Good day to all who may reading this blog post, since 2012 seems to be the year of major happenings in the world of video games I feel more inclined to do more blog posts relating to video games. So hopefully this review will be the first of many to come in the area of video game reviews both new and old. And with the announcement of Sonic 4: Episode 2 just at the end of December I thought it was time to revisit Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (the Wii version). Now I reviewed this game on my old Gametrailers blog game back in November 2010, but back then my opinion was fairly conflicted. So I’ve decided to revise the review with a much clearer opinion on the game. Also there’s a video review available at the bottom if you wish to watch that instead haha.
Not exactly the triumphant return to form that Sega was hoping for with Sonic, but still pretty good.
Now this was a Sonic game that had been eagerly anticipated by many fans since its announcement back in the early quarter of 2010 and since then there was a lot of talk about the game continuously with many fans excited to see a return to the “Genesis/Megadrive” style of gameplay, while others turned off completely thinking that the game would fall into the category of bad Sonic games. Just after the game came out it had made some degree of impact on gamers and critics, while it was mostly mixed luckily it was more positive than negative, Sonic Team and Dimps had made a decent Sonic game. However the game is far from perfect and there are many imperfections about the game that has sparked off negative reviews and thoughts from fans and critics. So what are the good points and the bad points about this game? Well I shall present those points in my review which will begin now.
So is Sonic 4: Episode 1 a good game? Pretty much. Has it got problems? Yes. Will these two factors affect your purchase of the game? Well that depends on who you are. Your overall enjoyment of this game really depends on who you are and what kind of Sonic fan you are too. For me Sonic 4: Episode 1 is a delightful yet frustrating slice of fun, which is over far too soon.
Now let’s get into the gameplay of Sonic 4: Episode 1. In terms of the concept of what Sonic does and how he moves and plays, it’s the same as it was in the 16-bit games, just with the addition of the homing attack. Sonic runs, jumps and uses the spin dash on the spot and while running too. He navigates his way through levels destroying Badniks, moving through looped roads, bouncing on springs and avoiding environmental hazards like spikes, pitfalls, rolling boulders or moving walls and machines waiting to squash you. Now when you start playing the game there are a few aspects about Sonic’s movements that will take some getting used to like: Sonic’s slow acceleration, slow momentum when not being boosted along, the odd hit detection and the lack of speed from the use of the spin dash. But once you adjust to these differences the game can be fun. Blazing through loop-the-loops, hitting speed boosters and running up walls or being bounced around by springs, all that Sonic-style of gameplay is there and very enjoyable. Even using the homing attack is fun, it’s tight and responsive and while developers say you don’t necessarily have to use the homing attack, technically speaking that is a lie. The homing attack is set up to be used on several occasions and some sections of the game require you to use of the homing attack to advance through the level.
Also speaking about the physics, (one of the most important aspects of Sonic gameplay) in this game they feel a bit off. Sonic’s running animation gets to top speed before he does and Sonic’s slow acceleration is very troublesome. I also think that Sonic uncurling during the use of the spin dash when moving through a speed booster is bogus. And another thing with the spin dash, why does it stop and uncurl Sonic after he comes off of a ledge? It’s issues like these that will bug the hell out of Sonic veterans..
As with any Sonic game the first zone is the easiest and then the game gets progressively harder from there. Splash Hill Zone and Casino Street Zone have a natural progression in terms of difficulty. However Lost Labyrinth Zone slows things down with a lot more challenge and changes up the difficulty especially towards Act 3 and when Mad Gear Zone comes into play the difficulty is amplified and that’s where the death begins. The difficulty of this game is quite harsh and cheap in some areas; Lost Labyrinth Zone Boss, nuff said. Mad Gear Zone Act 3, monstrous. Egg Station Zone, death on many occasions. Other than there’s some new gameplay gimmicks to try out from Sonic bolder balancing to running through a while act in darkness with only a torch to light his way. Overall the gameplay and level design aren’t much different from the 16-bit games and borrow a few elements from the Sonic Rush games too, just don’t expect too much new or inventive gameplay.
Now I don’t think I can do this review without talking about Super Sonic. Once you unlock Super Sonic the game becomes extremely fun, as with previous Sonic games in the 16-bit series as Super Sonic your speed is at least 2 times faster and you can jump around 2-3 times higher and you are invincible. This makes moving through areas of the Lost Labyrinth Zone and Mad gear Zones a hell of a lot easier and makes speed runs much more interesting too. And Super Sonic overall just makes Sonic 4: Episode 1 a much better game to play. One thing that I feel I should mention is why when obtaining the shield as Super Sonic does the shield still show up when your invincible already? I just find that a bit weird.
Now visually this game looks really good, the colours are vivid and the animation for the foreground and background is intricate. The art direction for the game seems to be mixture of the first Sonic games on the Megadrive just with a slight remodeling for this game. Sonic 4: Episode 1 seems to have a 2.5D look about it where it isn’t entirely 3D models, but more so 3D graphics in 2D perspective. And even though the Wii version of the game that only runs at 480p it still holds up pretty well when compared to its HD counterparts of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Okay and lastly let’s talk about Sonic’s character model, from the time it seen in the first teaser trailer nearly every Sonic fan has been hating on it and sure I understand their hate, if this is meant to be a continuation of the original series on the Sega Megadrive why doesn’t look the same as he back in the day? Well the director of the game said that since Sonic changed to his ‘Modern’ look back in Sonic Adventure in 1999 he would never revert to his old look (well at least until Sonic Generations showed up last year lol). And so the developers have tried to incorporate the old-school Sonic movements and animations into ‘Modern’ Sonic while obviously updating other aspects like the homing attack, and it seems to works for the most part. Though Sonic’s character model looks odd at certain times when wobbling over a ledge, or bouncing off of springs or posing at the end of a boss battle, but otherwise he looks fine.
When it comes to the audio department, the music of Sonic 4: Episode 1 has a nice collection of songs crafted by Sonic veteran composer Jun Senoue. Most of the songs have a nice sound and are reminiscent of Sonic 1 & 2. Though on a good few occasions the songs feel like imitations of Sonic 1 & 2 rather than sounding awesome, colourful and original like Sonic 3. And while the soundtrack is not nearly as memorable as the other Sonic titles, it’s still pretty decent and my favourite songs are Splash Hill Zone Act 3, Casino Street Zone Act 2 and the Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 1 & 3. When it comes to sound effects most of the sounds are from Sonic 1, 2 & 3 with a few new exceptions, and while it’s nice to hear a lot of these nostalgic sound effects I find it to a bit lazy on the developers part.
Now let’s look at the longevity of Sonic 4: Episode 1. In terms of overall package of this game it has 4 zones, with 3 acts in each one with a boss encounter at the end of each zone. After completing the first 4 zones, a final zone is available to complete and lastly there’s also the 7 special stages to work through to obtain Super Sonic and see the small preview of Sonic 4: Episode 2. All zones can be accessed and played through a world map or played continuously when the button prompt appears at the end of each level. All levels can be played in normal score attack mode or time attack mode where times can be uploaded onto online leaderboards. And while doing speed runs in time attack mode, collecting Chaos Emeralds, playing as Super Sonic and trying for higher scores on score attack mode may keep some people playing, for me those modes only last so long. There are only 4 zones, which means that there’s only 12 acts plus the final zone. That is a far cry from Sonic 1 which had 6 zones, Sonic 2 that had 10 (minus the final zone) and Sonic 3 had 6 zones, but when you attach Sonic & Knuckles you do have a fair amount of zones there. Just don’t expect a long adventure with this title.
This game is full of nostalgic value for Sonic fans that were lucky enough to be around in the 90s, there’s many throwbacks to Genesis/Megadrive titles when it comes to the level designs, music, enemies, special stages and boss encounters. The levels mainly take their design from Sonic 1 & 2, not only in the visual sense but also in the level structure as well. Since this is a sequel I was surprised not to see some features that were made available in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Sonic 4: Episode 1 also limits itself in the items department too as they are the same as they were in the first 2 Sonic games, with there being rings everywhere and there being monitors containing only one type of shield, speed-ups, 1-ups, rings and invincibility.
Overall one could argue that Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 hasn’t done enough to establish itself as its own game, that it feels too familiar to the 16-bit Sonic titles and one could also argue that if the name of the game wasn’t “Sonic 4” the negativity towards it from the fans might have been lower. And I also find it funny how before this game came out a lot fans thought that Sonic Colours, the 3D game that was being released for the Wii just after Sonic 4: Episode 1 was going to be the lesser game of the two and yet Sonic Colours was a far superior game. However for better or for worse Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is here and for what it’s worth Sonic Team and Dimps have done well to construct a game that mimics the 16-bit games. While it has obvious problems with the physics, level design, fluctuation in difficulty and a very short length, the game is still for the most a joy to play and I’d say give it a go. Hopefully with Sonic 4: Episode 2 on the horizon and set to show up at some point in 2012 on PSN & Xbox Live the developers can deliver an experience far beyond this previous adventure.
So that’s my review of Sonic 4: Episode 1, hopefully you enjoyed reading it 😀