The original Sonic Advance was a good starter for the blue hedgehog on a 'rival' handheld console. Many Sonic purist fans however, spat it out after a fair old play, claiming that it harks little back to the good old days of the Mega Drive/Genesis. Well, fear no more, my pretties, because Sonic Advance 2 is in the house, and it Spin Dashes right back to its roots, and then some!
There's so much that has been added, improved, changed or otherwise made generally more exciting than in the previous Sonic Advance, that we really don't know where to start. Let's take the graphics first. Every single character has been lovingly enhanced in terms of sprite animations and the like. Dimps has done away with Sonic's classic "circley-spinny-leg-thing" while he's running, and opted for a standard jog.
Although we had our doubts before, this actually makes Sonic look so much more cooler than ever! You'll want to sprint with him as he legs it through the many zones laid out in front of you. That's not to say that there's been anything spared on the other characters - including newcomer Cream the Rabbit.
The biggest change in the game must be the gorgeous level design. Sonic Advance 1 was adequate enough, but for all the level mapping it just seemed too basic and, well, flat. Sonic Advance 2 has so many improvements to this, and pretty much crushes the criticism that the first game received. You want loops? Sonic Advance 2 has loops of every degree - incredible complex loops and hee-uge loops - especially in the first Zone, Leaf Forest.
You want more grinding? Well, every character can now grind, and it is much easier to do now - instead of having to jump on a tiny flat part to get Sonic to grind, it's now set up so that as long as you land on the first part of the pipe, your character will grind all the way along it.
These are just the parts thrown in from Sonic Advance 1 however: extra bits include launch pads that zoom Sonic and co into the air when they run over them (which could lead to a higher part of the level, if you go fast enough); sections that can only be busted through via one character's special move; and swinging handles that will launch you in the direction you press the A Button on. For us to describe this to you one by one simply isn't enough - once you play the game, you will understand.
You all saw the bosses on the Sonic Advance 2 Tokyo Game Show video, but what are they all like? Well, the game is set up into about nine Zones - way more than the standard six in almost every other Sonic game - with three Acts in each. The first two acts are your run about, get-to-the-end-of-the-level type stages, which are the most entertaining acts you'll ever experience in a Sonic game, we promise you. The third act is dedicated solely to a Boss Battle, in which your character will fight none other than the Eggman. You know, the one with the Master Plan. HaHa. Oh.
Anyway, all of these stages involve your character running without a break - like the first boss in Mushroom Hill Zone from Sonic & Knuckles - and Eggman with a different, more challenging and more cunning device strapped to him in every Zone. The aim is usually to attack the main Egg-o-matic that Eggman is sat plumply in, via the usage of some of the traps he sends you to your advantage.
Sometimes you'll have to concentrate on a different part of the ship - for example, in 'Hot Crater' Zone (Zone 2), you have to attack the gun turret that Eggman fires bombs at you from. What is absolute genius on Dimps and Sonic Team's part is the "second phase" of the Boss Battles. Until you hit Eggman a certain amount of times, he'll be busy doing his own thing, attempting to destroy you in a calm and almost gentle manner.
When it comes down to those last few hits to finish him off however, Eggman goes on a bit of a bender, and the tempo of the battle is upped immensely. This gets your adrenaline up 99% of the time, and the music is perfect in capturing the tense moment, when you have to avoid Eggman's raving attacks and deal the last punishing blow to his ship.
The Special Stages have changed too - to a similar style to Sonic CD's Special Stages. To enter, you'll need 7 'Special Rings' that are hidden within each Act. As you'd expect, it's best to use Cream or Tails to find these treasures due to their ability to fly. The small yellow dots below your score, as we found out before, are used to keep track of how many you have collected. Once you clear the Act, you get sent into the Special Stage.
It is a complete 3D area - and the first time that Sonic Team has used the Mode 7 functions on GBA before, yay - in which your aim is to collect the quota of rings at the top of the screen before the end of the time limit. Easier said than done, as it's terribly jammy to get all of the rings in time. As if that wasn't enough, you have a little friend going by the name of 'Zero' (yes, THAT Zero - from Sonic Adventure). He'll be trying to stop you, and if you hit him, you'll lose rings. You can attack Zero to stall him however, and you'll have a coloured arrow in which to indicate which direction Zero is, and the colour showing how close he is.
When you start the game for the first time, you'll only be able to play as Sonic. You need to unlock the other three characters, by way of releasing them from Eggman's grasp - for example, in the 'Leaf Forest' Zone Boss Battle, you'll notice that Cream is in the grasp of a hand attachment while you battle the fat man. Also, unlike Sonic Advance 1, when you collect a Chaos Emerald in the Special Stage, that Emerald does not appear in all the character's Stories. Therefore, to fully complete the game, you'll need to collect the Chaos Emeralds with ALL the characters, instead of cheekily using one character to do the legwork.
Each character has loads of cool new abilities to master. You have your standard jump and double jump move, and you also have your B Button manoeuvre, on top of your spin dash attack. For example, Sonic has his sliding tackle, Tails has his Tailspin attack, and Cream orders Cheese to assault a nearby enemy.
But, each character also has several more moves. If you press B Button while jumping and playing as Sonic, for instance, you'll pull off the infamous Bounce Attack from Sonic Adventure 2. Sonic can also home in on close enemies by double-jumping near them, like the 'Adventure' series.
Something mentioned during our coverage of Sonic Advance 2 was the 'Trick Action' Moves - these moves get you points, and we mentioned that Point Scoring may be a big factor to play in the game. Until now, we did not know how to perform these 'Trick Action' moves. But, using the R button, you can pull these off and look extremely cool.
You must be bouncing off of a spring (a horizontal spring) or launching off of a launch pad to pull these off - as you're bouncing or flying in the air, press the R Button to pull off a nice manoeuvre; Sonic does a cool little wall kick and flips across when he performs his. The other possibility is when the player is holding a direction, either left or right on the D-Pad, and then pressing the R button while launching off a spring or pad.
This is how you manage to pull off the 'Trick Action' moves on the website - Sonic does his 'Hamming Top' (which is like a small tornado attack), Tails does his 'Back Rotor' etc. All of these moves are awesome to see and satisfying to pull off, and also earn you points. You'll need to get used to doing these, as the levels get more complex later on - as the difficulty to complete the levels increase, your ability to perform tricks to continue through the act will be more expected of you.
Also, when you reach the end of the Act, you pass a ticker-tape goal, and a point score appears depending on how fast you sped through the tape - you'll also notice that before Sonic and co stop and do their end-Act pose, they run over three differently coloured platforms. If the player halts the character by holding the opposite direction to brake them, they receive extra points depending which one of these different coloured 'Zones' that your character stops on. It's these little touches that shoot Sonic Advance 2 ahead of any previous game before it - bar Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
The $6 Million dollar question in terms of playable characters is: How well does Cream play? In all honesty? Very very well. Unlike Amy in the first Sonic Advance, Cream can spin dash, do a rolling jump and has a considerable amount of speed slapped on her - something that was definitely missing on Amy's part. If you press the B Button, Cream launches Cheese at a nearby enemy, destroying it.
She can also fly, much like Tails - but can stop, fall and stomp on baddies at the same time if B Button is pressed in mid-flight. As mentioned before, we can confirm that Cream is the easy-player's alternative to playing Sonic Advance 2, but that isn't saying an awful a lot.
Because you see, the major difference in Sonic Advance 2, except for the level design, is the difficulty. Dimps and Sonic Team have ventured onto near-dangerous grounds by upping the difficulty to a substantial degree - especially on Boss Battles and Special Stages. Should this move had gone wrong, the Sonic fans would be spitting on the game, just like they did with 'Advance 1. But, thankfully, this proves as a refreshing change instead.
Too long have Sonic games been a simple "blast through and complete in a day" escapades, despite that alluring possibility to play through them over and over again. The difficulty has been upped so far as to give hardcore Sonic fans a fantastic challenge, yet not to totally spoil the game.
For example, we found playing the 'Ice Paradise' (4th Zone) Boss as Sonic quite a tough challenge, but we simply had to play it again and again, because the game still has that replayability charm from past Sonic titles. All that's different is that there's an actual cause to keep playing this time - because that one Eggman Boss just won't let up! But, if the game just gives you too much grief, Sonic Team have helpfully still placed the 'Easy' difficulty setting on the cartridge.
So overall, what do we think? Well, we feel that Sonic Advance 2 far surpasses anything that we could ever have hoped for. Surprisingly, the Sonic Adventure features included and added in this game work better in 2D than in 3D. How weird is that? Only a few minor gripes - although the sprite rotation is still very nice, it still makes the characters look a tad dodgy, although in fairness, the quality of the rotations has improved also.
And also, we are slowly beginning to hate the additions of the hills and slopes in the Boss Battles, making for some serious mis-judgement in jumping to attack Eggman. But, it all means we gotta get better at the game, I guess
We said Sonic Advance 1 was good. Sonic Advance 2 is absolute near perfection. Everything has been improved for the better, and feels closer to the good old Sonic days that we all knew and loved, with a sweet bonus of a more difficult setting, so that this time, you can play Sonic Advance 2 over and over again, but not complain about how short the game is
Seriously, we think this is the best Game Boy Advance game ever - let alone one of the best Sonic games ever made. Get your butt down to your local gaming shop and buy the Japanese copy of this game. And then when it's released, get your own regional copy of the game. If you don't have a GBA, well, now you know what you wanna spend your Christmas money on...
The bottom line? This is undoubtedly one of the best Sonic games ever made, and a testament to Dimps' increasing ability to make classic Sonic games all over again. If you don't like it, then you simply haven't been a Sonic fan long enough. Get it in!
NOTE: Unfortunately, this review does not include the multi-player option found on Sonic Advance 2. Please note that Sonic Advance 2 does come with a 1-4 player option, and like the original, can link up to four players with one cartridge. This review will be updated with news and opinions on the multi-player, and the alleged Chao Garden (which was also missing from our review), very soon.
NOTE: This was given a score of 10/10 at time of original publication. We have converted its score to the below 5-star rating based on this score, and adjusted to best represent the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.
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