Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Slowing With Age

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Slowing With Age

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the speediest game in town back in 1992. But does it still deserve its spot in fast lane?

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Great review mate. All your problems with it have been acknowledged before, especially annoying traps and the sluggish momentum in the air. I'm not usually in a hurry to play the Sonic Genesis games for the same reasons.

Funnily enough, if it came out these days though, it wouldn't have much competition. The game play and level designs were meant for you to adjust to over time, and it was somewhat effective. Including it's art, detail and music would truly clobber everything now.

I've been playing sonic 4 recently, and it shows up all the same problems. It's so focused on matching the 2d platformers it even replicates some of the most frustrating elements of them.

Having said that, Sonic 4 episode 1 made me feel like they were overdoing the 'we can do HD graphics now element, isn't that great!?' - even though everything is hyperdetailed, it doesn't look that good, and I felt it lost the charm of the originals...
(Episode 2 is better because it's 3d background elements seem to be actual 3d background elements, and not clunky pre-rendered sprites)
Especially still prominent is quirky jumping over bottomless pits... Get it even slightly wrong, and you fall to your death.
Only the jumping mechanics sometimes don't want to cooperate.
Or, some platforms in at least 1 level have dubious hitboxes, and enemies standing on them in a weird way that you need to use the lock-on ability that Sonic 4 has to get by...
Only... The lock-on ability in some cases can be really flaky in itself. So... If you fail to land on the part of the platform you can stand on (it looks bigger than it is), you die. If you hit the enemy without being in a spin attack. You die. (impossible to recover the hit even with rings, because you fall).
If you try to use the lock-on, unless you are exactly perfect with it in a way you usually don't have to be, you hit the enemy, lose your rings, and fall off the edge.
And you need to do it about 10 times in a row, with the same level of weird, unreliable lock-on for each jump...
Yeah, sonic has a tendency to have a few dubious sections like that no matter what game you're talking about...

But... Then I dug out the genesis collection on steam, and played the first sonic...

And boy, was I ever wrong. The 'charm' of those graphics turned out to be a lot less charming than I remembered... Super Mario World looks considerably better these days than Sonic does...
It's not so much the lack of resolution, but the really obviously limited colour palette that, while being used with considerable care, still show through their limitations...

Also, lack of the spin dash... Which is an addition from Sonic 2... And boy is it ever clear why they added it. Sonic 1 can get absurdly frustrating in places because the inertia mechanics mean you can get stuck if you don't have the space to take a run-up at something.

From sonic 2 onwards, the spin-dash can get you out of these situations, but in sonic 1 you're just forced to figure out a way around it if you get stuck like that...

Still, the level designs of those old sonic games were quite impressive.

One thing you learn with experience though? Sonic [i]isn't[i] about speed. OK, yes, it has sections of crazy level design which exist solely to show off with that speed, but the reality is, the game punishes you for speed, especially in later levels.
Sudden drops that you don't have the reaction time to avoid.
Spikes at the end of a long run that if you take the section leading up to it at speed you'll run straight into...

In fact, sonic, as a game repeatedly tries to lure you into going fast only to punish you for having fallen for it.
Sonic is weird like that...

It uses it's speed as a weapon, something which looks impressive, only to lure you into using it when doing so will only cause you harm...
Or... At times, punishing you for not managing your momentum in general, even if it is a section where it demands top speed, you have to get it just right...

Keeping in control while living with the constant temptation to go completely out of control. That's sonic...

A cornerstone of "classic" Sonic's problems is the small draw distance (or perspective), despite how more vertical Sonic's levels were when compared to Super Mario World. While one can have Mario run and jump in tune with new obstacles, one must either take Sonic's obstacles slowly or memorize them. As seen in this article, portable variations multiply this problem.

The Classic stages in Sonic Generations and perhaps Sonic 4 solve this problem enough, by the way.

The levels are designed to slow you down, but only to a point. They're also very carefully designed so that if you get good, not only can you go fast, but the levels will aid you in that. Speed is a reward for skill in this game, not a given. Play it over and over again (which we would have in the '90s because it was a full-priced retail game and our parents weren't just gonna drop another $50+ on a new game as soon as we beat it), and you'll find that each playthrough is faster than the last. Frustrating obstacles start to be come less frustrating, and eventually become beneficial at helping GAIN speed rather than drop it.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles actually did much better with this aspect, and is my favorite game in the series as a result. But less people remember it because it was never a pack-in with the original Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will always have a level of nostalgia in its favor that its sequel never can.

P.S. Thanks

Covarr:
Sonic 3 & Knuckles actually did much better with this aspect, and is my favorite game in the series as a result. But less people remember it because it was never a pack-in with the original Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will always have a level of nostalgia in its favor that its sequel never can.

I'll echo this - I've long thought S3&K was the far better game. The special stages are also better, and the power ups each address a different irritation from Sonic 2 (lightning shield stops the temptation to go back and pick up stray rings, water shield stops drowning, and all three help fix no-momentum standing starts). Plus, the graphics are nicer, the art direction is better, and Tails's flight actually works in co-op, which is an added bonus.

PLUS there's a save system, so not only can you replay your favourite levels, you also don't necessarily have to get every single Chaos/Hyper emerald on a single playthrough. S3&K is the best platformer of its generation, bar none.

The Sonic Rush games address the speed-as-hazard problem by weaponising it, which is super fun. Still requires knowledge of the levels, but those games were freakin' amazing played at top speed.

Kolyarut:

Covarr:
Sonic 3 & Knuckles actually did much better with this aspect, and is my favorite game in the series as a result. But less people remember it because it was never a pack-in with the original Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will always have a level of nostalgia in its favor that its sequel never can.

I'll echo this - I've long thought S3&K was the far better game. The special stages are also better, and the power ups each address a different irritation from Sonic 2 (lightning shield stops the temptation to go back and pick up stray rings, water shield stops drowning, and all three help fix no-momentum standing starts). Plus, the graphics are nicer, the art direction is better, and Tails's flight actually works in co-op, which is an added bonus.

PLUS there's a save system, so not only can you replay your favourite levels, you also don't necessarily have to get every single Chaos/Hyper emerald on a single playthrough. S3&K is the best platformer of its generation, bar none.

The Sonic Rush games address the speed-as-hazard problem by weaponising it, which is super fun. Still requires knowledge of the levels, but those games were freakin' amazing played at top speed.

Now I kinda want to try this one...

Know what's even less about going at top speed through levels?
Sonic 1. It's just like "dark souls is hard".
A marketing slogan turning out to be a complete fabrication once you look at the actual game.

More or less agree with the review on this one. When I was a kid, Sonic 2 was one of the greatest games ever. When I replayed it more recently, not so much. It has most definitely NOT aged well.

Your mistake was playing it single player. Some of my best gaming experiences were playing Sonic 2 2 player with my younger sister.

The best way to get someone into gaming is to give them the power to contribute without the pressure and frustration of loss. Speaking of which, there appears to be the larval form of a human in your profile pic. Can he/she yet hold a Genesis controller?

I played Sonic 2 for the first time long after it's initial release some time in the mid 2000s, after having played the Sonic Adventure games, and I loved it. So maybe it is just your expectations. One of my favorite elements though, is the thing that initially turned me off to the early Sonic Games: the lack of a save feature. When you can't save those lives REALLY COUNT, and when you get to the final boss after playing for hours and you're low on lives the stakes are enormous and the pressure is intense. No major title today would have the balls to try that anymore.

Anyway Having experienced the original 2D Sonic games more recently than many of the 3D ones I personally find it a bit eye opening. It's like when you find pictures of your grandfather in the military when he was young and realize "Wow, my grampa used to be a badass". You get a whole different perspective on something you've always known, but only seen one side of.

I like how this review calls attention to one of the disconnects I always found with people praising old Sonic games and complaining about new ones. One of the frequent complaints I hear regarding new Sonic games is how people just want to run fast and hate how the games are always forcing you to stop and slow down, and then they'll go on to praise the classic Sonic games... when those games really had the same issue. Once you move beyond the first or second level of any individual game, Sonic games have always forced you to slow down, either by literally throwing a wall in your way, or by punishing you with obstacles that are nigh-unavoidable if moving at top speed. This isn't something new, it's a problem Sonic games have always had, but people seem to conveniently forget about when comparing newer and classic games.

Wait, wait. Is nobody going to mention the unreleased Beta level image that has slyly been slipped into the gallery?

I think Sonic 2 is a fine game even by today's standards - although I'm speaking as somebody who played the hell out of it back in the day, so I suppose I retain a lot of the muscle memory and level knowledge that might frustrate a complete newcomer. And make no mistake, back in 1992, Sonic 2 was an absolute barnstormer. Nowadays it lacks the novelty factor and a lot of the spectacle is unremarkable, but I think the game retains most of its charm.

I think the review was unfair on a couple of counts. Water a huge problem? I think I can guess the two or three specific areas the reviewer has in mind; that one difficulty spike in Chemical Plant and a couple of places in Aquatic Ruin (although the first act of Aquatic Ruin can be done without getting your feet wet, IIRC, and Act 2 needn't be much more difficult as long as you pick the optimal path through the level). And the Emeralds - yes, the Special Stage gets unforgiving very quickly. (Playing solo? Select "Sonic Only) from the options, if AI tails is enabled the little furry bastard WILL cause you to fail later special stages). But surely the reviewer missed a trick not mentioning the series' first appearance of Super Sonic, unlockable by collecting all seven emeralds?

But Sonic 2 still has a lot to recommend it. The great music, for one. The appealing, bright, chunky visuals that haven't become eyesores with age. The "jump-in" co-op element. The (mostly) forgiving difficulty curve that treads a fine line between making the game accessible and encouraging a slightly fanatical iterative replaying mindset. Sonic 2 probably isn't my favourite Sonic game (that would be Sonic 1991) or the one I sunk most hours into (Sonic 3 + Knuckles) - but I think it can be rightfully called the most polished standalone title and the game that contributed the most new core IP to the series. Respect where it's due, ladies and hedgehogs.

Hah, if you thought Sonic 2 didn't have enough running sections, you should go back and play the original.

Kolyarut:

Covarr:
Sonic 3 & Knuckles actually did much better with this aspect, and is my favorite game in the series as a result. But less people remember it because it was never a pack-in with the original Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will always have a level of nostalgia in its favor that its sequel never can.

I'll echo this - I've long thought S3&K was the far better game. The special stages are also better, and the power ups each address a different irritation from Sonic 2 (lightning shield stops the temptation to go back and pick up stray rings, water shield stops drowning, and all three help fix no-momentum standing starts). Plus, the graphics are nicer, the art direction is better, and Tails's flight actually works in co-op, which is an added bonus.

PLUS there's a save system, so not only can you replay your favourite levels, you also don't necessarily have to get every single Chaos/Hyper emerald on a single playthrough. S3&K is the best platformer of its generation, bar none.

I couldn't agree more. Sonic 2 was not only my first Sonic game but one of my first video games in general, but while it and the first game have their merits and their charm, I feel like the series didn't really work it out until Sonic 3&K (and then lost it shortly afterwards). I think Sonic CD is fantastic as well.

In regards to the pacing issues, I always felt like the running fast bits were just filler between the real platforming. I'd you've run through one loop you've run through them all. The parts where you're taking it slow I find are much more enjoyable. In fact if you play Sonic CD there's a lot more focus on exploration and not a lot of running fast at all (which is one of the things I love about it).

I only played a bit at a friend's house as a kid and remember thinking the controls were rather unruly.

Xman490:
While one can have Mario run and jump in tune with new obstacles, one must either take Sonic's obstacles slowly or memorize them. As seen in this article, portable variations multiply this problem.

Indeed, though I really felt like the Boost system was where they really hit the sweet spot that made the mechanics feel involved yet fast and fun. You were rewarded for memorizing the stage, but it wasn't required- and enemies were no longer a sure stop, but an incentive to do the trick minigame that allows you more boost and knock them aside.

Wiggum Esquilax:
Your mistake was playing it single player. Some of my best gaming experiences were playing Sonic 2 2 player with my younger sister.

My experience with the multiplayer is spending all my time as Tails just trying to stay on the screen as it followed Sonic, and not triggering platforms to fall away before Player 1 could make use of them.

Never heard anyone call the level design frustrating. Casino night is my favourite zone and being bounced around is half the fun. As for being slowed down for some platforming, that was something that later games kinda missed the point on, sonic wasnt always about going fast and never stopping.

Still not sure what i enjoy more. Sonic 2 or 3&K. Problem with 3&K is it had a few zones that just outstayed there welcome. Marble Garden and Sandopolis went on for too long.

And sonic 4 was just balls.

Dannyjw:
Never heard anyone call the level design frustrating. Casino night is my favourite zone and being bounced around is half the fun. As for being slowed down for some platforming, that was something that later games kinda missed the point on, sonic wasnt always about going fast and never stopping.

Still not sure what i enjoy more. Sonic 2 or 3&K. Problem with 3&K is it had a few zones that just outstayed there welcome. Marble Garden and Sandopolis went on for too long.

And Metropolis, Mystic Cave and Oil Ocean don't? (ugh, Metropolis) S2 does have a fair few good zones to balance those out, at least. Sandopolis does go on a while, but both halves are significantly different from each other, which breaks them up a bit.

Agreed on Casino Night, though. I remember actually failing the time limit a couple of times because I'd spent too long bouncing in the slot machines like an addict!

Metropolis was the only really long zone in 2.

Sonic 3 + Sonic & Knuckles (and the whole idea that you could plug Sonic 1 and 2 into S&K) were probably the best of the series IMO. Water levels in platformers though have always been a point of contention. At best they're an annoyance and at worst they're nightmare scenarios (hearing the drowning warning in Sonic still sends me into panic mode).
All in all I don't think people who grew up beyond the era would really ever appreciate the games, and its not just nostalgia speaking. I used to love the old Dungeon Keeper for example but the updates to graphics for modern games makes it really hard for me to stare at that game without getting a headache. (*insert diatribe about EA's horrible mobile rape of DK here*).
But back to the point at hand... They are great games for their time, and there are some things about them that taught me reflex and timing and most importantly, the thing the OP struggled with, how to control Sonic's mid-air inertia. It was a logical step up from Mario without going to 3D, and a worthy contender for the title of King of the Platformers... I'm not sure whether I would pick Sonic or Mario World (SNES) because I love those games both, for different reasons but the love still equates.
I still go back and play through Mario World every now and again, and once in a while fire up Sonic 3 just so I can beat it with all the Chaos gems...
But new age gamers, unless they're really into the retro gaming scene, probably won't enjoy Sonic or the older great titles (like Streets of Rage 2) because its past their time and may not make sense to them.
BTW if you didn't do Streets of Rage 2 yet, you might want to give it a shot. It was a well designed game for its time... I remember once during the first actual bossfight I managed to one-shot him because I hit a move perfectly, which to this day I've never been able to reproduce...

 

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