Gameplay, Story and Value:
Sonic 2 builds upon the first game in nearly every way, with the most notable additions being the new character of Miles “Tails” Prowler as well as the staple Spin Dash ability. The sequel introduces several new stages, offering more in the way of variety and balance, a better sense of speed, and some fun boss encounters.
Controls remain the same as in Sonic and Sonic 3, which is to say they’re fine. There are some noticeable technical quirks, such as Sonic’s occasional tendency to come to a dead stop straight of a Spin Dash or, far more annoyingly, his insistence on randomly changing from a roll to a run which can cause major issues in handling bosses and timing jumps.
The special stages are much improved over the first game, though there fun is hindered somewhat by Tails’ insistence on running straight into obstacles and costing you rings from your shared pool. With two players this is much more manageable and less of an issue, but I eventually found myself just skipping these stages altogether.
Worth mentioning, while completely irrelevant to this review, is that playing Sonic 2 with two players (at least in versus mode) is impossible when using an XRGB-Mini Framemeister to upscale your old consoles to an HDTV, as I do. The awkward resolution just scares the crap out of the unit and it won’t display a consistent image. One of the many reasons I keep a CRT around.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
The game and its environments look much better than its predecessor, and the variety in levels and boss fights is very welcome. Everything looks a bit brighter and cleaner as well, and further emphasizes the mild change in style between this game and its sequel.
The sound is standard issue Sonic and the music is “okay”. There’s nothing wrong with any of the tracks, but none of it (aside from stage 2’s) really stick with me. It seemed only just good enough to accommodate the game, fitting each stage nicely, while never really enhancing it.
It’s kind of hard rating a game like Sonic 2 having played it after Sonic 3. It’s a fine game in it’s own, improving upon the first in every possible way, however it also fails to hold up to its successor in every way as well. I would still have to take Sonic 3, even without Sonic & Knuckles, over Sonic 2 any day.
I realize this is probably an unfair comparison, but it is the way sequels are ideally supposed to work after all…
Sonic 2 is still great, and it will always hold a special place in my memory. I still remember when the promotional materials went up around the video story my mom worked at, and the excitement around its release. The cartridge I have for the game is the same one we bought over 20 years ago, and while it’s seen better days, it’ll never get replaced!