Review of Sonic 4: Episode 2 (Xbox Live Arcade)

Sonic 4 comes to a close (for now) with Episode 2. But is it an improved installment with everything the fans wanted? Read on to find out!

Story: Pretty involved, especially if you unlock Episode Metal. The plot is that Eggman has sent Metal Sonic to retrieve a mystical power source to power his new space station, the “-spoiler content-“. This space station will then recapture Little Island (or whatever it was called from Sonic CD). So, as any good hedgehog should, Sonic hops into hero action and brings Tails along for the ride.

Sound: Sonic has an amazing musical record, to put it mildly, which is why Ep. 2 caught me off guard. At first the music ranges from okay to earsplittingly bad, and by earsplittingly bad I mean Oil Desert Act 2. But as the game progresses, the stage music gets better and better until it’s actually catchy (in a good way). Sky Fortress has some of the best stage music in a recent Sonic game, and the Metal Sonic boss theme rivals that of the 2D Genesis classics. Sound: 9/10

Presentation: With a bigger budget comes better graphics, and Ep. 2 doesn’t disappoint. What was once an overly glossy and pre-rendered mess is now a 2.5D masterpiece complete with setting suns and crisp flowing water animations. Not to mention Sonic has different homing-attack animations and a much sharper character model. Presentation: 9.5/10

Gameplay: The supposedly revamped physics haven’t changed too drastically, in my opinion. But seeing as this IS still Sonic 4, that’s a good thing. Aside from that, there’s the introduction of Tails as character with purpose! He aids Sonic in scaling heights, swimming like a motorboat and of course turning into a golden-blue wrecking ball of destruction. As much as I love that Tails has a function, the actual combo moves are somewhat clunky and the game is unclear as to when they should be used. On the bright side, Tails erases the issue of bottomless pit deaths and makes recovery from a seemingly endless fall feel awesome. The levels themselves have been greatly expanded in size, having multiple routes and areas to explore. They also house newer themes that haven’t been used previously in the Sonic series, which adds great variety. My only gripes would have to be that A.) Two out of the four primary zones have water levels and B.) Stage gimmicks are far too abundant. But the gimmicks are only in place so that Tails can shine, so that can be overlooked. Also worth mentioning are the boss battles. These boss levels (heck, all of the normal levels as well) are tough and definitely pick up the difficulty spectrum where Ep. 1 left off. There are no downright easy tutorial bosses, but are instead complex bosses that require common sense (go figure) and reflexes to when they use their final few hits sudden death move. That’s right, they all have a sudden death move that can kill you instantly once you’re within the home stretch. But even that reason for frustration isn’t enough to make the game feel exciting, as the entire adventure just feels mundane. It gets better at about the halfway point, but that bad feeling of “I’m not really going to replay this game” sinks in fast, a feeling that was virtually non-existant with Ep. 1. Gameplay: 7/10

Multiplayer: It’s a clusterfudge, to be honest. The tag-along system for if your partner gets off-screen is a mess, and results in constantly having to re-enter the game as your partner zips across levels and you lifelessly float beside them waiting for a slow enough moment to join in. Even worse, this system is present not only locally but online as well. And of course, Tails is overpowered in multiplayer and can break the game. Well done, Sega. Multiplayer: 4/10

Length: For just the story (not including Episode Metal), about two to three hours. Of course, there are the chaos emerald special stages and the collectible red rings, but only one of the special stages is hard and the only purpose the red rings serve is for an achievement. In conclusion, not the best value for the money. Length: 5.5/10

Overall: Episode 2 gets a clean 7 rings out of 10. It does have its own share of flaws including its length and multiplayer, but it’s definitely a step up from Episode 1.

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