Review: Sonic the Hedgehog: 3D Classic

Being that Sonic the Hedgehog was the very first game that I played on my Sega Megadrive way back in the early nineties, there are plenty of fond memories that I have for what was a landmark title at the time, in the many years that have passed by since the 16-bit era Sonic's transition through the generations has been less than plain sailing but that still doesn't change the fact that the first games have always remained classics so this was an obvious choice for inclusion in the Sega 3D Classics range. From that iconic title screen where the blue-blur famously waggles his gloved finger from left to right, through to the familiar chequered ground plus angular trees of the Green Hill Zone right through to the very end; everything is recreated to a pixel-perfect standard including everything you'd expect to see plus some things that might surprise you all rendered in spectacular 3D on a portable Nintendo handheld.

It was definitely nothing short of a revelation to me playing this version of Sonic for the first time, a game which I am proud to know very well yet couldn't help but notice very small details that have been there all along but it wasn't until they were presented to me in three dimensions that I really appreciated them, like the different faces on the tiny 'totem poles' in the Green Hill Zone, vast amounts of detail in the brickwork within Marble Zone or just the sheer number of rivets in the metal structure of the sublime Star Light Zone... small things perhaps but they make all the difference when revisiting a classic. Also having the first Sonic game in portable form emulated perfectly is something of a joy in itself, we may have had 'Sonic Classic Collection' on the DS but all that served as was a poor translation of once brilliant games which were then cruely hampered with such issues as terrible frame-rates among other glaring irritations, thankfully though everything here runs silky-smooth proving that Sega truely know what they are doing by focusing on each game at a time, ensuring each one is polished to a satisfying shine.


Just simple things such as including multiple region versions, customisable controls right through to more elaborate options including preferred method of sound emulation and the ability to choose between 'fall-in' or 'pop-out' 3D all from the very start, this is very much as definitive a re-release as we're ever likely to see as there are even such options as having the level select available from the start, - no more Up/Down/Left/Right/A+Start/*ding!* - even the spin-dash from Sonic 2 has made it in as an option somehow though while some may choose to use this with reckless abandon personally I feel it has no place in the original but at least it's there. Having the use of save-states is certainly welcome though as even if you're the most accomplished player of the game, sometimes it can be rather annoying if you find yourself losing all of your rings before the end of an act thus losing you access to the Special Stage so in those instances it can be helpful if you happened to save half-way through the stage, or for when you're loathed to wait another whole zone/act before you can attempt to nab one of the Chaos Emeralds; here you can just choose to reload from that 'handy' save you made at the start of the stage.

Indeed it's the special stage itself that is particularly impressive in this iteration as you could argue that it was 'made' with 3D in mind, with that whole tilting maze-like structure set off against the scrolling background that forever alternates between those now iconic bird/fish tiles as you attempt to find your way toward that elusive gleaming jewel at the end, if you thought this part was rather 'trippy' the first time you played Sonic then prepare for your mind to blown once you see it on the 3DS in all its glory.

Aside from that though it's very much the same game that you may have played back in the day, the revolutionary platforming title which perfectly blended speed with careful, considered jumping sections interspersed with the odd physics-based puzzle thrown in every so often to allow for a good mix, it's that unique combination which is part of why it's still so loved over all these years; Sonic the Hedgehog was very much the start of something special that would go on to become quite the phenomenon. It might not be as accomplished as the three sequels which surpassed it, though that is the only real area in which it falls slightly short, that and its length as these days it would be very easy to blitz through in around an hour if that; the real challenge however comes from finishing the game complete with all the Chaos Emeralds which might only change the ending slightly in this case but it's still worth it just for the sense of achievement.


Every visual element remains strong as ever only further bolstered by the spectacular 3D which serves to add an astounding amount of depth to a title which already had a very striking look to it, with Sonic being blue perfectly off-sets himself from the background/foreground plus all other elements around him while at the same time remaining very much integral to the game world, each zone has its own look creating quite the contrast throughout your adventure but always somehow managing to remain cohesive overall in style; the variety of different badniks for each stage is also another great element with not very many of them crossing over into other stages aside from the Buzz Bombers most notably as they reappear in the Spring Yard Zone... my favourite design is still the Newtron as you never tend to see it until it's too late. Audibly the soundtrack composed by the legendary Masato Nakamura is still spectacular to this day as it is perfectly paced throughout featuring some of the most memorable tracks in the history of the series, from the up-tempo spirit-lifting Green Hill zone to the otherworldly Spring Yard Zone right through to the electronic industrial bliss that is Scrap Brain Zone; each track is so well polished while the sound effects in particular are so amazingly robust that they are still used today including the chime of the ring, - alternating between left/right speakers for each one picked up - the boing of the spring or the ever painful pang of the spikes.

While the first two acts of each zone will have you simply getting to the sign at the end in the quickest possible time, when you reach the third act you will come up against Dr. Robotnik who will come up with various contraptions
designed to stop you in your tracks, perhaps the most iconic is the first encounter where there is a wrecking ball being swung at you from his Egg-o-Matic which you will need to dodge while trying to land hits on him in order to send him packing so that you can rescue your animal friends which is essentially the plot of the game too as it happens. Naturally the encounters get a bit more involved the further you progress with one such 'battle' having you actually give chase to the evil Doctor as you attempt to escape the death-trap which is the area around you, rather clever for its time also I doubt anyone will be able to beat the Final Zone on their first try without losing a life owing to the lack of rings and precise jumps involved to succeed, so the game can still be challenging at times even today.


Of course if you've played this landmark title before many times then you likely won't have any trouble beating it again but for those of you who have never played the original Sonic the Hedgehog then firstly what is wrong with you? Secondly I would strongly urge you to buy it on the eShop now for you won't find any other game like it at all and at only just over four pounds it's more than worth the price; so go and enjoy it while I envy you for being able to experience Sonic the Hedgehog for the very first time in 3D. As a fan of the series I can only hope that the subsequent Megadrive sequels get the 3D classics treatment as well because they only improved up until the end of the 16-bit era, I'm sure there are many other Sega fans out there too who are just waiting for the rest to arrive even though they haven't been officially announced yet, take ages if you like Sega but please don't deny us the joy of at least being able to experience Sonic 2 in 3D as well.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Sonic the Hedgehog has been reborn on the 3DS with a true portable version of an all-time classic which is worth its weight in gold rings.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



Visuals have impressive added depth
Still fun to play decades on
Audio has even greater clarity
Best version of Sonic to date


Inclusion of spin-dash is a mixed blessing

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