This is one of the first Sonic titles officially developed for a non-Sega platform - namely the Neo Geo Pocket Color. This release was to accompany Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, but sadly the NGPC could never compare to the likes of Nintendo's Game Boy Color no matter how much it tried, and therefore SPA didn't get nearly enough attention. Shame that, because it is quite a good game to play.
Sonic makes a handheld return, but not on the faithful Game Gear. No, the good old GG has long been dead (but a re-release of the console is on the cards in USA, apparently), so Sega has tried its luck with the Neo Geo Pocket Color. The results? Well, it pretty much plays like a two-button version of the Mega Drive's Sonic 2 really. But, while the levels are SIMILAR to Sonic 2, most of this game is very different, and this release also comes with some nice bonus extras.
Unlike previous Sonic handheld ventures, Robotnik considerately makes an appearance at the end of each level. Yay. You can kick his butt like always now. Having said that, Sonic Pocket Adventure's boss battles are different from those found its in older Mega Drive cousin. And in some cases, are harder too. A couple of bosses survive from Sonic 2, including the Casino Night Zone contraption. At the end of the game, you'll do battle with Eggman in a mean battlecruiser thingy. Nasty.
In much the same vein as Sonic 1 on the Mega Drive, collecting a certain amount of rings will make a giant ring appear at the end of the level. Jumping into it will take you to the Special Stage, which is identical to the Sonic 2 half-pipe challenge. If you're unfamiliar, the aim is to collect a quota of rings while avoiding bombs. Collect a certain amount to gain a Chaos Emerald.
It may seem like Sonic Team and Dimps (the game's developer) have taken the easy way out and just done a half arsed port of Sonic 2, but that's only the surface of it. Playing the game feels different to the Mega Drive original. There are different obstacles, and more diverse bosses to contend with. There are also hidden puzzle pieces, which you can use in the 'Puzzle Room' mode. The soundtrack includes great handheld renditions of Sonic 3 tunes too. Oh, and the Zone names are slightly different too, but I'm guessing you don't really care about that.
One major difference over the Mega Drive version is the addition of a 'Room' option on the title screen. From here you can practice levels you've already played, race a friend Sonic 2-style via link cable, and complete puzzles from pieces found in each level. Collecting all the pieces for a picture then unlocks a slide-puzzle that you have to solve.
There's a lot of innovative stuff here, but once you actually sit down and think about it, you're spending about £30 on another version of Sonic 2. Without Tails. Or a 2-Player mode. What is here seems to make up for it somewhat though. It's not a COMPLETE copy of Sonic 2, but it's damn near enough. Those that enjoyed Sonic 2 will like this variation, and now it's highly sought after. All you Sonic collectors, get in there!
... Sonic collectors? Wait, that's me too. Erm, wait up...