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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Master System) artwork

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Master System) review


"Back in 1992 the Mega Drive had superseded Master System for quite some time. The “made for blast-processing” Sonic the Hedgehog shifted units like hot pancakes and it’s 8-bit predecessor looked long sent into obscurity after being comfortably beaten by the inferior NES. "



Back in 1992 the Mega Drive had superseded Master System for quite some time. The “made for blast-processing” Sonic the Hedgehog shifted units like hot pancakes and it’s 8-bit predecessor looked long sent into obscurity after being comfortably beaten by the inferior NES.

Or so had been the case in Japan and North America. Although Sonic was stamping its authority over Nintendo and about to see a sequel on the Mega Drive, the SMS still had a pretty strong user base in Europe and Brazil after seeing much success in those regions. Considering Sonic saw a decent 8-bit transcription on its father console, and with a sequel planned on the technically-similar Game Gear, it would’ve been rude not to release a sequel on the SMS.

After Sonic returned from an errand to relieve his boredom, he found the place deserted and a note from everyone’s favourite flying fox, Miles “Tails” Prower, saying he had been kidnapped by Dr. Robotnik. And he wasn’t going to be released until Sonic brought all six Chaos Emeralds scattered in the South Island. It’s up to you, as Sonic, to find the emeralds and defeat the evil doc’s six henchmen, then whup his ass “in an arena specially prepared for him” in Crystal Egg zone.

Apart from the omission of special stages, Sonic 2’s level structure is essentially the same as the original's. Running through levels collecting rings and bashing badniks is the aim of the game, each zone having three acts, one act housing a hidden chaos emerald and the third being specifically for the boss fight. But formula similarities aside, Sonic 2 is quite a different experience from its predecessor. The original was more of a cautious, steady paced game due to the nature of its trap-ridden zones, and although it was a sound release it wasn’t what the blue zipper was about. On the other hand Sonic 2 reinvigorates the sense of speed that was capped before. Although care has to be taken at frequent points to avoid spikes, obstacles and baddies, other times you can hit the cruise control through mindlessly collecting rings. The amount of enemies, whilst there, are slightly less frequent as the focus delves on negotiating your way through the crafty levels.

A handful of new features are introduced here, some exclusive and some transplanted from the 16-bit series. Sonic can now reclaim a few rings when hit by an enemy, making collisions a little less punishing, and the famous loop-de-loops that had been sorely absent previously have now been slotted in. Albeit not very convincingly. They appear randomly placed with not much of a run-up available, aren’t particularly common and Sonic’s loop animation looks very primitive. Unfortunately, the 16-bit versions key features of spin-dash and the ability to actually play as Tails don’t materialize until Sonic Chaos. It may be his first game appearance, but the act he’d been held ransom by Robotnik means 8-bit users are left waiting. However, the discrete transportation methods, such as the Underground Zone’s high-speed mine-carts, Sky-High’s glider, and the upwards floating bubbles in Aqua Lake more than make up for the aforementioned absences.

Unlike its predecessor, Sonic 2’s similarities with its 16-bit cousin are in name only. Whereas the original Sonic game borrowed some it’s zones from it’s 16-bit mentor, this is completely different. The curtains raise with the Underground Zone, instead of Emerald Hill, its Aqua Lake instead of Aqua Rune, and Robotnik lays rest after a heavy defeat in Crystal Egg, not the Death Egg. In many respects this has helped to make for a better game. The original Sonic seemed more about stripping the originals elements to the minimum, but all new level designs here have made this a game good in its own right as opposed to feeling like a reduced Mega Drive downscale. The level designs look more solid, ditching the washed-out backgrounds from before and creating simple backgrounds with bold foreground elements. Although the length of the levels doesn’t compare with the 16-bit Sonic’s, they are big enough and more opened, feeling less one-dimensional than before.

This 8-bit rendition of Sonic 2 betters the original in many aspects and is the best of the three Sonic games released on the Master System. Sonic 2 is a far more slicker and smooth experience than its prequel, transposing the famous high-velocity action into 8-bit form for real. Inevitably, there are less obstacles, the levels are smaller and he doesn’t run quite as fast when blast-processing is taken from the equation. When Sonic collides with an enemy he only drops three rings, as opposed to an entire handful, although this is still a step up from merely being unable to reclaim them from the original. But this is still a credible game in its own right, smoothly combining high-speed action amongst crafty spike-pits and leaps of death for classic Sonic action.

If only Sega could have thought of the Sonic series sooner it could’ve made more of a dent against Nintendo to say the least. But such a title was unimaginable in the third generation era, and could seemingly only be thought of retrospectively after being seen on superior hardware. Sonic 2 certainly has no qualms in pushing the Master System to its limit. This is packed with not just blue velocity, but fulfilled levels, bold visuals and an upbeat music accompaniment that doesn’t sound like the TV’s blowing bubbles like many other SMS titles. For Master System owners this is an essential own. As for 16-bit Sonic fans, gems like this make for a very good reason to invest in a Master System adaptor or even get it on the Wii Virtual Console. Either way, to ignore the SMS’s decent Sonic back-catalogue would just be plain foolish.

Rating: 8/10

bigcj34's avatar
Community review by bigcj34 (May 25, 2009)

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zippdementia posted May 26, 2009:

I was genuinely interested in this review, and then you just cut off us at the end. Where's the other half? It feels like there's a large chunk missing. It's a very well-paced review, and I like that. But don't crash and burn at the finish line! Also, you should do a read through of your work before posting, as there are numerous grammatical errors sprinkled liberally throughout the piece.
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randxian posted May 26, 2009:

Agreed. The review needs a better closing.

I do like the commentary about the loop-de-loops. I felt that part was very insightful.
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bigcj34 posted May 27, 2009:

Yeh, it appears that one can never read through a review too many times. I can see what you mean about the truncated ending now, it didn't occur to me before and I'll look into expanding it. Probably turning the last paragraph into two, and expand on points mentioned. Any specific grammatical mistakes?
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zippdementia posted May 27, 2009:

The first one that catches my eye is "the Japan and North America."
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bigcj34 posted May 27, 2009:

Okay, expanded the review a bit and hopefully ironed out some grammatical errors. Cheers for the critique!
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zippdementia posted May 27, 2009:

"Sonic 2’s level structure is essentially the same as the originals."

original's... it's possesive

The ending is much better. Now the review is pretty awesome.

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