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The sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog, and proof that Sega's little blue mascot wouldn't be going away anytime soon. It was notable for introducing Sonic's buddy Tails, and Super Sonic, the eponymous character's Emerald-powered super form, as well as the Spindash technique. It is the best selling Sega Genesis game of all time, selling over six million copies.
Like its predecessor, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had both a 16-Bit and 8-Bit version, but unlike its predecessor, both versions had different stories.
The 16-Bit Version
On a trip to West Side Island, Sonic meets a shy young fox named Miles Prower, nicknamed "Tails" by the other inhabitants of the island based on the fact that he has two tails. Sonic allows Tails to tag along with him when he notices that the fox can keep up with him by rotating his two tails like a jet propeller. Tails is also a surprisingly gifted mechanic for his age, as evident when he curiously examines the Tornado, a biplane Sonic used to travel to West Side Island.
The island looks like it will be a nice vacation spot, when one day, the duo witness a forest fire. Unsurprisingly to Sonic, Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik is behind this attack. Robotnik and his Badniks have invaded West Side Island in search of the (now) seven Chaos Emeralds, leaving a trail of wanton destruction. The mad doctor apparently now has his sights set on world domination and needs the Emeralds to bring his planet-sized space station--the Death Egg--to full power. Joined by Tails, Sonic sets off once again to take down Robotnik.
Its engine based on its predecessor, Sonic 2 GEN kicks everything up a notch. The gameplay is faster than before. It features 11 zones, most of which have two acts; to compensate for having one act less per zone than its predecessor, the acts here are quite a bit longer. Debuting here is the Spindash, a technique where Sonic (or Tails) spins in place, revs up, and takes off as a spinning ball of doom, allowing players to destroy Badniks without having to jump and gain instant speed to go up slopes and loops. Also making its debut is the super form; here, after collecting all seven Emeralds and gathering 50 rings, Sonic turns into Super Sonic, a golden hedgehog who's even faster than his regular form and possesses a higher jump (as well as invulnerability.) The Special Stages were also retooled, introducing a "non-stop 3D movement" philosophy that would be embraced by the special stages of its successors. Thanks to these improvements and additions, Sonic 2 GEN is a massive fan favorite, not to mention the second-best-selling Genesis game of all time (right behind its predecessor, of course).
Tropes appearing in this version:
- Acrofatic: Dr. Robotnik turns out to be this when fleeing Sonic into his giant mecha. How he outruns Sonic is unclear. Maybe Robotnik is the fastest thing alive after all.
- Action Bomb: Asterons.
- Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Wing Fortress Zone.
- Airborne Mook: Buzzers (which were based off the previous game's Buzz Bombers), Whisps, Flashers, Aquis, and everything in the Sky Chase zone.
- Art Evolution: The early version of the Casino Night Zone looks kinda different.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: As indicated by the end of Wing Fortress, both Sonic and Tails can breathe in space... but not in water.
- Big Damn Heroes: Tails gets such a moment in the normal ending by flying the Tornado near the edge of space to catch Sonic after the Death Egg's explosion. If playing as Tails alone, Sonic gets this BDH moment. If all seven Emeralds are collected as Sonic, he goes Super after jumping out and flies alongside the Tornado instead.
- Bonus Feature Failure: Tails is identical to Sonic in every way, with one exception: Unlike Sonic, he cannot go Super. (Players couldn't actually control his signature flying ability while playing as him until Sonic Chaos and slightly later in 16-bit in Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and he also had a lowered jump height and running speed).
- Boss Dissonance: A fair bit of it, zigzagging back and forth: Casino Night and Wing Fortress for example have bosses harder than the levels; Hill Top, Mystic Caves, and Oil Ocean have a trifecta of Breather Bosses in levels that get steadily tougher.
- Butt Monkey: Tails is, as one "Let's Play" author on YouTube put it, gaming's first meat shield.
- Casino Park: Casino Night Zone.
- Christmas Rushed: Deadlines resulted in the loss of five planned Zones (one, Genocide City, was turned into a third act for Metropolis Zone).
- Comic Book Adaptation: Issues 228 and 229 of Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog feature Sonic and Tails, along with Sally, Antione, and Rotor, traveling through some of the game's levels.
- Also, issue 6 of Sonic the Comic had a story in which Sonic and Tails travel through the last two zones of the game in order to prevent the destroyed Death Egg from crashing into the Emerald Hill Zone.
- Continuing Is Painful: This game is an instance in which continuing after something beneficial happens can be painful: once you go into a special stage, you come back out with no rings. Thankfully, this isn't the case when playing as Knuckles.
- Credits Medley
- Duel Boss: The battles at the Wing Fortress and Death Egg zones, since even in Sonic & Tails mode, Tails is shot down in the Tornado on the way there.
- Dummied Out: A couple of zones met this fate, most notably the Hidden Palace Zone, of which you can find its BGM (track 10) in the finished game's sound test menu. HPZ would appear in Sonic and Knuckles due to complaints about how they left out a beautiful level when it was advertised so much, but sadly it was almost nothing like the original.
- Eternal Engine: A number of levels, but most notably Chemical Plant Zone and Metropolis Zone.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Mystic Cave Zone and Metropolis Zone.
- Executive Meddling: Sonic Team planned for eighteen stages but producers wanted to get the game out in time for the Christmas season which forced Sonic Team to scrap several stages.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: If you're playing as Sonic and Tails, both characters are present in the Special Stages even during the last few levels where Tails is absent.
- Green Hill Zone: Emerald Hill Zone, essentially an even easier variation on the original Green Hill.
- Hailfire Peaks: Several levels don't fit well into any one category, such as Hill Top Zone (Death Mountain / Green Hill Zone / Lethal Lava Land) and Aquatic Ruin Zone (Temple of Doom / halfhearted Under the Sea).
- Human Cannonball: One of the more fun ways of getting around Oil Ocean Zone is to shoot yourself out of the various cannons dotted throughout the level.
- Inconveniently-Placed Conveyor Belt: Metropolis Zone has quite a few.
- Invincible Minor Minion: Crawl in the Casino Night Zone can only be destroyed by spinning or rolling into him from behind: attacks from above or the front bounce harmlessly off his pinball bumper shield. On the other hand, he's fairly passive and if you don't bother him, he won't bother you. An appropriate enemy for the Casino Park level.
- The Flashers in the Mystic Cave Zone are invincible when lit up (even when Sonic himself has the invincibility power-up, he'll just pass straight through them without destroying them).
- Kaizo Trap: Sort of. During the Chemical Plant Zone Boss, the ground on either side of the arena flips periodically, sending whatever's on them into the water and the pit just beneath the surface. Since there's probably no hope for you if you fall in, you still have to be careful after the boss is beaten, because the platforms still flip. It doesn't help that said boss is suddenly harder than what little you've already gone through.
- In Mystic Cave Zone, there's a pit of spikes that you can fall into that's too deep for you to jump out of. Normally, all it takes is a few seconds for you to die and then return to the last checkpoint (you land, lose your rings, and then die when you lose your Mercy Invincibility).) However, if you're Super Sonic, you're invincible, so you're trapped down there until you run out of rings and then die. Depending on how many rings you have at the time, this can take a while.
- A literal Kaizo Trap can happen at the end of Metropolis Zone Act 3. If you beat the boss as Super Sonic without destroying any of the clone bubbles the boss spawns and then run out of rings before reaching the animal pod at the end of the level, it's actually possible for the clone bubbles to follow you over to the pod and kill you while your end-of-level score is being tallied. Of course, you'd pretty much have to be actively trying for this to happen, so it overlaps heavily with Epic Fail.
- Levels Take Flight: The aptly named Sky Chase Zone. Despite the mellow groovy background music, and relaxed pace, it's harder than it looks.
- Logo Joke: Sonic rushes to the right, and then to the left, his afterimage revealing the Sega logo, the "SAYYYYYYY-GUH!" from the first game then playing.
- The Missingno: Messing around in debug mode could turn Sonic's sprite black and green; fans have nicknamed this new "character" Ashura.
- Not So Harmless: The crab-themed badniks in every other Sonic game, and most relevantly the Crabmeats in Sonic 1, are usually The Goomba, among the weakest enemies. Then the Metropolis Zone throws the Shellcraker [sic] at you, which looks similar but is insanely hard to avoid or kill with an incredibly small hitbox.
- Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: Present throughout Aquatic Ruin.
- Palette Swap: Tails is basically this for Sonic. Despite being able to fly while AI-controlled, you can't do so while playing as him. The only major gameplay difference is that Tails can't go super. Thank goodness for Divergent Character Evolution.
- Also, Hill Top Zone uses almost the same graphics as Emerald Hill Zone - the only differences being that the ground has blue blocks under the grass instead of brown, it has lava, and it has pine trees instead of palm trees. Loading the game in a tile editor reveals EHZ even has the vines that those blue platforms slide down, and a very early prototype of the game (which appears to be the same one shown on an episode of Nick Arcade) allows you to place the seesaws from Hill Top in Emerald Hill by using debug mode.
- Pinball Zone: Casino Night Zone.
- Pop Star Composer: Dreams Come True bassist Masato Nakamura once again, who provided music for its predecessor. Due to financial disagreements between him and Sega, this would be Nakamura's last contribution to the series until Sonic2006 (where DCT teamed up with Akon to do a remix of "SWEET SWEET SWEET" and "SWEET DREAMS"). Nakamura's departure resulted in the intro music for Sonic Spinball, originally a metal-esque remix of his Sonic theme, getting replaced by a different tune, and Sega relying on composers from its Wave Master music studio to write the music for most subsequent Sonic games.
- Scenery Porn: The second game manages to be even more beautiful than the first, which was already gorgeous as it was.
- Schizophrenic Difficulty: Chemical Plant Act 2 is a lot harder than it's position in the game (fourth act out of twenty) would suggest, and for a while afterwards the game gets quite a bit easier.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: When playing as Sonic with Tails tagging along, the Tornado-1 gets shot down at the beginning of Wing Fortress Zone--with Tails inside. Sonic has to face the last two levels alone.
- Inverted if you're playing as Tails: the Tornado gets shot down with Sonic inside.
- Shout-Out: Few American kids might have caught the reference in '92, but looking back, it's hard to observe Sonic powering up to an absurdly high level by sporting gold fur and wildly upright spines (after collecting seven artifacts of power, no less) and not be reminded of a certain anime series. Also, that's no moon. It's a Death Egg.
- For Japanese children, it made perfect sense; however, Dragon Ball Z did not become popular in the United States until Toonami picked it up several years later. So for many American children, the "super" shtick was more of an Older Than They Think .
- Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: Mystic Cave Zone and Metropolis Zone have most of them in this game.
- Spiritual Successor: Several levels follow the same themes as those in Sonic 1.
- The Emerald Hill Zone for the Green Hill Zone.
- The Casino Night Zone is a (far more fun) development on the Spring Yard Zone 'pinball machine' theme, to the extent that it's one of the most influential levels on future Sonic games while all vestiges of Spring Yard were dropped.
- The Metropolis Zone for the Scrap Brain Zone. Both are an Eternal Engine, green in colour, etc...to the point where people playing Sonic 2 for the first time in 1992 were subject to Your Princess Is in Another Castle when they found out it wasn't in fact the final level.
- Super Mode: Introduced in this game. Become Super Sonic by collecting all Chaos Emeralds. After that, collect 50 rings and jump. Normally touching enemies hurts Sonic, but as Super Sonic, it defeats enemies instead. Touching spikes in Super Mode won't hurt Sonic either, but he can still die by falling in a Bottomless Pit, being crushed, or drowning. As Super Sonic, Sonic's rings decrease steadily and he turns back into regular Sonic if he runs out. It's only for Sonic though. Tails will have to wait for the next game(s).
- Tagalong Kid: Sonic's new sidekick Tails.
- Theme Music Power-Up: Super Sonic.
- This Is a Drill: Robotnik has two drill-themed contraptions: the drill-tank contraption from Emerald Hill, and the cave-burrowing contraption from Mystic Cave.
- The Grounder Badnik in Aquatic Ruin Zone has two drills for hands and a third for a nose. The Spiker Badnik in Hill Top Zone comes equipped with a detachable spiked drill on its head.
- Tube Travel: In the Chemical Plant Zone and the Metropolis Zone.
- Under the Sea: Aquatic Ruin Zone is a fairly halfhearted attempt, given that it's quite easy to pass both acts without going underwater once. It may represent fan backlash over Labyrinth Zone, but annoyed players who didn't automatically view water levels as Down the Drain.
- Ironically, you could easily spend more time under-'water' in the Chemical Plant Zone.
- Unwinnable By Mistake: When you finish the stage as Super Sonic--i.e. run past the spinning sign at the end--you immediately power down. If you jump again, you'll transform into Super Sonic, immediately power down, and be stuck running in place in midair. Sonic runs to the right and offscreen when the sign finishes spinning; but if he's stuck in midair, the stage doesn't register as finished and you have to reset.
- Urban Legend of Zelda: Several planned levels were Dummied Out, such as Wood Zone (eventually recycled as Mushroom Hill in Sonic and Knuckles), Death Egg (all of the level before the final boss fights was cut) and Hidden Palace (whose soundtrack and some data survives in the final cartridge). A lot of Wild Mass Guessing has surrounded these, including the idea that originally Sonic 2 was supposed to have the time-travel gimmick of Sonic CD and the Dust Hill Zone (which eventually became the Mystic Cave Zone) was a Bad Future of Emerald Hill, and so forth. A particularly mysterious cut level is the gloriously named Genocide City Zone.
- Genocide City was actually supposed to be a single act zone, and was replaced by the third act of Metropolis Zone, Or So I Heard.
- Genocide City was eventually renamed Cyber City Zone once the Japanese developers understood what the word actually meant. However the lost zone did make a comeback of sorts in Sonic Spinball.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Tails may be immortal, but the level design offers ample opportunity to "kill" him by squashing him with obstacles. This potential became a Running Gag in Cybershell's ~Let's Play~ of this game and Sonic 3 and Knuckles in retaliation for Tails's Artificial Stupidity.
- This is also the entire point of the Tails abuse Machinima series by Whoisthisgit on Youtube (the ones that use actual gameplay at least).
- Wake Up Call Boss: Robotnik's chemical-dumper contraption from Chemical Plant Zone, the second zone. It's not too hard, but the two platforms on both sides of the field periodically collapse into bottomless pits, making it very possible for a chemical projectile to knock you into the purple water below. Playing as "Sonic and Tails" also presents its share of problems, as when you jump, so does Tails, and if he hits Robotnik first, you'll go through Robotnik (due to his Mercy Invincibility) and down the pit.
- However, if you actually have a second player to wield the other controller, it becomes laughably easy, since a crouching Sonic is immune to the boss' attack, and Tails will always respawn if you manage to get him killed.
- Warmup Boss: Robotnik's drill-tank contraption from Emerald Hill Zone, which goes from one side of the screen to the other. It's even easier than the wrecking ball contraption from Sonic 1 (which was also the first boss of its respective game)!
- Wasted Song: The Death Egg Zone theme is whimsically creepy, catchy, and awesome...and since it's only played in the corridor before the Mecha Sonic fight, you likely won't even hear 10 seconds of it. This is justified by the fact that it was originally supposed to be played for a full-length Act in the Death Egg Zone, but that was Dummied Out.
- What Could Have Been
- Would Be Rude to Say Genocide: There was an originally planned but deleted zone called Genocide City. The Japanese developers chose the name because they thought it sounded cool, but then they bothered to look up what the word meant.
- Wrap Around: A few parts in Metropolis Zone loop vertically, leading to instances of I Fell for Hours.
The 8-Bit Version
Bored after defeating Robotnik a little while back, Sonic leaves South Island in search of adventure. When he returns, he finds most of his animal friends, including his best bud Tails, gone. He finds a letter from Tails, which states that Robotnik is behind the kidnappings, and he's holding Tails ransom for the six Chaos Emeralds inside his lair, the Crystal Egg Zone. Justifiably riled up, Sonic sets off once again to take down Robotnik.
This version of Sonic 2 builds on its predecessor with somewhat faster gameplay, even including loops in one zone. It also includes some differences from its 16-Bit counterpart, such as zone gimmicks including mine carts and hang gliders, the lack of a spindash (perhaps due to being this being the first version released), and the omission of Tails as a playable character (for obvious reasons, of course).
Once again, however, the Emeralds are collected in the second act of each zone, except for the sixth, where it's the reward for beating the penultimate zone's boss after collecting the first five. Getting all of them grants access to the true final zone, the areforementioned Crystal Egg, where Sonic confronts Robotnik in a final battle to save Tails.
It's also the only SMS/GG Sonic to not have Special Stages.
Tropes appearing in this version:
- Bubbly Clouds: Sky High Zone is a mix of this and Death Mountain, as the lower parts of its Acts appear to be a mountain peak and the upper parts are clouds, some of which can be stood on.
- Easter Egg: There is a 1-up hidden at the left side of Sky High act 1. When Sonic jumps over the monitor, a group of birds will come out of the trees and jump around.
- Hostage for Macguffin: Tails.
- Kill the Cutie: Heavily implied in the Bad Ending.
- Nintendo Hard: The Game Gear release is considered significantly harder than the Master System's due to a smaller resolution inhibiting players from being able to see what's ahead, resulting in cheap hits/deaths.
- No Fair Cheating: You need all the Chaos Emeralds to get to the Crystal Egg zone to get the good ending. If you don't have them all (save the one you get from the boss) the game ends there with the bad ending. If you use the level select cheat to get to the Crystal Egg zone, you'll rescue Tails (he'll appear in the teleporter when Robotnik retreats), but he won't be there in the ending.
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Due in part to the lack of checkpoints or shields and the increased length of the still-ringless boss Acts (Green Hills Zone Act 3 in particular has a series of blind jumps over spike pits before you reach the boss), this game is generally regarded as significantly harder than its predecessor, as well as harder than most other Sonic games from the same era. The Game Gear version adds some difficulty due to the screen displaying a smaller area, but even the Master System version is widely considered difficult by the standards of the series.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: In the Master System release, what is the cheery title screen music in the GG release plays in the opening cutscene where Tails is kidnapped by Robotnik, and the melancholic music from the bad ending plays for both endings. The Game Gear release rectifies both cases by using the suitably foreboding Scrambled Egg Zone theme in the opening cutscene and providing happy music for the good ending.
- Villainous Rescue: Robotnik surprisingly pulls this on Sonic in Underground Zone Act 3; when Sonic is about to fall into a pit of lava, he hastily grabs him with a claw machine, lifting him up...only to drop him into a boss battle.
- Zero Effort Boss: The boss of Aqua Lake, a robotic seal who just knocks Sonic away like a ball, is incapable of directly harming you.
Tropes appearing in both versions:
- Eternal Engine
- Evil Knockoff: Silver Sonic.
- Green Hill Zone: Emerald Hill Zone and Green Hills Zone in the 16-Bit and 8-Bit versions respectively.
- Multiple Endings: As mentioned above, the ending in the GEN version changes a little based on who you're playing as and--in Sonic's case--whether or not you got all the Emeralds, though there are no downer endings or even stingers.
- In the 8-Bit version, without collecting the first five Emeralds upon defeating the Scrambled Egg boss, the game simply ends there, and you get a total Downer Ending. Unable to save Tails, Sonic is running along a trail while sad music plays, and after the staff roll ends, he halts to look at the sky, where he sees Tails's face in the clouds, implying that poor Tails was killed. The good ending is infinitely more satisfying. Happy music plays (unless it's the SMS version, where it plays the sad music for both endings) as Sonic and Tails run along a trail, and after the staff roll ends, they halt to look at the sky, and see each other's faces in the clouds.
- Lethal Lava Land: Hill Top Zone and Metropolis Zone (GEN), and Underground Zone (8-Bit).
- Punny Name: Miles Prower = "miles per hour".
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Both games are considerably tougher than Sonic 1 for Genesis and Gear, the Game Gear Sonic 2 being particularly more brutal than the original.
- Time Travel: Was originally supposed to invoke it so that it would be closer in feel to Sonic CD, but was scrapped at some point in development.
- Underground Level: Mystic Cave Zone (GEN) the aptly named Underground Zone (8-Bit).
- Underwater Ruins: Aquatic Ruin Zone (GEN) and Aqua Lake (8-Bit).
- Villain Exit Stage Left: In the Genesis version, Dr. Eggman flies away when defeated, as usual. However, when defeated on his giant mech, he goes down with the Death Egg (though he survived and the Death Egg didn't really explode). In the 8-bit version, it's played straight as he escapes after the final battle.