Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Reader Review
I could describe the definition of nostalgia, or tell the story about when I first got my hands on the original Sonic for the Mega Drive, but who cares? This is Sonic 4! Part 1? Episode what? Okay, it's a bit of the first bit from Sonic 4.
Lets get down to the hard facts - you get 4 zones each containing 3 acts concluding with a boss act, special stages return reminiscent of the original Sonic special stages, Sonic is the only playable character, no voice acting. These elements have been in every Sonic fans check list for years and finally Sega have delivered.
As you load up the first act - Splash Hill Zone - your first reaction will be "this is strangely familiar". This is where I realised that the developer didn't want to take any chances. Each zone is taken from a previous Sonic game.
Not only that but enemies have also been stolen. Even the boss battles have been stolen and reincarnated, although some have been given a new type of attack when Dr Robotnik (it's addressed Dr Eggman in the game unfortunately) is beaten down to his last remaining hit.
Presentation isn't bad. I can't really think of a good adjective and I'm sure if you're interested in the game you've already checked out some gameplay videos. I didn't encounter any frame rate issues as I whizzed passed each act.
The soundtrack was a little disappointing, however if your expectations where set to high like mine you'll discover that they won't hold up to other Sonic titles in comparison. But it all depends on how you view the original games. To me they felt very flat. Nothing developed into anything catchy, and perhaps if Sonic Team took a risk with the music it could have blossomed into something special.
Power ups have been limited down to the basics - invincibility and super speed. Both work like before, however the music transition for both are terrible. If only they sampled the originals.
So I guess the important question is - how does it play? Not like Sonic is my answer. There is no momentum what so ever. If you're running at full speed and you let go of the direction he's running to on the analogue stick, Sonic will stop in less than a second.
There are awkward moments where Sonic defies gravity and stands 90 degrees on a hill as if his shoes had some sort glue compartment that he could deploy at any time. The feeling is all wrong and one does wonder how difficult it really is to implement the momentum from the originals.
Accompanied with the spin dash is the homing attack, ported straight over from the DS Sonic universe. By pressing the jump button whilst in mid-air Sonic will attack an enemy if it's close enough. I rather enjoyed the homing attack, especially when several were linked together. I do understand that many will be put off by this addition, but if you don't mind a bit of on-rails action it won't bother you.
Another important factor in any Sonic game is the level design and it doesn't disappoint. I can't praise it too highly as it's quickly forgettable, but as you speed through the acts the design rarely disturbs the flow.
A feature that could get as much use as the Trials HD equivalent are the online leaderboards. Sonic is known for his speed so its a perfect inclusion. There is an achievement for completing the first act in a certain amount of time so expect act 1 to be popular on the leaderboards.
Special stages are activated at the end of each act if sonic carries 50 or more rings. They're ripped straight from Sonic 1, however do include subtle changes - like activating the next part of the maze only after collecting a certain amount of rings. And yes, Super Sonic can be utilized after all seven chaos emeralds have been collected.
Set expectations to low, Sonic veterans. The developer obviously has gone down the route of - "hey do you remember this, yeah, well here it is again". But it's done in a less robust way. I'm pleased that Sonic Team have acknowledged their previous failed attempts at bringing Sonic to the new generation, but it doesn't cover up the fact that this Sonic game doesn't hold up to its older brothers.