A while ago Sega announced a game that would capture the look and feel of the classic 16-bit Sonic games on the Sega Genesis. This game would remind us of some of our favorite gaming memories of our childhoods while creating new ones just as fun as the old. And they made a game like this. Sega put out a wonderful game that was nostalgic, but still a great game on its own merits. This game was Sonic Generations. But before that, they released this thing called Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
Sonic 4 Episode 1 was buggy and fundamentally flawed. The physics were atrocious, and the levels were warmed-over rehashes of old Sonic worlds we’d already grown tired of since they’ve appeared in pretty much every title in the series since then. S4E1 was universally panned, and with the release of Generations it seemed like Sega had swept it under the rug. But not a company to make the most logical decisions, Sega announced Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2. Is this release better than its predecessor? Yes. Is it actually a good game?
The most obvious improvement over the first episode are the physics. Playing Sonic 4 Ep. 1 was like playing a Newgrounds flash game from 2004. It was an amateurish recreation of the original series’ controls, which still feel great even today. In Episode 2 they’re slightly better, but still a bit off. Sonic feels heavy as a rock, rather than light and nimble like in the Genesis days. Building up speed is a chore, and even when you get up to full velocity there will quickly be an obstacle to slow you down. And it’s not just an enemy or an object to jump over; Sonic will have to come to a full halt to spin a wheel or smash a wall to open a path. But the times when you do really get running, you may as well be watching a YouTube video of someone playing, because the player does not have much control over Sonic’s actions. It’s all left up to speed boosters and springs.
Tails was also added, because I guess everyone wanted that. A valiant effort is made to give Tails something to do other than be another obvious nod to the second Sonic game, but he’s still pretty useless. Sonic will be confronted with obstacles he can’t pass unless Tails helps him fly over or they combine into a spinning ball. At least in Sonic 2 it was fun to purposely make Tails die or let your little sister play with you, but in this he actually gets in the way. At least twice, I drowned because Tails had run into the air bubble Sonic needed to live at the last second before he died. Why would they even allow Tails to interact with those?
Every level plays exactly the same. Visually the setting may change, but Sonic is still running to the right and collecting rings. Occasionally the terrain will switch up, but these are also just repeated throughout the game. Two stages are played on top of Tails’s plane, but Sonic still moves the same way except stuck within the fixed screen. In the sand level, Sonic will slip down an oil slick, but this is no different from snowboarding down a mountain. Again, it’s still an improvement over the last episode, where every level was a nod to an overdone Sonic cliche like the Casino Zone. But they’re still broad, overdone video game tropes.
At the end of it, Sonic 4 Episode 2 is as rote as a Sonic game can get, and it’s just not fun. Sonic has become the Adam Sandler of video games. He’s just coming in, saying the lines and collecting a paycheck. Generations did the nostalgia trip much better than this. Go play that.
Pros: A new Sonic platformer for series fans, better than Episode 1
Cons: Technical issues, general blandness in level design