Sonic Unleashed Review
January 18, 2009 by Jereme Puik
It seems like forever and a day since we’ve had a decent Sonic game that managed to fill us with fun racing through different levels and environments collecting rings and defeating the evil Dr. Eggman. There were several games that just didn’t work or have the right formula that made Sonic fun. Sonic Unleashed tries a different approach. This time, while Sonic is more or less on his own, he is confounded with the task of re-organizing the world around him before it collapses into evil. Is Sonic Unleashed our savior in a world where Sonic could possibly be killed off when we least expect it?
It’s All about the Rings
Since Sonic was birthed on the Sega Genesis those many years ago, Sonic has always been about the rings, there’s no denying that. As long as you’re collecting rings and those emerald jewels to transform yourself into Super Sonic, I don’t think anyone has a problem with playing a Sonic game as simple as that. It’s when you try to expand him into something different and something that is not Sonic at all is where you run into problems. Several games ago before Sonic Unleashed hit the store shelves; there were titles like Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii) as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (360/PS3), which I’m sure a lot of you wouldn’t want to be reminded of.
What I’m getting at is that these past few Sonic games have moved off the beaten path that made Sonic such a lovable character. Now, it seems like he’s lost his wonder and charm. Sonic Unleashed shows a bit of brightness in certain areas, but doesn’t quite bring everything into full circle. The one thing that is boldly claimed about the game is it’s “Day and Night!” cycle. This turns Sonic Unleashed into a real time nightmare. The day and night cycle bring about different gameplay options that not only confuse matters, but slow down the overall tone of the game. It seems as if the night cycle has no affect on the day cycle of levels and story.
We can let one slip about Sonic Unleashed mostly because it brings back an old friend in Tails, which is about the only piece of nostalgia that Sonic Unleashed has to offer. The natural Sonic levels are well built and offer a dynamic camera angle that is able to transition smoothly between views while racing through the level. Each level offers its own challenges and your life is indicated by the amount of rings you collect. The one thing that was interesting was that Sonic Unleashed relied fully on the life system. Now this is a trick that makes sense for a Sonic game. The nice thing about dying is that you are able to restart at your nearest check point which is thankfully a nice sweep of the brow.
With the night cycle, Sonic transforms himself into a beastly werehog that was thanks to the transformation of the world around him presented by Dr. Eggman. The werehog increases Sonics’ strength overall but slows him down to a Sonic we no longer know. You end up making a friend who you will help try to regain his memory, which seems like an oddity for a side quest. The werehog “levels” really drag down what Sonic Unleashed could really pull off. Thankfully the night cycle doesn’t last very long and you are back into the classic Sonic. These levels are what make the Sonic game we’ve wanted to play. A nice blast of nostalgia is the plain ride you and Tails take to reach another confinement in the world. But, you’ll find more about that as you play through the game.
I would have to give some credit to the team over at Sega for bringing together a Sonic story that makes sense this time around. It only took them a couple of tries, but they finally managed to bring Sonic to light and a character that you care about in some ways.
As if you were playing the original Sonic games on your Genesis all those years ago, you can still get a good feel for Sonic Unleashed. It manages to use the unique character sounds and of course can’t forget those rings throughout each level. Sonic’s voice usually brings pain to my ears, but this time it was manageable for the most part. Turning into his beastly werehog at night turned everything upside down and messed with the consistency of the character in terms of care. The voice acting in general for the rest of the characters manages to keep one interested at least until the end of the game. The music overall sounds like your listening to something from Super Smash Brothers.
The opening cinematic for Sonic Unleashed is about as sharp as you can get with an opening story sequence for Sonic. It has all the nostalgia it needs to pump itself up for the rest of the game. After the opening cinematic, however, the consistency with its story is a bit shaky. The artistry of the level design for the day levels is intriguing considering the fact that it works. The camera movements keep up with the speed of the action in front of you but don’t seem to be too shaky. The Sonic Team should be given a pat on the back for giving Sonic his unique style back after so many miss-steps with previous games.
The one thing that Sonic has going for him is his blast of nostalgia throughout the day time levels. Night time seems a bit too far reaching and feels like filler. The werehog transformation does nothing to keep the game moving especially considering when you’re working on the side quest to help bring the world back to its original state. The day levels more or less feel as if you’re working towards something. I wish I didn’t have to classify each part of the game as day and night, but there is nothing else you can say bout it.
Sonic Unleashed is about as much of classic Sonic as you’re going to get. The Sonic team gracefully put together a game and storyline that puts Sonic in a decent realm of understandability. There are a few face palm moments but it’s few and far between. Whether we think Sonic is dead or not is unfortunately not our decision and Sega continues to try and bring the little blue hedgehog back into the spotlight that Mario so smoothly continues to ride.