Lone 'Coon Productions

Independant Creativity - the Best Kind

Majesty's Musings

Review: Sonic Unleashed (Wii)

Posted by supercomputer276 on October 17, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Everyone flips a coin; one side has a sun icon, the other side has a moon icon. Everyone else gets sun; I get moon.

 

Category: 1 Player Action/Platform

Developer: Sonic Team

Publisher: SEGA

Release: 2008

 

Sonic Unleashed is Sonic Team's latest attempt to grasp at straws with the character they're named after. The plot of the game is Eggman blowing up the planet into seven chunks to unleash the powerful Dark Gaia from the planet's core. As a result of the power unleash, Sonic transforms into a big hairy werewolf-esque monster whenever he's not exposed to sunlight. He then assists a small flying dog-like creature he names Chip who lost his memory while also working to restore the power-drained Chaos Emeralds and repair the planet.

 

Many critics speak highly of the day stages. To quote the review from IGN: "These stages, which regularly shift from 2D to 3D perspectives, are executed so well, in fact, that I feel they not only successfully capture the frantic pace and addictive play mechanics of the long-gone classics, but surpass them." A short time later the reviewer declares the day stages "undeniably great".

 

Excuse me? Are we both playing the Wii version here? I'd hate to debunk IGN's review given how much respect I have for the site, but the fact that they say the Chaos Emeralds were scattered when Sonic actually has them for the entire game (just drained of power) leads me to believe they weren't paying as much attention as they should. There's also the point that there technically aren't more night stages than in other versions; each continent has one big night stage just as big as the day stages; it's that the Wii version splits them into managable chunks in the form of acts (this is more apparent in the later continents, such as the jungle one and EggmanLand, where you can see the beginning of the next act just past the Goal Ring). Topping it all of, contrary to their claims, rankings in day stages are based on time alone and not how many rings; that's the night stages they're talking about. But I'm digressing; I'm reviewing Sonic Unleashed, not bashing IGN for not paying attention to detail.

 

Sure, the night stages have their problems, but at least they're playable. It is impossible to steer precisely or even decently when going at Sonic's high speeds in the 3D segments; that's the problem Sonic has had since going 3D, period. This might not seem like much of a problem during the main runs, but some missions, such as the ring-gathering ones, which are required by the game to get the day half of the continent's Planet Tablet, require this God-level skill. Maybe it was just the second-long input delay I had due to my new TV, but that still doesn't mean the stages aren't aggrevating as hell. They had the whole lane-shifting thing; if the day stages were entirely made of that like a combination of Secret Rings and a Guitar Hero highway, they might actually work. That's the 3D segments; the 2D ones are better, but not as interesting as they could have been; the only challenge seems to be holding the control stick in the right direction.

 

Contrapositively, the night stages suffer from a few problems, such as inability to control the camera (vital in the exploration parts of the night stages), trouble dashing and jumping when I wanted to, and Sonic running everywhere when I'm just slightly tilting the control stick (a problem in both types of stage), but the only that really bothers me (besides "werehog" literally meaning "man-hog" which Sonic already is) is that the Werehog is basically just Knuckles with noodles arms. Anyone remember him? The big red strong gullible guardian of Angel Island? The night stages were made for him! Sonic Team probably could've finally succeeded in saving Sonic if gameplay consisted between controlling Sonic, who would run the day stages like he does here, and Knuckles, who would take on the tougher platforming segments and brawl with enemies, instead of just having one guy do both (I am reminded of a Japanese folktale I read recently, The Happy Hunter and the Skilled Fisherman).

 

Turning to the parts in-between stages, I love the Gaia Gates. The concept doesn't fit the overall Sonic feel, but the concept of a series of interconnected hubs in general is pretty dang cool, and the day/night puzzle rooms in the side chambers that require some clever thinking to get bonus items and extra lives are the kind of thing that occupy well-made independant games (the parts where the game pauses just to let Chip tell you what is required to open the door could've been avoided by having that displayed above the door itself; it's a video game, after all). The towns themselves, well, I don't dislike them, but they don't really add all that much to the experience.

 

Making up for the slack of both types of stage are the boss fights. The boss fights during the day, against Eggman's massive machines, fix everything that's wrong with the day stages. Sonic automatically follows the path, allowing you to focus on fighting the boss. My main problem with these stages is the painful instant-kill series of jumping pads during the Egg Lancer battle (which was probably only a pain due to my input delay). The night boss battles are also pretty good, with my main complaint here getting stuck against nothing while trying to circle during the Dark Gaia Phoenix battle (which could've been solved by adding camera control); the final Werehog battle against the Egg Dragoon is just plain awesome and an actual joy to play (although my enjoyment may have stemmed off of finally clearing EggmanLand's day stage).

 

Overall, I walk on the dark side compared to everyone else. The night stages aren't Sonic, but they play well enough that the day stages pale in comparison. There's no outstanding glitches, just a few frustrating design choices that pull it down with the rest. Thankfully, however, they don't pull it as far as Sonic's other recent console titles. If Sonic Team can find where this game really shines, then they just might save Sonic yet.

 

Concept: 7 / 10

The story's decent, if seemingly retconning many past games in the series, and has a few interesting twists, but with only four classic characters in the whole game, period, the game seems to completely drown in humans.

 

Graphics: 8 / 10

Nothing impressive, but nothing bad. Everything looks pretty good.

 

Sound: 9 / 10

Music is appropriate and generally awesome (especially the Gaia Gate theme), and sound effects are good and appropriate. Voice acting is also good.

 

Playability: 5 / 10

Night stages have a few glitches, while day stages are just plain impossible in the 3D segments.

 

Entertainment: 4 / 10

The only thing that kept me playing this game when I crashed was my gamer pride. It has its good points, but it just falters most everywhere else.

 

Replay Value: medium low

There's plenty of unlockables and extra missions, but the joy of the unlockables (art, music, cinematics, and "documents") ultimately isn't worth the pain of collecting them all.

 

Overall Rating: 66%

Categories: Reviews

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