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Don’t Slip and Fall!

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    Sonic Forces

    Rating: 3.0 – Fair

    Don’t Slip and Fall!

    Sonic Forces is the much-anticipated next 3D Sonic game. Following the failure of Sonic Boom, people demanded another good game in the series. In hindsight, only two 3D games, in the last 13 years have truly captured the audience’s attention and were recognized as good games in the series ¨C Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations. Call it a bold statement from Sega.

    Note that, after Generations, Sega released Sonic: Lost World, which was received to mixed reviews. Sonic Boom came out shortly thereafter, which once again spun Sonic back into the zone of bad games, alongside Sonic 06 and Sonic Unleashed.

    The premise of Sonic Forces revolves around several concepts. For one, the story involves Eggman defeating Sonic. The story takes a darker turn than its predecessors. The rest of the characters, led by Knuckles, begin a resistance group. They battle Eggman at every turn and corner, slowing his conquest of the Earth over the course of six months I have been waiting for a darker Sonic game since 06 and the Adventure titles.

    The second is the return of Classic Sonic. Believe it or not, the Phantom Ruby ¨C Eggman’s new gadget ¨C appeared first in Sonic Mania. In other words, the stories are connected. Therefore, Classic Sonic makes his return to the 3D series for the first time since Generations. This involves 2D stages built similar to the classic Sonic titles on Genesis.

    Finally, your new character. Meet the rookie, a.k.a. your avatar. The character you create plays a crucial point in the resistance. Joining as a kid who wants to simply help out, he’s thrust into some of the most vital missions in the story. While not as fast as his blue, spiky partners, the rookie is armed with an arm cannon powered by Wisps and a grappling hook. These allow him to get across large gaps, as well as play hero several times in the story.

    The story revolves largely around a new villain. Meet Eggman’s new creation, Infinite. A being that believes in nothing but his own strength. He’s powered by the Phantom Ruby, which creates distortions in the world, to include sending people to other dimensions. He’s responsible for Sonic’s defeat and a large amount of chaos in the world.

    I want to talk about the strengths of the game first. For starters, it’s an audiovisual work of art. The visuals are true next-gen Sonic. You get great animations and some of the best and prettiest stages in the series. I’m quite fond of Mystic Jungle, a nighttime jungle stage that involves a water slide and a moonlight in the background. Plus, the PS4 version runs at 60 FPS. I heard some of the other versions don’t perform as well, but I’ve had no issues with the PS4 version.

    Sonic has almost never let me down in the music department. That trend continues here. The Sonic stages, believe it or not, don’t consist of remixes of classic stages. While the primary locales of the game are Green Hill, Chemical Plant, and Death Egg Zone, don’t expect to hear them remixed like you did in Generations. They’re all new tracks. Meanwhile, the Avatar’s stages largely consist of vocal tracks. It’s difficult to put a label on what kind of music it is, but I recommend listening to the soundtrack if you’re interested. Sega was quite proud of their soundtrack, as the official Sonic the Hedgehog social media page was churning out snippets of tracks every week. I gotta say, they did a nice job. Expect to hear tons of basslines and dance music.

    Modern Sonic’s stages are 3D, where he uses his Boost as a quick burst of speed. Expect long pathways of blazing speed as your plowing past enemies faster than the speed of sound. Multiple segments of each stage consist of 2D platforming, just as in previous titles.

    Classic Sonic plays like he did in Generations. He gets his standard shield, but otherwise, he’s basic. You run, you jump, you spin in 2D. As for your Avatar, he basically plays like Modern Sonic. He’s not quite as fast, but he’s armed to the teeth. The Wisps, your loyal powerup companions from Sonic Colors, Generations, and Lost World, return in this title. They can charge Modern Sonic’s Boost, or are used as fuel for the arm cannon on the Avatar.

    Your Avatar gains a variety of powerup abilities, to include Burst shots or a Lightning whip, as well as others. I was honestly happy to see the Wisps return, as they’re one of my favorite part of the more recent titles.

    That being said, the stages are where the game begins to hurt a bit. It consists of 30 stages altogether. Many of these, as mentioned before, are reused locales. They’re situated in different sectors, but they’re the same essentially. You’ll spend a large chunk of the game in the Green Hill sector, turned into a desert thanks to Eggman’s destruction.

    As a result, the game lacks the stage and locale variety from the previous games in the series. Sure, you’ll encounter different traps, such as a gigantic serpent, water, or Death Egg Robots. But this could have been used for new areas altogether. I don’t know if they were trying to recapture nostalgia by bringing in new versions of old stages, or if they didn’t focus well on this. I will admit, the aesthetic on some, such as Mystic Jungle, are done well.

    Another serious problem I have with the game involves the controls and physics. For Modern Sonic, it’s two things. One, his jumps are too stiff. In the 2D segments of his stages, it feels he carries with too much momentum. If you overshoot your jump, there’s no coming back. Not even the double jump helps. Expect many falls in this game.

    The other part involves high speed segments. You were given Wisps and you went fast. Then you fell because either Sonic didn’t turn as fast as you wanted him to, or the stage bent too fast, or there were no barricades. Point is, ever since Sonic Unleashed, which debuted the Boost ability in the 3D titles, I’ve never had this problem. Going fast was the point of the game. If the game deliberately makes you go careful, even after giving you boosts and expecting you to do so, it completely contradicts the intent. You may be better off holding your brakes instead.

    Classic Sonic has his faults as well. I’m trying hard not to make comparisons to Sonic 4. But his physics are just bad. period. He makes awkward climbs up the slopes, he doesn’t move very fast except during Spin Dash,and he doesn’t gain sizable momentum when Spin Dashing up a long slope. This is apparent in the Chemical Plant stages. He, too, suffers from jump physics controls.

    As much as I wanted to avoid it, the Sonic Mania comparisons were inevitable. You had a game with perfect physics, varied, clever stage design, shield powerups for Classic Sonic, and a solid challenge that didn’t cheap the player out thanks to random pitfalls and poor jump controls. Sonic Team can learn from the developers of this game for their future endeavors.

    Back to Sonic Forces. The Avatar gets his gear, to include a weapon. Believe me when I say this is implemented much better than it was in Shadow the Hedgehog. It feels satisfying clearing out a mob of robots with the weapon of your choice. However, he comes with gripes as well. Entire stages seem almost built entirely around grappling. It becomes less of free-swinging and more of a forced gimmick. You gotta swing if you want to do anything. The better parts of the stages include your Wisp abilities. By default, you get Burst. This allows you to rocket upwards to collect rings, which also include the Red Rings first seen in Sonic Colors. This allows the player a moment of freedom to collect or take a separate path. I would have preferred more of this to grappling a ton of times. The main thing I’m trying to say is it cuts off some of the pacing when you’re busy dashing through the stage. Granted, the good part is it gives for some wicked cool animations sometimes.

    And before you know it, it ends. The stages end within two minutes. I’ll say this is easily the shortest 3D Sonic game I’ve played. The stages are short bursts of action in these locales, regardless of who you’re playing. Without a life counter or any sort of way to punish the player, you’re perpetually in zero danger. It’s as if you’re hardly being challenged. The only real challenge is dying to a boss. Their multiple forms take longer to beat than some stages. Losing to them means repeating the whole fight over.

    The bosses themselves largely consist of either the Avatar shooting at them and grappling them, or a dash-type stage where you’re dodging left and right and mashing Homing Attack. I was more fond of some of the Eggman boss fights where he begins tearing through the floor of the stage. Infinite also has weird distortion abilities. Touch his Ruby projectiles, and you enter a glitchy, red-filled world with new obstacles. It’s a creative concept, and I enjoyed some of the fights with him.

    Overall, I’m glad the game wasn’t priced at $60. It wasn’t worth that much. You can get it for $40 at most retailers, and less depending on who you shop from. It’s honestly worth $20, and I would wait for a price drop at the time of this writing. The touch-ups this game could use largely include longer stages, more varied environments, better controls that don’t feel absolutely stiff, and better physics that don’t punish you for going fast.

    Also, the game also leaves serious loose-ends. For one, the ending doesn’t explain where Eggman goes. In Generations, the final scene involved a hilarious scene with him and his classic self. Eggman always goes off somewhere lamenting his loss. He’s completely absent from the ending. Also, there is no Super Sonic boss. A staple to the series is the ability to fight the final boss as Super Sonic. The only exceptions to this rule are the storybook Wii titles (Secret Rings and Black Knight) and Sonic Colors. In the case of the former, you had different forms of Sonic, but they functioned as the same purpose. In the latter, that applied only to the Wii version. The DS version of colors pit you up against one last boss while you’re powered up as Super Sonic. This is sorely missing from the game.

    Other nitpicks include Classic Sonic’s abilities. He gets a Power Sneaker that lasts for five seconds ¨C rendering it pointless ¨C and an Invincibility powerup that gives no warning before it ends. Also, invincibility frames last for less than a second. Expect to die because you were trying to pick up rings and died before you had the chance. Also, Shadow is literally a Sonic palette swap. In 2017, he’s a character armed with Chaos Control and various abilities. To this day, no game has done a better job of bringing out Shadow’s abilities than Sonic Battle. Yet they still choose not to differentiate him from Sonic. While the story elements are admittedly quite interesting, and the stages are a little longer with a healthy challenge, Shadow is reskinned Sonic, complete with his cool, gliding animation.

    I would not change the music. I love ¡°Aqua Road¡± too much. I also enjoyed the story. I like how the characters came together for a common cause while Sonic is away. The dialogue and exchanges were solid, and the localization team did a fantastic job with the voice acting. Eggman is as robust as ever, doling out punishment. abusing his robots, and never giving in. In fact, Forces did a tremendous job of making Eggman an indomitable and fearsome villain.

    The game is rushed and hardly polished, yet is good conceptually. The avatar concept and stages aren’t half as bad as I’d expected them to be, and I always love Sonic action. A patch could fix the control issues and some DLC could give us more, and hopefully longer, stages. My judgement is that it’s not a bad game, per se. It’s better than Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic 06, and Sonic Unleashed. That much is for sure. The problems that plague this game are more sporadic, rather than constant. You don’t realize Sonic’s controls suck until you’re on a narrow, 2D area and overshoot a jump, or Boosting through a stage with turns and falling off repeatedly.

    If you’re a die-hard Sonic fan, you’ll almost certainly have fun with it. Otherwise, best to buy it used or rent first, if possible.

    Overall score ¨C 6/10.

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