SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 18.03.2020

Review for SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch

In a Virtual Console-less world, Sega Ages has done an admirable job at filling in the void. While the quantity isn't quite on par with the Nintendo Wii in its heyday, the Ages line has transitioned excellently to the Switch, porting over Sega classics, often with new content, quality of life additions, and top notch emulation. With the original Sonic the Hedgehog launching the line, it was only a matter of time before its more beloved sequel hit the eShop. It's been far longer than anyone expected, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is finally a part of the SEGA AGES line - and it's all the better for it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is arguably the best platformer on the Sega Genesis, and for good reason. While the original is much better than fans tend to give it credit for, the fact of the matter is that it's an action-platformer at its core. While speed is highlighted every now and again, it isn't exactly the title's focus. Speed is more of a stylistic flare in the Blue Blur's freshman instalment. Sonic 2 isn't much different - featuring plenty of action - but Sonic Team managed to not only strike a balance between action and fast paced platforming, but the level design in general comes off far more sophisticated.

Unlike in Sonic the Hedgehog, where some Zones simply could not lend themselves well to speed, it's always possible to keep Sonic moving around at the speed of sound with competent play. While better level design generally leads to a better game, Sonic himself has seen some mechanical improvements. Modern ports of the original tend to add in the Spin Dash for convenience's sake, but Sonic's signature technique wasn't introduced until the sequel. The Spin Dash effectively allows Sonic to build up speed without needing to physically build momentum. Being able to launch into a Spin Dash whenever ensures that players are never truly stopped dead in their tracks.

As was the case with its SEGA AGES brethren before it, M2 has ported over Sonic Mania's Drop Dash into the main game. Drop Dashing essentially allows Sonic to trigger a Spin Dish immediately, and from mid-air. By pressing and holding the jump button after triggering a jump (while mid-air), Sonic will drop to the ground and peel out at full speed. It's a sensible addition on M2's part, and one that compliments the Zone design quite well. Right out the gate, it's already clear that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is going to one-up its predecessor on just about every front. Green Hill Zone is still one of the series' best levels, but it can't quite compete with Emerald Hill Zone - a perfect balance of action and speed at the start of the game. Divided into two layers - the top emphasizing speed, and the bottom traditional, albeit fast, platforming - Emerald Hill Zone sets a precedent for future Zones to follow.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch

Structurally, Sonic 2's level design can be boiled down into two consistent halves, or rather "paths." The top path of Zones are typically built around fast-paced platforming, often with bottomless pits that'll drop careless players onto the bottom path where, instead of indulging in speed, more enemies and obstacles litter the way to the goal ring. This isn't to say the bottom path is always slow, however. Chemical Plant Zone, the second Zone, is one of the fastest paced in Sonic's adventure. Winding tubes and paths twist around a plant slowly being flooded with chemical water. Beyond the cool set piece (something Sonic Team consistently knocks out of the park with the Sega Genesis trilogy), Chemical Plant Zone is the dev's way of indicating to players that speed isn't secondary to the experience like it was the first go around.

Falling to the bottom will always slow Sonic down - as it should, it's a punishment - but never to the point where the gameplay becomes slow. It's also worth noting that Sonic as a franchise was never about perpetual speed. Going fast is only impactful when the level design is able to build anticipation for going fast. Naturally, that means slowing down and indulging in some more traditional platforming. Still, for Sonic 2, traditional is anything but most of the time. Rather than being a typical, slow-paced water level, Aquatic Ruin Zone opts for moody action that's fast even underwater. Players need to be mindful of how long the Blue Blur spends submerged, but both Acts actually feature quite a bit of uninterrupted space on the bottom half for Sonic to run through. There are enemies and hazards, of course, but if mindful you will be able to zoom through underwater segments without so much as hearing that dreaded drowning tone.

On that same token, Casino Night Zone plays on platformer levels that opt to throw in light puzzles and interactive obstacles. Essentially a pinball board Sonic can traverse, Casino Night Zone manages to transition Sonic's normal gameplay quite nicely over to impromptu pinball segments. As these sections are fast-paced, they never serve as pace breakers, keeping Sonic consistently active. Both Hill Top and Mystic Cave Zone work in conjunction to introduce more bottomless pits into the mix, alongside labyrinthine level design. While it's unlikely for Sonic to get lost in either zone, Hill Top and Mystic Cave are considerably larger than their predecessors. Both their second Acts feature multiple branching paths, all leading to the Goal Ring. This uptick in level variety keeps the back half rather fresh on subsequent play-throughs, while also logically upping the challenge.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch

That said, while Hill Top and Mystic Cave introduce more platforming obstacles to deal with, it's really the joint effort of Oil Ocean and Metropolis that up the ante for the endgame. The last full zones in the game, these bring with them quite the spike in difficulty, but one that's arguably necessary to make for a satisfying conclusion. Oil Ocean ditches bottomless pits for, well, an oil ocean, but this shouldn't put players at ease. While speed is still prioritized, enemies are far more aggressive than they ever were before, and will gleefully attack Sonic from off-screen should they be given a chance. In this respect, Oil Ocean is probably the worst designed Zone of the lot, but it's not necessarily a bad thing for there to be an endgame Zone that's more focused on the action.

Where Oil Ocean feels like a proper platforming level, Metropolis is full Sonic, for better or worse. Enemies are insanely aggressive, taking advantage of how safe Rings act as a health system, while the rest of the Zone is filled with spikes and obstacles that'll crush Sonic to death should players fail to approach them thoughtfully or strategically. It's incredibly fun to go fast in Metropolis, but it's one of the most dangerous Zones to try to zip through. Of course, part of the Sonic experience is gradually getting better over the course of multiple plays, but anyone trying his or her luck through the title for the first time might find themselves overwhelmed by the jarring spike in difficulty present in the last two worlds. That Metropolis is three Acts long, and unlike any other Zone, it doesn't exactly win it any points either. All the same, Metropolis makes for a good test of one's skills, and Sonic Team had the sense to feature a denouement in the form of Sky Chase Zone.

Riding atop the Tornado, piloted by Sonic's new best friend Tails, Sky Chase Zone is a rather relaxing stage that simply sees players taken on an auto-scroller level, where all they need to do is occasionally jump into a few enemies. It's peaceful, and some much needed breathing room after the double whammy of Oil Ocean and Metropolis. While low stakes, Sky Chase Zone does transition into Wing Fortress Zone, the final stage in the game. Wing Fortress Zone, while not particularly difficult in the grand scheme of things, is filled to the litter with bottomless pits, and does require some well positioned jumps for completion. If nothing else, it requires players to know how to build and keep speed with Sonic - a good test from the title's last true stage. Following Wing Fortress, there's only Death Egg Zone left: a stage with two bosses, and no Rings.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch

In the original Genesis release, audiences were expected to defeat the two final bosses back to back without getting hit once. Keep in mind that Game Overs in the first two Genesis trilogies result in starting the entire play-through from scratch. This is by far Sonic the Hedgehog 2's most contested stage, and for very good reason. That said, this is a SEGA AGES re-release with more new goodies beyond the Drop Dash. Returning from the title's 3DS port, players can trigger Ring Keep mode, which starts Sonic off with 10 Rings in each act, and only causes him to lose half when hit. While this completely breaks the game's difficulty, it is a great tool for learning Zones, boss fights, and actually finishing Death Egg Zone without wanting to pull your hair out. Save states can also be made should players feel they need them.

Completing the game as Sonic also unlocks Super Sonic mode, where players begin their play-through with all seven Chaos Emeralds, and 50 Rings at the start of each Act. Worth noting, this mode is unlocked regardless if Sonic gathers all seven Chaos Emeralds before beating the game, making this a great alternative for those who don't want to suffer through the often challenging Special Stages. Along with Sonic, Knuckles also serves as a playable character, complete with his own campaign. Knuckles can't jump as high as Sonic, nor is he as fast, but he can glide and climb on walls. That might not seem too impressive at first glance, but Knuckles actually plays off the level design remarkably well- arguably even better than Sonic in some instances.

Knuckles may not be as fast, but he can pick up some killer speed, and turning that momentum into a glide can result in Knuckles flying his way through stages in ways Sonic could never dream of. His ability to climb up walls also just adds another layer to each Zone, giving player an incentive to look for secrets Sonic wouldn't be able to find himself. Just like with Sonic, beating the game once as Knuckles unlocks Super Knuckles mode, giving audiences plenty of gameplay variety to choose from. An exclusive Challenge mode has been added to the SEGA AGES re-release, but it isn't particularly impressive. Sonic and Knuckles are simply tasked with finding 100 Rings and completing Emerald Hill Zone Act 1 as fast as possible. It's harder than it seems, but a Challenge mode consisting of a single challenge does leave quite a bit to be desired.

On that note, while this is essentially a perfect console port of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it's not the definitive release. That honour still belongs to Taxman and Stealth's iOS/Android port, which outright included and remade a cut stage, Hidden Palace Zone. This release unfortunately doesn't include this, instead opting to honour the original Genesis instalment, but it's a bit disappointing. All the same, SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the definitive console release.

Screenshot for SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

In spite of featuring less content than the title's 2013 remake for iOS and Android, that doesn't change the fact that this is the best version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 currently available for a home console. Knuckles is included as a playable character, Super Sonic and Super Knuckles have their own unlockable modes where the Chaos Emeralds are collected out the gate, and the inclusion of the Drop Dash only adds depth to already excellent platforming. With a fantastic set of levels, and plenty of quality of life additions, SEGA AGES Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of the line's better offerings.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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