"Back in 1992 the Mega Drive had superseded Master System for quite some time. The ďmade for blast-processingĒ Sonic the Hedgehog shifted units like hot pancakes and itís 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Back in 1992 the Mega Drive had superseded Master System for quite some time.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 ďmade for blast-processingĒ Sonic the Hedgehog shifted units like hot pancakes and itís 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 wouldíve 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 everyoneís favourite flying fox, Miles ďTailsĒ Prower, saying he had been kidnapped by Dr. Robotnik. And he wasnít going to be released until Sonic brought all six Chaos Emeralds scattered in the South Island. Itís up to you, as Sonic, to find the emeralds and defeat the evil docís six henchmen, then whup his ass ďin an arena specially prepared for himĒ in Crystal Egg zone.
Apart from the omission of special stages, Sonic 2ís 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 wasnít 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, arenít particularly common and Sonicís loop animation looks very primitive. Unfortunately, the 16-bit versions key features of spin-dash and the ability to actually play as Tails donít materialize until Sonic Chaos. It may be his first game appearance, but the act heíd been held ransom by Robotnik means 8-bit users are left waiting. However, the discrete transportation methods, such as the Underground Zoneís high-speed mine-carts, Sky-Highís glider, and the upwards floating bubbles in Aqua Lake more than make up for the aforementioned absences.
Unlike its predecessor, Sonic 2ís similarities with its 16-bit cousin are in name only. Whereas the original Sonic game borrowed some itís zones from itís 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 doesnít compare with the 16-bit Sonicís, 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 doesnít 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 couldíve 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 doesnít sound like the TVís 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 SMSís decent Sonic back-catalogue would just be plain foolish.
Community review by bigcj34 (May 25, 2009)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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