Review by nastynate3118
"The very first game I ever beat stands as one of the best for the Genesis."
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the very first video game I ever owned and as a result it holds a very special place in my heart. My mom bought my Sega Genesis for me in 1993 when I was 5 and this game came bundled with it. I had never even heard of Sonic before playing the game but I remember my first time playing Emerald Hill Zone and just being swept away by this game. 19 years later, I decided to revisit my childhood and critically review the very first game I ever beat (it took me a full year to beat it). I wanted to see what makes this game so special and why it is considered one of the all-time greatest Sega games.
Sonic the Hedgehog, while a revolutionary game and a nice alternative to the Super Mario Bros. games, really had not yet truly distanced itself as a unique platformer and perfected the formula of fast-paced gameplay. The sequel certainly takes this premise to the next level by making each level more compatible with Sonic's niche of racing through each stage at unbelievable speeds. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is easily one of the fastest-paced platforming games I have ever played and the addition of the spin dash makes it even more fun. The spin dash (a technique where Sonic charges up and launches forward) would become a mainstay in the franchise after its success in this game because of what it adds to the gameplay.
This game would correct many flaws that plagued the first game and come closer to achieving what the series wanted to do. Gone are the repetitive and drawn-out stages of the first game and in comes some of the most brilliant level design I have ever seen in a platformer. Every time I play this game I discover a secret area that I never knew about and the stages are full of variety and challenge.
Of course, this is not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. If Sonic collects 50 rings, he is transported to a special stage via lamp posts in which he is running in a half pipe collecting rings and avoiding bombs. The newest addition to the series, Tails (Sonic's trusty sidekick), ruins this experience by finding ways to get hit by the bombs and make you lose rings, rendering these special stages practically unplayable. Tails in general is an unwelcome addition; his AI is noticeably bad and he usually finds ways to get stuck and die repeatedly while haplessly following Sonic. There is a nice incentive to completing every special stage in which Sonic can transform into Super Sonic, a Dragon Ball Z-inspired golden hedgehog that is utterly unstoppable. The problem is most players will never see this form because of how difficult the special stages are to complete.
I should point out that it is possible to play through the game with only Sonic or Tails, but the special stages are still very difficult because some sections require both characters to collect the necessary number of rings. All in all, these special stages and the addition of Tails were pretty flawed in execution.
A multiplayer mode was introduced in which players can race each other in four different stages in a split screen. I was never a fan of this because of how bad it looked graphically and the fact that there was really no depth to this gameplay addition; you literally race each other through a stage and that is it. It did have a cool feature where items would randomly do different things to you, but that's really all it had going for it. It was not a bad feature, but was very average and did not really add anything to the experience.
It is very possible to enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog 2 by avoiding the special stages and letting Tails find creative ways to commit suicide. This one of the most brilliantly designed games ever and mixed classic platforming and speed very well. Some of the later levels negate the speed by throwing all kinds of hazards and cheap deaths at you, but I found that this aspect adds variety to the gameplay and forces you to play the game in a creative way. The game has great physics and variety and it makes for a very enjoyable Sega Genesis experience.
One major flaw about Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the lack of a save or password system. I still get annoyed that game developers back then expected you to beat the game in one sitting. Luckily, there are several features that salvage up this flaw that are welcome additions. If you lose all of your lives and get a Game Over, you will usually be able to use a continue and start the same level over with a fresh set of lives. Continues in this game are very easy to earn. It also helps that the game is fairly short, so the lack of a save system is not that detrimental.
I really like the sound test menu and the fact that you can listen to the game's amazing soundtrack when you first turn it on. It also lets you select if you want to play as just Sonic or Tails, adding to the replay value. There is also a well-known cheat code that takes you to a level select screen, which is a nice addition considering the lack of a save feature.
Otherwise, the interface is looking good in this game. There is a scoring system that rewards you with extra lives and continues and the display looks very slick.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 does not have a deep, complex plot by any means but it has a premise that is simple and engaging. Sonic must rescue animals that have been trapped inside robots by Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman, if you prefer). Robotnik is constructing a massive spaceship called the Death Egg that serves as a stronghold for his operations, and Sonic must travel there and defeat him. There really is nothing else to it and the game really lacks any sort of plot and presentation. All in all, the story is very average.
The only factor about the plot that really sets it apart is the ending of this game. I always loved the way the music and ending go together and it always stuck with me as one of the most satisfying endings I have ever seen in a game. This may partly be nostalgia talking, but the presentation and animation at the end of the game is simply outstanding. I can only wish that the rest of the game had followed suit with this. One nice feature is that the ending actually can slightly differ depending on if Sonic collected all of the chaos emeralds, adding replay value to the game.
The graphics in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 look far crisper than its predecessor. The biggest area that it improved on was the backgrounds in each stage. Every area looks beautiful and full of detail. Sonic's sprite in this game is probably my favorite sprite in the whole franchise and he and Tails were animated extremely well. The animation for the enemies is not nearly as fluent as Sonic or Tails, seeing as how they usually only move back and forth with very simple mannerisms. Their sprites look excellent and there is plenty of variety to them. As bad as the gameplay is for the special stages is, the 3D graphics were pretty advanced for the time and looked really nice.
The only big complaint I have about the graphics is that the split screen in multiplayer looks like absolute garbage. Everything about it looks awful and that really drags down any desire to play it. I would not be surprised if that was the reason you do not see this feature again in the later Sonic games.
Overall, this game was one of the most advanced titles ever for the Sega Genesis and really showed off its power.
This game has easily one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Every single track in the single player mode is of very high-quality and will be stuck in your head for days. This game had a very hard act to follow with the superb soundtrack of the original game, but it easily tops it and stands out is perhaps the best soundtrack ever for a Sega Genesis game. For some reason, the music in the multiplayer mode isn't nearly as good. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems to lack the same power that the single player mode soundtrack has. It is certainly not bad by any means but I always thought that was a strange quirk. I love the fact that you can listen to it in the sound test menu.
You can also listen to the sound effects in the sound test menu and appreciate the variety and quality of them. The spin dash and ring sound effects have become ubiquitous in the gaming world. One minor complaint I have about the sound in this game is that every once and while the sound effects and music will cut out if there is a lot happening on screen. The game can only produce so many sounds at the same time and as a result the music will sound strange. This does not happen very often and does not really distract from the experience.
Play Time/Replayability - 10/10
I completed my play through for this review in 1 hour, 29 minutes and 56 seconds. It may seem too short but since this is a fast-paced game, it is the perfect length. There is a very high amount of replay value considering the fact that you can collect chaos emeralds and receive two different endings to the game. You can also play through the game with Sonic and Tails, just Sonic, just Tails and later on with Knuckles (if you combine the game with the Sonic and Knuckles cartridge top loader). I have beaten this game countless times and always get something different out of the experience.
+Masterfully blends speed and platforming
+Brilliant level design
+Options menu boasts a sound test and ability to select your character
+Crisp and detailed graphics
+Sonic and Tails have impressive sprites with fluent animation
+Boasts one of the greatest soundtracks of any Sega game
+Perfect length for a fast-paced game
+Extraordinarily high replay value
-Tails has incredibly bad AI
-Special stages in this game are unplayable and broken
-Multiplayer does not add much to the experience
-Lack of save/password system
-Lack of story presentation in the game
-Split screen in multiplayer looks like garbage
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 began my love for video games and I still cherish it to this day. It is the quintessential platforming experience with its speed, replay value and visual/audio presentation. This game came bundled with the Sega Genesis back in the day and was a major reason that Sega and Nintendo had their console wars in the early 90s. This was the first game that could truly stand up to and surpass the classic Mario titles and is easily one of the most important Sega games ever made. It is a must-play for any gamer and can be enjoyed by anyone today.
*cue Sonic 2's ending theme*
Final Score: 8.958333/10 rounded to 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/12
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Not for Resale) (US, 12/31/92)
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