With the recent success of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie in theatres now, I thought it would be fun to revisit the game that rocketed the blue blur into the homes of many young and impressionable children of the 90s. The movie has recently reached the status of best box office earnings over any other films based on a video game. I have yet to see it, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling hopeful of video game representations in the film industry.
I decided to jump right back into the series 1991 debut, and what better way than through the Sega Ages collection on my fancy pants, new Nintendo Switch? While the game exudes a 90s feel in charming 16-bit graphics and soundtrack, nostalgia had me expecting more from it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good game, but some design choices had me scratching my head, and in some ways it is far inferior to even the game’s sequels; which capture everything the first game was about, but with far better execution.
For the most part, the Sega Ages adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog is fantastic. The greatest notable feature is the inclusion of the spin dash introduced in Sonic 2, and the drop dash that was featured in Sonic Mania. The lack of a spin dash in the original turned me off from the game in my childhood, as I had experienced it after playing Sonic 3. It’s welcomed with open arms in Sega Ages though, and makes the game feel more modern, akin to the later series’ releases in the 90s.
Sonic’s whole shtick is speed; and zooming through the levels is facilitated with this new feature. My issue with the game comes with poor choice in level design. Where the later releases excel in the presence of multiple routes to take and many discoveries to be made, it is lacking in this first installment. It is still there, just not at the same level of quality as Sonic 2, 3, and Knuckles. It is at it’s best when getting from point A to point B is smooth, seamless, and fast. This simply just isn’t the case for some of the levels featured in this game.
Marble zone, the game’s second level clashes with the whole theme of the game that was introduced in Green Hill. Instead of timing your jumps and spins to get to the finish line in one swooping motion, the level forces you to slow down, push blocks, and avoid spike traps at every turn. This dampens the otherwise fun experience. It doesn’t stop at the second stage though, as the slowdown is also present in the game’s fourth stage, Labyrinth zone. And it is here that not only does the pacing slow down, but the actual game stutters and slows occasionally. In this sense, it is faithful to the original as I remember experiencing the same issue and frustrations in my youth. Outside of that, not much can be said about the game that hasn’t been expressed before, and perhaps where some have articulated better than I can hope to. I love Sonic the Hedgehog, and I believe nostalgia may contribute to that love in no small way.
The Sega Ages rendition of Sonic is well worth the entry fee, as it provides a decent level of personalization while also providing outlets for beginners and the more competitive individuals alike. Some basic features include the customization of the screen dimensions, scan-lines, smoothing, etc. While button layout options seem superfluous in a game where every button does the same thing, there are other features that should be commended. It is possible to save your game whenever you so wish, a fundamental necessity that just wasn’t available in games of old. You are also able to jump into any stage you want with the level selection feature. There is a mega-play version that emulates the arcade style gameplay, and a challenge mode that implements the mega-play version and another mode that encourages speed running of the first act in Green Hill zone. All in all, there’s a lot to play with here, and it keeps Sonic the Hedgehog fresh in a way that only the fine folks at M2 (who ported all the Sega Ages titles) can achieve. I highly recommend this to anyone who may have never experienced this 2D platformer before, and to those feeling nostalgic. Personally, Sonic the Hedgehog is the game I have bought the greatest number of times out of any title, as there seems to be a port of these games on every platform imaginable. Still, don’t pass on this one as it is well worth it just to have a portable version of the game. You should especially consider it if it goes on sale. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will be getting it’s own Sega Ages release, and I’m looking forward to that one as well.
Replay Value: 5/5
Total: 20/25 or 80/100