Retro Game of the Day! Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 2, by Sonic Team (who else would be developing it!) for the Genesis, released late 1992.
I have some qualms about reviewing a game like this, in that a. it's been done to death and b. it's still constantly being re-released all the time in different compilations and such. But it's been awhile since I have personally looked at it, ergo-
This was a follow-up to Sega's watershed moment with the original Sonic the Hedgehog - it was very important that their follow-up effort be at least as well-put-together. In spite of some strange politics (the first being developed wholly in Japan, this sequel being a collaboration between Sega Technical Institute in Northern California and the Japanese dev house) the game turned out quite nicely, and was well-received - though some would argue it was not as novel or balanced as its predecessor.
This platformer puts you in the shoes of Sega's faster-than-fast (thanks to blast processing TM) mascot, run to the right and clear each stage - navigate around obstacles, bounce of springs, kill mechanized enemies, take down bosses at the end of each stage. There's always a prerequisite "crazy pinball" level for Sonic to play around in, plenty of lush detailed jungle levels, and several of the ruins, caves, and tech-themed levels the series has been known for. The entire game is fairly well-laid-out, with multiple paths, secret pickups and shortcuts, and tons of verticality.
Graphically and aurally, the game is a nice successor to the first Sonic, which was already pushing the limits of what the Genesis was capable of delivering. Stylistically, number two was a bit more over the top (and less elegant), whereas the first one was a bit more subtle and carefully assembled. Though both games are quite pretty, I have to give it to the first one for delivering a much more compelling world, in this way.
Sonic 2 does have a few improvements on the original - the bonus rounds are decent mock-3D (as opposed to the spinning levels in the 1st - which were more fun). Sonic has a spin dash (you can blast from 0-60 MPH standing still), collecting chaos emeralds in the bonus levels will enable you to become a golden Super Sonic (I've never done this!), and of course there's the (tacked-on) 2-Player feature.
Overall, a very cool game, if falling a bit shy of the coolness/novelty of the original. Sonic 2 is a harder encounter, in fact I never defeated the final boss (shame, shame!) Though the first was a pleasure, it never gave me a huge amount of enthusiasm to see what else the series would bring to the table (as opposed to, say, the Mario games - I'd be drooling over the release of each one - Sonic always elicited kind of a "meh.. I will buy that.")