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Sonic 4: The quest for physics.

#1 User is online Laughingcow 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 02:25 AM

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...Dimps is unable to make a classic Sonic game. This isn't up for debate, they cannot get the job done. In Sonic Generations for the 3ds, they just copied the levels from the classic games then gave Classic Sonic the homing attack because they couldn't design levels without it. Likewise, Sonic Advance had Sonic Team staff in the programming department specifically the oversight of Yuji Naka. Again, this is not up for debate as even M2 needed his help with the porting jobs (specifically the adding of the Spindash to Sonic 1).
Interview here

I bring this up because as anyone will tell you, Sonic 4 isn't Sonic 4. Sure you can look at the metacritic rating but the hard truth of the matter is that not all opinions stand the test of time. Where are those critics now? Gone never to be heard from again. Us fans, we are here for the long haul, we remember and we suffer when screw ups like this happens. Even if this game was called "Sonic the Portable" as initially claimed (this game came out before Sonic Colors which was aimed at Modern audiences), this is still the game they wanted to entice the Classic Audience with. Just let that thought linger for awhile.

Episode one is a rehash. This is by design.
The graphics are ugly, the physics don't work, springs may get you killed as you are launched over a gap if you aren't holding down left/right (depending of which direction you are launched), there are sections built specifically for phone tilt controls that are just horrible, Dimps standard death pit at the end of the level nonsense, bosses range from non-threat to cheap instakill BS (looking at you Death Egg Robot), and I think Jun Senoue misses his guitar. The only good thing I can state is I like the special stages but even then that is more to Sonic 1's credit than this game. I cannot recommend this game in any serious capacity other than as an example of what not to do.

Episode two is barely passable as classic Sonic game.
The graphics are still ugly, the physics are a little bit better but still don't work, level design got worse due to the addition of Tails (more on that later), they didn't give us elemental shields but instead some terrible clear the screen nonsense item, bosses are a mixed bag, they bring back Little Planet but do nothing with it (or the time stones), and Jun seriously needs to get his guitar back. The Oil Desert theme is clearly a cry for help.
What really hurts this game is Tails or rather areas that require flight/swimming. These sections are lazy in that the design is so inorganic that they need to place monitors to tell you what to do. The monitors are fine in say the first zone but after that, they are just overcompensating for bad level design. Hell, they made the worse scrolling plane level in Sonic history by adding a death pit platforming section where enemies fire projectiles at you.
And then there is the addition of the Boost. They call it the Rolling Combo but it is just the boost. Same excessive forward momentum, same semi-super Sonic invincibility, only now it is more broken in that you don't need to build meter. It is useless, only comes into play with special walls to break. Sigh, they couldn't make episode one without the homing attack, now they can't have episode two without the boost.
Lastly, there is the final boss which has an amazing design both visually and gameplay wise...Shame I can just cheese it with Tails.

To sum up Sonic 4, this is the culmination of years of speed based game development coming full circle. Dimps only makes portable tie-in to Sonic Team games instead of original stuff, Whitehead's Sonic CD came out and reminded everyone what Classic Sonic actually is. The critics turned but they never cared about Sonic 4 to begin with. Episode 3 got cancelled due to low sales and the name "Sonic the Hedgehog 4" is forever tarnished...Well, the Modern Sonic 4 is forever tarnished, Classic Sonic 4 could still be good.
This post has been edited by Laughingcow: 14 October 2018 - 05:50 PM

#2 User is offline SuperSnoopy 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 04:27 AM

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It may be an unpopular opinion, but I largely prefer Ep I to Ep II, thought both of them pale in comparison of what came before (and after).
EP I plays itself and is pretty much a budget Sonic Rush, but I still find it to be a moderately fun time.

Ep II on the other hand...yikes. Sure, they improved the physic, but everything else got even worse. The inclusion of Tails was interesting on paper, but instead of having Tails-exclusive areas like S3&K, they crammed the game with sections that require the use of tag team moves in order to progress.
So instead of getting trough the various obstacles as Sonic (and having fun while doing so), you have to:

-Stop dead in your tracks
-Press the partner button
-Wait for Tails to get here
-Wait for the animation to start
-Awkwardly fly/swim above a bottomless pit
-Press the partner button
-Wait for the animation to finish

multiples time throughout the level. Yay!

I don't know what baffle me more; the fact that anyone could find this to be a good idea, or the fact that I put up with this game for more than 40 hours. 12 years old me must've been bored out of his mind.
This post has been edited by SuperSnoopy: 08 October 2018 - 04:28 AM

#3 User is offline big smile 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 06:44 AM

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View PostLaughingcow, on 08 October 2018 - 02:25 AM, said:

...Dimps is unable to make a classic Sonic game. This isn't up for debate, they cannot get the job done.


Didn't Dimps make Sonic Pocket Adventure? SPA was possibly the most perfect follow up to the Classic era before Team Mania got involved (Taking into account the hardware limitations of the Neo Geo which would prevented S3&K style stages). Although maybe the Dimps team that worked on SPA was different from the later titles?

I agree with you about Sonic 4. It was the first time I felt a sense of resentment coming from a video game, as if I could feel the developers saying "You wanna a Classic game? Here's your stickin classic game. Choke on it!"
And to think we had Generations a year later where you could feel the love put into every polygon (Well, for the console version at least. The handheld version was a right mess feeling very rushed).
This post has been edited by big smile: 08 October 2018 - 06:47 AM

#4 User is online Laughingcow 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 09:48 AM

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View Postbig smile, on 08 October 2018 - 06:44 AM, said:

View PostLaughingcow, on 08 October 2018 - 02:25 AM, said:

...Dimps is unable to make a classic Sonic game. This isn't up for debate, they cannot get the job done.


Didn't Dimps make Sonic Pocket Adventure?

I didn't play that game but one look at the credits says it was done by SNK, not Dimps.

https://sonic.wikia....ure#Development
This post has been edited by Laughingcow: 08 October 2018 - 09:49 AM

#5 User is offline Jason 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 10:00 AM

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Not using Retro's wiki? For shame. :v:

However, a neat tidbit not included in the Retro wiki:

Quote

There is common misconception for the game being developed by Dimps, the game developer studio behind the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush games. The development studio itself was not found until several months later after the game's release in March 2000, though many of studio's people are known to be former SNK and Capcom employees.

So yeah, Dimps members likely worked on Sonic Pocket Adventure while at SNK.

#6 User is offline Yeow 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 10:50 AM

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I'm gonna (try to) keep it brief: A mediocre duology of games that also double as one of most callously marketed and designed sequels to fantastic products I have ever seen (to say nothing that S2 and S3&K are two of my all-time favorite games).

- Gameplay that completely misses the point of the original titles--including but not limited to awful physics, tank controls, gimped classic mechanics, and forced modern mechanics that entirely re-write (or in the case of the Rolling Combo, take the absolute piss out of) the Genesis playstyle.
- Mediocre level design that tries to follow on classic design but succumbs to Dimps/ST's typical level design approach (excessive automation/scripting, HA chains, bottomless pits).
- Hardly any original content (which is somewhat better in the second game) that's more interested in making uninspired clones of the Genesis zone identities, gimmicks, badniks, bosses, and special stages for cheap nostalgia; rather than making actually new content. Bosses in Episode II also get a mention for being more interested in dancing around in the background and dragging out boss battles instead of actually providing an engaging fight. Classic game design is also mostly stripped back to the bare minimum, rather than actually evolving from Sonic 3&K's framework.
- Graphics that are either cheaply thrown together (Episode I's cheap Flash approach with clashing art direction) or looks competent but doesn't even try to follow the classic art direction (Episode II). And while I'm not among those who lost their mind when the modern Sonic designs was revealed for Sonic 4 (although the constant teases leading up to the reveal with the Genesis sprites/design didn't help at all); it in retrospect comes off as insulting that for games that recycle almost everything about the past games, the developers then declared "it's a modern game, so modern characters designs" and even declare the original design wasn't coming back...only to reveal Generations one year later.
- A soundtrack that had forgettable to passable compositions absolutely ruined by a half-assed soundfont in an bad attempt to do "Genesis" music.
- A completely condescending and dishonest PR campaign....
* The (hollow) emphasis on "fan feedback" (including a feedback session at Sega's SF HQ that largely amounted to jack)
* The True Blue "buy four copies of our game and you get your name read in a video!" Initiative
* "The PC port resolution can't run above/below 720p because the image to break down" (proven wrong by a fan changing a single line of code to fix it)
* "Providing fans with an unrivaled classic Sonic feel" >>> "go play CD for classic physics and Generations for a boxed retro product" (/ "we have not done a straight port of the classic gameplay, but updated it to support new features like ceiling running")
* "All new physics engine" for Episode II >>> (Super Sonic has the exact same physics as in Episode I) >>> "We were surprised people were questioning the physics of Super Sonic"
* "We wish we knew about the demand for a solo playable Tails [for Episode II]" (despite Tails [and Knuckles] being asked for as playable before Episode I was revealed--remember the Character Countdown Contest?)
* "The cost of making Tails playable would be astronomical, we're talking millions of dollars here" (*glances at Tails/Knuckles in the classic Sonic mobile remasters and Mania [Plus]*)

I've said before and I'll say it again--I still think if Boom hadn't failed so colossally hard and gave Taxman an opening to pitch Sonic Discovery; Sega would had never touched the classic series again with a ten-foot pole and Mania [Plus] wouldn't exist (thank God that it does). Episode I was awful enough for me to not even touch Episode II and that was the right decision given how that game turned out (and it's a good thing many others did the same and didn't give more money to Sega).

I really, really do not like these two games. Sonic 4 was and still is an insult.

View PostSuperSnoopy, on 08 October 2018 - 04:27 AM, said:

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I largely prefer Ep I to Ep II, thought both of them pale in comparison of what came before (and after).


Nah, I do agree with you in that Episode I is better compared to Episode II. IMO it's only an improvement if you're purely looking at it in a vacuum or you thought moving further away from the classic games was an improvement (I mean seriously--warning signs, forced combo mechanics, the rolling combo, the more generic artstyle, and especially the PR: "providing an unrivaled classic feel" >>> "go play Sonic CD 2011 for apples-to-apple physics and Generations for a boxed retail classic")

Although (as you said) that's isn't saying a lot....

View Postbig smile, on 08 October 2018 - 06:44 AM, said:

View PostLaughingcow, on 08 October 2018 - 02:25 AM, said:

...Dimps is unable to make a classic Sonic game. This isn't up for debate, they cannot get the job done.


Didn't Dimps make Sonic Pocket Adventure?


1. Already covered, but SNK developed the game, not Dimps (people who worked at SNK did go on to found Dimps though).
2. Back when Sonic 4 was announced, PA was released ten years ago. By that point, Dimps' entire approach to design was a totally different beast if Rush Adventure (their then most-recent game) was anything to go by.
This post has been edited by Yeow: 08 October 2018 - 08:26 PM

#7 User is offline Ravenfreak 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 11:32 AM

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Oh man I remember how hyped I was for Sonic 4 Episode 1. I just got my Xbox 360 a few months after the game was released and I even downloaded the soundtrack too. Once I played it, it was such a huge let down. The only thing I enjoyed about the game was the soundtrack, and even then it's far from the best in terms of Sonic soundtracks. I still to this day haven't bothered to complete the game. Episode 2 improved on the physics a tad bit, and some of the music tracks were fine. It still had problems, but was okay. Both episodes don't deserve the name Sonic 4. Mania is what Sonic 4 should have been.

#8 User is offline 360 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 12:14 PM

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Great comments so far. Very interesting thread. Yeah I think that if Sega had ditched the budget-centric episodic idea and gave the entire project the millions that Episode 2 alone seemingly had and it was a full game with actual energy, ambition and creative design (and more than four fucking zones per game for fuck's sake) it could have amounted to something passable. Maybe even halfway decent. But conceptually it was just fucked from the start. It was "we're trying to please the fans in the most half-hearted cynical way possible" that's worlds away from Sonic Mania years later which was the true follow-up we all wanted. Even Generations not long afterwards produced by the core of Sonic Team was a game where they clearly gave a fuck and cared.

I had an okay time with Episode 1. It was "not bad" with some decent special stages. Episode 2 had the budget dramatically increased but somehow seemed worse despite the vastly improved production values. Ultimately Sega just really didn't care and it showed quite stunningly brightly in the final games. With Mania the team cared - I mean they really cared - and it's a universe of difference.

I think it's best that it's just left as a failed forgotten experiment as we move on to brighter and more promising horizons with Mania and potential Mania successors.
This post has been edited by 360: 08 October 2018 - 12:16 PM

#9 User is offline big smile 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 12:29 PM

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I think the big problem with Sonic 4 was that it wasn't supposed to be Sonic 4. Some SOA guy came on midway through development and applied the Sonic 4 name. All signs suggests that it was just supposed to be an iPhone game (that presumably took inspiration from the classic games). If they had just left it at that and not added the Sonic 4 label (or even not ported it to home platforms) then I think it would have been much better received.

The overly simple level design works much better on the mobile platforms that were available back then (when mobile gaming was still in its infancy) and even the horrid graphics look rather nice when scaled down to mobile (especially as back then phones didn't have hi-res screens). I'd even go as far and say that the terrible physics wouldn't have been that much of an issue for a game that had touch-only controls.
This post has been edited by big smile: 08 October 2018 - 12:29 PM

#10 User is offline 360 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 12:39 PM

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View Postbig smile, on 08 October 2018 - 12:29 PM, said:

I think the big problem with Sonic 4 was that it wasn't supposed to be Sonic 4. Some SOA guy came on midway through development and applied the Sonic 4 name. All signs suggests that it was just supposed to be an iPhone game (that presumably took inspiration from the classic games). If they had just left it at that and not added the Sonic 4 label (or even not ported it to home platforms) then I think it would have been much better received.

The overly simple level design works much better on the mobile platforms that were available back then (when mobile gaming was still in its infancy) and even the horrid graphics look rather nice when scaled down to mobile (especially as back then phones didn't have hi-res screens). I'd even go as far and say that the terrible physics wouldn't have been that much of an issue for a game that had touch-only controls.


Excellent post. And yeah from what we know this is exactly what happened. Some Sega marketing dude just completely fucked the project in an effort to boost sales that backfired (though arguably you could say it didn't backfire with Episode 1 selling north of a million - but the entire fiasco did doom the entire project from Episode 2 onwards for what was supposed to be a complete trilogy of games).

It was a marketing mistake on par with Sega's forced early Saturn release. So much bad blood between Sega and the fans over this that was only repaired with Mania.
This post has been edited by 360: 08 October 2018 - 12:39 PM

#11 User is online Laughingcow 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 12:50 PM

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View Postbig smile, on 08 October 2018 - 12:29 PM, said:

I think the big problem with Sonic 4 was that it wasn't supposed to be Sonic 4. Some SOA guy came on midway through development and applied the Sonic 4 name. All signs suggests that it was just supposed to be an iPhone game (that presumably took inspiration from the classic games). If they had just left it at that and not added the Sonic 4 label (or even not ported it to home platforms) then I think it would have been much better received.

Speaking purely based on the Metacritic score, the ONLY REASON it was well received was due to its namesake. "Sonic the Hedgehog 4" sold a bad game. It set up expectations and failed thus when Episode two came around the project was dead in the water. The novelty wore off on casuals and the fans suffer.




#12 User is offline OcelotBot 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 01:46 PM

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First time I played episode 1 was the PS3 version around 2011-ish (I missed all the fun in 2010 when it was leaked and the fanbase quite rightly lost their shit). I think I gave it like a 2 out of 10, I was shocked at how poor it was. As already mentioned, the graphics, physics, music (orchestral masterpieces) and level design was laughably weak compared to classic games. Calling it "Sonic 4" - a desperate attempt by SoA to help it sell - was probably the biggest insult. Episode 1 was just a mobile game relying heavily on classics nostalgia with virtually no replay value.

Before I even learned about the mobile release I rated Casino Street act2 (the stage with playing cards) and Lost Labyrinth act2 (the torch-light-the-way level) as my favorite acts. Which should be no suprise because they were the two zones designed specifically for the console release (replacing the naff slot-machine & full-cart stage respectively).

Then along came episode 2 with much better graphics (well, a damn sight better than episode 1), a slightly modified physics engine and a co-op mode with an overpowered super spin-dash, a flight-mode and submarine underwater mode where Tails never gets tired caring Sonic. Better (if more long-winded) boss fights, some interesting cutscenes and better special stages (the boost gimmick in the ss worked quite well). On the flip side the level design was slightly weaker. The music (dying ducks) is marginally better. I like the White Park Metal Sonic boss music.

I know ep2 also relied heavily nostalgia, but Sylvania Castle, White Park, Oil Desert, Sky Sanctuary and Death Egg MkII made for an overall better experience than ep1's trash.

...and don't forget Episode Metal (aka hard mode), which has probably the best cutscenes in the entire saga...

Yeah, I know ep2 wasn't much better, but I've got a soft spot for it.

It would have been nice to have gotten Episode 3 to bring some closure. I remember Taxman mentioning that SEGA Australia approached him about getting involved with episode 3 prior to it's cancellation (and the closure of SEGA Australia).

As bad as Sonic 4 is, I'm glad it happened because without it we likely wouldn't have gotten the wonderful Taxman remaster of Sonic CD, which lead to the excellent StealthTax Sonic 1&2 mobile remasters, the unsuccessful Sonic 3K pitch and of course the awesome Sonic Mania/Sonic Mania Plus.
This post has been edited by OcelotBot: 08 October 2018 - 01:50 PM

#13 User is offline High Fidelity 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 01:49 PM

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I also prefer EP1 over 2.

2 is just unplayable to me just from a musical standpoint. I just cannot bring myself to play it for that reason. Oh the pain my ears endure. The shrill torture of those 10 second loops. Yeah I could mute it but that's not what a Sonic experience is to me.

I'd still like to see an EP3 though for shits and giggles. Hopefully a talented fan can cook something up one day...

#14 User is online Laughingcow 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 01:55 PM

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View PostHigh Fidelity, on 08 October 2018 - 01:49 PM, said:

I'd still like to see an EP3 though for shits and giggles. Hopefully a talented fan can cook something up one day...

Plot twist: Sonic Mania 2 ties into Sonic 4 episode 3. Do it Sega!

#15 User is offline Billy 

Posted 08 October 2018 - 06:20 PM

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Sonic 4 Ep1 remains the only Sonic game to this day that I played one session of and never picked back up. Basically the video game equivalent of walking out of a movie for me.

I at least beat Ep2, but also have no interest in going back to it.

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