This is from quite a time in Sega’s history. It shows a willingness to be third-party a good while before they went fully third-party. We’re currently seeing a similar behavior with Nintendo and mobile games. Graphically, this game is similar to the Game Gear and Master System Sonic games, but does have an edge over them, playing more like the superior games for Genesis. Unlike those Game Gear and Master System games, Sonic Pocket Adventure is fun, albeit too similar to the Genesis game Sonic 2.
Pocket Adventure is appealing because Neo Geo Pocket Color was the only real competitor to the Game Boy at the time of release, and it’s graphical superiority was evident. Sonic’s top speed is gimped, because even so, the NGPC’s power couldn’t compete with consoles like the Genesis, but I think the game is more fair because of this. You are no longer running full speed at something you can’t see ahead of you.
We still have monitors with barriers inside, and monitors with ten rings inside. Hold on to fifty rings or more by the Act’s end and you may go to the bonus stage, though it is the same as the bonus stage for Sonic 2, running through a half-pipe, with rings and bombs in different places. I recall there was going to be a Dreamcast tie-in, perhaps with Sonic Adventure or Sonic Adventure 2, as there was a Neo Geo Pocket Color to Dreamcast link cable, but nothing came of this idea.
Once again, we have Zones, most of which are two acts. Neo South Island Zone, is still paying tribute to Green Hill Zone in Sonic 1. Secret Plant Zone is so much like Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2, just as Aquatic Relix Zone is so much like Aquatic Ruin Zone in Sonic 2. Sonic News Network goes as far as to say they are the same levels but tweaked to the needs of the NGPC hardware. Perhaps it’s better to point out differences from Sonic 2, such as a run-in with Knuckles, and with Metal Sonic.
My first ever game system was the Game Boy. When I got a Neo Geo Pocket Color, it was a revelation to see how much better portable graphics could be, at least until the Game Boy Advance. Interestingly, SNK was the main developer of Sonic Pocket Adventure and Sonic Team was the co-developer. Also, the title screen attributes the copyright to Sega Enterprises, which I have not heard of before, and have not heard of since. The game’s Supervisor, according to the credits, is Y. Naka, almost undoubtedly Yuji Naka, widely considered one of the great minds behind Sonic. I think this is a game for the most diehard of Sonic fans, although also one for NGPC collectors. My NGPC is in the basement, in mint condition. I don’t think I’ll ever sell it.