Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sonic The Hedgehog (Mega-Drive, 1991)

It was 1991 when Sonic The Hedgehog was released (duh). Prior to that Sega lacked a mascot (whereas Nintendo had Mario) and arguably it was bound to stay behind Nintendo in the console wars (Mega Drive's direct competitor was the SNES). Sonic changed all that. But more importantly it changed platform games in general.

Platform games, eh? Let's take a brief look at how this particular genre evolved. In the earlier jump 'n' runs, like Jet Set Willy and Monty On The Run, apart from avoiding enemies and the like, the emphasis was on searching and solving the odd puzzle. They were mostly arcade-adventures truth be told. The "pure" jump 'n' run came a bit later, highlighted by Mario's adventures on the NES. Sega took the concept and revitalized it with Sonic.

How then? Well, with speed for starters. A lot of people think that Sonic is a game of speed, but the truth is that Sonic enchants you with speed so that you make mistakes. It feels great going really fast as you pave your way through the levels, but then you won't see the spike coming out of the ground just like that. So it's up to you finding the balance between the slow and the fast bits. Gameplay wise (and apart from the speed), Sonic uses an arsenal of platforming tricks (springs, elevators, tunnels, underwater parts, slides etc etc), which up to this day set the blueprint for all Sonic 2D games (or 2D platformers in general). That says something about how good this game is, no?

OK then, the graphics have lost some of their bite. But the game still comes up with some of the most distinctive level worlds Sonic has ever been in (my personal favourite is the Star Light Zone). And the thing with retro-gaming is that you can fill the gaps the graphics may have with your own imagination.

So to sum up, Sonic is a great game which all platforming fans should try in these great days of emulation heaven. My favourite Mega Drive emulator is Gens, which is terribly easy to set-up and use. So, er, try if you haven't. -)


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