Published on June 12th, 2012 | by Duke0911
Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II
Developer: Dimps, Sonic Team
Console(s): PlayStation Network, Xbox LIVE Arcade, PC, iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Release Date: May 15, 2012 (PSN, PC), May 16, 2012 (XBLA), May 17, 2012 (iOS), June 26, 2012 (Android), July 2012 (Windows Phone)
Well, it took them awhile, but Sega finally released Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, the continuation of the sequel to the original classics on the Genesis. Before even writing this review, I had to put some serious thought into what I would base my review on. Though most would rate this on how similar it is to the classics, it’s also important to see this from a gameplay point of view. What do I mean by this? Read on to find out.
Remember when Metal Sonic was defeated by Sonic on Little Planet? Well, apparently he was left there until it decides to orbit close to Earth. Episode Metal, which is automatically unlocked when Episodes I and II are downloaded on the same system/device, explains Metal Sonic’s comeback after his defeat at Stardust Speedway. It also shows the purposes of the locales from Episode I. You play as Metal Sonic through the four Zones from Episode 1, all with as many badniks and traps as you can think of. Every time I play through these levels I think of someone going mad-happy with the debug mode From Sonic the Hedgehog 2; the design is very over the top. Also, though there is a new physics engine for Episode II, Metal Sonic runs on the physics from Episode I, and controls exactly the same as Sonic. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing since it plays fine, but comparing them to the classics, it’s very different. Still, you can’t go wrong with free bonus content. Unfortunately, if you don’t own Episode I, you’ll either have to download it for Episode Metal or you’re just outta luck.
Episode II picks up right after Episode Metal. Sonic, now joined by Tails, fly off in the Tornado in search of Dr. Eggman, knowing that he’s up to no good. His plan this time? Change Little Planet into the Death Egg Mk. II. It’s up to Sonic and Tails to stop both Eggman and Metal Sonic and free Little Planet. Throughout the game, you’ll see some brief cutscenes that progress the story, and are pretty entertaining. You won’t be able to view these cutscenes online, but more on that later.
Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering these two questions: “Does it control better than Episode I?” and “Is it just like the classic games?”. For one thing, yes, it controls much better than the first episode. The tweaked physics engine allows you to gain momentum while rolling down a hill, carry you distances after jumping from a running start, and no more walking up walls. Both Sonic and Tails can run, jump, and spin dash there way through levels, while using some unique moves. Sonic can perform an air dash that sends him forward. You can also perform the homing attack on enemies by jumping into the air, and pressing the jump button again when a red reticle appears around the enemy. The homing attack can be used on many other things, such as springs, monitors, and objects in the environment. It works nicely, but sometimes you may find yourself missing an enemy you’re locked on if an object gets in the way.
Tails also has his own unique abilities. By tapping the jump button in the air, Tails will start to fly by spinnig his twin tails like a propeller. He will get tired after a few button presses, so time them well. Also, he can swim, just as he did in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. In this game though, you won’t get tired no matter how much you swim, and can even control your swim in every direction. One little problem with Tails though, is that after he lands from flight, he comes to a complete stop, as if he had no momentum at all while in the air. It’s completely opposite of the genesis games where he’d keep running after he landed, and this tends to break up the action, especially in co-op mode when Tails is trying to keep up with Sonic.
Sonic and Tails can also perform one of three different tag actions, depending on when you activate the tag action. If activated in the air, you’ll activate the copter combo, which has Tails carry Sonic while flying until he gets tired. While not touching the ground underwater, the tag action will activate the submarine combo, which let’s Tails carry Sonic while swimming. Just like when he swims alone, Tails won’t get tired, and it’s interesting seeing him being able to pull this off considering he wasn’t able to in earlier games. Last, but not least, we have the rolling combo, which is activated by using the tag action on the ground. It sends Sonic and Tails spinning at high speeds that destroys badniks and breaks through walls. All of these actions are pretty neat, and are very fun to use. They can also be used to find secrets or speeding through levels, so keep that in mind.
The levels themselves, in my opinion, are much more original than the ones found in Episode I. There are 5 zones in all: Sylvania Castle, White Park, Oil Desert, Sky Fortress, and Death Egg Mk. II. Each zone comprises of three acts, with a boss right after to finish up the area. In some zones you face off against Metal Sonic, and other times Dr. Eggman; with one occasion putting you against both of them at the same time. The bosses are okay, but at times, especially when fighting Dr. Eggman, can drag on for a long time. There is a way to defeat them quicker, but I’ll cover that later. Included in each act is a red ring, which, serves no purpose in-game. Unless you’re going for an achievement/trophy, don’t expect much from collecting all 13. Now, I will agree that these levels borrow elements from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but they’re still nicely designed for the most part, and are pretty to look at. In fact, the game as a whole is visually more impressive than Episode I. The grass actually looks like grass in this game, and not some fake plastic knockoff that you see in Splash Hill Zone.
The music, well, it’s hit or miss. I won’t deny that they’re incredibly catchy the first time you hear them. As you play the game more, you’ll start to notice at how repetitive and weak they are compared to other games. A couple may stick to you that you enjoy, but others are less memorable, and somewhat annoying (Oil Desert Act 2 and Special Stage theme, I’m talking about you). However, music is something that can be difficult at times to judge. It mainly depends on one’s preferences, so other’s may like the soundtrack. Me on the other hand, I feel that it’s just okay and less memorable than other soundtracks in the series.
Speaking of special stages, they’re back in this game as well. After collecting 50 rings and passing the goal post at the end of an act, there will be a giant ring you can jump into and make an attempt at nabbing a chaos emerald. Based on the special stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Rush, and a few other titles…wow. This special stage theme has been done quite a few times with slight variations. I don’t mind the half-pipe tunnel idea, but, there are plenty of other ideas to choose from. As for the special stages themselves, the first few emeralds are easy to get. It’s the last couple of emeralds that’ll give most people a problem. You’ll have to be more precise with your movements; dodging hazards, taking advantage of bonus areas, and making use of the Combination Dash, which allows Sonic and Tails to scoop up rings with a glowing rope. Once you collect all 7 chaos emeralds, well, you should know by now what happens. If you don’t know, you’ll unlock Super Sonic. You can change into him in any level as long as you have at least 50 rings. You can even use Super Sonic in boss battles, and with an added effect. Super Sonic not only moves faster and jumps higher than regular Sonic, but can also cause double the damage to bosses. A very neat addition that gives Super Sonic more of a powerful appeal. Sorry Super Tails fans; no super emeralds means no Super Tails.
Once you finish the main single player game, there’s still a bit to do afterwards. You can go back and try to beat your best score, or try to get a decent time for time attack. Online leaderboards allows you to post your best times and scores, then compare them to others worldwide. Also included is a co-op mode, in which one Player takes control of Sonic, and another plays as Tails. This mode can be played locally or online. When one player gets too far ahead, the other person that’s falling behind will be brought to them in ball form. You can also call your partner to you at any time with the press of a button, and either player can activate a tag action. There are a couple of downfalls to this system though, as players share both lives and rings. Also interesting to note; if you’re Super Sonic and your partner gets hit, they lose all the rings and you revert back to regular Sonic. It’s moments like that in which I wish each player had their own life and ring count, but this mode can still be fun locally. Online play can also be fun, if you have some way to communicate with your partner. Playing with randoms and not having some sort of plan can be a bit annoying, and not knowing each others skill level can complicate things even more. But hey, you can never go wrong with a good co-op session with a friend. Take a look below and see what happens with a little team work!
I wrap this review up by answering a question from earlier; “Is it just like the classic games”? Honestly, no. Trying to call this and Episode I a sequel to the original games on the genesis; it’s just not right. Those are mighty big shoes that Sonic 4 has to fill, and it just can’t. Does this make Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II a bad game? No. In fact, it’s a great game that improves from the first Episode, and as a stand alone game, shouldn’t be missed by fans of the first episode, or fans of the series in general. The addition of Tails, new zones, and bonus content for owners of Episode I all adds up to a fun, and somewhat short game. However, if you’re expecting something to play exactly like the classics, be prepared for disappointment…
+ Tails playable
+ Improved physics
+ Nice graphics
+ Interesting co-op
– Obnoxious difficulty in later special stages
– Repetitive soundtrack
– Difficult co-op sections
– Little originality with level themes
Final score: 3.75 out of 5