Title: Sonic Forces
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: November 7th, 2017 (NA)
It’s finally here, the long awaited debut of 3D Sonic for the mysterious NX that was announced alongside other platforms at the 25th anniversary party last year in July. We did get Sonic Mania on the Switch first, however for reasons unknown the existence of the Switch version wasn’t known until the Switch presentation back in January. So it’s here, and how did it turn out? Is it as bad as multiple reviewers and fans say it is? The answers in this review, may just surprise you!
The game is to put it simply, is essentially Sonic Generations 2 in terms of gameplay. You have Modern Sonic in 3D and 2D sections, you have Classic Sonic again in 2D sections, and now this Avatar character in his or her own set of stages with 3D and 2D sections as well. The move selection is rather identical to what you’re used to. Sonic boosts, uses the homing attack, stomps, etc. Classic Sonic spin dashes, but also gets his Drop Dash from Sonic Mania. The Avatar however has a unique moveset that utilizes weaponry and other gadgets. The weapons are called Wispons, which as the name implies, uses Wisps for special abilities.
Sonic in Lost Valley, the first level
I’ll go into more detail. Modern Sonic plays like in the previous games. Like in Sonic Colors, Sonic collects White Wisps to fill his boost gauge (seemingly always at max), but that’s it for his Wisp usage. The Quick Step is also back and back to the way it was in Unleashed where you can use it anytime in 3D sections rather than only in certain places (ala Sonic Colors).
Classic Sonic is basically how he is in the classic 2D games, though naturally the physics and controls won’t be exactly as they were then. Sonic does take off like a rocket when using the Spin Dash (but not in a ridiculous manner like in Sonic Generations HD IIRC). Another thing to note that at least for both Sonics, the platforming controls in 2D are a bit iffy when trying to jump between small platforms. It’s pretty difficult, especially since the way the jumps work seems to depend on your momentum and not in a good way; if your barely walking, you can only jump a small bit, you need a better running start to jump over even some spikes. Makes sense, but it seems off somehow.
Shadow in Sunset Heights
The Avatar is more like Modern Sonic but has his or her own techniques in the form of gadgets in the form of the aforementioned Wispons and the grappling hook. The hook is more of a maneuvering tool to overcome certain gaps and home-on to enemies and objects. You start the game using the Burst Wispon which gives you a flamethrower (by using holding ZR) and when you collect a Burst Wisp, you can do multiple jumps in the air to get decent height, but it’s difficult to control so if you’re trying to collect a Red Ring, you may have to try a number of times.
Speaking of, again there are 5 Red Rings in each level. What do they unlock if you collect them all? Well I don’t know as I haven’t collected them all yet! But like in previous games they’re in various locations. Some right in your path, others are tricky to find.
Classic Sonic in Ghost Town
Back to the Avatar, as you progress you can beat missions in the game, which here are something like achievements, where you’re given a task, and upon accomplishing this, you earn new gear for your Avatar, usually stuff like helmets, scarves, gloves, shoes, shirts, etc. There’s PLENTY to collect, and it’s quite fun not knowing what you’ll get, and you’ll often see something you’ll like. Also worth noting that gear so far has no effect on your capabilities, BUT certain Wispons do come with buffs, and not just different colored ones, but you can have two Burst Wispons that each offer different buffs during stages. One example I remember is that rings dropped last longer before vanishing.
In addition to the regular missions, there are also daily missions that give you bonus XP gains for a given time and by a certain amount. Upon beating any stages with any character, you’re given XP and you’re able to “level-up” with these medals, but so far I’m not sure what these do other than to just show progress. Or perhaps these give you score buffs to help get higher ranks, it’s kind of hard to tell to be honest!
Graphically, the game holds up surprisingly well, considering it’s a downport from PS4 and Xbox One. The game runs in 720p in both docked and portable modes, but certain effects are absent in portable mode, such as anti-aliasing. The game also runs in 30fps as opposed to 60fps on the other systems. textures take a notable hit in places, especially in certain cutscenes and also on the Avatar gear when you see their icons upon collecting them. One thing I found very bizarre is that cutscenes in particular look highly compressed in the game, as if you’re watching a YouTube video. This would make you think it’s all pre-recorded like the ones in Sonic Unleashed for Wii were, but that can’t be right since your Avatar is custom in them. The only way that would work is if they pre-recorded a billion cutscenes to accommodate your Avatar, which we all know isn’t possible. So I’m not sure what the deal is.
Another thing I want to add is that the stage structure is a tad odd. Each stage in the game (for example the City stage we’ve all seen since day 1), is naturally split into 3 versions for each characters. Here’s the thing; each is not only separate on the map screen (shown as a globe), but each have their own name. For example; for the City stage, Classic Sonic’s is called Ghost Town, Modern Sonic’s is Sunset Heights, and the Avatar’s is called Park Avenue. Funny enough Classic Sonic’s Green Hill stage is literally called… Green Hill: Green Hill, I am not kidding (Modern Sonic’s is called Lost Valley)!
My Avatar. Well they said you could make a hedgehog, so challenge accepted!
In terms of level design and fun factor, oh yeah it gets linear and the stages are short at times (I find the Avatar’s to be the longest?), but I kind of like the shortness for some reason, keeps things moving funny enough! And the stages are fun most of the time (not so much the 2D sections though), and the bosses so far are pretty fun actually, FAR more thought out and challenging than in Sonic Lost World, that’s for sure (you can beat Zazz and Zeena in that game in like 30 seconds).
Worth noting is the DLC called Episode Shadow. Which gives you a sort of prequel story about what Shadow’s up to before the events of the game, and it gives more context about the main villain Infinite’s backstory. It’s pretty short though, only like 3 stages long. Far as I can tell, it’s not that spoilery at all so you could play it first, but maybe wait until Sonic confronts Shadow personally in the main story first, just in case… it’ll make sense. But also, you can actually PLAY as Shadow in not just this episode, but in ALL of Modern Sonic’s stages also! That’s a first since Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii!
Overall, I was VERY surprised at how much I enjoyed the game! People have been going on how bad it is, and even I was really getting irked at Sega for seemingly showing no effort or passion in this game, but you know what? I take most of it back! It’s not a FANTASTIC game, but it’s honestly a LOT better than most say it is. It’s also budget priced compared to other games (it’s $54.99 CDN as opposed to $79.99 CDN like say Super Mario Odyssey). I legit recommend it if you can get past its shortcomings and/or just a big Sonic fan like myself. Also, who doesn’t love observing the absurd Avatar creations (I’m looking at you derpy-eyed creations)?
+ The game is surprisingly fun and actually having four playable characters (including Shadow) is very much appreciated.
+ The Avatar is a lot more fun than you’d think and the gear collecting is addicting also.
+ Music is actually really good as well, which of course is the norm for the series, Nice to have the classic Sonic rock back!
+ Graphically it’s legit pretty, but it’s not a perfect downport.
+ In docked mode at least (I’ve only played it docked) it’s a smooth 30fps.
+ Story is actually god this time. Yeah it’s taking itself too seriously and is less of the good cheesiness from the Adventure era, but still, it’s FAR better than the last few games, that’s for sure.
+ It’s priced lower than you would’ve expected it to be, that’s always nice. Also comes in a Bonus Edition that includes an Avatar costume set and some Joy-Con decals!
– Classic Sonic’s the least fun to play as and yeah his context in the story is… odd, you’ll see what I mean.
– Controls at least when it comes to jumping and general maneuvering when not going straight and fast are… less than desired.
– Graphic drawbacks include low-res textures on some environments and Avatar gear icons (it’s right in your face when you collect them at the results screen).
– Cutscenes are bizarrely compressed, especially when at certain points that compressed cloudiness becomes obvious.
– 720p and 30fps when docked is a shame, but luckily the anti-aliasing and nice effects help quite a bit.