Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for XBox Live Arcade
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is a great addition to any Sonic or old-school game fan's collection. It's a game that's a ton of fun to play and quite pretty to look at once you slow down enough to notice.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 has some of the most amazing 2D graphics I have ever seen. It's quite a shame that you miss most of those graphics during the speed-heavy game. The graphics are very reminiscent of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game on Sega Genesis. But they look soooo much better with 20 years between the games. Backgrounds look amazing, everything has more detail in both the background and foreground, and even though it's all cartoony it somehow looks more realistic. I'm thinking the similarities to Sonic the Hedgehog 1 have to do with the "Episode 1" tacked on the end of the title. Next year we'll probably get "Episode 2" which will resemble Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for Sega Genesis, and so on.
More importantly than the graphics, though, is the gameplay. And Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 doesn't disappoint. The game is fluid, responsive, and just plain fun. I haven't played a platformer this fun since New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS (No, I haven't yet experienced New Super Mario Bros. for Wii, but I want to so bad.) There is a new "lock-on" feature for Sonic, well new for the 2D games at least. At first you think "What a useless addition to Sonic's already perfect gameplay mechanics." But rest assured, this new addition to Sonic's arsenal fits like a glove and makes the game even more fun, if you can believe it.
I've praised the heck out of this game, but on to the bad. There are really only 2 things wrong with this game, and one of them can easily be overlooked. That being the difference in speed that Sonic has. Players that are familiar with the Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games will immediately notice a difference between their beloved 16-bit Sonic and the new Sonic. It takes longer for Sonic to get up to full speed now. It's not a large difference, but it's enough to make experienced players a little uncomfortable at first. But once you get into the game, you get used to the new set-up very quickly and it starts to become second nature.
The second, and in my opinion unforgivable offense, is that the game is too dang short. Now I don't mean short by today's dozens of hours spent within a game standard. I mean short compared to the other 2D Sonic games. The game consists of 4 worlds, each containing 3 levels, and then a boss battle. That equals 4 boss battles, and 12 levels only. Plus there's the 7 Chaos Emeralds to collect in special stages, and a final boss battle. But that really doesn't add all that much. Come on Sega, YOU'RE FREAKING SEGA! You guys don't have the money or talent to give us a complete game?!