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“Sonic the Hedgehog 4 – Episodes I and II” Mini-Review

Sonic 4  Title Screen

I remember my Sega Genesis from when I was quite young. I spent many hours of my life sitting “too close” to the TV screen playing the original Sonic the Hedgehog games. To this day, I remember the locations of many of the hidden secrets and the cheat code patterns for those games. That being said, the series has been on a steep decline since those days with many fans, myself included, longing for a return to the style of those original titles. With the announcement of the episodic “Sonic the Hedgehog 4”, promising a return to the series’ roots, I was quite excited. Do the first two episodes of this series entry bring Sonic back to his glory days?

With the return to side-scrolling gameplay, it seems at first the team knows what they are doing. The 3D models of Sonic, Tails, Dr. Robotnik, and all the enemies look great against the colorful and well-designed backdrops that bring back some styles of classic Sonic levels. This idea of capturing some of the nostalgia of the older titles while bringing Sonic into the modern gaming world resonates throughout the episodes. However, it never comes close to reaching those classic highs.

For example, while the graphics are a perfect upgrade for the series, the soundtrack is poor. Even the worst of tracks from the original titles surpasses the best of tracks in episodes I and II. Further, the gameplay fails to capture the feel of the classics. Sonic may reach some fast speeds, but his movement is quite stiff. This leads to some frustrating errors as there is no sense of momentum. Also, Sonic now has a lock-on ability, where at the press of a button, he can quickly attack an enemy or hit a bounce pad. This ability fails to make the experience any easier, and in fact seems to add some more frustration. With these gameplay issues, it is a shame that the level design also suffers from some very poor choices, with some incredibly frustrating segments. Did I mention the experience is, at many times, frustrating? Okay, good. To sum it up in a way any classic Sonic fan would understand, many levels become a similar experience to the water levels of old, such as Labyrinth Zone.

While Sonic 4 manages to be a return to form for the blue hedgehog, many segments and design choices mar the overall experience.

While Sonic 4 manages to be a return to form for the blue hedgehog, many segments and design choices mar the overall experience.

Bosses and special stages return, with the special stages being a highlight of the titles. They are quite fun, yet do suffer from some of the similar gameplay issues (i.e. lack of momentum in the controls) as the main levels. Bosses now occupy their own stage, as opposed to being an end of a level highlight. The bosses are decently designed as evolutions of some old Robotnik designs, yet some fall into cheap territory.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 4 – Episodes I & II” is an unusual experience. On one hand, it takes the old formula and builds upon it. On the other, it reconfigures many of the things that made those original titles so great, dragging the experience down in the process. For fans of the old titles, this is a nice way to take an unfamiliar trip down a nostalgic road. Just don’t expect to relive your glory days with Sonic without a few major bumps in the road.

Final Score: 6.5/10

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