Arcade Review: Sonic 4: Episode 2
Xbox Live Arcade Game
1200 MS Points
Sega makes another attempt to bring classic Sonic back from the dead after many failed installments in the franchise (with an exceptional entry in Sonic Generations) but does this sequel episode make improvements from that last? We’ve been promised a new “Momentum based engine” that is supposed to make the game feel more like the Genesis titles. Does Sega deliver on their promise? Or does Sonic live through yet another nightmare of a title?
The graphics for episode 2 are much improved from the first title. Colors come across as much softer and not quite as neon and vibrant as they were before. They’re much more appealing to the eyes of the beholder and because of this the game is pleasing to play through.
At the same time, backgrounds sometimes look awkward and it’s very clear at points that they’re nothing more than 2 dimensional pieces that are trying to fool you into believing they’re something more. Paying close attention will reveal that backgrounds and even the ground that Sonic is running on are not in fact made in 3 dimensional space. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but at times it can be distracting and disorienting. Trying to determine if something can be interacted with or not can cause some issues for the player.
Sonic and the rest of the cast look better than they have in previous games and the more organic look that this game has gone with warrants praise for making the heroes and villains of the title look as if they had made the smooth transition from the 16-bit era to the 3D age. That aside, pixels sometimes seem too noticeable at times. I noticed a similar problem in Sonic Generations in certain levels and cut scenes. Still, this updated version of Sonic definitely does it’s job of being vibrant without being too overly colorful.
In an interview with one of the developers, they mentioned that Episode 2 was being made with a new engine that focused on momentum, the one thing that Sonic is most known for in old titles. This promise seems to have fallen flat on it’s face when it comes to this title. The best test for Sonic’s momentum has always been to start going down a hill and go into a ball. In classic titles, when going into the ball, Sonic would always pick up speed, which makes perfect sense. In this title, just as in the previous one, going into the ball will result in Sonic making a full halt and, as in the previous title, you need to rely purely on Sonic’s feet for this one. There’s also, again, a huge emphasis on Sonic’s homing attack which has become a regular technique for the series ever since Sonic Adventure. While it can be helpful in some situations, many times it can be a detrimental skill that will result in Sonic overshooting a platform and falling to his death.
In this title, you’ll also be joined by Tails much like in Sonic 2. Tails still seems to be the exact same as he was in older titles. If he gets left behind, he just flies back like nothing happened and will always be there to help Sonic out. You’re given new abilities and tactics with Tails such as a spin attack and the ability to have Tails carry Sonic over tall obstacles by flying. Sometimes these tactics can be used in clever ways and actually make the title more enjoyable, but overall they don’t have as big of an emphasis as one would assume when playing that game. Many times I was playing the game and completely forgot that I had the spin attack or the flying ability when it would have made things much easier which resulted in getting frustrated with certain sections of the game much quicker and much easier.
You’ll also see the return of Sonic 2’s special stage, which is a fun mini-game, although some additions to it weren’t exactly necessary (There’s no need for the bumper that shoots Sonic up into another half-pipe when I could have just stayed on the previous one). It’s nice to see some familiarity in that area, but it feels more like an attempt to remake an older title rather than make a new one. Again, we’re left with a Sonic title that hasn’t lived up to what the series established back in the early 90’s and I have to recommend that if you want something along those lines, go check out Sonic Fan Remix, because this title still hasn’t recaptured the franchise’s roots.
The story takes place immediately after episode 1 and you’ll see the return of Metal Sonic from Sonic CD. These moments are fun and entertaining, but the entire game seems to be a giant retelling of Sonic 2 and Sonic CD rather than seeming to be a new entry. Many times you’ll see things from Sonic 2 being joked at (In the first boss fight even), music tracks try to remind you of tracks from the 16-bit ear (Which wasn’t too terrible) and there are even exact moments from previous games that you replay. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it almost feels like there was nothing new to do, so trying to remake old levels seemed like a good idea. This game feels like it’s trying to be fan service by having old themes, old levels and new levels that try to remix what older titles had, but it comes out as being stale and lazy.
Classic sound effects and noises are brought back in this title and for that, it’s nice to hear. As already stated, some tracks for levels have similar sounds to older entries and it wasn’t too bad hearing and picking out the similarities. Knowing that a certain beat was taken from a certain past game brought some moments of “geeking out” along with a smile and nod of confidence in my Sonic knowledge. If you’re new to Sonic or if you’ve never played the old Genesis titles, you’ll find the music appealing but nothing amazing. It’s best to put it as something that is mediocre, but because you hear it on repeat, you’re bound to get some of it stuck in your head.
The achievements are all over the place when it comes to what the developers want you doing. Some are as easy as beating the first level, beating the game and other achievements about beating certain levels in a certain time frame. Other achievements seem to just be pushing extra time out of the player that aren’t necessary such as playing as Tails 50 times or beating the entire game in one sitting without going back to the main stage select menu. Overall, you could get all the achievements with some time and patience, but some of them just don’t seem worth said time and effort.
Replay Value- 5/10
While sticking around and obtaining all of the chaos emeralds will result in a more thorough play through of Sonic 4: Episode 2 and will unlock Super Sonic, after playing through the main story once, there may not be much desire to go back again to do another play through. Getting those emeralds isn’t going to take a great deal of time as the special stage is a lot easier than it was in Sonic 2, but the achievement of playing the entire game over again as Super Sonic (Playing each level with him) seems like a taxing ordeal that only diehard fans will do. This title will keep you playing long enough to beat it, but once it’s beyond that point, it’s hard to say if it’s able to be picked up again for long play times.
- Softer, more appealing graphics
- Some new techniques and abilities
- Fun special stages
- Failed momentum system
- Awkward 2D/3D moments
- Story seems recycled
- Some outrageous achievements
If you purchased Episode 1 and have it on the same system as episode 2 you’ll get access to “Episode Metal” which is a storyline to arc between Sonic CD and Sonic 4. To put it quite simply, It’s 4 extra levels that are recycled from previous games, most of which are Sonic 4: Episode 1. I found myself going through very familiar levels and sometimes I even noticed exactly copied parts of levels from episode 1. Whether this is to signify that Metal Sonic is catching up to Sonic or not, this is what you’ll be doing. Going through old levels again, but this time with Metal Sonic. It doesn’t seem to add much more to the game other than that.
So overall Sonic 4: Episode 2 seems to try to be something more along the lines of a retelling of Sonic 2 rather than a completely new experience. Recycled zones or zones that resemble previous games, a failed momentum system and some frustrating moments make this return of the blue blur just another smear on Sonic’s poor record as of late. While it seems that Sega has been making some genuine attempts to bring back Sonic’s original appeal (And doing a fairly good job in Sonic Generations), this one just fails to deliver on things that the developer seemed to hype about it.
Replay Value- 5/10