A Review of Sonic Through the Years

A Review of Sonic Through the Years

Levi Morgan, Contributor

It’s weird in my opinion that there is a differentiation between Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, but there is, and that leads to people comparing the two series; there is definitely a superior series in my opinion, which is the one I’m talking about today. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, Nintendo was a huge powerhouse of gaming much like they are today, but back in the day, they were pretty much the only gaming company, so if you wanted to get your game published you had to go through them. At the time, Nintendo owned 95 percent of the gaming market and the other 5 percent went to 3rd party companies that made games for Nintendo. It was safe to say Nintendo was quite the powerhouse back then.

Sega saw the success of Nintendo and was the only one brave enough to fight Nintendo. At first, when Sega made the Genesis, many stores and companies didn’t want to carry it because they feared they would lose the relationship they had with Nintendo. So Sega took a step back and looked at Nintendo’s business model and way of thinking and used that against them. They realized that most of Nintendo’s market were kids from the ages of 5-11, so Sega capitalized on that and aimed their console towards teenagers. The only thing they needed was a mascot, which they soon came up with called Sonic the Hedgehog. I could go into the design process and how Sonic came to be, but that would make this article way longer. An interesting fact is that they based Sonic’s shoes off of one of Michael Jackson’s albums. This won’t be the only time you hear about Michael Jackson in this article.

The Rivalry

After Sega created Sonic The Hedgehog, they found a way to make 16-bit technology, which caught a lot of attention. The only problem was there weren’t a lot of good games for the Genesis at the time, but that changed when they started selling Sonic the Hedgehog bundled with the Genesis. This made Sega’s newfound IP go toe-to-toe with Mario in a huge rivalry in the ’90s. What really helped draw the line between the Genesis and SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) was Mortal Kombat, which was censored on the SNES.

Sonic the hedgehog (1991)

Sonic the Hedgehog was the first Sonic game to come out, but Sega has definitely learned since then. Sonic as a character was meant to be about speed but the game’s level design would make you think otherwise. The first zone of the game is the only level to truly let you experience speed with the later zones focused more on platforming. This is still a very fun game, but the other Sonic games have found a way to balance platforming and speed, making the first game the hardest platforming-wise. This game also introduced the chaos emeralds, but they were locked behind really hard special zones that were nauseating. On top of that fact, the chaos emeralds don’t do anything in this game so there’s no incentive to getting them aside from a secret ending. There are only two characters in this game being Sonic and the villain of the game, Dr. Robotnick, who is going after the chaos emeralds. Along the way, he’s putting little critters in metal robots to power them, and with them, he created an army. Sonic doesn’t know who Robotnick is at the time but doesn’t like that he’s enslaving the Critters for his own personal use; that’s basically the premise of the game, which is fairly basic but what do you expect from a platformer from the ’90s? The final boss is pretty fun because you fight Robotnik in a something like a trash compactor. They never really explain what it is, but you can get crushed fairly easily. The game ends with Robotnik getting away and the game telling you to try to collect all of the chaos emeralds.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)

Just one year after the huge success of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega released Sonic 2, which in my opinion is the true start of the series with a new character being introduced named Miles Prower (very funny);he has two tails for some reason, and Sonic gives him the nickname “Tails” (which is pretty clever). This game has pretty much the same plot but that doesn’t really matter. The levels are way better in Sonic 2 with even better music since their previous experience with their music board taught them a lot. They gave Sonic a new ability where he can get into a little ball and build up speed really fast which helps with slopes in levels. There are totally different environments with very diverse level designs, this one having a good blend between platforming and speed. This game has a different type of special stage where you are running down a tube where you collect rings and dodge mines. This is all fun and games until Tails hits one of the mines and loses many of your rings, making yet another impossible special stage. However, to make up for the difficulty of collecting the chaos emeralds, the game introduced Super Sonic, which is a yellow variant of Sonic that moves way faster and is invincible. This would’ve been super useful for the final boss considering how hard it is; the problem is that there are no rings in the final level so if you get hit once, then you die. The final level isn’t really a level; it’s just two rooms with different boss fights. The first one is a beta version of Metal Sonic which isn’t that difficult once you know his hitbox, but the fight after Metal Sonic with Robotnik is way too difficult. His hitbox is inconsistent and has way too much health, but his mech is really cool so it works out I guess. If you were to start playing the Sonic series, I would suggest starting with this one just because the games after this besides CD follow this formula.

Sonic CD (1993)

Sonic CD has a very weird history. After the success of Sonic the Hedgehog 1, Sega divided itself into two divisions called Sega of Japan and Sega of America. For some reason, they both decided to do their own sonic sequel. Sega of America created Sonic 2, and Sega of Japan made Sonic CD. What made Sonic CD unique was the fact that Tails wasn’t in the game, so it was another standalone adventure for the hedgehog. The game was so powerful that you basically needed to buy an expansion for your genesis called the CD-ROM, which basically boosted the console’s power but made it very clunky and big. The game introduced Amy Rose, who is in love with Sonic. She’s pretty weird, and Sonic doesn’t really like her, but she helps with the conflict of the new and improved Metal Sonic that is as fast as Sonic and cant be damaged. After all Sonic has been doing to save critters, Sonic takes a vacation on Mobius but ends up seeing Robotnick there so his vacation gets ruined pretty much. Amy follows Sonic around and eventually gets kidnapped by Metal Sonic so the whole game is about saving here and figuring out what Robotnik is doing and trying to stop it. The levels in the game are overwhelmingly complex with all of the design put into each level, plus the fact that if you want to 100 percent a zone, then you have to go into the past and future of each zone just to break these machines Robotnick put down. This game bases itself more off on Sonic 1 with there being a lot of platforming and very few speed-based sections. This time around, instead of collecting chaos emeralds, you collect time emeralds that do nothing different at all and feel like needless complexity. They don’t even turn you into Supersonic; they just end up giving you an alternate ending to the game. However, the special stages are super cool in this one with you being in a 3d plane trying to find which robot has the time emerald. I would say if you were going to play the classic Sonic games, to skip this game, but the boss fight between you and Metal Sonic is really cool with the two of you racing to the death with Robotnik behind you with a laser. You are both running to a slowly closing door that only one of you will be able to go through in the time frame that you have. The game needed the enhanced CD-ROM for the cutscenes in this game, which are really cool. If you end up playing the game, there are a bunch of cool codes you can put in and they make a lot of funny references, which you should check them out on YouTube if you are inclined to do so.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was such an ambitious game that it was too big to go onto one cartridge, so they ended up having to split them up into individual games. Sonic 3 came out first and 6 months later, Sonic & Knuckles came out. Sonic & Knuckles came with a cartridge builder called “Lock-on Technology”. It made a cartridge holder that could hold two cartridges and it combined them basically. For example, if you combine Sonic 1 and Sonic & knuckles, you could play as Knuckles in Sonic 1, which was awesome. That technology was made in mind for Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles to combine into Sonic 3 & Knuckles. This was how the game was intended to be played; the game was too big for one cartridge so this is what the game was supposed to be. I think that was a really cool workaround to cartridge sizes and it still confuses me on how they figured that out. This might be the perfect Sonic the Hedgehog game because of how long the game is and Hypersonic’s introduction. Hypersonic is a variant of Supersonic that moves even faster and doesn’t need rings to be used, plus there is a cool particle effect on Hypersonic. The game starts with Sonic and Tails making a pitstop on an island they’ve never seen before with the hopes of this being the fabled Angel Island. This game takes place pretty much directly after Sonic  2 so Sonic ends up arriving in the Super Sonic State but gets the chaos emeralds knocked out of him by Knuckles. Knuckles isn’t a villain; he is just very gullible and thinks that Sonic was there to steal the Master Emerald which is already missing. Sonic and Tails go looking for Knuckles to retrieve the chaos emeralds, but it is revealed that Knuckles and Robotnick were working together. Around halfway through the game, which was basically the ending of Sonic 3, Knuckles finds out that Robotnick took the Master Emerald, and once Sonic retrieved it, it is revealed that the island that they were on was indeed Angel Island because when the master emerald was returned, the island rose back up into the sky. After that, the Sonic & Knuckles part of the game kicks in and you find out that Knuckles has a secret hiding place for all of the Chaos Emeralds and Master Emerald but he ends up leaving it unlocked so you end up retrieving all of the Chaos Emeralds and with the power of the master emerald they end up becoming Hyper Chaos Emeralds which turns Sonic into Hypersonic. Sadly, the concept of Hypersonic hasn’t been used since. I highly recommend this Sonic game and it’s at a tie with Sonic Mania. The special stages in this are probably my favorite, but are in a tie with yet again Sonic Mania. The special stages in this game were called blue sphere because you had to collect blue spheres and dodge the red ones.

The Downfall of Sonic the Hedgehog (1996-2016)

In 1996, Nintendo made history with the N64 which was the first time there was a fully 3D console that also made good games such as Super Mario 64, Mario kart 64, Goldeneye 007, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and so many others. Sega naturally followed and ended up making the Dream Cast, which housed Sonic Adventure 1&2, which were very good games, but that was all they really had to offer. Sega ended up panicking and pushing out new consoles left and right but never had the blue mascot to back up the console. Sega eventually almost went bankrupt and quit making consoles. After that, they became a third-party company which means their sole purpose was to make video games. Sega eventually forgot about Sonic’s routes and went full 3-D. After many years of 3D games that all felt very half-hearted and lacking passion with a few exceptions such as Sonic Colors, Sonic Unleashed, and eventually, Sonic’s 20th anniversary, they came around the corner and introduced Sonic Generations.

Sonic Generations (2011)

This game takes the good and bad of Sonic the Hedgehog and ended up fixing the franchise. I won’t go into the plot at all besides the fact that it’s Sonic’s 25th birthday. Each zone is a callback to Sonic’s history with each one having two levels; one being in the 3d environment and the other in the 2d environment. This game brought Classic Sonic back after many years of being missing. Not only does this game have good 2d levels, it also has really good 3d levels which was a nice change of pace. Overall, fans were very happy with this game for many reasons and this sparked hope of a genuine Sonic The Hedgehog 4. They did release a Sonic 4 the year prior, but it was an insult to Sonic’s legacy.

Sonic Mania (2017)

Once people got a taste of Classic Sonic again, they wanted more. Sega hired Christian Whitehead to port all of the Classic Sonic games to console and mobile. These games received high praise for staying faithful to the originals while improving on them such as widescreen support which makes a game about speed way easier. These games received so well that Sega rehired him to make his own Sonic game. This game is called Sonic Mania, and is kind of old news at this point, but it might be the best Sonic the Hedgehog game ever made. Christian Whitehead has full access to Classic Sonic’s archives and took full advantage of it. This game brought back older Sonic zones with the first level of that zone pretty much being exact copy over while the second level introduced new gimmicks and other cool things like that. This game, however, is definitely not for new Sonic players with the first zone having the final boss of Sonic 2 in it. In fact, that’s one of the only problems in the game. All of the bosses are final boss worth because of how difficult they are if you don’t already know the weakness. This game has a lot of callbacks and references so of the Sonic games, you should definitely play this one last. This game has introduced the drop dash which is revolutionary for the 2d Sonic franchise. Basically, if you jump and hold it down the moment he comes in contact with the ground, he immediately initiates a spin dash which helps you keep up your pace.

Sonic Timeline

Sonic 1

Sonic 2

Sonic 3 & Knuckles

Sonic CD

Sonic Mania

My personal Rankings of the games are:

  1. Sonic 3 & Knuckles
  2. Sonic Mania
  3. Sonic 2
  4. Sonic CD
  5. Sonic 1