Author: Dany Argueta
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, October 15th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/s/sonic_4_episode_1/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
I fondly remember my days as a kid planted in front of an old monitor beating Dr. Robotnik for the umpteenth time in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. After Sonic Adventure 2, I stepped into the sidelines to watch the whole series being run into the ground. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 gave me a little hope on top of my cautious optimism but after blazing through it from start to finish, it left me very frustrated.
As in the Genesis games, Sonic is able to run at high speeds, jump or roll into enemies, and make use of his trusty spin dash to take down Eggman. Sonic 4 introduces the homing attack, a maneuver seen in the 3D games that lets Sonic home in to the nearest enemy; it can be chained back-to-back as long as there's enemies nearby.
Even though Sonic’s friends, campy voice acting, and cheesy storylines are completely absent in Sonic 4, the game’s sloppy physics rear their ugly head to throw off anybody who plays the game. For starters, letting go of the d-pad makes Sonic grind to a halt in a second no matter how much running or jumping momentum he has. Sonic's mysterious dead weight also makes him take forever to accelerate, making it harder to dodge even the simplest of hazards.
Special stages are made harder than they should be because Sonic bounces off every wall instead of sliding off them. If the walls are going bounce him every which way, they all might as well be lined up with those trademark star bumpers. Once you get the hang of things, the special stages turn out to be a much more tangible and enjoyable take on Sonic 1’s spinny bonus stages when using the d-pad.
To offer one final example of Sonic 4’s broken physics, I give you this: you can consistently make Sonic stand nearly horizontally on slopes. Occasionally, Sonic can even crouch and spin dash from his position.
Boss fights will be frustrating due to some incredibly wonky hitboxes on Eggman’s ships. If you’re not just high enough when hitting the machines, it counts as a hit against Sonic and the rings go flying. The fights themselves aren’t all that interesting either as they just rehash old battles from the Genesis games with one extra attack that’s easily avoidable. They’re all brought back once more for a rather lame boss rush at the finale.
Another annoyance: unfurling from a ball when launching off slopes or after a successful hit with the homing attack. Sonic is left vulnerable in mid-air doing his best jazz hands pose until the player decides to move away or home in on something. Not being aware of this fact soon enough will actually punish you at one point where not being on the correct side when doing homing attacks sends you careening straight into the enemy above you with no time to react.
Don’t let the Sonic Team logo at the beginning of the game fool you. Sonic Rush Adventure developer Dimps had a part in creating the game and the evidence is in the level design. At no point did Sonic 4 feel like it was getting harder or change up in some significant way from making players just hold right while occasionally jumping. Dimps’ dreaded bottomless pits from Rush show up at the exact same moment in three levels: right before the goal. One of the stages even goes against the whole philosophy of running at high speeds by forcing players to inch their way slowly through a dark level. I don’t understand why Sega bothers to keep Dimps around at this point.
I applaud the sound team’s efforts to keep things authentic by sampling the original synths and other sounds from the Genesis soundtracks; having a different tune play for each act is a nice touch too. However, none of the music is catchy or memorable in any way. I have my favorites here and there from the Genesis era but I can recall almost every stage tune in my head because they were that good. Here, it’s just generic and borderline droning to the point that I almost tune it out. It’s sad, really, because I believe the music makes up half of any Sonic game.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a disappointment and there’s no other way around it. You shouldn’t have to fight with the controls just to make simple dodge maneuvers or deal Dimps' bullhockey level design. If Sega wishes to make good by at least patching in “classic” physics, stop the unfurling, and fixing Eggman’s hitboxes, I’m willing to give Episode 1 another shot. Otherwise, stick to the good old Genesis titles and don’t look back.
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