Review by Angelo Heartilly
"Sonic's second outing remains a fun and simple platformer... but getting it in a collection is a much better deal"
There isn't much need to explain the concept behind the old Sonic the Hedgehog games, pretty much everyone knows how they work. In a world dominated by Mario's "standard" platformers, Sonic entered with stages on a much grander scale and ridiculous high-speed gameplay. And apparently the system worked, because the character and the series quickly rivalled Nintendo's. As for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it took pretty much everything from the original and made it better, coming out as a much more entertaining experience. It's release on Virtual Console is a very welcome one.
The advancements from the first Sonic title aren't particularly numerous, but they do make quite a big difference. Sonic has learned a new move since his last battle with Eggman, the Spin Dash. This basically lets him charge up a spin on the ground and take off at high-speed while rolled up. While it sounds small, it is an indispensible move that helps the game maintain a great sense of speed throughout, keeping players from ever having to trod along like a turtle before they can pick up speed. Stages are bigger and more plentiful now, and have the best designs out of the series. Most stages have several ways to get through them, alternate routes, secret or hard to reach areas, and just generally have a feeling of being massive open areas for you to explore. Everything is set up intuitively and almost flawlessly to let you achieve ridiculous speeds that are still a little jaw-dropping even today, with only a couple awkward enemy placements ever ruining the perfection. The most prominent addition, however, is the new playable character.
Miles Prower, better known as Tails, joins Sonic in the fight against evil this time. In a regular game he simply follows Sonic around the stage, having a few mild uses and just generally looking cool. If the player doesn't happen to like him jumping around with Sonic then he can simply be turned off in the options mode, or be played as by himself with Sonic absent from the game. He plays and controls exactly like Sonic, which was a slight disappointment, but the slight variety is always nice and he sure is damn cute.
With the addition of Tails it also opens up the possibility of two-player support, and Sonic 2 delivers satisfactorily in that area. From the main menu you can choose two-player versus, which is head-to-head races between Sonic and Tails (Players 1 and 2). In this mode the screen is split vertically and instead of compromising space they just sort of "squished" everything vertically and kept the view area the same. While it looks a tad ugly at first glance, with a little playing it is barely noticeable and is a much more favorable alternative than reducing the amount of the stage you can see. All of the fun from single player carries over, letting the two players compete for a victory in one of four zones - each consisting of three separate stages - which depends on who gets the most "wins" from getting the best time, most coins, points, etecetera. A very fun diversion from the main game, but with only four zones (one of which is only played in the special bonus stage style) the longevity isn't amazing.
Besides competitive play, there is a more subtle co-op mode available. While playing single player a second controller can simply start controlling Tails at any time, letting two buddies fight Eggman together. The actual fun that can be had out of this feature is questionable though, the screen stays focused on Sonic so Tails pretty much has to play keep-up or be screwed trying to play blind. However, the bonus emerald stages and boss battles allow for easy two-player playing, and are actually the most beneficial places to have a buddy along. Just good luck convincing him to watch you play through all of the stages alone.
The visuals are just about perfect, personally I'd say they are the best in the series. Everything is clean, beautiful, and fits in perfectly. While Sonic 3 and on obviously sported bigger, more beautiful graphics I hardly saw it as an improvement personally. All of the extra objects and details in the stages were overwhelming and distracting, giving the screen a cramped look and just getting in the way of enjoying the game. Sonic 2 struck the perfect balance for being pretty and a pleasure to look at without trying to be mind-blowing. Sonic and Tail's animations are also very clean with a nice cartooney feel to them, such as if you let Sonic stand around too long he'll lay down and look out the screen at you annoyed. Obviously nothing is mind-blowing here, but the crisp, clean look to the whole game looks so much better than a bunch of drab, congested visauls packed in through the whole stage that just hurts gameplay.
There are no complaints in the sounds department, all of the sound-effects are nice and clear with all manner of chimes and blips and pops as Sonic fights his way through stages. As fitting for a Sonic title, the music selection is of the best quality from it's time. Everything is catchy and a pleasure to listen to, and under the Options menu there is the Sound Test option to listen to your favorite songs at any time, a nice feature.
The Virtual Console version is pretty much a perfect "copy" of Sonic 2, with nothing missing or malfunctioning, but nothing has been added either besides the Wii temporarily "saving" the game when you exit it. And I know it isn't the intention with Virtual Console, but some minor additions would have been truly amazing, particularly with expanding the versus mode. Oh well though, maybe they'll eventually use the WiiWare section for something truly useful like that. As far as controls... it's classic Sonic, it takes a d-pad and one button. Any of the controllers work, so the player can go with whichever one they are most comftorable with.
S C O R E S
Gameplay - 9/10
Classic Sonic action at it's best, with great stage designs and very enjoyable 2-player support, both the best in the 2-dimensional series.
Graphics - 8/10
They aren't breathtakingly detailed but they are still very attractive and fit the game perfectly. The over-doing of the visuals later in the series were actually it's downfall for me.
Sound/Music - 10/10
Nothing to complain about, and a kickass soundtrack.
Controls - 7.5/10
Very simple and supports all three control options. Sonic always felt a little clumsy when trying to control him in non-hi speed situations though.
Replayability - 8.5/10
A complete blast to play and fairly short, it is the type of game that can be picked up and played through on a boring day. The versus mode can also continue to entertain in short bursts for a long while.
Final - 8.5/10
Ultimately I strongly recommend Sonic 2 for the Virtual Console, taking nothing else into consideration but the game itself it is definitely worth the eight dollars. But here is where the real problem arises, and I decided to only address it at the end. Sonic 2 has very recently appeared in collections, namely Sonic Mega Collection. It is hard to justify the eight dollar pricetag when for twenty dollars you can purchase the game in a collection with a half dozen other titles that are also worth playing, and if you own the GameCube version of SMC then there is flat out no reason to purchase it unless you have to have WiiMote suppport. Ultimately though, eight dollars is just eight dollars, and if you're a bigtime fan of Sonic 2 over the others then I'd still recommend it. Just don't go to the Wii Shop and buy the whole catalong of Sonic titles, that is just stupid.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/20/07
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (US, 06/11/07)
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