A review of the latest game in the iconic Sega series.
Sonic the Hedgehog dashed onto the scene in 1991, and catapulting the Sega Corporation to console supremacy while simultaneously running away with out hearts. Over the last two decades, fans of the Sonic franchise have defended small, fluffy animals, collected Chaos Emeralds and golden rings, and saved the world from the evil Dr. Robotnik, and in May 2012, fans will have the opportunity to do more than reminisce.
Sonic 4 is the latest game in the Sonic series and broken down into different episodes. Sonic 4, Episode I was released in October, 2010 on a variety of platforms, including Xbox Live Arcade, Android and iOS. Over the years, the Sonic games have appeared as 2-D sidescrolling platforms, 3-D worlds, pinball simulators, and even racing games. Sonic 4, Episode I, however, takes the player back to the look and feel of the original Sonic trilogy with the return to the 2(1/2)-D sidescrolling action. Sonic fans will instantly be struck with a sense of nostalgia when they appear Splash Hill Zone, the first level in the game and an obvious homage to Green Hill Zone.
Green Hill Zone: http://pressthebuttons.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83452033569e20134881b90c8970c-800wi
Splash Hill Zone: http://www.wiinintendo.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/sonic4-screen.jpg
Even the boss battles are similar to the original game, sometimes even exactly the same, save the cosmetic upgrades.
Other zones in Episode I include Casino Street Zone, Lost Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear Zone, each reflecting forerunner maps Casino Night (Sonic 2), Labyrinth Zone (Sonic 1) and Metropolis (Sonic 2) respectively. As for the epic final boss battle, the giant egg mech that you square off against is very much spot on with Sonic 2’s final boss.
While it is quite obvious that Sonic 4, Episode 1 sampled heavily from Sonic 1 and 2, there are some play-mechanic differences. One of the biggest changes is the targeting system that allows players to hone in on a specific target. This concept was first introduced in Sonic 3-D blast due to the difficulty of targeting an enemy in a 3-D landscape. Although Sonic 4 is 2-D, the ability target enemies in successive series allows the player to take different routes through the maps and often bypass many of the enemies below.
Another change to the game is the momentum physics. Whereas in the original Sonic series you were flung from one obstacle to the next, Episode 1 does require the player to actually control momentum via the joystick. I discovered this after many failed attempts at navigating the corkscrew bridges and repeatedly falling out of them.
There are several other small game-play additions that keep the game entertaining and add a more modern spin. The special stages where you can collect Chaos Emeralds are psychedelic, a la Sonic 1, but with a more modern and clean look. Depending on the level, different play-action may have you swinging vine to vine, deciphering puzzles with fire, ziplining over chasms and testing your luck with cards. One of my favorites is in the Lost Labyrinth Zone where you have to log-roll a boulder to navigate from one portion of the map to another.
Sonic 4 Episode 1 received mixed reviews upon its release and much of the criticism revolved around the reworked physics. Personally, I found the game simple but enjoyable - it really did feel like a natural extension of the series that I grew up on. For me, the value of this game is mostly nostalgic and well worth the 800 MS points. Episode 1 is a fun, light-hearted game paying tribute to 20 years of high-speed Erinaceinae action.
Sonic 4 Episode 2
While at PAX East earlier this month, I had the opportunity to check out Sonic 4, Episode 2. Much like Episode 1, the inspiration of the levels can easily be identified. I played on Sylvania Castle Zone, an interesting mix of elements from Hydrocity Zone and Marble Zone from Sonic 3. The other zone they were demoing was the snow-laden White Park Zone. Episode 2 played very much like the original Sonic series, including the momentum physics. It also retained the targeting system from Episode 1.
Goose playing Sonic 4, Episode 2
There was, however, one huge difference that set Episode 2 apart from 1 - the return of Tails! One of the most innovative changes Episode 2 brings to the table is that you, as a single player, can call Tails into a teamwork action. For example, with the press of a button, Sonic and Tails will high five, grab hold of one another, and the player can then direct the Sonic-laden Tails to wherever they want to go. The same action on the snow map, White Park Zone results in a tag-team rev-ball to burrow through the dense snow banks.
Sonic 4 Episode 2 is scheduled to be released in May 2012 on a variety of platforms. You can get a sneak peak of the gameplay from PAX East below:
From the Community: I asked some community members what their fondest memories of Sonic were. Below are a few of the responses:
Feel free to share your favorite memories in the comments below!
Written by PMS Goosechecka. Goosechecka is a member of the PMS|H2O Editorial Team and the Content and Community Manager at GrifballHub.com. You can follow her on Twitter!