Genre: Platformer Developer: Aspect Co. Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1992
If there was ever a Game Gear game that brings up pure nostalgia for me, it’s Sonic The Hedgehog 2. I can fondly remember first seeing it when a small group of us huddled over a friend who was playing it at school recess. It was at a time when all things video game related were gold so it holds a special place in my heart. Later on, another friend borrowed a Game Gear and he spent the night and we couldn’t play much due to dead batteries and I remember thinking that a battery charger would recharge non-rechargeable batteries. Yeah, we never got far with that! Nothing like the good ‘ole days of being a naive kid! I remember playing this game off and on and always thinking it was very hard and often times too difficult. I later got a beat up Game Gear in high school and never was able to finish the third zone in the game before I sold it off to a friend at school for $30 due to not being able to find games.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is one of those games that brings back nostalgic memories for many of us mostly by default since it was the pack-in for the system for so long. Nowadays, the game gets more of a bad rap than it should due to being so notoriously difficult. That’s a shame, since there’s a really deep, satisfying and very enjoyable experience to be had for the patient gamer if it’s given the time needed to learn and master its tougher areas. Sonic 2 starts out with a much darker tone than the first game. The opening has Tails being kidnapped by Robotnik and has Sonic following but missing him at the last minute. Each of the zones in the game has a slightly darker feel this time around as well. There are a total of seven zones in the game. The final one, Crystal Egg Zone, only accessible if you’ve found all of the well-hidden Chaos Emeralds throughout the previous zones.
The Chaos Emeralds are really a sore spot for many a gamer who’s ever attempted this game as some of them, Sky High Zone to be specific, are notoriously difficult to find. If even one of these is missed you’ll defeat Silver Sonic at the end of Scrambled Egg Zone and see the bad ending where Tails dies at the hands of Robotnik. I can’t even begin to describe how good it felt to finally conquer this game with the good ending. I felt like I was walking on clouds and like I had really accomplished a long term gaming goal of mine.
Each zone has its own quirks and neat twists to really make them stand out. The hang glider in zone two, something which many also hate, was a really cool feature and was a lot of fun to use once you took the time to master the mechanics. Zone three allowed Sonic to spin and bounce on water over lakes, Green Hills Act three is entirely composed of springs, which gave me fits since it’s so hard to navigate due to the spikes, but it’s nonetheless a really fun stage. The spinning wheels that launch Sonic into the air make a return from Scrap Brain Zone, and Scrambled Egg’s tubes may just make some of you dizzy. All of these make each zone unique and really make the game fun, despite having to replay the game over and over due to the difficulty. The game is also much faster paced than Sonic’s first 8-bit outing, where only the first zone seemed to have a good sense of speed. Almost every zone has areas that are incredibly fast-paced this time around really pushing the 8-bit hardware and I really appreciate that.
Each and every one of the boss fights is unique and only the final battle is actually against Robotnik himself. The infamous first boss really stands out to me as being something different. Green Hills’ boss stands out as being the most punishing boss for me due the aspect of the Game Gear’s screen and is a slap in the face after the pathetically east seal in zone three. Robotnik himself offers up a really cool final battle and could make a first-time player rage quit if they didn’t know what they’re doing.
That all being said, the difficulty is extremely high partly due to the zoomed-in view of the Game Gear screen and this is where most of the complaints about the game come from. It’s one of the main reasons why many prefer the Sega Master System version to this one. The first boss was hard, the second emerald a nightmare to find, and Green Hill act three gave me fits, but it never caused me to like the game less. If anything, this is a well-made and hard game that’s a lot of fun and rewarding to play. It’s a compliment compared to most Game Gear games with broken controls and gameplay mechanics, most of which are truly unplayable.
You’re treated to some truly nice-looking graphics if you’re willing to spend the time and see this game through. Making the first zone a cave was a change of pace visually for a Sonic game when all of the others are grassy hills or mountains. Sky High’s clouds and lightning are a really nice touch on an 8-bit system and Scrambled Egg zone is a visual 8-bit masterpiece for me. The electricity in the final battle with Robotnik is really trippy and could give someone with epilepsy seizures.
If I had to say anything against the visuals, it’s that many of the standard enemies are pretty generic and it doesn’t seem like the same attention to detail was put in, but it doesn’t do that much to detract from the overall look of the game. Another small but noticeable graphical improvement is that all of the emeralds now have their own individual colors which I really liked.
This game’s soundtrack doesn’t disappoint. Many of the tracks were really catchy, and I had a hard time getting several of them out of my head. Zones three, four, and five really stood out to me as some of the best music on the Game Gear and the others were also great as well. It would be easy to write the music off if you had never finished Sky High Zone, which many admitted they haven’t, because the first two themes are the weakest in the game to me. The sound effects all fit and are varied but get lost due to the great music. I really do like the new theme used when you collect an emerald.
The big question remains is that is this game right for you? To answer that, I have to first say that this game is akin to a fine wine in that it’s an acquired taste and has become one of the most polarizing Sonic The Hedgehog games ever created. I never loved it as a kid; I only played it a lot as it was what I had available to me at the time. That being said most of you are probably weaned on today’s games that hold your hand all the way through and let you continue endlessly where you left off and are carried by cut scenes. If that’s the kind of game that you know and love, then this is not the game for you. If you really like old school platformers, then I’d say that this game you want to play. I would recommend that you play the Sega Genesis Sonic series and also the first Sonic game on the Game Gear, and then start playing this game. The reason I say this is because this is a Sonic game for veterans. Not only does it not hold your hand, it goes straight for slapping you silly instead. Playing this game before the first one would be like playing Phantasy Star II before playing Phantasy Star.
You will also have to get very comfortable with blind jumps and often instant deaths due to the Game Gear’s screen. That being said, this game’s difficulty drew me to it instead of pushing me away and really made me come to love it. In closing, this is a fine game with some flaws, none game breaking but ones that you’ll need some true patience for (rage quitters need not apply). If you can tame the waters, you’re in for a difficult but highly rewarding game that’s one of the best in the Game Gear library!
SCORE: 8 out of 10