Sonic the Hedgehog
Ah, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega’s iconic mascot has stood out as one of gaming’s most recognisable characters for nearly two decades now. Sadly, like Sega’s influence over the gaming world, Sonic has declined since the death of the Dreamcast. His most recent efforts have been lacklustre at best, with the terrible Sonic the Hedgehog on this current generation’s platforms being notably awful. So, to my unreserved joy, the original Sonic for the Mega Drive was released on the Xbox Live Arcade. Sonic burst on to the gaming scene in the March of 1991 and the game quickly becoming Sega’s flagship title, going on to be bundled with the Mega Drive itself. Sonic was loved by gamers and critics alike, earning rave reviews and going on to sell more than 4 million copies. It ended up becoming the second highest selling game for the Mega Drive, outsold only by its sequel, Sonic 2.
Thankfully, Sonic’s as good as ever; a timeless classic that you can play over and over again. Its simplicity is its key to success; all you need to control our spiky-haired friend is the A button to jump and the analogue stick to move. The entire game consists or running as fast as Sonic’s sneakers will let him, collecting rings, solving some basic puzzles and defeating the robotic baddies along the way.
Sonic stood out from the crowd of generic platformers of its day with the different array of levels to traverse and it makes it a very pleasant game to look at. Unlike in today’s gaming world, there’s no pop-up, screen tearing or poor frame rates to worry about. The 2D style holds up very well after all these years and an extra polish to smooth out the jaggies from the 8-bit version hasn’t hurt either. You’ll start in the Green Hill Zone with its lush rolling hills, iconic music and multitude of different enemies to bop on the head. As the game progresses you’ll encounter lots of new enemies and various themed zones to explore, which keep the game from becoming stale. At the end of each zone Sonic battles with the nefarious Dr Robotnik, (yes Dr Robotnik, not ‘Dr Eggman’ as they‘ve bizarrely re-christened him in Sonic‘s newer incarnations), who for some reason likes encasing cute little animals inside robots to do his bidding. The boss fights are a classic platform affair; find the boss’ weakness, hit him, then rinse and repeat until he flies off, his eggmobile and pride in tatters.
The 360’s achievements system only adds to the fun, although they’re mostly easy to obtain, but if you’re up for a challenge, you can try and beat the game in under 40 minutes, which is rather difficult. Mercifully, they’ve decided to add a save system which the original was lacking, allowing you to save wherever and whenever you please, although it does take away part of the challenge to the game.
Unfortunately, Sega didn’t decide to add any extra content to the Xbox Live release, but for a measly 400 MS points (around £3), you can once again experience the genre-defining game that still is as fun to play as it was in 1991. With the added bells and whistles of achievements and an online leader board it’s an attractive offer for Sonic fans and people interested in platformers alike. If you’ve never played Sonic before, firstly; shame on you, and secondly; play it and experience the delights you have missed out on the past 16 years!