How do you top a game that popularised a generation of gamers in the 16-Bit era? Team Sonic had their work cut out to impress fans of the quirky blue hedgehog, but somehow they managed just that in 1992.
Let’s for one moment forget about our blue iconic hero who fell from grace to what we have today. Think back to a time when the blue hedgehog ruled the world and ran circles around the competition. Sonic was still without a voice, but came with an attitude that appealed to gamers. The sequel had to retain everything that made the original such a success. To do this they placed their focus on what made it such a massive hit – speed and great level design.
Green Hill Zone 2.0
As soon as you take your first step in Emerald Hill Zone you feel at home. Like Green Hill Zone this is your colourful introduction to the world of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Everything feels familiar as the yellow and red springs bounce Sonic all over the level and you speed your way to the end of the stage dodging nasties and other simple traps. The sense of speed is just incredible and a super amount of fun, and is a reminder why Sonic was once such a loved character in video games. Move on to other stages such as Chemical Plant Zone and Aquatic Ruin and suddenly you’re met with ‘speed management’. You’re blasting past checkpoints, picking up rings that represents life (and unlocks extra lives once you collect 100 rings), when the next thing you know, you’ve fallen to your death. It took skill back then and it takes skill today, as well as a good understanding of the level you’re playing on. There were, however, some important introductions to the Sonic 2D universe in this particular game.
By keeping with the fundamentals of speed and fantastic level design Sonic the Hedgehog 2 still plays as well today as it did 25 years ago.
In the original players would often get stuck running up hills and to solve this the team introduced the Sonic Dash move. Press down on the D-Pad, furiously press away at the jump button to build up a spin, and let go of the buttons to see him accelerate at great speeds as he bashed through or up walls. It made the game even faster, but this time Sonic had a new friend. Love him or hate him, Tails, otherwise known as Miles Prower, was Sonic’s new partner in crime and unlocked the ability for two players to play the single player game in co-op. Unlike Sonic, Miles could die multiple times and re-enter the stage floating towards Sonic using his propeller twin tails. He was also nowhere near as fast as Sonic, but could help him collect rings and defeat Dr Robotnik (ugh, Eggman is a terrible, terrible name). Yes, the good ol’ bad guy was out to take over the world in a typical cliché theme of that era. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 improved and surprised in other areas too.
What trickery is this?
Bonus levels moved to a pseudo 3D level design where Sonic and Miles would run down a tunnel collecting rings and ultimately a chaos emerald. Get all the emeralds in the game and Sonic would turn into Super Sonic, a neon yellow Sonic that basically flew around the stage unable to be harmed. The big surprise, at the time, came in the form of a 2-player time trial whereby players could race each other to the end playing as either Tails or Sonic. In this mode both characters entered the race with the same stats, but unfortunately the screen, that was split in half, was really squashed to fit on your traditional CRT TV. Everything is completely out of proportion and it hurts your eyes by standards set today. It’s understandable why it was done at the time, but it’s something that’s really not aged all that well.
By keeping with the fundamentals of speed and fantastic level design Sonic the Hedgehog 2 still plays as well today as it did 25 years ago. It won’t last you much past the one hour mark, but what’s there is highly enjoyable. If you’re after some good nostalgic fun that aged well in the 16-Bit era you’ll be hard-pressed to find a game that provides you with as much sense of speed and excitement as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 did. There’s only one that topped it, and that was the game that followed this.