Sonic the Hedgehog Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1991 Also On: None

Wow. So amazing a three-letter word can assimilate all that needs to be said about this game. Sonic the Hedgehog is a little known of NTSC Master System release. Most people who hear about it can hardly believe it was even released for the system, in the States that is. Overseas this game received wide distribution, but elsewhere, unfortunately, it did not.

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You may be wondering why I would care, or why anyone would care for that matter, since this game was also released for the Genesis/Mega Drive. Well, first off, the SMS version is completely different, and second, it is simply the best game ever made for the system, perfect in every way possible. If it had been released a bit earlier or was not an import (this is the only way it was distributed in the US) in scant numbers, it could have possibly saved the Master System.

The graphics in this game are just incredible. You’ll hardly believe an 8-bit system is capable of this kind of display when you see it. It’s really amazing, nearly looks identical in design to the 16-bit version in many respects. The levels are full of detail and the animation is splendid. Quite impressive. A true wonder of programming and it shows you what can happen when a design team sits down to really do something well. This game is graphically the most impressive Master System game ever.

As I usually state, the SMS was not known for its musical capabilities. I’m not sure what they did this time around, but the sound in this game is spectacular. The sound effects are numerous and fit perfectly all of the time, no mistakes or awkward moments at all. The music is catchy, generally the same as its 16-bit counterpart but nearly as good, really showing you what this little system could do if people put their efforts into it. High marks again.

I’m pretty sure everyone is familiar with Sonic the Hedgehog and the various games created around him and his friends. Essentially, you run around collecting rings, jumping/spinning into creatures and collecting power-ups all in a quest to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik from mechanizing the world. There are six huge levels in all with three stages each. At the end of every level you take on Robotnik in a different craft of some sort, though the last two levels are a bit different since you’re in his base. Sonic can jump on most enemies or roll into a ball as you run towards them to take them out.

There are different power-ups like shields, speed boots, 10-ring blocks, and so forth, plus lots of secrets along the way. You have to locate all five chaos emeralds to get the good ending and you won’t find them easily, some are out of the way and you’ll pass them right up if you’re not looking.

There are plenty of things to do in this game. It’s the basic platformer concept of “run around, collect things, hit things, take on a boss,” but it’s just done so well that it shows you how classic themes can constantly be redone if done correctly. The controls are very responsive with no problems at all. You’ll jump right into this on the first sitting, even more so if you’re familiar with any of the other Sonic games.

The creativity rating is very high as well. Because most people reading this review are more than likely from the United States, you may be wondering how one could consider this game creative. Well, please, keep in mind this is the first Sonic the Hedgehog game. It was released before the Sega Genesis version, just in such small numbers hardly anyone knew it even existed. Even today most people don’t know it was released for the Master System in the US.

For it’s time it was incredibly innovative, and finally gave Sega the spokesman it was looking for, though it didn’t catch on here until the Genesis was released. In this title you find him as he began in his earliest form, and, in my opinion, his best form. It was the beginning of Sonic’s history, putting him into the game players’ collective psyche worldwide as one of the most famous video game characters of all time.

I’ll play this game in the future without a doubt. If I had to pick one Master System game out of my collection to keep amongst all others, this would be the game. There is no doubt in my mind that you will come back to this time and time again, it’s just an excellent game. Everything is put together well, and with the inclusion of numerous secrets you’ll really want to try it again. It took me several plays to find all the emeralds without any help from anyone else.

Sonic the Hedgehog is the greatest Master System game of all time. It’s such a disappointment that it hardly saw any light in the NTSC market because it really would have been a final hoorah for the dying SMS, perhaps even prolonging its life. Everything present in this game speaks volumes of genius; it’s the most perfect thing that could have been created for this system.

For those of you searching for a copy, know that this is perhaps the rarest NTSC game, so you’re better off finding a PAL copy, because it’s the same game and it will play just fine. Also, more importantly, remember that the NTSC version is simply an import with a different UPC sticker, so it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference if you don’t know what you’re looking for. For those of you who’ve never played the Master System, find one and get this game, it will change your opinion of it forever.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 10
Written by Stan Review Guide

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