I’ve been bashing poor Sonic on here quite a bit. It hasn’t been intentional, I’ve genuinely gone back to Sonic R and Sonic Adventure because I loved them as a child. For clarity – I was a stupid, stupid child. So for the sake of fairness, I decided to revisit what many argue is the best Sonic game. It’s bound to have held up better than the woeful 3d games, isn’t it? Isn’t it?! ISN’T IT?! I CAN’T GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN!
The original Sonic The Hedgehog hit the Mega Drive back in 1991, as an attempt to give the Mega Drive a ‘must own’ title, as well as establishing a mascot for Sega to use in their intense Oriental blood feud with Nintendo (Spoiler – Nintendo won. Hard). It won critical acclaim with its (at the time) lightning fast gameplay, graphics and replayability. Sonic 2 added a few refinements to the formula, as well as beginning to evolve into a full fledged franchise with the addition of Sonics sidekick, Tails.
This is a 1990’s platform game – the bad guy did a bad thing, go jump on his head. I’m not kidding, check your platforming history. Except this is a sequel so it becomes: jump on his head again, now with added sidekick!
Yep. Can’t fault it. REJOICE, SONIC FAN(S)! You run to the right, you jump on bad guys heads, you do the bonus level, you beat the boss. IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY NEED TO BE ANY MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT! Simplicity is Sonic 2’s greatest strength – it’s always clear what your goal is without a single word ever being said to you. And it’s FUN. The levels flow beautifully in spite of Sonics speed, and they’re full of alternate routes to explore that you can’t wait to get to on your next run through the level.
As far is the levels go, literally, less is more. Sega stripped the third act from each zone,as was the staple in Sonic 1, and instead opted for more Zones with fewer acts – eleven zones to Sonic 1’s six. The zones only having two acts breaks up the monotony very well, however there are some pacing issues. The beginning of the game is all about the speed, as I said before, with new pathways being available to you should you have the reflexes to get to them. Later in the game, Segas insistance on “traps” rears its ugly head, and instead of plowing your way through Emerald Hill zone, you’re stood waiting to be killed on a conveyer belt in Metropolis.
The bonus levels are a blessing and a curse. You get a third person view from behind Sonic as he runs through a half pipe collecting rings and avoiding bombs. Fun, right? Actually, yes. But TAILS. This was a staple 1990’s gamer complaint – “I would’ve done if it wasn’t for f&*@ing TAILS!”. And it’s true. He’s an idiot. Any time you come close to your goal, Tails decides he wants bomb for dinner and faceplants your rings away. Little bastard.
LOOK! He’s gonna do it right now! MOVE YOU IDIOT!!
They’re worth persevering with though, as if you complete all seven, you get to play as Super Sonic – he’s Sonic except he’s yellow, invincible, and quicker than a Vindaloo poo. Playing through the game with Super Sonic also gives you a slightly different ending should that float your boat, but it’s genuinely just more fun to play as him.
Sonic 2 still definitely looks 16-bit, but it is bright, colourful, well designed, and it still flows smoothly, even if not as fast as the game once used as its great decider. The soundtrack is simply one of the best in gaming. I still have these songs stuck in my head 13 years later, and the soundtrack inspired awesome stuff like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGEPa0d3-HI
Its vindicating knowing I wasn’t a total lost cause as a child. Sonic 2 offers a varied, speedy and fun challenge, an awesome soundtrack, and is as 90’s a game as you’ll ever play. Go play it again, in honour of Sonic’s great vindication!
Pros: Pure unadulterated fun to play, great soundtrack, good level design, Super Sonic is ace.
Cons: Tails is an asshat, some levels are boring, I played one of the few good Sonic games so if I review another one odds are it’ll be a turd.