Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sonic Unleashed: UNLEASH THE KRATHOG!!!

2006-2007 is a part of a time most Sonic fans would rather forget. Sonic hit rock bottom at that point and his 15th anniversary was "celebrated" with disgust. There was Sonic Riders; which is probably the best Sonic game released at the time, Sonic Genesis; put it this way, a fan actually made a rom called "Sonic 1 on GBA done right", don't believe me? . SONIC the Hedgehog (more commonly referred to as Sonic 06), which is one of the two contenders for the title "Worst Sonic game ever made", Genesis being the other, and Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii early in its life cycle (and that should be all you need to know on it). That time period was so bad for the franchise that another bomb would kill the franchise permanently.

But once you hit rock bottom, there is no place to go but up. A brand new team came into Sonic Team and brought back to life the Hedgehog most called dead in the form of Sonic Unleashed. Three versions exist of the game, the version built from the ground up for the Playstation 2 (yes people were still developing games for the system) and Nintendo Wii, a version built for Mobile phones (which is the only version I haven't played) and the version I'll cover in this review being the version built for the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360. Unfortunately I don't currently have a copy for the Wii (though I have finished it) otherwise I'd review that version as well. With that out of the way, time to break the Sound Barrier (among other things), the world is our playground in this World Adventure.

From the very start of the game, you can see just how much the quality has improved, watch this (and trust me, even in HD its not much better)
And now watch this

You can instantly see the better quality, hell I could pass of Unleashed's opening as a mini movie, you wouldn't believe its from a video game unless you were told if that's all you saw. While it is a good opening for the plot, it doesn't give all the answers as to what the heck is happening does it?

Dr Julian "Ivo 'Eggman' Robotnik" Kintobor (there's a reason why he's just called Dr Eggman) has discovered a way to awaken the ancient monster Dark Gaia and intends to use the creature's power to build Eggman land, his ultimate empire. Using the power of the 7 Chaos Emeralds, "local hedgehog" Sonic the Hedgehog attempts to stop "the good doctor"'s plan (shout outs to those who know where those references come from) but is captured by a device that not only force Sonic out of his Super form, but also drain all the power from the Chaos Emeralds. Due to feedback from the release of Dark Gaia (which breaks the planet into 7 pieces) Sonic is infused with some of Dark Gaia's energy, forcing him into a Werehog form every time the sun goes down. After Sonic has successfully face planted onto the planet below (its a running gag), he stumbles across a creature who he referrers to as Chip (because Chip likes chocolate) and promises him that, while they try to fix the "giant jigsaw puzzle" that is the planet now, they will help him get his memory back because Chip has Amnesia. That's pretty much all I'm going to say on the matter, otherwise I'll be spoiling it. While it's not the most complicated story in the world, there are times when simplicity is better and this story is much stronger then the convoluted mess that is Sonic 06's plot (which would be a post of itself, its that complicated).

Sonic games are known for their speed, and this is no exception. The day time stages in Unleashed are a massive update, and I love it. Time for another comparison

06: now do note, this is a speed run


And this is the first two levels of Sonic Unleashed day time

Tell me, which one looks like its better to play? As you can see from the two videos, game play has changed dramatically. The Boost feature from Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure was introduced to replace the Spin Dash with this version being based on the amount of rings you have, more rings, more boost. Staple moves like the Stomp and the Light Speed Dash have been turned into upgrades found in the hubs worlds of some countries. A XP system has also been introduced, as you take out enemies, larger and larger "Chaos Shards" will appear and will give you experience that you can put into Sonic in some form (more on that in a sec)

But of course, there is the gimmick of Unleashed, the Werehog. When the night falls, Sonic will turn into a Werehog and game play will change significantly.

If you've ever seen or played a level from God of War, you'll feel at home here as it is God of War. The Werehog behaves the same as Kratos does, you've got your light attack, heavy attack, Quick time finisher, run button, jump, shield and your "Unleashed" bar which when in use, doubles your attack power. Rings act as your health and will refill a portion of your health bar depending on the ring total and amount of health drained and most of the XP you get in the game will most likely go to the Werehog. The Werehog has upgrades for Combat, Strength, Health, Unleashed and Shield where as Hedgehog Sonic only has base Speed and Ring Energy (aka boost). Rings can be spent of souvenirs or food which gives Sonic more XP depending on the food in question. Souvenirs can be given to Professor Pickle (the games first rudimentary road block as you can't do anything without his say so) who will give you Sun and Moon Medals in exchange.

Where do I begin with the medals? In order to unlock new levels, you must find medals... and it slows the game to almost a grinding halt as you progress through the game. There are 200 of each in total and you need 120 sun medals and 80 moon medals (It could be the other way around though) to unlock the final levels of the game. While you can get enough by hunting for them in the night time levels, it is still a absolute pain. But not the worst aspect of the game. That title goes to the Tornado levels (all 2 of them). The Tornado is now Quick Time event the level, you do nothing in it and if your mind, like mine, has muscle memory mapped to the ABXY of Nintendo's layout, you will fail several times (I played the 360 version). I actively avoided Quick Time events as much as possible in the game because of muscle memory so this is more my problem then the games, I openly admit that.

Another common issue that fans have is Eggmanland, the last level of the game
And personally, while yes it is hard, its hard for a reason. Sonic Unleashed was going to be the last Sonic game if it failed, and for Eggman to have his ultimate victory, Eggmanland, and have it the hardest level in Sonic history makes sense. Eggman's won, of course this was going to be hard. Is it cheep at times? Yes but I've far worse in other Sonic games. It isn't my favorite level from Unleashed, I openly admit that, but it is in my Top 5 because its a rewarding difficulty, never unfair.

The soundtrack in Unleashed is amazing, one of my favorite, complete soundtracks (as in 90% of the soundtrack minimum) from Sonic games. While the battle theme for the Werehog will get annoying very quickly, the other themes in the game are a delight to listen to, with some of my favorites being the tracks for Holoska, Skyscraper Scamper Day, the themes for the Adabat stages and the battle theme for the final boss. Each of the tracks fit their levels well as they use instruments that have connections to the culture they're based on. As for the art style of the game, it doesn't go for the realistic approach like 06 did, instead going for a cartoony, yet detailed art style that really works. Its a style that I think works for the franchise as it progresses as everything still has that "Sonic feeling" to it. I can imagine classic locals being in this world and it still making sense (not Souleana though).

Some believe this game to still be in the Dark age of Sonic, and while I can see why, I still deny it. Daytime Sonic levels are fun to play, Nighttime Sonic, while not as good is still fun. The Werehog is still playable and I'd rather play as the Werehog over characters like Silver (for clarification, 06 incarnation). This is what the series needed, a game that still says "Sonic games can still be fun". Its a reboot that still acknowledges what has happened before while giving Sonic a new attempt at life. Does it get boost heavy, yes, but I'm someone who is fine with the boost gameplay. Up next won't be a review though. Come Friday, there will be a new Top X list, my Top 10 Sonic Zones. Until then,

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