Top 100 Retro Games: Sonic 2
Sonic The Hedgehog II
The story of how I got into the Sega Genesis begins with a neighbor. He, or really his older brother I guess, got one pretty early on while the rest of us in the neighborhood were deeply involved in Nintendo fandom. I think his father actually knew someone at the company, perhaps?
I was never a big Sonic fan, but obviously the game was a big draw for fans. Sonic just never really grabbed me. I do not enjoy the speed of the game and I think years of teaching myself to play Mario games at a more paced, methodical, speed hinders by ability to enjoy Sonic games. This was reinforced during the streams I did of both games.
I absolutely despised Sega’s marketing scheme back then. First off, how DARE they attack Nintendo! The edgy, extreme, in your face interface I was expected to have from liking Sega games was a real turn-off. I was never cool or anything but awkward, dorky, a social burden, and generally antisocial. Sega’s attempts at a vapid sense of cool really turned me off.
I found their argument to be invalid generally also. The early Genesis lineup could not in any way lineup with the early SNES lineup of Super Mario World, Sim City, Super Castlevania, and then others coming up in the queue like Final Fantasy IV and A Link To The Past. There are plenty of fine Genesis games, but no way.
The one thing, as we have noted in the past, that the Genesis was better at was sports game.
So, the plot of Sonic games generally go like this: Dr. Robotnik uses the Chaos Emeralds to try and take over the world. He often puts animals in robots and turns them against their friend Sonic. Sonic also has a friend named Tails. Tails is annoying.
See, that commercial is a fine example of how the Genesis turned me off with its advertisements. And YES Mario is a fine boy who rescues people, rides karts, builds levels, referees boxing matches, and does a lot of other stuff. What does Sonic do?
Sonic 2 also has a really cool cover which introduces Tails as he stands strong next to Sonic. I love the image of Dr. Robotnik trying to destroy the big two in the background.
Both of these games have been reissued over and over. Most recently, Sonic was reissued as part of the excellent Sega Ages series and on the current gen Genesis collection. Sonic 2 is also on it. This was the version I used to play both games.
So for this play through of Sonic 2, I played it via the Genesis collection on the PS4. I did streams of both games over a weekend. I got a lot farther in 2 than 1, which was part of why I have decided to focus our discussion on it, but I also generally like the game a lot more than 1.
First, let’s have a few general remarks about Sonic games. I never feel like I can go fast enough in these games. It’s hard for me to keep up with the pace the game requires, and going slow always seems to have some kind of penalty attached to it.
I like going slow. I learned to pace myself via NES platformers. Going fast was always harmful in Super Mario Brothers or any number of side scrollers. Speed was not often rewarded, but slowing down, assessing a situation, and then making decisions definitely was. Sonic wants you to keep moving and speed through in ways I find frustrating and antithetical to how I play video games generally.
I hate in Sonic 2 how Sonic taps his foot if you stop moving for a moment. I had remembered this as being after 10-20 seconds, but it is pretty quick. Sonic’s in your face interface really annoyed me on stream at one point because I stopped, so I could take a drink of water and there he is on the screen tapping his foot. What a jerk.
Even when Sonic is walking, and this is a problem in the first game as well, he always seems to take one step too many. This is especially a problem in stages with blocks or lava. I found myself falling off them over and over. Mario sure did not do that.
I think another problem I had developing a positive relationship with the Sonic series was the advent of Super Mario World. That game really hindered my ability to enjoy Sonic because it was a more advanced platformer, with Super Power, now, and ticked the boxes of fun, thoughtfulness, and care that Sonic did not. Again, how dare Sega bad mouth Mario.
Mario let me take my time and develop my skills over 96 levels in a vast world. I had to start over in Sonic 2 after a few continues. Platformers that were not fun wore out their welcome with me quick. I found Sonic 2, especially, to be fun enough to play, but when I got to the end on my stream, it really started to feel like chores more than anything else.
In more recent years, I think I “get it” regarding Sonic, generally. The 3DS ports of these games made me really reconsider them, but the flaws I have mentioned above still hinder my satisfaction with the game. I do appreciate, more than ever, the way that Sonic saves animals and the natural world from the very techno dystopian villain Dr. Robotnik. The series seems to have veered away from that though. I remember this being a bigger theme in some of the cartoons as well.