Over the weekend, a buddy and I got some time to hang out. We both have full-time careers and are fathers of two, so hanging out can only mean one thing: we’re babysitting. Of course, this instance wasn’t an exception. Our wives decided to go to the Flower Factory, and we decided to stay as far the fuck away as we physically could from any place called the “Flower Factory.” This also meant keeping his four-year-old boy with us because not doing so would have constituted as child abuse.
If you follow me at all, then you know I have a shit ton of games. Well, everyone I know in real life knows this, too. Needless to say, my buddy’s little boy wasn’t going to not bug the shit out of me until he got to play one. I thought really hard, and then it hit me: This kid never shuts the hell up about Sonic the Hedgehog! And what’s weird is that he’s never even played a single Sonic game! That just shows how marketable that Blue son-of-a-bitch is!
I decided to do the kid a solid and let him actually play one of the Blue Blur’s games. One of his GOOD games, mind you. Starting him out with something beyond the Genesis Era would have constituted as child abuse, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already made it clear that I’ve the child’s best interests at heart.
False: If that were true, he’d be playing Mario like he’d asked.
I naturally gravitated towards Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It’s my favorite one, and I played the turds out of it when I was a young’un. I figured I could vicariously relive my childhood and view all those wonderful moments and revelations I had as a kid through this child’s eyes. I popped in the game, gave him the second controller (because fuck Tails), and started playing me some Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Console: Sega Genesis/Sega Mega Drive
Developer: Sonic Team/Sega Technical Institute
Release Year: 1992
Emerald Hill Zone. Holy balls, that music is so goddamned fantastic! Of course it’s not the best track to come from the Sonic games, but it’s definitely the track that brings back the most memories. Green Hill Zone is damn powerful in the nostalgia department, but, since I played Sonic 2 more, Emerald Hill Zone holds a special place in my heart.
With the kick ass music playing in the background, it all started coming back to me. The way Sonic jumps, the way he curls into a ball to crash into stuff, the speed. Man, that speed! I could feel the Blast Processing! Zipping through tunnels and loops and twisty paths felt so invigorating! Nothing could stop me!
And then something stopped me.
Well, that sure did bring me down from my high. Let’s just get back to running and…
Oh, a trampoline specifically placed to bounce me into a wall for some reason. That’s kind of dumb. Anyway, nothing’s gonna…
Are you shitting me!? Those spikes just popped out of nowhere! I guess I can be thankful they didn’t stab me, but how inconvenient for them to stop my momentum. But let’s continue. I’ll just hit this trampoline, run down this hill, build up speed, and…
You fucking monkey piece of shit!
What in the hell? I thought this game was fast! That’s what everyone associates Sonic with, right? Hell, the kid I’m playing with knows Sonic’s fast, and this is his first time playing one of his games! Why do I feel like I’m constantly bumping into shit every time I think about speeding up? Oh, right: IT’S BECAUSE I AM! And I bumped into shit the entire time we played. I most certainly did not feel like the fastest thing alive.
I will still bust out this theme song at random.
Beyond some parts in the first few levels, I didn’t feel that quick at all. In fact, I felt like I was going to get punished if I went fast. Because I did get punished whenever I went fast. Every time I started moving at a good clip, I’d hit an enemy or wall or rock or spikes or the end of a cliff. There were points in the game where my buddy and I (sharing Sonic responsibilities) had to slowly inch across the screen because going any faster would have resulted in a mantis blade to Sonic’s dome.
This Mantis Robot is kind of a son of a bitch.
Don’t get me wrong; I do love this game. I love fucking with whoever is playing as Tails. You know what I’m talking about: never letting him land or making sure you stop in a position where he’ll drown or get smashed. But it’s also fun to dick around with Tails. I always found it hysterical to screw Sonic over by collapsing cliffs or sending platforms on their merry way in Hill Top Zone, stranding the poor hedgehog on a rock in an active volcano.
Good luck crossing now, you blue asshole!
But the game has so many flaws! First off, I’ve always felt that Sonic’s sprite was too big or the camera was too close to the action. Panning that shit out would have made seeing upcoming obstacles much easier, allowing for better speed and momentum. Secondly, the level design, though cool with its many different paths, is mockingly devious. Just off screen there always seemed to be a trampoline to shoot you backward or a ramp to send you straight up into some spikes or, in the case of Chemical Plant Zone (which has my favorite Sonic track, by the way), bullshit flipping platforms that drop you into water, introducing you to the most panic-inducing music of all time!
Oh, God! There’s the countdown!
However, all these frustrating traps are downright hilarious when watching somebody else play. I couldn’t tell you how hard I laughed whenever my buddy got vaulted into a pit or when his son died because he didn’t jump off the plane at the beginning of Wing Fortress Zone.
But, despite any disgust I was feeling while replaying this game, I couldn’t help but watch my buddy’s son as he experienced it all for the first time. His eyes sparkled as he watched a hedgehog and a fox speed across the screen, saving helpless animals from their robotic prisons. He squinted and pursed his lips and jumped up and down with Sonic as he traversed the moving platforms. And he took much delight in the fact that he was a part of all of it. I watched, and I remembered.
I remembered barely being older than this kid and being blow away by Sonic the Hedgehog 2 when I first played it. I remembered being awestruck at how great my older cousin was at it. I remembered replaying it when I was older and feeling the wonderment from my younger cousin as we made it to Death Egg Zone. I remembered loving video games despite all their flaws. And I was happy. I was happy to play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with my buddy and his son.
We didn’t beat Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that day. We let the kid play the final lives on Wing Fortress Zone, and he burned through them much like a four-year-old playing the final level of a video game would. He was disappointed that he let us and the animals trapped in robots down. We told him we’d save them another day.
Letting him hit that button every time we beat Robotnik made his day.
After they went home and I put my girls to bed, I sat down and played Sonic 2 again. I didn’t have any particular goal in mine. I didn’t care if I beat the game. I didn’t care if I got the Chaos Emeralds. I didn’t care that I fell for the same horseshit traps that I fell for earlier that day. All I wanted to do was have fun and remember.
It would’ve been more fun had I beaten it that night, though. I’m just saying…
Thanks for you Playing!