Sonic 4: Episode 1 had something good going with the idea of upscaling graphics to their most prettiest, but dropped the ball when they decided to just have (mostly) statically colored and animated, plastic, prerendered HD JPEGs for the level environments while having less-than-awesome-looking cel-shaded character models to stand in stark, ugly contrast to the aforementioned backdrops and foregrounds. Basically, there's not enough artistic detail or animation in Episode 1. They're pretty, but they're hardly exciting or anything we haven't already seen in games like Bejeweled, let alone the original Sonic games. I'd like them to unify the artistic styles and expand the details of both character models and backgrounds, employ some real-time 2.5D rendering of foreground and background layers to provide a much more dynamic exhibition of classic Genesis-style parallax when Sonic goes either up, down, left, or right. The style of either hand-drawn HD or 3D-rendered models restricted to a 2D perspective is up to them, but I'd highly recommend whatever option that allows for identical versions between all three consoles. In this case, hand-drawn HD made to appear like 2.5D would probably be what I'd like to see. Basically something that looks unique, detailed, and beautiful that's not something we've already seen, like NSMB, Kirby's Epic Yarn, or DKCR.
I'd like for them to drop the 3-act-plus-1-boss-act method of gameplay flow. Either have three acts or two acts per zone with a boss encounter at the final act, as well as mid-bosses for between acts. Basically I'd like for them to go with a combination of Sonic CD's large and detailed explorable stages with additional incentives to go on scavenger hunts during stages; Sonic 3 & Knuckles' stage flow, act transitions, amount of zones (not unlike Sonic 2), and use of hidden rooms for Special Rings and whatnot; and Knuckles' Chaotix (and Sonic Crackers') visually striking art style that made 2D objects look like 3D objects based on perspective. Something they can take from all the old 2D Sonic games is a distinct lack of cheap deaths, bottomless pits, and ubiquitous uses of one unchanging automated speed mechanic: the speed boosters. Basically, stop reusing or abusing free automatic speed mechanics and artificial difficulty and program a more fun momentum-based acceleration system that feels like the Genesis games or better. If you would really like to use mechanisms that automatically rocket Sonic off, use them sparingly and make unique, creative ones for some zones and/or acts. Make us enjoy seeing them as well as sometimes using them. We're tired of seeing boosters, grind rails, and zip lines. Make them fun and look like they actually belong in the given level, like the Angel Island acts and their use of swinging vines.
The music was meh. It wasn't that good at all. I'd be all for bringing Masato Nakamura back to work with Jun and see what the two of them can come up with. Jun's music is too predictable and not very varied or dynamic. It'll sound cool sometimes, but not all the time and usually not for very long. I particularly didn't like the Super Sonic theme and the Eggman boss theme, but I loved the Invincibility theme and the music from Mad Gear and Lost Labyrinth. The Final boss theme was pretty pathetic and repetitive, and the Splash Hill Act 1 theme was okay at best.
What I did
really enjoy from Episode 1 was the smooth control and the feeling of speeding through the stages really fast, which was slightly aided by the homing attack. That was fun, but I do think there ought to be sustained momentum without sacrificing smooth basic control, instead of just replacing them or hiding flaws in the physics with speed boosters and the homing attack. I also liked how the whole experience amounted to the most retro Sonic experience since the Genesis games, but many of the things I've already explained got in the way of that. The boss fights were rather disappointing except for Labyrinth Zone and the Final Boss, but the Casino Street had some potential for being different and challenging had it not been so painfully easy to defeat before it went into screw-attack mode. Sonic 4 (Episode 2) deserves to have much better bosses, and some between-acts midbosses. The voiceless, wordless cutscene (and its music) before E.G.G. Station Zone was a really neat surprise, and I didn't mind the E.G.G. Station boss rush much. Super Sonic was great, but I think he'd benefit a lot more from programming that sustains as well as scales Sonic's speed and momentum. And a better Super Sonic theme. I already said that, but it's worth saying again.
Last few comments on level design: avoid level designs that are designed to stop you from going back past a certain point, getting back up to a certain area, or use a little too much of floating platforms. This is more a criticism of the Sonic Advance and Rush games than of Sonic 4, but there were a few similarities it shares with those games, being made by DIMPs and all that. Also, get rid of the stupid bottomless pits at the end of stages. Leave them for the last one or two zones. If DIMPs really wants to do bottomless pits for difficulty, look to Sonic 1-3 and see how sparingly and how late in the game they're used. Do that, not Sonic Advance's Angel Island Zone.
EDIT: Engines can be tweaked, and art styles can be improved. It might cost more money, but I seriously doubt its as impossible as some of you are suggestion.
This post has been edited by MegaDash: 27 November 2010 - 02:55 PM