Sonic the Hedgehog
It’s easy to forget that SEGA were once a force to be reckoned with. Not only did they produce excellent games that were serious competition to the likes of Mario, but they were also producing home consoles that people wanted to own and were on par to Nintendo of the day. In fact, there are games alive today that would never have the opportunity to play the older consoles was it not for the delights of the PSN, XBL and Virtual Console.
Sonic the Hedgehog, often referred to as Sonic 1, has a very basic plot – Robotnik has taken over Mobius and turned all of the happy little animals on the planet into evil, mechanical, murderous machines. With the aid of the Chaos Emearld’s, Robotnik has completely changed the world of Mobius and Sonic takes it upon himself to get rid of Robotnik and restore peace to his homeland.
To echo the basic plot, the gameplay is basic: press right with the occasional tap on the Number 2 button. It sounds easy, but it requires a skill and a timing that can only come with hours of practise at playing classic Sonic titles. Sonic is all about speed, everyone knows that. However, something that may be new is that the Mega Drive was specifically catered to cope with the speed of Sonic games – watching a blue blur move across the screen with no slow down is a thing of beauty and this has been replicated perfectly on the Virtual Console. This is great news and any form of slow down or glitch in a Sonic title would throw the aesthetic of the game.
With six levels, or “Zones”, it appears to be a short game on paper and it’s not a 20 hour marathon title. However, it’s longer than it sounds as there are a further three mini-levels or “Acts” inside of each of the six Zones, so it feels like there are 18 levels to play through. Each of the Zones is set in different parts of Mobius and each of the Zones is distinct, although the vast majority of the Zones have the same basic premise – right and jump.
Sonic is also one of the first titles to have an emphasis on rings, rather than coins. In Sonic, if there are no rings collected, then death is next to certain. Starting with 3 lives and no coins it’s important to collect as many coins as you can as if hit, they stop Sonic from dying immediately. If Sonic can collect over 100 rings then he earns an Extra Life. If Sonic completes an Act with more than 50 rings a Giant Ring will appear and this will allow Sonic to enter a Special Zone.
The Special Zone is a place of complete insanity where the player has to attempt to navigate their way around a complex maze where you have no control over the direction of Sonic – it’s hard and it takes time to get used to getting to the centre. If the player can manage to reach the centre of the maze, Sonic has the chance to get the Chaos Emerald and take back some control from Robotnik.
Sonic 1 has ported over to the Virtual Console very well, in fact, there are even some benefits of playing it on the Virtual Console over the Sega Mega Drive and that’s the save functionality. Officially speaking neither the Virtual Console nor the Mega Drive title has no save feature. Yet, with the Virtual Console of the player simply goes back to the Wii Menu, it keeps the game running at the exact point they left it. Which opens up an entire new realm of quickly playing a few Zones and them coming back to it later – not having to start all over again is brilliant.
It takes some time to get used to Sonic if it’s never been played before and as each of the Sonic titles are slightly different there are oddities with every game, so remembering the fact that the speed dash isn’t available on Sonic 1 or the extra “flash” jump is important as tactics developed in newer titles won’t always work in the older ones.
Sonic 1 is an iconic game. Iconic and brilliant. It needs to be played by anyone who enjoys a game that can be picked up by almost anyone but only true gamers can master it. At 800 Wii Points it’s a steal.