Any reasonable person who knows a thing or two about video games wouldn't deny that Sonic The Hedgehog defined Sega as a company. Through the late 80's, Sega's Master System... well, let's not mince words; it got destroyed by the NES when it came to sales. With an 83% lead in the markets, the NES just decimated that little black and red box. Then came the Sega Genesis, and later there was Sonic. Sega suddenly had half of the market, prompting the good old fun-time console wars of the early 90's. Genesis claimed to do what Nintendidn't, and Sonic certainly was at the forefront of the war. As the new century rang in, however, the once-proud blue hedgehog found himself in some dire straits. Sonic in 3D was panned as complete garbage by fans; games like Sonic '06 and Shadow The Hedgehog decried as worthless junk. Sonic fans lament these days of piss-poor games featuring the hedgehog, and cross their fingers in hope of a new good Sonic game. However... Sonic wasn't all perfect platforming roses until he went 3D. No sir. There exists a classic Sonic game that is, by and large, complete horse shit.. and it's for that Master System that got destroyed by Nintendo. There were three Master System Sonic games, and we are focusing on the second today. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on Master System is a pile of shit.
Before tearing into this one, however, it's worth a quick glance to see the few sparkles of interest it has. One might glance at this game and think it just a watered-down port of the more popular (and vastly superior) Genesis version of Sonic The Hedgehog 2. This is incorrect for two reasons. First, this is a completely original game with its own silly little plot that can be summed up simply: "Robotnik kidnaps Tails, Sonic goes to get him back.". What makes all of this interesting is clearly seen by comparing release dates. The Master System Sonic 2 was released in Europe on October 16th, 1992. By comparison, the Genesis Sonic 2 came out in Japan on... November 21st, 1992? Yes, that's right, this piece of crap predates the actual good Sonic 2. Further adding to the confusion, the Master System Sonic 2 was only released in Europe and Brazil, not seeing a North American or Japanese release... BUT! North America and Japan did get this game.. on the Game Gear. (More on that version and its special brand of shitty later.) That makes this game the first canonical appearance of Tails, even though he does nothing but be kidnapped. As another good point, the music is quite good; Master System chiptunes have this unique sort of sound that I kind of like myself, and this game does have rather hummable ones.
Okay, we're done being nice to this thing. Time to justify me calling it a piece of shit. What we'll do here is a twofold rundown; briefly going over each 3-act zone in the game, as well as explaining the aspects of the game that combine to make it horrible. We start off with...
UNDER GROUND ZONE
This zone is nothing really spectacular; in fact, most of it isn't even underground! Sure, there's some segments with mine carts and lava, but it doesn't feel very underground. Mystic Cave Zone you are not... but that isn't the complaint for this segment. Now this one is understandable, so it won't get so much hate on that regard. In the Genesis Sonic games, if you have a lot of rings and get hit, a lot of rings will spill out from you. It's not nearly as many as you had if you had like 100, but you still have a chance to get a good few rings back. In this game, though, if something hits you and you have a lot of rings... half a dozen at MOST will come out of you. I'm going to assume that this has something to do with the Master System being 8-bit and unable to draw 60 bouncing rings at once, but it still adds a handicap to the game not present on the Genesis.
SKY HIGH ZONE
Oh god this zone. Act 1 is probably the shortest thing in any Sonic game ever, barring some bullshit. Act 2 is a little longer and takes place in a thunderstorm and has you running on clouds. It's interesting, but what kills it is a devilish mode of transportation; THE HANG GLIDER. Yes, in Act 1 you need to use a hang glider to coast over a gap. This sounds easy on paper, but in practice this is the most bullshittily controlled hang glider in a video game ever. At first I thought it would work like the cape in Super Mario World, allowing for dives and swoops to soar through the air. BUT NO. The method used to control this hang glider (which I had to learn from the Internet because I'll be damned if the Virtual Console instructions could be assed to include it) is to run into it full-speed, then mash down-left on the d-pad, slowly jittering your way across the screen and just barely landing on the other side of the gap if done right. Jesus christ, thank god this thing is only in this zone.
AQUA LAKE ZONE
Prerequisite underwater zone, akin to Marble Garden from the good Sonic 2. It's especially fun to skip the underwater bullshit in Act 1 entirely by having Sonic skip across the surface of the water at high speed, like skipping rocks on a lake (which I could never do as a kid). Aside from some iffy underwater controls this zone isn't too bullshit, but some was encountered anyway by me. I got here with only one life left, and drowned due to a pixel-perfect jump made difficult by said iffy underwater controls. Did I get to continue? NOPE. THIS FUCKER'S GOT NO CONTINUES AT THE START. I mean, come on! You don't make a game filled with this sort of bullshit and have no continues in it! According to the Virtual Console operations guide, you can win a continue from the end-of-level sign. I've gone through this game twice though, and have never won one. Like, at all. For all intents and purposes, you have no continues unless you are lucky as fuck. This problem becomes especially nasty in the next zone...
GREEN HILLS ZONE
Yes, with an S. This is a precursor to the first zone of that other Sonic 2; the GOOD one. Much like the first zone of that OTHER game, this zone is surprisingly simple, with plenty of rings to get and only a few enemies and spikes to hurt you. It was a welcome change from the bullshit hang glider and underwater bits... until Act 3. I have been saving a synopsis of the third acts of each zone for this particular section because Green Hills Zone is the worst offender. You see, the third Act of each zone is a very short section of level that leads to a boss fight against some animal robot that Robotnik built. Sounds simple, right? Well, it isn't for one simple reason: THERE ARE NO RINGS. In ANY third act in this game. If you'll recall that other GOOD Sonic 2, the only time you were denied rings for a boss fight was the final boss gauntlet. You know, since it was THE LAST BOSS AND ALL. Luckily, most of the bosses are pathetically easy, save for maybe two (the final boss included). No, the problem with Green Hills Zone is getting TO its boss. The miniature level involves using a bunch of springs to clear spike pits.. except with your limited viewframe this will take many attempts as you try to find the perfect way to move to get across these pits. One fuck-up and it's instant death. Oh, and if you fuck up TOO much (like I did) it's game over since there's no continues and you have to play this shitfest all over again just to get a chance to try oh my god this fucking game I am going to kil
GIMMICK MOUNTAIN ZONE
Or "Gimmick Mt" as the game calls it. This place seems like a prototype to Metropolis Zone from, again, the GOOD Sonic 2. The main oddity here are spinning discs that you need to gain momentum on to launch up to OTHER spinning discs. The way you do this is by holding right, which took me a minute or two to figure out. (still not as bad as the hang glider.) Now is a good enough time to mention the Chaos Emeralds in this game, which are uniquely obtained.. but at a cost. Instead of playing a bonus game by having X amount of rings at a checkpoint to win them, they're just hanging around in the level as collectable secrets. They're tough to get to, but can be found with enough patience. However, what this means is that the levels HAVE no checkpoints. If you die you get booted all the way back to the start of the zone. This one is admittedly not THAT bad since the zones are short as fuck, but it's still salt in the no-continues wound.
SCRAMBLED EGG ZONE
You'd think this zone would be like the Death Egg, but no. Instead it's this odd... space... crystallized.. thing. It's hard to describe. The main gimmick and annoying thing here are tubes. Tubes with branching paths, only one of which is correct. This will take some trial and error (along with timing) to get past, and failure usually results in spikes and loss of rings. What fun! As a final double-slap to the face, the boss of this area is that lovely Metal Sonic thing that you fight in other, better Sonic games. Remember how much of a pain he was ringless in Genesis Sonic 2? Well.. he's a complete pushover here. Like, you can jump into him while he's rolling and bounce off harmlessly. He's a complete joke, and it's like the game has given up. The other fuck you comes if you haven't collected all the Emeralds; if you don't have all five so far, the game will end here. What fun, have a good time replaying this shitfest and finding them all. If you DO come back for more pain, the boss will drop a sixth emerald and let you go to...
CRYSTAL EGG ZONE
This place isn't a death egg either. It's just a crystal place that looks kind of nice, with some tricky jumps to make. It's nothing spectacular at all, and is only here as a final challenge. Going through this leads you to the final battle with Robotnik, which is the hardest boss so far, legit. That can be forgiven because it's the last boss and all, but it's still pretty unique. You spin around in a tube while Robotnik sits on a platform, triggering electricty and other deathtraps that will kill you if you leave the tube, the idea being to pop out of the tube and hit him quickly before going back to the tube and avoiding death. Quite the boss battle, and beating it will rescue Tails and give you.. a nearly identical ending to the one where you don't have the emeralds. Oh what joy. At least the nightmare is over.
I'm not done yet, though, as there's one final thing to address; the Game Gear version. Somehow it manages to be WORSE than the Master System version. In fact, I prompted a friend of mine to remember the Game Gear version. However, upon hearing that I managed to beat this shitty game in 2 days, all I got was the phrase "FFFFFFFFFFF". In their absence, I will explain the one thing that makes the Game Gear version so much worse; resolution. It is damned near impossible to see anything coming at you in the Game Gear release until it kills you, and this game is horrible enough on a TV. A prime example is the first boss, which involves jumping over bombs that bounce towards you. The Master System version is no big deal, but on the Game Gear? Not only can you barely see the bouncing, but it's ERRATIC. I can only imagine the horrors of trying to do that spring segment in Green Hills Zone Act 3. Poor Game Gear playing souls.
So, this game is a complete pile of horse manure. It's unfair, downright devilish with its level design, and its other version only manages to make it even MORE of a mess. Stick with the Genesis Sonic games, they're far better. The poor Master System doesn't deserve this sort of treatment. This is the system that gave rise to Phantasy Star, for god's sakes! It's shit like this that kept Phantasy Star and other decent Master System games down, and it's a shameful Sonic game. If you want a challenging game, play some Contra or Ninja Gaiden. At least those are hard but fair, unlike this garbage.