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Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (not to be confused with the SNES unlicensed bootleg game) is a side-scrolling platformer developed by Dimps that is a modern-day throwback to Sonic's roots on the Sega Genesis. It's an Episodic Game, with only two episodes released, though having both episodes downloaded unlocks a short interquel. Each episode has four Zones with four Acts each (three standard levels and one boss fight per Zone), plus a final Boss-Only Level in each, making for a decently-sized downloadable game that Sega initially designed to test the waters for classic Sonic's return.

The story is simple: Some time after the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Mad Scientist and aspiring world conqueror Dr. Eggman seeks revenge on his perpetual arch-nemesis by rebuilding his best Badniks to go on a hedgehog hunt. When Sonic smashes Eggman's creations once again, he retreats into space, and Sonic gives chase on a rocket. In his floating E.G.G. Station, Eggman pulls out the Death Egg Robot as a last resort, but Sonic trounces it the same as always.

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After this defeat, Eggman gets the idea to return to Little Planet, where Metal Sonic is still smoldering from his previous battle. He repairs the busted bot, and roboticizes Little Planet to create the Death Egg Mk.II, continuing his assault on the world. Hearing about this, Sonic partners up with his good buddy Tails and flies into action once again to stop his doppelgänger and save both planets.

Episode I was released on iOS, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Android. It was hyped as a form of Revisiting the Roots for the series, with the classic gameplay of the original game and no characters beyond Sonic and Eggman; this is reflected in its codename, "Project Needlemouse".note  However, the game uses a modified version of the Sonic Rush engine, which means the game plays quite differently from its classic counterparts, being twitchier and more fast-paced instead of momentum-driven.

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Episode II officially launched on May 15, 2012 for PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Android, and iOS platforms.note  It featured an improved graphics engine (which kept it from releasing on the Wii since it wasn't powerful enough) and tweaked the physics engine from Episode I. Metal Sonic returns as a recurring boss, and Tails follows Sonic everywhere just like in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. He also allows for three new team-up moves: flying, swimming, and a barreling cannonball spin attack. Having a Episode I save file on the same platform will unlock Episode Metal, a four-act mini-episode starring Metal Sonic.

Due to lower-than-expected performance of the series, Episode III was cancelled, with its development team having little faith that the project will be revived. The later Sonic Mania eventually took the position of being a direct sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, albeit in the Alternate Continuity for Classic Sonic established by Sonic Generations.


This game provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Telstars/Asterons make a return. However, they have been nerfed so they won't blow up instantly.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Lost Labyrinth Zone has one as a tribute to Hydrocity Zone. If you thought those were hair-raising, just wait until Mad Gear Zone Act 3, which does a little Lampshade Hanging by being named "Impending Doom."
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Sky Fortress Zone, a direct tribute to Wing Fortress Zone.
  • Airborne Mook: Stingers/Buzzers from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 reappear.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Episode Metal is unlocked after playing the first act of Episode II on a device with Episode I save data installed.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Guardon/Crawl crab badniks have a turning animation that shows them switching their shield from arm to arm.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: The second and boss Acts of White Park are entirely set on roller coaster tracks. The former has sections of moving track, while both have sections of missing track.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The iOS port of Episode II Special Stages has Sonic's horizontal movement slightly slowed down; although this sounds like hell, they removed the traps.
  • Arc Welding: A Sega rep confirmed that Episode I was meant to do this for Sonic CD, as it wasn't considered to be significantly tied in any way to the numerical Genesis trilogy. Later sources would place Sonic CD in-between Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 instead.
  • Art Evolution: Episode II receives a very noticeable jump in the graphics department compared to Episode I, as the zones have a more detailed and three-dimensional appearance to them and the models lack the cel-shaded look they had in Episode I.
  • Ash Face: Eggman gets that after yet another unsuccessful battle.
  • Auto-Scrolling Level: Sky Fortress Zone Act 1.
  • Bad Future: As seen in Episode Metal, Metal Sonic apparently hails from Stardust Speedway's Bad Future, which looks extremely familiar to a previous version.
  • Background Boss: The Sylvania Castle and Oil Desert bosses.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: The first boss of Episode II does this by tricking the player into thinking they are going to fight another nostalgia boss, but then Eggman goes to the real boss machine immediately afterward.
  • Bash Brothers: Episode II sees the return of "Sonic & Tails" mode with 2-player co-op (offline and online), complete with Tails being able to carry Sonic and a Combination Attack.
  • Bears Are Bad News: White Park Zone features a gigantic polar-bear type badnik with large claws that takes three hits to go down instead of the usual one. Its name? Snowy.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Eggman.
  • Blackout Basement: In Episode I, Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 2 has some sections without much light. Thankfully, Sonic carries a torch throughout the entire act. This becomes a non-issue if the player unlocks Super Sonic.
  • Bonus Stage: The Special Stages. In Episode I, there's the rotating mazes, which now play just like Cameltry (you control the maze's rotation and there's a time limit). Episode II features the half pipe challenges often used in other Sonic games.
  • Boss-Only Level:
    • E.G.G. Station Zone consists of a single Act where Sonic goes against the four preceding bosses, and then the actual final boss, a rematch against the Death Egg Robot.
    • Death Egg Mk.II Zone is similar, though it has two Acts; the first consists of an extended boss fight against Metal Sonic, and the second is a separate boss fight, Egg Heart.
  • Boss Rush: E.G.G. Station Zone pits Sonic against the four previous bosses in Episode I with half health, but they go into pinch mode after one hit.
  • Boss Subtitles: Shown in the Acts' intro screens, even for non-boss Acts.
  • Casino Park: Casino Street Zone.
  • Cliffhanger: Beat E.G.G. Station Zone after collecting all 7 Chaos Emeralds in Episode I. A silhouette of Metal Sonic appears as soon as Eggman comes out of nowhere in his Egg Mobile, which will make his boss appearances in Episode II.
  • Combination Attack: An available action in Episode II is a combination Spin Dash with Sonic and Tails.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The final boss for Episode I and the background that accompanies it is a giant throwback to Sonic 2.
    • The blue spin wheels from Marble Garden Zone appears in Sylvania Castle, and the entire Sky Fortress Zone is one big nod to Sky Chase and Wing Fortress.
    • The intro scene to Episode Metal begins in Stardust Speedway's bad future, complete with a CD-style Zone title card.
  • Continuity Snarl: Episode Metal may have retroactively added one to the series. The game explicitly points out that Metal Sonic was left abandoned for a long time on Little Planet after he was defeated on Stardust Speedway, and wasn't revived by Eggman until now. Problem is, Metal Sonic makes several other appearances in the classic-era spinoff games (i.e. Sonic the Fighters, Sonic Triple Trouble, Sonic Drift) and as per word of Sega staffer Aaron Webber, "Everything is canon." Two possibilities are that those games are in the same Alternate Continuity as Sonic Mania, or that they simply take place after the events of Sonic 4, ignoring the modern artstyle carried over from the last episode.
  • Credits Medley: In both episodes, in a similar vein as the Genesis titles.
  • Crosshair Aware: During Episode I's final boss fight.
  • Cut Short: A third episode was planned as a way to round out Sonic 4 as a trilogy much like the original 16-bit games — provided one considers Sonic 3 & Knuckles to be one full game instead of two separate ones. Lower than expected sales and critical reception of the first two episodes caused Sega to cancel Episode III.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: The beginning of Episode Metal heavily implies that the Metal Sonic race in Sonic CD took place in the Bad Future.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Episode I's engine is based on Sonic Rush (and by extension, the DS version of Sonic Colors), which threw off quite a number of fans used to the more momentum-based physics of the Genesis games.
  • Digitized Sprites: The first episode uses these, with a cel-shaded artstyle meant to evoke the classic games, while the second episode upgrades these to full 3D models.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: The name of Mad Gear Zone Act 3, Impending Doom. It fits.
  • Down the Drain: Lost Labyrinth, Act 3. Oddly, the only underwater level in Episode I (excluding the first half of the level's boss).
  • The Dragon: Metal Sonic is this to Eggman in Episode II.
  • Easter Egg: During the ending to Episode I, you can make Sonic jump and collect some rings. If you get them all, Sonic will either do his winpose from Sonic 1, Sonic 2 or turn Super, depending on how many Emeralds and Rings you got.
  • Eternal Engine: Mad Gear Zone in Episode I, Oil Desert Zone in Episode II.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Mad Gear Zone Act 3, big time.
  • Expressive Ears: Both Sonic and Tails have these in their Idle Animations. Sonic's ears flick with irritation at being kept waiting, while Tails' move about when he's sleeping. Their ears also droop in disappointment if they fail to get a Chaos Emerald in the Special Stages.
  • Flight: Tails in Episode II. He can pick up Sonic and fly him across huge gaps but gets tired after a while.
  • Foreshadowing: The ending to Episode I with 7 Chaos Emeralds has this. After Sonic leaves, Eggman appears onto the screen, laughing as he reveals a darkened silhouette of Metal Sonic. Guess who comes back in Episode II?
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Like the Genesis games, every level has a ten minute time limit, and reaching that limit causes you to lose a life and sends you back to the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, the game has a tendency to start the timer at 09:59:99 when you restart, with the result that you die instantly, again. Generally the timer resets to 00:00:00 after that, so you just end up losing two lives... but sometimes it doesn't, and you get locked in an infinite loop which will rapidly eat up all your extra lives unless you reset the console.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss:
    • The boss of Mad Gear decides to do this.
    • Metal Sonic does this twice in Episode II.
  • The Goomba: Motobugs return in Episode I, while in Episode II, they are succeeded by Fullboar.
  • Giant Scrap Robot: The third boss of Episode II is a giant mecha made by Dr. Eggman of the scrap scattered around the area.
  • Green Hill Zone: Splash Hill Zone is a direct throwback to the trope namer, being a verdant tropical island with little in the way of hazards.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The console version of Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 2 seems to have sent many running to YouTube with its torch puzzle. Once you figure out what each torch does, it's much easier, but until then, it can be very frustrating. Act 3 has the spiked water chamber, which some fans consider to be this game's Barrel of Doom.
    • The "Metal Sonic Falls" achievement. Those cannonballs Metal Sonic shoots at you in Sky Fortress Zone Act 1? Yeah, you can hit him with those.
  • Gusty Glade: Oil Desert Zone Act 1.
  • Hailfire Peaks: Most of the levels in Episode II combine different tropes: Sylvania Castle is Big Fancy Castle + Bubblegloop Swamp, White Park is Amusement Park + Slippy-Slidey Ice World, Oil Desert is Shifting Sand Land + Eternal Engine, Sky Fortress is Levels Take Flight + Remilitarized Zone.
  • Helpful Mook: Bubbles is the unintentional version. Rows of them help you to go to cross pits, as well as provide an instant boost in score.
  • He's Back!: A villainous variant appears in the secret ending of Episode I with a brief silhouette of Metal Sonic.
  • History Repeats: Metal Sonic tries to kill Sonic by goading him into a race, beat him to the finish line and trick him into running into an electrified door. Apparently, he didn't learn from Stardust Speedway.
  • Idle Animation:
    • In the iOS version of the game, if Sonic stands still for a few seconds, he'll pull out an iPod and dance to the level theme.
    • In Episode Metal, Metal Sonic will look around, apparently to see just where you went. If he stands still long enough, he'll glare at the screen.
  • Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: Present in Mad Gear Zone.
  • Indy Escape: Short segments in Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 1.
  • Infinite 1-Ups: Casino Street Zone Act 2 gives you plenty of chance to rack up extra lives.
  • Internal Homage: There are a lot as Sonic 4 was developed with the intent of replicating the feel and gameplay of the Genesis games.
  • Interquel:
    • Sonic 4 canonically takes place after Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but before Sonic Adventure, placing it between the "classic" and "modern" eras.
    • Episode Metal is one for the two episodes, explaining how Eggman revived Metal Sonic after his demise in Sonic CD.
  • Kaizo Trap: You will be sobbing by the end of E.G.G. Station Zone if you fall into this one.
  • Last Ditch Move: The final boss in Episode I has one.
  • Law of 100: Lives goes to 999 now, since one Episode I achievement requires you to grind out triple-digit lives (mainly through Casino Street Zone Act 2).
  • Left Hanging: At the end of Episode II, Little Planet floats away with the Death Egg Mk.II still around it. Since there'll never be an Episode III, it's probable that this plot thread will never be resolved and instead be forgotten about.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Both the Wing Fortress and Death Egg Mk.II fall victim to this. Appropriately, the end boss of the latter is shaped like a heart.
  • Loose Canon:
    • Sonic 4's story was Cut Short and is almost never referenced by other media, and it's unclear if Mania, itself also a sequel to the classic games, has replaced it in official canon or not.
    • The island in Sonic 4 was given the name "Mirage Island" by David Frisk, a writer for the Sonic fansite Sonic Retro, who was given the blessing by Aaron Webber, the social media manager for the Sonic franchise. It's unclear if "Mirage Island" has been officially accepted as canon or not.
  • Marathon Boss: The final battle of the game at E.G.G. Station will take some time. It's made longer by the fact after some hits, Eggman becomes invincible to direct contact unless you hit him with something else first.
  • Minecart Madness: The mobile version of Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 2.
  • Mirror Boss: Metal Sonic at the end of Death Egg Mk.II Zone Act 1, even more so than the original Metal Sonic race.
  • Motion Blur: The background directly behind Sonic gets blurry when he's running at top speed.
  • Musical Nod:
    • Part of White Park Zone Act 2's music is based off of Twinkle Park theme, "Pleasure Castle", a song that composer Jun Senoue previously worked on. Twinkle Park also had a roller coaster gameplay element as the Pleasure Castle section opens. Not only that, but "Pleasure Castle" was a reworked version of an unused song from Sonic 3D Blast.
    • The soundtrack for both games uses the same drumkit as Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You can catch a bit of Metropolis Zone's opening snare in the theme of Oil Desert Zone Act 1.
    • The intro to Episode Metal has traces of both "Sonic Boom" and "Sonic ~ You Can Do Anything", the US and JP/EU main themes of Sonic the Hedgehog CD.
    • Episode I's default boss music is a remade version of an unused theme found in a Sonic 3D Blast prototype.
    • The race against Metal Sonic in Death Egg Mk.II Zone Act 1 is set to a Sonic 4-style remix of "Stardust Speedway 'B' Mix".
    • Lost Labyrinth Zone, particularly Act 1, has segments in it that sounds like Sky Troops.
    • The Episode I Special Stage and Episode II Final Boss music are based around the music of their original incarnations.
  • Nintendo Hard: The final Special Stages in both Episode I and Episode II are about as close to impossible as you can get.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: After the boss is defeated, the Eggmobile is rather charred.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • Every Zone and every boss in Episode I is styled after a Zone and boss from one of the first two Genesis games. Splash Hill is based on Green Hill; Casino Street is based on Casino Night; Lost Labyrinth is based on Labyrinth; Mad Gear is based on Metropolis; and E.G.G. Station is based on Sonic 2's Death Egg.
    • Not as direct, but every Zone in Episode II is based on a fusion of Zones from the second and third games. Sylvania Castle is based on Aquatic Ruin and Marble Garden; White Park is based on Carnival Night and IceCap (the snowboarding section is a clear nod); Oil Desert is based on Oil Ocean and Sandopolis; and Sky Fortress is based on Sky Chase and Wing Fortress. The Death Egg appears for a third time (this time called Death Egg mk.II), but is again different to Sonic's previous visits. The final battle with Metal Sonic, whilst taking place in the Death Egg, is a throwback to his race in Stardust Speedway, complete with a remix of the original Stardust Speedway Bad Future song using Episode II's instruments. In addition, the opening cutscene for Episode Metal takes place in the site of Metal Sonic's defeat in Sonic CD, Stardust Speedway Zone 3, and even features the original title card for the zone used in that game (while the aesthetic is lifted from the Rival Battle in Sonic Generations).
    • Subverted with the boss fights in Episode II. Sylvania Castle's boss starts off with totem poles rising from the ground, making it seem like the fight will be similar to Aquatic Ruin's boss, only for Eggman to destroy the totem poles with a brand new machine. All the bosses from then on, barring the final race with Metal Sonic, have unique designs and attack patterns.
    • Meanwhile, Episode I's special stages are based on Sonic 1's, while Episode II's special stages are based on Sonic 2's.
  • Obvious Beta:
    • Episode I seems to be a justified example. It feels experimental; the programmers probably wanted to see what the average player would and wouldn't like in future installments.
    • This is the case for the Episode II Beta8; although it is virtually finished, it has an instant ring debug command and minor graphical errors, as well as tiny leftovers for an additional ending.
  • Old Save Bonus: Metal Sonic is playable if you purchased Episode II on the same platform as Episode I.note  Episode Metal is one redesigned Act from each of the four main Zones in Episode I in reverse order.
  • Ominous Obsidian Ooze: Oil Desert Zone is a remix of Oil Ocean from Sonic 2, complete with the lethal tarry environmental hazard.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Later Zones have puzzle areas which prove to be tricky.
  • Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: Present in levels with underwater sections. You touch the bubble to refill your air supply.
  • Pinball Zone: Casino Street Zone has giant pinball bumpers and controllable flippers.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Oil Desert Zone Act 3 has this, with the ground rising while you try to avoid being crushed by the ceiling.
  • Rolling Attack: In Episode II, Sonic and Tails can perform a combined version of this to break through obstacles they couldn't break through alone.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Lost Labyrinth and Sylvania Castle Zones.
  • Scenery Porn: There are some very detailed and animated backgrounds, particularly in Episode II, which ditches the pre-rendered 2D graphics in favor of true 3D graphics.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Oil Desert Zone in Episode II, complete with massive Sand Worm Badniks.
  • Shout-Out: Episode II's escape pods. They're a slightly more egg-shaped version of Saiyan pods. Them returning to Sonic's world is even a recreation of a scene from Dragon Ball Z.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Acts 1 and 3 of White Park Zone. Both involve swimming as well, but especially the third act.
  • Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: Mad Gear Zone has them.
  • Space Zone: E.G.G. Station Zone and Death Egg Mk.II Zone.
  • Super Mode: What happens when you get all of the Chaos Emeralds.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Underwater travel has returned, so this is a given. Super Sonic can now breathe underwater, where previously only Hyper Sonic could achieve this.
  • Temple of Doom: Lost Labyrinth Zone and Sylvania Castle Zone.
  • Timed Mission:
    • Like the classic Genesis games, you only have 10 minutes to make it through the level. Good luck on E.G.G. Station.
    • You are under a time limit in the Special Stages in Episode I.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action:
    • When Sonic and Tails do their tag team animations in Episode II, the entire game world, and the clock, stops and kindly lets them finish, making those moves much more useful in speedruns.
    • This is averted with Super Sonic, whose transformation doesn't pause the game.
  • Trick Boss: A habit of Eggman in these games. In particular, every Episode I boss appears to be a returning boss with absolutely no changes, but after a few hits Eggman unveils new tactics. See Turns Red for specifics.
  • Turns Red:
    • Each boss in Episode I starts out relatively simple, using a silly, cornball boss theme (which just happens to be an unused track from Sonic 3D Blast music). But once you've gotten far enough in the fight, the music changes to the faster-paced, aggressive second boss theme, and whatever machine Eggman is using starts fighting for real:
      • Splash Hill Zone's boss is the Egg Mobile-H from Sonic 1. Once Eggman takes enough damage he starts spinning the wrecking ball in a circle.
      • Casino Street Zone's boss is the Catcher Eggman from Casino Night Zone. Bash it enough and it rolls around the arena with two electric buzzsaws.
      • Lost Labyrinth Zone's boss starts out as the obstacle course from Labyrinth Zone, but when you reach the end you end up in a room where Eggman gets to control the walls. You have to predict exactly which walls will extend so you can hit him based on his movement.
      • Mad Gear Zone's boss is the Flying Eggman from Metropolis Zone, with the exception that hitting Eggman moves him forward, hitting the orbs does no damage to you, and hitting the clones does do damage to you. Upon being hit enough times, you enter a Mushroom Hill Zone boss-style chase, but Eggman throws the clones at you to halt you.
      • E.G.G. Station Zone runs through all 4 bosses' 2nd forms in a row. Make it to the end and you fight the final boss of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Death Egg Robot. After taking enough damage, sirens start going off and it starts going berserk, running around the room in a jerky fashion and firing its rocket punches at an angle. It also has electricity coursing around it due to the malfunction and you can get damaged by it unless you knock his rocket arms back at him. His final attack makes him fly everywhere and try to crush you under his immense weight, and if you don't hit him in time the floor will open and you will fall to your death. On top of all of that, if you're standing on the floor when the mech hits it, you will lose your footing and not be able to control Sonic until the floor crumbles. Have fun with that.
    • Episode II, in contrast, generally has each boss gradually pick up the pace as you attack it more:
      • Sylvania Castle's boss starts out as what looks like a giant plant swinging metal vine tentacles at you, which you have to have Tails carry you up to. Once you hit it four times, it grows two more tentacles to hit you with. After six hits, the tentacles stop attacking you and act as energy conduits for a Wave-Motion Gun that Eggman aims in a circle around the arena.
      • Metal Sonic in White Park normally attacks by rolling at you, but as you hit him, he gains two more attacks: throwing lightning bolts at you that you have to get around and pounding holes in the track you have to jump over or suffer instant death.
      • The scrap metal mecha in Oil Desert starts dropping shipping containers on you faster as you hit it. After two or three hits, it drops boxes with spikes on top, and after five or six, crates of dynamite start falling.
      • Metal Sonic's jet in Sky Fortress will start to attack with its lasers more frequently, and sometimes it goes to the bottom of the screen where you can't hit it. At the end of the fight, the fortress launches a bunch of missiles at you that you have to dodge so you can get close enough to boost into and finish the boss.
      • The platforms in the final boss start to be electrified more as you hit Eggman. At around four hits, he gains an orange shield that you have to team roll through, along with a singularity attack that, if you're too slow in hitting him, will suck you in and not only throw you against the wall to hurt you, but it will also make all the rings disappear.
  • Underwater Ruins: Lost Labyrinth Zone. Sylvania Castle Zone also contains slight elements of this.
  • Under the Sea: White Park Zone Act 3 mostly takes place in an underwater ice cave.
  • Unwinnable by Design: The Steelions in White Park Zone Act 3 start creating large chunks of ice the moment they spot Sonic. Towards the end of the Act, they're deliberately placed to completely obstruct Sonic's path, making it impossible to proceed further (even with the powerful Rolling Combo or using Super Sonic) and your only option to let Sonic drown and try again. Since these Steelions are located in a narrow corridor and are already facing the direction where Sonic would emerge, the only way to get through this area is to run past the Steelions' range of ice before they finish (or defeat them before the ice starts forming, which is much harder), easier said than done as there are so many of them. And it's underwater.
  • Villain Protagonist: Metal Sonic and Episode Metal, respectively.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sonic and Tails defeat the Egg Heart! Yay! The Death Egg Mk.II is exploding! Double yay! But Little Planet is now drifting in space, and still encased in metal. Um... Not yay?
  • Wheel o' Feet: Sonic.
  • When All Else Fails, Go Right: It's a sequel to the classic Sonic games.
  • Wrap Around: The end of Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 3 has a room which loops vertically infinitely.

Alternative Title(s): Sonic 4

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