|Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II
A Playstation 3 2D platformer reviewed on 5/30/2012 by Vincent T. Vantine.
"Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is the latest installment in Sega’s attempt to reboot the original Genesis series, but does it fix the problems of the first episode or simply create more?"
After a little over a year and a half since the release of the first episode, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is finally here. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is an attempt by Sega and Dimps to reboot the original Genesis series and bring Sonic back to simpler times. The first episode started by stripping down Sonic’s moves and cutting the cast down to only Sonic and Dr. Eggman. While Episode II is also keeping with this style, the cast has been expanded to include Tails and everyone’s favorite villain, Metal Sonic.
The story of Episode II stretches way back to Sonic’s first encounter with his mechanical doppelganger, Metal Sonic, and his defeat on Stardust Speedway. Many years after his defeat, Dr. Eggman found Metal Sonic and secretly repaired him during the first episode. The Little Planet from Sonic CD has made it’s annual return and Dr. Eggman intends to use Metal Sonic and the brand-new Death Egg mk.II to defeat Sonic and conquer the Little Planet once and for all. When Sonic learns of this plan, he teams up with his old friend Tails to save the world once again.
Some of Episode II’s story elements actually play out through very short cut-scenes in the game, similar to those in Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Fortunately though, the story sequences are kept to a minimum and are free of the mind-numbing dialog fans have come to know and dread. Metal Sonic’s story is also told through “Episode Metal”, an added bonus for any owners of the first episode. While the story has never been the strong point of any Sonic game, it is nice to see Sonic CD, one of the most under-rated games of the Sonic franchise, revisited.
Episode II consists of four zones, each of which have three acts and one boss fight. In addition to the zones, there are also seven special stages inspired by Sonic 2’s half-pipe stage. Unfortunately though, the difficulty on the special stages skyrockets to the point of aggravation after the first few. For players that unlock “Episode Metal”, there are also four re-tooled acts from the first episode that can be played as Metal Sonic.
One of the most notable changes in Episode II is the return of Sonic’s annoying little sidekick, Tails. Unlike in Sonic 2 and 3, Tails actually does more than just fall in every spike pit in his path. Sonic can perform three separate combos with tails including flight and a special spin attack. The addition of the combo moves doesn’t detract from the game but it does seem to complicate what was supposed to be simpler formula. All of you Tails haters out there may be disappointed that you can’t play without him since the combo moves are required. On the other hand, if you just can’t get enough of Tails, Episode II introduces a two-player co-op mode where one player can play as Tails.
One change that will be welcome to many players of the first episode is Sonic’s physics have been slightly tweaked. Sonic’s movement is still slow in comparison to the other modern games, but the sluggishness in his movement has been mostly fixed. Unfortunately Sonic’s iconic spin dash is still largely useless with the addition of the Sonic and Tails rolling combo.
As with the first episode, Episode II’s visuals are one of the game’s best high points. Backgrounds in particular are more animated and complex and make the levels feel much more alive. Episode II’s soundtrack is much more lively and feels well suited to a Sonic game. Unfortunately though, some tracks are simply too short and their repetitive sound can become annoying. Both the music and visuals are noticeably different for each act in the zone giving each one a unique feel.
Like it’s previous installment, Episode II is not a long game. Without going after the extras, most players will finish Episode II in about two hours. The high difficulty of the special stages ensures you’ll be playing through acts again and again to get the Chaos Emeralds and it quickly turns into a grind. It feels more like the developers were stalling for time than actually adding any content of substance to the game. Aside from the special stages, the only other extras to be found are a red star ring in each act and “Episode Metal.”
Episode II was a difficult game for me to review. I think it really can be described best as the first episode, just bigger and maybe better. The problem with Episode II is that it doesn’t do much to address the issues from the first episode and it starts to over-complicate the Sonic formula, slowly drifting right back into the problems that have plagued other modern Sonic games. Like most Sonic games of late, Episode II is good but it’s far from being a masterpiece.