I can pinpoint almost the exact moment in time that I fell in love with Sonic the Hedgehog. During my childhood, I spent a lot of time with my older cousins, and I’ll never forget having my eyes glued to their game shelf during every visit. That’s when I would get my first glimpse of the little blue guy.
Every time I entered my older cousin’s shared bedroom, I was met with the gaze of two game covers, namely, Sonic Spinball and Sonic CD, and the rest is kind of history. I was the exact demographic that Sega was appealing to during Sonic’s early years, because I remember thinking Sonic was the coolest thing in the world. His entire demeanor told me that Sonic is the coolest, hippest guy around, and I was inclined to believe him.
Before I ever touched a Sonic game, I was already in love with his character, and this love would only be accentuated by Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic’s first animated cartoon. The same two cousins that showed me the Sonic games, gave me a VHS tape that contained two episodes of AoStH, and I popped it in as soon as I got home. Watching the show only confirmed what I had suspected, that Sonic was a cool dude. He was full of energy, and laughed in the face of danger. Sonic also perfectly encapsulated that 90’s attitude that I’m such a sucker for, right down to his slang and mannerisms.
After that brief personal history lesson, this next statement may sound a bit weird, but I don’t really remember this first time I played a classic Sonic game. There’s a strange gap in my memory between my discovery of Sonic, and my first time playing the Genesis games. I kind of just always remember having, well… memories of playing them.
Although my memory of the classic games is hazy, my feelings about them are not. I adore each and every one of the classic Sonic sidescrollers, and I often go back and forth on deciding what the best classic Sonic game is between Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles (the latter usually wins). But my undeniable favorite has to be Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog is a great game, but it does have its flaws, namely in the pacing. Levels like Green Hill and Spring Yard do a great job of taking advantage of Sonic’s unique speed and pinball physics, while others like Marble and Labyrinth take Sonic and put him in standard blocky platforming sections.
In this context, Sonic 2 is the definitive example of a perfect sequel. It strips away all of the bad parts of the original game, all while doubling down on and improving the good things. Almost every level in Sonic 2 is packed with plenty of slopes, hills and shuttle loops that promote fast and smart play. Players that take the time to learn and master Sonic’s skills and moveset are rewarded by blazing through levels in record time. In addition, Sonic 2 gave Sonic his famous Spin Dash technique, which went a long way towards highlighting Sonic’s momentum based platforming.
Beyond its gameplay, there’s still quite a few things I love about Sonic 2. The game’s entire presentation is stellar. The colors are sharp, crisp and vibrant, and the music is a pure joy to my ears. Special mention to Sky Chase Zone, which is one of my favorite music tracks in the entire series. Sonic 2 was also the debut of many of what we now consider series staples. I previously mentioned the Spin Dash, but Sonic 2 also introduced the 7th Chaos Emerald, thus giving us access to Super Sonic. But Sonic 2’s biggest and most important contribution is, without a doubt, Miles “Tails” Prower.
Tails is Sonic’s twin tailed fox best friend, and a mechanical genius with skills that rival those of Dr. Eggman himself. Sonic and Tails make for best friends because they have a great dynamic. Sonic is cool, hip and edgy, but having a little brother figure like Tails softens him up a bit. Tails is cute, smart and loyal, but relies on Sonic’s companionship to boost his confidence and self-esteem (and did I mention how gosh darn cute he is?)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of my favorite games of all time for two reasons. One, it’s just a really great game. I love the zones, the music, the characters and the gameplay that manages to be easily accessible, but still reward skillful play. My second reason is the memories that I have tied to my childhood with Sonic. While I can’t recall any memories in regards to Sonic 2 itself, the game perfectly encapsulates my feelings about Sonic the Hedgehog as a child. I can’t ever play the game without reminiscing about the days that I spent admiring Sonic Spinball and Sonic CD’s cover arts, as well as the hours that I spent watching that Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog VHS tape on repeat.