Sonic 4: It’s Finally Here

This past generation we’ve seen an odd sort of neo-retro comeback. Many classic game series are getting new 2D installments, like Megaman 9 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii just to name a few of the most well known ones. Well, SEGA decided to jump on the bandwagon too with Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Unfortunately, there’s the Sonic fanbase. As I’ve said in the past, they’re quite possibly the most unpleaseable fandom ever. If you thought this game, a game designed to the fandom’s exact specifications, would be different; then you don’t know the Sonic fandom very well.

To their credit, the fandom’s complaining did result in one good thing: the removal of the Act 2 mini-games. Originally, the second act of every stage was going to be some kind of mini-game. This was a terrible idea and does show SEGA’s steadfast determination to screw up a Sonic at the very last second. SEGA just doesn’t seem to have confidence in pure Sonic gameplay being able to carry a title. Thankfully, SEGA listened and delayed the game in order to make new Act 2s.

So, with that hiccup fixed the game is good, right? If you ask me it’s a bit overpriced but yeah, it’s good stuff! Unfortunately, videos like this exist:

One look at a video like this has people shaking their heads and laughing at SEGA once again. Clearly they can’t do anything right!

But this video is incredibly out of context. What exactly is going on here? For this I have to hand it over to AGwolf2097:

To his credit, he does a fantastic job showing the differences between Sonic 4’s physics and Sonic 2’s physics and also openly admits that it’s silly to complain about it. So AGwolf2097, I applaud you.

However, pay careful attention to what exactly he’s complaining about. Pay careful attention to what these differences are. The “problem” is that if you’re not holding a direction, Sonic can now stop on a dime. In essence, the complaint is that the controls are too good!

I’ve heard of “So Bad It’s Good”, but I didn’t think “So Good It’s Bad” was even possible!

This is where I have to make a confession: I never beat Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2. Oh I could breeze through to the end no problem, but at the very end was a series of flipping platforms over a pool of acid that you had to jump across. Unfortunately, when Sonic landed he continued to slide forward, forcing you to hold back. This would then cause you to run back and by the time you finally got Sonic to stabilize, the platform would flip up and you’d fall down. Sonic was just too slippery! As a kid I always complained that he was worse than Luigi on an ice stage! Sonic 4 fixed this.

So, what was up with those glitches in the first video? Well the walking in place seems to be due to Sonic’s walk speed being equal to the backwards inertia at a certain point on a slope. Basically in this situation in Sonic 2, Sonic would slide backwards. Here though he stays in place. In order to fix it you have to walk backwards yourself rather than letting Sonic slide backwards. The falling in place is a legitimate glitch, though again fixed by moving. Everything else is just the nature of the new physics.

To the fandom’s credit this does mean Sonic 4 doesn’t play exactly like the old Sonics and as such, certain tricks and techniques involving his slippery physics may not work. One could indeed argue that this defeats the entire purpose of making a Sonic 4.

What’s depressing though is, once again, the seepage of opinion. Early reviews of Sonic 4 were overwhelmingly positive. However, reviews written after the fandom got their hands on it became increasingly negative as reviewers jumped on the bandwagon and whined about the physics.

So, what do I think of Sonic 4? I think it’s a touch slow and I dislike the puzzles presented in some stages. Sonic animates slightly oddly and the cel-shaded look is very awkward on Dr.Eggman/Robotnik. The music varies between great and passable, and the visuals are nice with plenty of minor background details like the flowers swaying as you run past them. The problem is mostly that everything is copied from an older game. Each stage is based on an old Sonic stage, each boss is based on an old Sonic boss, and so on. As such the experience feels a bit stale and more like “Sonic’s Greatest Hits” than a legitimate “Sonic 4”. It seems that, like Shining Force EXA, the problem is in the title more than the actual game. There’s also the matter of price. Sonic 4 is $15, which is a high price to pay for an “Episode 1” that consist of only 4 Zones and a boss rush. Mind you those Zones are 3 Acts long not counting the boss as opposed to the traditional 2 Acts. As such it’s basically a 6 Zone Sonic and thus technically about as long as the GBA games. However the GBA games had more visual variety, not to mention multiple characters. I know that last point is a sore point amongst the fandom but I still insist that having more characters is never a bad thing.

So ultimately it’s not bad. I do prefer Sonic Advance 1, but then again Advance 1 is probably my all-time favorite Sonic. Sonic 4 is still good and I do not regret purchasing it. To the fans, the best advice I can give is to ignore the game’s title and judge it on it’s own merits rather than how closely it follows the Genesis titles.

But yes, Sonic Colors will probably be better. That game looks amazing.

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3 Comments on “Sonic 4: It’s Finally Here”

  1. […] GameBabble GEL's Videogame Review Site of Madness « Sonic 4: It’s Finally Here […]

  2. jwiwo Says:

    Basically your previous rent was stupid

  3. Name Says:

    Did you ever think that just maybe the negative reviews weren’t the result of people jumping on the bandwagon but rather simply that more and more people were able to experience how the game played firsthand?

    “Early reviews of Sonic 4 were overwhelmingly positive. However, reviews written after the fans and main demographic got their hands on it became increasingly negative as reviewers jumped on the bandwagon and whined about the physics.”

    The problem with “mainstream [p]reviews” is the fact that the writer typically only ever understands their subject matter and audience as far as their own investment and involvement (this is also why I take any review I read or watch with a grain of salt). The biggest complaints that most fans had with the game were regarding the subtle nuances of the entire underlying structure of the game…

    While yes, some of the complaints about things like visual style, green eyes, and etc are mostly superficial and subjective… other aspects like the physical mechanics and controls are absolutely integral to how the game is played. These are things that most reviewers were/are probably not as intimately familiar with. I have friends who regard me as one of the “best Sonic players” they’ve ever seen, but only because they never really grasped the mechanics of the game. They would just casually play the games, blindly holding Right on the D-pad and hamfisting the jump button with reckless abandon…

    They never experimented with the games enough to know the boundaries of character movement, to know how to take advantage of the weight and momentum that was programmed into Sonic as an object, to exploit the physics of the games’ application of gravity and the angular forces at work when the ground wasn’t perfectly flat… I don’t speed run the games, I’m not trying to set records, I just happen to play the games very fluidly, very smooth and deliberately.

    Certainly, had the game been called ANYTHING ELSE, it would probably have been given at least mediocre “pass” and then ignored shortly after its release. But in calling it the fourth game in an established series, whose lineage had maintained a very distinct gameplay mechanic and objective in how it asked the player to overcome its challenges, it set a very specific precedent. Sonic 4’s gameplay doesn’t rely on momentum physics at all, all of the character movement is rigid and formulaic instead of being an extrapolation of secondary factors (speed, weight, duration of jump button press, enemy/item rebound, angular momentum, running vs rolling, etc)… hell, you actually -slow down- in Sonic 4 if you roll into a ball and go downhill… And those changes are very drastic and off-putting to people who were hoping for an actual continuation of the original series.

    This isn’t all to say the old games were without their flaws, but their occasional glitches and bugs are not the same as deliberate design choices. Design choices that took a once gigantic, intuitive, and exciting gameplay experience and turned it into a generic, uninspired linear trudge, with no rewarding sense of accomplishment or proficiency.

    The game is awful, and for them to stubbornly disregard early criticisms from the very audience to whom they claimed they were trying to appeal was practically insulting… Thankfully Colors was fantastic, and a very good distraction at the time :)

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