Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (Demo)

Loop-de-loops in Sonic the Hedgehog 4.

After years of Sega announcing that Sonic has returned to his roots, it finally happens. Sonic’s back in a solo 2D platforming adventure, but despite the appearance, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 seems lacking.

Sonic the Hedgehog, I like to remember you in your glory years. Your original Genesis games are some of the best sidescrollers I’ve ever played. The sheer size of Sonic 3 and Knuckles is amazing.

The Saturn years were rough. Sonic 3D Blast was probably a sign that the end was in sight. The Dreamcast’s Sonic Adventure was the series’ last hurrah. Blazing fast Sonic levels, an exploration hub, big stories with different points of view told from each character – it all really created an experience.

Later games tried to expand SA’s success by adding more characters and more variations to the game modes. It didn’t work. Dodgy cameras and mandatory, boring treasure-hunt activities dragged Sonic’s speed to a grinding halt.

After several years of unspectacular games like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic 2006, We finally have the namesake sequel to Sonic & Knuckles: Sonic the Hedgehog 4.

Developed by Dimps, makers of the portable Sonic Rush games, Sonic 4 is a return to the series roots, featuring Sonic and Sonic alone in two-dimensional checkerboard-patterned levels.

Slower Hedgehog

The game doesn’t pick up exactly at the end of Sonic Knuckles. I’m not talking story here, but the general feel. Spin-dashing, momentum, and speed were hallmarks of the early Sonic games, and they’re implemented here, too, albeit differently.

Sonic spins in Sonic the Hedgehog 4

Sonic feels rather slow to accelerate in this one, and instead of spinning, chaining attacks together with the homing jump (a la Sonic Adventure) is used as the key to speed. It’s a similar concept to the Genesis games’ approach, but a different implementation – one that feels less like a speeding train bouncing between tracks and more of a floaty affair.

In theory, it all seems well and good, but I felt like it was lacking the Sonic magic. Maybe I’m just getting old and the nostalgia overwhelms me when I think about the originals. Or, just maybe, Sonic Team produced something special during the early ‘90s that’s very hard to replicate.

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