First things first—this game is NOTHING LIKE Sonic 2 on the Genesis. It plays more like a Mario game than a Sonic game—but this is no bad thing. This game has plenty of merits and is in many ways superior to its 16-bit cousin.
This game plays slower than the average Sonic game, but don’t be fooled—there are no puzzles to speak of! The game consists of seven zones, each with three acts, one of which comprises a boss battle. It is less accessible to new Sonic fans, due to the large number of hard-to-control gimmicks that crop up (the hang glider being a prime example).
The plot is nothing outstanding…Tails has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Robotnik (assumedly to lure Sonic to his lair in the Crystal Egg Zone) and the seven Chaos Emeralds have been scattered, again, for no discernible reason. This basically sets the scene for lots of shenanigans and plenty of hidden secrets.
I’ve said this before about another game, but if you can’t control Sonic, you’re crap. That’s all there is to it. D-Pad moves, Buttons 1 and 2 jump. Easy. The hang glider, however, is an unwieldy contraption, and it will take many attempts to pull out of your perpetual nose-diving. Unless of course, you’re gifted.
It has been said that this is one of the best Sonic games ever, regardless of its age. The vast (and I mean vast) number of hidden 1-ups will keep you searching for months! Almost every wall yields some kind of bonus, usually an extra life. While this draws you back to the game, it also makes it unnecessarily easy to complete.
The loops from the game’s Genesis cousin have finally come to the 8-bit, and they certainly look impressive on the humble Master System.
This isn’t the hardest of games—a halfway curious player will have maxed out the life counter at the end of the second zone, and if they have skill, that’s where it’ll stay. It still has its tricky moments—the bosses are surprisingly durable in most cases. Also, the final three zones are testing at times—the volume of spike traps in Gimmick Mountain Zone has to be seen to be believed.
The samples are just some noises from Sonic 1, but the music is special. It has a catchy sort of drive to it, some highlights being the Green Hill Zone music and the Sky High Zone.
Crisp, colourful sprites are the order of the day here, paired with interesting and intermittently impressive backgrounds. Bosses are impressive, particularly the bird from the Sky High Zone…a multi-layered battle in the clouds.
Hidden rooms will be the main draw to return to this game. The Chaos Emeralds are fairly simple to find (and the location for one of them came to me in a dream—no kidding) with repeated games, though the extra zone they yield is fairly disappointing. The fun factor should also be enticing—short of Castle of Illusion, this is the most playable game on the console.
Definitely a game to buy if you own the console—this is a surprisingly different Sonic game with plenty of replay value. Shame about the lack of two-player, but then again, this is an 8-bit machine.