Overview: Sonic the Hedgehog was Sega's mascot to success for the Genesis. They knew they had a hit and decided to start porting him to their portable Game Gear and aging Master System. Except they screwed up, big time! They took everything that made Sonic great, tried to cram it into a small cartridge and it wouldn't work. It was so bad they decided to make an entire new series of games. This continued with 2, which unfortunately has very very little to do with the Genesis version. This marketing ploy, if you have already played the Genesis version, is an extremely depressing move that almost ruins this insanely popular franchise.
Don't get me wrong, as a stand-alone game this Sonic is great. But with other ports faring a little better, such as Streets of Rage, this game is a let down to whoever wants the same action as on the Genesis. They did manage to sneak a little bit of true Sonic into this game, but not nearly enough.
Let's start with this wildly varying story. Right from the get-go the opening cinematic is a spoiler. No, you will not be playing as Tails, or seeing him in any way shape or form, other than the title screen and level buffers. That's right, for any of you who played co-op on the Genesis or generally enjoy Tails, you can leave this review now. Sonic chases after Robotnik, who we can see is kidnapping Tails and along with him, enslaving the entire island's animals to do his bidding once again. Sonic must forfeit the 6 chaos emeralds to stop Dr. Robotnik and his 6 robots from keeping Tails and the others captive. Now that isn't like Sonic at all, and of course Sonic decides to take matters into his own hands and remove Robotnik's bots one by one. The title screen spoils me into thinking that maybe the opening is just a ploy, but unfortunately it isn't. I know that the Sonic games have never been too creative with their story line, but this was just ridiculous. They put no thought into this process at all, especially into level design. I am pretty sure they had to remove Tails, because of less space on the cart, but in that case they shouldn't have written him into the game at all.
Speaking of the level design, this is some of the worst in a Sonic game ever. The original Sonic on GG/MS was much better. Hazards, in all levels, are either too far between or too close together to make it sane. There is no middle ground. Much of the level design is uninspiring as well. Essentially every level has some sort of "vehicle" and by that I mean, mine cart, hang glider, bubble. They toss those in to add some sort of playability to the level. Instead of keeping with the usual fast paced, one way, action they seemed to add levels and some backtracking. That was one of my biggest frustrations, if they were going to limit so many enemies and rid of tails, why not keep the game as fast as possible? It felt like every 5 seconds I was slowing down to get a pick-up or hit a spring. The water levels are the worst culprit of this. I was pulling my hair anxiously waiting to get out of the level.
The graphics in this game, however, are really good compared to other 8-Bit games of the era, but could have still used some more polishing and a little more work. The graphics just seem to shine a bit more and appear smoother than on the GG even. I think they attempted to re-use as much of Sonic 1 on the MS as possible for this game and it shows. They won't have you Oohing and Aahing, but it certainly won't have you going blind. Sound is decent too, but suffers from what many other 8-Bit Sega games did, high pitches and whines. By the time you lose your rings the 5th time, and trust me it will happen by stage 2, you'll be putting the volume on mute. The music is very good though and Sega always has a nice approach to add a mood or a feeling to every level.
I would have loved to have seen much more come out of this game, but because they ported in from an insanely popular Genesis title to not one, but two systems, I'll cut them a small break. Some nice improvements from the Original include Spin Dashing through walls (though you can't hold down and press jump to dash) and the ability to regain your rings after losing them. At the ends of levels when hitting the Spinning Panel you can now receive rewards as well! Differences you'll find in the MS version include, a much larger resolution that makes it much easier to play, and the much smoother graphics, some missing item boxes, and a bit of a music change for the entry and theme.
In spite of a good bit of setbacks, the game remains fun, although not too loyal to its Genesis counterpart. If you've played and enjoyed Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on Genesis, chances are you're going to be greatly let down. I don't want to have to do this, but I have to give Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for MS 4 Rings out of 10!
Directions: Tails and your furry friends have been KIDNAPPED! And Dr. Robotnik is demanding you locate, retrieve and then hand over the 6 six Chaos emeralds if you ever wish to see Tails, and the whole Island, the same way ever again! Guide the Blue Blur through 6 Zones of fast action gathering Rings to save your life! Dash through the levels, jumping on Springs, picking up power-ups, and use a mine cart, hang glider, and BUBBLES? to your advantage as you scour each level for the Chaos emeralds that you plan to use yourself against Robotnik. Find TV's including bonuses with 10 extra rings, Speed Shoes to go at lightning fast speeds, Invincibility to survive the trickier places and walk on spikes without dying, or a little Sonic give you an extra life to survive that one extra time that might just be what you need to stop the evil doctor! Gather those rings quickly, destroy your enslaved robot friends, and clear the levels fast to gain maximum points. Cross your fingers as you cross the goal hoping to get one of the three new level-end surprises. As you zip through each Zone, be prepared for the final level of each zone as you face off against Robotnik's robots who intend on keeping you away from the emeralds altogether. You'll face Robotnik, and: a set of Claws bent on crushing the life out of you; Birds that want to swoop down on you, sending you into the clouds and crashing to the ground below; a Seal that is trained to entertain and kill; a Sumo Wrestling Pig whose pattern will crush you; a Spiked Pig who will want to stick you for good; Silver Sonic, a robot who knows and uses your every move; and at last Dr. Robotnik himself, who will stop at nothing to end Sonic's run. Defeat each one and destroy the egg, as your friends are being help captive and awaiting their imminent doom. Destroy each one and finish your quest by defeating Robotnik and saving the day in a flash once again!