Review by Mike_Gnz
"A blast from the past, though less of a bang and more of a zoom."
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is the newest Sonic game, a collaboration between Sonic Team and Dimps, the development team behind the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush series of games, as well as the designers of the Wii and PS2 versions of the daytime levels of Sonic Unleashed. Your first thought would be the Sonic cycle, but you're wrong. Sonic 4 is a solid title and, while not good enough to be considered the second coming of Sonic, is still a solid game.
The story, though not described in-game, has Sonic taking a vacation after the destruction of the Death Egg from Sonic 3 and Knuckles. That's right; this is a direct sequel to Sonic 3, taking place before any of the other games. Sonic learns that Eggman is up to no good, and thus our hero is off on another adventure, without Tails or Knuckles backing him up. I wish it could have said it in detail instead of having you require to read it elsewhere, but the story isn't important.
The game will have you racing through an island, a large sprawling casino area, a deep labyrinth, and a large system of pipes and cogs as Sonic races to stop Dr. Eggman from, once again, turning animals into robots in order to take over the world. The old powerups from Sonic 1 and 2 make a return, including the Speed Shoes, the Shield, and Invincability. Old enemies also return, including Grounders, Slicers, Skullcrushers, Sols, and those damned starfish, Asterons. As with most Sonic games, getting hit once means you lose your hard earned rings, but this time around, you can recover up to 32 of them on the rebound, which is quite handy if you're in a pinch.
The game is composed of four Zones. Splash Hill is a nice spring-themed Zone, harkening back to the Green and Emerald Hill Zones of old. The Casino Street Zone brings back the bumpers and pinball pushers of Sonic 2's Casino Night Zone. The Lost Labyrinth Zone is an obvious callback to the Labyrinth Zone of Sonic 1and yes, the Sonic drowning music makes a return. The Zones look very good on a TV screen, and the graphics are very well done all across the game, and the enemies are recognizable now as they were before and just as annoying, too. As in Sonic 1, having 50 or more Rings at the end of an act will make a golden ring appear, jump into it to reach the special stages. Here, you rotate the stage using the d-pad, or you can opt to use a tilting method, tilting the Wiimote to turn the maze. Once Sonic gets to the Chaos Emerald at the end of the stage, it's yours. Once you get a Chaos Emerald in an Act, you can't use that Act to get another Emerald, which makes sense, as it wouldn't exactly be proper to replay Splash Hill Zone 1 over and over to unlock the Emeralds too early.
Each Zone is composed of three Acts and a Boss Act. The boss acts in each Zone are also throwbacks to the original Sonic games, with each of the four bosses retaining some major element from a previous Sonic boss. As nostalgic as it is, the predictable patterns make it easy for Sonic veterans and for those who even have a little bit of experience with gaming in general, even with the desperation pattern the bosses use before they go down. The boss fights are disappointing, but a nice callback nonetheless.
The music can be hit and miss. Obviously, the music was meant to recall the old games not just through graphics and sprites, but through music and sound effects. And for the most part, it doesn't disappoint. Many classic Sonic sound effects are present here, and the music, for the most part, does its job well of providing good background music as well as reminding me of the good old Genesis sound. The primary boss theme is an unused track from Sonic 3D Blast, and the special stage theme is a slower arrangement of the theme from Sonic 1, as well. However, the final zone and boss themes leave something to be desired.
Control wise, the game handles very well. On the PS3 and 360, you use a controller while on the Wii, you hold the Wiimote sideways. Sonic is responsive to controls and there's no delay between pressing buttons and Sonic reacting to those presses. The homing attack works effectively too, though the targeting reticule likes to lose track of its target without notice, causing you to instead get a minor jump boost, which doesn't always work in your favor. You can use the homing attack in certain areas to hit a chain of enemies, usually with another path or a monitor waiting at the end, or just as a way to boost your score. The spindash returns with no changes from before, as well.
While Sonic responds well to the controls, the biggest complaint I have has to be in momentum and physics. That is to say there's barely any. If you're not holding the direction you want to go after hitting a boost, Sonic will stop dead in his tracks after moving a few feet, and in mid-air, unless holding down the direction you want to go, Sonic will fall like a lead brick. The old games had momentum and Sonic could roll to a calm stop even without a button being pressed, but if you're not expecting it, you could have to redo a jump or be attacked if you expected to keep moving without holding down left or right. It's not a big problem, but it takes some getting used to. It's something I hope Dimps and Sonic Team rectify before Episode 2 comes out.
Final Verdict: 8/10
All in all, I rate Sonic 4 Episode one a solid 8/10. Except for out of place music at some points, and the apparent lack of momentum, it's a solid entry into the title and it proves once again that Sonic can still rock 2D very well, and with Sonic Colors on the horizon, without any swords or werehogs in view, Sonic may still be able to redeem himself before the year is out. 15 dollars worth of Wii Points is worth the price for Sonic's return to 2D console gaming.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/18/10
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