Miscoded Confidence: Sonic 4, Episode I

Sonic has returned from the haphazard existence of games like Sonic Free Riders, Sonic and the Secret Rings as well as a brief appearance in The Lion, The Witch and The Hedgehog to lauded appreciation from many in the gaming community who have been ravenously waiting for Sonic 4 since it was seemingly announced a significant time ago. And while a lot of that excitement has been pent up, I’ve been getting a feeling playing through it myself that a lot of die-hard sonic fans may have caught themselves a bit disappointed with what DIMPS offered up as Episode One of the latest incarnation of the fastest blue hedgehog on earth.

Now, before I get too deep in this article, I feel it fair to remind everyone that I consider myself a proud member of the Sega Addicts and have for a bit of time now and looking back through my articles, I’m sure we’ll all agree that I’ve approached a fair amount of games with what could be described as ‘a tempered hand’. But, from what I’ve seen of Sonic 4 so far has seemed a bit closer to the disappointing side of the spectrum than the nostalgic kid in me that wanted to go really, really fast again.

Frankly, it seems like we might have all had the orgasm before we ever got a chance to undress the game, if you know what I mean.

The problem is definitely a case of what is remembered from sitting down with Sonic the first time and how he’s evolved to what I discovered on Xbox Live when I finally sat down and started playing – but the underlying fact of the matter is that I’ve caught myself being significantly more frustrated that any Sonic game has ever rightfully made me feel – with the obvious exceptions of Free Riders, Unleashed, Secret Rings, etc. But, is it me or does Sonic not feel as fast as he rightfully should?

Sincerely said, it feel a lot like Dimps abandoned a few basic tenets of the speed elements in favor for a jumping and lock-on system that would feel more cohesive with a dedicated platformer – and that really isn’t what Sonic the Hedgehog has ever been about in my opinion. Sonic has always been about building up speed and flying across the screen at breakneck velocities. Not that I haven’t pulled that off at least once or twice in Episode 1, but I guess it just feels a bit further off from the original Sonic quadrilogy – Sonic 1, 2, 3 and of course Sonic & Knuckles – than I would have preferred.

If nothing else, it’s spurred me to go back and play through the originals in the dead of the night this week for the sake of making sure I hadn’t gone out of my fucking mind. Thankfully, I hadn’t because the older sonic games have a definitive speed over the sometimes sluggish feeling that I’ve noticed more that once in Sonics latest adventure. And while this isn’t a full-on review so much as it’s a collection of my waffling feelings thus far – I felt this was necessary to grant some genuine composure to my feelings about what Sega and Dimps have presented to gamers, both nostalgic and otherwise thus far.

Suffice to say, this is the first Episode of what could potentially be quite a few more and what I’ve seen so far is a valiantly gorgeous effort. It definitely is a dazzle to the eyes and is more eye-candylicious than many of the XBLA games I’ve seen in my recent experience, but I still have this nagging feeling that something is missing.

Other than the fact that Sonic just feels decidedly slower than he rightfully should, I kind of take issue with the fact that the boss levels are isolated events as opposed to having the level prior simply lead into the boss encounter. Understandably, it’s clear that this was done for the sake of people who don’t want to have to repeat and entire level prior to encounter Dr. Robotnik – but it feels somewhat odd to me – a feeling that should go away with time since it is honestly an intelligent design choice.

But, there are a few things I know I’m going to struggle with until I’ve utterly beaten the hell out of the game. The enemies and traps for instance, feel like they have an insipid placement that feels more sadistic than anything else. But, perhaps this is just a complaint that results from being able to kill them fast enough because of the occasionally clunky feeling that I’ve felt in the controller while player – something which has almost caused me to lose one of my Reach gamepads due to a moment of blind rage. But, even the bonus levels caused me to, mouth agape, utter a questioning phrase of disbelief as it felt more struggle than fluid movement from one end to the other.

But perhaps I’m just crazy and the feeling will fade with time as the nostalgia I so desperately long to feel takes hold and the game along with Sonic show me that Dimps knew what the hell they’re doing and this is the Sonic game I’ve been dreaming for along with everyone else. Or perhaps not and the rest of the released episodes will be nothing but a hapless waste on me.

Having grown up with Sonic, I admit, it feels like an old friend has come back to stay and I really want that to be the case. But right now, it feels like there’s an imposter crashing on my couch, taking the last slice of pizza and drinking the final soda in the fridge – which only serves to piss me off. On the plus side though, he left his friends behind, so maybe it’ll take a bit longer than usual for us to strike up our friendship again since he’s been gone so long and it’ll feel like he never left.

To be honest, I really hope that is the case – because nothing feels more awkward than throwing someone out in anger after you’ve known them for so long.

  • Manic Maverick

    I still have yet to play this game, but I’m saddened that it hasn’t lived up to what people were hoping for. But the good thinsg I’ve heard about it are enough for me to want to get it though.

    As for the boss battles, they should have given you the ability to start a little before the battle. Like a checkpoint or something. That way it would be seamless and yet not make you play the entire level again.

  • Noisetank41

    Good write up. While I enjoyed Episode 1 I can see why yourself and others have had some issues with it. It’s not perfect but if they actually take feedback from fans and implement it in future episodes it could only get better.

  • Nice article. I definitely agree that it feels like something is missing. In my opinion they could have chosen ANY other form of bonus level for a better outcome. I feel like those levels really limit your control over the game.

    In regards to the last boss, I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t heard the podcast, but holy crap can it be aggravating. Like Alex, I also had to look up an FAQ as to what to expect at the end once I died and had to do everything again. Nevertheless, the homage was cool.

    It was an enjoyable game overall, and I think they are going to keep an eye on fan reactions since they did the same for this introductory episode, so I’m only anxious for episodes to come.

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