Review: Sonic 4 Episode 1

Review: Sonic 4 Episode 1
Game Name: Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I
Platforms: Wii, PSN, XBLA
Publisher(s): Sega
Developer(s): Dimps, Sonic Team
Genre(s): Other
Release Date: 10/7/10
ESRB Rating: E

After 13 years of wondering what the heck happened in Sonic lore after Sonic & Knuckles, we finally have our answer in Sonic 4- Episode 1.  There’s a death star, and uhh… Tails and Knuckles are… ummm… well yea Robtnik goes by Eggman now.  Did you know that?  And… well, there’s more emeralds.

Ok so no one actually knows what’s going on in these games.  And it’s about time we got back to that.

Sonic 4- Episode 1 is a trip back, waaay back, to Sonic 1.  Tails and Knuckles are out (hopefully not for long) and we are back to collecting 50 rings and jumping through a giant ring at the end of the levels to collect emeralds.  At its heart, this game is a throwback to the first two Sonic games.  Fans will recognize some familiar foes and levels that seem to emulate some of the classics.  There will be plenty of moments where you’ll be smiling with nostalgia to see them.  While Sonic 4 stays close to the first to Sonic games, saving the game is still an option. (phew!)

You mean I don’t have to start at level 1??? Incredible!

So after a myriad of mistakes, missteps, and overall chaos (get it?), Sonic is back to his side-scrolling, go-as-fast-as-you-can-baby-and-don’t-stop self.  And the big question is whether or not he pulls it off.  The comeback of all comebacks.  To stand up and say, “I’m here and I’m… not going anywhere!”

I am happy to say that yes, Sonic is back.

Let’s talk about positives first.  The game plays exactly like an old Sonic game.  Can’t go wrong there.  When I first played this back at E3, I didn’t necessarily like the jumping and locking on system, but I stand corrected.  It works.  And jumping and giving Sonic an extra boost through the air is a welcome addition that ultimately functions similarly to the fire power-up in Sonic 3.  The level designs are great.  Obviously, with this being an episodic game, there aren’t a ton of levels, but I assure you, going back to beat your time and score is a fulfilling venture.  As a big fan of Sonic music, it’s great to see it get back to its roots.  Every level, every single one, has its own distinctive tune.  With no words.  Thank God for that one.

Now I’m going to address some of the ‘negatives’ that I’ve read in other reviews of this game.  ‘The game is too hard’.  Au contraire, my friends.  While I am a veteran of Sonic games, this game still proves the easiest of them all.  I beat the game with 80 lives.  80.  And that’s with my roommate losing a good 20 of them before that.  So I would counter and say, no, this game is a little too easy.  The emerald levels are indeed hard.  Really hard.  But what do you want?  Emeralds aren’t supposed to be easy to get!  Does anyone remember Sonic 1?  If you made it into the emerald stage and didn’t get the darn thing, forget it.  There’s no saving and you’d be lucky to get another chance.   I will agree that I much prefer Sonic 3’s method of getting to the emerald stage (jumping through a hoop of stars at the spinny checkpoint-thingy) but I’m alright with how it is here.  I’ve also heard complaints that the final boss is ridiculously hard and unfair.  Yawn.  Anybody remember Battletoads?  Now THAT was unfair.  But we did it, kids, we god damn got through it with real videogame skill (Am I starting to sound like a bitter old man?).  My point is this: there are almost no legitimate gripes to pick with this game.  Believe it or not, this is a near-perfect effort.  The only downsides are: no Tails, no Knuckles, no multi-player.

There’s always episode 2, Tails…

I’m going to go out on a limb and say with episode 1 focusing on Sonic 1 & 2, episode 2 will focus on Sonic 3.  Look for changes in episode 2 to reflect that.