gave them a platformer that could actually compete with Nintendo's Super Mario franchise. The game featured a type of speed that gamers just hadn't seen in a video game before and combined it with a few of the traditional platforming elements from the time period to form one of the most unique side-scrollers ever seen at the time. While future Sonic titles would offer a bit more depth and variety to their experience, it's difficult to fault this original release and all it brought to the table. But how does this classic platformer hold up all these years later and is it still worth your hard-earned Wii Points?
Before Sonic was endowed with a few more special moves, he basically had the ability to jump and to tuck and roll. In reality, that's all you really needed with this game. The speed in which he and the surroundings scroll by are what makes the game unique and you'll quickly learn to balance between flying through the levels at mach speed and slowing down to take on the many platforming sections found in each level. There are plenty of loop-de-loops to run around and there's never a shortage of rings to collect or enemies to take out either.
At the end of each area, you'll face off with the evil Dr. Robotnik, who'll be piloting his current vehicle of choice. Most of these boss fights are more about observing patterns and attacking a weak spot on these vehicles. The difficulty curve is quite smooth throughout the game, so the game starts off fairly easy and works its way up. The control in the game is absolutely spot-on perfect, so you certainly won't have any trouble in that department either. Great level designs and some really unique boss fights highlight the game and show just why this game is still so well regarded among platforming fans, even still to this day.
The visuals in Sonic the Hedgehog are colorful and vibrant, but you won't have a lot of time to sit back and admire them, as they're generally flying by so quickly that it ends up looking more like a blur than anything else. There are some unique polygon-style sprites tossed in to give the presentation a bit of variety, and the detail in the backgrounds is astounding, even by 16-bit standards. It's clear that Sonic Team had a specific look they wanted to convey throughout the game and it comes through with flying colors - quite literally, in fact. The visuals might have gotten gradually better with each new Mega Drive Sonic release, but they certainly weren't a slouch in this original by any means.
Much like the patented visuals, the music and sound effects in the game are now almost as recognizable as those found in the Super Mario Bros. releases. What Sonic fan couldn't pick the sound effect of grabbing the golden rings out at the drop of a hat. And the musical compositions are equally familiar and as catchy as they ever were. Very few gaming audio presentations top to bottom have the kind of polish and style found in the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog releases and this first release is certainly no exception.
While there's certainly no arguing that the Sonic titles did feature a bit more style and variety as the 16-bit series progressed, there's still nothing quite like the original release to bring back the fond memories of seeing Sega finally capture lightning in a bottle in the battle of the console mascots. The game still stands out as one of the greats in the world of video gaming and even if you've grown used to the depth of the later releases, you'll still find it worth your while to travel back in time and experience where it all began. Not many video game icons burst onto the scene with quite the flash and intensity of our favorite blue hedgehog. If you love Sonic, you absolutely must own this legendary 16-bit classic. It's still as solid as ever.