Another good sonic GBA game.

User Rating: 9.5 | Sonic Advance 2 GBA
Although Sega found tremendous success with the first Sonic Advance--it sold more than 500,000 copies--the game itself didn't stray much from the design established in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which appeared on the Sega Genesis console more than a decade ago. Even the graphics, as colorful and speedy as they were, neglected to use any of the special effects made possible by the GBA hardware. Practically speaking, Sonic Advance was a low-risk method of bringing the series back to its 2D roots and reintroducing the Sonic character to the massive audience that sidestepped the Sonic Adventure games on the Dreamcast console. Sonic Advance 2 is a different story. The levels are larger and require more exploration than the typical Sonic game; the abilities of the five separate playable characters actually have an influence over the strategy you'll use to complete an area; and the graphics are more in line with what you've come to expect out of the Game Boy Advance.

Even though the levels are huge, there are plenty of opportunities to put the pedal to the metal.
Sega has always billed the Sonic character as a swift, hip alternative to Nintendo's Mario. With all of the turbo pads, launch ramps, and corkscrew loops, however, exploration and discovery have never been strong points of the series. Typically, the goal of each stage has been to gather enough rings--100 or so--in order to earn a chance to collect the chaos emerald at the end of the zone. So long as you avoided spike traps and didn't collide with enemies, you'd zoom through a level and have plenty of rings at the end. By contrast, the levels in Sonic Advance 2 are so large and so full of alternative paths that it actually pays to memorize the locations of power-up items and to figure out the best route through each stage. That includes greater freedom to backtrack and to explore upward as well. While a level in an older Sonic game would have one or two checkpoints, the levels in Sonic Advance 2 often have two or three.

In order to collect SP rings, you'll need to explore every area in a level. Sometimes, you'll just need to react quickly as you're flying through the air.
Much of the reason for the larger levels comes from the manner in which you collect chaos emeralds. It used to be that you simply had to hold onto the rings you gathered and a portal would open up at the end of the stage. In Sonic Advance 2, the regular rings you collect just prevent you from losing a life. In order to access the special stages, you need to find the seven special rings scattered throughout each level. They can be anywhere: on top of loops, high above trampolines, or situated near floating platforms. Sometimes, you'll see a special ring for only a split second before you're catapulted to a point where it's impossible to turn back. Since you need to find all of the chaos emeralds if you intend to unlock all of the game's bonus features, there is enormous incentive to explore and learn the location of each special ring in a level.

In the past, the reward for gathering all the chaos emeralds was the ability to play as a supercharged Sonic or to face the true form of the last boss. In Sonic Advance 2, they're literally the key to getting the most out of the game. From the outset, you can access the main game, which has seven zones and 15 levels, as well as a time attack mode and two multiplayer race modes. In order to unlock the sound test and boss time-attack features, as well as a fifth playable character and an extra final level, you have to gather all of the chaos emeralds and beat the game with multiple characters. The game also includes an updated version of the Tiny Chao Garden virtual pet that came with the first Sonic Advance. There are more varieties of chao characters that you can raise, and you can interact with them by giving them toys purchased with the rings collected in the main game. You also have the option of transferring your chao animals into the GameCube version of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle using the GBA-GameCube link cable. Like with the other bonus features, you have to collect all of the chaos emeralds before Tiny Chao Garden is made available. This is no easy feat to accomplish, and most players will have to content themselves with the standard modes that are available from the beginning.
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