Review by Internet Nomad
"Twice as nice"
Sonic 2 is the definition of a great sequel. Improve upon every aspect of the original game, toss in a few new features like co-op play and a multiplayer mode, and you've got yourself a masterpiece. While Sonic 2 won't win any awards for originality, it will be forever known as one of the best video games in history. This is the perfect execution of the Sonic premise.
Dr. Robotnik is once again trying to take over the world, turning all of the cute animals into maniacal robots. The only possible savior for the planet is the hedgehog with attitude, Sonic. It's all pretty standard Sonic fair. He must traverse numerous zones and acts, use rings as a defense mechanism, and attempt to defeat Robotnik. Though it's all quite similar to the first Sonic game, it's leaps and bounds ahead of the original.
From the moment Sonic first waved his index finger arrogantly at the masses, speed has been the trademark of the series. Play Sonic the Hedgehog today, and you'll probably chuckle at the fact that his seemingly fast-moving feet aren't really taking him anywhere quickly. Play Sonic 2, and you'll still get that intense, roller coaster sense of speed that the game emitted a decade ago. There is considerably more focus on fast movement here than in the original, with less attention paid to precision jumping or undersea adventures. Loop-de-loops are far more prevalent in this sequel, making Sonic's speed become simply bone-crushing at times. This makes for an experience worth savoring the first time through, and worth enjoying at least dozens of times more. If left with levels sizable to those of the original, every act in Sonic 2 could be finished in half a minute. But that just wouldn't do, now would it?
The areas in Sonic 2 are immense. Huge. Daunting. Fun. Take note of that last word, as it applies most aptly. Non-linearity, which was dabbled in somewhat in the first Sonic, has been fully fleshed out for Sonic 2. There are sometimes a dozen different ways to complete an act, some paths being easier than others. In places like the extremely difficult Metropolis Zone, it becomes a matter of trial and error. Are the enemies on ground level giving you too much trouble? Take the rising platform to a higher altitude and hope for less formidable foes. Such is the thought process for Sonic 2. While most platformers at the time were simply pointing you in a single direction without much leeway, Sonic 2 gave you options. It made you think, for at least a fleeting moment, about which path would be the wisest to take. That's something that wasn't developed in most platformers until the 3D era, and it speaks volumes of how unique the Sonic series really was.
The levels sport a bit more style this time around, too. From the Green Hill-remixed Emerald Hill Zone, to the ultimate goof-off area, Casino Night Zone, to the spooky Mystic Cave Zone, Sonic 2 overflows with creativity that separates it from the cookie-cutter platformers of the 16-bit era, and that ''other'' guy that liked to jump around, Mario.
Sonic 2 looks pretty damn good. The levels are considerably more detailed than the original, and the generic enemies that were recycled through numerous zones in the first game have been replaced with more interesting foes. The music is of usual Sonic caliber, which means it's amazing. If the upbeat Chemical Plant tune or the slow-paced Oil Ocean theme doesn’t resonate softly within your ears at the mere mention of said areas, you obviously haven't played enough Sonic 2. Most songs are memorable, and the ones that aren't are hardly annoying.
To give Sonic 2 credit, it did bring a few things to Sonic series besides upgrading everything found in the original. Miles ''Tails'' Prower is Sonic's new ally and follows the hedgehog at all times. The fox has enough lives to make cats envious, and can be controlled by a second player for co-op play. Considering Tails' infinite lives, the second player usually gets stuck doing all the dirty work, like destroying difficult enemies. If playing alone, Tails fill follow as a CPU controlled character. He's pretty useless in this state, and will likely either die or fail to keep up with Sonic every thirty seconds. Still, it does provide for a good bit of humor to watch Tails ignorantly leap onto a row of spikes and plummet to his death. There's also the option to play as Tails alone (or Sonic alone), but since Tails can't fly in this game (only when he floats back in after an unfortunate death); it's essentially Sonic in an orange costume.
Sonic 2 also adds a new attack to Sonic's arsenal, the spin dash. Sonic can curl into a ball and revolve in place, then jet himself forward for a fast-moving, powerful attack. This can be used against enemies or to traverse steep upslopes.
The Special Stages from the original are also back, but in an entirely new form. When passing a checkpoint while holding at least 50 coins, Sonic will have the option to enter the special stage in which he can acquire the Chaos Emeralds. The areas themselves are pretty cool. Sonic's zipping through a psuedo-3D tunnel, and his goal is to collect as many rings as possible while avoiding the obstacles. It's a lot more enjoyable than the pinball-like special stage in the original Sonic, which was already enjoyable enough. Unfortunately, your ring count is reset to 0 when you exit these stages, nullifying your chances of getting 100 rings and acquiring that extra life. It's best to avoid these stages unless you're specifically attempting to get all of the Chaos Emeralds, since you'll desperately need those extra lives late in the game.
Sonic 2 is pretty damn long and pretty damn hard towards the end, but it lacks a save feature. If you're going to beat the game, you'll need to devote a few hours to gritting down and getting through all of it. But even if you never see the final credits roll (heck, I never did as a little kid, though I must have played it nearly every day), the magical experience of the game will remain with you long after you've turned off your Genesis. Sonic 2 is a game not to be missed. If you haven't played it already, find a Genesis (or buy Sonic Mega Collection for GameCube) and spend an afternoon with the speedy blue hedgehog. He's still as appealing as ever.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 06/08/03, Updated 06/08/03
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