Review by Myviewing
"I Am Vengeance. I Am the Night. I... Am... Sonic?"
To say that Sonic the Hedgehog has been having a bit of a decline in recent years is a bit of an understatement. Post Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic has endured some questionable spin-offs such as the Riders series and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, as well as losing a lot of credibility after Sonic Next-gen, having some wonder if the hedgehog is finally running his course. With the release of Sonic Unleashed however, many consider this to be the blue blur's last chance to win over the gaming audience. So to paraphrase Gametrailers, Is this the final nail in the hedgehog's coffin, or does he still have a few laps left in him?
The story in Sonic games after the Adventure series (Minus Sonic Chronicles) have usually ended up in one of two categories, great setting but poor execution (Sonic Next-gen and Shadow the Hedgehog) or just being downright cheesy and not having a chance at achieving greatness (Sonic Rivals and Sonic Riders). Sonic Unleashed while not downright terrible falls under the later category. The story begins with Sonic storming Eggman's fleet in space and it seems like Sonic is once again ready to kick Eggman into the next dimension. All of a sudden though, Eggman uses his new machines to absorb Sonic's power as Super Sonic as well as the Chaos Emeralds and use it to split his world into seven pieces while at the same time awakening a beast at the center of the planet called Dark Gaia. A side effect of this is that Sonic is now transformed into a creature called a Werehog, a larger and more brutal version of himself but still maintaining his personality. When Eggman is done with him, he casts Weresonic down to Earth with the Chaos Emeralds with him. When Weresonic makes his touchdown, he finds the drained Chaos Emeralds and a creature known as Chip who has lost his memory and has a great desire for deserts. Sonic now begins a journey as he attempts to reinvigorate the Chaos Emeralds and discover what kind of creature Chip is. The story isn't head banging awful, but won't win many fans especially considering Chip's presence, officially the worst and most annoying character in a Sonic game.
The graphics are both artistically different and technically higher than previous console iterations of Sonic games. The artistic level in Sonic Unleashed is similar to that of Pixar's latest films such as Ratatouille, which if you always thought Sonic would look better in, this is definitely an answer to your desires, though some such as myself might miss the more realistic setting. The graphics, considering this to be a Wii game, are of course going to be inferior to the HD versions, but even that being the case, you probably wouldn't know that if you weren't told so. Whereas most developers tend to make a graphically inferior PS2 version of their game and build the Wii version up from that, Sega actually put in some effort in the Wii version, showing some bright stages and a frame rate of 30 frames per second. When facing the character models up close and personal though, polygons can be seen, but the game doesn't allow the graphics to destroy the game, such as frame rate problems or texture loading.
Sonic games have never failed to impress in the sound department, and while the same can be said for Sonic Unleashed, it's not quite as strongly the case here. In terms of music, Unleashed takes a new turn by replacing the 80's rock music with a more calming and more in synch with the levels style. Some might miss this style, again such as myself, while some might enjoy this more. There aren't quite as many memorable tunes in Unleashed as there were in previous games, with the exception of Apostas's stage music, Spagonia's stage music, and Endless Possibility, but there's sadly no Crush 40 main theme. Despite the absence of the music many enjoyed, the music overall fits Sonic Unleashed in both the daytime stages and nighttime stages. I have a theory when it comes to the sound factor in games when Sega is at the helm, Sega uses a scale that shows the quality of the sound factor regarding voice acting and music. Usually Sega games either have excellent voice acting but not too memorable music (Yakuza) or downright terrible voice acting but with awesome music (Sonic Next-gen). Even though some exceptions come to mind, Sonic Unleashed is in this balance since while the music isn't quite that memorable, the voice acting has surprisingly improved from the previous versions. That's right, Jason Griffith is no longer a terrible voice actor and has actually improved! The rest of the voice acting is also pretty decent coming from the NPCs, and Tails is just tolerable now since he's still missing his manhood. Of course there is still a big blemish in the voice acting's decency, and that's Chip's voice actor. Despite this, the voice acting is certainly overall better than most Sonic games prior and won't cause your ears to bleed anytime soon.
So Sega has the sound and graphics covered well, but how about the gameplay? Well this is where we truly decide if the beloved hedgehog still has a pulse. The good news is that you can only play as Sonic in this game, which is something that many have been hoping for in a long time from a Sonic game. There are still Werehog levels which provide something different from usual Sonic gameplay, but its not a broken as previous attempts at variety have been.
Sonic's stages are ones that bring Sonic back to his speed going roots. They're quick and exhilarating in terms of speed, and there's not much platforming to do, but that's something of an answer to prayers that many have been sending. In Unleashed, you speed through the stages and attack robots that get in your way, and a speed boost has been included to go even faster than you could imagine. Sonic is able to drift to make sharp turns while maintaining current speed can do side steps to quickly step out of the way of enemies. And if you're that big of a nostalgia freak, the 2-D perspective that was promised in the trailers is brought in as well and seamlessly transits from 2-D to 3-D.
The controls also manage to work when behind the blue blur's wheel and the moves always register to your controller's commands. Just like other Sonic games though, the camera is certainly a bit of a problem, but it's really more the case because Sonic Unleashed is meant to be played by having Sonic constantly going in a forward motion, otherwise he'll feel odd to control. The Wii remote and nunchuk control scheme is the initial setup when controlling the hedgehog, but unlike Secret Rings prior, the controls feel gimmicky and wont feel like they work all that well. You can however use the classic controller or the Gamecube controller if you find the initial setup problematic, and these setups are recommended.
Then of course there are the night time stages which stars Weresonic and the beat-um-up sections that so many have despised from the start. Weresonic is slow when he walks, but you can run by tapping the control stick twice. In general, the Werehog stages are just like any other beat-um-up you've played but with some platforming sections. The nighttime stages aren't all that long though, they're just frequently placed and will make you hope that more daytime stages come soon. You travel through the stages to beat up strange enemies and reach the goal ring to progress to the next level while some enemies are stronger than others. There's also a decent amount of depth to the fighting since gathering orbs called Dark Gaia Energy will help improve your power and bring out longer combos to make the beat-um-up sections feel more worthwhile. All in all, the stages aren't very inventive and some control issues can get in the way, but these stages alone are better than most shallow beat-um-ups you can play on the Wii (Looking at Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire and Soulcalibur Legends).
And of course in tradition since Sonic Adventure 1, the final boss Dark Gaia is fought by going through a speed section and facing him one on one with Super Sonic. This is a great final boss and the remix of Endless Possibilities is truly the highlight of the music in the game. The boss is pretty tough, but it won't be too hard to beat him after a few tries.
So the final question is, is this game worth the purchase? If you're a Sonic fan whose been looking for a good Sonic game after many weak attempts, the good news is Sonic Unleashed is the answer to everything you could have wanted as long as you're willing to fight your way through the Werehog levels which aren't really all that bad as some haters have labeled it. If you haven't been following the blue blur for the last some years, you wont be making a mistake in checking this game out, but it might be more worth a rental to see if you like it first, then buy if you don't manage to beat it before the time given to you. Overall though, Unleashed is worlds better than previous Sonic games have been, and it's a sign that Sega might just be digging its way out of its mediocrity and making a comeback in the gaming world. Let's hope we can expect even more with the release of Sonic and the Black Knight in March next year.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/05/09
Game Release: Sonic Unleashed (US, 11/18/08)
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