Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II Review
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On 05/26/2012 at 12:00 PM by Esteban Cuevas
Is Tails the foil that accomplishes what Episode 1 couldn't, bringing Sonic back to his former splendor?
For fans of Sonic and platformers.
When Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I was released in 2010, it was meant to be a return to form for the blue blur, taking inspiration from the original Genesis titles. The results were mixed. So Sega went back to the drawing board for the next episode and fixed a few of the problems plaguing the first game. Although Ep. II evokes some of Sonic's previous glory, Sega still hasn't been able to fully capture the magic of the Genesis games, apparently content with yet another platformer that is only slightly above average in nearly every respect.
One characteristic has been all but perfected though: the physics in Ep. II are much better than in Ep. I. They feel almost exactly like the Genesis games. Controls are responsive, with no delay, and running has a better sense of inertia which feels a lot more natural. You won't be running up walls and ceilings with almost no momentum anymore. It's been a long time since I played a Sonic game with such a great sense of speed and control. It may not be as fast as other games in the franchise but here it's never on autopilot.
The corrected physics aren't the only thing Ep. II does right. The special stages are reminiscent of the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 stages in that you will be running down a half pipe collecting rings and dodging obstacles in order to earn a Chaos Emerald. Speed pads, timed ring challenges and multiple planes have been added, which were originally seen in the Sega Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast. Collect all seven Chaos Emeralds, and you'll be rewarded with the tremendously fast and powerful Super Sonic form.
The levels are improved as well. Where Ep. I's levels felt like ripoffs of levels from Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, Ep. II's levels feel like perfect combinations of levels from Sonic 2 and 3 that result in all new levels (for the most part). White Park is the most effective at this, which resembles almost no level from past Sonic games. Levels also all have a diverse color palette. Shiny surfaces that were abundant in Ep. I are kept to a minimum here, culminating in a beautiful looking game. Gameplay focuses on learning levels and enemy layouts to maintain momentum and as such, enemy ladders are not as prevalent this time around and there are fewer trial and error moments.
The inclusion of Tails and the new team up abilities affect the game immensely, as levels are designed around both of their abilities. You will be required to team up in order to break down obstacles, fly over pits, swim through barriers, and more. This at times slows things down but it successfully diversifies the gameplay and level layouts to keep things varied.
Episode II's levels are fun and well designed but unfortunately never reach the point of being memorable. Some moments like running along roller coaster track are great but not much sticks in your brain when it's all over. And with the game being over at about three hours, $15 is too much to ask for.
The fluctuating quality of the levels is also present in the boss fights. You fight Eggman (Dr. Robotnik?) and Metal Sonic (returning from Sonic CD) in three boss fights apiece. The first, second, and two final boss fights are great, but the fourth is only decent and the third is way too drawn out in terms of length. Luckily, creativity from the levels is shared as well in the boss fights. Three of them are completely original while the other three resemble other fights from Sonic Generations and Sonic CD, a title not readily known to the average Sonic fan so it'll still be new to most. This is a nice change from Ep. I, where all the boss fights were remakes of previous battles.
There are two aspects to the game that are neither good nor mixed. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is unremarkable, a similar problem with Ep. I. The music matches the tone of the levels and it sounds like it comes from the old Genesis titles but none of it stands out whatsoever. If anything, it sounds like a cover band doing the soundtrack rather than the original artist.
The multiplayer, which is newly implemented in Sonic 4: Ep. II, is another disappointment. Both local and online two player co-op play is available but it just doesn't make sense with this kind of gameplay. One player is Sonic and the other is Tails and you'll run through the levels together but if one player falls behind the other, they just snap back to where the other player is; with this game going as fast as it does, you'll basically be constantly pressing A to spawn back where the other player is, making this feature pointless. You'll constantly be in each other's way more than anything. At least there's no lag.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, despite its flaws, is one of the best Sonic titles of recent memory. Bouncing from spring to spring and running through loop de loops is as entertaining as it used to be thanks to improved controls and physics. It's not as good as the Genesis classics or Sonic CD but this gives you a fun if brief adventure that shares some of the heart and soul of those titles.
If you own Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and II on the same platform, you will gain access to four extra levels where you play as Metal Sonic. The levels are one act each of the zones from the first episode in reverse order. Metal Sonic controls identically to Sonic and although the controls are good (in that they are identical to the main game), the levels are not as inspired or interesting as those in Episode II.
In addition, a few cutscenes will play as you go through the levels that are meant to further the story. In all honesty, they don't say much aside from Eggman bringing Metal Sonic back and Metal Sonic wanting revenge against Sonic. This really offers nothing new and this all culminates into content that's harmless but not exactly appealing either. If you own the Wii version of Ep. I and are upset that you can't get Episode Metal, don't worry--you aren't missing much.