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CONSOLE: Sega Genesis DEVELOPER: Sega Technical Institute PUBLISHER: Sega
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 24, 1992 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Spinning faster the second time around.

Picture it: whatever year the first Sonic the Hedgehog game came out in. It seemed that people were responding rather favourably to this game, and Sega Genesiseseses were flying off the shelves like mad. So what's the best way to cash in on this glorious commercial phenomenon? Develop a sequel, of course! And that's exactly what the Sonic Team over at Sega Headquarters did -- no, wait, they handed the development duties over to the Sega Technical Institute in the US. That's right, it's an American game. Now you know. Released in 1992, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" would make yet another big splash in the video game industry with its tried-and-true mechanics of super speed mixed with a character who boasted bad-motha-shut-yo-mouth attitude. In addition, the game would be the first to offer two-player action, both in standard "go through the game" mode and via a versus mode where you can race the other player to the finish line. And with this new two-player mode comes a new character in the Sonic universe: meet Miles 'Tails' Prower, a fox with two tails who can be just as speedy as Sonic... well, almost. No one is as fast as Sonic the Hedgehog! Anyone who says so speaks tales of blasphemy.

The story begins where the previous game left off. After Sonic seriously fudged up Dr. Robotnik's super-cool factory, the doc decided to run away with his non-existent tail between his legs. But after a while where he was inactive in his conquest, he has now returned to Sonic's ubersecret holiday locale in search of those elusive Chaos Emeralds. But what for, you ask? Why, to power his Death Egg, of course. That's only logical, you know. Oh, but it doesn't end there -- nope, he turns all the animals around this exclusive hedgehog spa & beauty resort and converts them into his slaves by way of... um... some magical enslavement device of sorts. And so, it only makes sense that Sonic and his new buddy, Tails, will make sure that Dr. Robotnik gets the punishment he deserves for his crimes; the chase is on!

It comes to pass that the mechanics in this game are pretty much identical to those of the previous game. Run really fast (apparently faster in this game than in the first) and jump when necessary, while collecting rings along the way and making sure you don't take injury, fall into deep bottomless chasms, drown, get shishkebobbed by pointy spikes, etc. However, there are certainly notable changes. First and foremost, Sonic and Tails can now crouch into a ball and charge up for a spin dash that sends the character zooming across whatever terrain they're in. The spin dash attack is cancelled when coming in contact with an obstacle, such as a solid wall, spikes, or water. This is particularly useful for when you don't want to spend half the time limit on a level climbing a stupid slope at half the speed of stink. Sonic also has the ability to go all "Super Saiyan" on us after he collects all seven of the Chaos Emeralds. After Sonic collects 50 rings, then jumps in the air, he turns golden and crazy-lookin', and morphs into an absolute speed demon! Of course, this means you'll have to be even more cautious when traveling (as if I didn't have enough to worry about at standard speed). It's an unusual addition, but it shows the more playful side of the development team (as well as their Dragon Ball Z fanaticism).

Also changed (thankfully) is the bonus level. You can access it when you possess at least 50 rings and are at any continue post. Just jump into the ring of stars that may float above said continue post and you'll enter the Bonus Stage for your chance to snag a Chaos Emerald! This time it's different. You seem to be in some sort of immensely lengthy tube, collecting rings while avoiding pointy obstacles that will explode upon contact, causing you to spill some rings behind you. You have to collect a certain number of rings before a certain point, or else you fail, and you have to leave sans emerald. It starts out fairly easy, but ends up becoming rather challenging as you constantly dodge laid bombs while trying to protect and collect your rings. Frowny face. But what deserves an even larger frowny face is the fact that these bonus stages are mind- and thumb-numbingly difficult. Remember: you have to avoid pain-in-the neck explosive objects, and they cost you about 10 rings per hit. I think I can attribute much of the difficulty to the fact that Tails follows behind me and runs into so many more bombs than I do. Tails will follow the same path as I do, but his movements are slightly delayed after mine, so if I just miss a bomb on the trail, Tails will almost always hit it. If Sonic were going solo in these levels, they would be much easier. Also, I wish they didn't put rings on the damn ceiling. Unless you're expecting it (and you won't be), you'll never get those rings.

[Edit: In regard to having Tails during the bonus levels... I have recently been informed by a gaming colleague of mine that I can play with Sonic only by accessing the Options menu. Where is it? It's not on the main title screen like it ought to be; instead, I have to scroll down past the 2-Player Vs. option to a hidden Options option where I can select Sonic only, Tails only, or Sonic & Tails to use throughout my quest. Tell me, why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?]

There's also a two-player mode in Sonic 2! Yay! So if you have a friend who feels the same romantic affection for the Sega Genesis as you do, you can play together! Super-duper-joy! You have two two-player options (pardon that redundancy): you can play co-operatively, with Player 1 controlling Sonic and Player 2 controlling Tails, or in a VS. competition to see who can reach the end of a level first. In the former option, it's a bit strange -- the camera follows Sonic only, so if Tails can't keep up, he will fall off-screen, only to fly in a bit later to catch up, during which time the second player can make themselves a fabulous tuna melt. The competition mode is fun too, because you both get to go through the level in a wonderful race. The only downside is that there is an item there that switches the character's places in the level -- which really stinks if you're quite far ahead. I've been angered much by this; I choose now only to play Sonic 2 alone.

Naturally, the graphics are slightly improved over the first Sonic the Hedgehog game. There is a bit less graininess to the game's overall look, and the fact that the bonus stages consist of a three-dimensional perspective only add to the overall nifty visual style. Likewise, the music and sound has also improved. In my review of Sonic the Hedgehog, I had mentioned that I like the music in the second Sonic game better. Well, it's still true -- it's a bit spunkier! The sound effects are pretty much the same, but I'm not really paying excessive attention to those.

As a whole, this game is a bit more satisfying than the previous Sonic game, though it's difficult to explain why. Perhaps it's the increased variety of locales; perhaps it's just the fact that I can actually pull off that spin dash that was ever so lost in the original. Whichever way you look at it, however, you can say that Sonic 2 took the solid statement that Sonic 1 was making and screamed it louder, better, and faster! If you want to play this game, but don't have a Genesis machine to play it with, fear not, for it's featured in all major Sonic-related compilations, including the Sonic Mega Collection for Gamecube (and Sonic Mega Collection Plus for PlayStation 2 and Xbox) and the Sega Genesis Collection for the PS2 and PSP. So there's no excuse to try out this classic! Bon appétit!


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