• Review: Sonic Unleashed



    Sonic Unleashed

    Developer: Sonic Team
    Publisher: Sega
    Platforms: PS3, XBOX 360
    Genre: Action-Adventure, Platformer
    Rating: Everyone
    Release Date: November 18, 2008

    Sonic sets out on an adventure of global proportions. The planet has been broken into pieces and Sonic must restore them and defeat the evil that lurks within. Sonic is faster than ever this time around. So get set to take off on this adventure.

    Presentation

    Eggman is up to no good once again, and we have Sonic ready to save the world as usual. With an armada of space ships hovering over the planet, Eggman laughs with glee as he prepares to wreak havoc on the defenseless planet, but something stop his laughter all of a sudden. On the hull of his greatest flagship is Sonic, more than ready for Eggman’s next challenge. Suddenly, dozens of Eggman’s badniks appear on the deck, and the hull’s cannons are ready to open fire on Sonic. Sonic quickly takes off with a burst of speed, rolling through the badniks and toppling them like they were bowling pins. He outsmarts the cannons in a lightning fast blue haze. Eggman decides to take matters into his own hands and drops aboard the main deck in one of his huge robots. He is soon able to grab hold of Sonic and plans to crush him when, suddenly, Sonic calls on the power of the Chaos Emeralds and transforms into Super Sonic. Because Super Sonic is too much to handle, Eggman quickly ditches the flagship and speeds his way to an outer space observatory.

    Sonic manages to catch up with him and Eggman drops to his knees; begging Sonic to give him another chance and pleading let him go. But we soon find out… this is a set up. All the gadgets and weaponry were for show and Eggman has Sonic exactly where he wants him. Eggman binds Sonic with electro pulses and is able to extract the Chaos Emeralds from him. Eggman focuses the power of the Chaos Emeralds into a laser and proceeds to fire an energy beam toward the planet. When he does the planet cracks and breaks apart. Here, the enemy from within the planet is revealed: Dark Gaia. Eggman plans to use Dark Gaia to completely destroy the world, and on its ashes he will build his ultimate city: Eggman Land.

    However, the planet-shattering weapon has given Sonic a side-effect and he begins to transform into a feral beast version of the Sonic we know. Eggman, having obtained everything he needed from Sonic, bids his adversary fare well. The air lock to the observatory is released and Sonic, in an attempt to hold on for dear life, is sucked into space, plummets towards the planet’s surface.

    Sonic’s biggest adventure is about to begin…

    Graphics

    Sonic Unleashed presents a great variety of graphics, and its to be expected in Sonic games since they usually display a large palette of colors. In traditional Sonic fashion, there will be various environments to explore from tropical beaches, sea-side villages, arctic wastelands, and metropolitan cities. The Chinese-themed level (Chun-Nan) in particular looks really good because Sonic will speed down an incredibly long stretch of road that resembles the Great Wall of China. Another neat feature is the motion blur you see when Sonic is running at his top speed. The way the game illustrates an intense rush of speed looks top notch on your TV.

    Sound/Music

    Sonic Unleashed, like all Sonic games before it, captures and uses the sounds that make it the game it is, such as the ring sound effects, and the spring pad sound effects. It wouldn’t be a Sonic games without these sound effects. Since Sonic has a speed boost in this game every time you run at Sonic’s maximum speed you’ll hear a sonic boom when Sonic breaks the sound barrier (yes, that’s why his name is Sonic after all).

    When Sonic went into three-dimensional gameplay, in terms of music, the earlier games (Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2) used a variety of music styles (Rock, rap, hip-hop, pop, and so on). Sonic Unleashed returns to a more traditional approach to music by subtracting lyrics. The result is some of the best music in the Sonic games in awhile and they really add more to the gameplay and graphics when it’s all combined into the final product.

    Gameplay

    Sonic Unleashed has two methods of gameplay: 1) You play as Sonic the Hedgehog for the day time stages and 2) You play as Sonic the Werehog for the night time stages. Both options must be played to reach the ending of the game.

    Levels of the game can be accessed through a world hub system. Each piece of the planet is similar to a foreign country almost, with no two alike, and each has their own action stages, but these action stages must be unlocked by collecting Sun and Moon medals scattered around both the world hub and action stages. The more of the Sun and Moon medals you have means you can access more stages, even extra stages aside from the regular action stages.

    In day time stages, Sonic has speed on his side and he’ll be blasting from one end of the action stage to the other as fast as he can. Sonic Unleashed features three-dimensional action stages for the day time stages and periodically there will be a shift into two-dimensional gameplay. This is a throwback to the old side-scrolling Sonic games on the Sega Genesis.

    While in the day time stages, Sonic will have a variety of moves to try out. He’ll have his trusty homing attack, air stomp, wall jump, he can slide into his enemies, and grind on rails. The new abilities Sonic has is the speed boost and Sonic drift. By collecting rings, Sonic will increase the boost meter. Even if the meter is partially full Sonic can get a huge burst of speed. This speed boost lasts as long as you have energy in the meter by collecting rings. The speed boost is also continuous, meaning you can hold down the button and Sonic will keep boosting without slowing down. You can also plow straight through enemies without taking damage. Since this ability requires rings to power it, any rings you pass by while boosting will attract themselves to Sonic like a magnet. This means it’s possible to get through an action stage boosting nearly the whole time. Sonic drift allows Sonic to... well… drift when you come across sharp corners. It’s hard to control actually, slippery even, but it looks cool when you land it right. rest assured, there aren’t many sharp turns in the game.

    Every now and then there will be action sequences that require you to press a series of buttons to make it from one area to another. This typically happens when Sonic speeds and launches himself off of a ramp. You must press the buttons in the correct order and in time to succeed. Failing to do so either results in Sonic falling down a hole and losing a life, or you can miss an easy shortcut and have to go the long way, or land you in a bed of spikes.

    Completing the action stage will award you a rank, anything from A to an F, but the best rank you can get is an S. if you’re all about speed running and getting a great score, here’s a hint on how to get that S rank: rings. Rings are your best friend. Additional points are awarded for the rings you collect. Losing them is the worst thing you could do, costing you the points to put you in that high rank area.

    Sonic the Werehog relies on brute strength in an absence of speed. This style of gameplay is pretty much a three-dimensional “beat ‘em up”. Dark Gaia’s minions and Eggman’s badnkis are the enemies that Sonic will face in the night time stages. Sonic may move slowly but pressing the right shoulder button allows him to sprint on all fours, faster than you think he could in his beast form. He can also bring up a shield that temporarily prevents enemy attacks.

    Pressing the attack buttons in quick succession will send a volley of attacks at your enemies, mainly close quarters combat. You can also pick up objects within the environment, including enemies, and throw them at your foes. The larger Dark Gaia minions you face, including Eggman’s badniks, can be taken down in a nice visual display. This can be done when you weaken them enough. First you must grab them, and then press the random order of buttons as they appear on-screen to deliever a cool looking final blow. Pressing the wrong buttons, or failing to press them in time, means that your enemy can counter your attack.

    Normally Sonic must have at least one ring on him to stay alive, but Sonic the Werehog uses a life bar that depletes if he’s attacked. Sonic can restore health by collecting rings, as well as special rings that restore more health. Other items are scattered throughout the action stages to power up Sonic’s melee attacks.

    Sonic the Werehog can also “unleash” his powerful aggressive side when the “unleash” meter fills on the screen. His attacks and speed greatly increase in power but only for a limited time. Defeating more enemies will increase the Unleash meter again for another use.

    All in all, there’s more ground to be covered in the night time stages, this means that Sonic will spend a little more time making his way to the goal. The beat ‘em up approach to these stages is fun actually even though it’s new to the Sonic games. I found no real problems with these actions stages, just good fun.

    As both Hedgehog and Werehog, Sonic will receive experience for each enemy defeated by collecting the yellow XP that they drop. At the end of each action stage (day and night) this XP can be spent to upgrade both Sonic’s abilities. Sonic the Hedgehog has two abilities to upgrade, the speed boost (Ring energy), and the actual speed that Sonic can run… yeah, you can make Sonic run faster than he already does. Sonic the Werehog can upgrade his health bar, earn more attack combos, earn more shield capacity, and increase the duration of the “Unleash” attack.

    Both Sonic’s will also encounter bosses that need to be defeated in order to restore power to the seven Chaos Emeralds. That means Eggman and Dark Gaia’s strongest forces will personally make an effort to stop Sonic from succeeding.

    Lasting Appeal

    Even when you finish the game, there’s plenty more to be done. One of the things about the game that gives it some replay value is the challenge stages. Each world hub will have numerous stages besides the standard action stages. Most of these challenge stages will require you to look before you leap. These stages are not as long as the typical ones but they are fun to play through.

    There are also hotdog vendors around each of the world hubs who also offer numerous challenges for Sonic to complete, such as making it to the goal within a certain amount of time or go through a stage without losing a single life. So why hotdog vendors? You don’t know Sonic if you haven’t figured out his favorite food is chili dogs.

    Secretly hidden throughout each action stage, and world hub shops are video tapes and CDs that allow you to playback some of the game’s cut scenes and music. They’re cleverly hidden in the action stages, and some require you to pull off some tricky moves to get them, so look out for those opportunities if you want to collect them all.

    Conclusion

    Either you like it or you don’t. A lot of other reviews have given this game a poor rating because of the inclusion of the Werehog stages. Since when do gamer’s have complete control of a game’s development? That doesn’t happen much, but you play a game and judge it because it’s either fun or not fun, not because of what you hoped it would be. You play the hand that was given to you. I don’t judge games because it didn’t do what I imagined it would and that’s beside the fact that I’m good at Sonic games... yes… I said it.. Sonic Unleashed is a totally fun game. I mean it. The day time stages is the fastest Sonic gameplay around right now (even matched with Sonic Colors, which you can see my review for in the Reviews section). The Werehog levels were enjoyable and you know what? The gameplay isn’t hard. In fact, Sonic Team had a good design. It’s just a matter of what floats your boat. Sure Sonic has had some questionable games in the years past, but Sonic Unleashed changed that, at least with the day time levels. Since this is an older game now, Sonic Team listened to feedback. Sonic Colors was the next entry in the series and it completely plays like the day time levels of Sonic Unleashed. This game isn’t much now so I would recommend you pick it up for a good time. Sonic is meant for dizzying speed, and if you’re like me that’s what you want in a Sonic game, and that’s what you get in Sonic Unleashed!

    Score
    8.5/10




  • Review Scale

    Score 10- Flawless Victory: A score not handed out to every game. Games earning this rare score sit at the very pinnacle of excellence. These games act as the examples for which all others should be measured with. They are instant classics from the beginning. These games not only deliver what was expected of it, but also exceed the player’s expectations. The game’s features are innovative and original. No game is without its absolute flaws, but the finished product you bring home surpasses the anticipation the game has formed. A day one buy is a must. The game you hold in your hands with this score is a video game jackpot.

    Score 9 - 9.5- Outstanding: Games earning scores such as these absolutely must be played. Games that achieve this high ranking do so because they define the genres that they are in. Flaws are few and barely noticeable. Features seen in the game have been renovated to provide something new and fresh. The story, gameplay, graphics, and lasting appeal are all fantastic and is reason enough to bring the game home and to enjoy with family and friends. Every penny you spend on the game is so worth it.

    Score 8 - 8.5- Great: Any flaw the game may possess is overshadowed by its fun factor. These games would be great for gamers to play. These great games appeal to gamers more and more outside its normal player base because of what it brings to the table.

    Score 7 - 7.5- Good: Flaws do exist in these games, but the positive features of the game can counterbalance the flaws. Additionally, players who are predisposed to liking a game of a particular series or genre with this score should enjoy the game. These are in no way bad games, and much fun can be had with them. An overall good game is worth taking a look at, whether you are willing to buy the game or rent it first. That or you can also wait for the game to reach a good price.

    Score 6 - 6.5- Decent: Games falling into this category may suffer from numerous flaws (for example, graphics or gameplay), but are still worth playing. Granted, the player should be aware that a game with these scores may not guarantee them full satisfaction.

    Score 5 - 5.5- Average: An average game is one in which a game’s features are neither good nor completely terrible. Instead, the finished product is manageable. Little has been done to hold the player’s interest. If anything, rent this game before you consider buying it so that you can at least get a feel for the game’s overall experience.

    Score 4 - 4.5- Poor: Games falling into this category may only keep gamers entertained for a short while. While the game may seem enjoyable for moments at a time, it can quickly grow old and may never be revisited again. The game’s overall function is lacking in quality and may not hold the player’s attention for long. The game leaves little or nothing else to return back to.

    Score 3 - 3.5- Bad: If any positive qualities about a game in this category exist, it is not enough to redeem the game for its shortcomings. Sure you may find yourself playing it, but for how long? You will wind up not giving the game a second glance.

    Score 2 - 2.5- Horrible: Games such as these may not be totally unplayable, they nearly are. Additionally, they may lack, or greatly suffer in, the fundamental functionality of the software as a whole. The game simply does not come close to meeting industry standards at the time of its release.

    Score 1 - 1.5- Appalling: Gamers should avoid this game at all costs. The game was clearly not ready to make its way to store shelves in its status. Save your money and find something else. See it in the bargain bin? No! Stay away! Keep moving and look for something else.