Sonic 2’s aberrant influences are so ingrained in my lexicon that it’s frighteningly difficult to remember a time before it. In fact my entire existence can be distinguished by the partitions of “Before Sonic” (BS) and “After Sonic” (AS). Yes Sonic is my video game equivalent of Jesus! The obvious exception being that one was betrayed by those he trusted, crucified by his enemies, dying a slow and lingering death to a crowd of worshippers and apostles that mourned his devastating sacrifice. The other, was Jesus. A little harsh considering the ubiquitous analogy, but let’s not pretend that anything in Sonic’s recent history has ever emulated the same raucous quality that pervades his formative years. And that’s especially true when it comes to Sonic The Hedgehog 2.
Sonic 2 has the rather distinguished honour of being the only influential game in my Top 10 that I haven’t actually completed. Many frivolous attempts were made to conquer the sinuous rotations and elaborate perversions that infested these intricately dizzying tracks. Espousing an expeditious fluidity through many trying encounters, without succumbing to the inhibiting frustrations of clandestine obstructions that would emerge without warning along the hazardous route, causing Sonic to discharge gold rings like a Catherine wheel. I came close too, emerging from the penultimate battle with Metal Sonic, clinging desperately to one isolated gold halo only to capitulate to Robotnik after several gruelling seconds. And as for collecting all the Chaos emeralds, forget it! One of my earliest memories of playing Sonic 2 was being round a friend’s house trying to reach the end. We’d each take turns completing a stage at a time or if one of us died. We were in his living room along with his older sister, who I had a huge crush on. Somehow my adolescent mind concluded that being good at this game would somehow attract her, as if she would see me defeat Robotnik and be instantly overcome with lust. “Oh my, what nimble and strong thumbs you have. We should get married!”. But I never discover the truth behind that elaborate fantasy, yet despite that disappointment I never really believed that Sonic was a game that required completion. The journey itself was the reward, and what a journey it was.
Up to this point in my relatively short tenure as a gamer, I had never played a game that incorporated such erratic and dynamic speed into its structure. Most games applied very basic, pedestrian traversal of levels, allowing players time to coordinate an appropriate action and trajectory to their attacks, like Mario jumping on a Goomba for instance. Yet Sonic demanded that same cautious application in a world that promoted elevated movement. Generating significant momentum was a precarious way of negotiating your way to the end, as that same dizzying acceleration was almost assuredly offset by the immediate devastating intervention of a spike or some meandering insect. Enemies were largely benign, but when you’re moving at such exaggerated pace these innocuous, barely mobile creatures become threatening implements of destruction. A brick wall for example is harmless, until you crash into one. It was never safe to run at such speeds, but you did it anyway. And that’s because it was fun, reckless and so innately juvenile.
Kids have 2 gears, first and fifth! And this was certainly true of myself. I never walked anywhere, I ran, oftentimes challenging friends to races at inopportune moments. Sonic replicated that same volatility that I myself harnessed on a daily basis, just encapsulated in a computer game. The soundtrack was also incredibly conducive to being an energetic child. Each stage featured a melody that suited the environment you were in. It was simple, catchy and memorable. Seriously how many of you would be able to imitate the “Green Hill Zone” theme right now? Or recite the “SEGA” intro with the same distorted cadence without the slightest provocation or hesitation? And who amongst you is still terrified of the timer that commences whenever Sonic is close to drowning?! The anxiety and heart palpitating fear of aquatic levels was incubated right here. Any subsequent game that required even an interim requirement to monitor and conserve air terrified me!
Sonics enduring legacy is truly reliant on its formative succinct period of quality, namely Sonic 1 to 3. Everything that preceded these games just wasn’t the same. Whereas Mario successfully adapted to the progressive visuals and additional dimensions, the Sonic series never really acclimated to the same changing environment. It’s difficult being a fan of this original series, considering the sustained negligence it’s suffered over decades that has resulted in the declination of the brand and subsequent sale to SEGAs biggest rivals Nintendo. Something that my 8-year-old self couldn’t possibly comprehend. Yet that shouldn’t diminish the seminal impact this trilogy had on gaming, specifically myself. It was frenetic yet frustrating, simple yet difficult, compelling yet repetitious, but no matter how many times I failed, cursed in outrage at the controls in all my childlike obscenities, I kept coming back. Even now.