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Upon Retrospect: Sonic the Hedgehog

Last time, I reviewed Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System and how monumental it was to North America. The classic made an impact on gamers both young and old, catapulting the video game industry to new heights. Now, let's take a look at his hated adversary: a blue hedgehog.

Long ago, the Console Wars took place between the mighty Nintendo and the immovable SEGA. The SNES and the Genesis waged a war of epic proportions, causing a rift among gamers. Either you supported the bold Italian plumber or you sided with the fearless blue hedgehog. There was no in-between.

That blue hedgehog happened to be Sonic the Hedgehog, a speedster who stopped Dr. Robotnik and his nefarious schemes. SEGA's mascot also freed numerous woodland creatures from being shelled up in hollow robot bodies, renewing their leases on life. You couldn't have found a better character for charitable acts than Amy Rose's "lover".

Anyways, Sonic the Hedgehog was released on June 23, 1991 (believe it or not, the 30th anniversary was a couple months ago), for the SEGA Genesis. Developed by the Sonic Team and published by SEGA, the game came at a time where Nintendo's competitor needed a mascot. Low and behold, that blue hedgehog was what the doctor ordered, making this game one of the best sellers of all time.

There are plenty of reasons why it went on to become legendary. For one, it offered a fast-paced style of gameplay compared to its competitor of a plumber. You'd run around the stage at lightning speeds, collecting rings and Chaos Emeralds in the process. Then, Dr. Robotnik came along, offering a unique contraption that required a different strategy. The ingenuity is what made Sonic the Hedgehog great.

Another great aspect is its simplicity. You'd think that a fasted-paced game would be complicated to handle. That's not the case here. Everything controls well, including the mini-game, making matters easier. With the easy controls, it puts Sonic on par with Mario, making it a tough competitor. In an age where Nintendo had a stranglehold on the video game industry, it was refreshing to see that blue hedgehog square up with Mario.

The design is another asset of this excellent classic. Sonic uses a novel technique that allows sprites to roll along curved scenery, a tactic used by game programmer Yuji Naka. The levels are designed well themselves, offering creativity and fun for the player. Best of all, it's not tied to the traditional elemental worlds (i.e. ice, fiery hell, water). Instead, the first installment focuses on locations such as ruins, outer space, and spring yards.

A small concern with the Sonic games (at least during the Genesis days) was the mini-games. While the controls were a saving grace, these side quests were either confusing or hard to pull off. That's true in this regard, where you're handling Sonic like he's in a Plinko machine. Still, such a tiny gripe doesn't take away from the masterful gameplay the blue hedgehog offers.

While Super Mario Bros. helped shoot the video game industry into the stratosphere in North America, it was Sonic the Hedgehog that made the niche larger than life. Without Mario's adversary, gaming wouldn't be as relevant and popular as it is today. No matter which side you were on during the Console Wars, you can't help but appreciate Sonic for becoming a staple when Nintendo was reigning supreme. That's why I give Sonic and this breathtaking masterpiece all the credit in the world for reinventing video games.

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