Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (2010)
Induction Dates: 03/27/2012, 10/13/2010
*Screenshots are taken from the X-Box 360 version.
*Screenshots are taken from the X-Box 360 version.
Sonic Team is one bitter developer. Even when they come so close to actually reviving Sega's darling mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, they just had to mess it up somehow. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I stays true to its classic roots but the title of this game is very misleading. Let's clear out something first - this game is technically not a direct sequel to Sonic & Knuckles even if the official storyline tries to say otherwise: It's more of an excuse for laziness. The proper title for this game should have been just Sonic the Hedgehog since it is really more of a remake or perhaps Sonic Remix which describes the content found here very accurately. The stages are merely the reconstructions of those found in past Sonic games but that fact is the least problematic thing about this game.
Shouldn't that say "The Adventure Continues"? Oh I get it...
Sonic 4: EI is a pure 2D platform game, just like the Sonic games found on the Genesis and the Game Boy Advance. The story elements have been completely stripped away and there are no fancy cut-scenes to connect the stages. This resulted into an incredible Sonic experience that I have sorely missed - especially when the adventure elements started to invade even the recent 2D Sonic games on the Nintendo DS. Basically, the game is designed where you traverse one stage after another, collecting rings on your way to the finish line. You can access the bonus stage to unlock a chaos emerald if you reach the end of the stage with a total of 50 or more rings. Once you have completed a stage or a bonus stage, you are free to revisit them at any time from the game's map. The great thing here is that you can choose to just play the game from the beginning until the end without going to the map screen to get that classic continuous experience. The stages have that perfect balance of speed and platforming sections and they are some of the best in the entire Sonic series, second only to those found in Sonic & Knuckles. Sonic has a new move now where he automatically locks on to the closest enemies as well as interactive objects and you can then choose to smash into them: This is a similar gameplay mechanics found in those awful 3D Sonic games but it works perfectly here. As a matter of fact, this provide the game with more precision, making Sonic faster and deadlier as well as a lot more fun to control.
Running across a corkscrew bridge will never get old, ever.
I was very harsh about this game when it was first announced, especially after the horror of seeing Sonic's running animation back then. This animation problem has been fixed now and the sense of speed is definitely there. Sonic as well as his enemies are rendered in 3D while the stages are drawn in 2D. The game looks nice but the background elements are just too simplistic sometimes. After seeing great usages of 3D graphics in 2D games such as in Trine, Sonic Team really needs to step things up. The game's soundtrack is definitely a throwback to the old Sonic games, with catchy tunes that perfectly accompany the themes of the game's stages. None of them are that memorable however.
They managed to make the casino levels a lot more exciting now!
Now on to the troubling part of this game: The boss battles. One of the things that I cherish the most in the classic Genesis games are the battles with Dr. Eggman (Robotnik). It's always fun to see what new contraptions he has in store to destroy Sonic and unfortunately, since this game is more of a remix than a progressive new title, Eggman's contraptions are merely repeats from past Sonic games. Sure, they altered some of the attack patterns but I have mastered these encounters probably more than 200 times in the past and encountering them again now is shockingly boring. Even if the locations of the game's 5 stages are similar to the old titles, at least their layouts feel very fresh and exciting. These boss battles however are a total disappointment. I thought maybe Sonic Team was saving the best (or at least the only original boss fight) for last but unfortunately, even the final boss is not new! I feel really cheated!
It looks like Dr. Eggman was heavily impacted by the recession as well.
Sonic 4:EI is still a good game however but I cannot help but feel that Sonic Team is just acting like a vengeful brat. So they know that Sonic fans crave for the ultimate 2D Sonic comeback and that we prefer 2D gameplay design over 3D so they decided to just put together a new game using bits and pieces of old materials and said to us, "There! You like an old game, you get an old game. How do you like those same old boss battles, huh?" Since Dimps is actually involved in the creation of this game, I have a feeling that the good stuff like the exciting stage designs are made by them instead of Sonic Team. After all of those bad 3D Sonic titles, Sonic Team has lost their way and their pride and they probably think making this 2D game is just below them. So at the end of the day, we get a Sonic game that is so very close to being really good but it got turned into mediocrity due to it being too stringent and confined. We want the gameplay design to stay the same but we do want new Eggman battles and more creative contents! It's easy to see now that the next upcoming episodes will be remixes as well. For now, I just hope that Dimps can just take over the whole project and give us something better from this whole episodic venture.
RATING: 3 out of 5