Run Fast and Carry an Enerbeam: Sonic Boom Wii U/3DS Preview
Kalvin Martinez / Nov 4th, 2014 3 Comments
When Sega announced the Sonic Boom series, it left many puzzled. The pause was mainly due to some curious design decisions for Sonic and friends’ new look. The aesthetics casted a shadow over the project, which in the abstract was perfectly fine.
At face value, the Sonic Boom series is a Wii U game, a 3DS game, and a television show — three different parts working together. The video games serve as prequels to the show, and each game has a unique style and story. There is nothing inherently insidious about that.
Yet for most people, it will be hard to get past the design. Being in that camp, it took seeing and trying the two games in person to put things into perspective.
Rise of Lyric
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is a Wii U exclusive. The game is much more about exploration than its 3DS counterpart. In the game, you begin with two characters to switch between. Either Sonic, Amy, Tails or Knuckles can be switched between on the fly, or you can have a buddy join in with drop-in/drop-out co-op; one player uses the GamePad while the other uses a controller.
Each character has its own specific attacks, such as Sonic’s homing attack and Amy’s hammer. Levels are in full 3D and explorable with multiple paths to go down, so players can choose to go down one specific character’s path during a level or switch between them. Paths are designed specifically for a character’s specific quirks. For instance, Amy’s triple jump or Tails’ flying ability will make it possible for only those characters to reach certain areas.
The goal in the demo level was to reach a crystal at the end of the level. It seemed like an easy task at first, but something went haywire and woke up a guardian. This put the crystal beyond Sonic and Amy’s reach and forced them to fight their way through enemies.
Fighting is done by a combination of character specific attacks, speed and a new ability called the enerbeam, an energy lash that allows Sonic and friends to grab enemies and throw them around the level. Coins still act as a health barometer, but the number of coins collected fill up a meter. Once the meter is full, characters are at full health, but collecting more coins is advantageous.
In the demo, the boss was a Guardian, a giant robotic creature that chased Sonic and Amy away from a crystal. In this particular demo level, Sonic encounters the boss four times, each battle becoming more challenging.
While Sticks is only playable in the 3DS game, she does make an appearance in Rise of Lyric. She asks Sonic and company to find collectibles for her in each level. Doing so involves using the GamePad like a camera, moving it around the real world to find secrets and clues in the game world. Once you find a collectible, they travel back to Sticks and she will help upgrade your abilities as a reward. There are plenty of collectibles to find in the game, and some are hidden by platforming challenges.
Rise of Lyric is built around exploring levels and taking different paths to a level’s goal. What makes it compelling is that it borrowns from the Sonic Adventures strain of games, and it seems to play much better.
The Shattered Crystal
The Shattered Crystal by comparison follows the traditional speed, old school strain of Sonic games, and adds a few new spins on the formula. The game emphasizes more exploration in levels, and this is aided by the ability to switch between characters. It is Metroidvania style in this way where certain areas are blocked off until you can find the right character to unlock it.
The side-scroll presentation is a nice throwback to classic Sonic titles. As with the Rise of Lyric, Sonic and company have the enerbeam at their disposal. It is used to swing from obstacles or remove shields from enemies. It is an interesting mechanic to add in, but takes some getting used to using since it is so incongruous to the mechanics that the side-scrolling perspective indicates. The game has two planes to explore at specific points. Switching between planes involves using the touchscreen to sling shot the character into the background.
There is also a race portion, where characters race against Sticks to a goal at the end of the level. It is a fun activity with plenty of different areas to explore for those with quick reflexes and a keen eye. One of the hardest aspects of it is using the enerbeam at the proper time. If you are good at timing homing attacks and jumps, you’ll be on track for a Flo Jo-esque victory.
A Second Look
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and The Shattered Crystal are turning out to be quite a bit of fun once you get past the new character designs. Both games put unique twists on classic Sonic elements, and it comes together to produce a refreshing take on the franchise. It will be easy for gamers to overlook the new Sonic games, but they are shaping up to be a surprise this holiday season.
tags: 3ds , nintendo , opinion , preview , Rise of Lyric , sega , Sonic Boom , The Shattered Crystal , wii-u