It’s odd to think now, but in the 16-bit video game market of the 1990s, SEGA were the dominant force. Armed with the Mega Drive, and their flagship character Sonic the Hedgehog to rival Nintendo’s popular plumber Mario, they shipped the blue anthropomorphic speed machine to millions of homes worldwide. 25 years ago today, on 21st November 1992, he was released for the second time in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
What makes the early Sonic titles so appealing is the sheer simplicity of them, with a traditional side-scrolling 2D platform for levels and sprite-based game play for the main character. Factor in the progressive difficulty of the game – whereby newcomers can easily navigate the classic ‘green hill’ levels at the beginning before moving on to harder boss fights and stage gimmicks, and it’s clear to see how new players can become seasoned veterans quicker than you can say ‘you haven’t left your room in two weeks’.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 continued this simple formula, but with the addition of the brand new ‘Spin Dash’ move – now famous for being one of the most infuriating moves in the recent Smash Bros. titles – whereby our hero can curl himself into a ball at high speed before launching into enemies, or just for a boost of speed (not that he needs it).
SEGA also took the decision to introduce a sidekick to the franchise, and thus the most irritating part of the entire game was born – Tails the Fox (or should that be Miles Prower?). Tails, seemingly, has no other purpose than to aimlessly follow Sonic about the stage, make no contribution to defeating the evil Doctor Robotnik and make a pretty obvious point of getting in the way in the hope Sonic will get brutally killed by a robot in avoidance. Put simply – whose idea was this?
Nevertheless, this title was home to many of the best-loved levels from the early games – including the Chemical Plant, Mystic Cave and Metropolis Zones, with a fantastic structure that left Sonic darting from green hills to an ocean of oil in next to no time. The game also scrapped the traditional ‘Act 3’ from each level until its latter stages, but with the game stretched from 6 to 14 levels, it made no difference to the playing time.
Before the release of Sonic Mania earlier this year, I said they didn’t make games like this anymore. They still don’t – even if they went pretty close – and this will remain one of the 1990s treasures forevermore.
Remind yourself of the gameplay with this short trailer below: