Review by SSJ6Gohan
"It seems that Sonic has a split personality."
With the release of the new hedgehog engine, Sonic Unleashed takes our speedy hero into a new realm of fast platforming. Various reactions have arisen to this change, as well as the introduction of a "werehog" form that shifts the game into a more freelance adventure with hand-to-hand combat. Apparently the X-box 360 and PS3 have a different version of this game compared to the Wii, but I will rate the Wii version on its own merits. Let's begin.
Gameplay - What The Player Does
Day stages: When the sun is up, sonic is his usual rambunctious self. Each stage flings him forward after a countdown and your goal is to reach the goal as fast as you can. To do so you must swerve around tight turns, enemies, and various other obstacles in the environment. Observant players will find that each stage has many different routes and can combine them for the most effective time attack, or investigate them for secret items. Most stages have side-scrolling sections for a more retro feel - though it reminds me more of the Sonic Rush series than anything else. The stages are actually quite challenging, but not in a frustrating manner like past sonic 3D games. Eggmanland especially will require a quick wit, a steady control, and an observant eye to make it out alive. Hardcore gamers will aspire to get all s ranks which are not a walk in the part to get.
Night stages: When the sun goes down, so does Sonic's energetic nature. He shifts into a "werehog" with the odd ability of stretchy arms (perhaps a tribute to the rabbit character involved in the making of Sonic?) to attack enemies with or swing from ledges or poles. It's rather akin to the latest Tomb Raider games in its level design - adventurist, mostly linear, but with careful watching hidden routes will be uncovered. The werehog searches for rings (which fill his health meter), dark gaia force (his "exp" which will level him up), and secret items. The werehog also faces several bosses, though these ones are not very difficult. Getting s ranks here means being fast while still getting many rings and dark gaia.
What are these secret items I am mentioning? They are littered around the courses and will unlock concept art, music, movies, and "documents" (tips and some item locations) for the game. They also hold the key to getting secret missions, which you can unlock for each day and night stage. The missions are genuinely fun, but some are frustrating, like ones where you cannot break any pots in the path. I wish they would've spent more time making legit stages though, and less of these side quests.
You can also find items in the villages - the quest part of the game has you flying between different nations, each one similar to some nation on Earth. The villages are not a big deal though, and are simple image-based point and click screens to talk to people.
There are also temples with some doors to unlock as you collect medals from the stages. These doors lead to puzzle rooms that have both of sonic's forms working together to get at the items in the area. This part of the game is a good way to get your brain working.
Controls - How the player does it
Controls are the best I've seen in a 3D Sonic game. I stuck with the default controls, which is the nunchuck and remote. It will be a challenge to get adjusted at first, because the physics are more realistic, but fortunately you have some tricks up your sleeve. One such trick is the drift, which you can use to kick it around tight corners. The homing attack is there as usual and is far more reliable than with past games. You can also slide or crawl under cracks and stomp through enemies or ice. Lastly is the boost mechanic, akin to the Sonic Rush games. Each boost takes up an energy bar, which you fill up by gaining rings. You can also level up several times, getting more energy bars. The boost lets you tackle obstacles in your path, of simply fly fast, especially if you hit a speed pad. This is slightly unresponsive, but I decided to start twirling the remote and that works pretty well.
Length - How Long The Player Does It
Unfortunately this is not a very substantial game. It is clear that some places were rushed, such as the African continent which only has a boss fight and no actual levels. Of course, should you decide to go for all the items and missions, that will take up much time. However, that is mostly because if you find an item, you must complete the level to keep it. I feel that this is a cheap way to increase game time, and you should be able to keep the item whenever you find it.
Graphics - How It All Looks
The environments are simply beautiful. Sometimes I get lost in staring at the backdrop, which makes Sonic look like a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. Sonic himself looks good in both forms, and so do the enemies. However, past that there is not much to see besides the temple areas which are not too catchy with their drab, dark rooms. The village being a simple assortment of images is also a bit of a let-down and, in my opinion, a waste of time.
Audio - How It Sounds
The music is very refreshing in this game. I was very pleased to hear all the orchestraic arrangement that went into this game, giving it the sense of an epic adventure. This does not mean that the music is all "classic" though. There are some rock tunes, and some jazzy ones too (usually for the night stages, which is fitting), and many of them are catchy even though I may not listen to these genres as much. The sound effects do their job. The sound of sonic as a werehog falling is almost frighting, actually.
Story - What Drives the Player?
It's another simple eggman take-over plot. That is, until the dark gaia gets the better of Eggman, which isn't until the end anyway. Nothing special to see here. I could see people either falling in love with Chip, a little red...mouse thing with wings, or getting fed up with him. Amy's presence is simply too much, and tails is not very useful either.
Replay - How much life does it have?
After getting everything I can't imagine too many people wanting to do it all over again. However, the day stages are very fun, so those might grant an extra play every now and then.
Title - Does it fulfill expectations?
Yes, it's sonic at his fastest and his strongest in his two different forms.
Overall they've done great work on the game engine. However, the night stages are not as fitting for our blue hero, and there are about 3 night stages to every day stage. If they were to make more day stages, and maybe make an online mode, that would make things more interesting. Things are bound to go up from here, either way.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/20/09
Game Release: Sonic Unleashed (US, 11/18/08)
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