Sonic the Hedgehog: A First-Timer's Perspective

Sonic the Hedgehog: A First-Timer's Perspective

Let's give SEGA's mascot a shot

Alex Legard

Written by for Retrospectives on

Back in the '90s and early '00s, I was the proud owner of Nintendo's consoles but unfortunately, not a Sega Genesis. In fact, I played very few of Sonic's games in my life and was unimpressed by the ones I experienced.

It's never too late to get started, though, so let's try out Sonic's first 2 adventures and see what they're all about!

Sonic the Hedgehog: Green Hill Zone screenshot
Here's the very first level of the Sonic franchise

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog is the first game in the series. Sonic must travel through 19 stages as he tries to save his animal friends from Dr. Robotnik; at least, I think that's what's going on. Once you boot up the game, you're greeted with the title screen and you start playing right away which I found extremely unusual as there's no menu, cutscenes, or anything; very well...

Sonic may be fast but it takes long for him to reach his top speed. It feels like throughout the entire game, Sonic is walking on ice. He also doesn't feel intuitive to control at first, particularly when trying to make precise jumps. The stages are littered with rings that you can collect but if you get hit, you lose all of them and the more rings you finish a stage with, the more points you get. Who thought of this anyway? Losing all of your rings at once defeats the point of collecting them so just... why?

Sonic the Hedgehog's stages are designed in an open-ended way and there are a lot of routes that you can take. There are a lot of goodies to find, too, like packs containing multiple rings and shields that can absorb the damage from one hit. I thoroughly enjoyed finding different routes and this aspect makes it unlike any other game I've played from the early '90s. The only problem I had is that you can't go very fast or you'll end up getting hit and why is a Sonic game punishing you for going too fast anyway? That being said, most of the challenge comes from the platforming segments, during which I find myself wishing I was anyone other than Sonic.

Sonic the Hedgehog Review
Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Emerald Hill Zone screenshot
Where the heck did Sonic go? Oh, he's that blue thing!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a very faithful sequel to the first game but in this installment, Sonic is now accompanied by Tails! Therefore, Sonic 2 can be played cooperatively with 2 players. You will also immediately notice that it has a new soundtrack but it's not too different as it still sounds like a Sonic game. When it starts, you can easily speedrun through Green Hill Zone; oops, Emerald Hill Zone as there's not much standing in your way. That makes Emerald Hill Zone a lot more fun to play than Green Hill Zone from the original Sonic game.

The next stages (Chemical Plant Zone and Aquatic Ruin Zone) are more difficult and require extra caution. I can't help but feel that Sonic is too fast for his own good since you have little chance of avoiding things when at full speed. Casino Night Zone is pretty fun, though.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Review
Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Casino Night Zone screenshot
Casino Night Zone is a cool-looking stage for any Genesis game

One thing I found surprising is that there's no saving in either game. Therefore, getting a game over is a lot more tedious because you have to start from the very beginning of the game once you run out of lives. You don't get very many either and that's a common theme in many Sega Genesis games. Apparently, each game has a level select cheat that no one would ever know of if it weren't for the internet. I'm not sure why it had to be a cheat rather than a feature but I guess cheats were trendy at the time. Anyway, both games are not short so it seems silly to me that the intended way to play them is to beat them in one sitting without getting a game over.

All of that being said, these are only my first impressions so you can take it with a grain of salt. I'm not exactly sure what hidden content I'm missing out on but I'll find that out if I ever get good at these 16-bit classics.

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