Review copy provided by Sega
3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the second Genesis/Mega Drive Sonic game to hit the 3DS eShop again comes with added stereoscopic 3D visuals and other new features as the original did before it. I played the game from beginning to end, and actually for the very first time ever as well. This will be a fresh perspective from someone who has never played the game fully before which may surprise some people. I would be lying if I said I’ve never played the game before, because I did in fact play it in Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube way back in 2002. However that was more in bite-sizes and playing around with the infamous debug mode (can’t go wrong with instant Super Sonic).
But here on 3DS I played the game fair and square… with one exception, which I promise to address in the review you are about to read.
Home Menu of the game
To begin, I wish to clarify that I only merely tried out the 3D the game is offering, and in my personal opinion, it doesn’t add much to the game at all. You’re not going to get something revolutionary unless you love 3D to begin with (to me, 3D is a complement, rather than a needed feature in games, it doesn’t mean much to me other than minor amusement). In particular, I found the 3D in the special stages, which a lot were looking forward to seeing in motion, really doesn’t work much at all. Especially since the frame-by-frame motion of the stage doesn’t mesh with the 3D and can indeed be hard to handle. The game may be called 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but to me the real appeal is that the game is on it in all its classic Genesis/Mega Drive glory and in native 320×224 resolution to boot, no more blurry upscaling here. I also want to quickly mention that I did not play the multiplayer mode in the game because I don’t have anyone else to try it with so this review is squarely about the core single-player game.
With that aside, let’s talk about the game. This is a tad difficult, because people reading this have a lot of expectations, because the vast majority have played all the classics and love them dearly, and I can very much see why and the appeal. My personal experience with Sonic 2 is actually not as rosy as you’d imagine it to be.
Regular gameplay of Emerald Hill Zone in Original Mode
Let’s start with the good, and there are certainly great things to talk about. First off, it’s a beautiful game, the game on 3DS indeed still runs at a brisk 60 frames per second and you really get that classic sense of speed when going fast. Also the aforementioned native resolution just makes the pixels shine, and of course you have beautiful color reproduction and it being on an LCD and everything. You’re looking at the game literally how it was supposed to look.
There’s also the music by the same composer as Sonic 1, Masato Nakamura. His tunes are back, and sound exactly as they should and great as always. I must say and others have pointed this out; when you boot-up the game on 3DS the “SEGA” chant is bizarrely lower-quality than it should be, I tested Sonic 1 on 3DS and it sounds fine. I’m not sure why that is, M2 are famous for their attention to detail and skills in porting and emulating, so I won’t fault them for it. There must be a reason, but it’s not that big of a deal, it sounds alright otherwise and the music and sound effects are just fine. Actually it needs to be brought up that the sound effects tend to favor one over the other where certain occasions will only play one sound over and other at the same time, but that’s likely just to emulate the Genesis/Mega Drive’s limitations.
With the good out of the way, it’s now time to look at the bad, and there are some major topics to cover. The biggest of them all is what you see right above; the special stages. Is it the format with the half-pipe? No, actually the gameplay is legit fun and trying to grab each row of rings and whatnot is fun yet challenging. Sure the spike balls can be a bit of a pain to avoid, but overall that’s just fine. The real thorn, is Tails. Tails has a problem; he is not only able to grab rings, but he is not invincible, and he’s not one to avoid hazards. This is a critical problem. As you may know, the goal is to collect the amount of rings required to get through three sections until you finally reach that precious chaos emerald with 7 to collect in total. Tails likes to hog rings and loses them constantly, he cannot hold on to rings to save his life, so it comes down to you having to make sure Sonic is the one to grab them before Tails does. But there are times when it’s just a constant case of where you’re less than a handful of rings short of the goal, and this happens a lot.
There are other issues in the game and surprisingly, it comes from Sonic’s trademark; his speed. The very soul of the franchise, the very thing Sega used to combat Nintendo and Mario himself. Sonic loves to move fast, who doesn’t? There’s just a problem, he doesn’t get much of a chance to do just that, because you usually have an enemy right in his path who you’ll bump into and lose all your rings. This can be pretty bothersome, but admittedly it’s not the worst thing (that would be the aforementioned special stages issue), but it is an annoyance all the same.
Super Sonic Mode
There’s also the platforming that needs to be addressed, while Sonic is able to hop around platforms alright, Super Sonic is a nightmare at times. He is as slippery as butter, especially at Wing Fortress. A major issue is that you are forced to transform once you collect 50 rings after a mere jump, you have to lose all your rings to avoid doing so but it’d be much better if you could either use a different button to transform (or just hit the jump button a second time in the air), or have the option to return to normal and retain your rings.
Another minor issue though this is solved anyway but is one that existed in the game’s design; I’m not fond of having to play the game all in one go. I grew up with games with save files, I can’t imagine playing a game where if you have to leave or take a long break, you’ll have to leave the system on or be forced to shut the system off. This however is fixed in two ways anyway, one in the actual game where you can use the level select cheat via the sound test, but not everyone would’ve known this especially in the early nineties. The second, which is by far the best thing about this version of the game and you will be so thankful it exists, is the use of save states. Save states truly saved the game for me… no pun intended. This is so useful in many ways, but most of all in the special stages where you can save at any point in them, even to the very ring spot. Trust me I used this feature to the fullest and I am so thankful for it. I honestly would not have beaten the game without it.
Ring Keeper Mode, along with the Pause Menu
The 3DS version does add a Stage Select option in the bottom screen menu you can access from the start of the game (handy for returning players). As well as a Ring Keeper mode that gives you 10 rings at the beginning of each act and cuts your ring loss in half instead of losing them all. This mode can actually indeed make things a lot easier for you, particularly when going after special stages or trying to collect enough rings to become Super Sonic. Though save states when used right arguably do the job better; save when you collect rings, if you get hit, revert to said save instantly. It really depends on what you need it for, or if you even want to use save states. Options are always welcome of course. The CRT mode allows you to give the graphics a color-bleeding, blurry appearance in addition to curving the outer corners of the screen, as if you were playing on a real CRT television. You actually are able to use the 3D to view it like it was in a curved screen, but again it depends how much value you see in that.
The game also allows you to unlock Super Sonic Mode by beating the game without getting all the emeralds. At the beginning of each act you’re given 50 rings so you can just jump once and turn into Super Sonic straight away. This is handy because as mentioned the special stages are quite a handful, and they’re far easier to access just as long as you don’t wait too long and your ring count goes below 50 when being Super Sonic. It’s up to you if you want to beat the game in the old fashioned way, which is what I did. I was determined to play it as close as possible to how it was designed to be played, but I could not handle the lack of saving and the other issues I need not bring up again hence the use of save states.
In conclusion, understandably most of the review has been focusing on the game itself, rather than the 3DS version itself. The real question is for those who played the game at some point on other systems would be; “is the 3DS version worth it?”. The answer to that question is; it comes down to if you’ve had issues with the game and if you want to put up with them again, use the options available, or if you find that the issues are too off-putting to work with again. Really the port offers nothing amazing or grand for returning players other than the save states which will make replays far easier. And the aforementioned native resolution makes the game on a graphical front an attractive incentive. Of course there’s also the portability and the use of actual buttons compared to the mobile version for example.
As for me, honestly despite the annoyances I’ve had, I enjoyed my time with the game. The port is most attractive to me due to the native-resolution, save states, and the general portability of it. The port served my needs perfectly. So the answer to me is yes, it is worth it. However if these benefits don’t interest you and/or you’ve gotten your fill already, then no, it’s likely not worth playing yet again. I am personally hoping we’ll see 3D Sonic 3 and 3D Sonic & Knuckles as soon as possible on the 3DS eShop. Sonic 3 & Knuckles being the one I did play the most by far in Sonic Mega Collection (though again mostly in debug mode, I gave up playing it legit at, where else, the drum).
+ Save states, you’ll be so thankful for them.
+ The visuals really are a sight to behold with the sprites, colors, and native resolution making the game look super clean.
+ It feels like you’re playing a real Genesis/Mega Drive game on the go, kinda like the Sega Nomad, but not nearly as heavy or power-consuming.
+ The music is of course great to listen to.
+ When you go fast, it is fun to do and see.
+ Super Sonic is awesome, when you’re able to use him to his fullest.
– Tails in the special stages doesn’t co-operate, he’s the real hazard in them.
– Going fast is a blessing and a curse, you’ll bump into many enemies unless you take it slow, which kind of defeats the purpose don’t you think?
– Super Sonic is like butter, do not use him if you’re focusing on very specific platforming sections.
– 3D and other features such as a CRT-style mode don’t add a whole lot, it’s more of a “meh” point than a hate point, but it’s still worth mentioning.