Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review: So.....where's Sonic 4?

We all remember Sonic. For many kids growing up in the 90s, myself included, the Sonic the Hedgehog series on the Sega Genesis pretty much defined our childhood. Then video games went 3D, Sonic got his 3D rebirth in 1999, and with that, the quality of the series became much less consistent. Some of his 3D efforts, I thought, were very successful in capturing that Sonic magic. Although they haven’t aged particularly well (let’s be honest, though…not a lot of games from that era have) I thought the Sonic Adventure games were great experiences, and I thoroughly enjoyed 2009’s Sonic Unleashed. Unfortunately, between those we’ve gotten some terrible Sonic games, and the less said about these, the better. Sega has lately been taking steps to improve the quality of this franchise, however, and one of their first steps to doing so was to release Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a game done in the same exact style as those Genesis games back in the day. They’ve chosen to release the game in episodes, and with Episode 1 now here, (2 and 3 will arrive at a later date) the time has come once again to return to the classic 2D Sonic.

If only the game had more to offer. Granted, there’s something at least somewhat fun about getting to control the blue blur again in his classic setting, and everything from the music to the scenery is ready to follow suit. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 had a lot to live up to, however, and for the most part, it fails pretty dramatically as a sequel to the excellent Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and its second half, Sonic and Knuckles. First and foremost, the controls and physics have undergone a change for the worst. Sonic’s movement and speed feel very floaty, the physics are unpredictable and difficult to get the hang of, and the homing attack, which I think was a solid addition, fails to make up for the unnecessarily slippery controls. This should have been a game where fans of the Genesis series could pick up the controller and feel right at home, and unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Equally disappointing was the decision to play to fans’ nostalgia instead of adding anything new. All the enemies and almost all the bosses are recycled from earlier entries of the series with just minor tweaks. Each of the (only 4) levels all visually resemble levels from previous games as well. I understand that Sega probably wanted old school Sonic fans to celebrate these touches, but Sonic the Hedgehog 4 should have been an entirely new entry in the series like Sonics 2 and 3 were, not a trip down memory lane. This is even more disappointing when taking into account that many of the great features added to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3, like a multiplayer mode, the checkpoint special stages, the co-op play, and the new Sonic powerups, have all been removed here. Clearly, this was a game meant to emulate Sonic the Hedgehog 1 rather than one meant to continue from where Sonic the Hedgehog 3 left off. If this had been released on the Genesis after Sonic and Knuckles, people would have looked at this for what it was: a huge step backward.

Overall, pretty disappointing. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is a playable 2D Sonic game, but rather than being what it should be, a sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic 4 simply comes across as a rehash, one that controls poorly to boot. There's nothing special about the final product. None of the bosses are particularly inventive or fun to fight, the levels are in shining HD but all feel like rehashes, the platforming is uninspired, the special stages are annoying, and even the ending's a ripoff of a previous entry in the series. This is a BLAND game that unfortunately positions itself as Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Here’s hoping they get it right for Episode 2, as I think there's still a chance to salvage what should have been Sonic's triumphant 2D return. You can do a lot worse for $15, of course, and Sonic fans I'm sure are dying to pick this up. I won't tell you guys not to, just don't expect much more than an average, short, and uninspired 2D rehash.

(This review is for the 360 version)
(My reviews go by a .5 scale)

On that note, lol, tomorrow (or the next day, depending on if I have time or not,) I'll post a list of things I think Episode 2 can do to redeem itself. So check it out.

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