Oh the times that surrounded the release of Sonic 2 were glorious indeed. I was in the neighborhood of 3, so my memory may be a little fuzzy. I’m still pretty sure that Sonic was everywhere I looked (and yes, I was playing games at 3 because “parenting” starts young) but he wasn’t quite everything I played yet.
I was still stuck in the NES library at the time playing the best 2D Mario game ever made, Super Mario 3. It’s science, go argue with your science teacher about it. Anyways, Sonic 2 did eventually roll around into my hands with that ghastly original Genesis controller and I was sold. Bang the gavel, hand me off, and bring on the next lot. You couldn’t keep me away from this hedgehog parade.
With the added context that comes along with becoming a bitter old ruler of the universe (albeit a small universe), I can certainly see some improvements that were to come in the series. On the other hand, I cannot deny that Sonic 2 is still a refined 2D Sonic experience that my heart will always have room to house.
Those graphics, I must say, have aged very well considering the competition. I know the usual stereotype with graphics of the age is that their looks never really fade, but that’s just not the case with some. Super Nintendo games have always had a blurrier look to them while games like, I don’t know, Dynamite Heady can look and feel supremely dated.
Sonic 2 though looks ageless and sounds spotless. This is where the music started to separate out into a different stratosphere than the competition because of the creative use of lots and lots of MIDI libraries. Metropolis City, Oil Ocean, Chemical Plant, and Hilltop are all dear loves of mine from an audio standpoint, which worked fantastically when 3 of those got remixed version in Sonic Mania.
What hangs me up on enjoying the full experience are the stiff controls. Yes, these are leagues better than Sonic classic with Tails offering a weird safety net for rings and the spin dash being implemented wonderfully. My problems surface only just after playing Sonic 3 and Knuckles, which uses the entire D-pad instead of just the cardinal directions as in Sonic 2. You’re just looking up, moving left right, or moving down. The controls suffer from that lack of nuance.
That being said, Sonic 2 is the quintessential sequel with everything being better, better, and better again. The colors all feel unique with the handmade textures helping them pop as you fly by, and the palettes in zones differ wildly as you go. On top of that, there’s a huge amount of levels to consume here with Robotnik’s defeat somehow feeling the most satisfying in these boss fights. Something about the way the explosion effects slowly bloom after that last hit comes off like you just finished a Bloodborne boss.
I love the boss themes in Sonic 2 the best out of any in the series, as a small subsection of positivity. There’s a universally ominous feel to them up to and including the final boss, which is an endurance test I love to face down. I also mourn the fact that this is the last time we got Casino Night zone in a standard way that didn’t just throw Sonic into a pinball machine. Why with that obsession, Sega?
Sonic 2 is the spark that brought on the eventual fire of my love for the early and recent games. It remains eminently playable as an exemplar of the dwindling 1990s games that are going to feel fun and accessible no matter how much time has passed. Age has dwindled the star in my head slightly behind the other bests of the Sonic team, but you can only take so much away from a game that has so much fun at its heart and so many good runs left in its bones.
Sonic 2 Score: