Sonic 2 3D ensures that SEGA's second wave of 3D Classics go out on a high, but falls short of being the definitive reissue.
Most fans would agree that Sonic the Hedgehog peaked far too early. When exactly that peak was, however, is open for debate.
Some would place it as early as 1992’s Sonic 2. Released in the US on what SEGA dubbed ‘Sonic two’s-day’, the game successfully extrapolated on its predecessor’s core tenets, yet retained a tight, focused purity of essence that later installments would arguably lack.
Since then, the game has been re-released countless times on too many formats to list here. Indeed, we’ve now reached something of a saturation point, whereby further reissues simply have to offer something fresh, lest they be passed over by even the most ardent devotees.
Enter SEGA’s excellent 3DS exclusive 3D Classics initiative, which is seeing the company re-imagine its most popular Mega Drive/Genesis era titles with – you guessed it- full 3D support, along with other assorted bells and whistles. With the original Sonic the Hedgehog taking pride of place in last year’s initial batch, it’s hardly surprising that Sonic 2 is this second wave’s encore release.
Putting a Ring On It
Of course, any gamer worth their salt will already be intimately familiar with Sonic 2‘s gameplay mechanics, premise and such, so we’ll skip all that and jump right into discussing the new stuff.
As with previous 3D Classics, two different types of 3D are available, pop-out on fall-in. They’re pretty self explanatory in terms of what they do, and choosing between them is purely a matter of taste, although I did find pop-out harder to resolve into a proper 3D image. The implementation of the 3D itself is exemplary, in line with previous Classics.
Also on offer is a CRT mode which imitates the distinctive colour bleed and curvature of old-school TVs. While its smudgy, washed out colours are sure to tug at your heartstrings, the accompanying ‘fishbowl’ effect is somewhat overbearing. Gameplay is far smoother than it was back in ’92, but still presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, thereby wasting a lot of screen space. This is very disappointing, given that the majority of Mega Drive re-releases on other formats support widescreen. On the plus side, though, puritans will applaud having a choice between playing the International and Japanese versions of the game.
Gotta Go Fast
Somewhat surprisingly, multiplayer is present and correct. You can play Sonic 2‘s original competitive mode in addition to tackling the main game cooperatively as Sonic and Tails. What’s more, there’s ‘Ring Keep’ which sees you start with 10 rings, losing half every time you’re hit. While fun distractions, none of these are likely to hold your attention for long.
The most pleasing addition comes in the form of an optional automatic level select, which allows you to decide which Zone to start from without all that usual Sound Test cheat jiggery-pokery. How many times have you, my fellow Sonic fan, fancied a spot of Sonic 2 but rolled your eyes at the prospect of going through Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant and Aquatic Ruin for the umpteenth time? Well, now you can skip them entirely.
In terms of sound, pretty much everything is present and correct, with the option of either Mega Drive I or II sound chip emulation. The only disappointment here comes in the form of the iconic “SEGA” choir soundbyte played as the game boots, which sounds tinny and horrible. Other 3D Classics do not have this issue, and while hardly a reason to avoid Sonic 2 3D, it’ll surely annoy hardcore fans able to tell the difference.
Sounds at least worth a punt so far, right? Well, yes, but as much as I’m loathe to, I’d be remiss in my duty of impartiality if I didn’t point out that in a number ways, the iOS/Android port of Sonic 2 is better. Not only does it add Knuckles as a playable character, but also restores a previously cut zone from the main game. In short, it adds something new and fresh to the mix, where sadly, the 3D Classics version does not. Also, as you might expect, Sonic 2 looks and plays noticeably better on state of the art, high resolution displays than the 3DS’ aging LCD.
However, as a reader of this site, I’d assume you’re a fully paid-up SEGA enthusiast, and therefore urge you to take a somewhat more philosophical view. SEGA are keen to keep releasing 3D Classics while ever there is demand, and there’s a ton of 16-bit gems simply begging for the Z-axis treatment.
So, while Stealth and Christian Whitehead’s officially sanctioned mobile port of Sonic 2 may be a marginally stronger offering on balance, hardcore fans should consider this 3DS Classics release as something of an investment for the future.
Also, Sonic 2’s still a pretty a pretty good game.
+ Excellent implementation of 3D
+ Built-in level select
+ Classic Sonic gameplay
– No widescreen support
– “SEGA” choir soundbyte sounds awful
– Overshadowed somewhat by the mobile port