Sega has had a…rough time with Sonic. After Sonic Generations, which looked and played great, they gave us Sonic: Lost World, which didn’t. Now, they have decided to go big and try for a 4-prong attempt at making Sonic relevant again: Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the 3DS and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U which both act as a prequel to a Sonic Boom CGI cartoon series, all capped off with a large toy line. Sonic Boom also introduces new character Sticks the Badger, but I only saw her as playable in the 3DS game.
I got to play both versions of Sonic Boom at E3 and I really enjoyed one of them.
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric felt a lot like Sonic Adventure, focusing on attacking enemies and exploring the world, with some fun speed parts to give it the Sonic feel. While this is a farcry from the successful speed-focused design of Sonic Generations, it harkens back to the classic Adventure series that most Sonic fans still hold dear.
The demo included 3 small levels and a boss battle. One level is what they called “a speed level”, while the other two show off the abilities of 3 of the 4 playable characters: Sonic (the speedster), Knuckles (the roided out brawler), and Amy (the gymnast). Tails was only playable in the boss battle, and I was too wrapped up in beating the boss to try him out. I never thought I’d say this, but I really enjoyed playing as Amy. In the level that let you play as Sonic and Amy, I found myself playing as Amy more than Sonic. They made each character fun to play, and if you get bored with one you can easily swap to another character in the team to switch things up.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal on the 3DS falls more in line with the gameplay style of Sonic Generations, giving the player the sense of speed that’s honestly lacking in Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. There are simple racing levels where you run from one end to another, and classic levels where you can do some exploring or try for a speed run. Amy seemed to be replaced by Sticks as playable in the Shattered Crystal demo, but I’m not sure if it’s true for the final game. Here you can also switch characters on the fly, dealing with obstacles specifically designed for individual characters to overcome.
This series is set outside of the main Sonic continuity and the developers have made it very clear that this franchise isn’t meant to replace the traditional Sonic that everybody knows. At the very least it can’t be argued that Sega isn’t taking any risks with their speedy blue mascot.
Sonic Boom looks like Sega is trying to give their fans the two types of Sonic games they love: Sonic Generation‘s return to classic speed runs, and Sonic Adventure‘s focus on exploration and battle. Hopefully the finished games really take into account the things that have and haven’t worked for Sonic in the last few years so that we can get another classic and avoid another Sonic and the Black Knight.
Both games are scheduled for release sometime this Fall, with the TV series soon to follow.