Sonic Drift 2
  • Genre:
    • Racing
  • Platform:
    • Game Gear
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • JP 03/17/1995
    • UK April 1995
    • US November 1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 03/29/2018.

Sonic Drift 2, known in Europe as Sonic Drift Racing, is a racing video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Game Gear. It was originally released in Japan on March 17, 1995, Europe in April 1995, and North America in November 1995. This is the sequel to Sonic Drift, which came out the previous year on the Game Gear, but only in Japan. As can be gleaned by its title, this is a spinoff from the Sonic the Hedgehog series that revolves around racing. Ever since Nintendo released the highly successful Super Mario Kart in 1992, countless other developers sought to create kart racer spinoffs based on their most popular IPs. Sega jumped on this bandwagon with Sonic Drift, but the game wasn't anywhere near as good as Mario Kart. Sonic Drift 2 is a definite improvement over the first game, but it's still not even close to achieving Mario Kart's level of quality.

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Graphics are again entirely in 2-D, because the 8-bit hardware of the Game Gear isn't exactly suitable for anything else. As with the first game, races are in a third-person perspective, but you're primarily looking at what's in front of you. It's basically like a first-person viewpoint, except you can see the backside of your racer. The map at the top of the screen shows the current course's layout and locations of all the racers. Left and right on the d-pad steers your vehicle in those directions, up on the d-pad uses your racer's special ability, holding the 2 button makes you accelerate, and the 1 button is your brakes. If you hold both the 1 and 2 buttons simultaneously, you'll drift, which allows you to make tighter turns. However, if you drift too much, you'll end up spinning out. As far as all of this stuff goes, Sonic Drift 2 makes no significant changes from the first game.

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The first game had a measly four characters, but Sonic Drift 2 ups the roster of playable racers to a more respectable seven. On top of Sonic, Tails, Amy, and Dr. Eggman, all of whom return from the first game, Sonic Drift 2 adds Knuckles the Echidna, Fang the Sniper, and Metal Sonic. Fang first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble, though versions of the game released outside of Japan referred to him as Nack the Weasel. While Knuckles had already made a playable appearance in Sonic and Knuckles by this point, this is the first game in which Fang and Metal Sonic are playable. Like the first Sonic Drift, every character drives a vehicle with different parameters, and pressing up on the d-pad uses their special ability at the cost of a few rings. Because the playable cast is so much bigger, you have way more options. Plus, playing as Fang and Metal Sonic is just plain cool. However, even though there are seven racers total, only four can race at a time. That includes you.

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Like the main series and the first Sonic Drift, rings and CRT monitors with power-ups can be found on the tracks. The red monitors that gave you a sudden burst of speed and the blue monitors that gave you temporary invincibility are both back, but Sonic Drift 2 introduces a bunch of new power-ups. There are now yellow monitors that allow you to jump like the feathers from Super Mario Kart and black monitors that enable you to sling a mine to the track. Additionally, power-ups obtained from monitors are no longer used immediately, and instead remain in your inventory until you elect to use them by pressing up on the d-pad. This is more in line with the Mario Kart series. Items not contained in monitors are still triggered as soon as you drive over them, though, like springs that make you jump, stars that white out the screen for everyone, and balls that reverse your controls. Anyway, Sonic Drift 2 has more power-ups than its predecessor and gives you more control over them, both of which are good things.

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Of course there are courses in this game, but you certainly don't want to go off course. Many courses are themed after levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3, but many are entirely original. The first game had variations of the same six courses for all three of its cups, but Sonic Drift 2 has mostly unique courses for every cup. In other words, this game has far more courses than the first title. The differences between courses are also far more pronounced here. Most courses require you to do three laps, but there are some lengthy ones that only consist of a single lap. Some courses have you driving through tunnels, and there's one that makes you drive through water the whole way through. Much like the infamous Star Road from Mario Kart, there's even a course set in outer space! There are also more obstacles and objects on the tracks, like rocks, bumpers, and ramps. These things all make Sonic Drift 2 a bit more fun to play than the first title.

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The main mode is the Chaos Grand Prix, which is broken up into three separate cups of varying difficulty with six courses apiece. Placing first on all six courses in the third cup will give you the privilege of doing a seventh race for ultimate victory. If any of the "good guy" characters, like Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Amy make it this far, they'll face Eggman in a final one-on-one race on the Death Egg. However, if "bad guys" like Eggman, Fang, or Metal Sonic place first on the first six courses on the third cup, they'll face Sonic on the Death Egg instead. It's a minor detail, but in a sequel with such few differences, everything is worth mentioning.

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It's better than the first Sonic Drift, but the improvements are so miniscule that you probably won't even notice the difference. The brunt of the improvements comes in the form of additional content, such as more characters, power-ups, and courses. Courses are also more varied, which helps break up the monotony. Being able to manually use power-ups is another improvement. However, aside from that, the core mechanics of the game remain mostly unchanged. Sonic Drift 2 is okay for a portable 8-bit racing game, but it's no Mario Kart killer.

Word Count: 1,056

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