Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is an interesting game in quite a few contexts, I mean that. Before I start ranting though, I should open up with a few things. After completing it for the first time today, I’m even more adamant that Sega either has absolutely no idea what they ever had with the series to begin with, or their perspective has developed into a radically sick sense of humor. I personally ‘gave up’ on Sonic a few years ago, as even if I got the game I actually wanted, my apathy would likely take precedence anyway. I’d much rather learn how to make my own ripoff of it than complain too righteously about Sonic Team these days.
You see, many have come to rest at Sonic’s status of never being that good, hence his troubles now. This is usually lazy thought processes at work though, as the arguments presented behind these stances can typically be used to tear down the likes of any platforming series period. Yes, Sonic was actually good at one point, get the hell over it. If you didn’t like the damn game, that’s on you. Trying to use arbitrary rulings to justify why the entire formula is broken is just plain idiotic.
I should give the game some praise though before I attack it, so I’ll admit that while I hate most of the soundtrack, some of the music actually does mesh with the rhythm of the levels’ play. Mad Gear and Lost Labyrinth in particular get away with this successfully. The entire package did eventually come together for me, but still only managed to leave a mediocre taste in my mouth.
The game proves that at even such a level, it can maintain a certain spark that can’t be crushed when Sonic is running around in 2D format. The only problem is that it’s in such a decayed state at this point. This is where I’ll begin bleeding things into a rant, as the game is just Sega tossing an elaborate comforter on top of it all and telling us it’s pretty.
The game does get pretty fast, but the premature complaints of it being floaty and ‘weird’ weren’t off the mark at all. It took me about an hour to get used to how Sonic even moved. It takes him a full three seconds to actually get going, and this becomes a very big deal for some of the platforming too. He comes off feeling rather clunky as hell, so it’s not really all that nit-picky given how much it bleeds into the basic flow of the game.
The game would have been a much easier pill to swallow if it weren’t 2.5D (or whatever the hell this is) either. Did I miss something here though? Is it just harder to design such a game? I’m not a programmer, I honestly don’t know—so somebody needs to enlighten me here. Would more resources be required to use something like handrawn animation to bring Sonic back to life instead? And yes, the whole initial green eyes post-2000 look backlash by fans was excessive in the complaint department, but it wasn’t necessarily unwarranted. This is mostly because Sega touted the same bull since the game was first announced:
Adopting a true 2D aesthetic would have actually honored the hype that the fuckers built up. Instead, it appears as if everything was meant to scream this instead:
The HUD, Sonic’s basic appearance, and even the layout of the levels just feels cheap and forced. Here’s my brief breakdown of the entirety of episode one, just to further illustrate my point here:
All of these levels feature cheap touchstones that are meant to harken back to the 1990’s era Sonic games. The trouble is that they do it arbitrarily and specifically, so it feels insanely forced. An example would be the Lost Labyrinth’s Zone’s ‘infinite fall’, in which Sonic keeps sliding down the water surfaces until the player jumps to hit a switch in order to change the layout.
It’s creepy, it’s one of the creepiest games I’ve ever played. It tries to appeal to me in such a way that’s not unlike a child molester’s tactics. Is Sega really trying to transcend time and creepily appeal to the child in me? I can guarantee you that kid would tell you go away with this too.