Following the success of Sonic 1, it should come as no surprise that Sega would want a sequel made for the next year. Well, guess what? At first, they didn’t want a sequel made. But then they changed their mind and said get it out in time for Christmas (because that never leads to disaster, right?). The story behind Sonic 2′s development is actually quite the wild roller-coaster, to the point where the game probably had every reason to turn out a total mess.
But as luck would have it… it didn’t? The combined efforts of a portion of Japan’s Sonic Team and America’s Sega Technical Institute somehow managed to pull through. The game ended up being a great sequel, and one of the top-selling games of the 16-bit era. It released on November 24th worldwide (simultaneous release across regions was rare for that time), and heavily advertised as “Sonic 2’s day” because it was a Tuesday. Ya get it?
Overall, the game is an improvement over the original. There are more levels (ten this time, generally with two acts each), most of which are a bit better-designed for running through. The first four stages are awesome, and I have a soft spot for Mystic Cave Zone too. (Hill Top Zone, however, is ASS.) Later levels in the game certainly have more traps, enemies, and methodical jumping segments (particularly the Metropolis and Wing Fortress Zones), but there’s a sort of thematic sense to this that feels appropriate. All in all, the levels of Sonic 2 are more enjoyable to roll about in, and the game provides a bit more of a challenge thanks to the final few bosses. Defeating that no-rings final boss–the huge Robotnik mecha–was definitely my most memorable video game achievement as a kid.
Running and rolling feel just as good as the first game, but the controls are further improved with the addition of the spin dash. If you’ve lost your momentum just before a ramp, steep incline, or loop-de-loop, you can press down and the action button to charge up a rolling burst of speed. A very smart and welcome addition to the gameplay, as it helps the player get right back to it without prolonging the sense of frustration that often comes with 2D platforming blunders.
Sonic 2 also introduces two forms of multiplayer gameplay, thanks to the addition of a sidekick character named Tails (or… [sigh] Miles Prower), a cute little fox with two tails. (Foxes with multiple tails is a common folklore creature in Japan–look up kitsune if you want.) This rapscallion is OP as hell, capable of not only running as fast as Sonic, but also has infinite lives, can somehow fly with his tails as a helicopter propeller, and (perhaps most incredulously) can roll into a ball (!) and have his two tails still waggling along behind him. Anyways, multiplayer! The second player can sort of follow along as Tails, making the game slightly co-op… Okay, it’s kind of pointless. But it gives your friend something to do, when it’s not his turn. (You all switch off between levels or lives, right? Fun times.) ALSO, there’s a competition mode that is… well, not the best. It’s split-screen horizontally, making everything look really squashed. And there’s some pretty bad slow-down if too much is going on (e.g. someone losing rings). Best to just stick with the regular game.
Other things introduced in Sonic 2:
- Speed boosters — because you gotta go fast
- More vibrant, more colorful backgrounds — the graphics are a step up
- Bomb-filled half-pipe special stages — hopefully you’re good at memorizing stuff… and hopefully you selected “Sonic alone” before starting the game, because Tails will happily walk into every bomb in his path (though to be fair, I would too, if I had that power)
- The Death Star — with Robotnik’s face on it (so… a huge improvement to Star Wars)
- The ability to temporarily go Super Saiyan if you get all the Chaos Emeralds and 50+ rings, which is nifty — run faster, jump higher… and sit in the Mystic Cave Zone’s spike pit for a few minutes to rethink all your bad decisions in life (unless, of course, you are Knuckles)
- Compulsive gambling addictions, courtesy of Casino Night Zone — because THIS time you will definitely get triple jackpot… (triple Robotnik) BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-BWEH-bwehhh~
I think the fact I’m just listing off a bunch of random stuff in the game gets the idea across that this is a fun one to play through, and I suggest everyone who (somehow) hasn’t played it before better park yourselves in front of the nearest Sega Genesis and give this game a go. There is literally a 100% chance that there is a Sonic 2 cartridge nearby it. If you can’t find a Genesis, then pick up one of the many Sonic compilation games that are out there for other systems.