I play games to death. I feel I haven't gotten my money's worth from a game unless I have done absolutely every god damned thing the game has to offer. This mentality has lead me to such extremes as defeating Emerald Weapon, collecting 100 gold Skultulas, and actually bothering to beat "Dragon Power" for the original NES. It is in that spirit that I decided today to review a game that is two years old and already has a sequel getting dusty on the shelves: Sonic Advance 2.
Sonic Advance 2 was a great game. When I first played it (ages and ages ago) I felt like it was the first TRUE sequel to the original Sega Genesis Trilogy. Sonic simply did not make the transition to 3D, and Sonic Advance 1 was a contrived attempt to make a 2D version of the 3D games. Sonic Advance 2 fixed that, and actually introduced new elements that ADDED to the Sonic experience. Number 1: you start the level from a dead sprint. Number 2: You CAN beat most of the levels by just pressing forward, but the mid-air tricks make for the added challenge of getting more rings, cooler shields, or in some cases, not dead due to bottomless pit. Number 3: The boss battles take place at full speed. I almost wept when I fought Dr Eggman the first time by having to chase down his cute little mallet-car. That is how Sonic is supposed to be fighting. His whole POINT is that he runs fast. The game play was built entirely around running fast. I was happy.
I warn you, however, it was - like most things - too good to last.
There is one reason why I was still playing this game after two years. Chaos Emeralds. Sonic Advance 1 defeated me. The bonus levels in Sonic Advance 1 were just retarded hard. They had something to do with your character falling down a long space-tube and wind-surfing into the rings with the intent to collect a minimum, ala Sonic 2. The trouble was that pushing the direction pad only occasionally had an effect on your character and 75% of the rings seemed to have been suffering from Shadowcat syndrome, cuz they kept passing right through the cerulean hedgehog. This, coupled with the fact that Sonic Advance 1 was overall a sub-standard game, caused me to reach the "Fuck it" phase pretty fast.
Getting Chaos Emeralds in Sonic Advance 2 was different. It was POSSIBLE. Difficult, but possible. I'm a god damned sucker for "Difficult by Possible." I actually got six of the seven chaos emeralds over a year ago, but that last one taunted me. For 14 months, Sonic Advance 2 was my fallback game. When I beat Fire Emblem, I tried for that last emerald. When I got my gold crown in Mario vs Donkey Kong, I shot for the emerald. I've been through the Egg Utopia level so many times that I see it when I close my eyes. I was determined.
Last week, while hanging out with Q, I finally nabbed that god damned Chaos Emerald. I was filled with the satisfaction of avenging my humiliating defeat at the hands of Sonic Advance 1. I felt vindicated.
Now it's time to rock Sonic through the game from the start, only this time I do it Super-Saiyan style.
No. You don't get to use Super Sonic. You do NOT get to jump into the air, go glowy-yellow and destroy everything that angers you while traveling at speeds that would peel the flesh off of most carbon-based life forms. You see, that would be fun, and after the High-Budget-Blockbuster-3D-Game Treaty of 1999, games are no longer allowed to be fun.
Instead of getting to use Super Saiyan Sonic in the levels, they give you an extra boss level where the 6-Year-Old Bunny's mom gets kidnapped AGAIN. CHRIST Woman, your kid ALREADY busted up an army of killer robots to get you out of trouble and you just stand there while they kidnap your long-eared ass AGAIN! I'm calling protective services, this is bullshit.
Anyway, there's this super-duper crunchy cream-filled boss who's really stupid-hard and you get to fight him as Super-Saiyan-Sonic and blah blah blah LAME! Catwoman Lame! I call Shenanigans on this shit!
In addition to unlocking the chincy-ass boss battle, you also get your Tiny-Chao garden. The Tiny-Chao garden in Sonic Advance 1 was THE ONLY GOOD THING ABOUT THAT GAME. Not because I gave a shit about my little Tamagochi rip-off who I affectionately named "Fucker," no, it was because by some fluke they invented THE MOST FUN ROCK-PAPER-SISSORS MINI-GAME CONCEPT EVER! I played that RPS game more then I played the actual running-around-killing-robots-and-collecting-rings game that I supposedly bought the cartridge for.
I enter the Tiny Chao garden with mild hope. I'm feeling bitter about being shafted out of my Super-Saiyan fun, so I'm already fuming when I hatch my Chao. It has the same graphics as Sonic Advance 1 and the same little mini-game icons in the top left. The shitty-ass matching game is still there, so my beloved RPS game must be here too, right? Right? Of-fucking-course not! They had to slip the god damned Bunny in there in this cheesy Baby-Bounce rip-off! God fuck.
Before I get to the final word on Sonic Advance 2, let me remind you why I love to review Old Games. I'm looking for the classics. I'm searching for the games that - after the hype is over and years of newer shiner games have overshadowed them - we still look back on, dig up, and play again because they were just that good.
Sonic Advance was almost classic material. The game play was true to its roots and the new stuff added to the experience. However, the story was the same rehashed plot they use in every post-genesis sonic game. The new character Cream the Bunny (and her pet Chao, Cheese. Gurk Gurk) was just introduced to be a future love interest for Tails, and certainly didn't equal the impact of Tails' or Knuckle's contribution to game play. The long-term playability was there, but the rewards were far from worth it. As for the Tiny Chao Garden, I'm pissed that they took out the RPS mini-game, but I've still got my Sonic Advance 1 cartredge, and it was kind of cool to see my Tamago-chao start flying around or swimming. They get a couple points for that.
Was Sonic Advance 2 a classic? No. Was it worth writing about on my web site? Sure. It came close. I give it 4 espresso shots, in honor of all the nights I didn't sleep cuz I kept shooting for that god damned emerald. If you've got it sitting around, go play it one more time for the hell of it. Then drop it in your drawer and forget about it forever. Maybe stomp on it a couple of times first. It's a love-hate sort of game.