Ahh, Sonic! You blistering blue streak of pure, unadulterated speed! Well at least in North America that is. How you littered my childhood with moments of adoration for your red and white sneakers and colorful locales. I miss you, bruh.
Even though the spiky blue badass may have lost himself over the years since he first blasted onto our Sega Master Systems and Genesis/Mega Drives (remember the scarf?), one staple of Sonic that deigned to remain is his speed. He's supersonic, for Pete sake!
But little did I know that, growing up unaware and excitable in the UK, my beloved Sonic was actually far slower than the US' iteration? That little blue bastard.
The reason for this treachery is all down to analog TV encoding. Yeah sorry, the answer isn't as sexy and badass as you thought it would be.
In a large chunk of the Americas, South Korea and Japan, televisions used NTSC encoding which ran on OG TVs at 60Hz. This in turn pumped out an impressive 30fps in game, rendering Sonic a swift little bugger.
Now in Europe, a German company named AEG discovered that lights flickered less at 50Hz than 40Hz, which eventually led to a more stable image on televisions at the time. This standard would go on to drift through the rest of Europe, but seeing as 50Hz was stable enough to Europeans at the time, they decided to stick with that particular frequency which we have come to know as PAL encoding.
Check out the differences in this helpful little video below:
The only downside with our buddy, our PAL is due to it having a lower frequency than NTSC, images run at 25fps as opposed to NA's saucy 30fps. Which led to American Sonic tearing up stages, whilst the UK's Sonic meandered at a rather leisurely pace like a proper lad, mate.
So there's a brief explanation of why Sonic is faster in the States than in Europe. If, however, you want a full breakdown of how exactly this phenomenon came to pass, check out this video from YouTube's Nostalgia Nerd. It is awesome and very thorough:
So, yeah. You won this round, USA. You had the better Sonic. Well done.
[Source - Nostalgia Nerd]