Sonic 2 HD Alpha – Demo Impressions

Sonic 2 HD is a fan-made, unofficial remake of Sonic 2 that’s been in development for over 4 years now. Up until a couple days ago, all we had was HD artwork and video demonstrations of the early game (along with some buggy demos). But now we finally get to try out a (mostly functional) alpha demo consisting of the first 2 levels; Emerald Hill Zone 1 and 2. And I am extremely happy to say that this game deserved all the hype it was getting from the Sonic community- it totally kicks ass.

All the graphics have been redone and enhanced to show what this game would be like if it were made in modern times instead of 20 years ago. They are of course HD, but they’re more than that. The animations and sprites feel so… natural. They belong together. It runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS and all the animations were hand-drawn, so that definitely helps the presentation. I would expect no better from Sega itself. And I DO expect no better from Sega- my faith in that company’s ability to produce good 2-dimensional Sonic games landed on spikes after trying Sonic 4. But more on that later.

The sound is also surprisingly top-notch. All the old sound effects are there and crystal clear. The remix of EH1+2’s music has a little too much going on at times though, and counters the nostalgia factor. In the original, the music was more in the background, but you could still listen to it. Now if feels like the music is standing right in front of me, obscuring my view of the game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good remix in it’s own right and it far from ruins the experience. I just don’t think it fits the gameplay as well as the original’s music did. That being said, I couldn’t imagine playing Sonic 2 HD with the old music because it would feel even more out of place. I think this game would benefit from more subtle and faithful remixes (depending on the level), as opposed to the orchestral-sounding sample we have in EH1+2 HD.

The physics engine is the most important aspect of any Sonic game in my opinion. If the physics suck, the game sucks. Plain and simple. Luckily, the team behind Sonic 2 HD stayed true to the original and didn’t fix what wasn’t broken like Sega did with Sonic 4. Everything you remember being able to do in the original, you can do in the remake. Even the little nuances like how fast you tap your spindashes to gain speed is there. I would actually be surprised if you couldn’t speedrun the remake exactly as you would the original. That is a HUGE compliment to this game’s designers.

That being said, there are some differences. The only ones I’ve found so far are 2 10-ring monitors- 1 in EH1:

And 1 in EH2:

Why were those added? I can only assume the team thought those areas needed more substance or rings, or maybe they just wanted leave their mark on the level design. Whatever the case, the extra monitors don’t have much of an effect on the way the zones play out.

The only other differences I noticed were presentational, like being able to go right into EH2 at the end of EH1, making the zones feel more connected.

Along with that, there are 3 known secrets so far. When you play through the first time, you will probably notice that a certain 2-tailed fox is missing. I guess they haven’t worked out his AI yet. But you can still play as him after you beat the demo (as you can see in the last screenshot)- when you get back to the start screen, hold B and press start to play as Tails! I also guess they haven’t worked out flying yet because that feature isn’t available either. Nevertheless, it’s pretty cool and gives you even more incentive to play through the demo again. Another element that must still be in development is the special stage- it’s noticeably absent in the alpha.

I’m not 100% sure how it’s unlocked, but Debug Mode is available as well, and is at least as fully functional as the original’s. I saw a video that showcases each secret, and it seems that getting the Perfect Bonus for 100% rings collected unlocks Debug Mode.

The other really cool secret allows you to play a work in progress of Hill Top Zone 1- a level you come across later in the game. I’m not exactly sure what unlocks this, and there doesn’t seem to be any legit documentation of how to unlock it on the internet. I could be wrong, so if you don’t want to waste time experimenting, I recommend you do some research of your own.

As a side note, if you let the start screen hang, credits will play over a video of 20+ uniquely colored Sonics running through the first level. They all behave slightly different, and it instantly makes me think of how cool that kind of multiplayer would be. I’m not so sure it would be mcuh fun in the original levels, but if some extra gameplay elements were added and custom level designs were possible… man, it could be really cool.

In conclusion, this alpha demo is awesome and definitely has me hyped for the official release, or the next demo (whichever comes first). Sonic 2 has fantastic level design and physics- if Sega really wants to please their long-time fans, they need to look at what made the originals so good. That doesn’t mean getting rid of newer features like the homing attack- I actually think the homing attack would be a fun additional feature in Sonic 2. But Sega, please oh please work on the physics. Sonic 4’s physics were nothing like the Genesis classics which Sonic 4 is supposed to be a continuation of. If Sonic 4 really is a sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, convince us that it is, or call it something else. Because right now it looks like you just want to rip off your older fans. And maybe that’s all you really want to do to make that extra money. But Sonic 4 Episode 2 could be amazing. Please try harder.

Official Sonic 2 HD website

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