The original Sonic the Hedgehog game from 1991 remains a well respected release even by today’s standards, a stance dramatically supported by an incredibly well-made mobile port back in 2013. Each and every level within the game is a gem of nostalgia, with luscious backdrops and catchy music accompanying some very solid level design. The pinnacle of all this, indeed the pinnacle that everything in the franchise has been held accountable to since, is the one and only Green Hill Zone. Anyone who recognises Sonic the Hedgehog is likely to recall the checkered hills and tropical palm trees now synonymous with Sega’s mascot. In that case, is Green Hill truly the best level in the original Sonic the Hedgehog?
The level is stacked against some incredible competition, with each of the 6 zones striking a good chord with players. However, there are two fairly distinct types of zones at work in the game, one which encourages speed, whilst the other focuses more on precision platforming. Green Hill falls more into the former category, alongside the likes of Spring Yard and Star Light zones. These levels aren’t devoid of any precision work, but their design encourage players to stretch their legs more so than the others. These three zones already have an advantage over the others, because they highlight Sonic’s signature abilities and showcase why this 2D platform caught the world’s attention back in 1991. There’s nothing to be held against stages such as Marble, Labyrinth and Scrap Brain, but it is a breath of fresh air to leave them behind and play with some speed once more.
Of course, Green Hill opens the game and therefore it is tricky to judge the others stages without comparing them to it. Through the stage, we get to grips with Sonic’s speed, learn how to build momentum by curling into a ball and get treated to some incredibly upbeat, catchy music. Smashing through the hills and charging down winding chutes across multiple routes is pretty exhilarating even today, so to be met with the linear, platform heavy Marble zone shortly after make players pine for those green hills once more. That’s where one may criticise the first Sonic the Hedgehog game; Green Hill starts things off so strongly, the other levels can’t quite catch up. Only Star Light truly comes close to matching that exhilaration and that proves far too short a level to dust of the sprint shoes before the incredibly tricky Scrap Brain takes over. As an overall package, the game provides a great experience and reasonable amount of challenge, but even the most die hard fans might admit the game goes downhill once Green Hill is left behind.
Yet, this is only because Green Hill is so very good that within any other game the rest of the levels would look exceptional. As far as opening levels of any game is concerned, its hard not to feel a rush of joy when storming through Green Hill and bask in all the aspects that have made it so iconic to this very day. Indeed, it truly is the best level in the game and perhaps even the best level in any Sonic game and acts as the perfect introduction to Sonic the Hedgehog for any video gamer out in the world. Seriously, if any reader hasn’t played this game yet, just give the first level a go, there’s something in it to enjoy for everybody.
However, why bring up once again that Green Hill is so good, when many would consider this topic overly discussed in the first place? Green Hill sits in a somewhat tricky predicament at the moment, becoming so saturated through overuse that we practically roll our eyes at the very mention of those checkered hills. The announcement of Sonic Forces was met with somewhat underwhelming response, in part thanks to another version of Green Hill featuring in its trailers. Most Sonic merchandise features this tropical paradise and this is something the fans over at sonicstadium.org have addressed in their own article. Yet, while we might be too familiar with this now 25 year old setting, we cannot forget how good a stage this is in the original and how integral a role it has played in establishing the successes of the franchise over the years. Few games have opened so strong and so, even when we may be sick of the sight of this iconic level, we still cannot deny the fact it is Sonic’s best, both in the original title and the franchise as a whole.
Do you agree with this article? Or does another level deserve more praise than Green Hill? It’d be great to hear more thoughts on this!