Sega’s recent interest in possibly resurrecting several of it’s classic franchises for 2017 has got me thinking. I've realized I haven't played a 2D game since Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Game Gear. 2D games just never held the same appeal to me as 3D, and I think I know why. Thus, in light of the retro release, I am going over what was so great about Sonic that it outmatches most games even today.
Now, what makes Sonic great is not the 3D versions, and most especially not Sonic Boom; it's the 2D side-scrolling perfection of the older games. In fact, such level design is what a lot of 2D games, in my opinion, are lacking in comparison. The level design of Sonic The Hedgehog, for example, isn't unique or complicated, but it is one of the most memorable aspects about the game. Each zone is themed after its namesake. For example, Green Hills brings the sense of a beautifully forested area with sharp-edged trees and checkerboard hills. Labyrinth Zone has a distinctly Aztec styling to it, while Star Light Zone offers sparkling backdrops and huge loops to negotiate. Each and every one of Sonic’s six main zones (split into acts) are full of detail and feature bright primary colours that perfectly complement the high speed action that Sonic Team’s game offered.
The rings are also a key aspect of old-school Sonic’s appeal, being a way of earning extra lives or acting as a useful shield. Whenever Sonic hits an enemy, he’ll drop rings if he’s carrying them, allowing him to quickly recover any before they disappear completely. Hit an enemy without them and he’s robbed of a life. It’s a neat mechanic that still holds up brilliantly today, and remains a key component of practically every Sonic game since.
The narrative for most 2D Sonic games is beautifully simplistic and requires nothing more than a bad guy to run after. Dr. Robotnik is one of the most unforgettable villains in gaming, all due, I think, to his animation. Nothing says evil mastermind like a handlebar moustache and wild hair. Or perhaps it's his machines; they're ever more weird and wonderful, and add to feeling of victory once you defeat him.
Last but not least, nothing can ever match the breakneck speed of a Sonic game. You feel nearly invincible jetting through each level like a blue race car. Each power-up and loop-de-loop propels you even faster; there is nothing that can stop you. It always kept me coming back and hoping I could break my record.
There is no 2D game out there quite like Sonic, and it will always remain a favorite of mine. It's level design is memorable and brightly colored, the power-ups and ring mechanic make the game fun and unique, a simplistic story keeps all players coming back for more, and finally, it has a speed that is unmatched even today. Sonic holds up against it all and will always have a place in gaming history. I hope these early Sonic games continue to be re-released it so that younger generations can experience them too.