E3 2014: Sonic Boom hands-on

SB_LOGO_RGB_WHITEBG_1391691188Sonic fans have had mixed fillings about its beloved franchise. With the latest game, Sonic Boom, fans have had a lot to say about the redesign of the characters. At E3 2014 I had a chance to sit down, play the games, and get a bit more information about the big changes for Sonic and his friends. One thing you have to consider is that the Sonic franchise is over 20 years old. That’s a long time for any series to be around, and change just needs to be part of it.

SB_KEY ART_1401483348One reason all the characters are so different is for younger viewers to differentiate them better. Knuckles, for example, show the biggest change, being much taller than all the characters and bulkier. But you also have Tales and Sonic sporting things like a tool belt & wrench or a scarf and bandages.

Yes, earlier I did say “viewers” as Sonic Boom will also have a CG-animated TV series later in the year on Cartoon Network here in the U.S. This however was not an afterthought but rather a full reinvention of the Sonic franchise, with multiple parts working together as one, making up a brand new world. Just like comic book characters from Marvel or DC, you have different worlds with different possibilities. The Sonic Boom world is still about going fast, but also about working as a team and solving more puzzles.

ScreenShot0055_1401476158The first game I tried out was Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the Nintendo 3DS. This game will remind you more of the traditional Sonic games from the past. Most levels are side scrolling but you aren’t just blazing to the end at lightning speed. You can play as Sonic, Tales, Knuckles, and Sticks, a brand new character to the series. Sticks is a jungle badger with a interesting conspiracy theories and is friends with Amy. Each character has their own skills that will help you go even further into each level, gathering more rings and robot parts that are used as currency in the game. That currency will help unlock new tools and even different parts of a level not yet available.

Sonic Boom 3Ds_24_1401485885At any time during the game you can switch between characters, and depending on where you are in the level you will need to switch to pass certain obstacles. Another change is the addition of a whip-like weapon called the EnerBeam. This EnerBeam allows players to capture and toss enemies, helps them swing from different objects, or to grapple onto objects to further your progress in the level.

ScreenShot0044_1401476146The bigger game I played was Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, the Wii U title. Rise of Lyric is where Sega and developer Big Red Button have traded traditional running focused levels for more team and puzzle oriented levels. In each level of the game you will have at least two characters to choose from. As a single player you will be able to switch between the available characters for that level at any time. As with the 3DS version you will need to eventually switch characters to get past a puzzle to further the game. It’s worth noting that in the Wii U version you can play as Amy instead of Sticks. Using the Wii U GamePad, players will be able to play cooperatively with a friend. The controls on the Wii U take a little getting used to. For me my issue was having to constantly change my camera view. However, this didn’t stop me from enjoying myself.

I was told that both the 3DS and the Wii U version of the games have different stories so you don’t need to get both to fill in any gaps. Both games and the world itself will be part of the animated show that will be out later in the year.

The 3DS version Shattered Crystal was very easy to just pick up and play, for the speed levels that is. The puzzle levels were a bit confusing at first but I did get the hang of it. Rise of Lyric was fun to play, but seeing as you have the Wii U GamePad, it would be best playing with a friend for the puzzle and fighting part of the game. Then again, as just one player you will have a lot of replay value as each stage will have several hidden areas when only specific characters can traverse. For those of you who are always in a quest for that 100% completion, there will be plenty for you to do and collect in both the 3DS and Wii U versions of the game.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric (Wii U) and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal (Nintendo 3DS) will be out on November 25.

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