Monday, 17 February 2014

Sonic The Hedgehog 2

Continuing with the blue speed freak, I'm taking a look back at Sonic 2 on the Megadrive (ergh... Genesis...)

Admittedly it's hard to be objectively focused on a single game when it's part of a series, that you know it's part of a series and that as the games continue, you realise there are bonuses and deficits that need to be addressed. But here goes for looking at Sonic The Hedgehog 2.

I could in theory just copy and paste most of what I wrote in my previous review as the plot seems to be largely unchanged. You're in control of the eponymous character as you jump, spin, roll, dash and generally do everything you can to get through the level quickly and avoid looking at most of it in the usual speed-thrill (allegedly) method possible then fight a boss on the 2nd level (except in that one zone) and trying to collect different secret gems and emeralds (only one of which is green) in order to stop the last boss from basically, bossing it up and being a shitbag.

And yes, you do most of this by running right.

There are differences from the first game, as one would hope, and I'll list them anyway.

First and foremost, the world’s most annoying contribution to cartoon characters and the furry fandom since Robin Hood in Disney's, Robin Hood. A fox creature with 2 tails that will follow and chase after sonic through the entire game (save for the last few levels). If you manage to out run him or get past various barriers that Tails doesn't, he'll catch up by flying back in and then continuing to run with you. Some find this fun, some make it more fun by plugging in a second controller and letting another player effectively control what is an indestructible character that doesn't affect Sonic upon dying as he just flies back in again. However there are downsides, in some attacks, you'll jump to hit a boss, Tails will jump as well. If you miss and Tails hits, the boss becomes invincible for the duration of the hit impact and if you try to hit again, you'll go through them and likely into something you didn't want to. Like the bottom of the screen.

So yes, sometimes more a hindrance than a help.

During the game you can collect various power ups and such a set of 10 rings, invincibility for a short time from enemies, spikes (thankfully this time) but still not being crushed or falling off the game screen at the bottom, speed shoes for fast running once again, extra lives (doubt you'll need them in THIS game) and the shield that lets you tank an extra hit before losing your rings and lives. There's nothing new here from the original game at this point, but more about that later.

As you progress through the levels you'll encounter a multitude of different enemies, of which there is a greater range and variation between enemies than found in the first game (and the very first enemy in the game usually can kill an unwary/impatient player as they'll likely have no rings). Due to the decreased number of standard level endings (i.e. 1 level then a boss level, instead of 2 levels then a boss level) the game allows for opportunities to win the chaos emeralds whenever the player passes a checkpoint with 50 or more rings. This opens a warp that takes the game entirely in a different direction.

Impressive for the time, the game becomes a sort of 3rd person runner down a pseudo-3D track/half-pipe. In which the player can run around the edges of the tube and try to collect rings as they travel down the track while avoiding bombs that make the player drop several rings (this includes tails as well). At each check point you have to collecting a pre-requisite number of rings to stay in the special stage until you get the chaos emerald, which IF you've collected enough rings for THAT, will be gained and won over.

This 2nd game takes the cake a little further by giving a bonus to players that collect all 7 emeralds (seriously, only one of them is actually emerald coloured, they're fucking GEMS! I'm blaming a translation error on this) then collects 50 coins and jumps, they turn into Super Sonic, which for all intents and purposes might as well have just escaped from a crossover between Sonic and Dragon Ball Z. He turns bigger, turns yellow and moves faster, jumps higher and is invincible to everything save for crushing and falling off the game. While in his Super form, he drains rings from his collection and upon hitting zero rings, transforms back to the usual blue form of being comparatively shit.

This does have downsides as there are a few traps in the game that if you land in them as Super Sonic, you'll have to wait until your rings run down before you can be spiked-pitted to death. NOT a good way to spend time when you're at 150+ rings and watching Mr Needlemouse (Did you look this up yet? I told you to last review) ebb his life away until the slow drawn out death march comes to a halt and the spikes end his prevented existence.

Which is a real fucker of a situation and mood killer to the point of just hitting reset and saying "Bollocks to this, I'm going outside... in the rain... and lightning... with a large metal rod" (do it kids!) To say it's an issue that likely wasn't accounted for is an understatement in parallel getting run over repeatedly and having some twat come up and ask "ooh are you ok?" when it's very clearly obvious that you are NOT.

There are however some improvements over the original. For instance the programmers made an adjustment to the mechanics of the game that means you need not worry about not being able to get up a ramp/slope because you now can use the famous spin-dash move which lets you stay stationary while building up potential energy by spinning on the spot and then unleashing that into a kinetic force propelling oneself forwards in the desired direction at higher speeds. It completely negates the issue in the first game with people unable to walk up small ramps to continue the game. It does however make it far more likely you'll fuck up along the way and get yourself killed, or run the risk of the game moving too slowly and you get stuck in a wall.

But it's not all improvements; the bosses are risibly easy to the point of being virtually no challenge at all, save for the fight against robot/metal sonic and then the very last fight. But those with a keen eye for pattern recognition would kill the first final boss in about 10 seconds and the second boss in about 45 seconds. This game is a LOT easier than the original game with people back in the day posting times of around 2 hours to beat it having just bought the game.

The levels are a lot more open and complicated than the original game with more routes being accessible and the potential for getting all of the chaos emeralds far more quickly than in the original game. The added incentive helps in that you actually get rewarded for it in the gameplay let alone just the ending though the extra will NOT help you in the final level as it takes so long to progress there that you'll start the fight with no rings at all and in truth you're betting off fighting the boss without going Super just so that you have more rings in the final level, until you die and start over with SFA (Sweet Fuck All for the unsure).

The game doesn't stop there though, for those that wondered if the inclusion of Tails was just a one-trick pony, they're right, he is. But at the same time he's also part of the new multiplayer part of the game. A split screen (for the most part) race through several zones where players can hit various power ups and be rewarded with the usual prizes or the bonus ones exclusive to multiplayer that lets you swap positions or just cause you to be hurt. While racing to get to the end and then being assessed on how well you did with regards to time, rings, boxes, etc.

The largest issue with the split-screen is that it's hard to see what the hell is going on and usually is the cause for making wrong moves. However there is the bonus stage that can be used as a contest with both players running down the route of the half-pipe/tunnel trying to get in front so they can get the rings while avoiding bombs. It can make for a fast paced and frantic session of gaming but usually is just annoying more than anything else with players playing a very aggressive game of leap frog and in doing so, collect nothing at all.

As a game it's a vast improvement upon the original and as a stand-alone game, would have made for a far greater and better impression and impact on the gaming world if this had been the first game and the first game had been entirely dismissed. As it stands, it's a vast improvement and worth playing through to see the more recognisable and humble origins of Speedy-McBlueRat.