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The Next Level In Gaming

Welcome to my belated review of Sonic 4 Episode 2. Released on May 15, it is the second episode in Sega’s segmented sequel to the much-loved Megadrive classic Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Its release comes a year and a half after the first episode (PlusXP review by Leon here), during which time Sonic Generations, which happened to be the most well received Sonic title since the Megadrive era, rocked fans’ worlds last November. Sonic 4 Episode 1 was a breath of 2D fresh air for its time, but many Sonic fans, such as myself and bcdcdude from junsenoue.com, noticed that when we went back and played Sonic 4 after trying out the mighty Generations that the whole experience felt very poor in comparison. Which made me anxious about how the second installment would now fare in a post-Generations world. Has it managed to? You, dear reader, are just going to have to read on to find out…

 

The boys are back in town....

The boys are back in town....

 

Sonic’s trusty old sidekick Tails makes a comeback, and brings with him a whole host of play opportunities. These are largely based on, but also expand on, concepts introduced in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Among these are Tails’ ability to use his flying and swimming skills to carry Sonic up to higher parts of levels that would otherwise be unreachable. On a personal note I must admit the Sonic-Tails co-operative play delighted me ; it brought back many happy memories of playing Sonic 2 as a child (the game which introduced Tails, and is still my favourite Sonic game of all time). The two player co-op mode (which can be played either locally or online) where one player controls Sonic and the other controls Tails, also works surprisingly well. It uses of new gaming ideas introduced in the near enough 2 decades since Sonic 3 & Knuckles to great effect, such as the capability of one player to do the majority of the work if one gets tired which was featured in the New Super Mario Bros Wii, while remaining wholly nostalgic at the same time.

 

The bosses are creative recreations of old favourites

The bosses are very well done.

 

Another implementation, a nice little thank-you to those of us who bought Episode 1, is the Metal Sonic Episode, which is unlocked when the game detects Sonic 4 Episode 1 save data. It isn’t overly impressive to be fair, just Metal Sonic running through some of the old levels featured in Episode 1, but playing as Metal is fun and it’s always nice when developers add a little something in to reward loyalty.

 

 

Nice touch, if not slightly over-rated...

Nice touch, if not slightly over-rated...

 

The graphics have certainly been vamped up since the first episode. While in Episode 1 Sonic look cell-shaded, he now appears more 3D, similar to how he looked in Generations. And certainly looking better it has to be said! As for the level backdrops and elements, they are of the same ilk as Episode 1 in terms of style, but are improved. Episode 1′s levels looked altogether more ‘safe’, drawing heavily, and in my opinion too much, on the earlier games in the series. Sonic 4 Episode 2 deviates a lot more, introducing lots of new aesthetics to the franchise, such as the Christmas-inspired delights of White Park. Where it has drawn on old levels its done so in a way that really adds new flavour ; Sky Fortress Act 1 is a whole new experience from the Sky Chase Zone where it derived its queues, and it took me a while to clock that the Sylvania Castle Zone was heavily inspired by both Sonic 2′s Aquatic Ruin Zone and Sonic 3′s Marble Garden Zone. Which is perhaps as much kudos to this game’s ability to draw you in and lose yourself in the moment, as its clever artistic meldings.

 

Sonic Winter Wonderland!

Sonic Winter Wonderland!

 

Music-wise, what Episode 1 players should expect is more of the same. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, as that’s the one element of Episode 1 that still holds up well. Music Maestro Jun Senoue provides us with more delicious synth-pop, with tracks such as Oil Desert (Act 3),  White Park (Act 3) and the Sylvania Castle trio being particularly special. I’m not the type to usually buy gaming soundtracks, but I’ve promised myself that after all the Sonic 4 episodes have been released and the eventual complete collection OST is released it is a purchase I will certainly be making. Because these tracks are like ear-candy to me <3

 

I haven't touched on it here but the Special Stages are hard as nails : be prepared!

I haven't touched on it here but the Special Stages are hard as nails : be prepared!

 

In conclusion Episode 2 shines like a star. It holds its head high in a world that has experienced the unequivocal epicness that is Sonic Generations, with its levels actually (believe it or not) being even more fun than Generations’ 2D offerings. Sega : you have listened to your fans and learnt heaps from them, which is a rare thing and you deserve so, so much praise for that.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Episode 1 if I’m honest. Sure the music was great, but so much of the game felt like a rehash. However I feel as if Episode 2 has re-adressed the balance and brough Sonic 4 into higher grounds. Lets just hope the following episodes either maintain, or better yet exceed, the standard Episode 2 has now set, and Sonic 4 can be one decades-late sequel that averages out on a very high note indeed.

 

PROS

+ The return, and improvement, of Sonic-and-Tails co-operative play
+ Sonic looks much better than he did in the first episode
+ The levels are very well done and feel much more new than Episode 1′s
+ More of the same brilliant music

CONS

- Can’t think of any!

Nobody expected much from Episode 2 given that Episode 1 wasn’t great, but it really has proven a surprising gem. I urge all of you with 1200 MSP (or £9.99 if you use PSN) to spare to pick this up, regardless of whether you played Episode 1 or are even a fan of Sonic, because you’ll be in for a treat.

7/10

 

-HelenBaby

 


 

Sonic/Sega Resources

 

Fan of Sonic? The make sure you check out these wicked sites :

The Sonic Stadium : http://www.sonicstadium.org/
FindTheComputerRoom Forums : http://www.findthecomputerroom.com/forum/
Emerald Coast : http://emeraldcoast.co.uk/

Uk Sonic Convention (by the team at the aforementioned Sonic Stadium) : http://www.summerofsonic.com/

Like Sega in general? Then check out these great sites :

RadioSega : http://www.radiosega.net/
SegaDriven : http://www.segadriven.com/

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HelenBaby On May - 28 - 2012

2 Responses so far.

  1. rulerofyourface says:

    Hey, here form TSS. You did a great job, but I have to wonder, the lack of a TRUE final boss (even though the final boss WAS pretty good) isn’t a con to you?

  2. Leon says:

    Great review and totally agree it’s awesome!

    While looking back, I do see that I gave Episode 1 a pretty good review – I think Episode 2′s fixes just show much better a new 2D Sonic could be when done right. If anyone was put off by Episode 1′s dodgy physics, I hope they don’t avoid this game. I’ve fallen in love with the series all over again!

    I would however say that I think you have to rely on Tails’ flight a little *too* much, I loved the other combo moves but sometimes those parts could be a little irritating and broke the flow a bit.

    I did however, think Episode Metal was awesome! I know it’s not new zones, but they are completely new level layouts in the shiny new physics, and I thought it was great how it told Metal’s journey between CD and 4, also giving each of the Episode 1 stages a bit more purpose in terms of story :)

    Really hope it does well enough to merit a third chapter, Sonic 4 could be amazing by the end, especially if they find some way to combine them into one complete package at the end :)

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