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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the Birth of Co-operative Multiplayer Platforming?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Swifthom, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. Swifthom


    A Friend Remembers... Member
    I had three favourite games on my Mega Drive when I was young to play with my brother:

    • Sonic 2
    • Sonic 3 (& Knuclles - but lets count it as one game as they were plugged in permanently together) and World of Illusion
    • World of Illusion - Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
    The connecting fabric of all 3? Free roaming co-operative platforming gameplay.
    Full adventures where you could hand the second controller over and play alongside each other. No split screen, fully immersive, collaborative fun.

    One of the things I hated about the Mario and DKC games on the SNES consoles at other friends houses was the games 'had' 2 player modes, but really it was just take turns and switch whenever you finish a level or die. Thats not multiplayer - you could get the same effect by handing each other the controllers.
    The gameplay in the above 3 games was a revelation to me and my brother and any friends we brought round as Sonic was one of the few franchises we could play 'with' a friend that wasn't a shooter or a beat em up.

    I'm trying to work out if Sonic 2 really was one of the first game series to really do this? By this I don't mean multiplayer gaming - but to take the single player experience and offer an equivalent mode where you play alongside each other throughout. Gunstar Heroes was 1993, Kirby Super Star 1993, Metal Slug 1996 - those are all the notable examples I can think of.

    PSA - I don't know why but for some reason it feels as though Streets of Rage and Golden Axe don't count by my definition although I am aware of them - as they were all about the arcade feel. Beat em ups feel a natural fit for multiplayer modes, as essentially it is controlled movement through rooms each player taking down the enemies to proceed. In my head that feels different to the free roaming nature of the above 3 games in a way I can't quite codify.

    As this forum has some of the most noted experts can any of you point out any earlier examples I'm not aware of? Was Tails introduction really that innovative at the time or not a big deal in 1992?
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
  2. XCubed


    Will Someday Own a Rent-A-Center Oldbie
    Super Mario Bros. was my first experience with this. My dad and I played it all the time when I was 5. I could have sworn we were able to actually play together, not switch off between Mario and [strike]Mario Recolor[/strike] Luigi.
  3. Billy


    RIP Oderus Urungus Member
    Colorado, USA
    Indie games
    Snake Rattle 'N' Roll on NES had cooperative platforming, but I'm not sure it counts, since it's an isometric game. There might have been another game on NES with such a feature, but it would be a flicker-fest.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020
  4. Cynical Toast

    Cynical Toast

    Resident Gamer Member
    I’m sure there’s some obscure game that had something similar back in the day, but I think Sonic 2 was the first big name game to have it. Honestly when I was a 5 year old kid playing Sonic 2 I didn’t even know what a multiplayer is- I somehow got into 2 player alone and kinda fucked around in Mystic Cave. I didn’t know what I was doing- I couldn’t get passed Chemical Plant in single player so Mystic Cave was no cakewalk. As confused as I got though I remember those nights fondly- the multiplayer songs have been burned into my memory despite me rarely hearing them these days.

    So yeah, the multiplayer mode in Sonic 2 was revolutionary singleplayer content to young me
  5. Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers on the NES (apparently released in 1990) had a 2-player cooperative mode with both players on the same screen progressing through the level together. That fits the criteria, right?

    Another Sonic 2 feature that may have looked revolutionary at the time but had actually been done before was the split screen versus mode... Mappy Kids on the Famicom had 2-player split screen platforming in 1989.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020
  6. World of Illusion was great. My sister and I played it a bunch when we were kids. One cool thing about it is how you play through different levels depending on whether you're playing as Mickey, Donald, or both.

    It's too bad we never got a cooperative Sonic game similar to it. I never found Sonic 2 and 3 much fun with another player since it's so hard to keep up with Sonic as Tails (though the ability to carry Sonic as Tails in Sonic 3 was a cool addition), even if the Sonic player is trying not to blow through the levels too fast. Chaotix was an attempt at a more involved 2-player experience, but its level design wasn't nearly as interesting as World of Illusion (or Sonic 2 or 3, for that matter). Never played Advance 3 with a partner, but it probably works the best of any of the 2-player 2D Sonic games since both players have their own screens.

    It'd be cool if they revisited the concept. It sounds like an interesting design challenge to create levels specifically to complement cooperative play (even if it makes them less engaging in solo play) while still more or less feeling like a Sonic game.
  7. big smile

    big smile

    Tale Spin for the Mega Drive came out the same month as Sonic 2 and also was a co-op platformer.

    Sonic 2 was an awful co-op game. The Tails player consistently falls off the screen. And although Tails will fly back, he normally instantly just falls away again.

    In most other games, the screen won't move if both players are going in opposite directions. This wouldn't have worked for Sonic, as it would have spoiled the flow of speed.
    However, I don’t know why they didn’t make it that Tails can't go past the boundary of the screen. That way, you'd still have the flow of speed, but it wouldn't be a frustrating experience for the Tails player.

    I was very disappointed that, as awesome as Mania was, it didn’t make any attempt to rectify this.

    Sonic 2's Co-op essentially is only good if you've got a very young sibling who is just fascinated by pressing buttons. The moment they grow past that phase, it's worthless, other than being a cheap way to waste away the bosses.
  8. SuperSnoopy


    I like Sonic Advance Member
    Shizuoka, Japan
    Slice of life visual novel, coming soon...?
    It's very specific, but a great way to enjoy the game that way is to let a less experienced player play as Sonic and play as Tails yourself.
    I played the entirety of Sonic Mania with my little sister like that, it was very fun.
    Since I was way better at the game than her, I didn't have too much trouble keeping up with her, and I could help her defeating bosses and collecting powerups, etc.
    Makes for a fun challenge run if you're bored one day :V
  9. big smile

    big smile

    That's how I played Sonic 3 with my sister when she was very little (like ~5 years old). But then she had the cheek to grow up.

    And to be honest, even back then it wasn't that fun, because she kept on dying. It was okay for the first stage, but it quickly lost its appeal.

    Also, can Tails collect power-ups in Mania? That's a change as in the classics he could not.
  10. Pengi


    The split screen versus mode was the real star of the show when it came to Sonic 2's 2-player offering. Even Yuji Naka admitted that playing as Sonic & Tails in the main game ending up being more "1.5 player". But having Tails follow behind Sonic showed off the Mega Drive's capabilities, gave the game a bit more personality and gave Tails a strong debut, establishing his "little brother" relationship to Sonic.

    Incidentally, SegaSonic the Hedgehog was in development at the same time, though it's not quite what we think of when we think "platform game".

    If we're counting "run and gun" platformers, then Contra predates both Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug.

    You alternate in the old Super Mario Bros. games, but play simultaneously in the original Mario Bros., the single-screen arcade game. There were a few 2-player single screen platformers, like Bubble Bobble.
  11. Zephyr


    For me, it's Joust.

  12. Overlord


    Now playable in Smash Bros Ultimate Moderator
    Long-term happiness
    Sonic 2 has never worked well as a 2P co-op game to me, speaking as someone who played a lot of it 2P back in the day - in the 2P mode, not the main game.
  13. qwertysonic


    creating the biggest sonic collection
    World of Illusion might be in my top video games of all time. It is definitely worth a play if you've never played it.

    So obviously Sonic 2 isn't the first 2-Player coop platformer, but is it the first "1.5-Player" coop platformer? It's not the best for two people of equal skill playing together. But it's great for having a little sibling who doesn't know how to play to "help" you beat it. I spent years playing Sonic 2 with my little sister as tails and she loved it. She could play with me without it being a detriment, but she could also kill badnicks and help with the bosses (which 6 year old me needed).

    I think a modern equivalent to this would be, say, Super Mario Galaxy, where player 2 can pick up a wiimote and collect starbits or freeze enemies for player 1.

    So is Sonic 2 the first platformer where player 2 can pick up the controller and help without disrupting single player gameplay, but still be meaningfully helpful.
  14. NiktheGreek


    Grumpy old bastard Oldbie
    Writing for the best video game magazine in the world
    For what it's worth, Sonic 2 wasn't even Sega's first, not by a long shot. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars featured two-player co-op platforming in 1986, and Quartet actually supported four players in the same year. There may well be earlier examples, too.
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  15. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    bed 'n' breakfast Wiki Sysop
    Northumberland, UK
    Wiki and Minnie's Runaway Railway
    It's a big deal in the sense that people remember it, even if it's not "really" co-op as much as it is a Tails death simulator.

    (not that the computer plays much better. Even Sonic Mania happily lets Tails spindash in the opposite direction to Sonic)

    As far as co-op platformers go... there's hoards. Even similar-to-Sonic title screen Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair did it before Sonic 2. Quartet was mentioned which is one of the early Sega examples, Contra (1987) was big, NES Ice Climber (1985), and I imagine there's an earlier example than Joust (1982).

    And I suspect Nintendo try to hide it because, like Donkey Kong, they don't have the full rights to the arcade version but... Mario Bros.. The 1983 game. The one that's not "super" enough to be acknowledged in the 35 years of Mario thing this year.
  16. Swifthom


    A Friend Remembers... Member
    Hah, wow, thanks for the responses.
    What i'm taking from all of the above discussion is - all the things people say make Sonic 2 a bad multiplayer game (in the campaign) are the reasons I loved it. No, seriously, the fact Tails was fully 'in the game' but was a consequence free.

    So now I'm trying to work out on the games mentioned below - if player 2 dies is that it game over (or add more coins for the arcade titles)?
    Does the fact Tails is pretty much immortal count as an innovation here for drop in-out gameplay?

    The original mario bros was co-op but fixed screen. The free roaming platformers were one at a time until well past the millennium.

    This is a really good find and a game I wasn't aware of. Thanks, will have to try it out.

    The Chip N Dale game is a good find, thanks.
    Mappy Kids - split screen platforming but occupying the same game space, nice.

    The game was amazing, one of my favourites on the platform.

    Thanks for pointing out Tale Spin - also developed by Sega.
    This, world of illusion and Sonic 2 all at the same time - did they have a directive to move in this direction?

    Personally I was absolutely fine with Tails disappearing off the screen. Clipping him to the edges would have ruined the illusion and - if - shock horror he got stuck beneath a platform when you wanted to go up and it had stopped Sonic carrying on, forcing you to go back for him, it would have ruined the flow of the game. The joy of Tails was, no matter how much you tried to leave him behind, he'd catch up eventually.
    Like a zombie - run as fast as you like - he's always coming and he'll never stop until he gets you.
    I had a blast making my younger brother play Sonic and, it would become a challenge - I was the better player so it was incumbent on ME to keep up with him. Alternatively if he was Tails, as the worse player, although I had to wait to let him land every now and then it helped him learn in an environment where it didnt matter how many times he died - ultimate respawns. That's ultimately the way gaming went over the next 2 decades.

    And then years later even when my brother got good we still enjoyed picking up and playing this way. We fell into a rhythm on Sonic Mania like this straight away - switching who was playing Sonic and constantly ribbing to see if we could keep up / loose the other. It became part of the gameplay for us, we adored it.

    I agree with that assessment - but I still loved the mode. It probably was my main way of playing it.
    I mean, two brothers, one TV, one game console. If we were home together you HAD to be able to play it together or there's just be arguments, shouting, someone would get shoved and no one would be able to play when parents get involved. Learning to play the games we had co-operatively was essential to enjoy the system - and unlike a lot of the other 'real' 2 player games being discussed here Sonic 2 (and World of Illusion) we found to be the ones we enjoyed the most.

    Good shout, thanks.

    It's good but its fixed screen

    That's kind of what i'm driving at... It isn't the first, but it is the first 'significant' free roaming platformer that I can find.
    However define significance.... This needs some thought....

    Thanks, very useful info.
    I've seen videos of this as an Alex Kidd as an arcade title - so it was looking for people to pay coins to rejoin if they die. It doesn't look like the master system has multiplayer? Quartet does have 2 player on the master system so it counts.

    Joust and Mario Bros - they dont have free roaming, so they aren't what i'm looking for. It's multiplayer but its not an adventure game.
    Wonder Boy III is however, thanks, and... How did I forget Ice Climbers? Seriously, that's Nintedo's most famous example.
  17. TheInvisibleSun


    Buffalo, NY, USA
    The Water
    Maybe the Battletoads games, if we're counting beat-em-ups?
  18. Swifthom


    A Friend Remembers... Member
    I'm putting that in the same category as Golden Axe and Streets of rage- it does have scrolling but it certainly isn't free roaming, more moving from room to room with multiple combat arenas.
    But good call, it needs considering
  19. big smile

    big smile

    No, it wouldn't. The camera stays focused on Sonic at all times. Tails just can't move past the boundary of the screen.
    If Tails gets stuck, Sonic wouldn't have to go back for him. Sonic would just continue as normal and Tails would be pushed forwards by the screen boundary.

    Making it that Tails can't move past the screen boundary would have fixed the problem of Tails being so worthless without spoiling the flow.

    For me, and my sister, it bitterly ruined it. The fact that Tails was immortal was okay when she was really little, but the moment she turned 5, she hated playing Tails. It's just no fun to keep on disappearing off the screen.
    And I hated playing as Tails when she was Sonic.

    We just played 2p VS, as that was far more enjoyable (and then switched over to Streets of Rage 2 which did co-op right).

    I really do dislike the fact that Sonic 2 didn’t a better co-op experience, because, as fun as split-screen was, it would have been a magical game to share with each other (in co-op).

    Except often, he'd catch up only to instantly fall behind again. It wasn't well thought out at all.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  20. qwertysonic


    creating the biggest sonic collection
    It is weird that No sonic game has fix this issue. Maybe it was tried in later games to make Tails unable to move past the boundary of the screen and the result was less fun than they expected? I think it could possible be fixed with an expanding view scree. As tails fell behind the view would widen. (to an extent of course. You don't want a huge view so that the game is unplayable.)