Last Updated on September 30, 2023
Sonic the Hedgehog needs no introduction and is one of the most iconic video game protagonists of all time. I have fond memories of this game as a kid, and in this review, I’m going to see if it’s still good 30+ years later.
Sonic games are known to have gorgeous graphics, and they still hold up, as does the soundtrack. Sonic has weight and momentum to his actions, and the controls feel natural and responsive. They even rival modern platformers I’ve played. Deaths always felt like they were my fault, and besides a few frustrations in the pinball-themed stage, they nailed the movement 100%.
It’s not all about speed
I miss the Spin Dash from later entries, but levels in the original Sonic don’t feel like they are made for speed. Each area has multiple paths, but I rarely found one where running was a good thing. Whenever I encountered a slope where I could gain momentum, I usually crashed into an obstacle or enemy a few seconds later.
I’m not complaining, as the level designs are solid. Still, it’s funny that Sonic is always marketed on his speed, and I could rarely emulate that.
The introductory stage, Green Hill Zone, is by far the easiest and is one of the few locales where going fast is encouraged. Beyond that, a more systematic approach was required as the difficulty increased and more fiendish obstacles stood in my way.
Everything was plain sailing until I reached the Labrynth Zone. This stage is legendary for the countdown music when Sonic runs out of air, and it’s just as nerve-wracking to this day. Oddly enough, I had no problem keeping my air topped up. My issue was with the stage boss and after botching multiple attempts, I got my first game over screen.
I took my loss on the chin and restarted, but either ‘child’ me was a Sonic wizard, or I’d never beaten the game as I remember. After clearing the Labyrinth Zone, there’s a brief respite in the following area, and it feels like a ‘calm before the storm’ with the last stage looming ahead.
I ran into a few frustrating parts in the final stage, as Sonic immediately dies if he’s even slightly crushed by the scenery. On the one hand, I get it, but it kills the mood when Sonic just ‘pops’ against a wall. Still, this really is a minor complaint, and small hitches like this don’t detract from a platformer that can stand toe to toe with its modern contemporaries.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog holds up far better than I ever expected. It’s an exemplary platformer with inspired level design, toe-tapping soundtrack, and wonderfully tight controls. Sonic the Hedgehog offers a firm but fair challenge and remains a phenomenal platformer.
Anthony is a freelance writer and has worked in the industry for three years. He’s furiously competitive and is always looking for the next big multiplayer hit. Anthony is a passionate PS1 collector and firmly believes in playing games in his collection rather than letting them collect dust on a shelf. He is also passionate about speedrunning and always looks forward to the next GDQ and ESA events.