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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

by Pedro Hernandez - October 12, 2010, 7:09 pm PDT
Total comments: 20


Is the vicious Sonic cycle finally broken or does it continue with this new venture?

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 marks a significant event in the hedgehog's career. After years of 3D games that have performed poorly with critics and gamers, this game takes Sonic back to his 2D days. It is a direct sequel to Sonic and Knuckles and a true continuation of Sonic's Genesis adventures. The title has a lot to live up to, and it does deliver a great deal of quality despite a few bumps in the road.

Story-wise, Sonic 4 begins from the ending of Sonic and Knuckles.  Dr. Eggman, defeated but reluctant to give up, sets out to defeat Sonic once again. That's the entire story you're getting here. After loading the game, you are quickly thrown into the gameplay; there are no long cutscenes detailing Sonic's adventures, nor superfluous characters to narrate it. All focus lies on gameplay.

The emphasis of the classic Sonic games has always been speed mixed in with platforming and some light puzzle solving, and Sonic 4 proudly follows that tradition. The objective is to get to the end of the stage as quickly as possible, avoiding enemies and obstacles and still maintaining top speed. You will also be collecting rings, which as usual, act as your health. If you touch an enemy, all of your rings will fly off, with a little time to collect them. Being attacked while you don't have any rings results in a life lost.

Sonic has some other skills to go along with his super speed. The dash attack, first introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, has Sonic building up speed in order to climb up steep hills. A technique first seen in the 3D Sonic games is present, the homing attack. When you are near an enemy or a spring, a target will appear over it. Pressing the 2 button will make Sonic attack it.

Sonic remains streamlined; no other attacks were given to the character. This is a welcome change of pace from past games where he has lots of skills to master. His signature speed has been slightly reduced, but since platforming is now an important element of the game Sonic needs enough time to slow down and jump across the platforms. Sonic is also easier to control thanks to his speed being manageable, avoiding unwanted deaths and giving the player more control over him. There are no other playable characters in this release, unlike the 3D games.

The levels pay tribute to the classic games with their design and themes. There are four worlds, each consisting of three stages and a boss battle with Dr. Eggman, for a total of 16 stages. You can also complete the stages in either Score Attack or Time Attack mode.

One complaint about the levels is that some of them are very annoying in their design. Sometimes you will be stuck in a loop trying to figure out how to reach the end; other times, you are stuck with an annoying puzzle to solve, eliminating all momentum Sonic had up until that point. It gets worse when you are reaching the time limit and don't know where to go next. This problem, however, isn't exclusive to this game as Sonic titles have been known for having complex, confusing levels that are more about thinking than just running through them.

Regardless of those problems, the levels are captivating thanks to creativity that makes them feel classic, while being modern in their execution. Elements such as cogs, mine carts you can ride in, and even flying cards give the game a magical quality that almost mimics the classic feel of the Genesis games. As mentioned, there are some sour spots here and there, but overall, they are very engaging and significant in the whole experience.

The presentation can be described as the best of both worlds. Sonic still sports his modern 3D look, but the enemies and the environments are designed to look like the classic Genesis games. Though the speed is not as extreme as in previous games, the graphics run without a loss in frame rate. The worlds are very colorful with many things happening on-screen. The music feels very retro thanks to sound effects reminiscent of the Genesis's musical compositions. The tunes are not as catchy as in the other games but overall fit very well.

The game does have issues in the replayability department.  Despite there being 16 levels, they can be blown through in less than an hour, and even faster once you get a feel for them and use Sonic's speed to your advantage. There are Chaos Emeralds to collect thanks to the bonus level at the end of some stages, as well the Score and Time Attack modes, but the experience feels less fulfilling than the other Sonic titles. This is likely due to the game's episodic nature, with all future games likely being combined to create a fuller adventure. It is very short, a glaring flaw in an otherwise enjoyable game. Finally, the Dr. Eggman boss battles are too much like previous boss battles. There are a few twists, but it is disappointing that they weren't that creative with the boss stages.

Sega accomplished what they set out to do with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, and that is to take players to a time when Sonic was all about the speed and platforming. There are no bugs and glitches, the controls are tight, and save for a few annoying spots, the levels dazzle in their ingenious design. It might not be the exact, same caliber of quality as the Sonic Genesis games, and this could make it seem a step back for Sega, but it is still a great game that proves that when done right, Sonic really does shine.


  • A fun, classic Sonic experience
  • Colorful graphics
  • Great levels
  • Tight controls
  • Derivative boss battles
  • Short game with limited replayability
  • Some levels are annoying
  • Somewhat forgettable music


StratosOctober 12, 2010

Wow. A good Sonic game.

On a different note, I was playing the Mario & Sonic Winter Olympic game with my little sister today and I kept asking who the different Sonic characters were. She replied "I don't know, yet another random boring Sonic character." she's a moderate Sonic fan herself so I thought it was a pretty funny image of the mess Sonic Team has made of the franchise. She's in the target market for the Sonic games and plays a number of them and even she can't keep track of them all. This is someone who knows all Pokemon by heart. So it's not a memory issue. She just doesn't seem motivated to remember them at all.

I'm glad there aren't a slew of extra characters. I'll have to check it out since I enjoyed the original few Sonics. Also nice that it is a direct sequel to one of the last 'true' Sonic games.

NESticalesOctober 12, 2010

Now if only in could game connect sonic & knuckles with this

I wouldn't be surprised if they did a virtual lock-on in one of the future episodes.

NESticalesOctober 12, 2010

But make it compatible with other games and not just other sonic games i mean anything. I demand to play as knuckles in anything i damn well please, its the least they could do for the years of total shit sonic games.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 12, 2010

I wouldn't be surprised if future episodes did include playable characters. If they want to keep it classic, though, keep it at Tails and Knuckles. And don't try to enhance their gameplay beyond their basic skills.

Mop it upOctober 12, 2010

If this game were 1,000 points I'd probably get it, but not for 1,500.

I'm not a Sonic fan. I really enjoyed Sonic 2 in my youth, but up until a little more than a year ago, that was the only Sonic game I owned, much less played. Then I got the Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube and played them all that way. To be frank, the first one I played was the best game in the series by far. This game sounds too much like Sonic 1, which I don't particularly care for. There's no 2-player mode either, I thought New Super Mario Brothers Wii made co-op a standard for 2D platformers. Plus, because it's episodic, the price seems too high for what is essentially an incomplete game.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 12, 2010

Comparing Sonic 4 to Sonic 1 is appropriate. Sonic 1 and 2 were the best games in my honest opinion. Sonic 3 and Knuckles were good, but they didn't captivate me as well as the first two.

I've been tempted to get this, and then I just figured I'd go back and play Sonic 2, because that game clearly trumps this.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 12, 2010

Come to find out, my review is perhaps the most grounded of them all. GamesRadar gave it a 9 out of 10.

Here's the deal... If you expect Sonic 4 to be the best Sonic game EVER then you will be disappointed. I realize that Sega left it open to comparison by calling it a direct sequel to the Genesis game, but as the latest modern Sonic game it is an impressive improvement.

In fact, the biggest issues actually lie in how the game will be distributed rather than the programming and poor design choices. The price is too much for a short game, and did it need to be episodic?

My recommendation would be to wait till the next episode is released and buy the first two episodes for a fuller experience.

that Baby guyOctober 12, 2010

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Come to find out, my review is perhaps the most grounded of them all. GamesRadar gave it a 9 out of 10.


My recommendation would be to wait till the next episode is released and buy the first two episodes for a fuller experience.

Yikes!  And my thoughts, as well.  I was going to addend about the same statement to my review.

TansunnOctober 13, 2010

I thought the game was fun to play, but had a few flaws.

The biggest annoyance for me was after you get to the end of the stage and it puts Sonic into autopilot mode to walk him off screen.  There were a number of times when I didn't realize I was about to hit the end of the stage and blew right past a bonus ring, then when I tried to go back and get it, even if I was right about to touch it, Sonic would get put into autopilot mode and I'd miss it completely.

Another problem I encountered was the way Sonic loses horizontal momentum if you release the D-pad.  Maybe it's just me, but when I'm shooting something out of a cannon, I kind of expect its momentum to carry it, not for it to come to a dead stop in midair.

I also wasn't fond of the parts where it forces you to completely give up control of Sonic in exchange for controlling a part of the environment.  They got it right in Mario - keep control with the D-pad, control the environment by tilting the remote.

Other than that, I had a lot of fun with it, and if later episodes fix some of these issues, we could get a pretty good series.

(I would say something about the music, but they let you mute it, and I just put on some classic Sonic jams while playing.)

Kytim89October 13, 2010

What are the controller options for this game?

TJ SpykeOctober 13, 2010

According to the Nintendo Life review, just the Wii Remote by itself.

KDR_11kOctober 13, 2010

Quote from: MegaByte

I wouldn't be surprised if they did a virtual lock-on in one of the future DLCs.

Adjusted for the modern realities.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 13, 2010

TJ already said it. Just in case, it doesn't feel bad at all. Since the game is in 2D it feels naturals, unlike in Other M where you navigate 3D space with the D-Pad.

Kytim89October 13, 2010

I am interested in getting this game and Retro City Rampage.

redgiementalOctober 18, 2010

Please tell me this works with the Classic controller.

Mop it upOctober 18, 2010

I wish I could, but it's Wii Remote only for some odd reason.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 18, 2010

Quote from: redgiemental

Please tell me this works with the Classic controller.

Check what I said a few posts ago. Seriously playing with the Wii Remote isn't so bad.

Mop it upOctober 19, 2010

It's simply a matter of preference, and some people find the Wii Remote on its side to be uncomfortable to hold. It's kind of ironic because it basically undoes 25 years of controller improvements, though I actually find an NES controller to be more comfortable to hold than the Wii Remote on its side. So I will tolerate it only for games that are really good, but I will not excuse the lack of options.

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Genre Adventure
Developer Sega

Worldwide Releases

na: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Release Jul 2010
jpn: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Release Year 2010
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