Sonic’s 2nd adventure on Sega’s 8-bit handheld aptly named Sonic 2. Race, platform and hang glide your way through 7 zones to save the kidnapped Miles ‘Tails’ Prower from the evil Dr Robotnik.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
A step down from the previous games in terms of level design and looks. The extreme difficulty increase won’t be for everyone either but enjoyable in parts and a decent sequel to Sonic’s first 8-bit outing.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Review
Before we start the review
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Sega Game Gear is a frustrating game! At times, I found myself enjoying it, other times, I could have thrown my Game Gear out of the window! You see, I want to like this game, I really do. I adore the 8-bit Sonic game and I badly wanted more of the same from this sequel. Sega did a brilliant job creating an 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog that still kept many of the trademarks of it’s 16-bit bigger brother, but also added original levels and made full use of the Game Gear’s power and colour palette. This gave us a fairly detailed, vibrant looking game that plays wonderfully on Sega’s handheld. Sonic 2 just isn’t up to standard, but let me explain why.
First things first, Sonic 2 is not developed by the same team that created the original Game Gear game. The first game was developed by Ancient, the newly formed studio created by Sega legend Yuzo Koshiro. Development of Sonic 2 was handed over to Aspect, who would go on to make many 8-bit Sonic games.
How Sonic 2 Compares to it’s console brothers
Again, like its predecessor, it shares little in common with its Sega Megadrive counterpart. Original levels were created to differentiate the game from the 16-bit version but they lack character and can be pretty boring in terms of art design. In particular, the opening level, Underground zone is as bland as they come in both colour and design. Even the name is boring! Multiple levels have very sparse backgrounds and just feel lazy. Gone are the bonus levels, which I’ll admit is not a major loss but they are a staple of Sonic games so it would have been nice to include these. I also found that there are multiple times when finding the next platform is a pure leap of faith. You simply cannot see where the path is without jumping into the abyss where there’s a 50/50 chance you hit a ledge or spikes! The levels just don’t flow like they should and opportunities to use Sonic’s speed are few and far between.
I will say on a positive note though, that the trademark loops make their first appearance in an 8-bit Sonic game which is cool to see.
The Hang glider!!!
I think it’s fair to say that Sonic 2 for Game Gear is hard. Very hard. They definitely ramped up the difficulty here on this one and I think it’s also fair to say that the Master System version is easier. The smaller screen and lower resolution of the Game Gear make it far harder to avoid enemies and obstacles. In fairness, Sonic’s trademark rings are abundant throughout the levels and it is possible to pick up at least 2 extra lives from ring collecting alone in each level. Sonic also gains the ability to pick up dropped rings after a hit in this game which is great to see.
Multiple extra lives are hidden throughout the zones but absent in this game however are the shield power-ups and unless I am mistaken, speed power-ups but given the lack of areas where you can really stretch Sonic’s legs, that’s probably a good thing. This feels necessary as there will be deaths and plenty of them! Zone 2 is where the difficulty ramps up and is more than likely where most people’s game would end, mine included until recently. This is where the dreaded Hang glider comes into play. In modern games, we would get a tutorial on how to control this, but in Sonic 2, nope. For years this has mystified gamers, but I finally mastered it for this review. This filled me with a sense of invincibility. This surely has to be the hardest part done? I was very wrong.
The Control System
The controls in Sonic 2 are your biggest enemy (along with the Game Gear’s screen resolution!). Sonic is slippery to control. This wouldn’t normally be too much of an issue, but Sonic 2 relies on some precision platforming and the ever so slight slide that our hero does when he lands on any surface can lead to some incredibly frustrating moments, especially later on. Numerous jumps that normally would be easy can become frustratingly hard as Sonic slides off the side or misses completely.
I also would like to address one particularly annoying convention in video games, the water level! Labyrinth zone in Sonic 1 is not great, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Act 2 of Aqua Lake zone. Sonic is stripped of all speed here in the underwater depths. He slides all over the place and can hold his breath for what feels like seconds before you are forced to seek an air bubble. There are also sections that require you to float in an air bubble, navigating through some tight spaces, avoiding enemies and other hazards. This bubble will burst as soon as it gets anywhere near anything. It becomes a recurring theme throughout this game that multiple zones attempt to introduce a new mechanic that probably seemed like a good idea at the time but can be incredibly annoying in practice.
The essence of a Sonic game is lost a little. What makes Sonic great? Bursts of speed and tight, well-thought out platforming. Gimmicks are not needed, as the recent and exceptional Sonic Mania proved.
If you do manage to navigate all of the above successfully, then be sure to also pick up the Chaos Emeralds if you can as without this, you are not seeing the true ending of the game. As in its 8-bit predecessor, the emeralds are scattered throughout each zone, and can be incredibly tricky to find. This does lend itself to some interesting exploration, but it’s worth noting that some are in fairly obscure places. Sonic 1 often gave you a glimpse of the emerald before you nabbed it allowing you to work out a route to it. Not here though. They are all well hidden apart from the sixth and final emerald that is obtained from beating Metal Sonic. It’s only then that the true ending can be achieved. I have to say, the final zone, Crystal egg zone, is refreshingly simple for once after the punishing Scrambled Egg zone. The final boss fight with Robotnik Is also fun. Each boss leading up to this is far easier than any of the levels that precede them which is a little disappointing but at least it finishes with a traditional Sonic style boss fight.
What’s good about this game
Let’s wrap this review up with some positives though as there are some glimmers of light in the darkness. Firstly, the music, while not on par with the first game, is fantastic again. They really got the most out of Sega’s handheld here. I really do applaud the developers for trying to do something a bit different with this game. It doesn’t all work, the hang glider, bubbles etc, but when you do get a burst of classic Sonic gameplay, it’s still a joy to behold and completing this game gives me and I’m sure anyone else who has finished it an incredible sense of satisfaction. Seeing Sonic and Tails together at the end really felt good after all these years. The game is too hard, there is no doubt about that. That’s not to say steep difficulty in games is a bad thing, but Sonic games are not about being difficult and it’s what turns a lot of people off this game, myself included.
After beating Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for this review, I can say that it’s an incredibly frustrating game that relies too much on gimmicks and exploration, but a game that can be enjoyable at times and is satisfying to beat. Did I enjoy playing this despite its drawbacks, yes, I did!. More than I thought I would and I will definitely play it again in the future. So if you’re considering playing this or have been stuck at the dreaded hang glider since 1992, keep at it and give this one a shot. It might surprise you.
Some particularly dull level design and a real lack of anything going on in the background. This improves towards the latter stages but in general, it pales in comparison to Sonic 1. Sonic’s sprite still looks cool though and there are plenty of bright colours. It’s still an incredibly solid 8-bit game graphically and there is far less slow down than its predecessor.
Pretty basic but what do you expect from an 8-bit Sonic game! Robotnik has kidnapped Tails and Sonic is on a quest to save him. There really is no more to it.
Sonic feels far less responsive in Sonic 2. He is also very slippery to control which can be really punishing towards the end of the game where precision jumps and direction changes are needed.
In a single session, collecting all the chaos emeralds, this will take you about 2 hours. It can be beaten in less, but without those emeralds, you won’t be completing the game fully.
Difficult. Finding all the chaos emeralds is mandatory to complete the game and the level design, controls and small screen resolution all conspire to make this far more challenging than the first game.
When was Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Released?
Developed by Aspect and released in November 1992 in Europe and Japan
What Does Land of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Cost?
Very common game. Can be found on eBay for £5-7 cart only and £15 complete in box.
How do I play Sonic the Hedgehog 2?
The D pad controls movement, the 1 and 2 buttons for jumping.
Where can I buy a Sonic Themed Game gear?
I have a few designs in my shop. Here’s the one Tom our reviewer owns