Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the world’s most recognizable video game characters, and definitely one that revolutionized the gaming world as we know it today. The first game ever released starring the blue-Mohawked critter was released over two decades ago, yet experts will rush to say that it’s still as impressive today as it was back then. What makes them say this? What is the legacy of this game, and how exactly can a twenty-year old game originally released for a 16-bit console still seem current? If you’re new to video games, a gaming history aficionado, have just gotten into or are a hardcore player of Sonic games, then this article would be a great starting point to pick up a bit of background on the series.
When Sonic released the game, the Sega Mega Drive was already fairly popular, but it was this game that drove its popularity through the roof. Not only was an entire franchise based on this title alone, with tons of spin-offs and related merchandise, but Sonic proved so popular that the company decided he would become their mascot for the rest of its existence! Back in April of 1990, when the Sonic Team first started developing this game, this was their only premise: to design a mascot for Sega, as well as a game to star it. As you may note, focus was on the mascot. The guy who actually drew the character said he simply wanted to achieve a colorful design, with neat finishes and a Pop Art vibe to the overall artwork. Little did he, together with Naoto Oshima, Hirokazu Yasuhara and Yuji Naka, know back then how popular the game would turn out…
However, when the game did hit international markets, critics and audiences alike were riveted. Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the few titles in video game history on which industry arbiters Gamespot and IGN actually agreed in calling it a great release and revolutionary in its own right. IGN revisited the game’s release in 2007 and praised it for the speed of its engine, which, they rightfully presume, must have been highly difficult to complete, given the technology available to game developers in the early nineties. The game went on to sell some 15 million copies worldwide and, to this day, it remains Sega’s best-selling title, as well as the top seller in the impressively wide-spanning Sonic franchise.
None of the above, however, explains why the game was this popular. Think back to 1991 and the speed at which players were used to interacting with their character and the game worlds in which they acted. Sonic the Hedgehog was able to enter a 360-degree maze and perform all sorts of acrobatics that would go on to spawn an entire sub-genre of their own (popularly known as mascot-based platform games). Not only was the main character moving at unprecedented speeds, but the 2D world he inhabited had been completed in great detail, its colorful graphics remaining of the game’s strong points to this day.