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Sonic the Hedgehog (VC)
Review By: Jared Black
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Platformer
ESRB: Everyone
# Of Players: 1
Online Play: No
Accessories: Wii Remote, Classic Controller, GameCube Controller
Buy Now: Buy Sonic the Hedgehog (VC) at Amazon.com!

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It’s not been easy being a Sonic fan for the past, oh, decade or so. Ever since Sega’s super mascot made the transition to 3D (beginning with the never-released Sonic Xtreme on Saturn), it’s been one misstep after another for Sega’s mascot. Fortunately, the original Genesis gems have been re-released several times during the same time period, allowing old-school fans to stick their heads in the sand and remember why they were fans in the first place. This latest re-release is a port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, and it’s still just as fun now as it was nearly 16 years ago.

The Sonic franchise is all about speed, and the original Sonic the Hedgehog personified that like no title had before it. Sonic himself is a fast little critter, but the nearly perfect level design facilitates going even faster than he can alone often. Levels feature plenty of loops, hills, springboards, and more to keep the action frantic. Holding at least one ring gives Sonic a second chance anytime he’s hit by a bad guy or obstacle, which gives the player liberty to take risks and test the limits of each level. There are other power-ups to collect as well, including a protective shield that absorbs one hit, invincibility that works just like the star in that other guy’s franchise, and speed boots to make things even faster for a short period of time.

Simply going fast isn’t enough for an entertaining game though, so to keep things from getting too mundane there is also plenty of optional exploring to do if you feel so inclined. Most levels have several different paths to take, each with its own rewards and challenges. Of course, if you don’t feel like it you can just run like the wind and zip to the end, but if you venture out just a bit you’ll reap generous rewards in the form of extra rings, lives, and more. You’ll probably need those extra lives too, because the game becomes increasingly challenging over time, and of course Dr. Robotnik will do all he can to stop you in your tracks.

Sonic the Hedgehog

In my tests both the Wii Remote and GameCube controller work fine in the game, but that isn’t surprising since you only need to move and jump. The small d-pad on both controllers isn’t as much of an annoyance as I thought it’d be, although I found that it felt a little better for this game on the Wii Remote than it did on my Wavebird. So overall there’s a slight hit to the controls due to the smaller d-pad, but not enough to have a huge impact on playability.

Amazingly, the game still looks great all these years later. The locations are diverse, with vibrant colors that pop out at you in progressive scan, and the game loses very little graphic quality even if you artificially stretch it out to a 16:9 display should you feel inclined. If something is fast, it’s fast, so the sense of speed is impressive even now, and solid level and character design also stands the test of time. In particular, there’s a good bit of variety in Robotnik’s mechanical minions for an early 16-bit title, each trapping a helpless animal inside that’s freed and hops away when Sonic takes out the bad guy.

And who can forget the soundtrack, with catchy tunes that perfectly compliment each new zone? Sonic the Hedgehog had some memorable sound effects in its heyday, and those all still sound great even now. Unfortunately, I did notice some very minor problems with the sound emulation (turning the sign at the end of each act in particular doesn’t sound right at all), but only because those sounds are so ingrained in my brain that I know them all by heart. Newbies and the less-fanatical probably won’t notice or care.

Another problem is that the original game had occasional problems with slowdown, particularly when things got chaotic (chaotix?) in the water-filled Labyrinth Zone. Since this is basic emulation of the original Genesis’ hardware, that problem has unfortunately not been fixed for this re-release.

Bottom Line:

Quality-wise, Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the best Virtual Console releases to date. However, it suffers from the same problem that many other titles also suffer from, in that it’s been widely available on a number of other platforms (both in collections and ports) for years, and that makes the $8 price tag seem pretty high.

So if you’ve never played the game before in any form, this is a reasonable and convenient way to do so. However, you should probably take stock of the other hardware you have in your house first, because chances are you can find it cheaper in some other form. This includes something like the GameCube version of Sonic Mega Collection, which is of course fully playable on the Wii and includes seven Sonic titles (and several other classics) and various extras for a few more dollars.

Pros:Cons:Final Score:
  • Sonic’s basic and frantic gameplay has withstood the test of time well.
  • The game still looks fantastic, especially on a progressive scan TV that lets the vibrant colors really shine.
  • One of the best non-RPG soundtracks in gaming.
  • Slight control hit due to the inferior d-pad on the Wii Remote and GameCube controller.
  • Some emulation issues with the sound effects.
  • Given the fact that it’s been repackaged in a number of compilations, and ported to numerous other platforms, $8 seems pretty pricey for what’s essentially a ROM you can play on your Wii.
7.5

Posted: 2007-03-05 19:39:09 PST