SAGE 2021: Hands-on With Sonic the Hedgehog Classic 2, a Fan Game a Decade in the Making

It’s always awesome to see a long-time Sonic fan project reach its conclusion, and this year’s SAGE has brought us the completed release of a great one: Hez’s Sonic the Hedgehog Classic 2. Having been in development for more then a decade, Classic 2’s road to completion has been a long one. As a Sonic fan hungry for more classic content, it’s come at just the right time for me.

Classic 2 does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a classic Sonic experience. The game has everything that’s expected from something like that: well designed levels with lots of slopes, loops, paths, and gimmicks to make each of them distinct. There are some standout gimmicks in the latter levels, especially Murky Mines, which is definitely my favorite so far. Players need to keep the level lit by hitting lanterns, and can explore the mine’s multiple levels by activating giant gears that can take them up or down, among other things.

The boss battles are another highlight. Although some of the battles are a little too easy to brute force through, all of them are neat and clever. One boss involves bringing down a giant multi-armed machine with multiple drills, which need to be used as platforms to get up to Eggman’s cockpit. Another has Eggman firing deadly snowballs at Sonic. Initially, Eggman’s cockpit is too high for Sonic to hit, but once enough snow piles up on the ground, Sonic can leap off of it to land an attack. Design ideas like these make these bosses some of the best I’ve seen in a fan game.

Classic 2 is an experience heavily influenced by Sonic’s classic titles, but it is hardly confined to the trappings of that era. The visuals, for instance, are quite modern, and Classic 2 may be the best looking 2D game I’ve played at SAGE 2021 so far. Classic 2 also employs not just the insta-shield, but also a powered-down version of the drop dash, which is mapped to a separate button. Finally, the game also lets players stock up to two different shield types, which can be switched between or totally deactivated on the fly. It’s even possible to combine shields to create new shield types, like the smoke shield, once the shield stock is filled up. The way Classic 2 handles shields is both practical and innovative, and something I’d love to see in an official Sonic game one day.

Though Classic 2 may be finished, it’s not technically done…yet. It’s supposed to eventually get remakes of levels from the first Classic game. This means Classic 2 will be getting updates…which is good, because it still needs some polish. I’ve encountered numerous minor glitches during play, including some seemingly random collision detection issues, like being sent through level geometry.

On a few occasions, while riding on some moving platforms in one level, I was sent through a bit of floor when the platform passed under it. On another occasion, in act 2 of Crystal Cove, the wrong background graphics were loaded. The most frustrating glitch I encountered involved Knuckles not being able to climb the walls properly in Rustic Ruins. This went away in subsequent playthroughs of the level, though, so that appears to have been a one-off glitch. The game will be getting updates, though, so I’m sure this stuff will be ironed out.

My biggest actual issue with the game is one of its playable characters: Fang. Unless I’m missing some sort of mechanic, the character suffers from the same issues every other non-traditional Sonic character has suffered from: he’s just a pain to play. It’s difficult to get him to roll reliably, he lacks speed, and his two gun-based moves aren’t especially effective for quickly dispatching enemies or traversing through a level. I keep getting stuck because he just doesn’t seem built to navigate these levels. I do hope Fang gets buffed a bit in future updates, because I always enjoy getting a chance to play as the purple sniping wolf thing! Still, you don’t actually need to play as Fang, so I don’t consider this much of a blemish in an otherwise impeccable game.

Sonic the Hedgehog Classic 2 is an awesome fan game, and Hez and their team did a superb job on it. It embodies everything I love about SAGE and this community: it’s an excellent game with some awesome ideas, brought to completion through eleven years of blood, sweat, and passion. It’s incredible that something like this is even able to exist. 

Thank you Hez and the whole Classic 2 team, thank you everyone who participated in SAGE 2021, and everyone who keeps SAGE going! You all make this community great, and you should all be proud of yourselves. We aren’t done with our SAGE coverage yet, but even if we don’t write about your project, even if it didn’t get the attention you were hoping for, be proud of yourself! You all made something, and that’s awesome.

You can download Sonic the Hedgehog Classic 2 here.

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Nuckles87 has been an editor at Sonic Stadium since 2007, and has been covering events like E3, PAX, and SDCC since 2010. An avid retro gamer, he runs a monthly stream on Twitch where he explores obscure Sonic oddities, and how aspects of the franchise have evolved over the decades.