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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Xbox 360) artwork

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Xbox 360) review

"But, say you're still willing to throw away 1200 MS Points to play Episode 1, what kind of experience will you have?"

If I could physically give out an award for Outstanding Performance in Completely Missing the Point, I'd gladly hand it to Dimps, or whoever thought up the concept for this release. When gamers whined and moaned about wanting Sonic titles to be more like the Sega Genesis games, this is not what they had in mind. What am I talking about? Sonic the Hedgehog "4": Episode 1 is nothing more than a remake, specifically, it has remixed stages from Sonic 2, with tidbits of 1, 3, and S&K. Splash Hill Zone is a reworking of Emerald Hill Zone, Casino Street Zone is almost indistinguishable from Casino Night Zone, Lost Labyrinth Zone is a take of the infamous Sonic 1 stage, and Mad Gear Zone is a callback to the annoyingly long Metropolis Zone, all with their original badniks intact. Not stopping there, they even reused the Dr. Robotnik bosses, like the wreaking ball fight from Sonic 1, except they added one additional, predictable move. And they also make you fight the final boss from Sonic 2, the giant robot... as the final boss for this game!

But, say you're still willing to throw away 1200 MS Points to play Episode 1, what kind of experience will you have?

An awkward one.

Besides the tingling sensation of being ripped-off, the first thing you'll notice is that Sonic's physics feel wrong. His running is perfectly fine, even though it may not seem like it at first, especially if you're used to the recent games' interpretation of speed, but everything else is gimped. In its Genesis predecessors, if you gather up enough momentum, you can roll in a ball like a mofo if you keep holding down. In Episode 1, you start slowing down after two seconds. The lock-on mechanism, carried over from recent, 3D titles, is a nuisance, as well. Half the time, you can lock on just fine, but in other instances, it feels so strict, as if you're dealing with a quick time event. This is troublesome when you have to lock on to enemies over a pit, to help you cross the gap; one small mistake, and your hedgehog comes to a complete stop in the air, and just plummets to his death.

You can make the argument that it's something players can get used to over time, but the thing is, it shouldn't have to be like this in the first place! The developers messed with the instincts of players that are used to controlling a "2D" hedgehog. When you play Sonic 1, the blue hedgehog's movements feel so natural when you're traveling through stages, that, whenever you get hit or die, it's normally your fault for not paying attention. In Episode 1, it feels like you're trying to control a stubborn version of Sonic, as if he just doesn't have it in him anymore. When you watch both games in action, nothing looks wrong, but it's when you actually pick up the controllers and play that you realize there's a huge difference. Another potential argument is that it's a new 3D engine that makes it that way. But, you know, two other, recent Sonic games that incorporate 2D play mechanics don't have the same trouble with the controls, so it's a poor excuse to begin with.

Oh, you wanna hear something mind-blowing? The project leader for Episode 1 is the same person that designed the levels for Sonic & Knuckles!! How you go from that to this is beyond my comprehension.

However, Episode 1 isn't without its... um... positi... I can't even bring myself to say it. The best I can do is say it has "kinda cool" moments. It's kinda cool when Sonic is running around a stage (literally) on a stack of giant, flying cards; it's kinda cool when Sonic has to find and light hallways to see; it's kinda cool to run past giant cards and get 1-Ups by luck; it's kinda cool using Sonic's torch to ignite dynamite to blow open paths... wait a minute! All these kinda cool moments only happen in two zones! I can't even recall any neat situations occurring in the others. Oh, wait! Splash Hill Zone had that vine-swinging mechanism... but it was a pain in the butt, doing more harm than good by flinging you into enemies and spikes. Ugh, this game is really lacking in creativity.

Here's the thing, though, the ultimate reason not to download this title: just because. Not good enough? Okay then, Sonic "4": Episode 1 goes for 1200 MS Points, and for that, you get broken physics, a soundtrack that sounds like it was made for a Saturday morning cartoon, 13 remixed stages, and five recycled boss fights. But, check this, homey peoples. Since you can download Xbox Live Arcade titles, you also have the option to download Sonic 1, 2, 3, & Knuckles for a total of 1440 MS Points. With these purchases, you get solid play mechanics, great music, 63 varied stages, and countless boss battles.

Now, seriously, which would you choose?


pickhut's avatar
Featured community review by pickhut (December 24, 2010)

Gomu Gomu no Bō...

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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 26, 2010:

Thank you, pickhut. I shall not waste time or money on this game. Solid review!
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pickhut posted December 26, 2010:

Thanks, Joe. My sacrifice was not in vain. ;_;

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