This game is the sequel to Sonic Advance and it changes a lot from the original. Having a focus on speed rather than platforming and containing more linear level design, we have a very different 2D adventure.
This feels more like a ‘transition’ game between Classic Sonic-style gameplay and the 2D Boost Formula created with later Sonic games. With that in mind, Sonic Advance 2 blends classic 2D Sonic level design with a focus on speed evolving the core 2D formula in new ways.
Does this transitional game end up being a success for SEGA and Dimps?
Dr. Eggman is at it again and it trying to take over the world. He captures various woodland creatures, including Sonic’s best friend Tails and innocent rabbit named Cream. So Sonic sets out to save his friends and stop Eggman. Very basic set-up but I enjoyed the progression of the story. As Sonic beats the different bosses, you get a short cut-scene where Sonic interacts with the saved animals.
The one with Knuckles (as he thinks Sonic is working with Eggman) is quite funny. Overall while the general story doesn’t do much, it does enough to push you along.
The Gameplay & Design
Sonic Advance 2 feels like a Classic Sonic game but making baby steps toward what we get later on with the Sonic Rush games. Basically, while you are still using momentum to continue your platforming and pace, the focus on speed is much higher compared to Sonic Advance 1.
Regarding the returning cast, Sonic, Tails & Knuckles all control like how they did in Advance but with the difference being a R abilities. When you launch off ramps or rails, you can do one of three tricks (a forward dash, an extra jump or a downward slam).
This is quite important to keep in mind, as there are specific areas in the game that require you to use the extra jump to progress onwards in the game. Sky Canyon Zone is a big example of this, as early in one of the acts you reach an area where you are above bottomless pit and you have a platform above you. Since you were launched with a ramp, you could do the R trick…..but what if you never knew about that? The game doesn’t tell you about this mechanic. If you don’t do it, you die.
Regarding the other playable characters, Amy is a secret character you can unlock but she feels more like a Sonic clone. Her plays-style from Advance 1 is completely gone, likely due to this games speed focused level design. This is a shame but in many cases, she gets replaced by Cream the Rabbit. A new character to the series, Cream feels like a blend of Tails (can fly through mashing the A button) and an ‘easy’ mode. Basically, you have her Chao that can home-in on various objects and boss hit weak points.
That is a problem, as it breaks game balance if you play through the entire game as her. But just flying through boss fights and having an easy time can be a lot of fun. I enjoyed playing as Cream and she feels like a nice addition to the Sonic crew.
The gameplay is like Advance but with a focus on GOTTA GO FAST! You run fast and you keep going fast thanks to springs, boost pads and a new mechanic called the Sonic Boost. The longer you run, you build up momentum that triggers this Sonic Boost. You get an after-trail following you and you can keep this if you keep running (even if you go a simple jog). It is a natural way to have Sonic boost and fits within Classic Sonic mechanics; you have to EARN this instead of pressing a button to go fast.
But this leads to the level design being different then Advance. In that game, level design is more Classic like but with more platforming at places. Advance 2 has a lot of levels set up in lines but with upper, middle and lower paths. The upper paths lead to faster runs, leading to really rewarding gameplay if you can nail your run through stages.
But it isn’t like traditional 2D Sonic which focuses on platforming & speed, this game focuses on speed with platforming at points. I don’t mind this change and Dimps did a good job introducing this into the Classic formula with this game. For many, this feels like the ‘shift’ from Classic Sonic gameplay too full-on speed focused Sonic for the 2D platforming series and considering that fact, Advance 2 did a great job.
Sadly the special stages are once again a major issue and how unlocking content is stuck behind them is quite aggravating. You need to collect five special rings scattered around in each act and once you do so, you dash into the special stage at the end of an act. They are fun and can be a great time, but finding all the five special rings is very annoying; the game is focused on you going fast but they have you do forced exploration in levels clearly designed against that. It makes many annoying moments where you have some of the special rings but still cannot make it to the special stage.
Considering various unlockable content (Amy Rose, Sound Test, Mini Chao Garden) and a special final boss is locked behind the Chaos Emeralds, it just isn’t worth going after the Emeralds. Just like in Advance 1, you cannot use super forms in the main stages either, making them even more worthless.
Despite my annoyances with the special stage mechanics, the focus on speed being entwined with momentum is wonderful and the levels taking advantage of this results in well designed levels. While levels sometimes feel cheap and annoying at points, Sonic Advance 2 is a great playing and controlling game that I had a blast dashing through.
Presentation is strong like Advance and it looks better at points. Characters are more expressive, the animations for the sprites are detailed and the levels have more detail in Advance. This results in a great looking game that pops off the GBA.
The music here is very strong and one of my favorite handheld Sonic soundtracks. Having great sounding tracks that stand out even outside the game, you can find yourself tapping your feet while playing through Leaf Forest or Music Plant.
Sound quality is still solid, despite the GBA soundchip not being the best sometimes, resulting in a soundtrack that stands tall when compared to other games in the series.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Sonic Advance 2 goes in a new direction for the series. It takes the classic formula recreated within Advance 1 and adds speed-focused mechanics. The Sonic Boost feels like an evolution of the ‘rolling’ ability that Sonic had back in Sonic 1; pushing you to go faster and faster. While level design suffers from odd pit placement and issues communicating key abilities, it still is a great game. Through fun levels, great presentation and lots of fun characters to play as that feel similar but different in enjoyable ways; Sonic Advance 2 is a great portable adventure for the Blue Blur that will make you want to run fast!