A few years ago there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done for a proper side-scrolling Sonic adventure. Sonic 4: Episode I was supposed to satisfy my Sonic cravings right down to a re-mastered Green Hill Zone, but SEGA was never able to capture the magic of the originals. Broken physics with an unnatural floating jump had gamers throwing their controllers down in disgust. I know I did. Sonic 4: Episode 2 set out to fix all of the issues with the previous title and reclaim everything once lost.
When does Sonic feel like Sonic? The answer is when he controls exactly like he did back in the classic SEGA Genesis titles. Over the years SEGA has tried many different variations for a Sonic game, but fans simply want to have the same feeling they did when they were kids playing the original SEGA Genesis games. Where Episode I felt more like Little Big Planet than a Sonic title, Episode II brings Sonic back to his roots, but not without its own set of issues. Utilizing the homing attack from the modern Sonic games, Sonic can target enemies while in the air, but even with the reticule hovering over an enemy or something to bounce off of, the attack may fail and Sonic will be left to fall to an untimely death. This frustrating mechanic leaves an unsavory taste in my mouth and reminds me why I lost faith in modern Sonic titles. Removing the attack would have provided a true classic Sonic experience.
Following a similar premise to – in my eyes – the best Sonic game ever made, Sonic CD, the mysterious planet has once again appeared and Sonic must fend off both Dr. Eggman and Metal Sonic. Providing Sonic with much needed support, his partner Tails is able to perform tag moves with Sonic called “Tag Action.” This actually gives Tails a reason for existing, other than following Sonic around and getting himself killed (or stealing my air bubbles). One move has Tails lifting Sonic up to previously unreachable areas using his twin-tails like a helicopter rotor. Another has them combining into a single unstoppable ball that can take down even the toughest walls. While underwater, Tails can use his tails to act like submarine propellers to swiftly guide Sonic to the nearest air pocket.
The boss fights here feel uninspired; especially when you face off against Metal Sonic. While the first encounter takes place on a never-ending roller coaster ride, the instant deaths and cheap attacks keep it from being memorable. Dr. Eggman fights don’t fare that much better and boil down to using the homing attack over and over again.
From the snowy wonderland of White Park to the windy desolate sands of Oil Desert,Episode II has a large range of environments to explore. The layout and flow of the stages have been vastly improved, giving Sonic a chance to really open up the flood gates and speed through them entirely without stopping. Each stage has three Acts and a final boss Act to complete after that. The half-pipe bonus stages from Sonic 2 have been re-mastered, and if you are able to snag over 50 rings and jump into the massive ring at the end of the act, you’ll get to enjoy these re-done levels. These twisty stages hold much more than rings however as you avoid electrical hazards and more. Completing the stage will yield one of the seven Chaos Emeralds; when all seven are collected, Sonic transforms into Super Sonic.
Owning the previously released Sonic 4: Episode I will unlock special stages allowing you to play as the evil robot Metal Sonic. While not being overly entertaining, if you do not already own Episode I, I wouldn’t go seek it out. Setting out to be a modern day version of the classic Sonic games that fans have been clamoring for, Episode II fills my need for a Sonic game. I don’t think I will ever enjoy using the homing attack in these Sonic games, especially since it doesn’t work correctly all the time, but at least Sonic doesn’t open his mouth in the game.Note: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.