11 Settings That Are MMO-Worthy

There’s been an insane bandwagoning of franchises making the jump to the MMO genre as of late. I suppose many developers simply want a piece of WoW’s pie, but with so many MMOs competing with each other (rather than challenging WoW), it seems unlikely that any of them will get that pie. Still, you can’t blame them for trying, and a lot of developers do seem eager to get into the MMO genre. The list of franchises and series that have transitioned to the MMO world has grown quite long over the past few years, but there’s certainly room for many more. Here are several well known settings that I feel would make fantastic transitions to the land of MMOs. Note that they are not in any particular order.

Avatar’s Moon of Pandora


Pandora had it all. The moon of Pandora is home to the Na’vi, a spiritual race of wildlings that seem to be in tune with all aspects of nature. Unfortunately the technologically advanced Humans ruthlessly expanded their operations across the world and caused several major conflicts. This would be an amazing setting for an MMO, with players being able to choose between the Human or Na’vi factions. I have no idea how avatars could fit into everything, but I suppose that a creative developer could think of a great way to incorporate them. Aside from the conflict between the Humans and the Na’vi, Pandora itself suits the MMORPG genre simply because it has everything you can think of. Heck, it even has flying mountains!

Diablo’s World of Sanctuary


Despite the fact that Blizzard is working on their next MMO and it isn’t related to Diablo, I don’t think that rules out the possibility of a Diablo Online in the distant future. Imagine being able to pick from several classes spanning all three Diablo games. Angels, Demons, and Humans could be the three factions. The most appealing part, however, is the idea that we’d be able to travel to any location we’ve ever heard of in Diablo lore. Imagine Caldeum, Kingsport, Kurast, Lut Gholein, Tristram, and Westmarch all being visitable. We could even explore the Dreadlands (former homeland of the barbarians), the insanely expansive Dry Steppes which is north of Caldeum, along with the mysterious Skovos Isles which rests in the sea south of Kingsport. There’s a lot of potential here, and it’s frustrating that Blizzard still hasn’t allowed us to explore more of this huge world.

Zelda’s Land of Hyrule


If Nintendo ever decides to make an MMO, they’ll most certainly go with Zelda. Hyrule has quite a developed backstory behind it now and it has become one of the video game industry’s most celebrated and widely recognized worlds. Imagine a fully 3D Hyrule with several players grouped together and exploring mountains with hookshots, solving dungeon puzzles together, and working with each other to defeat a fearsome dodongo. There would be so much to see, so much to do! Another thing that would work in favour of a Zelda MMO is the fact that the series has Link, a completely silent protagonist. MMO characters are also completely silent (unless you’re playing The Old Republic) so it would help keep the Zelda atmosphere intact while establishing a firm sense of being in an MMO world. Whether or not Nintendo ever makes an MMO is a different question though, so this one doesn’t look terribly likely at the moment.

Mortal Kombat’s Elder God Realms


NetherRealm Studios is pretty much the last development team I’ll ever expect to make an MMO, but never say never. Mortal Kombat may be a fighting game, but it still has a vast and thorough lore behind it. Earthrealm, Edenia, Outworld, and a slew of other realms make up the several lands created by Raiden and his fellow Elder Gods. After playing Mortal Kombat Deception (I know, I know…) and experiencing a pretty limited and poor representation fo the several realms, I can only imagine how much better NetherRealm could make the realms look and feel now that they are no longer shackled down by Midway. Each realm is so distinctly different. They’d be a joy to explore in a proper MMO title. If there’s a good fighting engine in the game as well, then even better.

A Song of Ice & Fire’s Westeros


HBO’s Game of Thrones has skyrocketed the popularity of George R. R. Martin’s book series. A Song of Ice & Fire is traditional fantasy but, at the same time, it isn’t. There’s something distinctly different here that sets the series apart from other fantasy stories such as Lord of the Rings. Because of this, I don’t feel that A Song of Ice & Fire would work best as a regular MMORPG. Aside from the fact that it would simply crater due to being too similar to the competition, there’s just so much potential to make things very interesting. I’d love to see the setting adapted as an MMO where players have to align themselves with a major house right at the start and then work to strengthen their house and go to war. It could be very PvP oriented, and this would fit the whole war theme that the overall story encompasses.

Fallout’s Post-Apocalyptic World


I’ll point out right away that I hate Fallout an awful lot. I didn’t like the old RPG-esque games and I didn’t like the newer ones that utilize Bethesda’s engines. The games just don’t click with me, which is a shame because I like the setting. Post-apocalyptic settings are always very interesting, and I think that Fallout has a good amount of lore built up behind it that would enable it to be a pretty decent MMO, especially if they played off of the whole premise of essentially being a scavenger fighting to stay alive. I know that Bethesda canned one attempt at making a Fallout Online, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t have another go at it later on.

Resident Evil’s Raccoon City


Why not? Capcom is testing the waters with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, a small scale co-op shooter that is set int he fallen city. In it, players assume the role of cleansers sent in by Umbrella and it is their job to clear the undead. I think that a massive MMO with a city on the scale of what you’d find in real life, complete with an endless supply of respawning zombies, would be really cool to experience. Imagine not having to bother with grinds or levels, but rather focusing solely on your own survival and nothing else. I don’t know what kind of endgame content there would be if all you’re doing is scavenging and surviving, but wouldn’t it be a blast logging in simply fighting to stay alive against an entire city that wants to eat you? Capcom could even instance the city so that there would never be too many human players running around at once. Imagine a huge city the size of, say, the entire playable area of Skyrim, and there are only about ten to fifteen human players in it who can’t even communicate unless they’re within range of each other. Wouldn’t it be an awesome feeling of relief to find each other? Come on Capcom, this just may be able to work.

Terminator’s Post-Apocalyptic World


Imagine fighting against Skynet. Seriously, just do it for a moment and then keep reading. Okay, you’ve done it? Gave you a pretty hopeless feeling inside, didn’t it? Now imagine if you really had to do that in an MMORPG. Imagine fighting against computers ON your computer. Wouldn’t that make you feel a little paranoid? I bet the game would make Skynet cheat. Ignoring the fact that you’d be using Skynet’s own technology against them, wouldn’t it be really freaking cool to play a game that would deal exclusively with taking down terminators!? Come on, you know that you’ve mentally put yourself in the shoes of John and Sarah Conner before. You’ve imagined yourself running and trying to escape from terminators. You’ve also imagined blowing them up with high powered guns and explosives too, right? A Terminator MMO would let every teenage boy of the 1990s relive their fantasies. Terminator Online would be absolutely epic.

Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City


I’ve been wishing for an online GTA game ever since I played APB a few years back. APB was all about jacking cars and gunning down enemies in the city of San Paro. It was basically a violent GTA with absolutely no story or content besides driving and shooting. If Rockstar ever works up the courage to attempt a GTA Online, I think that it could be quite interesting. I’m sure that Rockstar locked at APB carefully and know where the developers went wrong with their car jacking, gun tootin’ MMO shooter. A GTA Online would likely feature a more defined story and would, I hope, have more features than just stealing cars and shooting at people. I’d bet money on Rockstar adding a lot of other fun group activities and minigames. Heck, maybe even PvP wouldn’t be the only thing you’d be doing all the time?

L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz


Oh we’re off the see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! While The Wizard of Oz was originally a children’s book and then adapted into a movie children, it’s impossible to ignore that there are some truly dark things going on in the world of Oz. I was never truly aware as a kid, but now that I am an adult I fully realize just how twisted of a place Oz was. It could perhaps make the MMO transition pretty well, but I’m not sure how it would be marketed. Would it be a kid friendly MMO, or would it perhaps be a little darker and grittier than the ESRB’s E rating would allow? Regardless, Oz has a lot of backstory these days and I think that a Wizard of Oz MMORPG isn’t a question of if, but rather a question of when.

Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom


Will we ever see Nintendo make an MMO? That’s a pretty good question. While Zelda’s Hyrule would probably be given the MMO treatment ahead of the Mushroom Kingdom, I doubt that anyone could possibly deny the appeal behind adventuring throughout the Mushroom Kingdom with your friends. The NES loving kid inside of me would kill for a Mario MMO while the adult that I am, who still loves the NES, would probably do very horrible and rotten things if it ever meant Nintendo would develop a Mario MMO. I mean seriously! How could anyone not want this? Imagine King Boo as a raid boss. Just do it. There, now you’re as sold as I am. The concept of a Mario MMO doesn’t even need explaining, it just needs to happen!

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Review)

Before I even begin to get into my review for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, I feel the need to say that I don’t read comics, nor do I follow anything that happens in the Marvel universe. A lot of the hijinks that the superheroes get themselves into are unknown to me, so please forgive me for not going into much depth with the characters in this review. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the review!

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (MUA2) is the latest superhero action RPG churned out by Activision and various developer studios (different studios made different ports). In MUA2, players assume control over several Marvel heroes and anti-heroes in their quest to combat an issue that forces all mutant superheroes to register with the government.

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About 60-90 minutes into MUA2, a sequence of events occurs that brings about this whole registration act that forces all mutant heroes to register with the government or be deemed criminals. Two iconic characters are at odds with one another over the issue, however. Captain America is against the mutant registration act, refusing to adhere to it due to several reasons that he deems immoral. Taking the side of the government is Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man. Up until the point in the game where these two are at odds, everything is just dandy in hero land. However, after it becomes evident that these two iconic heroes do not see eye to eye on the issue, the player has to pick which side they want to be one, Anti-Registration or Pro-Registration. Which side you choose determines what your headquarters are, what missions you will temporarily be assigned to, and what characters will be available to you.

In terms of characters, it is worth noting that there is a lot of variety in MUA2. While certain characters will only join you if you’re for or against the registration act, you will still always have tons of heroes to choose from. Captain America, Deadpool, Gambit, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Venom, Wolverine, and a dozen other characters will be able to travel with you. Since you must always have a team of four heroes, there are a lot of cool possibilities and I imagine that comic fans will be able to make some great dream teams.

For those who aren’t familiar with the gameplay, even though I’m reviewing this game several months after it’s release, I’ll go over how MUA2 works. As I mentioned above, you have a squad of four heroes at all times. The game is divided into several mission arcs in which you guide your heroes through fairly linear levels obliterating foes, defeating bosses, and performing tasks that progress the story.

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The gameplay is deemed action RPG. I get the action part pretty well, but this game is too linear to be considered an RPG, with the whole RPG element being nothing more than dialogue options in conversations and where you want to allocate skill points that your heroes earn when they level up. I will admit that yes, it’s fair to label the game an RPG, but the action part of the game takes center stage.

Attacks are mapped to the X and circle buttons, while square serves as a pick-up/throw button. Trademark superhero moves can be performed by holding a shoulder button (I played on the PS3, so it was R2) and then pressing either X, circle, square, or triangle. The player can switch to any character in their squad whenever they want by pressing any button on the d-pad.

Missions are insanely action packed, and I found gameplay to be kind of like Diablo only with four Marvel superheroes instead of one fantasy inspired character class. There are many waves of enemies in each mission, and they’ll often come at you in very large waves that initially look a little overwhelming. Fortunately, special attacks easily dispatch most foes, and fusion attacks (which is when two characters join their powers together for an attack) will prove to be absolutely devastating to almost any enemy that will challenge the player aside from boss characters. Some fusion attacks are very cool, like when you pair Ms. Marvel and Wolverine together. The pair will use their respective powers to unleash a devastating AoE attack that will decimate any enemy within range. Some characters do not really “match” with others however, and you will just get a sort of generic fusion attack when pairing incompatible heroes together. The gameplay is fast and hectic, so if that’s your cup of tea then this is definitely a game you’ll enjoy.

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The graphics are surprisingly nice for a console action RPG title. While environments are fairly detailed and nice to look at, it’s the character models that really seal the deal for me. Each and every hero is packed full of detail, which is really impressive since the camera is usually zoomed out fairly far from them. Deadpool, Iron Man and Spider-Man in particular look really outstanding. Unfortunately a lot of NPCs aren’t crafted quite as well, with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Maria Hill being a prime example of this.

In terms of sound, MUA2 does a fairly good job. Most of the music tracks are very fitting of the locales you will visit, and it’s worth noting that while some tracks aren’t very exceptional, there really isn’t any bad music in this game at all. Sound effects are pretty good as well, though it can be a little difficult to distinguish one sound from another in the heat of battle, due to the insane amount of sound effects being generated by your four man team as well as from the enemy forces that can number over one dozen most of the time. Voices are very good in this game, with heroes such as Captain America or Wolverine really stealing the show. A few characters could have probably done with better voices though, because I felt a little underwhelmed by Deadpool and Ms. Marvel. Deadpool’s humour seemed too forced and Ms. Marvel’s voice actress just didn’t have enough “oomph” for such a powerful and prominent female figure in the Marvel universe.

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With all the good out of the way, I’ll comment on the few bad points I have with this game. First is the camera. Despite being able to control it and rotate it around, it can still find itself in odd locations and won’t always provide you with the best view of the action. Second nitpick is the ingame menu that allows you to swap heroes and distribute skill points. It’s a pretty clunky menu, and I find that it’s slow to navigate and just overall feels fairly sluggish. MUA2’s menu is one of the very rare ones that feels like a console menu that was meant for the PC.

As a whole, MUA2 is remarkably solid. The story is interesting and the gameplay is a blast. Considering that you can play cooperatively with a friend or online, it adds even more to MUA2’s already outstanding gameplay. The entire package is well above average and, while not great, really is a lot of fun to play. Anyone who enjoys action RPGs or even just Marvel comic books will most likely find a lot to enjoy in MUA2.

Final Score

8.2/10

Mario Paint Composer

Chances are good that if you grew up in the 16 bit era, you were able to play around with Mario Paint and it’s awesome music composer. It was pretty darn popular, which is fairly evident with the creation of Mario Paint Composer. I can’t quite recall when the program came out, but it is basically a Windows version of composer in Mario Paint. I’ve collected some awesome tunes that people have made in the composer. Check them out!

Breath of Fire – Second Battle Theme (By Lumunaire271)

Castlevania – Vampire Killer (By adolfobaez)

Duck Tales – Moon Level (By Levus28)

Final Fantasy IV – The Dreadful Battle (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy V – The Land Unknown (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy VI – Celes’ Theme (By NorseFTX)

Final Fantasy VII – Still More Fighting (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy VIII – Man With The Machine Gun (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy IX – Boss Theme (By HCBailly)

Mega Man 2 – Wily Stage 1 (By TomBobBlender)

Mega Man X – Spark Mandrill (theEvilGrimace)

Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone (By TomBobBlender)

Super Mario Bros. 2 – Main Theme (By The Lymphocyte)

Super Mario World – Athletic Level (By Fredfischer)

Tetris – Theme Music (By TomBobBlender)

The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind – Theme Music (By MickeRamone)

The Legend of Zelda – Main Theme (By adolfobaez)

And here are some non-Video game ones. Mostly real songs and TV themes. Very cool as well!

Angry Video Game Nerd Theme (By TomBobBlender)

Collective Soul – Run (By dfarkins)

Dexter – Opening Theme (By Afrodude50)

Dragonforce – Through the Fire and Flames (by Levus28)

Europe – The Final Countdown (By Bangario)

Flintstones – Main Theme (By Friedfischer)

King of the Hill – Opening Music (By Aceticacidplease)

Metallica – Battery (By EverlastingLuigi)

Pirates of the Caribbean – He’s A Pirate (By Uhiwi)

Rocky – Gonna Fly Now (By lapras509)

Star Trek – Movie/Next Generation Theme (By EcLipsE1982Fat)

Star Wars – Main Theme (By MisterAlphabet)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cartoon Theme (By longsocksilver)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Learning To Fly (By JealousGuy)

Return to December 2010 Articles

Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge (SNES, 1993)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

Remember the Super Scope? That clunky and oversized SNES gun that went through batteries faster than Homer Simpson does beers? It sure was a piece of garbage and most of the games that it supported were pretty much not worth any of your time. There was, however, one game that was incredibly epic. One game that I wish would get a proper sequel, or be re-released on the Nintendo’s WiiWare service. This game is none other than the sequel to Battle Clash, Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge. With a name like Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge, how could this game possibly suck? That’s easy to answer. It can’t suck. At all.

I first played Metal Combat in 1994, shortly after it was released in North America at the end of 1993. I would watch in awe as my brother fought through stage after stage with the Super Scope. When I got my hands on it, I found the gun controller to be very bulky and exceptionally hard to get used to. After I was able to adjust, I learned to love the game and played the hell out of it probably more than my brother did.

Metal Combat, the sequel to the drastically inferior Battle Clash, put players in control of the ST (Standing Tank, another name for mech) Falcon. The Falcon’s weapon systems were controlled by the player, which is where the Super Scope came into play. In many ways, this was one of the first and only SNES titles that felt like proper first person games. The game was played from a first person perspective and the Falcon’s cannon was, quite literally, the bulky plastic device that was resting on your shoulder. Metal Combat was a fiercely immersive game at the time, and it utilized the Super Scopre brilliantly. I can’t really say much about the controls because, well, it was the Super Scope! Point and shoot, we all know the drill. It was essentially just a very graphically advanced Duck Hunt.

The joy of playing Metal Combat came from the battles. Each stage was a one on one fight with an enemy ST that you had to destroy. The cool thing is that they were fully destructable and you could blow off their arms, legs, weapons, whatever. It was up to you to destroy your enemies in whatever way you wished, which was a very cool change of pace because back in 1993, most gamers were used to just pointing their characters at the enemy and shooting it until it died. Metal Combat moved the bar up substantially for SNES games, and the level of immersion that the destructable bosses provided was awesome.

I’ll always remember the bosses in the game very well. They were very memorable, except for a select few. Garam, Wong, Viscount, and Thanatos will always be remembered fondly by me. Three of those bosses (all except Wong) were featured in the original Battle Clash and were the only returning characters aside from the player’s ST Falcon. That says just how badass and cool they were at the time.

One aspect of Metal Combat that was loads of fun was the two player mode. Yes, this game had a freaking two player mode! The coolest thing about it was the fact that the second player actually played as the boss characters. Now how cool is that? At the time, it felt like the most amazing versus mode in the world to me and I loved playing as the boss characters while my brother or friends would play as one of the protagonist characters (Falcon or Tornado, the latter being unlockable). Viscount was always my favourite, because he seemed like a knight-like mech. He had a badass shield and, instead of a sword, had a powerful cannon that had one of the most devastating attacks in the entire game if it hit properly. I cannot even begin to describe how cool this versus mode was to me back in 1994. In recent years, I’ve played it with friends on emulators. While the challenge of the Super Scope isn’t present, we would still have some incredibly close battles.

There was also a time trial mode, which was pretty enjoyable. Essentially, the player had to play through the bosses and try to better their times on each boss. I eventually got most of the bosses down to being defeated in five to fifteen seconds each. In order to defeat them so quickly, you have to find their weak points. Some bosses make it really obvious, like ST Wong who just has to be hit in the middle once with your most powerful attack. Others, like Garam, often hide their weak points and force you to play a waiting game until they expose it for you, or you could just blast away whatever covers the weak point, which is fun too.

Overall, I have to say that this was by far the best Super Scope game ever developed, and I am shocked that Nintendo has never decided to resurrect the Battle Clash/Metal Combat franchise. The Wii is the perfect console for it, so the fact that this gem remains totally unknown to the newer generations of gamers is a damn shame, it really is. Especially since the developer of the game, Intelligent Systems, still makes games for Nintendo.

I demand a new game in this franchise! Nintendo, do us Metal Combat fans a favour and bring this awesome series back to life!

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom (Review)

“The best choice available for Wii owners who want a good fighter.”

Tatsunoko. A heck of a lot of people outside of Asia have no clue what that is. After playing Tatsunoko Vs Capcom, I’m still not sure! Do I recognize any of the Tatsunoko characters? Nope. Fortunately, this does not prevent the game from being quite awesome.

Tatsunoko Vs Capcom plays a lot like it’s sister series Marvel Vs Capcom, only a little slower and with a simpler control scheme. In Tatsunoko Vs Capcom (which I will refer to as TvC from now on), the controls are as follows. Y for weak attack, X for medium attack, A for strong attack, and B for assist. If you hold B, you can swap characters since this is a tag-team fighter.

There are no apparent issues with the controlling of any characters. It’s all pretty standard QCF plus a random button to execute moves. If you can pull off Ryu’s hadoken, then you’ll be able to do almost anything in the with game with ease. However, if you can’t even pull off a simple hadoken then, well, where have you been all these years!?

The gameplay is pretty solid. Since it isn’t as fast paced as Marvel Vs Capcom, I felt that TvC isn’t as aggressive and not as much of a rushdown fighter as it’s sister series. With slower gameplay comes more strategy and more room for executing things more carefully. It’s a pretty good fighting system that Capcom has in place here, and it only took me about twenty minutes to feel really comfortable with the game.

In terms of characters, there are quite a few. Doronjo, Tekkaman, Ken the Eagle, and Ippatsuman are some of the Tatsunoko characters available, though I suspect almost anyone reading this won’t know who the hell any of them are. Capcom’s roster is a little more familiar however, as it offers Batsu (remember him from Rival Schools?), Frank West, Mega Man Volnutt, Morrigan, Ryu, Viewtiful Joe, and Zero (from Mega Man X). The game’s final boss is a bizarre orb creature called Yami, and I have no idea if it originates from Capcom, Tatsunoko, or if it’s an original creation made specifically for TvC. Overall, there are close to thirty characters in the game, so there’s a little something for everybody.

The graphics are pretty nice for a Wii game. Of course they cannot compare to 360 or PS3 graphics, but TvC is definitely a very attractive Wii fighter. All characters are very detailed (especially Karas and Soki), animations are smooth and pleasant looking, and the stages are very vibrant and fun to play in.

Sound effects are, frankly, great! The music in TvC is very cool, especially the main menu theme. Easily my favourite menu theme ever for a fighting game, so kudos to Capcom on accomplishing that. Character voices are all pretty good (whether they be English or Japanese) and the fight sounds are standard stuff, but they work.

Completing fights will net you zenny, an ingame currency to purchase artwork, character costumes, and more. To clear out the ingame shop will require quite a lot of play time, so this game definitely has a fair bit of replayability.

Overall, TvC is a very solid fighter. While a crossover with Tatsunoko doesn’t really excite many western gamers, the great line-up of Alex, Batsu, Chun-Li, Viewtiful Joe, and more make this worth checking out for Capcom fans. The fighting engine is incredibly solid as well, making this the premiere fighting game for Wii owners.

Final Score

8.8/10

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 – Episode 1 (Review)

“A decent game, but a huge disappointment for Sonic fans.”

Before I get this review started, I feel the need to say that I’ve never been a huge Sonic fan. I’ve enjoyed the Sonic games, but I am anything but a nostalgic fan who looks back on the past with rose tinted glasses. I enjoyed the previous Sonic games and, oddly enough, Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was my favourite. All I want to say here is that my views on this game are not clouded by nostalgia. With that out of the way, let’s begin.

It’s been sixteen years since Sonic & Knuckles, which is an awfully long time for a series to go before getting a proper sequel. Sonic’s rival, Mario, even had a rocky return to 2D platform with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, but the Wii version was significantly better and felt like a proper Mario game. It’s expected that Sonic 4 would be a little rough around the edges, just like Mario was on the DS, but that in no way justifies the quality of this hollow husk of a Sonic game. Sonic 4 suffers from many glaring problems that keep it from being a decent platformer. Pretty much all issues I have with this game are gameplay related, so let’s dive right into what’s wrong with it.

For starters, the graphics are not terribly impressive. I can tell that the graphic artists spent a fair amount of time on them, but the fact of the matter is that the graphics in Sonic 4 lack character, personality, and soul. The graphics look fine, but they evoke no emotions from me. They are remarkably generic looking, which isn’t good for a game that is supposed to be a triumphant return for Sonic the Hedgehog.

To accompany the fairly bland graphics are overly long levels that, honestly, go on longer than they should. I found several levels to be somewhat interesting at the start, but when they drag on for several minutes at a time with no interesting changes? Well, that just gets very dull and repetitive. Some levels made me want to turn the game off because they were so long and boring, but I forced myself to carry on.

What really makes these long levels unenjoyable is the poor level design. Everything just feels really uninspired and mashed together. There’s no coherent point or purpose to anything in every level, and the same obstacles are repeated over and over again. Poor pitfall placement hampers the levels even further, as it is difficult to tell when a hole will lead to another path or to Sonic’s death. There are far too many gigantic, open gaps. Once you are out of the tight corridors, the levels just feel really barren and lifeless.

The difficulty is a bit of an interesting subject. Overall, Sonic 4 is very easy most of the time. I would rack up tons of 1-UPs only to encounter one spot in almost every level (outside of the first zone) that made me lose several of the lives I had earned. I’ve breezed through a few levels only to get through about three quarters of each before I hit some kind of bizarrely difficult spot that kills me several times. It seems unusual to have these difficulty spikes.

Working hand in hand with the difficulty spikes are the game’s enemies. They enemy placement in Sonic 4 is positively dreadful. Many enemies are placed so that you will slam into them at high speeds and lose your rings. Taking into account how fast Sonic moves at times, it’s almost impossible to dodge a lot of enemies your first play through because they literally come out of nowhere. Sonic 4 does not make itself difficult by presenting you with legit challenges that require skill, no. Instead, Sonic 4 makes itself harder by placing enemies and obstacles in unfair locations. The fourth zone is the worst offender, constantly putting things in locations that makes Sonic getting hurt an inevitability.

A few other minor things bother me as well. First is the lack of Knuckles or Tails, which is very unusual. Tails, at the very least, should have been in this game. Instead, all we get is Sonic. Second, the non-linear level select makes Sonic 4 feel like an ordinary budget game by indie developers. You can essentially play any level whenever you want, rather than being forced to play through each level one at a time like in a regular platformer.

That’s a lot of strikes against Sonic 4, and it’s probably very evident that I don’t like this game much. There are a few good things worth mentioning, however!

Boss battles are very simplistic, but I found them to be pretty enjoyable. Last boss aside, they’re not horribly difficult and are somewhat based on older Sonic bosses, so you should have a basic idea as to how to defeat them.

Equally enjoyable are the Lost Labyrinth levels. I can’t say much against them and they were really quite fun, easily standing out against the rest of the zones. The second level of Lost Labyrinth was a little bit on the long side, but overall it was pretty well made. I enjoyed the wealth of puzzles, and it was nice being able to control Sonic more than 40% of the time, since in other zones it seems that Sonic is usually always being pushed, propelled, or shot in various directions. Lost Labyrinth gives the player lots of control and feels more like the classic Sonic games.

Several levels are very replayable for speed runners. In fact, it is encouraged since there is even an achievement that requires you beat the first level in under one minute. I’m not much of a speed runner, but the game has plenty for gamers of that sort to do. That’s definitely a plus for them.

Overall, I feel that this game suffers tremendously from several glaring issues, and I’m shocked at how few innovations there are between Sonic & Knuckles (1994) and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010). If anything, it feels like Sonic 4 took a few steps back. However, there’s still a bit of fun to be hard here, and diehard Sonic fans from the 1990s should enjoy the game.

Final Score

6.6/10