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Sonic 4 Episode 1 educational review (Mikyeong only)


Rey Skywalker-Ren
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This is a really good review!

I personally like Sonic 4 from time to time, but on the whole it's a very unremarkable entry. It's testament to how little SEGA understood the legacy of its own flagship series, and while I'm sure good will was meant towards it's marketing, it ultimately fell flat on its face the moment they thought this was a competent and faithful sequel to the original saga. Really, the only thing tying it together with Sonic 3 & Knuckles is it's narrative, which honestly we never really needed. Episode 2 added some backstory to Metal Sonic's return, but was that needed, too? If anything, it further muddied the waters by bringing back the Miracle Planet... then shortly tossing it inside of yet another Death Egg and leaving it to drift off in space, as if there was supposed to be a conclusion. Too bad it didn't sell as well.

And as far as gameplay is concerned, it's just a hollow shell of what retro Sonic is supposed to be. It does have it's own flow to it, but it's markedly different from the classics. No realistic or natural ebb and flow to inertia, no sense of bouncing and launching from previously built-up momentum, just homing attack after homing attack and bounce pad after bounce pad. No true challenge or satisfaction when coming across ramps, slopes or loops, there's always a dash pad right in front of them, and even if there weren't, Sonic's rolling mechanics are non-existent, so there's no point.

In short, it's kind of fun in it's own right, it'd be alright as a small mobile series, but on the whole it's just underwhelming and nothing compared to what it claims to be.

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If they'd not called it Sonic 4 it would still be mediocre, but considered less offensive, I think. Personally I really don't like Episode 1, but I liked Episode 2 significantly more, even though it's nowhere near as good as it should have been and didn't improve enough.

 

The mid air stop once you let go of the control stick in Episode 1 just kills the game for me. Super Sonic is even stuck with this in Episode 2 which had better control overall. The music also killed it for me. I get they were trying to be retro with it, but it just sounds bad and a real Sonic 4 would have, back in the day, made the music as good as possible. If they were trying to be retro, then they should see Castlevania: Adventure Rebirth. That game had an actual arcade chip which sounded vaguely Mega Drive ish, but just sounds a lot better overall.

 

Honestly I wish they'd bother to make Episode 3. The fact that they haven't even finished it arguably makes it even worse as it shows how little they care about it.

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I think what really tanked Sonic 4 is that everything feels like an imitation. You've got graphics based on levels from the Genesis games, but they all look like cheap plastic and cardboard cutouts. You've got repeat bosses that aren't as fun to fight as the originals. You've got music that sounds kinda familiar but it doesn't have the same energy or style. And of course the physics and controls are broken all to heck, so while it might look "close enough" in a video, actually playing the game feels all wrong. They couldn't match the classic Sonic feel, and they didn't have the integrity to just do things their own way, so they just ended up with a mess.

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Just now, Diogenes said:

I think what really tanked Sonic 4 is that everything feels like an imitation. You've got graphics based on levels from the Genesis games, but they all look like cheap plastic and cardboard cutouts. You've got repeat bosses that aren't as fun to fight as the originals. You've got music that sounds kinda familiar but it doesn't have the same energy or style. And of course the physics and controls are broken all to heck, so while it might look "close enough" in a video, actually playing the game feels all wrong. They couldn't match the classic Sonic feel, and they didn't have the integrity to just do things their own way, so they just ended up with a mess.

Pretty much this. This sums up how I feel about this game.

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I think Sonic 4 is fine but it just lacks replayability that the Mega Drive -games have. Level design, reused elements, physics, all of those elements jist aren't as good as in older games. But to me the games biggest offense is the amount of content (combined with Ep2). I mean, you except a sequel to have a more content than the previous game S3&K but no, the list of good thing removed from the game is just long.

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One of the most disappointing things about Ep1 is it's overall lack of originality and the momentum-less physics.

This game obviously re-uses level themes and designs from the classic games, such as Green Hill, Casino/Carnival Night, Labyrinth and Metropolis zone and of course the bosses. Now, having recently given the Advance series a try, I can appreciate more of the design choices in Sonic 4. For example, Egg Station is a blatant rehash of X-zone from Advance 1. The second faze of the bosses in Ep1; when Eggman does a 360 with the ball-chain, the crushing pillars, Sonic chasing Eggman, Egg Robo going berserk are all modelled after the crazy boss fights in the Advances games. Incorporating designs from the classic and Advance games and there being an overall lack of originality was disappointing.

Now, the momentum-less physics aren't just a bad choice for a Sonic game, they would be a bad choice for any game! The fact that Sonic doesn't pick up speed when moving downhill doesn't feel right. The homing attack has no flexibility so you need to be pin-point when using it. The over-use of the bubble (badnik) chains/automated sequences makes the homing attack feel like a forced stage gimmick rather than an extra move for Sonic.

For example; if Sonic jumps on a bouncer and is thrust into the air and you spot a platform which you need to land on, you will often struggle to land on the platform because the momentum-less physics won't give you the freedom to move Sonic quickly and exactly where he needs to be with the homing attack being of little help. So, you end up falling back down and having to jump on the bouncer again to try and reach the platform. It's frustrating level-design and bad physics which kills the flow of the game and any enjoyment factor. Advance 1 for me has far better physics than Ep1.

The final boss which is a rehash of Egg-Robo from Sonic 2 doesn't help things because the lack of an original final boss makes the ending feel anti-climatic. The insta-kill bit (near the end of he fight) when Egg Robo crash-lands onto the ground, feels like a cheap bullshit design which can result in you having to replay this long-winded boss fight over and over again.

So the lack of original design in Ep1 is wide-spread and when you add the god-awful momentum-less physics, disappointing soundtrack which doesn't do the music from the classic and Advance games justice........then you have an extremely messy game with different elements which don't fit well together.

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So, this is more of a thank you post plus some footnotes. 

I never expected my review to be seen in a positive light. While it took me 2 and a half days to write this, I was telling Diogenes that I was afraid no one was going to like it because he wasn't doing it with me. This is all me and my opinions on the game but written professionally. The only part he had in this was beta reading and suggestions about what I should cover in the review itself. I wanted to kinda teach people about the game but allow readers to make up their own decisions without any bias from the reviewer. I couldn't talk about my favorite parts of Sonic 4 because I didn't want to use too many "I" statements in a educational review. 

Now that I am here, I can make some "I" statements. I personally enjoyed Lost Labyrinth, especially Act 2. Act 3 can go to hell though. I enjoyed the torch puzzles and I enjoyed doing speedruns as well.  Sonic 4 is pretty much the only game where I actually hang out in the time attack lounge from time to time. Casino Street is a rather interesting zone and I enjoyed all of it's acts. I really like the house of cards and the barrel shooting got me engaged. I also really enjoyed it's soundtrack, par a few sounds though. I also really liked the special stages and how I can chose which act I wanted to do first.

I'm sure many people know this, but Sonic 4 was my first 2D Sonic game into the Sonic series. I was that person who started Sonic late (around 2011-2012) and I picked up this game and I didn't think that I would enjoy it at first, but I did. And it became iconic to me. And this is from someone who started out with the Sonic 06 and the boost trilogy. I have played this game before I played the classics, so that pretty much effected how I felt about the game in the past. Alot has changed since then and I look at this game from a more a critical lense. Part of me still relives the enjoyment I got from playing this game and part of me is starting to see it for what it really is. As of now, it is a love-hate relationship.

Thank you all for supporting me with this and thanks for the awesome comments on it. I also do wish to thank Dio for giving me the kick in the butt that I needed and to believe in myself. When I posted this the first thing he said to me was that he was proud of me for sticking to my opinions on the game and doing this on my own. I wanted to use his writing style, I wanted to use his thoughts because we think exactly alike on this game, but I didn't. So thank you. :)

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Nice review! I'm a bit late, having experienced this 5 year old game (On Android) over the past two weeks. I was actually rather impressed with Episode 2. The levels didn't feel like a rehash of old games, the graphics were great, and the backgrounds didn't have that Wallpaper feel that Episode 1 had, Metal was a nice bonus, and the bosses were awesome. On the other hand, I hated Episode 1. Even the menus were ugly and unappealing. The boss rush at the end felt more like I was playing Advance 4, not Sonic 4. You pretty much summed up every complaint I have with the game in your review. I would like to see an Episode 3, as long as it follows the style of Episode 2.

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In hindsight,  I find that what really doomed Sonic 4 was Episode 1 which originally was praised by critics,  but since the illusion lost power over time they compensated by slamming Episode 2 which actually felt like something actually trying to be a sequel to the classics and not completely shamelessly ripping them off. 

Episode 1 definitely deserves the vitriol it gets as a cheap sequel,  but I honestly think that Sonic 4 would have fared leagues better nowadays of Episode 2 had been its initial entry in the first place.

Heh,  one more reason to hate Episode 1.

 

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18 minutes ago, Jovahexeon Joranvexeon said:

In hindsight,  I find that what really doomed Sonic 4 was Episode 1 which originally was praised by critics,  but since the illusion lost power over time they compensated by slamming Episode 2 which actually felt like something actually trying to be a sequel to the classics and not completely shamelessly ripping them off. 

Episode 1 definitely deserves the vitriol it gets as a cheap sequel,  but I honestly think that Sonic 4 would have fared leagues better nowadays of Episode 2 had been its initial entry in the first place.

Heh,  one more reason to hate Episode 1.

 

The critical reception of Episode 1 is really amusing in hindsight. It really goes to show that many people don't really care if something actually plays like the Genesis games, it just has to look the part. Just needs to remind them of the good 'ol days! 

Like you said, the veil eventually was pulled back over time, but still, it was an interesting time for sure.

(Just wanna say that liking Sonic 4 is fine, and sorry if my post comes off as a bit vitriolic)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yesterday I played a bit with S4E1 for Android, just to see if I could enjoy it after the big let down back in the day. I was thinking "ok, Episode 2 was awful but the engine was fully 3D as opposed to Episode 1, so maybe Episode 1 actually looks better, and I don't hate the physics that much". And guess what?

No, seriously, it was awful. It was even more awful than the PC version. I was playing on a 1920x1200 Android tablet, and images looked like gifs in terms of colour depth, menus were horrible (blurry text?), the touch controls were so small I could never use them right (not to mention the physics making it even worse).

Then I played Sonic 2 remastered, with its perfect gameplay, touch controls, and not-blurry-at-all graphics. Funny, I hate Sonic 4 a little bit more now! :D

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Now this is funny. Yesterday I played Sonic Advance 1 on an emulator. I played it a few years ago and wasn't very fond of it, but yesterday I got a different vibe, specially because of the physics.

And this raised a big "?" in my head: didn't Dimps develop Sonic Advance? They had a great physics engine there (or so it seems). Why did they do what they did in Sonic 4? I mean, they knew how classic physics work, they knew how to properly program them. Now... what happened? :blink:

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3 hours ago, molul said:

Now this is funny. Yesterday I played Sonic Advance 1 on an emulator. I played it a few years ago and wasn't very fond of it, but yesterday I got a different vibe, specially because of the physics.

And this raised a big "?" in my head: didn't Dimps develop Sonic Advance? They had a great physics engine there (or so it seems). Why did they do what they did in Sonic 4? I mean, they knew how classic physics work, they knew how to properly program them. Now... what happened? :blink:

Yeah, Dimps did well with Sonic Advance and it felt like a true Sonic 4, what the fuck happened is beyond me. 

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Now that I remember, I believe (take this with a grain of salt) I read in the old Sonic 4 forums at Sega forums, that the lack of momentum was because the game was originally planned for device tilting instead of touch controls for movement, and therefore momentum was difficult to handle as you'd need to move the device too much to compensate momentum until you stop moving.

Which leads to the main problem: Sega Of America took a Sonic Mobile project and converted it to Sonic 4 just because, without thinking too much.

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Commercially, yes. The fact that most people say Sonic 3 is Sonic 3 + Sonic & Knuckles is just because... Well, it doesn't make sense to say it in these forums, right? XD

I personally liked to know what actually happened to Sonic 3 (being split and stuff). While I liked playing as Knuckles in Sonic 2, considering S3&K as the whole experience that was originally planned just makes sense. Launching Sonic & Knuckles after Sonic 3 and not naming it Sonic 4 was really weird to me back in the day.

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6 minutes ago, molul said:

Commercially, yes. The fact that most people say Sonic 3 is Sonic 3 + Sonic & Knuckles is just because... Well, it doesn't make sense to say it in these forums, right? XD

I personally liked to know what actually happened to Sonic 3 (being split and stuff). While I liked playing as Knuckles in Sonic 2, considering S3&K as the whole experience that was originally planned just makes sense. Launching Sonic & Knuckles after Sonic 3 and not naming it Sonic 4 was really weird to me back in the day.

Yeah,I agree. But still,tit IS technically sonic 4. BTW,why DO people call it Sonic 3 and knuckles?

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Sonic 3 and Knuckles is simply the way to refer to the complete game from the start of Sonic 3 to the end of Sonic and Knuckles storyline wise, especially as that's what the title screen calls it when you lock them both on together to get the full experience. Sonic and Knuckles is essentially just the second half of Sonic 3 in an expansion pack as it were, so it's not Sonic 4. At the same time, just calling it "Sonic 3" in discussions would have people asking "well is that just the Sonic 3 half or the combined game?"

 

Besides, if we're really going down that route, CD came after 2 but before 3, so CD would be 3, 3 would be 4, and S&K would be 5 :P

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