A year after the original Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 burst on to the scene. Sonic 2 is very similar to the original, but builds on many of the concepts and ideas introduced in the first title while piling on nearly twice the number of levels. The most drastic change was the introduction of a sidekick, Miles "Tails" Prower. The new character allowed a simple 2-player competitive mode, borrowing levels from the single player to add a much needed multi-player component. Tails could also follow Sonic around in single player mode, and could be controlled by plugging in a second Genesis gamepad.
Arguably the most dramatic improvement is the implementation of the Spin-dash. By ducking and pressing the jump button, Sonic would rev up in ball form. After revving up enough, the player could stop pressing down to get a burst of speed while staying rolled into a ball. Beyond those two additions, however, gameplay for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 remains relatively the same; the goal is still to get to the end of a level as quickly as possible, while destroying as many enemies and collecting as many rings as possible. Rather than having three acts and a boss fight (as in Sonic 1), Sonic 2 features only two acts per level, with some exceptions (Metropolis Zone features three acts, Sky Chase, Wing Fortress, and Death Egg all feature a single act each).
Chaos Emeralds also returned from the original, offering up an additional 7th Emerald (instead of the original game's 6). The special stages were done on a endless half-pipe which Sonic ran forward on collecting rings and avoiding enemies. If he had enough rings when he hit the checkpoint then he would continue until eventually obtaining a Chaos Emerald. Collect all 7 and Sonic would be able to transform into Super Sonic. In this form Sonic becomes even faster and rather than his usual blue is colored a bright yellow.
Not content just exploring his home of South Island, Sonic the Hedgehog's adventures took him all over the globe. It was eventually he found himself at West-side Island, said to be home to a lost civilization. This civilization were given seven "Chaos Emeralds" of great power as a gift from the Gods. Eventually, this power corrupted the civilization, and this angered the Gods greatly. As punishment, they sealed the emeralds away in an alternate dimension called "The Special Zone".
Intrigued, Sonic lands his biplane, the Tornado, on the island. It's here Sonic runs in to a shy, two-tailed fox named Miles - Sonic nicknames him "Tails" for obvious reasons. Tails, as it turns out, loves machinery, and he is fascinated by Sonic's plane. Before the two can get too acquainted, however, they hear an explosion in the distance. Doctor Ivo 'Eggman' Robotnik has followed Sonic to this island, and is tearing it apart looking for the Chaos Emeralds. He hopes they will act as an energy source for his greatest, most deadly creation: a giant, weaponized space station called the "Death Egg." Together, Sonic and Tails agree that Robotnik has to be stopped at all costs.
The Special Stage is played from behind Sonic in a 3D half-pipe. The player is given a target of the number of rings they have to collect as Sonic runs through the pipe whist avoiding the bombs. If the target is met then the stage continues, if not then the player returns to the level where they entered the Special Stage with a total of no rings. By meeting all the targets in the Special Stage, the stage is cleared and the player unlocks a Chaos Emerald. Each new Special Stage is harder than the one which preceded it and they have to be completed in order with no way to skip to the next one without completing the one previous.
After collecting all 7 Chaos Emeralds, compared to the total of 6 found in the Master System version, Sonic gains the ability to change into Super Sonic after collecting 50 rings. When Sonic becomes his super form he is virtually invincible, running and jumping much higher than normal, only able to be killed by drowning, being crushed, falling off the screen or by running out of time in the level. This added speed comes at a price as it makes it almost impossible to do precise jumps due to the increased speed as well as loosing 1 ring a second whilst in super form; with Sonic reverting back to his normal self when the rings reach zero and effectively making him a sitting duck to enemies.
Two Player Versus Mode
Sonic 2 also included a two versus player mode where, playing as either Sonic or Tails, two players can have a split screen race on one of 3 different zones or a Special Stage. In the regular zone races, on either Emerald Hill Zone, Casino Night Zone or Mystic Cave Zone, players are ranked in 5 different areas with the highest score winning the round. On the Special Stage the winner is the one who collects the most rings. In the case of a tie in the regular zones a Special Stage is then ran to determine a winner. Two player mode also added a couple of new item boxes. One being a teleporter which switched the two players around, the other being a Dr. Robotnik item which damaged the player that found it.
Compatibility with Sonic & Knuckles
By slotting the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 cartridge into the top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge, the player will play as Knuckles instead of either Sonic or Tails. He can glide and climb walls but due to his inferior jumping ability some boss fights are more difficult as Knuckles.
There are a few minor differences in the way Star Post checkpoints are handled however as when returning to a level after a Special Stage the player would keep the rings they had before they went in, whereas in the default game all rings were lost. The same applies when a life is lost.
Some minor changes to levels were also made so the player could find extra secrets or shortcuts using Knuckles climbing and gliding abilities.
The Genesis version of this game was re-released on:
- Sonic Compilation on the Mega Drive in Europe
- Sonic 3-in-1 on the Genesis in North America
- Sega Smash Pack 2 on the PC
- Real Arcade on the PC
- Sonic Mega Collection on the Nintendo Gamecube
- Sonic Mega Collection Plus on the PS2, Xbox and PC
- Sonic Genesis Collection on the PS2 and PSP
- Wii Virtual Console
- Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace
- Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PS3
- Sega Mega Drive and Genesis Classics Collection for PC
- Sega 3D Classics for the Nintendo 3DS
- Sega Forever for Mobile Platforms
- Sega Genesis Classics for Playstation 4 and Xbox One
- Sega Ages for the Nintendo Switch
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has 11 zones, plus one special stage. This is twice as many as the original Sonic, which had 6 zones. However, a big difference this time around is that most of the zones have two acts instead of three. This is not a hard and fast rule though, as the Metropolis Zone has 3 acts and towards the end of the game Sky Chase Zone, Wing Fortress Zone and Death Egg Zone all have a single act.
Emerald Hill Zone
The first zone of Sonic 2 bares more than a passing resemblance to Green Hill Zone from the previous game. Emerald Hill is set inside a tropical resort, featuring palm trees, rolling green hills, and wildlife-themed enemies like monkeys, fish and bees. Dr. Robotnik appears here, driving a drill-based machine that he tries to ram in to Sonic.
Chemical Plant Zone
This zone is set in a bustling industrial city that is flooded with a neon pink liquid. Sonic can survive while submerged in this, but only for a limited time since there are no air bubbles. Dr. Robotnik makes his appearance with a suction tube clipped onto the bottom of his ship, which he uses to extract toxic materials from the liquid below. The player must avoid his attacks while remaining on a series of platforms, which feature panels that will successively rotate.
Aquatic Ruin Zone
This zone is set in the ruins of a sinking city as it succumbs to the depths of a lake. The low routes lead deep under the surface and features a significantly higher level of challenge, so players are advised to keep their heads above water whenever possible. Robotnik appears here with a giant mallet attached to his ship, he will hit down on two columns that flank the player on either side of street, causing them to shoot out arrows. The player must use these arrows as platforms in order to be able to reach Robotnik and bring him down.
Casino Night Zone
This zone is set in a series of giant pinball tables, featuring flippers, bumpers and a number of slot machines. Dr. Robotnik appears here at the bottom of the last pinball table, with a set of electric pincers on the bottom of his ship. He uses this to drop bombs on the player, so staying on the ground is inadvisable. Instead, the player must spin dash up to, and utilize, the bumpers in order to hurl themselves at Robotnik.
Hill Top Zone
Set in a mountain range high above the clouds, Sonic and Tails must face earthquakes and rising magma as they traverse this treacherous summit. Here, the doctor emerges from the lava in a heat proof submarine with a flamethrower attached on top. He will repeatedly emerge from the lava and attempt to shoot the player with flames, which also sets the ground on fire. The player must strike out at Robotnik once he emerges from the lava, while avoiding the jet stream of flames.
Mystic Cave Zone
This underground zone is set in a deep cave, which is covered in crystals. Sonic must swing from vines and avoid being crushed by crystals while they progress on their way to Dr. Robotnik. If the player manages to get through this stage, they are greeted at the end by Robotnik, who has a pair of drills attached on either side of ship. He uses these to drill into the ceiling and create sharp debris that will fall on the player if they’re not careful.
Oil Ocean Zone
This zone is a giant oil refinery which features pools of thick oil that that the player can skim across. The oil is a double-edged sword, however, as while players can use it, if they are not careful they can sink into it and lose a life. Robotnik appears here in a submarine similar to the one he uses in the Hill Top Zone, but instead of a flamethrower, he now has a laser cannon that is much more lethal. Another new tactic he uses is that when submerged, he will send out a claw that travels over one of the platforms on the screen.
This is the only stage in the game to contain three distinct acts. This massive, construction themed, zone features corkscrews, copious spikes, magma and, of course, industrial themed moving platforms. After players make the lengthy excursion to the end of act three, they will predictably find Dr. Robotnik there. This time, he is surrounded by seven shaped pods, which rotate around him, creating a protective shield. Every time the player hits Robotnik, one of the pods will break off and transform into an inflatable copy of him, but these don’t pose a problem as they can be destroyed with a single hit. After all the pods have been destroyed, Robotnik will strafe across the screen with a laser beam. He is vulnerable in this state, however, as one more hit will send him packing.
Sky Chase Zone
This one act zone is set in the sky, as Sonic rides on top of Tail’s plane, the Tornado. Throughout the stage, Sonic’s partner will remain under Sonic wherever he goes, so falling isn’t a problem here. The player comes up against a variety of aerial themed enemies, but when they get to the end they will find that there is no boss in this stage.
Wing Fortress Zone
Tails' plane, the Tornado, takes a hit and begins to fall to the ground. Sonic bails out and lands on Robotnik’s Wing Fortress. This flying citadel has many different traps and enemies, but the biggest threat to the player is falling off the screen, as this can be done a little too easily. Here, Robotnik has built a contraption to do the fighting for him. He locks Sonic within an energy field, and along with Sonic there is a laser cannon which strafes to and fro across the top of the screen, attempting to periodically fry the player. Along with the cannon, there are three flying spike platforms that bounce off the walls. The player must use these as a platform in order to reach and damage the sensitive cannon, while avoid their spiked sides.
Death Egg Zone
After the fight in the Wing Fortress Zone, Sonic chases Dr. Robotnik into the Death Egg. This, ringless, zone consists of two separate bosses. The first is Mecha Sonic, this doppelganger has some of Sonic’s moves, as he jumps and spin dashes across the stage. The player must hit him in the head while he stands still in order to damage him.
After a few hits, Mecha Sonic goes down, and Sonic progresses into the next room for his final confrontation with Dr. Robotnik. The giant robot he appears in lumbers slowly around the arena, but the lower half of said monstrosity is invulnerable. The only way the player can reach the breakable upper half is to wait for the right moment. After trudging around for a bit, Robotnik rockets off the top of the screen, causing a target to appear over Sonic. When the target begins flashing, the giant egg bot is about to come crashing down. Immediately after landing, the machine lurches forward presenting the only safe opportunity to attack. But the player has to be careful as every other fall, he'll fire off his spiked arms which are near impossible to avoid unless Sonic is out of reach. After twelve hits Robotnik will go down, and the ending of the game begins.
Hidden Palace Zone
By using a Game Genie, it is in fact possible to get into the Hidden Palace Zone, an incomplete level which was scrapped during development.
The code to unlock it is ACLA-ATD4 and then going into level select and pressing A and Start together when highlighting the Death Egg Zone.
The level is obviously unfinished and cannot be completed without creating the Egg Prison item in debug mode. Bits of the level design seen in the numerous Beta versions of the game are still there including the infamous 'Master Emerald' block. All level art seen in previous Betas have been deleted presumably to save cartridge space and most of the textures as a result are just a glitched mess. In the background however, art from the Oil Ocean Zone can be seen.
In the 2013 iOS and Android release of the game, this level was added as an easter egg.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2's soundtrack was composed by returning musician Masato Nakamura, bass guitarist for Japanese Pop-music band Dreams Come True. The song that plays after Sonic defeats the final boss (but before the credits roll) is in fact a karaoke version of a Dreams Come True song known as "Sweet Sweet Sweet" (or, as its known in America, "Sweet Dream"), from their triple-platinum album "The Swinging Star."
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 nearly did not happen. After completing Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka resigned from Sega of Japan. At this time, Sega of Japan paid its employees based purely on how long they had been working with the company, and Yuji Naka was a comparatively fresh face. Feeling his talents were being undervalued, he quit Sega and intended to move on, and many of the other members of Sonic Team were beginning to look for other projects as well. Naka was lured to America by Mark Cerny, who worked for the Sega Technical Institute (STI). STI was formed to help bridge the gap between the relatively new American game developers and the seasoned pros living in Japan. Yuji Naka along with a number of other key members of Sonic Team agreed to take part in this, and officially, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was started at STI, featuring a mixture of Japanese and American developers and designers.
Like the original Sonic the Hedgehog, a character design contest was held, this time to give Sonic a sidekick. The winner was Yasushi Yamaguchi's "Miles Prower" design. However, the name "Miles" was not very favorable among the American side of the team, who felt he needed a more allegorical name, similar to "Sonic." Some among the Japanese, however, liked the pun of "Miles Prower," which, when said out loud (and with a Japanese accent), sounded similar to "Miles Per-Hour." In the end, the name of "Tails" won out -- but Yasushi Yamaguchi still snuck in references to "Miles Prower" in secret wherever possible. This ultimately lead to everybody getting what they wanted: the character's full name being Miles, with "Tails" serving as a nickname.
With a larger-than-average team working on the game, Sonic 2 was planned to be a significantly larger game than the original Sonic, with nearly three times as many levels, a world map screen, and a time travel mechanic. As you'd progress through the game, the island you were on would transform as the timeline was altered, revealing new levels to access. This idea was started completely separately from Sonic CD for the Sega CD, which also featured its own take on the time travel concept; both games merely happened to hit on a similar idea at the exact same time, despite being developed more than 8,000 miles away from each other.
Sega wanted to strike while the iron was hot however, and Sonic 2's ambitious design document had to be trimmed in favor of a shorter, tighter game. Many levels were cut, as was its time traveling storyline. As a result of this, Sonic 2 was developed very quickly, releasing less than 17 months after the original Sonic the Hedgehog.
Following the success of Sonic 2, Sega of Japan re-hired Yuji Naka at a better rate, establishing a more consistent Sonic Team for the production of Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
- The design for The Death Egg in this game most likely came from a Japanese TV commercial for the original Sonic the Hedgehog, wherein Sonic pilots a space ship to destroy a massive space station similar to Star Wars' own Death Star, but modified to look like Dr. Eggman's face.
- Early beta versions of the game reveal a number of levels that had to be cut from the final release of Sonic 2, including Wood Zone, a stage set in leafy tree tops, and Dust Hill Zone, a western-themed stage full of cacti and desert-dwelling robots. Hidden Palace Zone, not to be confused with the Sonic & Knuckles stage of the same name, also exists in the beta version, along side an unplayable entry for a "Genocide City Zone". The stage "Neo Green Hill Zone" also exists, though selecting it from a stage-select menu takes Sonic to Aquatic Ruin Zone, possibly suggesting it originally went by a different name earlier in development.
- Interviews with various Sonic 2 graphics and level designers reveal even more cut levels never seen publicly: A recolored version of Dust Hill Zone to transform the sand in to snow, a Rock Zone, and a level called Cyber City Zone. According to these developers, the name "Genocide City" was chosen because Sonic Team wanted a name that sounded aggressive. After some explanation of what the word "Genocide" meant, it was renamed to Cyber City Zone. Cyber City was supposed to take place between Metropolis Zone and Sky Chase. Enough preliminary work was completed that the remnants of Cyber City Zone were turned in to Metropolis Zone Act 3.
- Level layouts from the cut level Wood Zone match up with level layouts for Metropolis Zone, hinting at Sonic 2's lost time travel feature. This suggests that Wood Zone would have possibly been what Metropolis Zone looked like in the distant past.
- In another strange coincidence between Sonic 2 and Sonic CD, artwork exists of Sonic CD's "Little Planet" (where that game takes place) showing a desert region with cacti. Sonic CD's desert level never made it in to the final game, just like Sonic 2's lost Dust Hill Zone.
- Many of the resources made for deleted Sonic 2 levels eventually made it in to Sonic Spinball, another Sega Technical Institute game. Tiles for Hidden Palace Zone can be seen in the background for Toxic Caves, and graphics for a level called "The Machine" match up with concept art drawn for Cyber City Zone.
- By collecting all seven chaos emeralds and fifty rings in a level, Sonic can transform in to the invincible Super Sonic form. Super Sonic is a bright golden yellow color with up-turned spikes, an obvious reference to Dragon Ball Z's Super Saiyan form. Yuji Naka was reportedly a big fan of Dragon Ball, and during his stay in America, even instructed a friend to record and ship VHS tapes with the latest episodes to him overseas.
- Tails is no ordinary fox. In Japanese folklore, some foxes can be mischievous mythological beings referred to as "Kitsune" (pronounced "Kit-Sue-Ney"). As a Kitsune ages, it grows additional tails, up to a maximum of nine. Additional tails on a Kitsune represent the level of knowledge and mystical energy within the being. Some stories say that a Kitsune will only grow a new tail every 1,000 years. A Kitsune with 9 tails is said to have infinite wisdom, and usually has fur that appears golden in color.
8-bit Master System/Game Gear Game
A month before the release of its console big brother, the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released for the Sega Master System on October 16, 1992. It was exclusive for PAL territories, such as Europe and South America, regions where the Master System was popular. It was followed by a port to the Sega Game Gear handheld, in PAL regions on October 29, 1992, followed by a North American release in November 1992.
Sega outsourced its development to Aspect Co. Ltd,which created a very different game from similar concepts.
Being released before the 16-bit version for the Mega Drive/Genesis, the 8-bit editions of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 represented the debut of character Miles "Tails" Prower, who became a recurring character in the series.
The Master System version was released for the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console on November 18, 2008 in Japan, in North America on December 8, 2008 and in the PAL regions on December 26, 2008.
South Island has been peaceful since Dr. Robotnik's defeat. Sonic, bored, decides to go on a journey in search of other adventures. Upon his return, he is shocked to find the island nearly abandoned. The only clue as to where all his friends might have disappeared to is a single note, written by his two-tailed fox buddy, Miles "Tails" Prower. In the note, Tails explains that he's been kidnapped by Dr. Robotnik and is being held in a place called Crystal Egg. The price for Tails' safe return are the 6 Chaos Emeralds, to be delivered to 6 new boss robots. Thus, Sonic goes on a quest to find the Chaos Emeralds and rescue Tails.
The 8-bit Sonic 2 seems to be very similar to the 16-bit version on the surface, but is a considerably different feeling game. It features its own unique roster of levels, completely separate from the console version, with unique bosses and themes. Many gameplay elements carried over from the 8-bit version of Sonic 1 also see improvements, like the ability to recollect dropped rings (similar to the 16-bit version).
If the player manages to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds hidden in the game's previous levels, upon defeating Silver Sonic at the end of the Scrambled Egg Zone, they will move on to the game's final showdown with Dr. Robotnik and the game's true ending. Failure to collect the Chaos Emeralds before the encounter with Silver Sonic will result in the game ending after his destruction and the player receiving the "Bad Ending," in which it is implied that Tails has been lost forever.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 received preview coverage in the October 1992 issue of GamePro.
The Game Gear's lower screen resolution results in the Game Gear version having a smaller visible screen area than the Master System edition, causing some fans to consider the Game Gear version the more challenging title. For example, when facing the boss of the Underground Zone, the reduced screen area either side of Sonic gives the player less time to react to hazards moving onto the screen. Other bosses were also affected: the Green Hills Zone battle takes place in a smaller, steeper arena; there is a 3rd chute which cannot be seen while fighting Robotnik in the final Crystal Egg stage. The music for the intro sequence is also different. The Game Gear version uses the Scrambled Egg Zone music for the scene showing Robotnik escaping with the captive Tails and the Master System intro music for the title. The boss music is also different between the two versions. The Master System version used a single theme for the endings while a new good ending theme was added for the Game Gear version.
The Game Gear version also features dark blue (instead of green) water in the second Act of the Aqua Lake Zone, and omits the game's only "Speed Shoes" item box, which may be found only in the Master System version of this stage. In the Game Gear version in power-up's original location is a Ring item box instead, thus rendering the item unused in said port.
The music for Green Hills Zone was later used as the theme song for the Japanese and European versions of Sonic the Hedgehog CD, where it is called "Sonic: You Can Do Anything". A remix of the tune is also used for Mecha Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos.
The Sega Master System/Game Gear game was re-released on:
- Sonic Mega Collection (2002) (GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Sonic Adventure DX (2003) (GameCube, PC)
- Sonic Gems Collection (2005) (GameCube, PS2)
The game was later re-released on Nintendo's Virtual Console service, with the Master System version released for the Wii Virtual Console in December 2008 and the Game Gear version released for the Nintendo 3DS eShop in June 2013.