I still remember the original launch day back in 1992, dubbed Sonic 2sday. The nearest store that had the game in stock was 20 miles away and it had begun to lightly snow outside. My little brother and I hopped in the car and I drove us down to get the highly anticipated game. We went into the Software Etc. and quickly grabbed my reserved copy. But, as we exited the mall I was stunned to see it had turned into a blizzard outside. As my car slipped through a red light, I cursed myself for risking our lives to purchase a videogame. The trip back was a white-knuckle experience that remains burned in my memory. It may have taken us about three times as long than normal to travel home, but somehow we made it home safely. After taking a moment to decompress and warm up, we threw the cartridge in the Genesis and had an exciting evening playing co-op. Although, others around us probably couldn’t tell since the person playing Tails was always screaming, “Wait up!” after being left behind for the hundredth time.
Needless to say, I have fond memories of Sonic 2. That’s why when it was announced as a 3D downloadable eShop game for the 3DS I was eager to give it a go. The classic levels, gameplay, and music are just as I remember them. The visuals have seen an upgrade via the 3D effects, which look fantastic. The game moves just as fast as it always has and there are a ton of enhancements and options available to satisfy just about anyone. From the title screen are a host of selections to choose from. You can select your stage from the outset if you don’t want to slog through prior levels. There is a “switch mode” selection that allows you to change over to Ring Keeper Mode. This allows you to begin the game with 10 rings and you only lose half of your rings when you incur damage. You can also choose to play as Sonic and Tails, just Sonic, or only Tails. In addition, there’s a sound test mode to listen to the game’s awesome soundtrack.
The game controls exactly the same as before, except you can customize all of the buttons to your liking. The d-pad and the circle pad can both be used to control Sonic. The same gameplay mechanics are replicated perfectly on the 3DS, for better or worse. Huge Sonic fans will appreciate that nothing was touched, and in reality that’s the way this type of project should be handled, unless it’s a full remake. However, the game from 1992 doesn’t hold up as nice when compared to games from today.
This mostly stems from awkward enemy placement and hazards that are too difficult to spot when moving at high speeds. The game is exhilarating when blazing along full throttle through corkscrews and spring jumps, but it comes to a jarring halt every time Sonic encounters even the tiniest of enemies. Keep in mind that some enemies spew small projectiles that are sometimes difficult to spot even while standing still, let alone when running at full blast. Constantly losing rings becomes frustrating very quickly as you discover that the enemy placement is just evil. I found myself taking things slower and slower as I built up more rings for fear of losing them, plus the whole run fast, come to a screeching halt, build up speed and stop again became tiresome. One of the key selling points of Sonic is that he runs super quick, but if most of the game is spent not utilizing his speed, the game loses some of its luster.
The level design itself is fantastic. Pretty much all of the stages have multiple ways to progress and exploring them to find secret stashes of rings and power-ups is extremely enjoyable. Some of the courses have a familiarity to them as they retread some of the same environments of the original Sonic, but they are different enough to stand on their own. The graphics have been improved upon over the original game with even more parallax scrolling that makes the game feel even speedier than before. The 3D effect adds to the immersion factor, with backgrounds appearing deeper into the screen. The 2D scrolling levels translated beautifully to the 3DS – blast processing and all. The bonus 3D levels are a bit janky, with enemies and rings suddenly popping up out of nowhere. It can be insanely difficult to navigate these bonus rounds successfully. It’s a bit unfortunate that instead of looking forward to the bonus levels, I actively avoided them.
Like in the original Sonic 2, two players can join in the fun. The normal game adds Tails as the second player, who can’t die. He becomes super useful during boss fights as he can just plow through without worry. There’s also a versus mode that splits the screen and challenges both players to a race. This is a fun diversion, but both modes require 2 3DS systems (naturally) and 2 copies of the game. Many other games allow for download play, so it’s unfortunate that this one requires another copy to be purchased. Granted, the game isn’t that expensive at $5.99, but I have no doubt in my mind that if a game like Tri Force Heroes can utilize download play, this one could have as well.
Overall, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a fun experience that fans of the Genesis game will especially enjoy. It offers up a ton of nostalgia for a cheap price. The conversion is fantastically executed and has become one of the best ways to play this game on any system. Newcomers to the series can find some enjoyment here, but the enemy placement borders on cruel and punishing, something that was remedied with later games like Sonic Rush on the DS. Luckily there are save states, level selects, and Ring Keeper Mode for those that can’t handle what oftentimes feels like unfair hazards. Sonic 2 still provides a fun experience that can be enjoyed by all ages.