Sonic Unleashed has a lot going for it but a lot going against it. It has potential, but it doesn't live up to it.

User Rating: 7 | Sonic Unleashed WII
Sonic's been through ups and downs. However in 2008, a very promising Sonic Unleashed was announced and then released. While it did not save Sonic from mediocrity like fans hoped for, it does have a few things that help it stick out a bit from the rest of the 3D Sonic games release prior, ad those things help stick it out in a positive light.

Story - 7/10

Dr. Eggman has developed a powerful cannon that can fire a laser to break the world into pieces. Literally. And he does this to awaken a beast named Dark Gaia whom he plans to use to harness its energy and rule the world. But he didn't count on Sonic showing up to foil his plans... again. But Eggman did prepare for it, just in case. He uses a machine that drains the energy of Sonic's Chaos Emeralds and renders the gems useless, which causes Sonic to transform into a werewolf-like monster. Eggman then launches Sonic and the Chaos Emeralds out of his satellite and down to earth, which is the biggest mistake he could have made. After Sonic wakes up and meets a new friend, Sonic has all the necessary tools to stop Eggman again.

As it turns out, the friend Sonic meets, whom he nicknames Chip, is actually Dark Gaia's opposite, Light Gaia. The two Gaias have been fueding for millions of years and Eggman woke them up before they were meant to again. Sonic learns the Chaos Emeralds can gain their power again by taking them to special temples, and along with Chip sets out to restore power to the gems and stop Dark Gaia.

The story, while not entirely terrible, gets a bit outlandish, especially for a Sonic game. There's some moments that just do not click with the feel of a Sonic game, and the writing isn't far from the average line, but overall the plot does a decent job of moving things along. The story feels a lot like a saturday-morning cartoon because of the way it is written, so again it doesn't end up half bad. However, when the plot focuses on Dark Gaia and Light Gaia (Chip), the plot is too serious and too "unfamiliar" with the Sonic universe. When the story works out, it's pretty good, but other times you'll wish you could skip the cutscenes. But unless you've seen then before, you can't, which is unfortunate.

Gameplay - 7/10

This is the most mixed bag reaction I got out of this game. Part of the game is some of the most fun I have playing Sonic, especially 3D Sonic. When Sega or Sonic Team or Dimps, or whoever's idea it was, decided "let's mix up 3D with 2D parts for levels", I thank them. It's a nice dynamic and certainly something you don't see much from platformers. But, the other half of the gameplay (barring the overworld stuff which I'll explain later) is very mixed. Half the time, it's a bit of a nuisance and it is also fighting with its own identity. But the gameplay evens out to a decent experience.

There's two types of stages Sonic will play through: Day Stages and Night Stages. Day Stages are, to put it simply, a blast. Before Sonic Unleashed I didn't think Sonic could get much faster and still be easily playable and fun, but I was proved wrong. The Day Stages are worth picking this game up if you're a fan of the series. Sonic controls a bit clumsily at first, but as you learn the controls you'll find while you maintain a high speed Sonic controls quite smoothly. But if you try to change direction, the controls can be a bit constricting and you must resort to "Drifting", but even this doesn't stop the enjoyment you can get out of these levels.

In the daytime, Sonic maintains his normal, loveably spiky form, and he runs as fast as lightning here. You can also perform the normal set of moves like jumping, ring dash, homing attack, etc. Sonic collects rings like normal, and every 15 gives you a boost, and more speed boosts can be obtained also by drifting and by doing "Action Chains", which are tied mostly to enemies. Sonic can use boosts if he has boosts available in his boost gauge (max 6) to use, and these are how you get to blistering speeds for a brief period of time. Sonic can also perform Quick Steps and other moves that help manuever him more smoothly. Truth be told controlling Sonic's movement simply with the control stick won't get you too far, and you'll have to utilize the various abilities at his disposal to carry you to an S-rank. Once you know how to control Sonic, it's a lot of fun and easily replayable. However, it's a shame the day stages are in low supply and oftentimes quite short, at least in comparison to the night stages. The Day Stages, in a nutshell, are the best part of the game, hands down.

At night, Sonic becomes a "werehog" and these stages hold a mix of platforming and combat. Controlling the werehog feels clunky and slow most of the time, and when you dash with the werehog it feels like Sonic is on an ice rink. It doesn't interfere too much early in the game, but later on when some tight jumping is needed, Sonic's control as a werehog could be part of his own downfall. The combat is irritating. It's uninspired and repetitive, requiring you to press two buttons alternatively (or shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuk) to perform combos and a third button to perfom powerful finishers. Again, early on, the combat is tolerable, but later on it's frustrating as darn near everything in the game can stun the werehog and cause you to move the control stick aroud to recover from a dazed state, and you're too vulnerable to another attack while doing this.

The combat's worst offense is that it's forced. There's parts of a level where barriers will prevent progress until enemies are defeated. This isn't any easier to tolerate when flying enemies are so difficult to hit since there's no sort of lock-on mode (which could have easily been added in) and the enemies tend to fly out of reach of your attacks. You can dodge and guard against attacks, but again as there's no way to lock onto anything, it can be a gamble just trying to do that. The attacks you can perform by no way are very "original", and while there's plenty of different moves you can unlock and eventually your attack arsenal is quite respectable, nothing is particularly interesting enough or efficient enough to warrant a real sense of satisfaction with progressing in the night stages, which play out, in the end, like a lower-grade God of War.

The werehog obtains new abilities and increases to his attack, health, and unleashed power (a mode that makes him stronger for the amount of energy in its gauge) by obtaining Gaia Force, but because you don't get to control what Sonic learns/gains, you just progress in strength linearly, and truth be told it's not so entertaining and it would've been better to have a choice of progression. Meanwhile, the platforming segments of the werehog stages can range from boring to decent, but there's nothing above average about the werehog levels. They're average but nothing special and oftentimes they aren't that fun. As stated before, if the werehog sections were just more platforming in a different style, it wouldn't have been that bad and probably quite enjoyable, but the focus on "balancing" platforming with combat really brings down the chances of enjoying the werehog levels.

Aside from the day and night stages there's also hubworlds, which are text-based, to navigate through. These feel like a waste of time, as a cutscene could have sufficed far better than these hubworld could. While the hubworld have decent music (more on that later), I can't help but feel the hubworlds just get in the way of the fun. To be blunt, I enjoyed select werehog levels more than navigating these areas. It's a plus that unlike the HD versions of this game, the hubworlds aren't full, expansive areas, so not as much time is wasted between those lovely daytime levels.

Bosses are split fairly evenly between daytime and nighttime bosses. These bosses are all actually quite decent, and a few are pretty fun to face. The day stage bosses feel a bit too similar to one another, and one of the later night bosses is a mindless and repetitive attack and dodge/guard game, but for the most part the bosses are something to look forward to, and even the night bosses are a bit more fun and interesting than the uninspired stages the werehog slogs through.

Aside from the core game, you can unlock various "missions" (in addition to the missions for day stages you get to play off the bat). Some of these even have a unique level layout to the core stage (all of these being for day stages) so obtaining the ability to play and then playing these levels can be worth the trouble. A lot of secret missions are unlocked through obtaining them from a capsule in the "Gaia Gates", which are the areas you go to in the main game to unlock the door to the night or day stages of a specific area. The Gaia Gates are somewhat sloppy and they don't feel cohesive, which the same can be said of this game altogether. However they're not too frustrating so going in the various rooms of these places isn't too bad, but they feel too boring to make you want to go in them.

Overall, the gameplay is a mixed bag, as stated before. The day stages are a blast, and these levels and missions will be what draws you to this game, if nothing else. These are quite well made and for most Sonic fans worth slogging through boring night levels and barely tolerable hubworlds and poorly-made Gaia Gate areas to get to. The night stages are also well made in layout but they are still quite boring and the combat is a chore and not an entertaining piece of the experience. I actually wouldn't have minded the werehog levels if there was no combat, just more Spider-Man-inspired platforming. But alas, the night levels are not such a thing. The hubworlds and Gaia Gates feels simply thrown in, and don't click with the core levels very much. If you can put up with the hubworlds and gates and you can tolerate the barely par night levels, the day stages deliver the satisfaction you want.

This game can be played with three control schemes: Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and GameCube Controller. All three work fine, but the Wii Remote and Nunchuk focus a bit too much on shaking the Wiimote a lot and because multiple functions are assigned to this action, sometimes it's a bit annoying to see Sonic do the opposite of what you wanted him to do. I personally would recommend the Classic Controller as it works better in most parts, but in all honesty if you can figure out how to control Sonic better with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, you'll probably enjoy the game more that way. In the end the control scheme you chose is a matter of preference.

Graphics - 9/10

I can't help but think Sega has the key's to Nintendo's secret to "making good visuals on the Wii". Everything looks great, from the gorgeous day levels to the large-scale night levels. The Gaia Gate areas look alright quality-wise, but they're is just too much monotony between them. The hubworld backdrops and the layout scheme for menus look nice, creating a good package graphically. In some night levels, I was even impressed enough with the visuals to put up with the poor combat and such that took place in these nice areas.

Character models are without a doubt top-notch. While the generic humans look a bit on the goofy side, no character looks blocky or low-quality, and these character models truly live up to the idea that even the Wii has some great graphical quality. I actually noticed there's an attempt made at lighting, which isn't done too bad.

The main issue graphically besides the gaia gates is that some areas of the game look a bit pixely and and look almost directly copy-pasted from it's nearly identical PS2 version. However, past that the graphics are great, and while they aren't perfect, they're certainly pleasing to the eye the majority of the time. As far as Wii graphics goes, Unleashed does a great job.

Sound - 8/10

A lot of the music in this game is great music. However, some of the night music (both stage and hubworld) can be a bit too quiet and lullaby-like. The day music is often quite good and lives up to the "groovy" quality Sonic games tend to provide. There's a large variety of styles here, and they mesh well together. There's no particularly "annoying" music, but there's some music that's just flat-out better than other music on the disc.

Sound effects are great and sound fitting to each situation. It's quite pleasing to get cheered on after properly pulling off a trick and hearing a quick jingle to signal that. The boosting sound effect adds to the sense of breakneck speed the day stage music can provide. Even the sound effects of the night stages sound pretty good. The jazzy fight music is somewhat catchy, so some of the annoyance of fighting those enemies is lifted thanks to that. While there's some slip-ups sound-wise (some of the music and sound are just not as entertaining as others), the sound overall is still a positive aspect to the game.

Fun Factor - 7/10
Replay Value - 8/10

The game's entertainment the first time around is completely dependant on your tolerance of the hubworlds and night stages. Sometimes they're just a waste of time or too boring. But those day stages will push you along if nothing else does, and the bosses are all quite fun. But most of the fun will be had after you've beaten the game and unlocked a lot of missions. It's very easy, thanks to the World Map's menu layout, to go back to whatever levels you want to go back, so you can play what you want and ignore what you don't. So if you beat the game and manage to unlock a sizeable amount of daytime missions, you can expect to play plenty of this game. However the rest of the game is truly a deciding factor as to whether you finish this game and want to play it more.

Overall - 7.0/10

Not bad. The day stages are a blast, the night stages are average, and the hubworlds and gaia gates feel like a waste of time (why can't I just unlock more missions while playing the main levels?), but at the end of the day most players will walk away with mixed reactions to the game. Some of it is boring, some of it is a lot of fun, and some of it is just "meh", but overall there's been far worse games, and sadly far better. The visuals and sound will help even out the game's entertainment, and as a result the game manages to balance out as decent. However if you don't like the werehog or the hubworlds and such, the daytime stages just might not be enough to warrant purchasing this game. So you've been warned.