Edit (28/07/2021): Changing up sentences that are hard to read because I'm an idiot that doesn't proofread.
I already covered how these games teach you basic information about the story, so this section will be quite short. The Manual section should be much more interesting. The 2 most important elements of the story are: Eggman's/Robotnik's return, and Sonic's new buddy Miles "Tails" Prower. The player meets Tails immediately when they boot up the game, and it is quite obvious already that Tails is a protagonist. He poses happily alongside Sonic, and shares a similar cartoon animal design to the hedgehog. The previous game established animals as the good guys, and it was that way until Nack The Weasel/Fang the Sniper happened. But that's going a bit far ahead, isn't it? Anyways, inside the game, Tails helps the player out (excluding the special stage) and follows them around. Plugging a second controller makes player 2 control him. And that's it, it's cemented in the player's head that Tails is Sonic's buddy now. Easy and simple.
Image source: Sonic Retro
I know I'm stating the obvious, but it's important to kinda analyze what bits of story the gameplay alone gives away. Not everyone reads the manuals. Eggman returning is obvious too, the robots have similar designs to those of Sonic 1, and of course, he's the boss at the end of every stage. Same with the first game, the crucial information is given to the player just by playing.
Once again, the Japanese manual completely btfos the American one. It's very rad, having the same style as the boxart. Instead of boring black and white and plain design, ew. I don't care that it's "cheaper", I want funny colors!
Translation by Windii
Sonic happened to discover the island during his usual carefree adventure. It was a small island with a pleasant green meadow. "Okay, I'm gonna rest for a while." Sonic's beloved Tornado slid into the shadow of the island, drawing a white arc with exhaust smoke—and as if following it, a suspicious glowing object disappeared on the other side of the island.
The legend of the phantom island of "Westside Island." In the distant past, the people of the island used mysterious stones to develop their civilization and achieve the prosperity they desired. However, all of that prosperity came to nothing overnight when people tried to use the stones incorrectly, and the stones were sealed away somewhere on the island by the gods.
One day, a few days after landing on the island, Sonic noticed that someone was following him. When he turned around, he saw that it was a small fox. When the fox noticed Sonic, it rushed to hide behind a palm tree. However, when Sonic started running, the fox did its best to follow him. "Well, I guess I'll let him do what he wants." Sonic decided, not really caring.
"Miles Prower" is a little fox. Miles has two tails. That's why the animals on the island call him "Tails." Because of his two tails, he was often bullied. But after seeing Sonic come to the island, Miles changed. He has made up his mind. "I wanna be cool too!" It was then that Miles started chasing after Sonic all day.
One afternoon, Miles found a beautiful airplane on the beach. Miles, who loves machines and vehicles, ran up to it as fast as he could. The sleek body and sharp lines of the wings were a sight to behold. As he walked to the other side of the plane, his feet stopped moving, as if he was in shock. Sonic was taking a nap under the wing on the other side. Then, as Miles gently turned and walked back to the other side of the plane...
A flash of light glittered in the forest. It was followed by a huge explosion and a rising pillar of fire. Pebbles and splinters of wood rained down. Miles was almost blown away and rolled under the plane, his eyes fluttering as he tried to comprehend the situation. In his eyes, he saw a forest burning red and robots digging in the ground as if searching for something.
The explosions continued unabated and the flames covered the island. Miles, who had been staring blankly at this, turned his head to the side when he felt the presence of someone. There was Sonic, glaring at the burning forest.
"Darn it, Eggman!" As he muttered that, Sonic kicked up the sand and headed for the forest. Something had started. Something unthinkable. With this premonition in mind, Miles unconsciously started running after Sonic's back...
"Daahahahahah!!" In the forest, a familiar, vulgar high-pitched laugh was echoing. It was him. It's Dr. Eggman.
"I've finally found it. The island where the Chaos Emeralds lie, the phantom Westside! Ah, it's a good thing I've been chasing after Sonic. Now I can complete my ultimate weapon, the Death Egg. I'll be waiting for you, Sonic! This time, this time, I'm going to defeat you and get all the Chaos Emeralds! And then I, Doctor Eggman, will be the conqueror of the world! Daaahahahah!"
The actors are all here. The story of adventure and excitement is about to begin once again!
Image and translation source: Sonic Retro
This story does not happen in South Island like in the last game, but in a new location called Westside Island, I'll focus on that later. The first thing that caught my attention me is that the Tornado belonged to Sonic alone, I always thought Tails build it for him like the Tornado 2. Well, saving the world should bring you a lot of disposable income, and the guy loves adventure, so it makes sense he'd have a personal plane to travel with. While on the island, a curious fox follows Sonic around. It's really cute how Tails is very shy, but very determined. Once he decided that he wanted to be a cool hero like Sonic, he followed without stopping, and never stopped even today. It speaks a lot about how much this little kid is obstinate, given that the hedgehog is the fastest thing alive. Another nice touch, Tails is bullied because of his, well, tails. This explains his lack of confidence, and makes him relatable to kids who are made fun of, possibly inspiring them. I did find Knuckles inspiring as a kid, so I do not think it's much of a stretch. This cute arc will reach a conclusion in Sonic Adventure 1, and is probably one of my favorites from the series. Shame it got thrown in the garbage bin in the recent games. Oh, and his interest in mechanics and technology is established too. I'm sad that he got reduced to the generic tech guy in some media because of this, but this makes the fox a very useful and important ally to Sonic. Against the various machinery of Dr Eggman, a knowledge in technology is kind of crucial. Tails is already pretty endearing with such a simple motive and story, I think. A pretty strong introduction for what is basically the second head of the franchise nowadays!
Westside Island is home to the 7 Chaos Emeralds. Here called "mysterious stones". This was retconned, for the better imo, but it's clear that these are supposed to be 2 different set of stones. Or I am reading it incorrectly, and if so, please hit me with a stick and call me mean but true things. Either way, these stones have interesting properties, and are controlled by God-like entities. They can help with things other than being a power source, such as making desires come true. It's unclear why the gods don't punish Eggman for trying to misuse the stones, but maybe, his defeat to Sonic is the manifestation of that. I don't know. Since these stones are home to immense power, of course Dr Eggman would try to seek them for his own gain. He does not care about ravaging the island in the process, too. Eggman never learns his lesson and always tries to grab power, no matter what, as already established in the Sonic 1 manual. The doctor's behavior of destroying the island's nature continues the nature vs technology theme from the last game, too. I find the ancient civilization and weird stones stuff the most interesting, but it's never expanded on unfortunately. Maybe it's the Echidnas? Who knows! Very neat anyways.
Find the Chaos Emeralds!
Miles "Tails" Prower, the fox, can't sit still when Sonic's around. Ever since Miles was a baby fox, he's dreamed of being like Sonic. He loves to run after Sonic, waving his two tails behind him, trying to keep up with his hero!
Mostly, Sonic lets him trail along. But sometimes, just to show off, Sonic explodes in a burst of super speed and leaves him behind. But Miles doesn't give up. He whirls his tails like a helicopter rotor and takes off flying until he catches up!
All the animals call Miles by his nickname, "Tails", because of his two special tails. And one day they saw an astonishing feat...
They were all together in the forest, watching Sonic perform. Sonic would run, spin and jump in his Super Spin Attack. Then "Tails" would whirl like a turbo engine and blast off in his Super Dash Attack. What a showoff!
Suddenly, "Tails" just couldn't help himself. He took a running start, curled up his tails, and - whoosh - he was spinning like Sonic!
But now something frightening is happening. Sonic's friends are disappearing. In their place, nasty metal robots are popping up all over the island. The mad scientist Dr. Robotnik is at it again!
This time, Robotnik's planning a global disaster. He needs workers to create a doomsday machine that can take over the world. So he's trapping all the animals, turning them into robots, and forcing them to build his ultimate weapon, the Death Egg!
Robotnik now rules the factories, refineries and cities! He's grabbed control of everything - except the 7 Chaos Emeralds. These magnificent gems are believed to hold exceptional powers. With them, Robotnik could have the entireworld in his grasp. And he'd never let go!
The Chaos Emeralds are buried somewhere on the island. Only one tough dude with spiky hair has the speed to find them first!
Help Sonic stop the devious scheme of the demented scientist! Spin like a speedball through space. Grab Power Sneakers and loop 'til you're dizzy. Twirl over twisting speedways and rocket through tunnels. Balance and blast across a bubbling ocean of oil!
Find the Emeralds, free the animals, and squash Robotnik forever!
Image and transcription source: Sonic Retro
The American manual changes up some details of the plot. It is not inherently inferior for being Western or anything, I find it to be interesting too. Here, Sonic didn't stumble upon Westside Island or Tails, instead, the location is unclear, though implied to be Sonic's home. Here, Tails is already the hedgehog's best friend since they were little kids. He still has the same inferiority complex though, and dreams of being as cool as Sonic, following him around everywhere. I find the scene of these two showing off to their friends very cute and in character. The little animals being Sonic's buddies is also very heartwearming and fits him a lot too. Robotnik's doomsday machine and the reason why he turns animals into robots is also mentioned here. This makes the conflict urgent and personal, Mobius can be gone at any moment, and Sonic's friends are enslaved. The evil masterminds also seeks the Chaos Emeralds, and Sonic's speed is the only way to beat him to it, adding even more to the urgency of the situation. Last thing I like here is the last paragraphs, very colorful language that illustrates how fast paced the game is. This manual is a huge improvement over Sonic 1, diverging in quite interesting ways. I can find the first traces of the Sonic bible's influence in here. No mention of gods or ancient civilizations though.
Sonic 2 expands on the foundation of its predecessor, and adds much welcome additions. Tails has a very cute story and nice chemistry with the more calm and cool hedgehog. Their little brother/big brother relationship perseveres even today in most Sonic media. Eggman, reoccurring villain, still hasn't learned anything from the last clobbering. He stops at nothing to satisfy his hunger for power. Building doomsday machines and conquering land, his lack of morals is as evident as ever. He can be silly of course, but his cruelty defines him, and always will. Similarly to the game before, the Japanese side establishes interesting locations and myths that can serve for really cool stories if expanded even more upon (there's a reason so much Sonic media tried to expand on Angel Island and the echidna tribe), though the "mysterious myth" side of it is pleasant as well..
I believe Sonic 2 has a more endearing story due to the introduction of Tails, and the surrounding lore is more inetersting to me. However, the story would be nothing without the building blocks of Sonic 1. I wish Sega stopped throwing the towel every few games and finally sets on a coherent world for Sonic. It will make Eggman more of a threat by destroying a clearly defined world that the player cares about, and they can expand on it more every game. That's what they did here, until arguably the end of the Dreamcast era.<< PREV