Retro Review: Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Plataform: Sega Master System
Also available on: Sega Game Gear, Virtual Console
When Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is referenced, probably, most of the gamers will remember of the most popular version of the game released on the 16bit SEGA platform, but it’s quite possible that some will remember of this version associated to this post. It’s common knowledge that Sonic’s second journey on SEGA Megadrive / Genesis excels by its quality, being regularly pointed as one of the best, if not the best, games for the 16bit SEGA and is also, for sure, one of the best in videogame history. Is this 8bit version at the same level as the 16bit Sonic games in the beginnings of the 90’s?
There’s one curiosity in the middle of all this, the 8bit version of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was released about one month before the 16bit. Although both games share the same name, the two versions are very different from each other, it’s not just a simply platform conversion.
When Master System is turned on with Sonic The Hedgehog 2 cartridge inserted, immediately we enter in Sonic series world, the sounds listened and the visuals glanced are characteristic from the series of our friend hedgehog. A short sequence shows quickly the game’s plot, a new friend of Sonic is kidnapped by the evil Doctor Robotnik. The two friends, Sonic and Tails, appear together, right after the sequence, in the main screen. Without being bored, the gamer is ready to assume the control of Sonic. Within less than a minute after turning on the console we are ready to play, those glorious days!
This version is just single player, it’s only possible to assume the control of Sonic. When the first stage/act begins it feels instantaneously the typical gameplay of a 2D platform from Sonic series. As well as it’s common to happen in the side-scroller genre, Sonic’s objective is to move from point A, located further west, to point B, positioned further east of the act. So, the blue hedgehog movements are controlled by the D-pad, to the left and to the right, the rest of the buttons, 1 e 2, demand that Sonic performs a jump, the elementary in one game of this series. In this version it isn’t possible to do the famous spin dash, premiered on the 16bit version, in which Sonic crouches and rolls in the same position, in order to gain more velocity and impact over something in his way.
Sure that Sonic is synonym of astonishing velocity, but as it seems, that is not a characteristic really well explored in this version. It may be related with the 8bit SEGA system’s limitations, as it’s verified in the first 8bit title of the series when Sonic runs out of the screen when going too fast. Yet, the beloved hedgehog in this version is fast, but not incredibly fast as in 16bit. The worst example to show is the loop mechanics, simply disappointing, it doesn't satisfy at all the gamer’s expectations that awaits some adrenaline when making Sonic go upside down.
In a rudimentary way, the course of the acts is made from the left to the right, which it isn’t absolutely correct, sometimes it’s required reverse the direction, go upwards or go downwards. As well as there isn’t one only path to get to the end of the act. There’s a freedom to choose the path to move on or go on investigating the acts with more detail, collecting more items, finding hidden passages with some extra items that sometimes involves some extra risk. Here it couldn't miss those precious shiny rings for Sonic to catch and the so much desired monitors to get ten rings, extra speed, one extra life or temporary immunity. These items are spread throughout all the acts, except in the acts 3 of each zone.
Speaking of the level/zone mechanics, each of the seven zones consists of three acts. The first act of each zone is similar to the second, with enemies, obstacles and items spread along the course. Most of the second acts have somewhere lost an emerald, such a very valuable item, that you really need to catch them all so you can fulfill the real goals of the game. In the third and final act of each zone there are no items or enemies seen in the previous acts, but a few obstacles and finally a Boss, a great creation of Robotnik that Sonic will have to face. It’s necessary to be a bit astute to defeat the enemy, which requires several shots to be beaten, while Sonic loses a life with a hit, since there are no rings to catch in the current act. It should be noted that the acts are very short, almost all of them can be completed in less than a minute each, except for the water act and the acts which is necessary to travel through pipes. Something noteworthy in this version are the various alternative ways of transportation in which Sonic can and must move through different areas, such as the carts on rails, delta wings, tubes or even air bubbles in the water.
When mentioning the graphics, the Master System console already has itself impressive capabilities for a platform for 8bit and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is a role model of its graphical capabilities. Let’s highlight the short animation, the main screen and the acts tabs that are simple, enjoyable and well done. The various zones’ environments differ from one another, with clouds, platform blocks, water, lights and many other things that make each zone a unique experience. However, is denoted a little variety of creatures that are met throughout the adventure. The blue mascot has proportionately a smaller size when compared to the version of the SEGA Genesis, but similar to the first Sonic The Hedgehog for the Master System. There seems to be some visual flaws, which is when the blocks of pixels start flashing, perhaps due to a greater presence of graphic elements in the game screen.
The player’s ears will be entertained while engaged in this challenging platformer with distinguished and well adapted music to each zone, tabs and certain action sequences. The sound effects match really well every action performed during the game, such as jumping, when falling, catching rings, eliminating an enemy, getting an extra life or the temporary immunity. The transition from the current music of the act to the music that points to the confrontation with the zone’s Boss is very well achieved by raising the player’s tension level. Sometimes the music may give a sense of speed greater than is actually transmitted through the gameplay.
This version of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 distances itself further from the 16bit version than the 8bit version of the first Sonic title in relation to its homonymous in 16bit. And it’s in here found a plus, the fact of being a game ever played. Emeralds play an important role as they are needed to achieve the real goals of the game and with it probably leads to the attempt of completing more than once without being, in any way, boring. Speed isn’t a strong point here and the loops aren’t what they should be. There are no checkpoints during the acts, maybe because they are short, and there aren't mini or special acts that somehow saves the player from some hassle and dizziness. With a wide variety of sounds and music in accordance to the style of the Sonic series, which helps to involve even more with the game. Visually, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 neatly highlights the great potential of SEGA Master System. Those who possess the 8bit SEGA this title becomes a must have. But from what I researched, this version was only released for the Master System in Europe and Brazil. Meanwhile, the same version was launched on the handheld SEGA Game Gear, almost at the same time, in Europe, United States and Japan. Quite sure that these are the main reasons that make this version an undiscovered gem for so many players. Currently, this Sonic The Hedgehog 2 version is also available Virtual Console Nintendo since 2008, many years after it was originally released in 1992.