Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II – The PS3 Attitude Review
Unbelievably, it’s been more than a year and a half since the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I in October 2010. Since then, there has certainly been no shortage of Sonic titles, including the better-than-expected Sonic Generations and a re-release of long-forgotten gem, Sonic CD. The question is, with so many other Sonic games to choose from, has Episode II been worth the wait?
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II follows the same line as its predecessor. There are four different zones, each consisting of three acts and a boss battle, followed by a final encounter on the Death Egg Mk.II. Dr. Eggman is still up to his usual tricks, only this time around he has teamed up with Metal Sonic, as teased in the ending of Episode I. Sonic has a partner of his own as well, with Miles “Tails” Prower making his debut in Episode II. This opens up the gameplay with new Tag Actions and multiplayer options.
While playing the game’s single player mode, you’re only allowed to play as Sonic. Unfortunately there’s no choosing between the two. Tails assists Sonic in the most basic manner, running alongside him collecting rings or taking hits if need be. Depending on your location, pressing the square button will launch one of three special team abilities. If you’re in the air, Tails will catch Sonic and fly you around for a few seconds, allowing you to reach higher areas or make longer jumps. Teaming up on the ground puts Sonic and Tails into a powerful and fast super spin that can crush enemies and some obstacles. Lastly, teaming up in the water turns Tails into a propeller that can guide Sonic quickly through the murky depths. Seeing how the aquatic levels have always been the most bothersome aspect of the franchise, that ability is probably the most vital. Still, be prepared to search for those precious air bubbles that float to the surface.
Aside from the addition of Tails, Episode II also features the return of the homing attack from Episode I, in which Sonic locks on to a nearby enemy and performs a rushing spin attack. When performed correctly, the attack will keep up Sonic’s speed, although there are a few instances where the automatic lock-on doesn’t work all that well. The Sky Fortress Zone is notoriously flakey when it comes to locking on to enemies for some reason and with you hovering high in the clouds, usually results in death. The homing attack isn’t just for defeating enemies, though. It can also provide an added boost in your jump and is especially useful in getting to some hard to reach places.
Sonic has always been about speed and Sonic 4: Episode II is no different. Some of the levels, especially the rollercoasters of Act 2 of White Park Zone, are perfect for just that. Sonic utilizes both the background and foregrounds of a level, along with bumper pads, speed boosters, and even enemies to keep the momentum going. There are some instances where things slow down, but for the most part, Sonic is as fast as ever.
Completing the main campaign will only take you a few hours or so – there’s even a trophy for finishing it in one sitting – but there are multiple incentives for you to return. Speed fanatics can compete against each other in Time Attack mode, where completing a stage in the fastest time earns you a spot on the worldwide leaderboards. Each stage also holds a special Red Star Ring that is hidden somewhere within the level. While it doesn’t affect the game in any manner, it does unlock a trophy once you collect them all. Lastly, Special Stages return, albeit in a different format than before.
Rather than navigate through a labyrinth, Sonic and Tails must race down a track collecting as many rings as possible. There are checkpoints throughout the stage and you must collect a certain amount of rings before reaching them or else the stage ends. Get to the finish line of a special stage and you’re rewarded with a shiny Chaos Emerald.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II has its faults, but ultimately delivers an enjoyable Sonic experience in the same vein as Episode I did. Tails manages to add a few new gameplay tricks and the stages have a nice balance to them. The controls can be touch and go at times, though, and take a little adjusting to get used to. In the end, Episode II works well as both a continuation of Episode I and as a stand-alone game. Even better, those who have both are treated to a special Episode Metal bonus DLC that bridges the gap between Sonic CD and Sonic 4, allowing you to play as Metal Sonic himself.
SEGA seems to have finally found a solid version of Sonic that fans can appreciate. While Sonic 4 still doesn’t quite capture the glory of his early days on the Genesis, it does manage to revitalize those aspects that made Sonic best.