Review: Sonic Drift 2 (Game Gear)

Sonic Drift 2 was the second title in the short lived Sonic Drift series and the first and only Drift title released stateside. Curiously, this title was exclusive to the Game Gear, and no console version was ever created. The title also marked a few milestones in the Sonic universe. Sonic Drift 2 was the first game to feature Amy Rose and Metal Sonic as playable characters. There are six different characters you can choose to race as:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Miles "Tails" Prower
  • Knuckles the Echidna
  • Amy Rose
  • Fang the Sniper (aka Nack the Weasel, half weasel, half wolf...)
  • Metal Sonic
  • Dr. Eggman

Metal Sonic is the fastest character, but has the poorest handling. Dr. Eggman is the slowest character, but handles the best. The other 5 characters fit between the two extremes. Additionally, each character has his (or her) own special ability ranging from jumping (Tails and Knuckles), speed burst (Sonic and Metal Sonic), or an attack (Knuckles, Dr. Eggman, Fang, and Amy Rose).

The main mode in Sonic Drift 2 is the Chaos GP mode. There are 3 Grand Prixs to choose from: Purple Chaos GP, White Chaos GP, and Blue Chaos GP. Each Grand Prix consists of 6 different races to compete in. The races are based off zones from Sonic 2 (Emerald Hill, Hill Top, Casino Night, Mystic Cave, and Death Egg), Sonic 3 (Ice Cap), and original zones (Dark Valley, Desert Road, Iron Ruins, Rainy Savanna, Quake Cave, Balloon Panic, Emerald Ocean, and Milky Way). The different tracks are either a 3 lap race, or a point A to point B style race. Each stage is colorful and unique featuring it's own set of obstacles and traps.

Each race consists of yourself and 3 other opponents. Finishing first gives you 3 points and a chaos emerald. Second places gives you 2 points, and third place gives you a single point. Finishing last results in no points at all. The player with the most points at the end of the 6 race grand prix is the winner.

The handling in Sonic Drift 2 is very smooth and responsive. You need to let off the gas and sometimes brake to make it around the turns. Like any good Kart game, the tracks are littered with power ups. There are 4 power ups that you can save and use at your leisure, including a speed burst, power jump, explosive mine, and invincibility. You can use the power up by pressing pp on the d-pad. There also items scattered that are triggered automatically when you drive over them, including a jump spring, flash star (screen flashes white), and reverse ball (reverses your controls, left is right, right is left).

There are also rings that you can collect. If you do not have an item stored, and you have 2 or more rings, you can "spend" your rings to use that characters special ability. Running into a road side object or opponent will cause you to lose your rings. I found this to be a nice touch an a useful way to add Sonic's trade mark rings into the game.

Graphically speaking, Sonic Drift 2 is a real treat. The action is very fast and smooth. The frame rate holds up even when all 4 characters are on the screen. The backgrounds have more detail than most 16-bit racing games. Each track is oozing with color and holds true to the platforming Sonic games. The character sprites are large and detailed. When coming up on an opponent, they are instantly recognizable. Sonic Drift 2 is a great looking Game Gear game.

The soundtrack in Sonic Drift 2 is great as well, sounding better than a game gear has the right to. Each track has it's own tune, ranging from happy and upbeat (Emerald Hill) to gloomy (Death Egg). Though the music tracks aren't overly long and do repeat, they never get repetitive or annoying. The sound effects are appropriate as well, from the karts sliding around the corners to crashing into obstacles. Like the graphics, the soundtrack and effects are better than a lot of 16-bit games.

One of the few flaws in Sonic Drift 2 is the artificial intelligence. The computer controlled opponents will speed up or slow down depending on your skill. While this keeps the action tight and assures you are always in the action, it can make winning a challenge. More than once I was on the final stretch of road, in first place, only to have a rival zoom past me at a phenomenal pace to snatch victory away. Sometimes winning is a matter of luck, rather than skill. This A.I. flaw also makes it nearly impossible to win all 6 races in a grand prix and collect all 6 chaos emeralds (which then unlocks Final GP).

Sonic Drift features a Free Run mode that lets you practice any of the 18 different courses with any of the 7 characters. This will help you memorize obstacles and power up placements as well as learn the courses and controls. There is a 2-player mode if you happen to have a Gear-to-Gear cable, a second Game Gear and copy of the game. Unfortunately I don't have the equipment to test this mode. Rounding out the options are is a difficulty toggle (normal and hard) and an option to turn off road side obstacles.

Overall, Sonic Drift 2 is a satisfying gaming experience. From a technical stand point, the game shines with colorful detailed graphics and a great soundtrack. The game play is fast and smooth, and between the 18 tracks and 7 characters, there is plenty of replay value. Game Gear owners owe it to themselves to track this little gem and give it a go.

Graphics - 9/10 Fast, smooth, and colorful
Sound - 8/10 Great soundtrack and effects
Game play - 7/10 Flawed A.I.
Overall - 8/10 Must-own game

This game is also playable on Sonic Adventure DX: The Director's Cut (Nintendo GameCube) and Sonic Gems Collection (Nintendo GameCube and Sony Playstation 2) if you want to play on the television or don't have a Game Gear.