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Retro Respawn – Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Now with extra Knuckles)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before but in case you’re new to the dance, I’ll repeat it here. I didn’t own a SEGA Mega Drive (Or Genesis if you’re an Americanian) during the fourth generation itself. This wasn’t because I was NINTENDO 4 LIFE111 but more because I was but a mere child and my parents had no intention of letting me have two games consoles. By this point they were already regretting shelling out for my Super Nintendo and actually went to the length of taking it away from me during summer and locking it away in the cellar, so perturbed were they with me dedicating so much of my free time into playing it.

So yeah, a Mega Drive was simply out of the question and this was a hard kick in the knackers for me, as the Mega Drive was and still is a cracking machine with some truly excellent games on it. I’ve never been much for the “console wars” and find them an annoyance more than anything else. Obviously competition in the market place is a good thing, but for people like me who can’t always afford two or three consoles all at once, it ultimately means we miss out on certain games during their time of relevance and often have to come to them later. Sonic The Hedgehog was very much one of those games.

I was at least fortunate enough to actually play Sonic during my youth, but this was only when I happened to be at a friend’s house or in electronic department stores. Occasionally I’d find an arcade which had a cabinet with the original Sonic on it, but these were exceedingly rare and you only got about 5 minutes of game before it demanded more coins. I have vague memories of playing it at a camping site in Wales during a summer holiday many moons ago. It’s amazing how certain obscure memories seem to stick in your head. The first Sonic game for the Mega Drive was critically acclaimed and a big seller but the sheer explosion of attention and plaudits that its sequel got was something to behold.

SEGA eventually made the, admittedly genius, decision to bundle Sonic 2 in with the console just as they had done with the original Sonic game way back and it generated some serious hype. You couldn’t move in 1992 to 1993 without seeing advertisements for Sonic 2. I was still very young at that point, a mere babe at 5 years old, and even I remember the hype for this one. Despite being aware of the game, I was still yet to play it. That all changed when I went to the house of someone who had it. I honestly can’t remember who the other child was, I think he was the brother of one of my sisters’ friends, but I finally got to play Sonic 2 and it blew my pitiful little mind.

What first gripped me was the fact that two player controlled characters could both operate on the screen at the same time. Should you choose to play the game as Sonic and Tails and plug in a second controller, player two can actually control Tails when both are on the screen. Sonic will eventually end up enjoying the lion’s share of the action, but if there’s two of you it’s a neat bit of interactivity for the second person and means they don’t have to sit there twiddling their thumbs while the other person plays. It also helps that Tails is completely invulnerable, which allows the player controlling Sonic to sit back and relax during boss battles while Tails takes care of bidness.

Long after the Mega Drive had ceased to be and deep into the sixth generation, I went round my buddy Adam’s house and he dug his old Mega Drive out of the mothballs for some Sonic 2 shenanigans and it still held up. It also held up when SEGA released the “Mega Drive Collection” for the Xbox 360 and, I’m pleased to say, it STILL held up when I played it again for this feature.

Sonic 2 is a genuine masterpiece. It’s fiendishly difficult at points but it’s always possible to overcome harrowing sections with practice and a keen eye for detail. The graphics are bright, vibrant and still immensely delightful even after 22 years. The gameplay is finely tuned and with multiple ways to complete each stage there’s plenty of replay value for the completionists among you. On top of that there’s versus mode where players race each other to see who can finish the level quicker and special bonus stages where you can attempt to collect enough rings to earn a prestigious chaos emerald. Get all of the emeralds and you can unleash Super Sonic upon the game world and watch enemies cower before you.

Sonic 2 also benefits from having one of the best musical scores I’ve ever heard. Chemical Zone is some serious boom bass freaky beats (I assume that’s “street” for “jolly good tune”?) and I’m yet to find anyone, be they man, woman or beast, that isn’t susceptible to getting their boogie on when they hear it. Sonic 2 is just so well put together and so beautifully done that it would take something akin to a heart of stone for a gamer not to appreciate it.

SEGA eventually released Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and introduced a new character to the series in Knuckles The Echidna. Such was Knuckles popularity that SEGA ended up releasing another game called “Sonic and Knuckles”. What was interesting about this game was that the cartridge had a slot on top of it where other games could be plugged in. By plugging in Sonic 2 you could actually play the full game as Knuckles. I’d never really had a proper go on Sonic 2 featuring Knuckles but decided to do so with this feature to see how the two games compared.

Playing as Knuckles does have certain benefits. For instance Knuckles can not only glide through the air for a brief period but he can also scuttle up walls, which allows you to explore certain areas of the map that you previously couldn’t. No doubt expecting this, the developers placed special bonuses in certain hard to reach areas to reward players for having an inquisitive nose. Knuckles suffers somewhat from having a lower jump height than Sonic, which makes specific areas of the game slightly more difficult. The positives and negatives do ultimately cancel each other out, but overall I think the game is much superior when it’s played as originally intended. As fun though as seeing Knuckles in the game is I find the original version of the game gives a better experience to the player.

If you’ve never played Sonic 2 I really would recommend you going out of your way to do so. You can pick it up as part of the Ultimate Mega Drive Collection, which retails around £15 and is available on the Xbox 360. Not only is Sonic 2 included but so are a host of other great games from SEGA’s impeccable vaults. If you actually own a Mega Drive you can pick up the original cartridge online for pretty much buttons. It’ll cost you a bit more if you want to have the novelty of playing as Knuckles, as you’ll need not just Sonic 2 but also Sonic and Knuckles. If you’re a huge Knuckles aficionado, it might be worth the extra pennies, but otherwise you won’t be missing out on too much if you just stick with the original version of Sonic 2.

As always I’ll post some game footage below

Thanks for reading

Peace Out

View footage of the game here courtesy of YouTube channel HFPlaythroughs

Looking for other great content here on Gaming Respawn? Why wouldn’t you? This stuff is BONZA!

You can read Kane’s most recent character appreciation article by clicking HERE

You can take a goosey gander at Sean’s most recent issue of 5 Points of Gaming by clicking HERE

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