|Posted by Kelsy on May 22, 2020 at 10:35 PM|
GOTTA GO..... FASTER!
A Sonic Advance 2 100% Completionist Review by Kelsy "SuperGirlKels" Medeiros
Platform: Gameboy Advance (Gameboy player on Nintendo Gamecube)
Hours to Complete: 20 hours
I recently covered Sonic Advance on the GBA which released in late 2001, just after SEGA announced their departure from the hardware development to strictly focus on software development. Sonic Advance was their first release, and though many fans enjoyed it as did I, there were much to be improved on in terms of speed, level design, and more. It’s now 2003, and it’s been 2 years that SEGA has been software developing for other consoles. SEGA listened to the fans, and heard what was loved about Sonic Advance, but what was also disliked about the game. You can imagine, when Sonic Advance 2 was announced, everyone was just as excited as the first announcement… except this time… people were even more excited because there was one promise that was to return into this sequel… speed. This game was going be all about building that momentum, and blasting through levels at sonic speed with new features, stages, and characters…. Sometimes though, you may promise something that will be delivered… but does it mean that it makes it better than the original?
Our story continues on an undefined island where Eggman is plotting to kidnap more creatures to turn into his mega badniks, and kidnapping one of the island’s villagers. As Tails and Knuckles head down to help out… Eggman grabs hold of them too! It just seems like for the first time… that Eggman… will win? Have no fear though because Sonic is here! You begin your game with playing as Sonic first, and unlocking Tails, Knuckles by playing through the game and defeating Eggman in boss battles at the end of each zone. On his quest to saving the island and his friends, he finds a young girl who is also kidnapped by Eggman. He sets her free and as she thanks him politely, she also claims that the villager that Eggman took away was her mother Vanilla. Sonic promises to rescue her, but this young rabbit doesn’t let him go alone without her rescuing her mom too. This is Cream the Rabbit, who today is loved by many fans around the world. She is the youngest character in the series, and one of the most enjoyable and lovable characters. Sonic Advance 2 marks her debut with her Chao pal: Cheese! (Cream and Cheese… get it?) As all characters Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Cream are unlocked and saved… the story rages on as the heroes are set to saving the day in each other their own story modes to stopping Eggman and saving the Island!
By far, this story wipes out Sonic Advance 1. From the opening cut scene, you can tell where Sonic is headed as he runs on water towards the island. You can tell the island is mysterious and offers diversity through out the location. Cut scenes in between zones show characters and their personality contrasting with Sonic’s… while showing their motives on what makes them start their own stories. Sonic is there to stop Eggman, Tails is there to help Sonic, Knuckles wants revenge for getting tricked… again. and Cream is there to save her mom. It’s very clear as to what needs to be done per character, and you feel a sense of accomplishment beating every story available. SPOILER ALERT, there is also Amy Rose who is an unlock able once you 100% the game, but she’s more of a reward rather than her having her own mission to complete. As each character travels through the island, they must collect 7 chaos emeralds in order to stop Eggman’s final plans at taking over the world from this island and making the animals his puppets. Once all stories are completed, it seems like Sonic and the gang saved the day along with their new friend Cream! But oh no, just as everyone is celebrating… Vanilla is taken! and was left too late for Cream and Cheese to catch. Sonic, not letting Eggman get away…. transforms into Super Sonic to stop Eggman one last time by defeating his seemingly unstoppable machine, saving Vanilla… and the rest of the islands’ flickies and animals.
Graphics in Sonic Advance 2 are not much different from it’s predecessor… and thats’ a good thing. The Sonic Advance series is known for it’s stunning sprite work that shows much personality in each character while representing their atmosphere through shading and lighting. Animations for each character have been tweaked such as running animations for all characters to make them seem “faster” when running. Their jump animations are filled with detailed and textures. You can actually pause the game and catch Sonic in his ball, flipped over to add a realistic approach to how he jumps and curls into a ball. This replaces the jump animation in Sonic Advance which is simply just a blue ball jumping in the air. Stages are filled with a more lively background as well such as instruments playing int he background of Music Park, or the volcanic eruption going on through Hot Crater. Even with a 2 year difference, it’s still very nice to see SEGA and Sonic Team kept the style of their series up to date by changing what needs to be done to make the game feel alive and realistic. Special Stages also show a huge improvement in 3D. Not only are the characters’ models a lot cleaner… but the aspect as to what’s in front of you and close to you is a lot more accurate. You’re able to chase down rings and avoid obstacles easily while controlling your speed by seeing what stance and animation your character is doing. It shows when Sonic is at full speed, when he’s slowing down, or speeding up to give you an idea on how delicate to use his controls. This applies to all characters of course. Over all, the graphics are perfect and I was very excited to see that even with already good graphics in the past… they continued to push forward and add the effort into their sequel.
MUSIC / SOUND EFFECTS
Sound effects were not touched at all during the development of Sonic Advance 2, keeping original Sonic Advance effects which is perfectly fine. It keeps the series true to its roots and adding familiar touches to the series’ fans. You’re able to jump onto item boxes, springs, and enemies knowing what they do just be hearing their sounds. It’s the same thing with grinding rails which make different sounds at different speeds. Music however has changed drastically in this sequel… for the better. This is by far some of the best music soundtrack that I have heard in a Sonic the Hedgehog title. Sonic Advance 2’s theme seems to be striving for the “SPEED”. It promised faster gameplay, levels, and movement options. The music reflects off of this idea perfectly by adding base and rock to environments …. and it works. For an example, Techno Base looks like a disco party, and the type of music is exactly that! But now add a touch of “speed” to it by adding in the base to recapture Sonic’s footstep timing… and a little drum and guitar rock to add the motive to get to the end of the level. It’s like this for all levels… such as forests, mountain tops, and snow towns. Whichever level you are in, the music reflects beautifully based on that environment. Dimps did a fantastic job at analyzing the environment Sonic and the team would be exploring, and at just how fast they would be as well. They considered the high stakes from Eggman… while also keeping in mind just how much fun Sonic loves to explore and move quickly. If you need a good playlist for your tournament runs or even a workout? Give the original soundtrack a listen…. it’s quite the music to the ears . Of course, there are returning soundtracks from the original such as its character select screen, and the ending of the title screen. What good is a sequel without relating to its predecessor? The balance between what is old, and what is new in terms of Music and Sound effect… is perfect.
Sonic Advance 2 promised speed, while improving from its predecessor and in many ways, this sequel has kept that promised while also going backwards in its level design. Sonic Advance 2 advances its formula by relying on building momentum and mastering each level to being rewarded with speed. A new boost formula is added that when each character reaches, they can move faster than the screen keeping up. Because of how quickly each character can move, the levels are also built to be longer and more challenging. Obstacles such as enemies, bottomless pits, spikes, and more can stop your run at any point even when going at top speed. So mastering your level after practice and practice is essential to succeeding. Sonic Advance 2 also improves in its level design such as exploration. In Advance 1 players weren’t given that much of an opportunity for exploration as every level was very linear with a few short cuts here and there that would lead you to the same area in the end anyway. Advance 2 shows 3 or sometimes more routes in levels that can completely change up the gameplay. Of course, each character has their own tools such as Tails’ flight and Knuckles’ climbing… to reach certain parts of levels in an easier way. But all areas are accessible by practice and understanding as to which road leads where. 7 Golden star rings are located in each level and is needed to collect in order to reach the special stage at the end of each zone. If you found some… then died.. you’re forced to do each one all over again. They are scattered all around the level from top to bottom and in no convenient places. This really made me explore each level to the point where I needed a guide as to where each golden ring was… and finding the best route to get there. If you made one jump timing too early, or missed a certain path… it is impossible to get back to where you’re actually supposed to be. This allowed me to appreciate, but to also hate the level design. I have a very love-hate relationship with this game’s level design. On one hand, I love that the game forces you to experience all routes and to see all the ways that the game can be played…. Showing all the effort and decision making that the team has put into this title. On the other hand, the fact that you are not able to re access parts of the level when missed… is a huge bother in comparison to Sonic 3 for example, that was easy to go back when missing an area for.a special stage ring. I HATED dying, or missing a star ring because that simply meant I had to start the level all over again which became exhausting, and frustrating really quick. I began to go step by step with a guide making sure I didn’t make any mistakes until the point where I was peeling out the hair from my skull. The enemy and bottomless pit placements are also somehow… worse than SA1. Enemies are in places that completely make your reward for earning speed completely useless. Other enemies will knock you into bottomless pits, or make it extremely hard to access certain parts of the level. The enemy placements are unfair, and I’m saying that not as a child who can’t accomplish a simple level.. but as a pro gamer who has been treated wrong for earning rewards. It simply doesn’t make sense to get to a part of a new section of a stage when earning speed, just to have an enemy out of nowhere (that the camera can’t keep up with) hit you, as you can’t even see it in time… knock you off the cliff… and hit you into a bottomless pit. It’s frustrating, and I’m telling you I will get revenge on those bees! Even after over 5 playthroughs, I still was finding myself getting hit by the same enemies over and over again because of the strict time to avoid them, or just how you need to memorize each enemy so carefully. On the other hand, Sonic Advance 2 introduces grind rails not only for Sonic, but for all characters which are needed to travel through each zone. Tricks can also be performed to access higher and deeper areas which really make the player feel rewarded and accomplished for learning and reacting to the routes of a Sonic game. Different locations of the level feel all different, and all offer their own challenges and rewards as they don’t lead you to the same spot such as Sa1, but instead lead you to the end of the level. Levels also end with each character running which make the game seemingly more real as each character travels from level to level in similarity to classic Sonic adventures. The Level design is a big 50/60% for me. It’s outstanding in terms of rewards, and areas that you feel fast and accomplished…. But because of the enemy and trap placements + the 10000 bottomless pits…. It feels hard to enjoy these moments on your 5th play through run. Items have also been edited to speed up the game and not cut speed sections. In Sonic Advance 1 , players would run and get stopped at a spring or item box in which they had to jump, or break against to move on which stopped their momentum. In Sonic Advance 2, springs can be just ran on , not slowing down the gameplay at all and keeping up the pace. This is also the same thing for Items which can be ran over, instead of needing to stop and jump or break. All in all, still huge improvement and I do prefer the level design in Sa2 over the first title in 2001.
Sonic Advance 2 has improved gameplay tremendously. In my review for Sonic Advance 1, I mentioned how each character felt slow. Physics seemed off, and the momentum In which you had to reach felt sluggish and Never consistent. Sonic Advance 2 speed up the physics and gameplay quite a bit while adjusting movement to match the classic 90’s experience by a lot. Sonic controls must smoother and no longer slides same with the other characters. Each character has also been given tools to make them each feel like their own individuals. Sonic has a air dash which involves tapping onto the control stick forward while in the air sending him in that direction. The controls for that is a bit wonky, since if you input something in the air by mistake… you may kill yourself (which I have many times during my run). Cream being the best character int he game, uses Cheese to fight enemies on screen which make Eggman boss fights take up to just a matter of seconds. She can also fly by using her ears but her flight time is a lot faster, yet shorter height in comparison to Tails who flights high, but slower. Tails also uses his tails like in advance 1, to hit enemies and item boxes. Knuckles has his famous punches with the ability to climb walls to access areas that character’s cant. Amy being the secret unlock able after completing the game, is an entirely different character in comparison to Sonic Advance 1. Not only is she 10X faster to match the rest of the roster, but her jump finally allows her to spin into a ball and his enemies. She no longer jumps higher than the rest of the cast, but still moves just as quick. She still has her piko piko hammer that can send her into large height like in Sonic Adventure, or can be used to crush her enemies. As mentioned in the Level design, tricks have been added in Sonic Advance 2 to further speed and add coolness to the gameplay! Which.. it does. WOW. SO much. Using grind rails, springs, boost pads will send the cast into the air… Now characters can input the R button while holding out a direction to perform a trick in that direction. This can speed you up on paths once landing instead of coming to a complete halt like in most sonic games, and it can access you a path or platform that you won’t be able to reach with a jump or normal spring. IT’s a great design choice, and gameplay feature that has become symbolic in 2D modern sonic games in the upcoming next few years after this. It really inspired the team to create these alternative routes while also performing next generation speed and rewarding the player with momentum to be able to react to these moments. It’s a great feature that even after so many times playing through it, I still get goose bumps every time I land a cool trick on a grind rail or platform that I know I wasn’t supposed to access. There are 9 zones with each having 2 acts and a boss (except for the final 8th and 9th zone which are just boss battles to a hyped ending!) Boss battles have been changed drastically creating a constant running level chasing Eggman in his machine as he plants traps and ways to stop you from gaining on him. Hitting him 8 times of course, will result in you winning and moving on to the next zone. During your play through, 7 chaos emeralds are collected in order to unlock the true final boss with Super Sonic and the final ending to the game.. This is by far the most ANNOYING WAY TO GET THE TRUE FINAL ENDING TO ANY SONIC GAME EVER. I mentioned that you need to collect 7 star rings in each zone (7 per act of your choice) to enter the special stage at the end for your chance to get a chaos emerald. IF YOU DIE AT ANY POINT DURING THIS YOU WILL HAVE TO RESTART. The routes are complex, there’s no hunts, there’s nothing to help you get these rings. You’re ON YOUR OWN unless you’re me living in 2020, luckily having a guide to help me. The special stages themselves, are not too hard. You are in a 3D atmosphere needing to collect 300 rings as Zero from Sonic Adventure (don’t know why they brought him back) chases you down in order to stop you from collecting the chaos emerald. Collecting rings seems easy because there are rings scattered everywhere in this area. It’s a big square block in which you travel and have 100 seconds to do so. It seems easy…. Right? Wrong. Collecting one ring after another can be difficult using controls and precise timing while avoiding this robot attacking you. You must always be on the move because if you stop… Zero will catch you resulting in a fail. If you miss a ring? Good luck! As you collect rings, they will combine in chains and will multiply how many rings you have collected with what you are gathering. This is the best way to do this challenge that can have special stages taking just a matter of seconds to complete. But if you’re having a hard time chaining rings under 3 seconds, then they’re just going to go up 1 by 1 which can take a really long time…. And can’t guarantee that you’ll make it. Each special stage does a great job at splitting up rings and trails in different directions, patterns and more to make it hard for you to angle yourself, and prepare on how to get it. There’s not much time, so you have to think fast! …. Congratulations you have officially collected all chaos emeralds with Sonic!!…….. YOU MUST NOW DO THE SAME THING WITH ALL CHARACTERS. That’s right. In order to unlock the final ending for the first time in Sonic history, you must not only collect the Chaos emeralds in general… but you must collect them with ALL CHARACTERS. That means you need to remember the star ring routes…. You need to not die… and you need to collect tall chaos emeralds again….. 5 TIMES X 7 ZONES….. THATS 35 FUCKING TIMES THAT YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR GOLD FUCKING RINGS AND CHAOS FUCKING EMERALD COLLECTING. This was by far the most frustrating, longest, and most painful experience of my gaming career. It felt absurd, and I felt like the reward just wasn’t worth it. YES I wanted to see Super Sonic. YES I wanted to see the final boss. YES I wanted Amy… but for what that put you through? It wasn’t enough. Why can’t I play Super Sonic in all zones now? Why can’t I play as Eggman? SOMETHING TO INSPIRE ME. This alone made my results downgrade for my thoughts on Sonic Advance 2. I was really disappointed that the team didn’t realize just how chaotic this would be for players especially kids. Finding the golden star rings are a hassle of its own that can take hours to complete for just one zone… but collecting the emeralds is another challenge. Don’t forget too that if you FAIL the Chaos emerald special stage… you must get the rings all over… AGAIN. Which I did MULTIPLE times during my run.
Now if you can look past this, you’re good to go. Because Sonic Advance 2 offers some of the best gameplay experiences a 2D Sonic game has ever seen in terms of control, freedom, music, and replay value. It’s simply just fun going through every single stage over and over again. I appreciated it more every time I played it with each character. I not only had to play every stag with each character, but I had to do it all over again with Time Trial Mode. There’s also a new Boss Rush mode in this game which allows every character to fight all bosses in this game as fast as possible. Once you have collected all emeralds with every character, have unlocked Amy…. And have re collected all emeralds…. While also completing time trials and boss battles.. its finally time for your big finale. The true final boss is a pleasure to fight, and a joy to watch in terms of cutscenes, hype, and art style. It’s a great true ending that though may have not been enough to cure my suffering through emeralds… it for sure left a huge smile on my face making it all feel worth it in the end. I usually am not a fan of final boss battles with Super Sonic, they always feel sluggish and unclear in terms of controls. But luckily they used past final bosses as inspirations which made the goal clear as to what needed to be done, and after 1 death.. I was able to take out the final boss and 100% complete Sonic Advance 2.
ROAD TO 100%
- Complete Story Mode wth all characters
- Unlock Amy Rose
- Collect all Chaos Emeralds with ALL CHARACTERS
- Complete Time Trial Mode with ALL Characters
- Complete Boss Battle Mode with ALL CHARACTERS
- Complete the TRUE Final Boss with Sonic
Sonic Advance 2 is a must have in any Sonic fan’s Gameboy Advance collection. It’s a true platform classic that shows improvement and care in a franchise while taking advantage of a sequel by giving what’s familiar, and providing what’s new and fun. It’s far from perfect, and has much to work with for its future sequel including enemy placements, bottomless pits, and special stages. But the main gameplay is really where Sonic has always been about, and that has always left a huge smile on my face that I continue to have as I write this final part of the review. My cheeks, still hurt. The music is some of the best in the series, and the graphics represent all characters personalities and environments clearly and boldly. Replay Value provides content for hours of gameplay that can last for years and years to the fans around the world. Though, it’s not something that anyone can pick up, as Sonic Advance 1 seems to be the way to introduce new fans to the series before hitting them with the Super Sonic speed that Sonic Advance 2 offers.
+ Replay Value
- Special Stages
- Level Design item / enemy placements