Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
16 years is a long time to wait in the gaming world. Yet SEGA made us wait this long before making a long awaited and much needed sequel to one of the most popular game series of all time. Yes that’s right Sonic 4 is here! Well episode 1 at least.
It’s hard to believe that in 1996 we were all talking about Sonic 3 and Knuckles, the game that was in fact two – a lock on game. You placed Sonic and Knuckles into the Mega Drive and opened its top. There you could add any Sonic game however Sonic 3 is what it was designed for and together it made for an amazing time.
Fast forward to 2010 and it is safe to say Sonic had lost his way somewhat. Appearing in disappointing titles consisting of questionable voice overs, a less than rocking rock soundtrack and enough characters to take the attention away from Sonic himself, it seemed like all was lost with the little blue hedgehog.
The gaming community were calling for it and SEGA delivered – Sonic back on the TV screen. But to be fair to SEGA they had been creating passable and even enjoyable 2D games on the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS for years, with the likes of Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush. However, this wasn’t enough for Sonic fans and they wanted to see him back where he began.
From the moment Sonic 4 is downloaded and “play” is pressed with either your X button or A button for Wii and Xbox 360 users you are instantly treated with Sonic running left to right and then right to left. Then, something which hasn’t happened for a long while, a voice through the TV chimes “SEGA!” Sonic IS back!
The game has stripped away all the “rock” music, silenced Sonic and taken away his multiple “friends.” This time it is all about Sonic Vs Dr. Robo…Eggman in a traditional, no gimmick way. It picks up from where Sonic 3 & Knuckles left off, peace is resorted and Eggman is defeated, or so Sonic thought! Finding out that Dr. Eggman is up to his old tricks Sonic sets off once again to thwart him and stop him from taking over the world.
SEGA have obviously poured a lot of time and love into the level design and as you progress through the game the levels slowly increase in difficulty to ensure that older players who enjoyed the original games and also newbies to the series had fun while keeping interest.
Each level is once again split into Zones. As we know, in Sonic 1 it was a case of running through 2 Acts then a Boss level. In Sonic 2 and 3 there was a boss at the end of the second act. In Sonic 4 there are three full acts, then a boss level. The boss levels are throwbacks to previous games as well, in Splash Hill Zone; Eggman attacks you just as he did in Sonic 1 some 19 years ago – with a big ball on a chain.
If you get to the end of the first three acts of a level with more than 50 rings there is one big ring waiting for Sonic to jump through. Doing so takes him to a Special Stage. These are reminiscent of Sonic 1′s Special Stages however with the time limit expect more frustrations as either time runs out or an annoyingly well placed “GOAL” ball is hit. Collecting all 7 Emeralds brings a familiar surprise to the game.
Graphically the game is beautiful and takes full advantage of the HD visuals presented on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The Wii’s WiiWare game is good, but the lack of HD really shows. As it is Episode 1, the game is short. It has Four main stages with 4 levels in each, with a final boss stage. The music to the game is fitting and pleasant and differs between each level and all the classic “boing” and “ching” noises are back!
The game is not without it’s faults. Sonic himself seems to take an age to get to full speed but once he does you know he’s going fast! Also Sonic 4 could have been a much longer experience however with the tag “Episode 1” Sega seem to get away with it.
Taking this into account, Sonic 4 is what every Sonic fan has been waiting for. If you look past it’s lifespan and Sonic’s starting speed then you will enjoy it over and over again.