|Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I
A Playstation 3 2D platformer reviewed on 5/20/2012 by Vincent T. Vantine.
"Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is Sega's attempt to bring Sonic back to the original Genesis franchise that him famous, but does it live up to it's legendary predecessors?"
It's not exactly a secret that this last decade has not been one of the finest moments for the Sonic franchise. Sega has lost their credibility with many long-time Sonic fans because of disasters like Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 and Sonic and the Secret Rings. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a title that attempts to make everything right again by returning Sonic to his roots and trying to rekindle the magic that was the original Genesis franchise.
Sonic 4 is set sometime after the events of Sonic & Knuckles within the Sonic universe. The Death Egg has been destroyed and Sonic has set off explore new territories on his own. In a less than surprising plot twist, Dr. Eggman has survived his last encounter with Sonic and has decided the best way to finally take out Sonic is to rehash his previous failed creations.
Keeping with this plot, Sonic 4 consists of four primary zones that are inspired by classic zones from Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2 on the Genesis. Each zone has three acts plus a boss fight at the end of each zone. In addition to the primary zones, Sonic 4 also has 7 special stages that are based on the original special stage from the original Genesis game.
Many of the changes that were made to return Sonic to his roots will be welcome by most long-time Sonic fans. The cast of Sonic 4 is the most notable change, it consists of only one playable character and that would of course be Sonic. All of Sonic's little buddies he has acquired over the years don't even make cameo appearances (Big the Cat fans, I know you are disappointed). In addition to eliminating all of the extra characters Sonic 4 is also completely devoid of any cinematic video and story sequences.
Sonic 4's game engine is a throwback to that of the original Genesis games in more ways than one. For starters, the fast-paced and reckless controls from the last decade of Sonic titles is gone. Sonic's movement is much slower and levels are designed to encourage exploration and slower Mario-style platforming over dashing through the acts at top speed. Sonic's moves are also limited to the iconic spin dash and the newer homing attack.
While I approve of Sega's return to simpler gameplay, there is feeling that Sonic has been slowed down to the point where it feels like he is moving through mud. This can be frustrating during boss fights and other fast paced action. Sonic's spin dash is also more limited that it was in previous titles. Sonic can't build momentum while spinning to overcome obstacles, many areas actually require running to climb higher ground. I really would have liked to see Sega use physics that are more true to the original three games or at least find a better balance between fast-paced action and slower Mario-style platforming.
Sonic 4's visuals are one of the best high points of the game. Beautiful backgrounds and high resolution textures bring the levels to life in gorgeous 1080p. Although all four zones are inspired by previous Sonic levels they still feel unique and the boost to modern graphics is a welcome change. The art style also stays true to the original Genesis levels and gives a strong feeling of nostalgia for long time Sonic fans. Sonic 4's music on the other hand has a somewhat slow and drab feeling to it and lacks the energy of previous Sonic tracks. It can best be described as simply adequate, nothing more and nothing less.
Unlike most modern Sonic games, Sonic 4 is a quick play. Most players will easily finish Sonic 4 in three hours or less. Collecting the Chaos emeralds and DLC additions will provide a little extra replay value but for the most part once this game is done, it's done.
Sonic 4 is far from the perfect Sonic game we've all been waiting for but it's a step in the right direction. For only $9.99 on most platforms, Sonic 4 will be hard for most Sonic fans to pass up. While my review was done using the Playstation 3 version, Sonic 4 is also available on the Xbox 360, Wii and most mobile platforms