My relationship with Sonic dates back nearly 20 years. Things were great in the early days; we ran through the fields and thwarted a mustachioed mad man’s evil plans together. But after a few years of bliss we hit rocky times; Sonic experimented with 3D and hit rock bottom. This trust-shattering downward spiral continued for almost 15 years, but now Sonic has promised change. Is the blue blur’s return to fidelity and 2D enough to reignite the blissful old flame? Yes, but some of the magic has faded.

Sonic 4 sets the tone with a fitting tribute to Green Hill Zone. The hedgehog tears across the lush green environment, trailing vivid blue streaks that evoke fond 16-bit memories. Treks through casino, water, and factory-themed levels not only show off the game’s gorgeous visuals, but also serve as breezy remixes of the best Sonic levels.

Each level is packed with familiar enemies, power-ups, and speed devil set pieces like loop de loops. The goal is still to blaze through these stages while raking in enough rings to play special stages and score seven chaos emeralds – a challenging but rewarding task. If you’ve played a classic Sonic game in the last year you may struggle with the way he controls now. While he accelerates fine without constant spin dashes, Sonic’s signature momentum wanes without a constant press of the analog stick. However, an efficient and fun new homing attack overshadows most frustration caused by the not-quite-apt controls.

This new title looks, feels, and sounds like an upgraded Sonic game. Easily digestible torch lighting puzzles and mine cart segments do well to break up the game’s pacing, but more variety would have been welcomed. Playing four stages within one level’s theme gets repetitive. Additional incentive for enduring frustratingly difficult special stages to collect arbitrary gems would have been nice, too – Super Sonic and a teaser ending just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Sonic does his best to make things like they used to be, but all the candlelit dinners and chaos emeralds in the world can’t hide the fact that we’ve both changed. It may not be the be all end all Sonic game that professed enthusiasts like myself have been waiting 15 years for, but Sonic 4 is a fun, frenetic download for fans and newcomers alike.