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3D Sonic The Hedgehog (3DS eShop)

Game Review

3D Sonic The Hedgehog Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Sonic with a dash extra

The modern gaming scene may still be regularly broken down to battles of hardware technology and game exclusives, but back in the early '90s it was also a battle of mascots. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was the catalyst for the famous Tokyo-based company in the early days of the 16-bit battle for supremacy, as it delivered bright visuals and a rather different approach to Nintendo's moustachioed hero. Playgrounds were the front-lines in the contest between a hedgehog and an overweight Italian plumber; no wonder parents could become easily bemused.

In any case, it strikes us as an urban myth that Sonic the Hedgehog is a fast game — the Sega PR machine did its job. The franchise would move that way from its next entry onwards, with dizzying tubes and some levels that encouraged short spells of reckless abandon. This first title has brief flashes of that approach, but is actually a fairly steady, circumspect platformer when played with rose-tinted specs dutifully removed. It's solidly constructed and there are moments where the designers allowed themselves to flirt with bursts of speed, but on the whole this is a title that tested the waters while, in the process, placed great care in its environments and outstanding soundtrack.

Its revival as 3D Sonic the Hedgehog is, undoubtedly, a must for fans with nostalgia for the blue blur. This game has never looked so good and run so smoothly, with touches of fan-service that we'd barely conceived of for a relatively inexpensive download. There are minor options such as the ability to switch between PSG emulation (sound) for the Mega Drive or Mega Drive 2 — the latter has a meatier bass — while the Screen Mode is the most fascinating; you can enjoy the game in normal screen mode or 'Classic'. The latter is fun for reminiscence, as it replicates the effect of an old-school TV with a curved screen, fuzzy colours and resolution and all; yet we recommend the normal mode, which is fantastically clear. The quality of the pixel work shines in the latter setting, elevating the visuals to how our mind's-eye remembers them, but actually far cleaner and more refined than they were in reality.

Other major additions include autostereoscopic 3D, of course, which has a charming effect in providing subtle layering — the 'Fall-in' option is softer but pleasing on the eye, while 'Pop-out' is more drastic but, actually, slightly uncomfortable. Whichever setting works for you, the 3D is worth turning on, as it doesn't harm the rock-solid frame-rate and spruces up those lovely pixels a bit more. Two other major choices can have a more palpable effect on your experience: first of all there is a choice between the Japanese and International versions of the game. It unsurprisingly defaults to Japanese, as it includes superior but minor enhancements in some visuals and, more importantly, is generous in providing an extra life for every 50,000 points. It looks better and allows for the quick accumulation of lives, though veterans may be tempted to tackle the tougher International equivalent; be warned the International version retains annoying bugs, such as cruel deaths on Spikes and some enemies that have irrational hit boxes.

Next up is the Spin Dash, which wasn't available in the original and can be turned off for those seeking a more authentic experience. Although occasionally useful — especially as Sonic has always had issues running up hills without momentum — it's not particularly well-placed. When introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 it was accompanied by level design with a greater focus on momentum and far less verticality and death pits; using the spin dash is a risk with these original game level designs, which isn't a fault of M2 but worth bearing in mind. The final fan extra is the Special option that allows you to choose whatever stage you want to play, though our preference was to tackle the title in full, especially as it's an experience roughly an hour long — maybe slightly more if having difficulty — and the 3DS sleep mode allows for breaks.

Once again, M2 has done a wonderful job of adding fan service and retrofitting charming extras that either enhance the experience or, at worst, can be ignored. They add to an already memorable game but one, we'd suggest, surpassed by its 16-bit successors — with a special mention for Sonic CD. Its six zones (split into three stages each) with a final encounter serve up some classic moments, and PAL gamers that grew up with the inferior 50Hz version may now find it easier to make it all the way through. The Chaos Emerald special stages are also a welcome test, even if the spinning environment had us resorting to temporarily disabling the 3D effect; completing the game with all emeralds is more satisfying than ever.

Beyond the retro thrill, however, early growing pains betrayed by this original shouldn't be so easily ignored. This title doesn't have the enjoyable pace of its successors, nor does it require precision platforming so defined by Nintendo's rival of the day; it's an odd middle ground that seemed less of an issue when it was first released — as it was different to Mario, lest we forget — but failed to enthral us as much this time around. The second half of the game starts to run out of steam and fresh ideas, too; the Labyrinth Zone and its slow-mo water environments were never a good idea, and the final two zones (Star Light and Scrap Brain) throw up new enemies but largely uninspired level design.

Sega would hit wonderful peaks with the sequels, while the original is honourable for setting out Sonic's stall, if not quite discovering his strengths. It's the work of developers finding their feet before arriving at brilliance, full of care and commitment — and particularly memorable music — but not delivering the best of the concept's ideas. Those would come later, which perhaps makes this 3D re-release a delight and a slight disappointment at the same time — sentiment has triumphed over delivering one of Sonic's stronger experiences.

Conclusion

M2 has, once again, done a masterful job here, giving Sonic the Hedgehog a flash of 3D joy and including a number of charming options to satisfy fans and curious newcomers. The porting work is an outstanding effort, but doesn't hide the fact that this original Sonic game doesn't represent the very best of the 16-bit series, delivering cautious gameplay rather than speedy creativity. There are memorable and borderline sublime moments, but it eventually runs out of steam and therefore qualifies as an iconic but limited début for Sonic. This is highly recommended for fans and those looking for an enjoyable slice of retro Sega platforming, nevertheless.

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User Comments (72)

Mommar

#3

Mommar said:

I feel like their 3D conversion wasn't great. All they did was take the stuff way in the background and set it farther out but the foreground stuff isn't messed with at all. Why not set the trees at a point between the two so it feels like there's some depth. This is more like they just set the background REALLY far into the background and called it good. (The same with all of these conversions, actually.)

Klimbatize

#5

Klimbatize said:

This is one of my all-time favorite games. I remember getting a Genesis for Christmas and playing this non-stop for days. It looked so much better than anything else I had seen in a video game up to that point. I still play through it a few times a year on my Genesis.

As for this version, an 8 is a very fair score. The options and customization are pretty great. The game plays a lot better now that the spin dash is an option, even if in my heart it feels a little bit like cheating.

The 3D itself isn't as interesting as I had hoped. The Star Zone levels probably benefit the most from it, as do the Special Stages. I was kind of hoping for more as far as the 3D goes, but everything else is so great I can't really complain.

Gioku

#7

Gioku said:

I want this! I've never played a Sonic game before; I think this is the perfect way for me to experience the original game. :)

Rococoman

#9

Rococoman said:

I'm a bit dissappointed by the feature set here. The recently released IOS and android editions of this game had widescreen, Tails and Knuckles selectable, Super Sonic, and a plethora of extra options. Most importantly, with its 1 button controls, classic Sonic actually plays well on a touchscreen.

That being said, it's nice to see Sega putting some time into its classics. Here's hoping Sonic 2 and 3 get a similar treatment.

Aozz101x

#12

Aozz101x said:

can't wait get this
i hope one day they bring Sonic CD to 3ds, (even tho i already have it on steam)

Knux

#13

Knux said:

Definitely is the complete opposite compared to...

Untitled

I'll buy this as soon as I have the money! :D

unrandomsam

#14

unrandomsam said:

@pixelman Sonic 2 is the worst they completely removed the difficulty. (Any of 1 / 3 / Knuckles / CD is far better than 2 which is a total waste other than the special stages which are quite good).

audiobrainiac

#16

audiobrainiac said:

LOVE how they did this version!!!! The visuals are so CRISPY! Can't wait for more Sonic games like this, along with Ecco the Dolphine!!!!!

sleepinglion

#20

sleepinglion said:

Thank you for the review!
The eShop's 'trailer' is pretty bad and it's not even in 3D, so I appreciated this article =)

Ristar42

#21

Ristar42 said:

10/10 for me, an all time classic game and a really good version by M2. I got Sonic 2 just after release and even as a big SEGA fan, I thought it lost something over this game. Sonic 1 caps your running speed while holding right, you have to roll to go faster. As such, its platforming has a more consistant pace than the sequel, which had you running through the level until you hit somthing and come to a stop.

Who knows how many times I've played this game since 1991, and its still fun.

MeddlingIdiotStaff

#23

MeddlingIdiot said:

I played this from start to finish over the weekend, which was the first time in 20 years. I've dabbled with the various re-releases since then but this is the definitive version in my experience. Not the best Sonic game but easily worth the asking price. I hope we see other entries in the series get the 3D makeover.

KennyPowers

#24

KennyPowers said:

The emulation on this game is some of the best I've seen on the 3DS eShop. I have yet to encounter any slowdown in the limited amount of time I have played, which truly shocked me. Can't wait to see what else Sega releases in terms of Genesis titles in the future, as it seems they have perfected it.

SammyOfMobius

#25

SammyOfMobius said:

I got this version the day it came out. It's one of Sonic 1's better ports/remakes, and better than the Taxman's edition in terms of controls. Sonic 1 is one of my favorite Sonic platformers and the 3DS version is no exception (although I turned off the Spin Dash)! I can't wait for the 3D Classics versions of Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles!

Garo

#27

Garo said:

The added features sound great, but I don't really like the first Sonic as much as to warrant a purchase. The 3D versions of Shinobi III and SoR on the other hand are must-haves. Nice coincidence that they're both released on my birthday =)

luigifan2000

#29

luigifan2000 said:

i have played this inside sonic adventure and am not a big fan. if you speed through it you don't get all the rings so you don't get enough lives! and its suicide to run fast so i just try to get all the rings. then drown cuz i try to get all the rings before getting air!!!

BulbasaurusRex

#30

BulbasaurusRex said:

@Mommar According to the interview, they did add the 3D effect to the trees and other notable foreground objects.

@unrandomsam What do you mean they removed all the difficulty from Sonic 2?! Metropolis Zone is impossible for me to even beat the first act (without cheating), that flying fortress zone (whatever it's called) is also really tough, and taking on both Silver Sonic and the final boss without any rings is extremely difficult (especially compared to Sonic 1's final boss). In comparison, I can beat the entirety of Sonic 3 & Knuckles (both stories, including the bonus Super Sonic stage in Sonic's story) on my own without cheating.

ThomasBW84Admin

#32

ThomasBW84 said:

@SomeBitTripFan No, it's just the first Sonic. My honourable mention for Sonic CD was due to the fact it wasn't technically part of the Genesis 16-bit range, but on the Sega CD.

BinaryFragger

#33

BinaryFragger said:

Despite already having Sonic the Hedgehog on the Virtual Console and numerous compilations, I downloaded this version and it's absolutely gorgeous. I love how Sega puts a lot of effort in re-releasing their old games (unlike the lazy Super Mario All-Stars Wii release). Please keep them coming!

shigulicious

#36

shigulicious said:

Considering buying this. According to the comments, the 3d effect is subtle but effective. Is that correct? Any foreground 3d when you lose rings? Thanks in advance.

fluggy

#37

fluggy said:

Meh. 8 is pretty generous! Was overrated back in the day, not a patch on Mario World and hasn't aged well at all.

Xtremetdifan

#39

Xtremetdifan said:

@fluggy I disagree, I wasn't even born when this came out so I can't speak on it being overrated, yet an 8 isn't "pretty generous". From the first few stages im enjoying this game thoroughly and feel that an eight is just right if not too low! The 3d is a nice if small touch and the inclusion of the spin dash makes this port alot more interesting than others... As far as super Mario world goes, that's a great game but I find sonic 3 and knuckles to just beat it. And bad aging wise, I don't understand as I haven't ran into any game breaking glitches or horrid graphics or anything! Sorry if it sounds like I'm ranting I merely don't understand your points for why this port doesn't deserve an eight rating.

fluggy

#40

fluggy said:

@Xtremetdifan
From my point of view I can dip into classic games like Mario World/Mario Kart/ALttP/Super Metroid and enjoy the experience as if it was almost new to me... They've barely aged a day. On the other hand I dip back into Sonic and get bored after 10 mins.

GreatPlayer

#41

GreatPlayer said:

People keep saying that Sonic was about speed. However, if you look at Sonic 1 it was more about platforming than speed. It was not until Sonic 2 when they start to build up the speed element.

uhhhhhhhh

#43

uhhhhhhhh said:

the 3D upgrade is amazing, btw.

i cannot believe they wont do a 3D SNES release!!! :(

UnseatingKDawg

#44

UnseatingKDawg said:

As soon as I can merge my eShop accounts, I'm getting this. I just wish it were the iDevice version, with Tails and Knuckles playable. I still say it's a crime that THAT remake is stuck with touch screen controls.

Xtremetdifan

#45

Xtremetdifan said:

@fluggy from that list of games it sounds like you enjoy the adventure genre,(link, samus,etc.) So I can see why speed and spike platforming doesn't interest you, however not liking a specific game doesn't make it any less of a "classic"

RyanOehrli

#46

RyanOehrli said:

A lot like Sonic CD on PSN/XBLA, I would say this is the definitive version of Sonic 1.

SparkOfSpirit

#47

SparkOfSpirit said:

Still one of the best platformers ever made.

I hope they port 2, CD, and 3K sooner or later. The classic Sonic games are too great.

chiptoon

#49

chiptoon said:

Gotta disagree about the classic mode option. Its the best thing I've ever seen in emulation. It finally looks like it was designed to look. I love pixel art, but these games were never designed to look crisp and blocky. Classic mode is absolutely beautiful!

RaymanFan2

#51

RaymanFan2 said:

Ehh... the iOS Taxman port is inarguably better, but this does have a couple nice display features not seen before.

Artwark

#53

Artwark said:

Thank god this port did well. I thought for sure Sega was just insulting Sonic as soon as I saw Genesis footage.....

sdelfin

#54

sdelfin said:

I recently played Sonic and Sonic 2 a few months back. Sonic 1 was, and still is, a fun game. It was hard to go back to part one after the second game came out as I thought it was a huge upgrade. I ran into some quirks of level design and some odd glitches in Sonic 1 as well. Some of the glitches were likely from the emulation, as I played it via the Sega Genesis Collection released for the Playstation 2, but I think some of the glitches were in the original. I've since gotten my Genesis out of storage. I really could have used the spin dash in the original.

JaxonH

#59

JaxonH said:

A must-have for sure (already purchased and downloaded), but I must admit I was never as much of a fan for the original as I was Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. THOSE are my all time favorites, hands down. Sonic 2 was also good (definitely better than the original), but just seemed more primitive when compared to the following sequels.

Not sure how many people know this, but Sonic & Knuckles WAS compatible with Sonic The Hedgehog, as well as Sonic Spinball. If you placed either of the cartridges in S&K, a black screen with Robotnik, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles would appear, waving their fingers while the words "NO WAY" displayed on the screen, giving the impression these games had no compatibility. However, if the player pressed A, B, C and Start simultaneously, they gained access to unlimited Chaos Emerald stages, the spherical globes with red, blue and yellow balls. I made it to stage 479 before finally calling it quits. Not exactly sure how many more levels there were, but I imagine quite a few.

JaxonH

#60

JaxonH said:

@unrandomsam Though I will say, the inclusion of Virtual Restore Points with the more recent 3DS and Wii U releases are about the best updated feature one could ask for, especially for the original Super Mario Bros (I know it's short, but I seem to die alot in that game so it takes me alot longer to beat it). That used to be my number 1 reason for not replaying classics- I didn't want to sit through an entire playthrough. This has proven especially useful in Mega Man 1-6. I can now play a robot master, and save it for another day.

animalzer0

#61

animalzer0 said:

@unrandomsam Sonic 2's later levels were brutal, especially the final zone. Overall Sonic 2 was easier, but focused more on speed, unlike Sonic 1 (which had it's focus on platforming) and Sonic 3 (which blended speed and platforming perfectly). If it weren't for the final boss, all Sonic 2's bosses would have been embarassing.

sonic_brawler95

#62

sonic_brawler95 said:

Honestly, I think it's fantastic how faithful this port is to the original Genesis version. Not changing a thing is a good thing since original Sonic ports range from amazing (Taxman's iOS port) to horrendous (Sonic Genesis on GBA). :D

earthboundlink

#63

earthboundlink said:

This is a really good port. The colors are so bright, the pixels are so crisp, and everything is pretty much spot on, control-wise. I love the old platformers where your only actual button command was jump, and everything else is a contextual use of running and environment interaction. This game is a classic, and I remember why it gave Mario such a run for his money back in the day.

Note: I'm one of those old school Sonic fans who fell out of love with the series after the Genesis games. Any recommendations for later-era Sonic games I should try? I tried the Sonic Lost World Wii U demo, and I was not super impressed. Is the demo a good sample of the game? Also, how does the 3DS version handle? I really, really want to like Sonic again, but Sega has not made it easy.

BulbasaurusRex

#67

BulbasaurusRex said:

@earthboundlink I still say Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 are the best 3D Sonic games ever made. Just don't get too upset at the fishing and treasure hunting levels, as the other playstyles are all a lot better.

earthboundlink

#68

earthboundlink said:

@BulbasaurusRex Seems like these days every Sonic game has a caveat, like "most of the game is good, if you just ignore this one part." Why does Sega seem to struggle so much with consistency?

Mommar

#69

Mommar said:

@BulbasaurusRex
I don't need to read any interview. I have the game playing right here in front of me right now. Pop-out, Fall-in... it doesn't matter. It's two planes only. Very lazy port.

dartmonkey

#70

dartmonkey said:

This is definitely not a 'lazy port' - you should read the interview and get a little context. They've done a great job, though it's always a little puzzling when devs talk about having massive problems porting games from 20 year old hardware. You would think it'd be a doddle, but I'm no programmer. If this had widescreen, it'd be the definitive version. I'd also love a time trial mode a la iOS Sonic CD, to give me a reason to go back, race through and unlock some art or something.

GC-161

#71

GC-161 said:

@Mommar

And I have the game right here and the 3D effect is glorious.

Just accept that Jesus gave you lousy eyes and just like Johnny Depp, you cannot see the 3D effect.

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