Saturday, July 8, 2017

Retro Gaming - Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Well here it is, the continuation of the Retro Gaming series that I plan on doing every so often. If you want to see the first entry in this series, click here to go back and check out my write up on Sunset Riders. This time we will be focusing on an old Sega Classic from the Genesis era, Sonic the Hedgehog 2! I know what you are thinking, why not talk about the original Sonic game, but here's the deal, I didn't really ever play the original. The only one that I grew up playing was Sonic 2. Never actually got to play any of the sequels either.


However, I won't deny that I am a Sonic fan. Even though I didn't play the other games, I still knew the characters and growing up through the 90s, I watched BOTH Sonic cartoons that graced the television. Yes, there were two different Sonic cartoons that aired roughly at the same time it seems. There was Sonic the Hedgehog and then there was also The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. One was vastly superior to the other one, in terms of story and in art. That's a story of a different think piece though, so we will get back to the reason for the post, to dive into the awesomeness that was Sonic 2.




Now, as you might know, this was the introduction of Tails into the equation. As the game was designed for the ability for two players, this game was like being Mario and Luigi in the sense Player 1 was always Sonic, and Player 2 had the cruddy job of being Tails. I say it this way because being Tails was the worst. You always got left behind Sonic's vapor trails, and you would come flying back into screen... slowly. By the time you were probably going to land, you most likely were already left behind yet again. To top it off, you were also the scapegoat for every bad thing that happened to Sonic. Sure, you couldn't die or lose the rings, but you could defeat enemies and hit Robotnik only to make it so Sonic lost rings and died. It was basically being stuck in Sonic purgatory. Never the hero, a big part of the reason that Player 1 loses the game.


At the same token, if you were playing solo, Tails was even more annoying than playing two players. This is where he usually screwed things up even worse than in two player mode. At least the other person playing as Tails could use common sense to not hit Robotnik or you could at least coordinate your attacks, the AI Tails was the worst. He mimicked your moves as Sonic, only they were like a half second too late. So when you tried to hit a combo on Robotnik to eat into his hit points, Tails would hit slightly behind you causing you to fall into the dangers and lose your precious rings. This is the main reason that I would try my damnedest to lost Tails and make him fly in slowly, so he can't wreck stuff. Which happened often.


So the game starts off in the Emerald Hill Zone, making you feel all warm and cozy as you zoom along the grassy knolls and through the vertical loops that are wonders of nature.




(Just as a side note, in the picture above you can already see how stupid Tails is. He isn't even going the right direction). These levels, being the first in the game, are obviously very easy and can be done super quickly. The enemies are super bad at their job, except for the damn robot monkeys that for some reason seem to always hit you with their coconuts at some point. The spikes that shoot up out of the ground also seem to be the most pesky thing in these two levels, but are easily avoided.


If you played these games, you know there are always two parts to each zone. I call the first one the time trial level where you just try to get through it fast collecting as many rings and gear as you could to maximize your score. The second level of the zone is always the Boss level. This is where you face Dr. Robotnik himself as he operates one of his many machine vehicles that do various silly things.


In the Emerald Hills Zone, he shows up in his very own drill car. Why he has a drill car? Who knows? As with his later levels, his vehicles tie into the environments. This one however, I don't really get.





I guess it is his version of a dune buggy, that isn't in the desert, but oh well. As easy as it is to beat this boss, simply jump over his drill on front and you are good, Tails can definitely screw you up big time here. The fastest way to beat him is by letting Sonic bounce on him multiple times to count against his health (usually about 7 or 8 hits I think). Doing this though, since Tails follows your lead, hits him and throws off your bounces big time.

But after you beat him, then the funny part happens. His vehicle blows up and he flies away in his Robotnik-copter and you run and open the egg container that holds all the little cute and fuzzy animals that inhabit the zone. Yay! Happy day!

That only lasts a short while until you hit the second zone, the Chemical Plant Zone. Robotnik's terror he brings to the peaceful lands.


This area is filled with toxic water and tons of pipes and falling floors. This area is notorious for the section where the level fills up with the toxic chemical and you have to get out as quickly as you can before you drown. This level has some of the coolest music in a game full of cool music.

The boss for this zone is one of the toughest in the game in my opinion. There are falling floors on the edges of the screen and if you fall into the chemicals that lie below them you lose your coins or die. Which happens a fair amount because Tails gets in the way very badly here.


The trick to this boss is that he drops his vat of blue gunk on you, but it adjusts to your location. So you essentially have to 'trick' the game into thinking you aren't where you are. This is not that hard to do as you generally just jump to hit Robotnik when he is really close to letting go of the stuff. Once again, after blowing up his little vehicle, he flies away and you release the animals that were contained in the egg unit. And you go on your way not caring how the animals get out of the chemical plant, I just assume they somehow get out safely without drowning in the toxic chemicals.

Following in the footsteps of the chemical plant zone is the Aquatic Ruin Zone. If you like levels that are nice and easy going without a lot of hassles, these levels are not for you. Just a fair warning.


These levels feature lots of water that if you fall off the upper portions of the levels, you are left to complete them under water. You then have to make use of the pockets of air bubbles to survive, and it can be slow going. Then you have the annoying robot flies that hinder your progress and ring earnings, and arrows that shoot out of pockets throughout the ruins. Basically these levels are filled with pests.

What makes up for these levels is the fact that the boss for this zone is one of the easiest, if not easiest of the entire game.



Robotnik has the silliest vehicle in this one with a giant hammer plastered on the front that hits the top of the totem poles and they shoot out an arrow. After dodging the arrow, you use it to climb up to hit his ship, or like what I did, stood on top of the totem and easily hit Robotnik all the times require to blow him up before he shot another arrow.


After the Aquatic Ruin Zone, you head into another of the Robotnik industrial zones, but this time seems fun and goofy, is the Casino Night Zone.



These levels are some of the most fun because you can actually gamble for extra rings and lives in the slot machine spots located throughout the level. It basically plays like a huge pinball machine, and I've wasted so much time gambling for lives. I usually don't get the speed bonus for these two, but boy do I get a crapload of rings and lives by wasting time. These levels also don't really feature hardly and bad guys, maybe like 5 at the most.

Robotnik's casino cruiser seems like it should be easy to beat as he sits in one place to drop his spike bomb, but he isn't easily defeated by bouncing multiple times on. You sometimes have to hit him one at a time.



The trick is to use the pinball flippers and hit Robotnik as he gets closer. Now, usually Tails is a pain, but this is the one level that he is helpful. Since you really can't get double hits from bouncing on Robotnik, Tails following you provides that second hit every once in awhile and greatly boosts the speed of defeating Robotnik.


After the colorful casino sequence, you start trekking up into the Hilltop Zone. This zone takes place on the mountaintop peaks, but is evidently not high enough to be above the no tree line.




In addition to the pitfalls off the mountain, apparently it is also a volcano. And in the lava, Robotnik has designed robot Plesiosaurs, which are awesome until you easily kill them. The most nerve wracking part of these levels is where you get trapped in the cave, and the lava slowly rises, making you move up quickly to get out. What takes away a little bit of the anxiety is the fact you could get the invincibility box that takes the threat of the lava taking away your rings or lives. At least until it runs out, at which point you still have to get out without dying.


Once you get to Robotnik's next vehicular creation, he has somehow made a lava submarine. Which is nice. At least until you blow it up.



He pops up on whichever side you are standing on and then shoots a couple fireballs, then lights that platform on fire. So it's simple. Just jump over the fireball, then stand on the other platform, then attack. Tails can be a pain here as well causing you to fall into the lava.


The next stop on the Sonic around the fictional land tour is underground in the Mystic Cave Zone. This area features some of the best designed levels and fun looking characters. Of course there are bats, but then some Mario-like chain monsters, and tons of spikes in the ground. The music here is pretty awesome with a haunted vibe to it.

Robotnik here decides to basically collapse the cave on you with his custom cave collapser. Patent pending.



He drills up into the ceiling causing a bunch of stalactites to come falling down. Then once he comes back down to the mine cart rail, tries to drill you. He must have seen Total Recall or something. But after dodging and jumping over him, you blow him up while not forgetting to yell, "SCREW YOU BENNNY!"


You then feel like you have to be getting close to the end of the game. But not so! You get transported to the great Oil Ocean Zone! I think it was creating from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.



Do not fear if you fall into the oil, you can get out of it, but you sink like quicksand into it. The most annoying thing of these levels is the sloped pathways that basically make it almost impossible not to get hit by the flying robot seahorses. In my opinion they are the most dangerous enemies in the game, excluding the semi bosses later in the game.

Once you reach Robotnik, he continues his newly acquired love of submarines with an oil submarine. But this boss is so easily defeated it is funny.



As seen in the photo above, all you have to do to beat this boss is keep jumping under the platform in the oil while the bad things happen above. After his laser beam shoots the platforms and some dart-tipped metal snake or something shoots over the platform, Robotnik shows up in his sub and when that happens, you open up a can on him. Sometimes you can destroy him on his first appearance because you can just bounce on him quite a bit (Tails helps). Seriously, this is the easiest damn boss fight you will ever have.


Getting deeper into the Robotnik industrial segments, you next hit up the Metropolis Zone. Basically a power plant full of crummy typical video game trope jumps and gimmicks that are pretty annoying.




With the praying mantis dudes who fling their arms at you and the robot crabs that are inconveniently placed, these levels are made to purely frustrate the player. There are times that are few and far between that I could make it through the entire stage without losing my rings at some point. And to make it worse, there aren't two stages to the Metropolis Zone, but THREE! Yay, more crummy frustrating levels to suffer through!


As you get through the third stage that it feels like you get turned around in all the time (it's impossible to, I know), you finally get to Robotnik who is seemingly surrounded by egg balloons.



He shoots the balloons at you that you pop them one by one, until you defeat him. You really can't attack him until the number of balloons go down, so unless you are a professional Sonic speedrunner, I would recommend not going after him until the number is pretty low.

After you get done in the Metropolis Zone, you board a biplane with Tails and shoot down stuff as you get to the Wing Fortress Zone. This level is a not like the others, but in a good way since. At the end of the biplane sequence, the game finally does what the player has wanted from the beginning, it shoots Tails down and he doesn't even interfere with you in this level! Finally you are free of that insufferable flying fox!


As you navigate the harrowing jumps so you don't fall to your death, you get to one of the toughest, if not the toughest sequence of the game, the 'boss' fight on the mothership.


This sequence, as a kid, is to put it mildly, a bitch to complete. It was so hard that I never beat it as a kid. It wasn't until I got a Nintendo Wii that I was able to download and beat this game. Since there really wasn't an internet or a game guide for this as a kid, I honestly thought this was the last boss battle of the game. I mean, look at Robotnik! He's right there! Not in a custom crafted creation!

The worst part of this whole thing is the spiked platforms that kill you, but the laser in the ceiling that you can't dodge unless you hit it before the beam hits the ground. Otherwise you are more or less killed. Sure you can try and maintain your rings, but they disappear really quickly as you are probably hit multiple times.

So what happens after you defeat the laser? Well, you chase Robotnik and he somehow runs faster than Sonic (How? The 8th wonder of the world) and flees into outer space. Well damn. Game's not over.

So you follow him to outer space to the DEATH EGG ZONE. What a name. And the worst part of this is, there are no rings. You touched? You're dead. Better hope you have lives stored up. I say this because you first face a mechanized Sonic. That if you touch anywhere other than his nose, you are dead.


Once you figure out the pattern of his attacks (by dying until you get it right), you can beat him fairly easily. But unless you memorized his order over many years, then you will die. A lot. There is also a handy glitch that lets you not jump and risk missing the small target that greatly helps beating him faster. Then he power slides across the floor, you jump as he gets to you, you hit his nose and you basically clip through him. I don't think that was intended by Sega, but oh well, it works. I've done it many times and only have to deal with like three crazy moves MechaSonic does.

After he blows up, Robotnik gets into his Hulk Buster suit and is probably the easiest final boss I have ever faced. All he does is fall from the ceiling, then shoots his arms out a little distance, walks, and goes back to the ceiling.



So what you do to beat him is easy. You sit at the very edge of the screen until he gets locked in on you, then you sawblade to the other side of the screen which is out of range of his arm shots. You can hear the sound effect from his arms, then you can hear him step. Once you hear that, run over and jump and hit him in the face. Then do that sequence again. Be patient and voila! You blow him up and win the game!!


You then fall from the Death Egg Zone, through space without dying, and Tails catches you on a biplane and takes you to ground. You get a happy cutscene with all the animals you saved with some cheesy music and that's the game. It literally could take you 30 minutes or less to beat. It only took me over ten years to beat from the time I had a Genesis to the time I owned the Wii. But hey, I felt satisfied I beat a game I couldn't as a kid. Now if only I could do that with Super Mario...


Thanks for reading,


Mike G.