Sonic Advance 2 is really just more of the same from the original Sonic Advance. There, the review is over, and there’s nothing more to read. Really, though, if we peel back a layer and start to take the game apart, the level design in “2” isn’t quite as good as in the original. That being said, Sonic Advance 2 really nails a sense of speed that the first game didn’t get quite right. While the Special Stage isn’t as much fun as in the first Sonic Advance, there are more playable characters. We can take the game apart all day, but if you enjoyed the original Sonic Advance, chances are good you’ll have a good time here as well.
Among the more notable changes is the addition of rail grinding. In 2003, SOAP shoes were popular – shoes designed for grinding down hand rails. The Sonic Team developers included rail grinding in Sonic Adventure 2, and Dimps kept things going in Sonic Advance 2. Rail grinding does switch up the pace of the levels, but it’s hard to feel cool doing it as Cream the Rabbit. Sonic Advance 2 really nails the sense of speed. The screen genuinely scrolls faster in some segments of this game than it did in the previous game, which means you really are going faster.In fact, most segments in this game are just plain faster.
The Special Stages are sort of a letdown. For those who don’t remember Mode 7 on the Super Nintendo, it was a part-way 3D look with a lot of 2D geometry. Sonic Advance 2 achieves this same look in the Special Stages, where you run big loops collecting enough rings to give you a Chaos Emerald at the end of the stage. The Special Stages are simple and challenging, but I had more fun in the original game’s Special Stages.
As in the previous title, Dimps went for that cartoon-y look and feel, and they achieved the look to greater effect this time around. The art looks better suited for the GBA’s limited screen real estate. Color choice is hit or miss. Sky Canyon has a clean muted pastel look, but Techno Base looks bad, with too many colors. We only have 240 x 160 pixels, so I can forgive the developers for a less than perfect art style. Now there’s an overworld map, which is nice to have. The whole game is probably as long as the first game. Playable characters include Sonic, Cream, Tails, Knuckles and Amy Rose. The bosses are a little more creative but also a little more difficult.
The music is above average. Let’s be honest, nothing is going to top the Sonic 1 Special Stage song, or Sonic 3‘s rumored collaboration with Michael Jackson. But I like the Special Stage music here as well. The tunes are catchy, and Dimps makes good use of the sound capabilities on GBA.
Good news—with Sonic Advance 2, the multiplayer is back. As someone who has linked Game Boys before, I found this to be a really welcome addition. Co-op is almost always more fun than playing alone. The game is honestly really short. You could probably beat the campaign in forty-five minutes. But with the inclusion of five playable characters and multiplayer, there’s a lot of replay value.
Once again, Sonic Advance 2 offers more of what the original Sonic Advance did. By the time Dimps brought the series to Nintendo DS with Sonic Rush, they really perfected a formula. Here, however, is a relatively untested developer creating something leagues better than what you’d expect from a team with almost no track record. Sonic Advance 2 is probably a worse game overall than Sonic Advance, but not by much. Kudos for getting so much mileage out of seven zones with additional playable characters. You can get the original cartridge for $9 on eBay. I think that’s fair.