690 - Not-Sonic the Hedgehog Picture

Now to finally play the game I was supposed to play to begin with.

Tarosan: Ooops.

You really have to feel bad for Sonic fans these days.

Not only are they on the never ending butt of a joke that stopped being funny around 2008 (Sanic Oh Sex) but Sonic Team cannot seem to keep to a consistent level with new installments of the Sonic franchise. Sure Colours and Generations were successes, I'll be finding out for myself what Lost World is like but Boom really felt like the straw that broke the camels back for some people.

I guess some fans have taken it upon themselves to make an objectively good "Sonic Game" with the release of Freedom Planet. Proving once and for all that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

With Shantae & The Pirates Curse I've finally begun checking out the indie scene with games, because AAA really isn't scratching that gaming itch for me anymore. That and I share most gamers frustrations of not getting the games they wanted, over the same old releases every year has led some developers to produce pseudo games based on franchises being forgotten or abused.

I guess you can class Freedom Planet in the same camp as Bayonetta, Undertale, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Mighty No 9. Or as I like to call them "Not-Sonic the Hedgehog" "Not-Devil May Cry" "Not-Mother" "Not-Banjo-Kazooie" "Not-Castevania" and "Not-going to be released"

I'd of included Shovel Knight in that gag, but I'm not sure what it's meant to be based off.

All joking aside, it is basically a tribute to the days of the Super Nintendo/Mega Drive with extra attention paid to Sonic games from that era, mainly Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic CD.

I mean stop me if you heard this one before. Cartoony animals who run really fast, out to save a fictional planet full of other cartoony animals, by retrieving an all powerful maguffin from a tyrant with orange facial hair and a thing for robotic minions from powering a space station of doom? I also couldn't help but think of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and other Chinese mythology elements mixed into a story that cannot decide on a consistent tone.

It's a similar issue I had with Shantae, but thankfully here the game gives you vocal performances to help this along. However I do have one small criticism with the cutscenes. They really out stay there welcome at times and tend to drag on for far too long. For example I completed a stage and I'm introduced to a third playable character and a cutscene begins. What feels like 10 minutes later I begin the next stage. I mentioned tone because the game does have some pretty amusing bursts of comedy with characters like Carol, but then the mood shifts from the girls talking about cooties to emotional break ups and torture sequences.

Geez, that's like watching Powerpuff Girls reenact a scene from Showdown in Little Tokyo.

Now we're nitpicking here, but the vocal performances are.... Well, they're not exactly terrible but could have done with some vocal direction. Half the time the audio levels fluctuate and characters generally sound bored. I mean Lord Brevon really stole the show with his sinister growls but besides Carol the rest are just a B- at best.

The characters themselves are quite refreshing if I'm being honest. As you've probably noticed by WinneBobble, I tend to appreciate a more femalecentric cast and Freedom Planet does this in a way without pandering or some political message. Lilac is the fearless leader, Carol is a joker with a hint of sarcasm and Milla is the "YOU WILL FIND HER CUTE AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!!" one. The side characters however are kind of average at best. Mainly falling into an archetype or just there to give exposition to Team Lilac. Beyond Lord Brevon or Serpentine, the villains really don't have much meat to them. Spade, besides having an amusing pun name, felt really unexplored (maybe there is more to him in the Carol playthrough) and the Kings son is something of forgettable.

There are moments where Lilac and Carol have arguments or talk about there past, which left me wondering "Is there a game I missed?" for I feel this is a sequel to a game that doesn't exist.... Yet.

It is a shame to say this, but the story is the weakest element of the game. I appreciate all the effort that went into the gorgeous sprite animations, music etc but it's a massive chore and takes up too much of the focus. I mean it's certainly alot better than Rise of Lyric's plot but we'll get to that someday.

Gameplay wise, this is essentially a massive love letter to fans of the old school Sonic titles. I chose Lilac in my initial playthrough and I'll probably give Carol a look in the future. I had to remind myself at times this was not a Sonic game, for I found myself attempting to perform a spin dash on occasion when trying to go through the loop-de-loops. The action keeps to a steady pace and each stage came with there own unique themes. The shopping mall stage was bright and colourfull while the final stage really brought on feelings of impending dread.

While some elements screamed Sonic CD, I got more of a sense of Sonic 3 with the use of elemental shields. One for breathing underwater, one for surviving in fire and one for magnetizing crystals. The main area FP stands out from it's spikey blue cousin is the use of a health bar instead of rings. I do call bullshit on some enemies later in the game who shave off half your health bar in one hit. Be warned, this game can be quite the bastard when it wants to be.

Lilac is not a Hedgehog, so she has her own means of getting around stages and attacking. Mainly a cyclone attack and a dash technique which is great for reaching higher areas of the level. It can be a little fiddly at times for I would execute the move only to be sent in the wrong direction. The hair attack (a theme with these last two games isn't it?) was also bothersome for I seem to have Stormtrooper aim at times when using it. For a weakspot on a boss became a challenge to smack.

The bosses are what caused me the most grief in levels, and that's something I liked. In some platformers a boss would have a predictable pattern and will stand still long enough for you to hit the glowing weakspot. Here, you have to memorize a pattern an exploit the weaknesses in them. I think my favorite bosses were the on rail ones. It kept the pace up and beefed up the challenge. If I have any gripes with the game, it would be that it wasn't clear what I had to do in later stages. I did eventually figure it out but it did slow things down for a moment finding keycards.

I'm struggling to find any major negatives with the gameplay, for Freedom Planet was really enjoyable and reminded me why I like titles such as Sonic CD in the first place. Kind of late to this party I know but if you haven't already played it then go check it out.

It's not like Sonic's going to have a title like this again or anything.

*sad face*
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