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Game 37 of 52: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 - 28/04/24


Ryannumber1gamer

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Another week has come and gone, and with it, the start of a brand new blitz of games. There's been a distinct lack of blue speedy hedgehogs through this blog series, and as such, it's time to rectify this error by going back to a challenge I had wanted to do years ago. After getting the platinum trophy in Sonic Unleashed, I wanted to get 100% in every single PlayStation Sonic title from PS3 onwards. If it had trophies, I wanted all of them. Sonic 4 Episode 1 hindered that mission before, but with it now finally checked off, it's time to get back into it.

If you read the previous blog about this game's predecessor , then you'll recall that we left the Sonic 4 series in a bit of a rough spot. Episode 1 had failed to impress me in any major way, mostly just being a dull game that while not particularly bad in a major way just went through the motions, ultimately resulting in a boring time mostly, but with annoying trophies mixed in.

Unlike Episode 1, I had actually not finished Episode 2 before. I got the game on release - but it released the exact same day as the remaster of the Simpsons Arcade Game on PS3/360, so that's where my time mostly went. I did get as far as Sky Fortress Zone Act 1, and for one reason or another, ultimately dropped it. Despite this however, I had always held the opinion that while Episode 1 is a mediocre to bad  game, Episode 2 is a average enough game. But this, obviously - was a opinion made years ago, and apart from the vague memories of Sylvania Castle Zone, and White Park, I remembered next to nothing about the game. So it seemed time to finally go back and get some unfinished business done. I was going to 100% Episode 2.

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The game starts shortly following the end of Episode 1, where the 100% ending teased that Dr. Eggman would bring back Metal Sonic - a foe who hadn't been seen in a long time outside Generations (at that particular period of the Sonic timeline). As such, the game doesn't copy Sonic 1, but rather becomes a rather strange mish-mash of aspects from both Sonic 2 and Sonic CD.

Tails has tagged along with Sonic this time around, but in a effort to seemingly avoid the 'Sonic's friends' stuff, not only is Tails not playable outside of the multiplayer mode of the game, but Amy is completely missing despite the evident CD inspiration they take. Beyond that, the story is just about as simple as the last time. Eggman wants to convert Little Planet into a new Death Egg and sick Metal Sonic on both heroes in the process, go and stop him.

I do think the best place to start this particular blog would be to focus on the positive, and the big one is frankly - Episode 2 is a big improvement on the first episode. There's really not much else that can be said on this point. Almost every aspect of the first episode is improved on. The graphics and shading on the characters and environments are much more improved this time around, the game does more in a effort to stand out in terms of having a unique gameplay mechanic thanks to the team attack dynamic with Tails, likely taking inspiration from Advance 3's team-up mechanic.

The locales this time around are also just much better. While there is still far too many re-treads of stages from Sonic 2 only this time, we do get some unique and honestly - very cool locales with Sylvania Castle Zone, and White Park. Even the visual of Little Planet turned into a literal Death Egg ages before the Star Wars sequel trilogy would tackle the idea with Starkiller Base is a really cool idea. That already puts it leagues above the first game in my book - actual creative ideas.

Sylvania Castle Zone is honestly one of my favourite takes on the idea of a Green Hill Zone type level. A lush forest that's filled with old ruins that's been partially sunken into chasms and ruins, while White Park's idea of a snow-driven wonderland turning into a literal theme-park mid-way is a neat idea.

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Now to be fair, you could argue this is still taking ideas from other zones. Like for example, you could make the argument that Sylvania Castle is a send-up to Aquatic Ruins Zone, or that White Park is a mish-mash of Ice Cap and Carnival Night Zone, but I do think that personally, the game does do a good enough job of making them distinct to feel like their own locales more than anything else.

Game feel and physics in general have also just taken a step up in quality. It's still nowhere near Generations' take on Classic Sonic, but it's still much better compared to the first episode. It's just really night and day compared to Episode 1, although level design is hard for me to say if it's better or worse. Part of me wants to say better, the other part feels like Episode 1 didn't have as many annoying moments because it was so much easier in terms of design.

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There is also the fact they went a bit further than they needed to do and added a Episode Metal DLC for free for those who own both episodes, giving additional context into Metal Sonic's revival, and letting you do some of the levels of Episode 1 here, although with frankly not enough changes to make them feel particularly fun. But the effort is at least a little appreciated.

Unfortunately however, that really starts to bring us into the more negative side of things. For a start, one big aspect that definitely isn't as improved is the music. It's just as unmemorable, and frankly - bad as the first game, with the infamous attempts by Jun Senoue to try replicate the sound of the Genesis games to a rather not great effect. If I had to be pushed for a answer, White Park Act 2 is probably my favourite, but I didn't really enjoy many of the songs here.

On top of that, the two zones they picked are just the worst possible ones they could've picked. I don't like Oil Ocean and Wing Fortress in Sonic 2. Not at all, and seeing them here again as new level locales is just as annoying. They're the slowest levels in the game, often times filled with the most annoying and cheap level obstacles, and I wish they weren't here. I can honestly see why I stopped initially when I hit the sky chase level of Sky Fortress in this game. It dragged the game's pacing to a abrupt halt.

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Bosses also exhibit the exact same issue that hurt bosses in Sonic Superstars. They take too. damn. long. Bosses can take over eight hits before going down, and quite a few of these bosses also have cutscenes that only exist to just outright waste time, which becomes more infuriating if you're trying to do it with Super Sonic. While it's neat to see Metal Sonic reappear as a recurring boss throughout the game, giving him more of a established rival role, his bosses are only just about tolerable compared to the rest of the bosses being really damn annoying.

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That's not to mention that of course, they had to redo the Sonic 2 special stages here, and much like almost every halfpipe special stage in this series, it's a unbelievable annoying pain in the ass that just requires you getting lucky enough to memorise every ring and bomb spawn, doing some horrible trial and error gameplay that just made the Chaos Emeralds a frustrating endurance test.

What really made all of this worse however is the fact that the 100% requirements is deceptively worse than the first episode. You see the trophy list and it looks a bit grindy, but otherwise, easier, not requiring you to do nonsense like beat five bosses in a row hitless and so on. However, between a trophy for doing the first halfpipe special stage without missing a single ring, which requires Tails' AI working exactly right for it to go well, and the Red Star rings, you could have to do three full runs of the game just for all trophies.

That's not to mention the most dickish, deceptive trophy I've seen in awhile. A Golden Flash, given for beating all bosses as Super Sonic. This feels like it's meant to be a reward, that you unlocked Super Sonic and you get a prize for blitzing the bosses. However, due to ALL of them taking so long to defeat, and the trophy only counting for landing the final hit as Super Sonic - this instead effectively makes almost ALL bosses into requiring you to beat them without taking a single hit, including the final boss of the game, somehow making it even WORSE than the Untouchable trophy in Sonic 4 Episode 1. Not to mention the glitchy nature behind the trophy for playing as Tails 50 times, which led to at least 100+ wasted attempts (Special thanks to @NegaMix for helping me with it)

By the time I was done with the game, I was just so sick of this game. The 100% requirements of this game is grindy, and by the end, downright miserable, and that honestly really hurt my experience with the game. While I do think Episode 2 is the better game, I honestly can't lie when I say I was more frustrated and annoyed by it than Episode 1 in the end.

Either way, if you give it a shot, it's worth a try, but don't even consider 100%. It just isn't worth it, four zone game or not.

I never want to have to do a bad Sonic achievement again where it wants me to get through a final boss without taking a hit again.

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