Sonic The Hedgehog – before the thousands of slapdash sequels and spin-offs, there was, simply, Sonic The Hedgehog. The Sega Genesis’ flagship launch title has been ported to so many systems, across so many console generations, that it’s frankly hard to imagine any system not offering Sonic’s first run in some form or another.
About a week has passed since Sonic The Hedgehog showed up on the Play Store, and the game’s already made it to the number one spot on downloads. And I’m happy to say, the Play Store’s port is the best I’ve ever played, by far.
The story is simple – you’re Sonic, a hedgehog, and you’re super fast. You’re in hot pursuit of a fat, mustachioed scientist called Dr. Robotnik, who’s gone and kidnapped a bunch of cute little bunnies and birdies. Some of the younger folks out there might know Sonic’s nemesis as Dr. Eggman, but that name came much later, amidst much crappier games.
Okay, you guys know Sonic. A lot of you out there probably remember playing this game on the Genesis (or the Mega Drive, if you’re on the other side of the world) over two decades ago, and I’ve personally played the game on at least four different systems over the years. The Play Store port is actually by far the most enjoyable version I’ve played, with brighter, crisper graphics than ever before, widescreen gameplay, a level-specific Time Attack Mode, and playable Knuckles and Tails. Obviously, those two have been playable in the past, but never in Sonic The Hedgehog 1.
It’s important to note that, while the game has been given a bit of an HD facelift, it looks pretty much exactly the same as always in action. Aside from the widescreen support, which cuts down considerably on cheap deaths, the most notable changes Sega has made have been to Sonic himself. Sonic’s character model in the series’ first title has always looked a little washed out, blending in far too easily with the game’s colorful worlds. The new character model is far more sharp, with inky blues, which makes him far easier to keep track of, especially against darker backgrounds. The game’s also been re-mastered at a flawless 60 frames per second.
Sonic The Hedgehog is a very, very hard game, and if you’ve never played it, you’ll likely be surprised by how slowly you’re forced to move along most of the time. For every level where you’ll get to careen through loops with utter disdain for gravity, you’ll have to contend with a slow-motion water level, and Sonic’s innate penchant for drowning. The Play Store version is far more forgiving, though, saving up to five game files and letting you pick up from where you crapped out. Thankfully, there’s also a No-Save Mode, for those of us who don’t like having our hands held.
Sonic The Hedgehog has aged pretty well, all told. While the sequels on the Genesis may have improved upon some of its core mechanics, the original game’s sustained popularity is well-deserved. The music, the visuals… hell, pretty much every single design element Sonic Team came up with in their first at-bat has been stolen or retooled in the two decades since. The handful of stellar 3D Sonic games still don’t match the replay value of the original 16-bit series, and the Play Store’s port of the blue blur’s first run stands as a loving tribute.
A crisp and vibrant widescreen port of one of the best selling and most influential platformers ever made. Knuckles and Tails being playable for the first time stands as a huge bonus.