Monday, February 28, 2011

Second Opinion: Sonic 4 & Ludacris

I've been dreading this day for weeks.  The Video Game Critic just posted his/her/their review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I on his/her/their self-titled website, and it's not pretty.  Remember how I discussed the physics foibles, but ultimately said they didn't break the game?  Yeah, they (I'm just gonna use that pronoun from here on) apparently didn't get the message.  They graded the game an F, and the review itself was just freakin' scathing.  Which is why I'm kicking off a new series called "Second Opinion", where I take on other reviews not just because I disagree with them, but because I feel they didn't do a good enough job of explaining their criticisms.  For this example, there's really not much I can say that I haven't already covered in my review for the game, in which I gave it a B or B- depending on the version, but as I examine various points from their review, I might have to dip back into it.
"One of the intro screens displays the Sonic Team logo, suggesting the original development team was somehow involved.  So when did they forget how to program?  By the looks of it, Sonic 4 was developed by Sega's bored intern who had never actually played the original games but had seen a few screen shots."
Okay, right off the bat we've got a partial research failure.  Yes, Sonic 4 was co-developed by Sonic Team, but they conveniently forgot to leave out the fact that most of the gruntwork was done by Dimps, who brought in their experience from the Sonic Advance and Rush series.  And by the way, they gave good reviews, B- or higher, to all five of those games.  So why the double standard!?
"For a real Sonic fan, it takes all of about five seconds of play to realize that Sonic 4 feels all wrong. The original Sonic boasted simple controls coupled with a palpable sense of speed and momentum."
In my own review for Sonic 4, I asked you the reader whether or not the Genesis trilogy's engine was better on its own merits.  I have to get this off my chest: after having played Sonic 2, which for the record is my favorite game out of the trilogy, I have to say its engine is truly better than the one used by Dimps.  But still...
"Instead of being fast and smooth, Sonic's movements are awkward and stilted.  The physics are borderline non-existent! These controls would be terrible in any game, much less a high-profile sequel."
Umm... "awkward and stilted"?  "Non-existent"?  No.  No, no, no, no, not quite anyway.  Sonic 4 is still technically, umm, what's the word?  Oh right, PLAYABLE.  Where do you get off on exaggerating this [noun]?  I could argue that the platforming physics of Sonic Colors are even worse, but I still love that game.  Hint hint.  I have also just become aware of Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis, a port of the original game made for Game Boy Advance made by Sonic Team themselves, and guess what?  It really is broken!  As the video below illustrates, it's loaded with physics-related glitches - that's right, literal glitches - which you won't even find in Sonic 4!  So yeah, you officially have NO idea what you are talking about.

"Instead of simply pouncing on a foe, you're forced to perform a "homing attack" made unpopular by the marginal 3D Sonic titles of recent years.  Who in the [expletive] asked for that?!"
You say the homing attack was made unpopular by the 3D series?  Again, I call BS: bias sighted.  Remember, I remarked that it would've seemed like a more natural evolution if Sonic 4 was released directly after Sonic & Knuckles.  And let's face it, the homing attack is not the worst thing to come out of everything released after the Genesis Trilogy.  Let's take a moment to thank our lucky stars that...
are nowhere to be found in Sonic 4.  So yeah, this is technically what we asked for, and they technically delivered.  Video Game Critic,  allow me to redirect you to that curse I placed on you at the end of my Sonic 4 review.  Or there's always Sonic Colors; you seemed to like that.

But wait!  Because I'm such an antagonistic little nerd, I'm throwing in another second opinion absolutely free!  This time around I'm matching wits with someone I hold far less animosity towards at the moment: The Rap Critic from  In most of his episodes, he's taken classic songs like "Nuthin' But a G Thang" and "Today Was A Good Day" and given them ratings like of 2 out of 5, and you know what?  He made me agree with them!  But the inverse has happened once: taking "My Chick Bad" by Ludacris and Nicki Minaj, a song I felt was mediocre and rating it 5 out of 5 - as far as dance songs go.  Er, what?  And after spending so much time nitpicking the lyrics too!  You do not make such a negative review and give the song a perfect score just because it's got a good beat and you can dance to it!

...Okay, so maybe the song isn't that bad.  It's got its bouts of laziness, what with repeating lines from the chorus into the verses.  Speaking of which, why did he have to down-pitch his voice on the choruses?  It saps away most of the gusto he brings to nearly everything he's done, this song included.  And don't get me started on those unlinked similies; I thought you were above that Luda!  Then again, this was after he co-starred with Justin Bieber, so take that as you will.  But the message of the song isn't the usual rap fare.  Instead of bragging about himself or objectifying a girl, he's smashing the two roles together: bragging about his girlfriend.  Looks like rappers are making some progress in terms of becoming respectable human beings, even if at the end of the day she's still regarded as his possession.

The thing that improved my opinion of this song more than anything else came from an unlikely source: co-star Nicki Minaj.  My first experience with her was her verse on "Bedrock", and I think we all know how that turned out!  ...It sucked; and let's just say Nicki did nothing to make it any better.  So you can imagine my surprise when her performance on "My Chick Bad" was far-removed from the trashy, stoned-out valley girl she came across as on that other song.  Nope, this time around, she's taken inspiration from the horror-movie slashers of old.  On this and some other tracks, she's been described by others as a female Busta Rhymes; I'm loath to make a comparison that lofty, but she is close in my book.  Her delivery is brimming with the energy of the insane, with verses filled to the brim with syllables, and her look in the music video is what brings it all together.  Lemme tell ya, if the mental asylum's looking for you, you're headed in the right direction.

The Rap Critic asked himself whether he liked this song just because it was by Ludacris, and I'm gonna have to answer for him: yes he does.  It's not deserving of that treasured five-out-of-five rating, which he has done only one other time to date, but with the help of Nicki Minaj, this song is a trip into madness unlike anything out there.  All things considered, I'd have to give it three horror slashers out of five (C).  That's Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Mike Myers.  No, not Michael Myers from Halloween, but frankly, what's the difference anymore?

I also have one final, personal note to make.  On Saturday I was offered a position for a healthcare software company, and I accepted.  My first day will be tomorrow, at the beginning of the month.  I don't expect this to affect my output on the SDP by much; after all, it doesn't take me too long to write an entry, even with all my procrastination.  But for something I've been waiting nine months for, I really want to share this joyous news with you.  I hope you enjoyed this debut installment of "Second Opinion" (unless you're the Video Game Critic), because I have more beefs along the way.  I've got more episodes planned involving Star Wars Episode I and a comparison of F-Zero vs. Super Mario Kart.  Also be on the lookout for another new series called "Sticking Points", in which I'll take you through the hardest games from my childhood and beyond.  Now that LordKat's ceased production of his video series "Until We Win", I suppose you could call this a spiritual successor to that.  After all, sometimes we must make the change we want to see in the world.

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