Dr. Egg-bot-nik is back at it again and this time Sonic will need to do what he’s always done and that’s to send him packing in another 2D side scrolling platformer. Sonic Advance 2 is the fantastic follow-up to the previous game that has the struggle of being the sequel to an incredible game. When I bought this a decade ago, it just didn’t stand out other than its levels are longer with more pathways to the finish and its boss fights are tougher than any Sonic game because you need to chase the boss. Playing this now after not playing it for five years without being back-to-back with its predecessor I see what a superior Sonic game that it is.
I always felt the original Sonic games on the Genesis were overrated. The best that system had to offer, but a pale comparison to the platformers on other systems. Sonic Advance 2 is head an shoulders above the Genesis games with good reason, they’re a decade later, but they also encompass less annoyances. The original Sonic games were always good at letting you go fast for brief moments before putting a wall or enemy in front of you. This game takes away the enemies and walls to give a smoother experience without stopping. It never deviates from this core experience. There’s little need to ever stop and yet I still feel in control of Sonic.
Because this game is about travel rather than platforming, there are so many ways for Sonic and the crew to get around. You can run as normal, going through loops, but there are pipes to slide on which does take away a bit of freedom even if you can jump off at any time. Hang bars let you spin around until you jump off and the spring board bumpers are back to throw you in whatever direction their pointed. Water is still here, but rare. Most of the time its just for you to run over rather than dive in.
Like all Sonic games, you need to be decked out with as many gold rings that your fingers and toes can carry. When you take damage all the rings spray out of you. If you get hit with no rings, you lose a life, but that’s alright, because they’re so plentiful. Well up to nine. If you lose all your lives you need to start over from the beginning. It makes the game feel a bit harsh, but its also an easier game than the rest up to a certain point. Then the game wants you to stop playing by putting death pits and long, calculated jumps over them.
Every two bosses you’ll rescue a new character that becomes unlocked to play as. I suppose this is demonstrating how far they were in their quest to defeat Eggman themselves. Cream is out to save her mom, Tails is out to hang with Sonic, Amy to be rescued and Knuckles well… he’s an echidna or so I hear. He could just be a hedgehog with a jester hat.
All characters have an attack you can do when standing, some have a spin dash when you stand still, hold down and push the jump button. There’s now a stomp if you attack in mid air and even a double jump. These tricks mean little, but they do give the crew unprecedented control. Knuckles can climb walls. Tails can fly for a short time. Cream can hover or something similar with her bunny ears. Then Amy, she’s got a giant hammer. I’d say she’s the weakest link out of the five of them.
Throughout each stage there are more rings than ever to collect. For every one hundred coins you have at a time, you get an extra life and this is to make up for how brutal the bosses are. In this game his name is still Eggman, so I need to address him by that rather than Robotnik. I mean it could be his evil twin brother. You never know.
These boss Eggman would be far easier if they stood still. So each time you advance on them, you need to charge forward and struggle with your speed against their speed. Eggman through playing games, he drops bombs and fires guns depending on what level you’re on.
The real barrier for entry to Sonic Advance 2 is Eggman’s second boss which fires a humble yet tough to avoid gun. You need to recognize when the gun will shoot to jump or stay running. As you overcome speed the further bosses require more and more out of you to jump on platforms and then bop him on the head.
For each act there are two stages and then a boss stage. The environments feel fresh, perhaps the most unique in a long time. There are token heat and frozen areas along with a lush new green environment to start off the game without being a retread of old Grass Hill zones. The most unique out of any area has to be the Music zone which feels similar to the casino zones without the gambling.
If you collect enough star coins during a level you get to play the game’s new bonus rounds that have you running on a plane with the camera following behind. Its free flowing and open rather than stiff and rigid like Sonic 3’s bonus stages. If you survive long enough, you’ll earn an emerald at the end. I’d say these stages are tough to get to and you need to go out of your way to collect these star coins. I’d rather just go through the game quick as I can than endure all the padding put into the game.
As you progress through the game, you’ll see a map that marks the acts you’ve covered. Its a fun little frill that the original games never had.
Making its return is the same Tiny Chao Garden from the previous game, but I dare say its just easier to go back into Sonic Advance 1 and feed my old Tiny Chao. Sonic Advance 2 forces you to complete the entire game with all seven emeralds. You can also do what I did and that’s buy a used copy of the game where everything’s been unlocked through one form or another. This extra content needs to be unlocked a lot faster to keep people in the game.
The Tiny Chao garden lets you feed a Chao with food you purchase from the rings you’ve collected in the main part of the game. With food it will increase stats like flying, running, swimming, stamina and power. It will also improve the Chao’s mood and belly. When it swims in its pool it looks like its drowning. I’ve never understood why you have the Chao garden other than its a diversion to keep you in game and there are two mini games.
The first game is bouncing your Chao on a spring board that you control while it collects rings in the air. There’s also a memory game where to make it more Chao integrated, when it starts, Cheese the Chao will push the cards to mix them up I guess. You do these mini games to get more rings when its just easier to play the main game.
Sonic Advance 2 is a fun game, there’s just very little to keep you in the game and well its just in a shadow of its predecessor. After getting so far in Sonic Advance 2, I’d just go back to Sonic Advance 1. Its one of those things where both games stand tall. So tall that if you already own one, why have the other?