Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I
May 20, 2012 12 Comments
My intent here had originally been to review both parts of Sonic 4. However, after slogging through Episode I and encountering the single most boring final boss in the history of video games, I don’t think I have the strength in me to even try it. It doesn’t help that most people are telling me that some of the stuff I will be complaining about below got fixed, yet the game is still worse. How is that even possible? It’s like unclogging a toilet by blowing up the building and calling it a job well done.
Long time readers probably expected me to hate Sonic 4 before I even started it. Whether it was my hate-article against Sega, my review of Sonic CD, or the fact that my Twitter picture was typically me figuring out different ways to torture and kill a stuffed Sonic The Hedgehog doll, I think the message is clear: fuck Sonic. By the way, I would have kept up with the Sonic killings, but wood-chippers are shockingly expensive and there’s a bullshit 7-day waiting period on flame-throwers. To me, the franchise represents everything wrong with gaming: generic character with committee-designed personality that’s best viewed through nostalgia goggles. Sonic is the gaming equivalent of Poochie. Every attempt at modernizing Sonic has failed, with fans rightfully bitching that they suck and they just want an old-fashioned 2D Sonic game. The only problem is, those old-fashioned 2D Sonic games weren’t really all that good to begin with. As a child, they were neat for you because they pushed new technology and did stuff games hadn’t done to that point. Today? They don’t hold up, and neither do attempts at recreating the magic. Stuff like Sonic Colors and Sonic 4 continue to get lambasted. And whenever something with Sonic that is borderline not shitty comes along, like Sonic Generations, fanboys treat it like Jesus just emerged from his tomb. You guys are easier to please than my dog, and all I have to do to make her happy is throw her a teeny piece of pizza crust.
I had only played the demo of Sonic 4 Episode 1 (which ought to have been subtitled The Phantom Appeal) when it came out back in 2010 and I honestly thought it was just a remake of one of the earlier Genesis games. Can you blame me? Same stupid opening level, same enemies, same rings, same abilities, same loops, and same power-ups. I imagine anyone with just a passing interest in Sonic would think this was just a graphical upgrade of an existing title. The full game’s other worlds include a casino, an underwater temple, and an industrial zone. I mean come on, Sega! This is like trying to rob your own home.
Everything bad about Sonic games is also here. Same cheap ass enemy placement, same “gotcha!” level design, and every single thing people never liked in Sonic games to begin with. I have never once met a person who said they enjoyed the water stages in Sonic The Hedgehog. I’m sure there might be one or two stragglers out there who insist they’re brilliant, just like I’m sure that there’s one or two people out there who genuinely enjoy squirting wasabi up their nostrils, but it doesn’t mean anyone else would want to do it. The water levels here are particularly painful because of how bad the controls are. Sonic runs like he’s wearing concrete shoes, so building up speed becomes an issue. Once you actually get some momentum going, good luck stopping when you need to. I tried holding back on one of those accelerators just to see how long it would take me to stop and go back to it. I had to press the left directional button nearly 100 times to get there. Granted, nobody is going to play the game like that, but when you design a game around something that is moving fast and then punish people playing it the way it is intended, you’re a colossal asshole.
Of course, things are totally the opposite in the water stages. They give you a game where you’re supposed to run fast, then submerge the character in maple syrup. It becomes so slow and clunky that I honestly wonder if they keep putting these fucking stages in these games hoping that fans will start taking their own lives in protest. I’m telling you, I think I’m on to something here. There are parts in the industrial stages where you have to outrun a giant, um, not sure what it is besides a hunk of metal, and if you die you go back to a check point. From there, you have about two seconds to run up a series of slopes or risk dying. The problem is, you’re not given the ability to build up the required speed to get up them. I had to spin-dash up one, hope to stop, do it again, hope to stop again, and then do it one more time. Once you get past that, you basically just have to hold forward and wait for the game to start playing itself for you like every Sonic game seems to do. Once again, I took a running count. Not sure how accurate it is because I think I might have accidentally counted a couple of sections twice after dying, but regardless, I counted 77 times where I could advance forward in a level without pushing anything. That’s over the course of only twelve stages. Whether it’s bouncing off springs, rolling through tubes, or running past accelerators, Sonic games sure have a hard-on for not letting you play them. As I pointed out in my last review, Sonic was originally designed by Sega to be Mario for idiots, but game design like this strikes me as Sega having outright contempt for its own fan base. Are you getting the message Sega is sending you, Sonic fans? THEY HATE YOU! What do you think they were trying to tell you with all those 3D Sonics? They weren’t fucking Valentines!
I pressed forward and eventually got to the last boss. Well actually, before you fight it, the game ends with a boss rush. I guess Robotnik felt that all those previous attempts at murdering Sonic with various contraptions that often failed within twenty seconds were worth a second look. Once you dispatch them, you’re placed against one final, giant robot. At first, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. It was slow. It was easy to attack. So I started to bonk it. And then I kept bonking it. It would fly up in the air, crash down, and I would keep bonking it. After EIGHTEEN coma-inducing bonks, the boss finally entered its second phase. It takes eighteen hits to get there! Mind you, this thing doesn’t put up anything resembling a real fight. It just sort of lumbers around, waiting for you to smack it. In the second phase, you can’t attack its body directly, so you have to wait for it to fire one of its arms at you. Once you avoid it, it floats downwards, and you have to bonk it back to the robot to stun-lock it. Of course, the game is kind of fickle about when something constitutes “hitting it” versus “getting hit by it.” The arms have spikes on the bottom, so I would wait until I could attack it at a downward angle, hitting the top of the arm and thus avoiding becoming a Sonic Skewer. This worked, oh, about half the time. The other half the time, I would do a lock-on attack directly to the top of the glove and still die. Grrrrrrrrrr.
Once you die, you get to go back to the 18 bonks before reaching the second phase and hoping like hell your lock-on attack doesn’t crap out on you, forcing another restart. Well, on one such attempt, luck was on my side, because I had kept all three rings I got at the checkpoint, I had gotten to phase two, and I was able to successfully attack the boss another dozen or so times. I’m not sure how many shots are actually required to kill it. Possibly it’s some hypothetical number, like a quajillion, but I won’t know because the game had one final dick move supreme to pull off on me. You have exactly ten minutes to beat every stage, including in boss battles. I had eaten up about four minutes getting to the last encounter, and another three minutes getting to phase two of the final boss. Well, as it turns out, the last boss has random attack patterns, only one of which opens itself up to attack. After getting a bunch of hits on it, with about two minutes and change left until time expired, the game flipped me the bird and never again did that one attack I needed it to do. You have got to be fucking kidding me. Time expired, life lost, back to the start of the fight, cuss words screamed, controller thrown, power off, and Sonic 4 and go fuck itself.
And that is when it hit me: the guys Sega stuck this project with hated making it as much as I hated playing it. They just didn’t care. That’s the only explanation I can think of for sticking such a tediously boring boss at the end yet another redundant Sonic game. Maybe this was their attempt at killing the franchise once and for all. Maybe this was their attempt at trying to avoid drawing the Sonic assignments any further. Maybe they were outright trying to get fired. Whatever the explanation is, Sonic 4 Episode 1 is one of the worst pieces of shit I have ever played. But the games sell, so they’ll keep making them. I bought this one and I just bought Episode II, so I’m part of the problem. Excuse me, I need to go flog myself now.
I honestly don’t remember how much I paid for this. I think it was like $1 at Christmas on PlayStation Network or something like that. Quite frankly, I can’t justify spending any amount on this game.