In a sickly yellow and white patterned shoebox sized cardboard box, covered in FUTURE ZONE branding, lay one of the greatest consoles of all time and one-of-if-not the greatest video games ever made. I had worked for months to earn enough pocket money to pay for my 3rd hand Sega Master System 2 and after a year of trying to stop my kid brother ruining it, my parents had decided to get a second hand Mega Drive for us to share. After digging through the smell of cables and shop dust, it was in my hands, Sonic The Hedgehog 2. The perfect asymmetrical two player game when your brother who was too old to be placated with an unplugged controller but too young to play anything could happily help out. Once he got to grips we would play the VS multiplayer and have a great time. Little did I know I would end up repurchasing Sonic 2 a further 12 more times on different systems and in various different collections. What’s one more?
Whenever a “top favourite games list” meme pops up, I somehow always forget about Sonic 2. It wasn’t Sonic 2 that got my interest in Sonic as a character, my first Sonic game was Sonic The Hedgehog on the Master System and let me tell you, that is a very different experience to the Mega Drive counterpart. I was more interested in the British comic series ‘Sonic The Comic’ than anything and by the time we had our Mega Drive, Sonic 3 was already old and I was collecting the Panini stickers for it. Despite now being a Sonic fan, general Sonic nerd (I think I’ve played every Sonic game ever made?) and having played Sonic 2 so much, it never hangs around in my thoughts for very long. To me, Sonic 2 is beans on toast. I’ve had it multiple times for years of my life, it’s not a new found spicy dish or exciting surprise takeout but a familiar sense of warm enjoyment and just filling enough to keep you going. I’m still somehow finding new things to do after all this time and it’s still something I’ll go back to if I need a pick me up.
The emulation of Sonic 2 with this release is flawless. Not only is Sonic 2 running absolutely fine in docked or handheld but the inclusion of Sonic 2 + Sonic & Knuckles means you can also play through the game as Knuckles (with some minor changes to the levels) The Settings menu includes all the trimmings for a Mega Drive emulated game on a modern console. It’s fantastically easy enough to tinker with giving warnings if you’re changing anything that would require the game to reset. You can assign different controls, turn off/on the new HD Rumble feature and change the display mode to fit your personal preference. There’s the usual SEGA AGES options of dot by dot, normal, fit (top to bottom) and full view modes (the stretched weirdness) Sonic 2 also includes options for scanlines and smoothing and your choice of border if the screen isn’t stretched. There’s also a quirky Vintage mode that has a locked hybrid sort of scanline and smoothing with a slightly warped perspective that makes the game look uncannily like it’s playing on an old CRT TV.
Given Sonic 2 originally came out in Europe in 1992 and has seen ports to almost every system under the sun, you would expect this SEGA AGES port to add in some new features to the classic and it doesn’t disappoint. There is a new 100-Ring Challenge Time Attack for both Sonic & Knuckles with a Ranking leaderboard to match. This feature has you racing through Green Hill Zone Act 1 to collect 100 rings and get through the stage as fast as possible and is a fun little side dish. You can also set the main game to Ring Keep Mode, this then keeps a tally of every ring you collect as you progress. It’s an interesting change to the gameplay and there’s a leadership board for this to.
You can switch between the International (Genesis) or Japan (Mega Drive) versions of the game and although it omits the European version this is likely to save anyone from PAL regions remembering that it originally ran at 50hz (and a bit slower and clunkier) What’s interesting with this port is the option in the settings not only for the new move of Drop Dash (from Sonic Mania) but also the inclusion of Stage Select and Super Sonic mode on the main menu. Instead of going to the Options in game then remembering 19, 65, 09, 17 you can simply add this option and the game goes straight there. This also means that you don’t have to enter 4, 1, 2, 6 from this menu to instantly have all the chaos emeralds but you can enter 19, 65, 09, 17 for the fantastically fun Debug mode (just remember to start the level with the equivalent of A+Start by default this is Y+X) Sonic 2 also includes a save state system which works absolutely fine. The emulation is so like-for-like you can even turn the stage select off, go into the options and manually enter it, it’s a perfect rendition of the classic.
What is it about Sonic The Hedgehog 2 that makes it so enjoyable after all these years? Is it the simple pick up and play nature of the platforming? The challenging difficulty curve to first timers? The incredible music and sprite visuals throughout? I think all of these things contribute to its legendary status but what keeps people coming back to it after all this time is mainly the simplicity of the game. You can jump into any Sonic 2 level and have a blast, with cheats or without. This port is just a fantastic reminder that as long as it’s emulated to perfection you can have fun at any time, in any way with Sonic 2. After you’ve had your fun you can then forget about it for a few months until you fancy a quick go and enjoy yourself again. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it has aged superbly. Regardless of nostalgia, this is the perfect game.
10/10 – The “beans on toast” of video games
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