Sonic 1 (1)

Genre: Platformer
Year: 1991
Developed by: Sonic Team
Published by: Sega
Platforms: Genesis
Feeling Like: The need for speed

I don’t know how to be cool. I feel like Marge at the end of “Homerpalooza.”

“Well how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we’ve tried everything here.”

The 90s were obsessed with attitude, sticking it to your parents and terrified of being lame. Mascots emerged by the hundreds, most with sunglasses and a constant ill-demeanor towards authority. God forbid you obeyed the “rules” or played it safe.

Sonic was cool. That’s all Sega had over Nintendo, and if you think I’m stupid for saying that, history is on my side – so there.

But being cool was no small thing. It was EVERYTHING in the early 90s, particularly if you were going toe to toe with a certain Italian plumber. Look, it’s easy to see on a surface level that a fat dude that jumped and was family friendly was objectively kid stuff and a blue hedgehog that went really fast was the epitome of radness, end of story. Advantage, Sega.

Sonic 1 (3)
Hands on hips? Cool

When you’re 2nd place, you really can only punch upwards and that’s what Sega did. Their advertisements showed how “slow” Nintendo games were, and nothing could compare to Sonic doing a loop-de-loop at breakneck speed, and they were right. “Sega does what Nintendon’t” has become a meme, but it was a genuine slogan in their commercials. 

Catchy phrases alone didn’t sell Sonic the Hedgehog, however. The detailed sprites and endearing animation may have garnered gamer’s initial interest, but the incredible sense of speed is what kept them. When you get into a proper flow, the levels become less obstacles and more colorful roller coasters. I’m not convinced that the design of each stage capitalizes on the core gameplay, but the sequels are vastly improved in this area.

It’s not uncommon that the best aspect of old games are the songs, and Sonic the Hedgehog is no different.

This is about as iconic as anything Mario. 

The entire soundtrack, and the sequels I may add, have a pleasant sense of rebellion to them. They’re always containing some guitar riff, or a melody that only feels at home in a Sonic game. It’s hard to describe, but there really isn’t anything like it.

Sonic 1 (2)
Going fast? Cool

I didn’t have a Genesis growing up, but thankfully a handful of pals did. It was truly the best of both world, as I got to enjoy a library of games I didn’t have access to and I was able to do so without begging my parents to splurge on something expensive they didn’t understand. 

The games were challenging at times, but not overly so. Unfortunately, I think the reason for the challenge lies in the fact that Sonic is mostly a horizontal, go-fast kinda fella, but many of the pitfalls required precision platform jumping. Not the blue blur’s strong suit. I always felt like Sonic had ice skates on, whereas Mario had proper hiking shoes. Both have their uses, but if I want to pick one to traverse narrow strips of land to avoid lava, you know who I’d rather have in my corner.

Sonic 1 (4)
Labyrinth Zone? NOT COOL.

One more annoyance; If you think Sonic the Hedgehog bucked the trend of water levels providing ZERO fun, you’re wrong. This sound clip gave millions of children nightmares for years to come. Did Mario ever run out of air?

A few more nitpicks ensured that I’d always be a Nintendo guy over Sega, but at this point I feel like I’m the one punching downward. Oh sure, I didn’t like the Genesis controller (still don’t), and the power-ups are lame compared to Mario’s (they are) and the Sonic sequels were leagues better (still are), I still couldn’t help but be pulled in, along with many of my friends. Animals popping out of robotic enemies that you defeated, Dr. Robotnik’s increasingly dangerous boss encounters and curling into a ball while ping-ponging yourself to impossible speeds with steep hills and springboards was too much to resist. Sonic did what Nintendo couldn’t, and it was immediately obvious to a generation.

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