Tuesday 25 June 2013

Game Review: Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (8 bit version)

Game: Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Console: Sega Master System
Developer: Aspect
Release Date: 1992

With a noticable lack of Tails compared to its Mega Drive counterpart, there's a continued theme in the Master System version of being different from it's 16 bit sibling. Different levels and bosses, combined with new gameplay mechanics not seen in the Mega Drive version of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 make this a remarkably unique addition to the series.

The story of the game has Tails being kidnapped by Dr. Robotnik, needing 6 chaos emeralds from Sonic to be released. Thus Sonic must get through each Zone, collecting Chaos Emeralds and defeating the robotic animals in his path, to get the good ending of the game. Failing to collect every chaos emerald will result in a bad ending, although it's still technically a completion of the game.

The levels are fairly innovative, with a good selection of things that weren't even included in the Mega Drive version. These include mine carts and hang-gliders which can be used to navigate levels. Unfortunately some of the implementation of these extra features can make the game frustrating to navigate, especially the handling of the hang-glider which takes some practice to master. Overall the level design is fairly good, if a little vague with telling you what you're required to do at some points.

The underwater zone of the game features some of the most frustrating gameplay and although movement generally seems faster than the first installment on Master System, underwater movement feels very slow and heavy. Coupled with the air bubble system for keeping Sonic alive underwater, it makes for three stages which may leave players feeling somewhat dissatisfied.

The visuals at times seem somewhat basic, even moreso than the first 8-bit Sonic title. Character sprites remain either basic or strangely ambiguous as to what Sonic is coming up against. Musically the game is more forgettable than the first, still with a decent array of songs, but most of them never seen or heard again in the Sonic series.

With 8 zones to navigate, the game is just as long as its predecessor. Each of the zones has a different theme and feel, but some of them work better than others. Favourites include Scrambled Egg Zone, and Gimmick Mountain Zone which have mechanics and gameplay that works well. The stages that I enjoyed less such as Sky High Zone and Aqua Lake Zone feature good ideas but ultimately fail to pull them off, making it either difficult or repetitive to clear the stages.

Overall, the Sonic games for the Master System aren't half as bad as you might expect them to be. This one is much more like its own game than the first installment, when compared to its 16 bit counterpart. The limitations of the Master System do play a big part in these games not reaching their full potential (after all the world's fastest hedgehog had to be slowed down), but if you can get past that, they're decent platformers that by today's commerical standards wouldn't exist.

While Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is more fondly remembered on Mega Drive for its 2 player gameplay and overall better graphics and soundtrack, if we look at the 8 bit version in terms of other Master System titles, there's some great features and level design and it works pretty well. Reviews at the time of its release gave it 90% or thereabouts, and although it hasn't aged well enough to hold such a high rating today I can see how reviewers then were impressed.

Rating: 74/100
Grade: B

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