After the recent trailer for the godawful looking Sonic the Hedgehog live-action movie, I decided that I’d go back and play what is mostly regarded as the best Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Yes, I know theres an argument to be made that the best Sonic is Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but I’ve never actually played that.
In actual fact the most I’d ever played Sonic 2 was at a friends house as a kid. Well, a couple of friends actually, as I didn’t own a Mega Drive for myself until about 2008 when I got one off a car boot and thats spent a good few years sat in my loft as I don’t have the space to have my collection set up and on display. We mostly played the 2 player special stages when I visited friends’ house, although I did “help” occasionally as Tails on their play throughs, but only ever saw bits of levels at a time. I remember the first four levels, although I may have gotten through those via emulation in the years since it came out, and I remember controlling Tails’ plane on Sky Chase then watching a friend on Wing Fortress, but beyond that I don’t remember much of whats in between or after those zones until this recent play through.
For Sonic 2, Sonic Team introduced two new key features, the most obvious is Tails, whom either runs along behind Sonic or can be controlled via a second player (always my role as a kid), the other introduction was the Spin Dash, a move that has become such a part of the Sonic experience that many forget that it wasn’t there from the start. Emerald Hill Zone, much like the games predecessors Green Hill Zone, gets things off quickly and its very easy to get through to the end of both Acts without incident and a fast pace but as the game progresses the area’s become more technical and call upon the player to combine both Sonic’s speed and his maneuverability to traverse the levels. Some of the Acts are almost maze like, according to the timer in the top left corner of the screen I spent around 10 minutes working my way through Act 2 of Metropolis Zone, and whilst I enjoyed the zone’s music at the start of Act 1 by the end of its third Act I was finding it really annoying.
On the subject of the music, none of Sonic 2’s offerings are as iconic as Green Hill Zone nor as wonderful as Starlight Zone (which I think is still my favourite piece of Sonic the Hedgehog music, Open Your Heart from Sonic Adventure is wonderfully cheesy but its just not as good as Starlight Zone imo), but whilst Metropolis Zone’s music outstayed its welcome it was mostly because it would repeat itself so quickly and so often and there weren’t many Invincibility boxes scattered in the level (which is fine) to break up the monotony of the tune.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still a brilliant platformer. Purests will say its not as long, nor as deep as Super Mario World which was released two years before Sonic Team’s game, and despite going head-to-head with each other, Sonic 2’s goal was always to continue SEGA’s edgy, cool and exciting approach to gaming. Has it aged as well as Super Mario World? You know what, I think it has, it still looks wonderful and when you’re good at it it provides the same assault on your senses as it always did. Theres a few enemy designs later on I wasn’t keen on (again, Metropolis Zone, which has a habit of putting its punching crabs and praying mantis enemies in exactly the wrong places) and there is sometimes an over-reliance on intricate platforming and small platforms that require dexterity to overcome (I properly abused the PSP SEGA Mega Drive Collection’s save game feature to get through some of them), but, importantly, its still really good fun to play through now. Which bodes well for the Mega Drive Mini’s release later in the year.