You might remember earlier this year when we reviewed Sonic the Hedgehog: Remastered, a collaborative effort between SEGA and indie programmer Christian Whitehead. We praised the port for its increased frame rate, the additions of Tails and Knuckles, the enhanced music clarity, the impeccably solid controls, and even the additional secret areas and paths. The only complaint we had with the game was that Sonic 1 – while good – was far from the series’ best entry, and thus was merely a stellar port of an otherwise not-quite-stellar game.
However, fast-forwarding approximately half a year, we witness as SEGA and Christian Whitehead – friend to pixels and polys alike – return once more with yet another mobile game port. This time they have set their sights upon one of the top-tier platforming classics of the 16-bit era: an enhanced mobile port of the legendary Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (out now, $0.99)! Accompanying this release is the same level of astounding polish that Christian Whitehead brought to his previous ports of Sonic 1 and Sonic CD, along with some new surprises that none of you would ever have dared to expect.
I will – right off the bat – confirm that the previously solid touch screen controls, last seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 1: Remastered, are back once more in all of their functional glory. On the device’s lower-left is your virtual analog/d-pad hybrid, which specifically works best when used like a d-pad, and on the unit’s lower-right is the multipurpose jump button. Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Remastered furthermore supports – to the delight of absolute control purists everywhere – the already available iCade, as well as all upcoming iOS7 compatible controllers.
However – beyond the basic abilities that Sonic 2 fans everywhere are already expecting – Tails now has the ability to fly, and even carry Sonic around, the same as he could in Sonic 3. This immediately opens up a greater degree of freedom when exploring the many alternate paths found within Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s impeccably designed levels, and even lets players easily undo bad jumps without forcing them to deliberately die. Classical purists – however – will be happy to know that this is a completely optional feature, of which is easily ignored, permitting them to fully preserve the original gameplay experience.
Anyways, the first thing one will notice when playing this port is – when compared to Sonic 2’s performance on an original SEGA Genesis – how much more smoothly everything moves. Everything here is rendered in glorious HD widescreen – at a staggering 60 frames-per-second – all with no slowdown ever taking place, regardless of how fast the action can sometimes become. This is especially breathtaking to behold on stages where there exist multiple layers of parallax scrolling occurring within the background, particularly when Sonic is charging forward at full tilt.
Even more mind-blowing – though – is that Christian Whitehead went back and created additional frames of animation for the scenery comprising Sonic 2’s famous bonus stages, resulting in a degree of fluidity that must be seen to be believed. However, instead of seeming completely off, the results of these changes feel as though the original hardware had just received a colossal turbo-charging retrofit of awesomeness. Truly, the now ancient SEGA Genesis only wishes that it could produce “blast processing” results on the same almighty caliber that Christian Whitehead has so seamlessly achieved.
While the enhanced audio found in Sonic the Hedgehog: Remastered certainly sounded great, the fact still remains that Sonic 1 simply never contained the legendary soundtrack that Sonic 2 featured. What you will hear in this port are not merely remixes, nor at they recordings taken from the original SEGA Genesis, they are instead the original audio data being processed via infinitely superior rendering hardware and techniques. This has resulted in a richness and clarity that Sonic 2’s soundtrack has never before been heard with, and is especially appreciated during the Chemical Plant Zone and Metropolis Zone.
Even Sonic 2’s famous head-to-head competitive racing mode has returned, but now delivered via online multiplayer functionality (since split screen action on a single iDevice would probably have been a horrible idea). With this you can now – so long as you have internet access – challenge any of your friends, or even complete strangers, to competitive 16-bit ring collecting races at any time you please. My personal tests of this feature have shown it to perform extremely well, with no detrimental connectivity hiccups witnessed (although I did have some challengers rage-quit on me in disgust).
However, the most noteworthy new feature is that Christian Whitehead has gone back and finished the Hidden Palace Zone – a previously incomplete level hidden deep within the original cartridge’s programming – and reinstated it with new monsters and obstacles. Although still not part of the game’s normal level progression, players can now access this legendary stage by taking a detour down what used to be an infamous pit-trap in the Mystic Caves Zone. There’s even an all new battle against a never before seen incarnation of Doctor Robotnik’s ever variable eggomatic, which is completely unlike any previous fight against the ill-willed scientist.
In conclusion, Christian Whitehead and SEGA have successfully brought all of what made Sonic 2 a stellar platforming classic – the fast paced action, the legendary soundtrack, and even the plethora of hidden areas – to iOS 100% unscathed. They then furthermore improved the game in various non-damaging ways, after which offering it completely for free to anyone whom purchased the earlier disappointing release. The end result is that right now – without a doubt – is a truly great time to be a fan of classic platformers, especially if you happen to also own one of Apple’s multipurpose iDevices.
iFanzine Verdict: With its fast-paced action – amazing soundtrack – and hidden secrets all over the place, it’s no wonder that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 always was one of the all time platforming classics of yesteryear. Thanks to the amazing controls that Christian Whitehead has put together – not the mention enhanced audio, improved framerate, and online multiplayer – this here is now the most definitive version of said classic. They’ve even gone back and did something that no one would ever have ever expected to see: they turned the half finished code of the infamous Hidden Palace Zone into an all new playable area, complete with unique monsters and obstacles. The end result is that for fans of platforming bliss – both new and old – this here is one game that must not be missed, as iPhones everywhere finally have access to “Blast Processing”.