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April 21, 2011 / jwaxo

Sonic 2 (Cooperative Play)

Thinking about a pair of tailbones that rotate around each other hurts my back.

Lately I’ve been blasting my way through Portal 2 and its accompanying co-op mode, which has been making me remember the days of yore when playing on the same side as another player was virtually unheard of. Obviously certain games, like the shooters at the local arcade, were built with this concept in mind, but it was rare to find a game that offered a normal single-player, a competitive mode, and one in which you would help each other out. There are probably predecessors, but the first game that springs to my mind when considering my history of the genre is Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Sonic 2 has a lot of memories associated with it, really. The pseudo-3D that the bonus stages were in, the awesome roller-coaster rides that most of the levels took you on, the awesome levels themselves (especially Chemical Plant and Casino Night!). Apart from the entire cooperative aspect that could be unlocked by the simple application of a second controller, the thing that probably stands out the most is the memory of biking down to Albertson’s to rent the game, over and over again.

Ah, yes. Renting. Do people do that still? I know that consoles are just as big as, if not bigger than, they were back then, but I don’t know if I’ve spoken to anyone about renting games recently. I mean, what with the shutting down of all of the local Blockbusters, the advent of game demos being downloadable straight to the console… who would bother paying money for a game that they’d only be able to play for a few days? Not me, at least. But then, I play a game with the intent to play it completely to death, and I know that some people don’t.

Regardless, the business of renting games is a lot different than it was back then. A day or few would approach where our parents were going to be busy or at least heavily distracted, possibly the annual Christmas party or some summer event. My brother and sister and I would know that we’d have free reign of the TV and wouldn’t be distracted or forced away from it, so we’d rent a movie or two and maybe my brother and I would cobble a few dollars together and pick out a game to try.

Sonic 2 was that game several times, until we purchased it. It was replaced as our go-to game by Sonic 3, and later Sonic & Knuckles. We were never ones for brand loyalty, necessarily, but if we found a formula we liked, we stuck with it.

Probably the same reason that we watched so many kids’ sports movies.

As usual, I was generally stuck as Tails during these playing sessions, a role that I remember leaping enthusiastically into, though it was probably a bit more complex than that. I’m picturing some sort of wrestling match and lots of yelling. But being Tails was awesome, really: your deaths had no consequences, so if the game was lost it was entirely Sonic’s fault. You could fly around, or at least could in Sonic 3, and your running animation was pretty slick. Plus, you know, you were smaller than the big blue hedgehog–which wasn’t really an advantage, but it at least helped me fit into the role better as “Sonic’s little helper,” what with me being smaller than my older brother.

It was after playing this game that I realized just how much more fun it was to play on someone’s team than it was to play against them. You ended up with hilarious mishaps that you both laughed at, you ended up surviving longer because there was an extra person helping beyond shouting “lookout, here comes a bad guy!”, and there were no hard feelings when the little brother was better than the big brother.

He may tell you otherwise, but that could sometimes be a bit of a problem.

This was originally going to be a commentary on how I lose the points of my posts halfway through, but this was more fun to draw.“Is this a bish– YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON’T CARE.”

It’s not like the concept was entirely new to me. My friends and I would sometimes trade off as different players when playing RBI, acting like we were each half of the same team. 1942 had that fabled two-player mode, as well. But neither of those clicked in the same way as Sonic 2, probably because neither of those games were laid out like a platformer, but were instead focused on variations of a very thin idea pool. If you follow.

This feeling of Awesome!Teamwork didn’t really start replicating itself on a regular basis until I was old enough to actually start playing networked PC games with my friends, and even then few of them liked teaming up against harder computer opponents. I laughed out loud when I found out that Left4Dead was inspired by the pretty popular pasttime of playing Counter-Strike against an army of bots only armed with knives; this was my favorite game mode for years.

Eventually the time would come when we would have to return the rented game and videos back to the store and our frivolity and out-of-character teamwork mode would end. Of course, after we owned the game we rarely, if ever, played it together: I call that the “I own it so it’s boring” syndrome, although there’s probably a better name for it. All that meant was that my brother wouldn’t play it with me.

Getting friends to play things that you own but they don’t is always easier than getting siblings to.

On these occasions, I was always Sonic.

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