The first Sonic Advance was a huge hit with gamers around the world. Selling more than half a million copies, proved that this was what fans wanted, as opposed to the 3D iterations from the Dreamcast. What the game did was keep the classic formula as closely as it could; updating the visuals etc to make it a new game was clearly enough to make it sell. However Sonic Advance 2, try's to change this at least a little bit...
The first difference you will notice if you've played the original Sonic Advance is the change to the character roster. Or rather you won't notice straight away, this is because when you first start the game only Sonic is available as a playable character, however as you progress through the levels, you gradually unlock the other three. Which are the same as last time, with one exception; Hammer wielding Amy has to be unlocked later on, as she doesn't even appear on the character screen at the beginning, so she comes as a bit of a surprise later on. The most interesting addition though has to be the brand new rabbit character by the name of Cream and her pet Chao, Cheese. Cream truly is a brand new character, never having appeared in any sonic games previously, she adds a new dimension to the way the game is played, beyond what Tails and Knuckles provide. This is because she has the new ability that hasn't been seen before. She can fly using her ears, but then again so can Tails, so nothing amazing there. What makes her stand out is her teamwork with Cheese, her pet Chao. With a quick tap of the B button, even when running or flying through the air at high speeds, you send the poor little fellow flying forwards towards the nearest enemy. One touch from the smallest character in the game, and there gone. This is an extremely useful tactic for getting through levels unharmed, and so keeping all your hard earned rings. It's even more useful when fighting a boss, which also have had a radical redesign in this addition to the series...
Rather than the traditional boss sequences, that have been used in almost all other 2D sonic games to date, I.E a small arena where the boss moves/jumps about you, firing off missiles/spikes and what have you, while you run about avoiding the barrage of attacks waiting for an gap in the routine before jumping in and scoring a hit, then repeating this about six or eight times to win. Sonic Advance 2 introduces a new 'chase' sequence, where at the end of each act 2 of a zone, you run along after the finish line, and up pops Dr.Eggman (Robotnik) in some zany creation, that wouldn't look out of place in a wacky races cartoon. He overtakes you, and then keeps a steady pace in front of you, while attacking you with all sorts of weapons, whether it is oversized hammers; laser beams giant fists of steal, the principle from previous boss fights remains. Stick around long enough to figure out the routine of attacks, and the when a suitable gap arrives, jump in give him a good smashing. This is why the new character Cream comes in so handy, as you can stay out of harms way just pressing B every now and then, and you're done! It's like having a gun almost.
Now once you've started playing the game for a little while, you will become aware of the differences in gameplay, however subtle they are. The classic formula of run, jump, run faster, jump higher is still there, but this time there's a bit more. The biggest addition is the inclusion of the trick action. If you've just come off a ramp or something similar and your flying through the air, by pressing the R button in combination with one of the directions on the D pad. For example pressing R and up together will result in a little mid-air jump to gain some extra height, which can be very useful for reaching secret areas and the like. Combing it with either left or right on the D pad will increase your speed and shoot you off in either of those directions, the last combination (obviously) is down, this stops you mid-flight and drops you straight down to the floor. Finally you can just press R on it's own to rapidly change direction, which can help avoid obstacles or enemies. Of course each of these actions has its own lovely little animation, and each character has there own slightly different version. There are also lots of other little moves that have been adapted from the Sonic Adventure series. Each character has there own moves, and there are too may to list individually, but for starters Sonic gets his Double Spin Attack, Homing Attack, Bound and a Super Skid. All of which add up to quite a different experience if used properly. It also gives you the choice to fly through levels, like you will be used to doing in previous games, or taking a more strategic approach, and exploring the different routes through levels and collecting rings etc. On the subject of rings this brings us to our next subject...
The Bonus stages have undergone a major remake. Unlike Sonic Advance 1, the special stage is a 3D environment. Using the D pad to move, and A button to jump, you must collect a certain amount of rings in the allotted time. Also patrolling the level is Eggmans Guard Robot, who will cause you to loose rings, if he hits you. To make things easier you can receive extra rings by collecting lots in quick succession. The actual Bonus stages are relatively easy to complete, although they do get harder as you progress through the game, the real difficulty comes in gaining access to them. This is done by collecting 7 special rings littered throughout the level. It doesn't sound particularly difficult in writing, but due to the increased size of the levels, and complexity of level design, like multiple ways through the level, it really is quite a challenge. As in all Sonic games there is actually a 10 minute time limit on every level, of course normally you would never come anywhere that limit, but when your frantically searching for a few specific items, you can get carried away and often find yourself viewing the TIME UP message more than you would like.
As mentioned before the levels are a lot bigger now and more complex too. Making sure things don't get linear while whizzing your way though, the developers have included some interesting obstacles to keep you entertained, of course they've all been seen before in previous games, but even so they help keep things from becoming to repetitive. For example the classic springs and launchers are back for the ride. Both are perfect candidates for setting yourself up for a trick move too. Perhaps the coolest addition though is the rails which allow grinding Sonic Adventure style. When you reach the end of them, they too propel you into the air, allowing you to complete another trick move if you wish. Also making a welcome return are the special items that are found in boxes throughout the game, from the classic invincibility and ring magnet to random ring bonuses and the like. The basic layout of the game is the same as ever though, two acts's per Zone, and then 6 Zones in all, and then some kind of final level type thing, that I'll leave you to discover for yourselves.
As we near the end of the review let's have a quick run down of the various options and modes available to you. Starting on the single player side of things, you have the main game obviously, but also time trial mode. Once you've cleared a Zone in the main game with a specific character, you can they re-try the level and attempt to complete it in the fastest time possible. You can also challenge the bosses as well, but this feature must be unlocked first. Now onto the multiplayer, not usually something that is present in Sonic games, but is this time. There are too versions, multi-pack and single-pack games. For the first one each player must have their own game-pack, each player then selects a character, and the player 1 chooses a Zone. The aim of the game is to race through the regular game Zones. The first player to reach the end is the winner. For the latter only one game-pack is required. Characters are determined by which player is on which system, player 1 gets Sonic, player 2 gets Cream etc. The aim of this game is to collect as many rings as possible in the time allowed. Players can attack each other to cause them to loose there rings, then at the end the player with the most rings wins. One final feature of the game is the Tiny Chao Garden. Here players can raise the cute, mysterious beings known as Chao and play minigames with them. Once again as with the original data can be transferred between the game and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the GameCube. There are a number of ways raise and play with your Chao. Using ring's earned throughout the game you can buy your little friend toys and snacks. By playing minigames with them you can earn more rings for this purpose.
Classic formula remains intact, but new options means it won't get as tiresome as perhaps it sometimes could.
A slight improvement over the original Sonic Advance. With some lovely animations throughout, especially the trick move ones.
Nothing spectacular, but nothing to complain about. Tunes aren't all that memorable, but rarely get on your nerves; the Music Plant zone uses sound well.
The main game is quite large in itself then you have 4 other characters to go through it with, multiplayer the Chao garden and unlockable extras make this very worthwhile.
Sonic fans will still love this game; it has everything they could possibly want. However others should still give this title a look, new gameplay mechanics mean it can be played more like a Mario game then before, with a few minor exceptions such as the annoying boss battles, this is good as it gets for Sonic on a handheld.