Hello gamers and welcome back to our 100 reviews in 100 days. We’ve come to day four in our eight week of the countdown and we’ve got an awesome 16-bit treat for you.
Speeding into the 62 position…
Let’s go back to the days of yore (and yes, at this point, the late 80s and early 90s are the days of yore. Anytime before the advent of the interwebs is basically the Stone Age now), when Sega was the Stallone to Nintendo’s Schwarzenegger. Like Stallone, Sega had some great titles to its name, but it could never get out from under the shadow of its more successful rival. Stallone had peaks were he was on equal footing with Arnold, but he never overtook him when they were both in their primes. The same goes for Sega and Nintendo. During the mid and late 80s and into the 90s, they were the Sly and Arnold of video games. We all know how the story ends, obviously. Sly, Arnold, Sega and even Nintendo are all shadows of their former selves. Their glory days are long behind them. Shit, Sega doesn’t even make console hardware anymore. Out of all the things that I find depressing about the current console landscape, it’s that Sega isn’t in it. Why? Because they were batshit insane, and it was glorious. I know I’m not the only person that had a SegaCD, or a Saturn, or any of the other phenomenally terrible stuff that they came up with in the 90s. My God, it was so great. But I digress.
“Gallifrey, what is the point of all that?” you might ask. And I say to you, person who is so rudely interrupting my ranting, that the point is while Sly never overtook Arnold, he did have it over him in one area: The Franchise. Sly had Rambo and Rocky, two iconic characters (and their associated films) that Arnold can’t touch. And don’t try to sell me on the Terminator movies being Arnold’s franchise. They’re disqualified because they’ve started making Terminator movies without Arnold, whereas you could never make a Rambo or Rocky movie without Sly. And if you don’t agree with that, shush. My article, my insane analogy, my rules. Arnold may have been the world’s biggest movie star, but Sly had two killer franchises. And while Nintendo may have been overall the top dog in 8 and 16 Bit console gaming, they had a plumber. Sega had a fucking hedgehog on speed (Get it? Speed?! Nevermind).
“I’D LIKE ALL THE SPEED, PLEASE.”
As far as classic side-scrollers go, Sonic will always be my favorite. I don’t know if it’s objectively the best, but screw objectivity. The Sonic games were fast-paced, fun, speed-freaky journeys of absolute weirdness that stand up even today, whereas the Mario games from that era look ridiculously stodgy and outdated. The original Sonic was only a taste of what was to come. In later installments we got new characters, new mechanics, better boss fights and plenty more. But the first Sonic is what started all of it and gave Sega a kick-ass franchise player when they badly, badly needed one. If Sega had other franchises at the time, nobody cared. How do I know that? Because nobody remembers them now. When people think of Sega franchises they think of Sonic. Period. But what sets Sonic apart, then and now, is the sheer sensation of speed you get when you play them. The Mario titles and other side-scrollers contemporary to Sonic moved at what felt like a universally measured pace. Sonic strapped a rocket to your ass and shot you into another dimension.
YES, YES, FINE. THERE’S NO SONIC WITHOUT MARIO.
While I like Sonic more than Mario, I’m not nearly biased enough to ignore the fact that Sonic wouldn’t exist if not for that pixelated racial stereotype of a plumber. For the record, I’m Italian and I don’t have a single plumber in my family. Hang on, I’ll be right back. The sink is leaking and I need to call my plumber, Giuseppe Bellagamba, to come fix it. …What? Anyway, yes, Sonic owes Mario a massive debt. Both games involve the following elements: They’re both 2D side-scrollers. You collect coins as you move through each level. You jump on your enemies’ heads to smooshy-smoosh them. You’re constantly pursuing a big bad boss who is as hard to catch as the Greased Up Deaf Guy from Family Guy. So yes, we don’t have Sonic without Mario. However. Just because something was first, doesn’t necessarily make it better. Sonic is Mario’s spiritual successor, is infinitely cooler and more badass, and it took the elements that Super Mario Bros. introduced and took them to a new place. And while Mario is dying in the old folks home from terminal mushroom poisoning, Sonic will still be sprinting around him at a trillion miles per hour. So there.
PLAY ALL THE THINGS. ALL. THE. THINGS.
If you haven’t played any of the Sonic games… Well, first of all, what the hell? I mean, seriously, what the hell??? The good news is that it’s not too late. The original Sonic games are generally pretty available. As of this typing, they’re available to download right now on the Xbox360 Store. Do yourself a favor and get reacquainted with Sonic the Hedgehog. He deserves it, and so do you. Now, since we’re only reviewing the original Sonic game here I am giving a ranking of 4 out of 5, and that’s only because Sonic 2, which is the best side-scroller of the 16 Bit Console generation, improved on what was already a terrific game. The original Sonic isn’t the best one, but damn is it terrific. Take the speedy blue fuzzball for a spin again. You won’t be sorry.