Paul Farrell

Review: Sonic Unleashed

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A Day and Night Adventure awaits everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog in this title, but is it as bad as people say?

After the huge failure of Sonic 06, the franchise has struggled to recover. One game that did kind of help to heal the wounds of 06 is Sonic Unleashed, one of my personal favourite Sonic games.

The story begins with Sonic assaulting Eggman’s fleet as per usual, although it’s good to see Sonic taking steps to prevent Eggman’s plans before they come to fruition and it’s clear that this mobilisation raised a few alarms, when Eggman intervenes himself, Sonic transforms into Super Sonic and begins to chase the madman to a space station where his fleet had presumably launched from. It looks like Sonic is victorious once again but, Eggman uses a new trap, one capable of containing Super Sonic, after removing the Chaos Emeralds from Sonic and draining them of their powers. Eggman then fires a huge blast toward the earth, unleashing a force long since dormant, Dark Gaia.

While Eggman focuses on his new victory, some of Dark Gaia’s energy bounces back into Sonic and combined with the energy of the chaos emeralds, causes Sonic to begin to change; his fur becomes more intense, his muscular density increases, he gains claws and fangs… Ultimately transforming into what people will eventually dub, the were-hog, or a werewolf hedgehog.

One thing I should mention, an immediate positive comes in the transformation from hedgehog to were-hog, although it seems fairly painful which could mean that the chaos emeralds could potentially have alternate effects, as when Sonic transforms into Super Sonic he experiences no pressure or pain. However, the were-hog transformation does seem a little painful, and he has no control over it, and I like these implications. Anyway, after Sonic becomes the were-hog, Eggman jettisons him out of the space station sending him down to earth along with the chaos emeralds.

Upon re-entering earth’s atmosphere, Sonic is temporarily stopped by an unknown green field before experiencing the first of his falls, get used to this because throughout the modern era, it’s a bit of a running joke – literally most games post 2006 involve Sonic face-planting at one point.

So after the ‘turbo dismount’ hedgehog edition, Sonic wakes up to find all seven emeralds drained of their power and some firefly looking guy, who he eventually calls Chip due to his love of sweet stuff, especially ice cream. Sonic eventually discovers that the entire planet is broken apart and that the seven continents are now disconnected from the core, so he must now travel to each of the seven continents and find that continent’s Gaia temple in order to return power to the Chaos Emeralds and restore the planet to its original state.

Overall, I feel that Unleashed has the best story, it’s effectively what I like to call a “world tour” one. Oddly enough, in Japan it’s called Sonic World Adventure, in addition to that, Chip is a great character. I think he’s a tad underrated, actually.

Gameplay wise, the game is divided into three sections. The first is the town portions, here you can interact with people or complete special missions. You could even do a little spot of shopping to either buy Souvenirs for Professor Pickle (who is the story hint character by the way) or buy food to either a) Give Sonic more experience or b) Improve your friendship with Chip (listen out for his pretty funny dialogue, too).

The stages themselves are divided between Night and Day. The Day stages are played with Sonic the Hedgehog, and they’re the standard get to the goal type, but what really helps is that the Day stages are all about Speed, and this is by far the fastest paced Sonic game ever. While Colours and Generations took some cues from this game, they don’t have the depth that Unleashed has, plus some of the Day stages are beautiful, which only adds to the appeal, going super fast through pretty levels means a good time, no?

The Night stages are played with Sonic the Were-hog and are more platform oriented, but they’re still fairly fast paced and can also be combat oriented. However, the combat is flowing and all the combos are useful, plus while playing as the Were-hog you can climb, grab and throw enemies and even use the Were-hog’s stretchy arms… Yeah, I don’t know how it works either but, meh, video game logic.

Bosses are also really good, Day Bosses are against Eggman and Night Bosses are against some of Dark Gaia’s monsters. Much like in games at the end of a boss or stage, you’re given a rank. In the Wii and PS2 versions, the ranks go from C to S, however in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, they go from E to S. Then when you get an E rank, the level clear music plays with literally all the wrong notes, only adding to the amount of wit the game has. It’s almost as if to say, well at least you tried champ!

As I said before, too, the levels are beautifully designed, and the soundtrack is a joy to listen to, especially Cool Edge Day and Rooftop Run Day. What helps is that they’re all very well designed, a little linear but hey, if it works then it works.

I personally have very few issues with Sonic Unleashed, my only gripe is that the PS2 and Wii versions are not as expressive as the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions, and the Xbox 360 and Ps3 versions can be a little difficult in places, and for those reasons I recommend picking up either the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions for the full experience.

Also, long time Sonic fans may be a little disappointed that not many returning characters are there. Amy makes a few appearances, Shadow and Knuckles are nowhere to be seen. Yeah, I kind of wanted to see Knuckles or Shadow’s reaction to the Were-hog, but what we got instead is one of the best Sonic games ever. I can personally give Sonic Unleashed an S rank – my first since Sonic Adventure 2, and this isn’t going to be the last hit in the hedgehog’s line up as there’s a colourful adventure on the horizon…

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