This is it-the game that launched an icon. Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the best games ever made, let alone released for Sega's 16-Bit giant.
While many people quickly point to the fast paced gameplay alone being what defines the game, but i find other reasons.
Yes, while the game does have bursts of speed, but it's used sparingly-its created by either a good running start or rolling into a ball to gain momentum down a hill. The bulk of the game is a side scrolling platformer, where Sonic must run through a series of glorified obstacle courses, three acts in each world. Each world contains a specific theme, from the lush vibrant Green Hill Zone, the lava filled underground palaces of Marble Zone, the Pinball like warehouses of Spring Yard Zone, the treacherous underwater caverns of Labyrinth Zone, the cool, bright city skyline of Star Light Zone, and climaxing with a trek though the hollow, automated factories and death traps of Scrap Brain Zone. Along the way, Sonic has to navigate hazardous terrain, be it crumbling platforms, pools of lava and spike traps, as well as smash through Robotnik's legion of colorful, inspired Badniks.
What truly makes the game so appealing is how rewarding it is-sure, you COULD just make your way to the end with no problem, but the game does reward players who are willing to take the time to explore the levels and find all of the secret routes and hidden items. Even using speed at the right times will reward you greatly. It's a matter of skill and ambition, with a great balance of skill and reward-this alone greatly increases the games replay value. The surreal "rotating" maze special stages are also a cool treat.
But what also distinguishes this game is its aesthetics-the art direction is heavily influenced by classic cartoons and anime works of guys like Osamu Tezuka, and Sonic himself has an uncanny resemblance to Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse. The musical score is great-all of the tunes are really catchy and perfectly match the stages-the sound effects are also really fun and creative. The graphics are lush and well animated, with vibrant, well contrasted colors and lively character and stage art.
The only bits where the game truly seems to fall flat are the overly simplistic boss fights, and the dreary, boring and frustrating Labyrinth Zone.
But overall, its a true classic in every way.