When Sega bigwigs asked their talented designers to create a video game character that would become the company mascot, the designers rubbed their chins for a while, then came up with a blue hedgehog, called Sonic.
In fact, the designers were so enamoured with their new creation that they changed their name to Sonic Team as they developed the game.
Released in 1991 for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog is a superfast, single-player only, side-scrolling platform game that has passed into the pantheon of classic video games, with its groundbreaking mix of speed boosts, corkscrews, undulating hills, winding tubes, traps, and ring-collecting bonus mayhem.
Actually, the ring-collecting is really quite ingenious. In Sonic, collecting rings acts as both a protection from death (if you hit a baddie you lose your rings, but remain alive), and as an incentive for extra lives (collect a certain number of rings before completing a level and you get given an extra life). The explosion of rings when Sonic hits a meanie is really quite dramatic – iconic even. As are the sound effects. And the graphics – especially the look of the first level.
In this first Sonic the Hedgehog there are six different Zones to play through, plus a short Final Zone. There’s also a cool Special Stage in between, where Sonic drops downwards, collecting as many rings as possible before exiting through a Goal portal.
At the end of each zone is a boss battle with Dr. Robotnik, the iconic bearded bad guy in the floating chair, and on each occasion he comes at you with a different weapon or gimmick which you have to thwart in order to defeat him.
As the levels go by the traps get more numerous and trickier to avoid. Seasoned Sonic players will know the jump timings though.
A timeless classic. A work of pixel artistry. And pure, unadulterated, solid gold retro gaming history.