I’ve only ever come close to having my heart broken once when it has come to revisiting an old favourite. Usually, if I take against a game that was critically acclaimed back in its day it’s because I played it years after it came out. Tomb Raider without analogue controls is unplayable, Final Fantasy VII is decent – but come on, the story is a rambling, incoherent mess with paper-thin characters, and Virtua Fighter after you’ve played SoulCalibur is plain awful. Great soundtrack, though.
So, my close call was with Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for the Master System. Which is the console I had when I was 11. A strange, melancholic game with some really clever ideas and entertaining bosses. You could fly a hang-glider, which ironically takes quite a while to get the hang of, and float up through Aqua Lake in a giant bubble – the best underwater level in the franchise.
I remember a particularly tense moment towards the end of the second act which just haemorrhaged lives for me back in the day, where you float up between two walls, a few spikes laid here or there as well as badniks that would try to charge you. Hit the spikes, the badniks or even just the ceiling too early, and the bubble bursts. Naturally you don’t have to worry about running out of air while in the bubble but it won’t shield your rings and this wasn’t like Sonic Mania, where it’s relatively easy to have at least one ring most of the time.
But as an adult, I had the GameCube version of Sonic Adventure which gave you extra challenges and you could unlock the old Game Gear games. I didn’t think the change of format was that important until the very first boss. It was a cake walk on the Master System. Robotnik dumps you on this ramp out in the open, a sarlacc-like robot crab monster at the bottom, its jaws hungry for freshly minced hedgehog.
Off-screen, Robotnik would launch bouncing bombs at you. One attack pattern bounced low and even and the other high and erratic. But, for the Game Gear’s tiny screen, your reaction times are massively reduced. You almost need Sonic’s reflexes to survive it and is oddly one of the toughest battles in the series ever. It was very disheartening.
But, get past that nasty spike and it’s all good. A solid, weird little platformer – just make sure to buy the Master System version.
GC: So wait, which one hasn’t aged well? We’re confused.