by: David Sanchez
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 5/25/2012
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For over a decade and a half, Sonic fans have begged Sega to bring Sonic back to basics and put him in a game reminiscent of his Genesis escapades. Is Sonic the Hedgehog 4 the game fans have been waiting 16 years for?
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Can Sonic Regain His Old Glory? - Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Review
It seems like every one of the Blue Blur’s latest titles, no matter the amount of promise shown, leaves fans desiring much, much more. For years, gamers have begged Sega to take Sonic back to his side-scrolling roots. This time around it certainly seems as if they’ve listened. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is fast, fun, and it’s definitely Sonic. It’s a little on the easy side, and it ends way too soon, but Sonic 4 is easily one of the best games in the series to come along in quite some time.
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No Need for a Cheesy Storyline
Recent Sonic games have been marred with bland storylines and cheesy dialogue. You’ll be happy to know that these issues don’t rear their ugly heads here. Instead, what you get is a straightforward Sonic game that, much like the first games on the Sega Genesis, doesn’t feature some thick plot and simply requires you to once again stop the evil Dr. Eggman.
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Sonic 4: Episode 1 Gameplay
When you first start playing Sonic 4, it may take a little getting used to. This is because the game features completely new physics. Sonic takes a little longer to really get going and the animations, though nice and fluid, are different than in previous Sonc titles. After you get used to it, though, Sonic 4 proves to be a worthy successor to the Genesis games.
All of the series’ staples return: springs, loop-de-loops, Badniks, power-ups, and most importantly, speed. Fans have always expected a lot of speed in their Sonic games, and Sonic 4 definitely delivers. Before you know it you’ll be guiding Sonic across stages at fast speeds that are certain to take retro fans back to the Blue Blur’s Genesis days.
Sonic 4 isn’t just a throwback, though; it features its own unique elements that feel fresh while still fitting in with the Sonic universe. One level has the Blue Blur holding a torch while lighting his way in a dark cave. Another features mine cart gameplay akin to that of the obscure Sonic 2 for the Sega Master System. These things, while not commonplace in the series, add a nice level of variety to the gameplay. One addition that adds a lot to the experience is Sonic’s homing attack. While in mid-air, Sonic locks on to springs and enemies. This is your cue to hit the jump button, as doing so will result in a quick homing attack. This move provides access to hidden areas and can even give the blue hedgehog a nice speed boost. Once you master the homing attack, you’ll be glad Sega included it in this game.
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Lasting Value and Difficulty
Sonic 4 includes four main areas: Splash Hill Zone, Casino Street Zone, Lost Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear Zone. All four of these worlds are built up of three stages and a boss bottle. Though 12 is hardly a large number, each of the game’s acts features multiple paths that warrant exploration and subsequent playthroughs. Additionally, Sonic 4 includes a Time Attack mode that goes hand-in-hand with the game’s online leaderboard, which showcases the top times for each of the game’s acts.
If you’re hoping for a challenging Sonic game in the same vein as Sonic 3 or Sonic & Knuckles, you may be a bit disappointed to find that Sonic 4 isn’t all that tough. The levels are big and feature their fair share of dangers, but you’ll hardly ever hit a roadblock. Strangely enough, the final boss battle amps up the difficulty a few notches and requires lots of pattern memorization and perfect timing. This boss fight is definitely great, but it feels out of place due to the game’s overall ease.
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Graphics and Sound
The art design in Sonic games has always stood out. It’s unique, colorful, and charming. You’ve probably figured out by looking at screenshots and gameplay videos that Sonic 4 falls in line right next to its predecessors. The game retains the same basic style of the classic Sonic titles, but is updated with smoother textures, more impressive backgrounds, and as previously stated, excellent animations. The Wii version of the game is slightly lower in resolution when compared to its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 brethren, but it still looks spectacular.
The soundtrack in the game is pretty good too. All of the tracks fit right in with the rest of the music in the series. They’re catchy, they’re great to listen to, and they’re likely to get stuck in your head. Each of the game's tracks has its own charm, and they fit perfectly within the Sonic universe. It’s great to hear some new Sonic music that doesn’t feature cheesy lyrics and lame guitar sounds.
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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Review - Sonic is Back!
Ultimately, Sonic 4 sets out to do exactly what Sega said it would. It takes Sonic back to his 1990s roots and gives fans what they’ve been asking for all these years. This is a true Sonic game through and through. And while some may criticize the few modifications Sega, Team Sonic, and Dimps threw in, there’s no denying that Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is the start of something special. Bring on Episode 2!