Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog has covered a lot of ground since his debut nearly twenty years ago. Some of that ground has been good, some bad, and, unfortunately, too much in recent memory has been absolutely awful. Sonic's fortunes seem to be changing with this week's release of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and — last week — Apple iPhone, but before we look forward, let's take a moment to took back. I invited my pal and Sonic aficionado Lucas DeWoody to help me narrow down Sonic's geography to the ten best levels that the franchise has to offer and banter back and forth a bit about what makes for a solid Sonic stage. My text is in red; his is in blue. Let's get right to it with the first stage on our list, shall we?
The stage that started it all has to be included here. Reading my monthly gaming magazines as a kid, seeing the large maps of Green Hill Zone stirred my imagination. The checkerboard pattern of the ground and unusual loops had me wondering just what this Sonic the Hedgehog fellow was all about and, moreover, left me doing the mental acrobatics to trace a path for Nintendo’s Mario through Sonic’s world (couldn’t be done with the plumber’s Nintendo Entertainment System skill set, sadly). As a Nintendo child, I only sampled Sonic at demo kiosks while out shopping with my parents, so I logged a lot of time with this zone and only this zone.
It was the same way with me. My first exposure to Green Hill Zone was in 1991. I was at Toys R' Us when (unbeknownst to be) my Mom was trying to find me a Super Nintendo for Christmas. Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World were both facing off on different sides of the aisle in rival kiosks. While I still believe Super Mario World to be the better of the two, I have to admit that even in 1991 Green Hill's iconic checkered structures and abstract visual design was far more interesting than Donut Plains 1. However, I was a Nintendo fan, so my torrid affair with Sonic the Hedgehog would have to take place back at the office or in hotel rooms – far away from the watchful eye of my Super Nintendo.