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GAMING REVIEW: ‘Sonic Forces’ brings a new twist to an old classic

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The player's custom character blasts through the Park Avenue level of

The player's custom character blasts through the Park Avenue level of "Sonic Forces."

Official image, SEGA

Official image, SEGA

The player's custom character blasts through the Park Avenue level of "Sonic Forces."

by Angelica Wallingford, Staff Writer

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Following the events of the 16-bit masterpiece “Sonic Mania,” SEGA and Sonic Team have bounced back from a slew of epic 3D failures with “Sonic Forces,” a fun, action packed, multi-console platformer that is one of the best Sonic the Hedgehog games that has been released in recent years.

The plot of “Sonic Forces” sounds like it comes straight from a Sonic fanboy’s fanfiction. After a plethora of attempts the hilariously evil Dr. Eggman has finally taken over the world and it’s up to the resistance, led surprisingly by Knuckles, everyone’s favorite endangered echidna, to stop them and bring peace to the world. Sounds like a somewhat typical “Sonic” game right?

Not necessarily.

The one element “Forces” brings that is unlike other games in the franchise is that Sonic and pals are helped out by a very unusual and unexpected character–you.

The introduction to the player’s custom character, aptly named the Rookie, is rather interesting. After playing through the first level of the game Sonic is captured by Dr. Eggman and his ruthless regime of antagonists from games past, along with new resident bad guy Infinite. Resident tech geek Miles “Tails” Prower tells the rest of the resistance that a new member is joining and that’s when the player is taken to the customization screen.

Adding “you” as the third playable character was a bit of a hit-and-miss. While it’s great that SEGA added this element to the game, at times it feels as if it’s just playing as an off-brand third-world knockoff of Sonic blasting through stages with various accessories. The accessories, called “Wispons,” can make the original character overpowered, which takes the Rookie and turns them into the overpowered MVP of the entire game.

Along with the same ragtag group of fan favorites of games past in the resistance, Classic Sonic comes from his dimension to aid them in their hour of need. For most of the game users play as Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic and the Rookie and face-off against villains that include Zavok from “Sonic Lost World,” masked newcomer Infinite, and perhaps the most unsuccessfully hilarious video game villain of all time, Dr. Eggman.

Then we get to what was one of the biggest teases in the game that sort of delivers: Shadow the Hedgehog. What makes Shadow such a great character, especially in “Forces,” is that players actually get a backstory. The free downloadable content, titled “Episode Shadow,” acts as a prequel for “Forces,” letting the “you” play through three stages of storyline that adds some context to the game.

Ironically, “Episode Shadow” actually provides players with more of a challenge than “Forces” does. Even though the downloadable content is somewhat harder to play than the main game, it’s really fun, especially since this is the first time in several years that the fan favorite has been a playable character in a “Sonic” game.

A highlight of the game is that players get an introduction to “Forces” main antagonist, Infinite, and see what became of Shadow’s closest, albeit reluctant, comrades Rouge the Bat and robot E-123 Omega.

One of the biggest flaws of “Forces” is that there is no epic Shadow vs. Sonic boss fight. Instead players get Shadow defeating a clone of himself that Dr. Eggman created to aid in his world domination. It’s not the worst thing in the world but if SEGA and Sonic Team were going to tease this battle-for-the-ages boss fight then they should have delivered.

The levels are gorgeous to look at. The vibrantly colored Green Hill Zone that was once filled with flora and fauna is now reduced to sand dunes and crumbling structures, which was a nice break from the norm. However, after playing title after title with Green Hill Zone as the first level, it’s time for a shake up from the usual nostalgia and have something a little different to kick off the game.

Most of the stages, including the beautifully designed Metropolis, flow seamlessly from the standard Sonic 2D side scrolling to 3D without making the transition awkward.

Initially, the gameplay is relatively short if players just doing the bare minimum of simply completing the game. However, the addition of SOS missions, daily missions and the thrill of getting trophies, or achievements on XBOX and PC, makes “Forces” prime for long-term replayability, especially after players complete the main storyline.

Completing daily missions is also a great way to get more accessories to deck out one’s custom character to give them more power-ups and generally make them look as cool as possible.

The mechanics of the games are straightforward: complete the stages, 37 total, as fast as one possibly can, pick up rings along the way and defeat the enemies. It’s that simple.

Taking one’s time with stages is fine if the player is new to the series or are obsessively trying to 100 percent the game, but it’s a Sonic the Hedgehog game—the objective is to complete the stage as fast as possible.

His theme song has the lyrics “fastest thing alive” for a reason. An awesome bonus is that depending on how fast one completes a stage, they get ranked with players from all around the world to see how they stack up to other fans playing the game.

Another difference from other titles in the series is that the rings, which are normally used to help players not die during stages, are used as a means to boost one’s score as well as serve the function of not losing a life.

What that means is there is technically no system for how many lives you have with this game and that there is no “game over.” Players can technically can keep playing a stage until they beat it or gather all of the bonuses, although it will affect one’s ending score in a negative light and turn what would have been an S-rank to a C-rank in just a matter of seconds.

Each level has recommended Wispons, items that correspond to various colorful alien power-up from “Sonic Colors,” to use for that particular stage. Its basic function is to help the player find an alternate route, collect rings and other non-essential items. However, even though the Wispons are there for the players use, they are not essential to complete the stage.

Although the game is really fun, it can be heavily automated and repetitive at times. At its core “Sonic Forces” is just like any other “Sonic” game.

Players finish stages, beat down bad guys, collect rings and, spoiler alert, defeat the “A for effort” antagonist Dr. Eggman and Infinite to save what remains of the world from complete destruction. There is also the issue of the stages being really short. There are certain stages where players can really get sucked in, only for it to end a few short moments later.

The boss fights are also hit and miss. With the exception of Zavok and Infinite boss fights the rest of them, particularly the ones with Dr. Eggman, feel somewhat repetitive and like players are rehashing a boss fight from a previous game rather than providing the gamers with a new experience. Then there’s also the issue of not fighting fan favorite villains like Chaos from “Sonic Adventure” or Shadow, which was heavily teased before the game’s release.

Despite “Forces” being just another “Sonic” game, it’s a really entertaining and enjoyable experience that both hardcore Sonic fans and non-Sonic fans would appreciate.

Is it perfect? No, far from it, but it does give players hours upon hours of mind numbing enjoyment that Sonic Team has been lacking with previous titles.

The story, gameplay, soundtrack and characters provide gamers with a visually dynamic and amusing experience that can extend way beyond the main storyline and provide gamers with endless hours of fun.

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