We’ve all been different to the crowd at some point in our lives, and for Jimi Fletcher, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Master System – his first-ever gaming Christmas present – gave him a unique outlook on both life and the game itself.
What’s your favourite game of all time?
Not the best, necessarily, but your favourite. A game that you have such a special, personal, inimitable connection with that nothing, not even legitimate criticisms about it from others, can dull your enthusiasm.
Of course, you know, deep down, that games like Super Mario Bros. 3, Resident Evil 2, Half-Life, Halo, Goldeneye 007, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Grand Theft Auto V or Red Dead Redemption 2 are better – much better – and even though some of those more celebrated examples have also brought nothing but pure joy into my life and captured my imagination in ways few other things in life have, I still always find myself coming back to the one that arguably started it all.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2. For the Sega Master System.
Sonic 2 was the first new game I ever owned, which makes it extremely special in my book. I’d been the proud owner of a Sega Master System II for only a few months and was all too aware that I was behind the times, what with everyone else going crazy over the 16-bit double impact of the Sega Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo.
I didn’t care. I had my very own out-of-date console and I loved it to bits, quaint 8-bit graphics and all. It came with Alex Kidd in Miracle World built-in, a deceptively bright but quite tricky platformer that I’d lost patience with after it turned out my copy glitched just before the final room, which meant I never completed it. Alex Kidd, like the Mega Drive’s endearingly clunky Altered Beast, was embraced by the public thanks to it being packaged with the console itself, but both games were already yesterday’s news, and it was all because of one spiky-haired, speed-racing blue mammal who stormed onto the scene in 1991 at lightning speed: Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Even the mighty Mario felt temporarily passé around this time, a somewhat unfair state of affairs given Nintendo was delivering the likes of Super Mario World. Still, that’s a testament to how phenomenally cool the first Sonic was back then, and still is now. Thrilling speed, amazing music, ingeniously intricate level design and instant accessibility made it a dream experience, an all-conquering behemoth. Sega was taking gaming into the 1990s with flair.
Yet, in an act of generosity, Sega wasn’t willing to forsake those still cradling their Master Systems: a console that, lest we forget, was already many years old. They devised an entirely separate Sonic game that would adapt itself better to the 8-bit confines of the system. A direct port of the Mega Drive game would have been impossible, so in partnership with Aspect, they smartly dreamed it up all over again, with the unique result being two entirely different games called Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
The MS version was lots of fun, and was clearly cut from the same gene pool as its sibling, but it can’t be denied that the MD got the real fancy stuff like loop-de-loops, superspeed, trippy bonus stages and astonishing graphics – the stuff that everyone was talking about – whereas the MS opted for a simpler, neater and yet still thoroughly engaging approach. Putting it harshly, the modest MS Sonic would not have set the world ablaze on his own, but for those of us who simply didn’t have the budget for a Mega Drive, it was more than enough.
A whole new world
By 1992, Sonic Fever was well and truly in overdrive, as was the demand for an inevitable sequel, both for the famous MD outing and its later-released, lesser-known MS counterpart. Once more, Sega would create two separate follow-ups, and at the time there was no anticipation in gaming greater than for that sequel, specifically the Mega Drive one.
New, intensely colour-drenched levels (including ones set in a casino world, a chemical plant and an oil rig), an additional character (the super-cute fox Tails), split-screen two-player and insane-looking half-pipe bonus stages all combined to form a very tantalising package. My friends and I all pored over the gorgeous screenshots in mags like Sega Power and Mean Machines, taped and rewatched the short-but-sweet video footage previewed in ITV’s Bad Influence and Channel 4’s GamesMaster, and impatiently ticked off the dates on our calendar to the big day that was Sonic 2’s Day, which was akin to Christmas in November.
Of course, not many people I knew got the game on that day – for most of us, it was a Christmas present in waiting. That’s a month of clockwatching. Agony. In fact, being a Master System owner, it was a whole two months of so-near-but-so-far anticipation, given that the MS version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released in October!
1992 was a big year for me – that autumn I’d started secondary school, and there were fewer leaps into the unknown as scary as that for any 11-year-old. One of my worries was down to the fact that during the summer holidays of that year I’d started wearing glasses and, extremely self-conscious as I was, I hadn’t looked forward to being seen wearing them come September, given that insults like ‘four eyes’ had been a regular, cruel put-down from the nastier children if anyone happened to be bespectacled in primary school.
Turns out that it’d be the least of my problems. Secondary school ended up being a wide-open arena made up of that most mixed-up age-group – teenagers – lost and finding their way among a grey sea of school uniform, a veritable battleground of clashing and conflicting ages, personalities and gender, and frankly I found it confusing, scary and overwhelming.
Knowing that this situation would take up most of my life for the coming five years was far from a pleasant prospect and to put it lightly, I didn’t enjoy my time there. Obviously, it wasn’t all bad, and some of it was damn good, but the lows were horrendous, and some brief but ugly brushes with the receiving end of bullying outside of school hours led to me becoming too scared to venture far from my house alone.
As such, my preference for home and the respite it provided grew and grew; the reassuring familiarity of my own house provided refuge during the years I was forced to grow up in the big, bad world of the classroom, dinner hall and playground. Evenings and weekends away from school felt even more precious and made the escape of videogaming and movies extra special, especially at Christmas.
Games given as presents at Christmas have almost, without fail, won their way into my heart like few others have – and Sonic 2 was the first. Further down the line there would be Super Mario Bros. 3, Starwing, Donkey Kong Country, Sonic 2 for the MD, Sonic 3D Blast (which is not a well-loved game, but I really got into it) and Diddy Kong Racing. These were especially wonderful because I had no school to get in the way of my gaming.
The two-week period of the Christmas/New Year school holidays was always joyous – I got to do what I wanted, go to bed when I wanted, wake up when I wanted, and watch a lot of films and have a lot of fun. Back then, films weren’t the instantly accessible things they are now. No Netflix, no Prime, no cheap DVDs. Not many of us had Sky Movies back then. Films on VHS weren’t exactly cheap either. Therefore, it was usually the case that the first time I would see a film was when it was premiered on terrestrial telly, and Christmas was an absolute goldmine for this sort of thing.
These days, I still ring around the things I plan to watch this Christmas with a marker pen in the Radio Times like I used to, but it’s more a quaint affectation these days, whereas back then I did it with an excited passion. I knew what I wanted watch and tape; I was in geeky heaven. Nowadays. when a film premieres on terrestrial TV, I’ve either already seen it a few times or was never that interested in the first place.
Yet back then, Christmas was a chance to finally see all these new films for the first time, and for someone whose video library consisted of only The Living Daylights, Octopussy and a couple of episodes of The Real Ghostbusters, this was very exciting indeed. But it wasn’t all just films. Gaming was creeping up on me. 1992 was my first Christmas where I already had a console, and there was only one game on my mind back then.
There’s a second time for everything
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was an instant classic. True, there were new elements to the game, but the reason it was so beloved was because it played to the strengths of the first one (which I’m not sure I’d even played by this time) and essentially gave everyone more of what they wanted – more speed, more action, more dazzle, more sensation.
As soon as you started the game you were IN – it helped that the first zone, Emerald Hill, was essentially the first game’s Green Hill Zone with bells on, but it also felt like a delightful enhancement of everything that made the first game so good: a classic case of “give the people what they want”. It just got better and better as it went on.
Sonic 2 represents a dream moment when a series was riding high, giddy on its own popularity and invention, and everyone loved it – a proper zeitgeist moment in gaming. If it was an album it would be (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Rio, Nevermind, Led Zeppelin II, Doolittle, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back – second albums that rode the wave of their predecessors and became monumental in the process.
Sonic would never be as enormous, as cool or as loved again as he was in 1992. Don’t get me wrong: after that, it wasn’t a sharp slide downhill, but the shock of the new had inevitably faded into, a strong, reliable formula (Sonic 3, Sonic and Knuckles, Sonic CD) and then an awkward period of uncertainty where this icon of side-scrolling 2D platforming stumbled into the 3D era, with results that rarely won over the fans.
Meanwhile, the second Master System Sonic game tiptoed into town like the hero’s younger, timid sibling and I could relate to that – plenty to prove and quietly confident, but lacking the firepower, knack and popularity of its big brother. Like the first MS game, it seemed so small next to the MD, so very last year, literally in the case of the loop-de-loops that the MS had finally got round to including, but 1992 was all about the spin dash, a tremendous MD-exclusive feature where Sonic could go from zero to 10,000mph immediately simply by holding down one of the main buttons.
A classic underdog story
As a result of the spin dash, every Sonic game before it suddenly felt very s-l-o-w. We humble Master System owners ultimately understood; we knew our old console couldn’t pull off tricks like that. We were even content with making do without Tails. At least, we were once we’d gotten over our anger at the misleading front cover that featured him to the point we presumed he was playable. Bit of a cruel tease, that, as were the title screens for each act which clearly show Tails and Sonic together.
Nope, the plot in this version has Tails kidnapped by the evil Dr Robotnik right from the start, with Sonic ultimately acting alone in his mission to retrieve the lost Chaos Emeralds, defeat the enemies and rescue Tails. If Mega Drive owners were feeling particularly cruel, they could say that Master System owners had been saddled with a hopelessly inferior game that featured none of the USPs that everyone was raving about. And yes, maybe in a perfect world I would have already had a Mega Drive and it might have been the 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that I was brought up on, but it wasn’t to be.
My relationship with that game was very special too, from the sweet-but-cruelly-short times I got to play it at a friend’s house, and renting a Mega Drive for the weekend from my video shop for a fiver with the game included, to belatedly getting a Sega Mega Drive II and my obsession with the soundtrack… I love MD Sonic 2 and always will, but, but, but… you know when you want to fight your corner, stick up for the little guy, that sort of thing? I was never going to convince anyone that MS Sonic 2 was better in any shape or form than MD Sonic 2, but there’s something indescribable and irrational about my feelings for it. I think it’s called love.
Christmas time, Sonic and no whines
Come Christmas Day, well, you know the score: wake up early (if you managed to get to sleep in the first place), impatiently sit by the tree, waiting for the others to get out of bed, only to have to wait even longer while breakfast is made, which I don’t eat because I’m too excited to eat, and then, only then, did my mum, sister and I take it turns to open presents, with the big ones saved for last. Soon enough, there I was, it’s finally happening – I’m opening it, tearing the wrapping paper apart and then seeing that glorious, white checked cover right there in my hands at last.
I removed the oval Sega sticker to get inside the case and then devoured the instruction manual (with its purple-on-white text and screenshots) until I was given permission to leave the room and run upstairs to play it. This was the time when a big Christmas present really was the culmination of a year’s wait – like all of Christmas itself, it was like a reward at the end of the year. In this case, it was my reward for making it through all that school. I wanted to play this game as soon as possible, away from the others. Sounds incredibly antisocial, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t care, as I’m sure nobody else who also got the game that day did either.
As soon as I had the chance, I slid open the lid of my Master System II, gently put the freshly-minted cartridge in, switched the power on, and because back then there was no things as loading times, elaborate opening cut-scenes or the like, within seconds I was hurled into a new world, a new experience, with little more than an Act 1 title card to ease me in.
I don’t know about you, but when I play a game for the first time, I don’t usually spend hours and hours playing it – in fact, I usually turn it off after five or so minutes, because I need to take a step back and take it all in. I can sometimes get overwhelmed by a new game and need to take a breather – no rush, no desire to complete it in one go (not a likelihood, given how mediocre I was at games back then); just taking my time with it.
Besides, despite me sounding like all I cared about was videogames and nothing else, I did enjoy the whole togetherness of Christmas, yet at the same time it wasn’t too long before I found myself sliding away to have another go. Then there was the huge gap between gaming where we all walked to my grandparents’ house through the serene, quiet and slightly strange streets, where only an occasional car would pass. It made for a strange atmosphere, like we were in a post-apocalyptic movie and the only people left on Earth!
At my grandparents we ate dinner, sat by the fire (we didn’t have a fire back at home, so I loved theirs) and gorged on chocolates, cosied up together, opened more presents (including my second-favourite gift of the day – Batman Returns on VHS) and occasionally glanced over at the telly where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was getting premiered on BBC1. All through it, there was that lovely comfort that came with basking in the glow of a special day, made all the cosier by the fact that my grandparents never had the main light on – always smaller lamps – and at around 7 or 8pm, we’d walk back home – just as quiet and empty outside as before, but it was dark.
Thanks to the stillness around us, it felt like it was the middle of the night, but when we got in, it was early enough for me to be allowed to watch Batman Returns, one of my all-time favourite films, which was set at Christmas and felt like totally appropriate viewing. My love for this film and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 are intertwined; I rarely think of one without thinking of the other, and both conjure memories of a lovely Christmas Day with my family.
Slow and steady wins the race
The next few days saw me devouring Sonic 2, making slow but steady improvements, getting a sense of the levels plus their secrets and challenges. I learned the best routes, stocked up on extra lives, searched for hidden gems and emeralds, obsessed over making it into the next level, and sometimes spent days at a time stuck on a particular bit, coming back to it again and again (with less regularity by the time school came around again). Soon enough I was well versed, even if some of the obstacles could only be cleared thanks to a somewhat unfair method of trial and error.
This was an often-lengthy process – you could spend a whole hour progressing, only to lose your lives and start all over again. Argh! Yet apart from a few battery-backed examples, this was the way it was with games back then. It might have proved infuriating, but you really became an expert, and wasn’t that better than simply saving the game at every other moment and finishing the whole thing in a matter of days? These games were expensive: £29.99! I didn’t want to finish it in days! My mum was hardly going to buy me a new game anytime soon.
Like the first Sonic game, there were six zones (seven if you got all those coveted Chaos Emeralds), each with three acts. The beauty was that if you were already familiar with its predecessor then settling into this was an absolute doddle. The rules? Collect those rings, don’t get hit, don’t fall into a trap and make it to the end before the ten-minute deadline. The third act always featured a boss, and unlike the other Sonic games of the time, it wasn’t just Robotnik showing up again and again – here we got robot crabs, ducks, seals, pigs and bulls!
What was noticeable was that though there wasn’t much time between the first and second Master System Sonic games, the advancements in sound and vision were really impressive: it delivered richer colours, fuller sound and an all-round sleeker, slicker look. MS Sonic 2 was still very, very modest compared to its Mega Drive counterpart, but for an 8-bit game, it was one of the freshest-looking titles on the console. Wonderful visuals were abundant, from the opening Underground zone, which was most unusual for kicking off the game in a non-pastoral environment, to the windswept and stormy Sky High, the cool and radiant Aqua Lake, the rich and bright Green Hills, the industrial steel of Gimmick Mountain, the glimmering Scrambled Egg Zone (which, with its palette of primary colours against a dark background, resembled a Christmas level in space) and the disconcertingly cute pastel-coloured final level that was Crystal Egg.
The levels themselves were full of inventive, individual quirks (mine carts, hang gliders, transportable air bubbles, spinning discs, etc) and charming, catchy theme tunes. OK, so we didn’t get any of amazing slap bass as showcased on the Mega Drive themes, but we had to live with that. Let’s move on.
Standing alone, but not lonely
What I loved was that MS Sonic the Hedgehog 2 never felt like a poor relative to the Mega Drive version; its apparent flaws were accentuated so that they became virtues. For example, the big difference between the two games was one of volume. The MD simply had so much more going on – more detail, more action, more, more, more – and the Master System version couldn’t and didn’t try to rival it for content, instead presenting us with sparser, cleaner and as a result, lonelier levels.
One obvious, external reason Sonic 2 felt lonely to me was that I didn’t know anyone else who owned it – everyone else either had a SNES or a Mega Drive. The upside of that was that the relationship between me and this game felt more special – everyone may have had Sonic 2 for the MD, but only this special loser had the one for the MS. It’s not like I fooled myself into championing this game; I genuinely loved it.
Another factor contributing to the lonely feel of Sonic 2 was the absence of Tails. Playing this game alone, acting alone, both in person and on-screen, made the mission feel sadder and strangely emptier, even if the stakes were far more personal here than they were on the 16-bit version. The levels, where even the number of enemies was strangely diminished, felt weirdly desolate in comparison. The Mega Drive game is a shot of adrenaline, a hit of colour, energy and excitement coursing directly into the cerebral cortex, whereas this felt softer, gentler and calmer (despite being bloody difficult at times).
Even the closing title sequence, where Sonic (or Sonic and Tails, depending on the ending) run through the pastures as day turns to night, felt oddly joyless and melancholy, not least because of the wistful theme tune that plays throughout. If that wasn’t sad enough, most players took the ‘bad’ ending of this game to be something unspeakably tragic – here Sonic runs alone until the end of the credits and stops eventually to look up at the night sky to see an image of Tails in the clouds, which some read as ‘Tails is dead’. That would be utterly appalling, were it not for the fact that the ‘good’ ending has both Sonic and Tails look up at the end to see not just Tails’ face in the sky, but Sonic’s too. So basically, I don’t think anyone died, at any point. It’s just a cute final shot, that’s all.
The strive for five
Speaking of endings, I think it took me around two months to complete Sonic 2, but that was without the Chaos Emeralds. Like the first game, and unlike the Mega Drive versions, the Emeralds were not to be won via Special Stages but to be discovered somewhere in the acts themselves, and unlike any other contemporary Sonic game, winning all the emeralds didn’t just give you a rubbish extra scene or additional graphic during the closing cut-scene or end credits. No: if you got all six emeralds, you got a whole new zone, Crystal Egg. Now that’s a reward, and one that was well worth the extra time it took to try and find them, because there were few things in my gaming life that drove me up the wall as much as trying to find the fifth Chaos Emerald.
The preceding four emeralds were frustrating to acquire, especially in the airborne Sky High and its mix of clouds and hidden springs that looked like clouds, but at least they were a visible target that you could concentrate your efforts on. The Gimmick Mountain emerald was genuinely hidden, and it took me a whole extra two months to try and find it.
Few things – such as trying to negotiate my way around the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, winning on Rainbow Road on the SNES Mario Kart, or killing Trevelyan on Goldeneye 007 (something I only managed to do my accident when Sean Bean idiotically threw a grenade against a closing door, blowing himself up) have produced such incandescent frustration in me.
I became obsessed with finding that damn emerald, replaying both acts repeatedly and looking for secret tunnels or out-of-sight platforms that would lead me to victory. Yet it seemed to be all in vain, and for a while, Sonic 2 stopped being fun. This is from someone who learned to live with using that pesky hang glider in Sky High Zone, or the lethally unfair springs-and-spike dilemma in Green Hills 2.
Yet one time I happened, by chance, to jump through the fake wall in Gimmick Mountain Act 2 and found a whole new, undiscovered section that inevitably led to that magnificent red emerald (and a couple of extra lives too – cheers!). The sense of utter relief, joy and well-earned triumph was near-unparalleled.
The joy of six
There have honestly been few other gaming moments in my life as exhilarating as finding that emerald, and of continuing the game and defeating the erstwhile ‘final’ boss only to be rewarded with the sixth emerald, which granted me access to Crystal Egg, which by this time I had built up in my head as some kind of lost paradise or nirvana. Weirdly, the level itself is one of the easiest in the entire game (especially the first act), which combined with the sugar-cute visuals and twinkly music, made for an unsettling experience, as though it was the calm before the storm.
It reminded me of Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back – a similarly misleading Utopian world where tragedy, darkness and shock revelations were just around the corner. I just had a feeling that Act 3 was going to be a nightmare. It was.
Robotnik doesn’t confess to Sonic that he’s his father before chopping his paw off, but Crystal Egg Act 3 certainly brought danger back to the game with a vengeance, alongside a scoundrel of a final confrontation that you only mastered if you learned patience. Hate and anger only led to the dark side and a hasty Game Over screen.
In a distinctly un-crystally, un-eggy backdrop far removed from the previous two acts, you had to strike at Robotnik a dozen times, timing your departure from the safety of the surrounding air pipes and not get fried by the many electrified obstacles that were unleashed.
This certainly proved tricky. There were plenty of times where a loss of nerve resulted in me attempting to strike him too early or too late, resulting in some serious electroshock therapy; still, he was nothing compared to the MD version, which not only had a truly fearsome mecha-Robotnik, but the terrifying Mecha Sonic that made his first-ever appearance in Scrambled Egg seem as dangerous as a lost puppy.
I still haven’t completed the MD version or acquired all the Chaos Emeralds. I don’t think I ever will. My completion of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Master System, however, felt truly earned and may very well have been the first game I ever completed – Alex Kidd, Teddy Boy, The Ninja and others had remained unvanquished, but here was a complete victory that had was months in the making.
Like all video game victories, the feelings I experienced were mixed. Yes, I’d beaten the game, but now it was all over. That was it for me and Sonic. All I had now was my pride and my boasts of my victory, which meant nothing as no one else I knew was playing the game. Maybe the melancholy music playing over the end credits was appropriate after all. After all, this was like saying goodbye to a friend. Saying that, I did think the ‘Game Over’ screen at the end was a bit uncalled for. Surely ‘Thank You for Playing’ or ‘Nice One, Geezer’ would have been a bit more celebratory?
A prodigal son
By the time I completed Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 1993 was well into its stride and I was happy to put aside it and move onto other games, many of which were second-hand purchases or swaps. I wouldn’t play Sonic 2 again during its original lifespan, but at least I could say I finally completed it, which was more than can be said for many others who couldn’t be bothered to do the same, as I was shocked to discover later.
You see, I thought everybody loved Sonic 2 for the Master System. How could you not? Blimey, was I misinformed. Aside from the fact that it’s no fun when everyone starts beating on your favourite game, I was genuinely staggered to find out that plenty of other people found it frustrating and difficult to the point of controller-snapping.
Then I realised that much of this criticism was aimed at the Game Gear release, which, outside of Europe, was the only version available in most countries. Both games are structurally identical, but because the handheld GG screen is smaller than the MS’s, the GG cropped the original image, which not only resulted in tons of blind jumps and surprise attacks (both of which were already present in the MS version, but multiplied tenfold here) but also made the camera jerk back and forth as it tried to keep up with you.
Previously simple bosses were now monstrously difficult, avoidable obstacles now became unfair shocks and in the case of Green Hills Act 3 – with its reliance on expertly timed spring-jumps and spike avoidance – the very tricky level became a near-impossible ordeal. Given there were no restart points in the acts, you had to truly master the game in order to beat it. As I mentioned earlier, there were no save points either, necessitating multiple attempts. As a result, your familiarity with a game like this would become more intense, its early levels getting burned into your mind’s eye. This may be why we, and more specifically gamers of my age, have such vivid memories of those old games, because we really did play the hell out of them.
There were more Master System games to rock my world, such as Asterix, the first Sonic game and Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, yet in the end, love faded and time went on. By the time Christmas 1993 came around, I’d already sold-off my Master System II to contribute towards the cost of a new Christmas present – a NES – which by that time had substantially dropped in price It featured the mighty Mario, who I was as keen to enjoy as much as I had Sonic the year before.
Initially I was going to ask for the third Sonic Master System game, Sonic Chaos, but I jumped ship and the NES would end up being an even more loved console than the Master System before it. Super Mario Bros. 3 was the next game I utterly adored, and the old console was left in the past.
Still, nostalgia is a powerful thing, and I returned to Sonic 2 again and again, loving its content and adoring it even more for the lovely memories it triggered. I also played the Game Gear version, and because I was so familiar with the MS (“it’s like riding a bike”, etc), it wasn’t even that difficult!
These days, whenever the mood gets me, I dig out the second-hand Master System II that I bought a few years back, save Tails all over again, and if I haven’t spent too much time on Green Hills Zone Act 3, I’ll stick on the Blu-ray of Batman Returns afterwards (I got rid of the VHS, sadly) and it’s 1992 all over again. Only the best bits, mind you. Not the school stuff.
- It’s its own game entirely, and doesn’t try to copy the MD version
- Lovely, lively visuals
- For once, the Chaos Emeralds are genuinely worth finding!
- Some unfair level design, most obvious in the Game Gear version
- No Tails, no two-player, no spin dash
- Maybe could have done with a few more zones… yes, even more than the extra one – I’m greedy!
The Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will never top any poll of the greatest games ever, or even find itself somewhere in the top 100, but that means nothing to me. It’s my go-to retro game, one of the key titles of my youth and a magnificent sequel. Together with the equally excellent first instalment, these games form a wonderful, relatively undervalued alternative to the bigger, better-known Mega Drive versions.