Why Sonic Unleashed is Underrated
See the article below? That's what you're supposed to read, not this.
It seemed like Sega had killed their mascot in one, fell swoop, destroying any marketability the franchise and character had. Gone were the days of excitement over a new Sonic game. There was no more fun to be had. The series was slowly rolling downhill; this was just the edge of the cliff. There was no way that Sonic could recover from a blow this big.
Of course, we know that it’s not true; not only has Sonic recovered but the franchise looks better than ever. It seems that Sega and Sonic Team have figured out a formula to make 3D next-gen Sonic games successful. But how did they do it? How did a franchise, that many were declaring dead 6 years ago, turn it around?
Simple, with a game called Sonic Unleashed.
It is my personal belief that Sonic Unleashed is one of the most criminally underrated games of this generation. Does it have its problems? Absolutely but that doesn’t mean it’s an overlooked title or a bad game. In fact, let me go into further detail of why I think Unleashed is one of the most important titles in the franchise.
One of the many things Sonic Unleashed improved upon from its previous title was the gameplay. It fixed the awkward camera angles and the clunky controls that sunk Sonic ’06 and improved upon them immensely (and that could be an understatement): you no longer had to fight with the camera (mainly because it was centred behind you for most of a level) and the controls, while not superb, were responsive. In addition to improving upon the gameplay, Sonic Team added a couple of new features that were so important to the series. In fact, these features were later used in both Colors and Generations which goes to show how much they added to the overall game. Are you still not convinced? Then allow me to explain why these gameplay elements were important and the impact they had in future 3D Sonic games.
Let’s first talk about the Boost system. This was a very important addition and I’ll explain why it was important in just a moment. The thing to note is the boost system was kept in following games like Colors and Generations. If that doesn’t tell you how important it was I don’t what will.Now to actually explain why the boost system was a good thing and why it was so important. You see, in older Sonic games (specifically, the Genesis titles), Sonic wasn’t a slouch in the speed department but there would be times where he’d hit a wall or something that made him come to a full stop. To say that it interrupted the flow of the game would be accurate (at least for me). Now, instead of running to build up speed, like you had to do in the original Sonic, you had the spin dash which allowed players to quickly accelerate with a few taps of a button. Once you were ready, you could stop and Sonic would go lightning fast! It was awesome.
All of the gameplay elements that I have highlighted above are really overlooked as they change the way that you play 3D Sonic games. A lot of people don’t really give credit where credit is due because without the implementation of these features, other 3D Sonic games would not have been so easy to play.
Before we look into other areas like the graphics and the music (and I will make mention of how both helped the Sonic series), I want to briefly explain another thing that made Sonic Unleashed so underrated: the camera.
Again, this is another area of Sonic Unleashed that’s so overlooked. The camera is wonderfully done and fixes many of the problems that plagued Sonic ’06. Instead of having to fight with the camera or seeing it glitch out, the camera is placed behind Sonic much like it was in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. However, there is a key difference between the two cameras. Most notable, the camera angle in Sonic Unleashed never rotates more than 180 degrees (unless a scripted event like a chase happens) while the camera in both Adventure and Adventure 2 can be rotated 360 degrees.
I know this may sound silly: I mean, who the hell cares about the camera? You should because it does have an effect on the game. Go back and play all of these games and it’s clear that Unleashed has the best camera. When you’re running at near super-sonic speed, it doesn’t give you any problems and you can see everything in front of you. Having that kind of visibility, where you can see all the obstacles in your path, is vital in a game like this. Speaking of visibility, let’s talk about the graphics.
Sonic Unleashed’s graphics in a word: stunning. An entire new engine was created for this Sonic game and it yielded fantastic results. Landscapes were gorgeous, colours were bright and vibrant and the lighting effects were magnificent. It looked beautiful is what I’m trying to say. As you can probably tell, this is another reason why I think the game is so underrated. The graphics, in comparison to the previous title, are breath-taking. I mean, just look at the day time stage in Holoska and look at how good it looks.
It really goes to show how a game can look stupendous when it uses great lighting effects and colour.
Alright, so one of the many things the Sonic franchise is known for is the music. Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, City Escape, and countless others are all memorable pieces of video game music. Does Sonic Unleashed have an impressive sound track? Somewhat; there are some real gems in there and others are hit and miss. I’ll let you judge for yourself:
But then the werehog is introduced and all these problems come to light. The werehog sections are unbearably slow and they really kill the pace of the game. The best analogy I can make is comparing the werehog sections to Aquatic Ruin Zone: there you are having a blast, running at supersonic speeds and then something comes along and tells you that you have to take everything slow. The werehog sections are basically giant water levels without the water. It’s a stark contrast to how the rest of the game is played. At night, platforming is clunky at best, the music gets considerably less awesome, and it’s just so slow. You can compare the night time portions of the game to God of War but that would be too much praise. You can basically press the same button multiple times and breeze through a stage.
There are people out there who say that Sonic isn’t what he once was, that he will never be able to make a full recovery. I don’t know if they’re right but I do know that the franchise has gotten back on track in terms of quality. Is Sonic going to be as popular as he was back in the early 90’s? No, he may never reach that height again. But Sonic fans everywhere are now convinced that the next Sonic game that comes out will be just as good as or better than previous titles. They can now look forward to the next Sonic game without fear that it may turn out for the worst. We can all share that same feeling.
And it’s all thanks to Sonic Unleashed.