So the critics hate Sonic 4…
I saw the leaked vids of Sonic the Hedghehog 4: Episode 1 earlier this year. Every zone and every boss was spoilt for me. Yet when I finally managed to get my XBL copy downloaded yesterday, I was still taken by its charm. Its graphics were sharp, its setting familiar and the giddy thrills of battling Robotnik / Eggman were still there. By all accounts, most critics disagree.
The first argument people make, and the one I wholeheartedly disagree with, concerns the graphics. Apparently the game is ugly. Wait, what? How is this gorgeous 1080p, 60fps smooth as silk platformer ugly? It’s art direction is spot on in homage to classic Sonics and is executed without a hitch technically. A comment to the contrary is always backed up by a reference to Sonic Fan Remix- while I have nothing but praise for that game I have to say a few things about the visuals. It was cluttered, effects were excessive and the mix between too much detail and too little robbed it of any visual cohesion. Sonic 4 doesn’t fall into these traps and I bet if the timing of SFR was even a little different this point wouldn’t have come up at all. Didn’t help that the mainstream blogosphere caught onto the story like a rash.
Other folks like to harp on about how this is nostalgic exploitation without substance. Yet others shoot to pieces the physics and platforming system claiming they’re not authentic enough. That the commenting public is at odds over this suggests its not legitimate criticism but rather a matter of taste. Which is fine. Personally I love how the game plays. The homing attack is a little unnecessary, but you’re free to play without it. In fact, the rebounding from the attack heavily encourages using the normal jump in many situations- the last boss being a good example. I’m not even going to get into whether the game is too fast or too slow- it’s no Chemical Plant Zone, but it aint Spring Yard either.
On the topic of the final boss, this is the only point of contention where I agree with the game’s detractors. Why try and copy perhaps the most terrifying boss of all time and then butcher it so? Firstly, you give the player rings. That makes it infinitely easier. Then, you go and make the final phase so ambiguous that, after such a long an repetitive fight as is, seems overly sadistic.
To close, I feel this was a worthy first foray for the team and a promising effort overall. That said, it wasn’t Sonic’s finest outing but hardly his worst either. Let’s all just cross our fingers and hope Episode 2 doesn’t disappoint.