Slick, Shiny, and Speedy – Sega Genesis – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – 1992

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sega Genesis
(c) 1992
Genre: Adventure Platformer

In most cases, sequels are no contest for the original source. Plenty of game series can attest to this, and I’m sure plenty of you are thinking of a million examples as you read this. In rare cases, though, a sequel outshines its source, bringing new life to an already promising title. While this is an obvious boon to any game publisher, it doesn’t happen often enough. On that, I have to give kudos to Sega for making Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with this thought in mind.

The plot of the story revolves around our spiky blue hero taking a break after defeating Dr.
Robotnik. He lands his plane on a small island and, while resting there, finds himself followed by a young fox, Miles Prower (Get it?), who is nicknamed “Tails” due to a mutation resulting in his having two tails. Sonic decides to let him follow along with him and while they’re having their happy woodland adventures, an explosion and the appearance of familiar looking robots signals Sonic to action. He must stop Dr. Robotnik from stealing the seven Chaos Emeralds sealed away on the island, which were once used to help the society of the island flourish.

I feel like this image conjures up the very essence of the original Sonic series.

Impressively enough, there actually seems to be a bit of a mythology to this story, which is rare enough in games of the time, but with a few additions, including my personal favorite character’s first appearance, this game really spotlights what a team can do when they put their minds to it. Say what you want about him, but “Tails” can be pretty useful- when he’s not being a total klutz. As usual, we’ll get to that.

The game retains most of the charm of the original. New baddies, new friends, and new levels to peruse are some of the things you can look forward to. Thankfully, the folks at Sonic Team put a new spin on the old mechanics.

No, seriously.

There’s a new ability called a ‘spin dash’ which lets you rev up your character by holding in a ‘duck’ position and pushing the jump button. This alleviates the issue of the original where you had to get a running start, run, duck, and hope you had enough momentum to get through whatever obstacle was in your way.  Also, by default, you play as Sonic with Tails in tow. You can change it to play as either of our heroes solo, which will remove a lot of headaches. I kept having an issue where if I was jumping onto a moving platform, Mr. Prower would find a way to duck in front of me, activate the platform while I was in mid-air and send me to ultimate death. Thanks for all of that, by the way, Tails.

‘Streamline’ seems to be the word of the day with this game, though. At first, it seems cheap that the three act levels have been pared down to two acts. When you begin to play through, though, you realize that the sheer size of each act more than makes up for this change, making levels much easier to digest. Also, rather than your only chance at bonus levels being at the act’s end, if you approach any checkpoint post with 50 or more rings, you get a chance to tackle the

Well, if my two-tailed friend picks up his feet, I just might!

Chaos Emeralds. While these posts aren’t always right in your path at all times, you’ll find yourself seeking them out for this benefit.
There is also a two player mode, another new feature where you can race against or work with a friend to defeat Robotnik in a variety of locales. While I’ve never absolutely loved the two-player mode, it was nice to be able to play with a friend. A friend can control Tails in the one player mode, if it’s desired, but for the most part, they can just hurt bad guys and help collect rings.
One last bit is that this is the first appearance of a lot of series mainstays including Metal Sonic, Super Sonic, and of course, Tails. While the series hasn’t been known for throwing away any characters, the first appearance of those first two is pretty epic in the grand scheme of the series.

As far as this game goes, I love that they improved on the original formula while keeping the game light and colorful. The game promotes the idea of ‘speed’ this time without necessarily punishing you for it. At the end of every straightaway, there is not a set of spikes or a pit. Rather, there’s a loop or a curve or some other fun thing to watch yourself soar through. There are a couple of exceptions, but it certainly isn’t as glaring as in the original. The game’s layouts are also much more fun with a few puzzles to solve intertwined.
The one big improvement as far as minor parts of the game are the bonus levels. No longer do the kaleidoscopic irritations of the original exist, but they are replaced with a much more strategic ‘running race’ format where you collect a certain amount of rings as you go. Again, this is much easier and more fun without a ‘friend’ tagging along, as he tends to find himself being struck repeatedly and losing your well earned rings. I enjoyed these bonus levels so much more than in the last game.
There were so many other incredible things going on with this game, but most of it would just be a rehash of the original’s pros. Just take all of the good things I said about the original and tack them right here. Right in this space.

Boss battles are even more amped up (even with this portent of games to come for Mr. the Hedgehog)

My qualms with this game are few and minor, save for one. While the game is not the most difficult game I’ve ever played, the difficulty ramps up hard for the ‘Final Egg Zone’. I understand that a final boss should be difficult, but the final battle teeters on unfair. Considering the lack of said difficulty in the rest of the game, it’s hard for me to just chalk this up to ‘tough luck’. Don’t get me wrong. It’s epic. It certainly turned me off from wanting to play through again anytime soon, though. I can’t help but wonder how I beat this game as a kid.
My only other issue does come down to Tails. While I think he’s a fun and interesting new character to add to the Sonic-verse, he led to my death a few times, and I couldn’t help but feel cheated. Isn’t this supposed to be a helper? Who wants a helper who gets you killed all the time? He can help every so often, adding an extra hit to a boss battle or taking out an enemy you missed, but his simple AI catches up to you all too often.

Still, he’s one of the most colorful and interesting looking characters created for the time. The entire game, in fact, keeps its bright and sharp looks, even improving on Sonic himself. While the zones weren’t terribly far off from the original ones, take a look at backgrounds like in ‘Oil Ocean Zone’ and tell me that the scenery isn’t some of the coolest you’ve seen in a Sega game.
The music, while maybe not as memorable as the original, is still fun and peppy, showing that Sonic, while changing his game, still has the same attitude. While no particular tracks come to mind, I can’t think of one track I didn’t like listening to while I was playing through. The sound effects are basically the same to the untrained ear. I didn’t notice much difference from the SFX of the original myself, and I can’t imagine many other will.

All in all, Sonic 2 takes the original game, spruces it up, tightens its belt, and sends it back out into the world. For a second entry, this well received title works itself hard and stands up to today’s standards much better than the original does. Truth be told, I enjoy this game much more now than I did the original, despite the road block that is ‘Final Egg Zone’. The Sonic franchise is still pumping out sequels left and right. For better or worse, it has games like this one to attribute it to.

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