Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
1991 saw the debut of Sega's hottest property, Sonic the Hedgehog, when he was released to wide critical acclaim.
Run, spin, skip, jump and fly Sonic through seven stages of high speed platform action on a quest to beat the evil Dr Robotnik.
What do you get if you give a lowly, common or garden hedgehog on attitude? Sonic the Hedgehog of course! No-one quite knew what to expect of this character when he first raced onto the scene a little over a year ago, but he took the gaming world by storm! Well now he's back, older, cleverer and faster than ever before, and this time he's brought along his young friend Miles Prower (Miles per hour - geddit? I didn't - JAZ), AKA Tails the Fox.
After bouncing the balding Dr Robotnik off the face of South island, Sonic's home, our speedy chum had been enjoying a time of peace and tranquility. Duckin' an' a divin'. Wheelin' an' a dealin'. Havin'-a-dip-in-the-sea-an'-a-drinking-lemonade-in-the-midday-sun. Until the crazed Robotnik decided that it was a good time for a comeback that is. Just as Sonic and Miles were enjoying a game of beach ball, the egg-like one descended upon the sand and stole poor Tails away with Sonic in hot pursuit. It is here where we join them in this second, speed of light adventure on the Master System.
Perhaps some of you have heard rumours about a new character in Sonic II nicknamed Two Tails?. He is, in fact, called Miles and has unfortunately been nabbed by the dastardly Dr Robotnik. This is a crying shame because Miles is Sonic's best friend and if there's one thing to get Sonic all mad it's the nabbing of his best friend called Miles. This means that Miles is conspicuous by his absence throughout the game, unlike the Megadrive version where the aspiring little chap joins Sonic to help him out. No matter, Sonic has plenty to occupy his mind.
There's no nice-and-easy-until-you-get-the-hang-of-it goings on in Sonic II. Oh deary no! The first level sees Sonic careering along the tracks of an abandoned mine in a rickety old mine cart. The trouble is that the mines are flooded with molten lava and the tracks ain't what they used to be. In some places the rails have given way altogether and Sonic needs to spin-jump his spiky bod across the gaps and, hopefully, land in another across the way. Gumph!
People would think you were mad if you were to describe to them that you just saw a cool blue hedgehog flying past on a hang-glider. Yet this is exactly what can be seen in Sonic II. Having failed numerous attempts at flight using balloons, for obvious reasons, Sonic takes to the skies beneath the wing of a hang-glider. In some instances Sonic can manage well enough without this piece of kit. However there are occasions where flying is necessary to complete the level or else fall foul to some uninviting rough terrain. The best results are achieved when Sonic (II) takes a huge run up to gather speed and then the sky's his limit.
You may not know this but blue hedgehogs aren't very good swimmers, and Sonic is probably the worst of them all. In fact, he's so bad that the only way he can negotiate any stretches of water at all is to hitch a lift inside a bubble. Great care is taken here, though, since crashing into walls bursts his hopes of a future on dry land, as do spikes (though strangely not his own) and any undersea wandering creature that happens along.
First let me tell you that Sonic II received a lot of admiring glances from people in the games room when it arrived. Then I told them that it was the Master System version I was playing and watched as their jaws hit the carpet. Sonic has given Master System owners something to sing about once again. Sega have pulled out all the stops and truly let rip in Sonic's second race across the boards. As soon as the battle for Tails' freedom commences the action is literally red hot and the gameplay mega slick. Different modes of transport are available to Sonic, which spice things up no end, injecting new life into Sonic's already impressive repertoire. It's also refreshing to find that the end-of-level-bosses are a variety of giant robotic animals instead of Dr Robotnik every time - the performing seal is hilarious. I was disappointed to find that the special zones have been excluded this time around but then who needs 'em when the quality of the game is so good anyway.
Stunning! Sonic II is all that Master System players could hope for and more! It looks superb, with great backgrounds and brilliant sprites that wouldn't look amiss on the Megadrive. But better still is the gameplay! Slick, fast, challenging, varied, fun, addictive... this is truly a game that you just can't put down. The difficulty level is beautifully balanced so that you get so far... fail... get a bit further... fail... but keep on going and going because you're determined to see what's on the next level. This is definitely one of the greatest Master System games of all time, and you'd be the saddest person alive if you missed it!