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Sonic the Hedgehog 2

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Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic 2 US Cover.jpg
US cover art
Developer(s)Sega Technical Institute
Publisher(s)Sega
Director(s)Masaharu Yoshii
Producer(s)Shinobu Toyoda
Designer(s)
Programmer(s)
Artist(s)
Composer(s)Masato Nakamura
SeriesSonic the Hedgehog
Platform(s)
Release
November 21, 1992
  • Sega Genesis
    • JP: November 21, 1992
    • NA/EU: November 24, 1992
    • AU: December 1, 1992
    Arcade
    • WW: 1994
    Android, iOS
    • WW: May 2009[b]
    • WW: December 12, 2013[a]
    Windows Phone
    • WW: December 14, 2013
    Nintendo 3DS
    • JP: July 22, 2015
    • WW: October 8, 2015
    Nintendo Switch
    • JP: February 13, 2020
    • WW: February 20, 2020
Genre(s)Platform
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Sonic the Hedgehog 2[c] is a 1992 platform game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis. It follows Sonic as he attempts to stop Doctor Robotnik from stealing the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station, the Death Egg. Like the first Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), players traverse side-scrolling levels at high speeds while collecting rings and defeating enemies. Sonic 2 introduces Sonic's sidekick, Miles "Tails" Prower, controllable by a second player. It features faster gameplay and larger levels in comparison to the first game, in addition to a new multiplayer game mode and special stages featuring pseudo-3D graphics.

Although Sonic the Hedgehog had been a major success, Sega was slow to approve the development of a sequel. Sega Technical Institute (STI) founder Mark Cerny started working on Sonic 2 in November 1991, and members of the original development team—including programmer Yuji Naka and designer Hirokazu Yasuhara—moved to California to join the project. Sonic 2 was intended to be faster and more ambitious than the first game. The development suffered setbacks, including language and cultural differences between the Japanese and American staff, and numerous levels were cut due to time constraints and quality concerns. As with the first game, Dreams Come True bassist and songwriter Masato Nakamura composed the soundtrack.

As the sequel to one of the bestselling games of all time, Sonic 2 was widely anticipated, and Sega backed it with a $10 million marketing campaign. It was released in November 1992 to critical acclaim and became the second-bestselling Genesis game behind the original Sonic the Hedgehog, with more than 7.5 million copies sold by 1996. It was the fastest-selling and highest-grossing home entertainment product of 1992, grossing over $450 million by the end of the year. Critics generally considered Sonic 2 an improvement over the first game and praised the visuals, level design, gameplay, and music. The addition of Tails and the multiplayer mode received criticism, while the special stages divided opinion.

Sonic 2 played a major role in keeping Sega competitive during the console wars of the fourth generation of video game consoles in the early 1990s. It continues to receive acclaim, often cited as one of the greatest video games of all time and one of the best Sonic games. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles followed in 1994. Sonic 2 has been rereleased on various platforms via compilations and emulation, and a remake for iOS and Android devices, developed using the Retro Engine, was released in December 2013.

Gameplay[edit]

Sonic and Tails hopping across pillars in the third stage, Aquatic Ruin Zone

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a 2D side-scrolling platform game.[1] The game stars Sonic the Hedgehog and his sidekick, Miles "Tails" Prower, who is described as having idolized Sonic as a child and wanting to keep up with him.[2] At the game's start, the player can select to either play as Sonic, Tails, or both. The difference between the two is purely cosmetic; the two both have identical abilities.[3] In the dual mode, players control Sonic while Tails runs along beside him. A second player can join in at any time and control Tails separately.[4] The game takes place over a series of levels, each divided into one, two, or three acts with a boss fight with Robotnik at the end of the last act. Certain levels have features that are unique to them; for example, Emerald Hill has corkscrew-like loops, and Chemical Plant has boost pads that instantly put Sonic at his top speed.[2] The character can jump on enemies to defeat them; the game also introduces a new move, the "spin dash" or "Super Dash Attack", by which the player curls in a ball and spins while stationary, resulting in a speed boost.[5] When the player is attacked by an enemy without rings, is crushed, falls off-screen, drowns, or exceeds the act's ten-minute limit, they lose a life and return to the start of the act or from the most recently passed checkpoint.[6] Dying with zero lives gives the player a game over.[7]

The game's special stages, in which the player collects rings in hopes of obtaining a Chaos Emerald, are presented in 3D, unlike the rest of the game.

When the player collects at least 50 rings and passes a checkpoint, they can warp to a "special stage".[8] In these stages, the player runs through a pseudo-3D half-pipe course, collecting rings and dodging bombs. A set amount of rings must be collected to pass through each of three checkpoints and in turn to obtain the emerald itself. If Sonic collides with a bomb, he loses ten rings and is immobilized momentarily. The stages rise in difficulty, and the player cannot enter any stage without passing the previous one. After finishing, the player is transported back to the star post they used to enter the special stage, with their ring-count reset to zero.[9] When all Emeralds have been collected, Sonic can transform into Super Sonic by collecting 50 rings and jumping.[10][8] Super Sonic is invincible to attacks, runs faster, and jumps further; however, he loses one ring per second and reverts to regular Sonic when his rings are depleted.[10]

The game also has a competitive mode, where two players compete against each other to the finish line, as either Sonic or Tails, in a split-screen race through three of the regular levels and a special stage. After one player finishes one of the regular levels, the other player must finish the zone within 60 seconds, or the level ends instantly. In the regular levels, players are ranked in five areas (score, time, rings held at the end of the level, total rings collected, and the number of item boxes broken). The player with wins in the most categories wins the level. In the Special Stage, players compete to obtain the most rings. The mode ends when all stages have been completed, or if a player loses all their lives, in which their opponent will automatically win.[11]

Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2[edit]

Sonic & Knuckles was released in 1994, two years after Sonic 2. The Sonic & Knuckles game cartridge features a special "lock-on" port at the top which the player can insert other Genesis cartridges. Attaching Sonic 2 unlocks Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a variation of Sonic 2 where by the player plays as Knuckles the Echidna, a character introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and not playable until Sonic & Knuckles.[12] Though the game is largely identical to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Knuckles is able to glide and climb walls, allowing him access to areas previously inaccessible to Sonic or Tails. However, he cannot jump as high, making some parts of the game, such as certain boss fights, more difficult. In addition, Knuckles restarts with the amount of rings he collected at checkpoints (if he loses a life), the options are unavailable, the special stages have slightly fewer rings required to collect than before (for example, ten rings fewer than in the special stages with Sonic and Tails), and the two-player mode is removed. In the 2013 remastered version, Knuckles is playable from the start without anything being removed, and when all 7 Chaos Emeralds are collected, he turns into his own super form.[12]

Plot[edit]

Sonic's nemesis, Dr. Ivo Robotnik, is once again planning world domination through the power of the Chaos Emeralds and an army of robots. This time, he is constructing an armored space station, the Death Egg (an homage to the Death Star).[13]

After pursuing Robotnik through West Side Island, Sonic and Tails take Tails' biplane, the Tornado, to the Death Egg. The Tornado takes damage and Sonic infiltrates the Death Egg alone. There, he defeats a robotic Sonic and Robotnik's giant mech. As the Death Egg explodes, it falls from orbit and Sonic is rescued by Tails in the Tornado. If the player has collected all of the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic transforms into Super Sonic and flies alongside the Tornado.[10]

Development[edit]

Background[edit]

The original Sonic the Hedgehog was developed by Sonic Team in Japan and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis in 1991. The game greatly increased the popularity of the Sega Genesis in North America and is credited with helping Sega gain 65% of the market share against Nintendo,[14] making Sega a formidable competitor. The success meant that a sequel was inevitable.[15]

A middle-aged Japanese man with glasses, a black suit, and a red tie.
A middle-aged American man holding a microphone wearing glasses, a blue t-shirt, and a black coat
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 programmer Yuji Naka (left) and STI founder Mark Cerny (right)

During the development of Sonic the Hedgehog, Mark Cerny established Sega Technical Institute (STI) in California. Sega wanted to develop more games in America, and Cerny's aim was to establish an elite studio that would combine the design philosophies of American and Japanese developers.[16] STI's first project was Dick Tracy (1991), followed by Kid Chameleon and Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude! (1992).[16] Shortly after the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, programmer Yuji Naka quit Sega due to disagreements over his salary, dissatisfaction over the time and effort it had taken to finish Sonic, and a lack of support from management.[15] Cerny visited Naka's apartment, listened to the reasons why he left, and convinced him to join STI in America to fix the problems he had had with Sega in Japan.[16] Designer Hirokazu Yasuhara and other members of the Sonic development team joined him,[16][17] though artist Naoto Ohshima stayed in Japan, where he worked on Sonic CD (1993).[18]

In September 1991, Cerny pitched Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as STI's project for the 1992 Christmas and holiday shopping season—giving the team 11 months of development—but Sega management considered it too soon for a sequel.[15] According to Cerny, this was not uncommon, as marketing executives controlled what games developers created and did not understand game development.[19] STI explored other concepts,[19] but in November, Sega reversed course and told Cerny that it needed Sonic 2 for the 1992 holiday season.[16] Cerny said that this did not create "much of a creative loss", as STI had yet to come up with a game idea on par with Sonic, but lost two months of development.[19] Now with a nine-month schedule, full-scale development started in early 1992.[20]

Team[edit]

Sonic 2's development team was much larger than the first game's and consisted of both American and Japanese developers, although the majority of the team was Japanese.[21] Cerny's idea was to have around a dozen of the original game's staff move to STI. Development began with only Americans because the Japanese faced visa problems. According to Cerny, Sega had applied for O-1 expert visas, for "nationally or internationally recognized" people with "a record of extraordinary achievement", unaware that the Japanese developers did not qualify.[22] Sega's Masaharu Yoshii was credited as director, though he did not join until halfway through development. According to Yoshii, he became involved after Cerny quit and he was installed as the head of STI.[20] However, Cerny said that he left just as development concluded.[23]

The development was complicated by the cultural and language barriers between the Japanese and American developers.[22] The Japanese were used to crunch conditions,[20] with Cerny noting they often worked through the night and slept in their cubicles.[16] In contrast, the Americans locked the STI offices at night.[20] Cerny had envisioned the Japanese acting as mentors to the Americans, but cooperation was difficult since the Americans could not speak Japanese.[22] Level artist Craig Stitt recalled Yasuhara as easy to work with, but Naka as "an arrogant a pain in the ass" not interested in working with Americans.[22] Artist Tim Skelly said that Naka would have been happier working with an all-Japanese team.[16]

Yasuhara said meshing the Americans' art with art by lead artist Yasushi Yamaguchi was the largest hurdle.[22] Yamaguchi had to check the teams' enemy and stage designs while producing his own. While Yamaguchi was assisted by Jina Ishiwatari, he worked mostly alone. Stitt called Yamaguchi "a machine" who worked long hours and reworked other artists' levels repeatedly to ensure quality.[24] For example, Stitt felt disappointed when Yamaguchi redid his background art for the Oil Ocean level, but did not argue because he was not satisfied with the original background and Yamaguchi's was much better.[24] Naka and Yasuhara also occasionally checked the art, with Skelly noting Naka was quite particular.[25] The title screen and Casino Night level art were both completely reworked shortly before release.[26]

Sonic 2 did not become playable from start to finish until the last 48 hours of development, in September 1992.[24] The team planned to use a 4MB cartridge, the same cartridge size as the first game,[27] but STI ran out of space towards the end of development.[20] To make sure the game would be finished in time for Thanksgiving, Yoshii went to the Japanese side of Sega for help. Managing director Daizaburou Sakurai contacted Sega Enterprises president Hayao Nakayama, who allowed the team to double the ROM size to avoid a delay.[20] Yoshii said that Sonic 2 would not have been ready for release without Sega of America's bug-checking process. Around 50 developers worked as bug checkers, and the process took two to three weeks.[21] When Sonic 2 was shipped to Japan for production, copies of the source code were sent on separate planes to ensure that the game would arrive in case of an accident.[17]

Art and design[edit]

Sonic 2 designer Hirokazu Yasuhara in 2018

Sega of America marketing director Al Nilsen said that STI wanted "to go all out" to ensure Sonic 2 would be as successful as the original Sonic, since sequels were generally not well regarded.[17] STI began with various ideas about how to improve the first game's formula, beginning with making Sonic faster.[19][17] In the first game, Sonic was restricted by a speed cap well below his maximum possible speed; STI lifted the cap for Sonic 2. This led to the conception of the spin dash, which removed the need to backtrack for momentum.[19] Early in development, STI implemented a routine whereby Sonic was hurt if he ran into a wall at full speed, but this was removed in later builds.[26]

Yasuhara had ambitious plans Sonic 2, and designed it with "'blue sky' ideas".[19] Assuming STI had two years of development, he conceived a plot in which Robotnik took over the world and Sonic used time travel to stop him.[19] The plot was scrapped, but many of Sonic 2's levels were taken from it; for example, Hill Top Zone (which features dinosaur enemies) was intended to be a past version of Green Hill Zone,[22][28] while Chemical Plant and Casino Night came from the Robotnik-ruled future.[22] Sonic CD's time travel feature was coincidental, and differed from Sonic 2 as it implemented it as a game mechanic rather than merely a story feature.[28]

Sonic 2 features twice as many unique level tropes compared to the first game,[22] and STI chose to have most levels end after two acts rather than three.[28] The level maps were originally drawn at Sega's headquarters in Tokyo by the game's Japanese lead level designer, who first drew maps of the game's different zones on paper.[29] According to Stitt, level development began when artists were given a paper map with ideas regarding the level theme. Once the design was settled, the artist would then draw the art pixel by pixel and then input the graphics in the game itself. The graphics and animations were implemented using the Digitizer, Sega's proprietary graphics system for the Genesis. The artists had to deal with palette limitations, as only 64 colors could be displayed on-screen.[30] Yasuhara was inspired to design Casino Night because he noticed that Sonic's springs felt similar to the gimmicks of pinball tables, while Sky Chase—which features Sonic riding a biplane as he attempts to reach Robotnik's base—was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's anime Future Boy Conan (1978).[22] Cerny's job was to oversee the level design and gameplay, and also acted as an art director.[30]

Yasuhara wanted to add a second playable character so siblings could play together.[19] An internal contest was held to determine the new character; the winning design was Yamaguchi's twin-tailed fox, inspired by Japanese folklore about the kitsune. Sega of America objected to the character's name, Miles Prower (a pun on "miles per hour"), so he was given the nickname Tails as a compromise.[31] Tails was implemented using an artificial intelligence routine that allowed him to mimic Sonic's movements, becoming playable with a second controller.[19] Tails was also used in the multiplayer mode,[27] something that Naka had attempted to implement late in development of the original Sonic.[17] He implemented it in Sonic 2 by using the Genesis' rarely-used interlaced mode to create split-screen gameplay.[27]

Skelly designed the appearance of the pseudo-3D special stages,[27] based on a tech demo created by Naka.[32] The special stages were created from pre-rendered 3D polygons, video of which was compressed and halved vertically and horizontally to fit in the game cartridge.[33] According to Cerny, the 3D look came from of the sentiment that the stages needed to look "flashy".[27] Skelly said that the idea came from STI programmer Steve Woita, who "recalled an interesting scheme that allowed us to do bit-map graphics with a character-stamp based system".[25] Graphics for rings, bombs, and characters were provided by Yamaguchi,[25] while the stages were designed by Shinobi (1987) director Yutaka Sugano.[27] In retrospect, Cerny felt the stages, while visually impressive, did not have as much gameplay depth as the special stages of the original Sonic, which featured Sonic navigating a rotating maze.[27]

Cut content[edit]

A screenshot of Hidden Palace Zone, one of the scrapped Sonic 2 levels. It featured extensively in prerelease advertisements, and was restored in the 2013 Sonic 2 remake.

A large amount of content was cut.[24] Nilsen said Sonic 2 "probably could have been three times the size if we left in everything that was there. Naka and team really did a phenomenal job of editing what was going to be in the game, and weren't afraid to say, 'I've been working on this for four months, it's not working. Let's take it out.'"[17] One scrapped stage, Hidden Palace Zone, featured extensively in prerelease advertisements. It was planned as a secret stage accessed by collecting Chaos Emeralds; according to Naka, it would explain the origin of the Chaos Emeralds and grant Sonic his Super Sonic powers.[34] Though Hidden Palace was one of the first levels implemented, work on it stopped in mid-1992,[26] and it was removed shortly before completion for a lack of time and cartridge space.[34] Stitt, who created the Hidden Palace art and considered its foreground among his favorite work, was angry when he learned it was cut.[24]

Other cut levels included a forest level, which was implemented but hardly worked on,[26] and a desert level.[28] One scrapped level, Genocide City, was renamed Cyber City because the Japanese developers had not understood the negative connotations of the word genocide. Its level layout was used in the Metropolis Zone level.[28] Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske, product manager Madeline Schroeder, and Nilsen worked closely with STI; Nilsen said the feedback loop helped the team determine what needed to be cut.[17] Most cuts were made to the Americans' designs, and many Americans were furious when they learned their work had been cut. Stitt said that he may have been the only American whose art was used in the final game. According to Yasuhara, most level cuts were due to time constraints and he had been upset by each of them. In 2017, he said he wanted to remake Sonic 2 with the cut content restored.[24]

Music[edit]

As with the first game, the Sonic 2 soundtrack was composed by Dreams Come True bassist and songwriter Masato Nakamura.[22] According to Yamaguchi, a Sega of America employee asked STI to use music composed in-house instead; the team felt the music was "awful" and refused to use it, so Sega rehired Nakamura.[35] Nakamura had become famous in Japan after the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, and increased his asking price considerably.[16] As with the first game, Nakamura began composing early in development with only concept art for reference. He treated Sonic 2 like a film and attempted to reflect the atmosphere he felt in the concept art.[36] Nakamura composed Sonic 2 simultaneously with the Dreams Come True album The Swinging Star (1992);[22] as a gift to the developers, he produced an alternate version of the Sonic 2 ending theme, "Sweet Sweet Sweet", for the album.[37]

Since Sonic 2 was more technically advanced than its predecessor, Nakamura "wanted to create music that showed progress... It was like the Indiana Jones sequels. Same concept, but with more fun and excitement."[38] Nakamura said that he felt considerable pressure, as he understood that expectations were high due to the first game's success.[38] STI let Nakamura "do as [he] pleased", which he felt allowed him to create "such melodic tunes and unusual rhythm patterns".[39] He composed using a Roland MC-4 Microcomposer; he noted that it was challenging due to the Genesis' limited sound capabilities, but the limitations encouraged him to be more inventive.[40] Five or six individuals worked to convert Nakamura's music to the Genesis hardware for use in the game.[35]

Release[edit]

Sega launched a $10 million advertising campaign for Sonic the Hedgehog 2.[41] Sega sought a global release date to make the game available in all stores on the same day, a novel concept at the time. This required Sega to reconfigure its distribution system to ensure that games were available in all major stores. The release date in North America and Europe, Tuesday, November 24, 1992, was marketed as "Sonic 2s day" (or "Sonic 2sday"). In Japan, it was released on November 21, 1992.[42][43] It was the first video game to have a worldwide release on the same day.[44]

8-bit version[edit]

A separate version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was developed by Aspect and released for the 8-bit Master System and Game Gear systems. It has different level designs and a different plot, in which Tails is kidnapped and Sonic must rescue him.[45]

2013 remaster[edit]

A remastered mobile port was released for iOS, Android and Windows Phone on December 12, 2013. It was developed from scratch by Christian "Taxman" Whitehead and Simon "Stealth" Thomley of Headcannon using the Retro Engine, previously used in the 2011 Sonic CD remaster. This version adds enhancements such as widescreen graphics, Knuckles as a playable character, time and boss attack modes, online multiplayer, additional multiplayer stages, Tails's flying and swimming abilities from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the previously unreleased Hidden Palace Zone,[46] and a post-credits scene which depicts the Death Egg crash-landing on Angel Island.[47] Shaun Musgrave of TouchArcade declared it the "definitive version" of the game.[48] The iOS version was updated in 2016, adding compatibility for Apple TV.[49]

Compilations[edit]

The game has been rereleased on compilations including Sonic Compilation (1995) for Genesis;[50] Sonic Jam (1997) for Sega Saturn;[51] Sonic Mega Collection (2002) for Nintendo GameCube;[52] Sonic Mega Collection Plus (2004) for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC;[53] Sega Genesis Collection (2006) for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable;[54] Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3;[55] and Sonic Classic Collection (2010) for Nintendo DS.[56] The Sonic Jam version introduces "remix" options:[57] "Normal" mode alters the layout of rings and hazards, and "Easy" mode removes certain acts.[58]

Ports[edit]

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was made available for download on Wii's Virtual Console on June 11, 2007,[59] PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network on April 19, 2011,[60] and Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade, the latter having enhancements such as online leaderboards, achievements, and online play.[61] Various mobile phone versions exist as well, including the iOS release.[62] The game was released as part of the Nintendo 3DS 3D Classics line in Japan on July 22, 2015, with a release in North America and Europe initially scheduled for September 2015, before being pushed back to October 8. This version of the game is enhanced using the stereoscopic 3D technology of the 3DS.[63][64] In 2018, Sega announced a Nintendo Switch port would be released as part of the Sega Ages product line. It includes most of the features added to the 3DS version, and added the option to use Sonic's Drop Dash ability from Sonic Mania and a time attack mode, plus the lock-on game Knuckles in Sonic 2.[65] In 2021, the game was made available in an expansion pack of Nintendo Switch Online.[66]

Reception[edit]

Commercial performance[edit]

Following the success of the original, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was widely anticipated.[1][91] Prior to release, the game had already sold 2.2 million units to retailers by October 1992.[92] It set a pre-order record in Europe with 1.5 million game cartridges ordered in five countries, including 750,000 units in the United Kingdom and another 750,000 orders in France, Germany, Spain and Austria.[93][94]

Upon release, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 broke video game sales records.[95] In the United States, the game sold 1 million copies and grossed $50,000,000 (equivalent to $92,000,000 in 2020) within a day.[96] In the United Kingdom, it became the fastest-selling game in history with a record 750,000 copies sold out within a day, grossing £27,000,000 or $47,000,000 (equivalent to $87,000,000 in 2020) and accounting for 48% of all UK software sales that week.[97][98][99] The game's release-day revenue exceeded what 1992's best-selling rock music CD, Simply Red's Stars, had earned throughout the year.[100][101] Sonic 2 was the UK's number-one game during November[102] and December 1992 (above Street Fighter II for the Super NES and Super Mario Land 2 for the Game Boy during Christmas),[103][104][105] and had sold over 1 million copies in the UK by the end of the year.[106][107] For two months, Sonic 2 was the top-seller on Gallup's Sega charts for the United Kingdom,[108] Japan, and United States.[109] It was also the top Genesis video game rental in the United States for three months, from December 1992[110] to February 1993.[111][112] It continued appearing on the UK sales charts, returning to the top three in 1993.[113] It became the UK's second best-selling video game of 1993 with more than 400,000 sales,[114] adding up to more than 1.4 million copies sold in the UK by 1993.

The game's initial worldwide batch of 3.2 million cartridges sold out within two weeks, outpacing the original Sonic the Hedgehog.[115] Sonic 2 went on to sell 4.5 million copies in a month[96] and 5 million units within 60 days,[116] and grossed $450 million in 1992 ($830 million adjusted for inflation), more than any film or other home entertainment product that year.[117][118] In November 1993, it was reported to be the best-selling 16-bit video game ever at the time.[119] It continued to appear in the top five on the UK sales charts two years after its release in 1994.[120] The game had sold 5 million copies in North America alone by 1996,[121] more than 1.4 million units in the United Kingdom as of 1993,[106][114] 750,000 units in France, Germany, Spain and Austria as of 1992,[93] and 400,000 units in Japan as of March 1993,[122] for a worldwide total of approximately more than 7.55 million cartridges sold as of 1996.

The Xbox Live Arcade digital version later sold 509,805 units on the Xbox 360, as of 2011.[123] The Android mobile game version sold more than 100,000 paid downloads on the Google Play Store as of 2017,[124] while the free-to-play Android version Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Classic has received more than 10 million downloads as of 2019.[125] This adds up to approximately more than 7.8 million units sold worldwide across all platforms.

Contemporary reviews[edit]

The game received critical acclaim upon release, with scores above 90% from most video game magazines at the time. The improvements to the gameplay were praised. GamePro commented that "Sonic 2's game play mechanics are the same as Sonic 1's with a few cool exceptions." They gave it a 4.5 out of 5 for sound and a perfect 5.0 in every other category (graphics, control, and fun factor).[73] Tom East of Official Nintendo Magazine called the game "arguably the best game in the series and easily one of the best platform games ever".[126]

Critics praised the level design and graphics. GamePro assessed that the "graphics are actually better than the original's. The rich variety of scenery, slightly larger sprites, and extra-added attitude help the spunky hedgehog paint video game magic."[73] Despite the reduction in the number of acts per level to two from the first game's three, the levels themselves were said to be larger and more memorable.[73][127][128]

GamePro described Tails as "about the cutest companion that any Sonic fan could ask for" and said the game's biggest problem is that it is too easy, to the point where even unskilled players would quickly breeze through it. However, the reviewer noted that finding each stage's secrets provides the game with challenge and longevity.[73]

Reviewers spoke positively of the special stages and approved of the visual effects.[73][129][130] GamePro elaborated, "Theoretically, the Genesis isn't capable of scaling, but Sonic's Bonus Rounds are gonna make you wonder!"[73]

Accolades[edit]

Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded it for being the best Genesis game of 1992.[86] The Electronic Gaming Awards from Electronic Games magazine nominated Sonic 2 for its 1992 Video Game of the Year award,[131] which it lost to Street Fighter II, but Sonic 2 won the award for Best Electronic Game Graphics.[85] Chicago Tribune selected it as runner-up for Best Game of the Year, below Street Fighter II and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.[84] At the Golden Joystick Awards, Sonic 2 won the awards for Best Original Console Game and Promotional Campaign of the Year.[87] The Mega Reader Awards voted it the best platform game and best overall Mega Drive game of 1992, and Mega ranked it the second best Mega Drive game of all time in 1993,[89] before later placing the game at #36 on their "Top Sega Mega Drive Games of All Time" list in 1994.[132] At the European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) awards, it won the Going Live Readers Award.[90]

Electronic Gaming Monthly ranked it number 71 on their 1997 list of the best console video games of all time. While they said that Sonic CD (ranked at number 17) was better, they praised the multiplayer mode of Sonic 2, stating that, "Although it looks a little squashed, the vs. races are a lot of fun."[91] In 2000, Game Informer ranked Sonic 2 number 61 on its "Top 100 Games of All Time" list, calling it "the most challenging and finely polished Sonic the Hedgehog title."[133] In 2010, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 took first place in the results of a survey conducted by Official Nintendo Magazine to determine the fan-favorite game in the series.[134] In 2011, GameZone named Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the second-best title in the series (behind Sonic the Hedgehog 3).[135] In 2017, GamesRadar+ named Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the best Sonic title of all time and the second-best Genesis title of all time.[136][137]

Retrospective reviews[edit]

It was also well received in later retrospective reviews, accumulating an aggregate score of 88.44% on GameRankings based on eight reviews published online in the 2000s,[138] with re-releases also receiving positive reviews.[139] Lucas Thomas of IGN proclaimed that the game "offered more of everything. More characters, more levels. More music, moves and baddies to beat", and that the new spin dash move "enhanced the speed of the gameplay, as Sonic no longer had to have a long stretch of straightaway to get up to his signature blazing velocity any more."[1] Ellie Gibson of Eurogamer, reviewing the Xbox Live Arcade port, wrote that "SEGA has been sensible enough to leave things alone. All the original levels are present and correct. They are as expansive and exciting as ever. The sheer speed of the game still has the power to thrill as you send Sonic zooming, spinning and bouncing in all directions."[147]

Frank Provo of GameSpot wrote "Play through it and you'll understand why it helped sell a ton of Genesis consoles back in the day. It's a fun platformer and does everything a sequel is supposed to do. It resolves many of the first game's shortcomings and incorporates a slew of minor upgrades that cumulatively amount to a fresh experience."[127] Justin Towell of GamesRadar+ called the sequel "an improvement in every respect", citing the "improved Special Stage with pseudo-3D shenanigans, a greater emphasis on speed, better graphics, [and] another incredible soundtrack" as examples.[130]

Gibson called the variation in the game's environments "impressive",[147] and Andy Eddy of TeamXbox described the graphics as "bright" and "colorful".[158] Provo pointed out that "Sega concocted new backgrounds in the same colorful style as those from the first game, then jazzed them up with animated highlights such as dancing flowers and shimmering lakes."[127] However, the later stages were considered to be difficult and complex.[128][158] Towell also noted that "When Sonic is hurtling around the screen, [the game] could be criticized for 'playing itself'".[130]

The main objects of criticism concerned the two-player mode and the addition of Tails; reviewers disliked the image distortion brought about by the squeezed and flickering graphics,[1][130][73] and Tails was considered to be "useless" and "irritating" due to his interference in boss battles.[147][130]

Opinions on the special stages were divided. Gibson described the visuals of these stages as "dreadfully blocky",[147] and David Craddock of IGN felt that the inclusion of Tails in the stages was "detrimental at best, since he's always colliding with bombs, thus causing the player to lose valuable rings."[128]

Thomas wrote that the Virtual Console version was "an easy thumbs-up".[1] Gibson praised the Xbox Live Arcade version's low price and online mode: "Just GBP 4.25 will buy you hours of fun. Not millions of hours, because games were shorter in those days."[147] Craddock proclaimed that "Sonic the Hedgehog 2 holds up as not only one of the best games available on Sega's memorable 16-bit machine, but also a worthy addition to any XBLA library."[128] The iOS version was met with middling reviews,[140] with criticism for the quality of the port and lack of multiplayer.[62][159]

Legacy[edit]

Sonic 2's success was a major factor in Sega catching up to Nintendo in the early-1990s console wars.[160] It brought their market share up to 40% within six months of its release.[161] Tails, whom Sonic the Hedgehog 2 introduced, went on to become one of the most prominent characters in the series, appearing as Sonic's sidekick in most Sonic media, including in later games such as Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations, and Sonic Lost World. Sonic the Hedgehog 2's popularity extended to various merchandise such as comic books such as Sonic the Comic,[162] a television series,[163] and a sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, which received similar acclaim.[164]

For Sonic's 20th anniversary, Sega released Sonic Generations, which remade aspects of various past games from the franchise.[165] The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC versions contained a remade "Chemical Plant" level.[166] It also contained a remake of the final boss fight, the Death Egg Robot, as the Classic Era boss of the game.[167] Separately, the Nintendo 3DS version of the game contained a remake of the "Casino Night" level.[168] A "Casino Night" themed pinball minigame was made available for download as a pre-order bonus for the console versions at GameStop.[169] Remade versions of Chemical Plant and Oil Ocean also appear in the 2017 game Sonic Mania.[170]

In 2008, an unofficial, high-definition remake was announced titled Sonic the Hedgehog 2 HD, which included development members who would later work on Sonic Mania.[171][172] In 2012, it was reported that a potential keylogger was included with an alpha build of the game, which led to the project being discontinued due to the controversy.[173] In 2014, the project was restarted under a new development team.[174] The final version is planned to feature additional stages and the option to play levels as Knuckles the Echidna.[175]

The 2022 film Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had the working title of Emerald Hill, which referenced the first level of the game.[176][177]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ remastered release
  2. ^ original release
  3. ^ Japanese: ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ2 (ツー), Hepburn: Sonikku za Hejjihoggu Tsū

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