Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II PS3
Admittedly, when I began playing through Episode II I expected it to be of the same caliber as the recently released Sonic Generations. Generations brought Sonic back to form and really synthesized what we adore about our beloved blue blur the most: Blinding speed coupled with fast-and-furious stage design. Although Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is a complete improvement from Episode I in nearly every aspect, it still has a few shortcomings that demerit the experience.
I found the title to be downright gorgeous. Every pixel, every texture was crisp and on point. Sonic looks fantastic in every detail, from his classic kicks to the golden rings he collects while speeding across the handful of available stages. Stages have a level of polygonal detail that makes Episode I pale in comparison.
A happy addition to this release in the episodic series is the inclusion of Tails. Sonic’s two-tailed buddy functions pretty much identically to how he did in the classic Sonic 2. When controlled by the CPU, he will follow you anywhere that he can, including right into perilous death traps. Unlike in the beloved Genesis title, however, are the added tag team options available between the duo. With the press of a button, Tails will assist Sonic by flying him over obstacles or barreling at jet speeds underwater. While this addition has the potential to innovate the tried and true Sonic formula, I can’t help but feel that it’s a little broken in some respects. If you’re having trouble platforming over a particular stage segment, activating team flight will often negate what was initially a challenge. This is offset by the fact that Tails himself will grow tired and descend after a few seconds of sustained flight. Eh.
Level design was pretty okay for the most part. Overall, controls and maneuvers such as the homing attack felt much smoother than in Episode I. Though they’re not at the level of fluidity to compete with Generations or even Unleashed daytime stages, I feel that this episode was a decent step up.
Bar none, the most irritating part of Episode II were the boss fights. You’ll come to dread them as you hear their repetitive 8-second musical loops creep from your television speakers. The battles are often unnecessarily long, lasting 5-10 minutes each. Not only does this throw off the speed-centric focus of the title, but it also implements mechanics such as the tag moves rather than the classic ‘spot the weaknesses’ tactic of old.
All in all, Episode II was a definite progression from Episode I. The bite-sized series updates aren’t totally where they need to be, but they’re getting there. With a little more focus on speed, fluidity, and a ‘back to basics’ attitude, SEGA will have a winner on their hands that will be almost as cherished as their best work of art to date.
I was referring to Sonic 2, for those of you wondering.