Sonic the Hedgehog: A Poor Emulation but a Classic Nonetheless

Jul 10, 2017
Arcade

Those who lived through it remember the video games of the ‘90s with both fond and fierce memories; the now-notorious ‘console wars’ the symbol of the mass hysteria surrounding 16-bit games and consoles at the time. No rivalry defined the era the way Mario vs. Sonic did, but there’s no doubt as to who the winner of the battle was: one went on to star in some of the greatest titles ever developed, the other consigned to little more than the history books. Yet, no matter how poorly-received his post-Megadrive adventures have been, Sonic has remained an iconic character, meaning his appearing in SEGA Forever, the company’s initiative to bring its classic games to the App Store free of charge, was never in doubt.

The iconic blue blur first made his way onto SEGA’s Master System and Megadrive in 1991, and soon came to represent the technological advancements of the time. His speed, coupled with the Megadrive’s magnificent colour spectrum, wowed players, and for the first time ever we had a genuine contender to Mario’s throne. The story surrounds Sonic, a blue, anthropomorphic hedgehog looking to defeat Dr.Robotnik, a villain intent on stealing every animal and emerald he can find. To save his furry friends and collect the jewels for himself, Sonic has to speed through six zones of differing environments, each with three stages. Once at the end of the third stage of every zone, a battle is fought against the evil Dr.Robotnik, until eventually all of the animals are freed. Along the way are gold rings which act as Sonic’s health; get hit by one of the many enemy creatures in every stage and every ring will fly across the screen; get hit with no rings and you’ll lose one life. But, unless you’re one of the very few who have never played Sonic the Hedgehog before, you know all of this already.

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Anyone wanting the iOS version of Sonic the Hedgehog to play as well as the original will be disappointed, but those discounting it because of that best leave their Megadrive under the TV for good: emulators rarely provide the same experience as the original they’re based on. Of course there will be the occasional drop in frame rate (especially when this game targets 60fps), the music might sound twangy and crackle sometimes, and overall it won’t ‘feel’ the same, but that’s because it’s not. Emulators such as this provide a way for the old and the new to play a classic game, and in this case free of charge. Understanding this is the first step towards appreciating what SEGA has done here.

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Emulation aside, there is one key problem with Sonic the Hedgehog on iOS: the game is very difficult to play on touch screen. It’s such a fast paced game that requires delicate movement, and the 8-way D-Pad on the left of the screen just doesn’t allow for this. In order to be precise with where you want Sonic to go, you really need to be able to feel the raise of the controller, and it’s no surprise that the screen of an iOS device doesn’t offer this. You won’t have such issues with the other controls: only one other button is needed to make Sonic jump. The issue with the directional controls is a game-breaker, though, and will leave many a frustrated player during the latter, more difficult levels.

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What this SEGA Forever edition of Sonic the Hedgehog allows people to do is either play the game they remember from all those years ago or try one of the most-loved, iconic games ever for the first time. Whether you’re new to the game or returning, there’s little chance of you having the patience with the controls to make it through to the end, but that won’t matter to some people. Sometimes all you need to hear is the “SEGA” introduction, the Green Hill Zone soundtrack, or the music that plays during a Dr.Robotnik boss battle to get your dose of nostalgia, and that can be enough.

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Available on iOS and Android.

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