By Lincoln Faulkner
Probably one of the most eccentric video game icons, Sonic hasn’t stopped racing through our consoles for 20 years.
Featured in more than 65 games, this spiky blue rodent capable of lightning-fast speed and boasting a rebellious attitude has grown immensely over the years since his debut as a toy hanging in the rear-view mirror of the arcade racing game “Rad Mobile.”
However, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” remains one of my favorite titles with its timeless adrenaline pumping, fast paced side scrolling mayhem.
The game premiered in 1992 as the second 16-bit installment of the Sega produced series on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis one year after its predecessor.
The plot is similar to titles before and after it. The maniacal scientist Dr. Robotnik, sometimes referred to as “Eggman” for his egg-like proportions, has imprisoned the cute and fuzzy inhabitants of Sonic’s island in worker drones and has forced them to search for the Chaos Emeralds in order to power his monstrous starship, the Death Egg, which looks like a parody of the Death Star.
Determined to save his animal friends, Sonic sets off on his high-speed quest accompanied by his mutant, two-tailed fox friend Miles “Tails” Prower to free the island and save the world.
One important feature to the game was the series’ first two-player mode, in which a second player could control tails to help Sonic progress through levels.
The gameplay offers the player several challenging stages, each two to three acts long. Even though much of the detail of the levels goes by in a dizzying blur, the scenery is detailed and colorful.
Throughout the courses Sonic and Tails must crush enemy robots to free their friends inside by jumping on them or using their Spin Dash moves, all while collecting golden rings along the way.
The rings serve two purposes in the game. The first is to save Sonic’s life should he fall victim to a trap of spikes, be crushed by blocks of land, or get in the way of a robot.
The second purpose, and possibly the best feature of the game, is to grant the player access to the Special Zones.
After collecting 50 rings, once a player reaches a checkpoint post, a ring of stars appear above that Sonic can jump through. This ring teleports him to a never ending funnel where the player must collect a certain number of rings indicated at the begin of the stage, while avoiding bombs that cause Sonic to loose his rings.
If the player is successful, Sonic will earn one of the seven Chaos Emeralds. When all seven emeralds are obtained, Sonic can transform into Super Sonic after collecting 50 rings, turning him into a golden version of himself that can fly at higher speeds and is invincible to most forms of damage.
This particular challenge is what kept me coming back for more even after I had defeated the game many times. For me, it was the highest form of glory in the game. In fact, the quest for Super Sonic fueled an obsession to consume many other titles after this one.
At the time, the game saved Sega’s prominence in the gaming industry by producing a viable competitor to Nintendo’s mascot Mario, and brought SEGA’s market share up fifty percent during the first six months of its release.
Since then, the series has spawned a gamut of merchandise, including comic books, toys, apparel and four animated TV series.
The hours of gameplay I devoted to this classic, beating it over and over again, makes it one of my most treasured pieces of entertainment history. Although it has been sad to watch Sonic stumble through many less enjoyable titles, he is one of the most marketed videogame characters, rivaling Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong, allowing his legacy to continue through multiple generations.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing series on “Great Video Games.” If you are interested in submitting a piece on a video game you consider great, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.