Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was a game that returned Sonic to his two-dimensional platform roots as well as continuing the story from where Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles left off. Dr. Eggman has been defeated and decides to revisit and reinvent his best inventions in order to defeat the blue hedgehog once and for all.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I was released back in October 2010 and was a relatively short game featuring four Zones with three main Acts and a boss Act each. A final fifth Zone consisted of a boss rush which led up to the final showdown, a final battle reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog 2′s final boss. There were minor throwbacks to the classic Genesis games such as Sonic’s “Wheel of Speed” effect when he starts running, and the ability to play through all of the Acts without stopping (opting not to would take you to a world map where you could select any Zone and Act to play as well as any Special Stages you had cleared).
The design of the Zones are a bit on the lazy side. They felt like high-definition remakes of classic stages with little to no additions to make them stand out from their classic inspirations. On the contrary, they do look pretty and each Act is designed to be played differently. I personally enjoyed Casino Street Zone because of the addition of traveling cards that spread forward to create an automated path for Sonic to travel through parts of the stage and, in a couple of cases, functioned as nifty shortcuts.
Boss fights felt the same as the Zone designs, on the lazy side. They are based on classic battles from Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2, with minor tweaks and the addition of new attacks brought out when Eggman has taken enough damage. Lost Labyrinth’s fight was easily the most well thought out of the main boss fights, and I have to credit the final boss fight for not being a complete high-definition copy of Sonic 2′s as the battle changed drastically a couple of times when Eggman took a certain number of hits.
Special Stages make a return in Sonic 4. However, they are based on the Special Stages from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. A timer has been added which can be extended by picking up a time item. Some areas were blocked off at certain sections and would not open until a number of Rings were collected, which made the Special Stages more difficult to go through because you needed to pay attention not only to the Rings but also the timer. Getting all seven Chaos Emeralds unlocked the ability to play as Super Sonic with 50 Rings and the press of a button on any Act except the bosses and the final Zone since there were not enough Rings available to activate Super Sonic.
Time Attack and Score Attack modes are available if you want to spend more time going through the Zones and Special Stages. You can upload your best scores and times to the online leaderboards, although this aspect is more of something for the few who are competitive when it comes to Sonic titles. Aside from unlocking an Achievement/Trophy, there is no reason to invest time into this at all.
The biggest issue I had was with the physics. Sonic’s jump felt too floaty, even if you didn’t hold the jump button. It took too long to build up running speed and Sonic rarely retained the momentum gained from it, sometimes needing to use an empty Homing Attack to maintain his speed. Sonic has too many points of uncurling, which resulted in more accidental hits and deaths than necessary. To be honest, Sonic should stay in a ball when he performs or lands a Homing Attack as well, because uncurling from it also led to honest mistakes.
Episode I is a decent game, but it could have been much better. If you beat the game after collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds, you are treated to a small teaser which hinted at the plot for Episode II. Despite its shortcomings, Sonic 4 is still a game I can recommend to both Sonic veterans and newcomers. It’s a game that is easy to pick up and can be played at your own pace. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I gets Xelnia’s Stamp of Approval and Recommendation.
The Mog Blog Score: 3.5/5
This review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is based on multiple completed runs of the game, with all Chaos Emeralds obtained, all PlayStation Trophies earned, and times and scores uploaded to leaderboards for every stage.
Those who purchased Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II while still in possession of Episode I were given Episode Metal for free, which is a playable segment in Episode II. Players take control of Metal Sonic, Sonic’s mechanical rival counterpart, as he returns to Mobius from Little Planet after his defeat back in Sonic CD. Chronologically, this comes before Episode II, so I decided to talk about it now.
Whatever excitement I had for Episode Metal came and went about as fast as me completing it. You play through the four Zones in Episode I, each one being their own Act for a total of four Acts to go through. The main difference is that each Zone is more difficult to get through than before. Enemies are more abundant and it is much easier for Metal Sonic to take a hit because of it. Also, there are no Special Stages to play in Episode Metal.
As you play through each Zone, you see more of the story unfold from Metal Sonic’s perspective. His primary goal is catching up to Sonic, but things take a small detour at Lost Labyrinth when he comes across a relic that amplified his abilities, making him a more powerful foe. Just when he catches up to Sonic, the hedgehog is already taking off with his buddy Tails, leaving Metal with no choice but to hijack Tails’s rocket and continue the chase.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode Metal is a linear run from the first Zone to the last. There are no Achievements/Trophies tied to it and no unlockable bonuses from completing it. If anything, Episode Metal is merely a plot device and a bone being thrown at Metal Sonic fans (-raises hand-). There’s nothing substantial missed if you don’t get it because you didn’t have Episode I on your system. I wouldn’t call it a complete waste of time, but it was definitely underwhelming. Since this title is, at the moment, only unlocked from owning two games, there isn’t room for a recommendation since you would have to buy Episode I if you didn’t have it before.
The Mog Blog Score: 2.5/5
This review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode Metal is based on completion of all four Acts. As this review was done as a standalone, it does not reflect nor influence the review and review score of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II was released May 2012 and is a complete overhaul of Episode I’s system. A new engine for graphics and physics offered much needed improvements, and Sonic is now joined by the two-tailed fox Miles “Tails” Prower. Eggman has revived and enhanced Metal Sonic, the most potent of all his creations. The old rivalry is brought back for round 2.
Episode II brings in four new Zones, each one with three Acts and a boss Act sans the final Zone which only has two Acts. Episode II is perhaps about as long as Episode I, maybe a little longer. The collectible Red Star Rings from Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations are back although they serve no purpose outside of being collected, which was a bit disappointing.
Since Tails is tagging along for this adventure, we have a new Combination mechanic. Sonic and Tails can roll into a big ball using Rolling Combination, which is useful for breaking down certain walls, defeating enemies easier, and building momentum quickly. Flying Combination has Tails carrying Sonic in the air. You can make Tails ascend up to seven times in one go before he gets tired and comes down. While Tails is flying, he can use his tails as a means of dealing damage to anything above him (which was very useful in the final boss fight). With more focus on underwater exploration, Tails can help Sonic navigate faster by using Submarine Combination. All of these can be done with the press of a button while grounded, in the air, or underwater. Also, if you are using Super Sonic, using and Combination move will revert him back to normal which is not only necessary at some points, but can be used to regulate the usage of the golden hedgehog form.
The design of the Zones is still inspired from classics, but with a lot more additions that separate them from their inspirations. I really enjoyed the roller coaster segment in Twinkle Park, the aerial segments in Sky Fortress, and the “epic final battle” feel of Death Egg Mk. II.
Boss fights this time around are a lot more original and well thought out. Most of them had me utilizing the Combination moves though there was never a need for Submarine Combination. Once you hit Sky Fortress and Death Egg Mk. II, you start running into mini-boss battles. Although the first battle was overly simple, I found it to be a good thing because each battle afterwards got more complex and slightly more difficult. The final battle is easily one of my favorite battles out of any of the 2D games because while it was simple in objective, achieving that objective was a challenge. Even though you can find a hidden Shield box prior to battle, it didn’t make it any easier. I also liked that the battles were nicely divided between Eggman and Metal Sonic, with the two working together as a mini-boss fight later on.
Special Stages make a return, this time based on the Special Stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You are once again racing through the stage with a goal of collecting a certain number of Rings through three rounds in order to obtain a Chaos Emerald. Just like Episode I, various changes and additions are brought in such as boosting in order to speed up in the stage. A new power-up was added that forms a tether between Sonic and Tails and whatever Rings come into contact with that link will be collected, which I thought was brilliant. The physics were tweaked so you jumped straight up instead of jumping towards the center when you veered to the side.
Episode II added the option to play with two players, both locally and online. One player controls Sonic and a second player control Tails. Playing online felt just as fluid as playing offline. There were rare ticks of lag, but the controls felt very responsive with little to no input delay. Playing with two players changes the experience in a few ways. Both players are able to initiate a Combination move on their own, which could be iffy if the two of you aren’t coordinating. Sky Fortress is where the multiplayer experience gets real interesting, because whoever is controlling Tails is also the one controlling the Tornado. What that means for whoever is playing Sonic is that it becomes easy to fall to your death if you jump and the other player isn’t moving to catch you. While I miss being able to race competitively, I was satisfied with the experience offered through multiplayer.
Beating Episode II unfortunately gives nothing extra, not even with all the Chaos Emeralds and Red Star Rings collected. I felt disappointed and let down since usually collecting them yielded some kind of extra content.
Sega really did pay attention to what needed improvement and fixing, especially those physics issues mentioned in the Episode I review. However, the game still lacks solid replay value. It felt like there was a large void of room where more content could have been added. Even with Episode I’s unlocking Episode Metal to play, it still falls short of phenomenal. The game is still loads of fun and I can confidently recommend this title. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II gets Xelnia’s Stamp of Approval and Recommendation
The Mog Blog Score: 4/5
This review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is based on multiple completed runs. All Chaos Emeralds and Red Star Rings were obtained, and all PlayStation Trophies were obtained. Both local and online multiplayer were played through to completion. This review score does not factor Episode Metal even while mentioning it during the Final Verdict.
Final Verdict on Sonic the Hedgehog 4:
While Sonic the Hedgehog 4 was a step in the right direction for the 2D Sonic Games, there was a lot left to be desired. Episode I was overly inspired and the physics weren’t that great, Episode Metal lacked any kind of substance, and Episode II wasn’t very rewarding due to gaining nothing for putting in the effort to collect the Emeralds (besides Super Sonic) and the Red Star Rings. I also felt like Sonic 4 was too much of a nostalgic bone and fell short of its potential because of it. Despite these downs, Sonic 4 manages to deliver an enjoyable 2D experience that I find myself going back to every now and then. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 gets Xelnia’s Stamp of Approval and Recommendation.
The final review score is an average of all the review scores for Episode I, II, and Metal. Each title was reviewed individually, then added, averaged, and rounded. The final review score reflects the experience of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 as a one complete title.