If you’re a gamer who was born in the late 90s, chances are you ask your older brother one question. “Why does your generation like that stupid blue hedgehog ?”.
Yes, indeed Sonic is now considered a flop, but there was once a time when Sonic was the arch nemesis of Mario, both of them were the most successful characters in the video gaming industry, Sega even created a subsidiary development team called Sonic Team, Sonic was on fire!
Nowadays though, it seems that Sonic is on life support, the shift from 2D to 3D wasn’t too kind to the hedgehog, with SEGA releazing one terrible Sonic game after another, and creating many useless characters along the way, such as Silver the hedgehog, and that dreadful Werehog in Sonic Unleashed. The quality of Sonic games have declined considerably over the years, the blue hedgehog no longer felt on par with Mario, but rather felt like some generic, mediocre mascot.
However, that was then and this is now, SEGA have decided to take Sonic back to his roots, and have released Sonic 4, the sequel to Sonic 3, and a game that fans have been waiting 16 years for. The question that many people will ask, is it good? And the answer, finally, is a “Yes”.
Sonic 4 Episode I is the best Sonic game in a very long time, it took SEGA over a decade, but they finally got it right. The gameplay in Sonic 4 feels like that of a true Sonic game.
The game starts out fairly simple, you find yourself in Splash Hill, an almost updated replica of Green Hill Zone, you play the first level in the game and pass with absolute ease, and then you are taken to the screen where you get the complete freedom to choose which zone you want to choose, and which act you want to choose from that zone.
While Sonic games usually didn’t let you choose the zone or act you wanted to be in, this feature doesn’t exactly give or take much from the game, just like past Sonic games you take on the boss of each zone after finishing all three acts.
The graphics in Sonic 4 are gorgeous, the game stays true to the Sonic 2D formula while updating it with HD graphics and a constant framerate that never drops, the great news to Wii owners is the fact that the game looks exactly like the PS3 and X360 versions, only in 480p, which isn’t a dealbreaker at all really. In fact, the game felt more at home on the Wii than the PS3 and X360, having the game next to other Sonic titles new and old in the Wii library made it feel like this is where it truly belongs.
Some fans have wondered what Sonic’s appearance is like in Sonic 4, does he resemble Sonic of yore? Or does he resemble the modern day Sonic? While playing Sonic 4, we played Sonic 3 and Super Smash Brawl alongside it, seeing how the best 2D sonic models of past and present are featured in said games. Sonic’s model resembles the modern day Sonic more than that of the old Sonic during SEGA’s golden era, with his long legs being the most distinctive feature.
The music in Sonic 4 is a step in the right direction, it surpasses the music in the majority of the 3D Sonic games, the downside is the fact that the music sometimes doesn’t feel like that of a Sonic game, the music is slow, and at times it’s too slow, it just doesn’t mesh with the sprinting hedgehog at times.
The gameplay in Sonic 4 adds nothing new to the franchise, and that is probably one of the greatest things in this game, seeing as how every time SEGA adds a new element to the game (like that God damned dreadful werehog), the game turns out to be a disaster. The new feature in the game is the homing attack, while this feature isn’t new in the Sonic 3D games, it’s new in the Sonic 2D ones, when Sonic is in mid-air and near an enemy, a lock-on appears and Sonic can attack that enemy, this feature actually fits in with the gameplay quite well, and is also crucial at times to progress through a level.
While the gameplay is solid, it does have some issues of it’s own. For instance, the only power ups available are the temporary invincibility and the ability to breath under water, features such as the fire ball and electiric ball were present in Sonic 3 almost 16 years ago, SEGA not including them now is an awkward strategy on their behalf.
Another issue that is noticed almost immediately is the speed of the game. It is obvious from the get go that Sonic 4 is slower than previous iterations in the Sonic franchise, especially in 2D sonic games, add the fact that you will be stopped from progressing in certain levels later on in the game until you perform some minuscule tedious tasks, and the sense of momentum in the game falls flat. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it stops the game from being truly great.
The final, and perhaps most annoying aspect of the gameplay is the difficulty settings. Usually in video games the game becomes harder gradually, helping the players adjust to the gameplay and introduce new enemies and challenges at a reasonable pace. Sonic 4 throws this strategy right out the window and disorients you in a way like no other.
You spend the majority of the game unchallenged, quite literally breezing through the leves, by the time you reach the final zone, you’ll have around 20 lives and the only real challenge you’ll have faced is the boss of zone 3, during the three acts in the final zone, you will die around 6 times (assuming you get lucky and pass certain frustrating parts of the game quickly), then you will face the final boss of the game. Here you will die over and over again, in one of the longest boss fights in a Sonic game, at times the fight will be hard, and not in a modern day game hard, but in a Mega Man hate yourself kind of hard. And the most frustrating part about the final boss, is the tempo of the level. It is so slow it hardly fits a Sonic game.
The biggest downside for Sonic 4 isn’t the game itself, but it’s the price. Sonic 4 Episode I is priced at $15, the game can be finished in less than 3 hours if you’re dedicated enough to finish it in a single session. It has good replay value, and you can even unlock Super Sonic, but it’s not enough to slap a $15 price tag, especially when there are games like Castle Crashers, and Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light that offer mad replay value and multiplayer gameplay for the same price.
The Blast Factor: It’s almost hard to believe this, but this might the first time in over a decade that Sonic fans get two great Sonic games in a single year (assuming all goes well with Sonic Colors), this could be the year Sonic fans celebrate after all. If you’re a Sonic fan who’s been dying to play a great Sonic game, Sonic 4 is well worth the 15 dollars, if you’re hesitant and wondering if it’s worth the investment or not, you might wanna check Other PSN/XBLA titles first, like Castle Crashers and GoL, or Wii Ware titles like Cave Story.