Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sonic The Hedgehog is one of the characters in games I grew up loving and admiring, thanks in part to the simple side-scrolling gameplay and "Mario like" mechanics that accompanied his brash yet charming appearance in the games. Add to the fact that there were cartoons and comics starring the furry blue creature, and you have one hell of an iconic mascot for SEGA that continued to run in the forefront well until the gaming company decided to switch gears and cease console production, becoming a third part game developer instead. It was around that transition period that Sonic started to lose steam in the new adventures he starred in. The fanbase he garnered in the 2D games slowly whittled down in numbers, as his 3D adventures did little to bring back the "Sonic Flava" fans loved and adored through the 16-bit Genesis/ Mega Drive days. Fans desperately wanted a good Sonic game again, and it appears SEGA may have finally heard our cries, as the blue hedgehog returns with old school gameplay intact in his new and 4th official adventure!
Released this October, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I is a throwback to the Sonic games of old, bringing the series back to its roots while lacing 2D gameplay with 3D graphics. That being said, there's nothing much new to say about this game, other than the fact that I love the retro feel and nostalgia factor it promotes to longtime Sonic fans. It plays pretty much like Sonic I and II, with the Blue Hedgehog traveling through several stages to rescue his roboticized friends and defeat his nemesis, the evil genius Dr. Eggman. He fights using his speed and spinning into a ball using his spikes as a weapon to break through objects. The spin dash from Sonic 2 returns, and the only new addition is a homing dash that locks onto enemies and targets. Using the latter takes a little practice and getting used to, but it's quite effective and necessary in later levels when you need to get through baddies to reach a certain distance.
Like the original games, each stage is divided into three zones, each with their own unique obstacles and traps Sonic has to traverse and overcome using his speed and skills. The player earns points by destroying roboticized enemies and breakable objects, as well as collecting power rings along the way. These rings serve as Sonic's "lifebar", and without them could prove fatal for the way past cool hedgehog if he takes a hit. Sonic also collects other items from previous installments like a protection bubble and star shield, which temporarily help him avoid losing the rings or his life. However, if Sonic gets squashed or falls into a bottomless pit, it's instant death for the hedgehog. Fortunately, there are several checkpoints the player can reach and start back in if they die, so it's not a problem to catch up. Simply put, all the mechanics work like a classic sonic game in Sonic 4. Even the mini games to collect the infamous Chaos Emeralds return. There are seven emeralds to collect all in all, and once you get them and collect 100 power rings, you'll be in for a classic "Super" surprise, hehe.
Overall, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I adds nothing new to the tried and true 2D formula, but it's still a lovable adventure laced with excitement and fun that will leave fans hungry for more. Many have questioned why the game bears the subtitle "Episode I", and that is attributed to the fact that SEGA has plans of releasing more Episodic content featuring their mascot in the near future, as well as a couple of his friends perhaps. While the graphics aren't out of the ballpark compared to many other games in this generation, it does well enough to capture the blue hedgehog in true HD fashion (depending on what system you're playing the game in). The stages are nothing new to veterans either, but it will certainly leave them entertained, as well as bopping their heads up and down to the classic and groovy tunes accompanying each stage. We haven't seen the end of Sonic's adventure here yet, and while it may feel like a bit of a rehash, it's actually pretty good, and will serve a good round of nostalgia and excitement for Sonic fans worldwide.
Rating - 4/5