Sonic 4: Episode I - updated hands-on

Having only played Episode I’s first act, it was certainly wonderful to tear through an HD-enhanced version of Green Hill Zone, but I was absolutely ecstatic to see a triumphant return of exploration, a replay incentive I don’t feel has been represented for well over the last decade in both 2 and/or 3D. It’s not one of those things people talk about in regards to a Sonic game anymore, but I found myself slowing down a bit just to scour every nook and cranny of the branching pathways for secrets and power-ups.

Because as you might expect, there are many surprises and challenges that await thorough players. Certainly not the least of which being, HUZZAH, the collection of Chaos Emeralds! Maintain a 50 Ring count at the end of the level and a giant ring appears, just as it did in the original Sonic the Hedgehog. This time, however, you’re not controlling a balled-up Sonic, and instead charged with rotating the bonus stage itself, all in an effort to navigate a maze of timed gates. And this is just the first callback in the first Sonic 4 Episode, so we’ve been told to expect juicy surprises and cliffhangers.

Above: Hey, remember this boss battle? It's different now!

And that’s what I love about everything I’ve seen in Sonic 4 thus far: Putting a new spin on the stuff I fondly remember, without almost zero rose-tinted pandering. I don’t care for the cute cyborgs that have stood in for enemies in recent Sonic games, so I applaud the return adorable animals enslaved in Robotnik’s machinations, and yes, even their slightly updated alterations (Chameleon Missiles!) But that’s just me. You probably hate Flicky birds and cherish something else about Sonic. We Sonic fans are a nitpicky bunch!

But hey, at least Sega’s listening. Sonic 4’s dev team has even gone so far as to take into account the complaints of those who’ve never touched the game, and they’re tweeking the build as they go. People bitched about how long it took Sonic to reach full speed. Okay… BAM, they changed it.

Now, if I may further exemplify myself as an unappeasable Sonic fanboy, what they seemed to have done is reduce the time it takes to get to Sonic’s full sprint animation (Which is absolutely gorgeous, BTW, embodying the spinning wheelhouse legs of old Sonic, with updated motion-blur tech and crisper animated detail!) and not Sonic’s actually speed. Does it hinder the gameplay? Not at all. But given how well I - and no doubt YOU - know Sonic it strikes me as awkward enough to bitch about! And really, isn’t that what we’re all looking for in a Sonic game?

Aug 10, 2010

Throwback to the Future! These classics are begging for a 2-D retrofitting

Proof that gaming’s biggest punching bag hasn’t entirely lost its way

Watch as Chris jumps, spins and doggy paddles his way to a respectable finish