Will There Ever Be Another Fun Sonic Game?

Posted February 24, 2015 by Cameron McFarland in Video Games

Last year, Sega unleashed Sonic Boom upon the world. Sega’s latest take on the iconic blue hedgehog was a drastic change in design philosophy with an intention on grabbing the attention of a new generation of children eager to get frustrated with poorly programmed platforming pitfalls just as their fathers did before them. Critically speaking, neither the WiiU nor 3DS titles were received well. Internet message boards have been predicting the games’ bad reviews since their announcement and we are given yet another example of the infamous “Sonic Cycle” which dictates: Sega announces a new Sonic game, fans get excited, game turns out to be bad, fans get bitter and hateful, repeat.

I do enjoy reading those silly flamewar extreme arguments online, if not for the colorful word pictures then just for the morbid curiosity I hold against how folks near and far are viewing Sonic as a whole. A lot of us gamers had the opportunity to start our hobby with one of Sonic’s earlier games, “back when they were still good”, so it’s frustrating when Sega releases poor quality products. However, one of those flamewar troll types brought up an interesting question that I decided to take some time to ponder about: “Is it that Sonic games are not good anymore, or that they were never good?”

It is a fair query. Sometimes, individuals who see things in their youth only remember the happy feelings they got from playing an old game and that whole nostalgia thing kicks in. Even if we, as adults, go back to play those old games we tend to forgive the graphics or the occasional poor design choices that crop up from time to time simply because we can see the beauty that lies beneath the layer of dust. I admit, I do pop in my Sonic Mega Collection disc when the mood strikes and I need to unwind, and I will just plow through a game of Sonic 3 & Knuckles as fast as I can to kind of relive a simpler time when that was all I cared about. So, I found myself beginning to think perhaps Sonic as a concept is something that can’t keep going. Maybe it is impossible to make a new Sonic game that feels just as good as I want it to.

That is, of course, until I played a new game early last year. A Kickstarter indie game that perhaps you’ve overlooked: Freedom Planet.

  Tell me that doesn't look fun

Freedom Planet was one of those Kickstarter games that got its foot in the door before it was cool to do so. The team behind the project wanted to create a game that felt like a classic Sonic or Megaman X style action platformer that hasn’t really been made in recent years. Rather than sitting down in Flash to make a fan game or slaving away in their free time to piece together something, the team went to Kickstarter to ask if they were alone in wanting a game like this. Long story short: they were not alone, and their fans’ money was put to good use.

Astute readers may have noticed my Top Ten list for 2014 had Freedom Planet as my number 1 game. It was a difficult list to make, numbering all the great games that came out of a pretty strong year in video games, but somehow I didn’t struggle with awarding my #1 position to this weird outlier of a game.

Freedom Planet does everything it promised to do: remind us of the fun Sonic games, use colorful and well animated sprites, and offer to us a story with new characters we could enjoy. But, we got so much more out of the final product. The game design is super intelligent. Each level borrows Sonic’s law of platforming basics, but the difficulty is still there. The first couple of levels offer plenty of room for error as you are learning how to play the game, but challenges keep growing and growing without ever taking control away from the player. I think all of us Sonic fans get a little tired of these 3D games that carry you through loops without any button input at all.

Additionally, the story is fun. It might strike you as a bit childish, but it lines up perfectly with the art style. Plus, all the dialogue is fully voiced and the soundtrack alone is fantastic. Oh, and the best part about the cutscenes is that they are entirely optional. If you just don’t care, you can play a traditional arcade mode that runs like an old Sonic title, just the way you like it.

I could go on and on about every little detail I like about the game. I didn’t even bring up the fact that the main characters are all female, but not in the “Hey, we’re exploiting women as a gimmick to get your attention” way. Freedom Planet simply offers so much and does it all so well that playing the game reminds me why I like to play video games in the first place. Every single Assassin’s Creed knockoff that has me climbing a tower to unlock a fast travel point begins to wear me down a bit. Every single shooter that claims to have an “innovative” cover system makes me wish they’d really just go back to the drawing board. But, here we have this cute little indie game that has provided me with more hours of entertainment than all of Sega’s releases last year put together, and that’s worth noting.

Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the old Sonic the Hedgehog titles, I really want to recommend you look into this game. Add it to your wishlist on Steam and buy it when it’s on sale if you don’t like the price tag, but it is truly rare to find a game that isn’t trying so hard to impress you with gimmicks that it only lets you down. Freedom Planet was a labor of love, fueled by supportive fans, and I can’t think of anything more I would ask for. As long as we don’t rely on the corporate machine to provide all our fun, yes, we will continue to see fun “Sonic” games. No, they may not always be officially branded with blue blurs, but the fans who grew up loving these games will never let the legacy die. Just remember: we’re not alone.

About the Author

Cameron McFarland

Cameron loves cartoons and bad movies almost as much as bad cartoon movies. He is also the world's best spaghetti-eater, so don't bring it up around him or he won't shut up about it. Author and Artist for world-reviled World of Warcraft fancomic, www.taurenitup.com