- Original release: 23rd June 1991
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Publisher: Sega
- Version Played: PAL & NTSC versions
- Original platform: Mega Drive
This game was my early childhood. I absolutely adored it as a kid, playing it many, many times on my Mega Drive. It has a very secure and special space in my heart. I also had Sonic 2 as a kid, but the original stuck with me more. That said, I find it very difficult to play Sonic the Hedgehog on the original hardware (I do have a Mega Drive and the main Sonic games), due to being spoiled by different versions I’ve played in the nearly 30 years since. This isn’t due to new features, but more that those versions are based on the American and Japanese versions, and not the European version.
Back in the day (I feel old writing that), TV technology in Europe was different to America and Japan, running at 50Hz instead of 60Hz. Some games got a proper “conversion” to 50Hz, meaning the European version was very close in most aspects, but Sonic the Hedgehog 1 did not get this. Games now have differences in frame rates (such as 30fps, 60fps) but the important thing to note is that the games still run at the same speed. Characters don’t move faster at 60fps, it’s just that the movement is slower. The difference between 50Hz and 60Hz, while technically being about frames per second, is very different.
50Hz games (when not properly converted) simply run slower. Sonic runs slower, and it takes longer to complete levels. Even the timer in the game runs slowly. This means that according to the game, you can finish the levels in both 50Hz and 60Hz versions with the exact time on the in-game timer, it will have taken longer in real time for the 50Hz version. This also extends to the music, which also runs slower. Here’s an example of Spring Yard Zone:
Oddly, I had no issues getting used to the faster music or faster pace when I first played a 60Hz version (which was probably working out how to activate 60Hz in Sonic Mega Collection on GameCube), but going backwards is something I struggle with. For me, I’d much rather play the 60Hz version, which is most accessible in emulated forms.
As for the game itself, I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been said. I absolutely love the game. Although Labyrinth Zone is a low point, I still think it has some nice ideas. I also really like Marble Zone – I don’t mind when Sonic games focus on slower paced platformer for some moments or levels. I absolutely love the graphics, sound effects and music as well.
One small thing I’ve noticed in more recent playthroughs is that Sonic 1 is actually really good at introducing gimmicks in each level, as the first time you can encounter something it’s usually “safe”, with it getting dangerous once you know how it works. This means you don’t really die because you weren’t expecting a mechanic, because you’ve already been able to “test” it. I was also surprised about how subtle this is. It’s a really well designed game, and I just absolutely love it.
Where to get
- Mega 6 Volume 3 (Mega Drive)
- Sonic Classics (Mega Drive)
- 6-Pak (Mega Drive)
- Mega Games 10 (Mega Drive)
- Sonic Jam (Saturn)
- Sega Smash Pack Vol. 1 (Dreamcast)
- Sonic Mega Collection (GameCube)
- Sonic Mega Collection Plus (PS2/Xbox)
- Sega Mega Drive Collection (PS2/PSP)
- Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection (360/PS3)
- Sonic Classic Collection (DS)
- Sonic Generations (360/PS3)
- Sega 3D Classics Collection (3DS)
- Sega Mega Drive Classics (Switch/XBO/PS4)
- Mega Drive Mini
- Rom Status: Available
- Sonic the Hedgehog Mobile (Java)
- Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis (GBA)
- 3D Sonic the Hedgehog (3DS)
- Retro Engine (Android/iOS)
- Sega Ages (Switch)
- Sonic Origins (Switch, Xbox One & Series, PS4 & PS5, Steam)
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