Remember SEGA's attempt to reignite the genuine excitement people got when they heard about a new Sonic The Hedgehog game by reimagining the franchise back in late 2006? Remember how much that game sucked? Today, the 2006 reimagining of Sonic The Hedgehog (or as we all like to call it, "Sonic 06") is the prime example of what NOT to do with your franchise. Broken mechanics, bland gameplay, and uninteresting if not outright disturbing story make Sonic 06 stick out from the most mediocre titles in a big-name franchise. One could write an essay on what went wrong with Sonic 06, but the long story short is that it was rushed for a Christmas season release date. Video game developers have since tried to avoid rushing production for Christmas (more or less) so that they don't end up making the next game to be compared to Sonic 06.
Now, rushed AAA titles are nothing new these days. Those who have kept an eye on gaming news lately will likely think of Assassin's Creed: Unity as an example (And trust me, it's met with a terrible fate considering how broken it can get), but I'd like to take it one step further...
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is Sonic 06 all over again.
Allow me to put a disclaimer in here: I haven't played the game to its entirety. This isn't a review more than it's a first impression on gameplay and a critique on execution. I'm not jumping on a universal hate train for Sonic (seeing as the fandom is so damn DIVIDED in what they want). This is honestly what I think of how this whole thing was handled and what I think Big Red Button (the Naughty Dog refugees who developed Boom's games) did TERRIBLY wrong. Enjoy the ramblings of one man's opinion.
[P.S. it would be a good idea to read this essay on what just happened to the Sonic fandom over the years. It's a long read but well worth it.]
When Sonic Boom was first announced, I was sceptical. I was confused if it was a reboot to do away with all of the bad press Sonic games seem to get these days. I had no qualms with the character redesigns (although Knuckles REALLY needed to stop skipping leg day), after all, Sonic Adventure did this and everything turned out fine, more or less. Once we found out it was a different continuity than the other Sonic games (much like those Medieval Sonic games whose names elude me), I couldn't help but think of the newer Star Trek films (hence why I used the term "reimagining" earlier). Then I learned there was supposed to be a show and merchandise and the whole nine yards, all for the kiddies. Okay, this is strictly for the actual demographic. We're getting Sonic: Lost World for the older fans/critics anyway, so this is fine. I still kind of looked forward to Boom though. I had never heard of the developer Big Red Button before (because they just came about at this time), but seeing as most of them were from Naughty Dog (known back in the day for Crash Bandicoot, and now for Uncharted and The Last of Us), I had hope this was going to be a good game.
Time went by and I forgot about Sonic Boom. I had a job to keep, university to prepare for, and no time to worry about another Sonic game. And then it came out this week.
You know, ten years ago this month we got gaming masterpieces like Half-Life 2, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metroid Prime 2, Halo 2, World of Warcraft, and the launch titles for the Nintendo DS among others. We got some pretty good games. THIS November, we've got Ass Creed: Unity and an incomplete mess known as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Yes, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will be out in a few short days to ease the pain, and we've got Smash Bros. too, but this...
Anyway, Boom is an incomplete mess. No polish to it whatsoever. The game throws you right in the middle of things without warning and even has the audacity to show the alleged death of Sonic in the first 10 seconds of starting a new game. Spoiler alert: He'll be fine. At least he doesn't have to be kissed by a human princess like in Sonic 06 (THAT'S RIGHT I JUST WENT THERE). I won't go too far into the actual story because it's akin to that of a Saturday morning cartoon. This is because the game TIES INTO a Saturday morning cartoon. One thing I will touch on is the characters. Sonic, Tails and Amy are just fine, although they do tend to play Captain Obvious more than ever (And tor Tails, that's saying a helluva lot). I was most concerned for Knuckles' redesign, and my fears were confirmed in the fact that they made him even DUMBER. Now, the Echidna wan't dimwitted before, but now... Man, it's stereotypically FORCED on us. It hurts. It makes ME feel dumber. Eggman has pretty much become the old Sonic cartoons' Dr. Robotnik (I was disappointed that "Pingas" wasn't mentioned once throughout the game; there may be hope for the show), with less dumb robots. He ends up playing second fiddle to Lyric, who has no distinguishing character other than "last of his kind of the 'Ancients', Big Bad of the story and wants to industrialize (not related to 'roboticize') the whole world". Shadow is in this game for NO GOOD REASON AT ALL other than to be edgy and a sort of neutral loner force, and he only gets maybe fifteen minutes of screentime. Metal Sonic shows up a bit too, but that makes a LITTLE bit more sense. Oh, and there's a buncha forgettable characters exclusive to Boom.
Gameplay goes like this: "On-rails running like what Sonic SHOULD be! This is actually pretty good. Oh, here comes a boost--SWEET MOTHER OF BASED CHRIST WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FRAMERATE???" For a game that should go fast, don't go TOO fast or else the game punishes you by dipping well below the console-standard 30 FPS. This hinders your ability to dodge obstacles and whatnot. Plus, the graphics aren't so intensive to warrant such a framerate drop. I mean, Sonic 06 looked better, I'm not even kidding! I wish I was, but I'm not. Once the laggy running is finished, you're put into a style of gameplay I can only describe as "LEGO TT games". That's right, it plays as using four "unique" characters to get from point A to point B, with platforming and beating up enemies to get ample replenishing items you don't really need. The puzzles consist of "Push big green button to progress", "Break wall to find secret room", or "follow the glowing tiles", and all are dull as dirt. There are rings all over the place (sounds good, right?), but you can only hold 100 of them (You're s***ting me). And when you take a hit by a baddie, the rings are more like a standard health bar. You only lose a small portion of said rings, but if you're fast enough (it is Sonic, after all), you can scoop up your lost health with no penalty.
So what happened to this game? I've got a bit of a theory to what. Sonic Team was focusing on trying to appeal a bit to the fans with Lost World, and wanted a different developing house to do something to breathe new life into the Blue Blur, just for the kids (because that's where the money really is). Then they found Big Red Button and--
You know what, screw it. Sonic 06 was only released on the PS3 and Xbox 360, so Nintendo had to have their own s***ty broken Sonic game to make up for it. Sonic Team were doing coke after they finished Lost World and told Big Red Button "K GUYS TIME'S UP WE NEED TO MAKE MORE MONEY FOR GAMES I THINK".
So yeah. I'm done ranting about Sonic Boom. It's Nintendo's Sonic 06, and soiled the name of a promising developer. At least SEGA isn't EA or Ubisoft right now, I guess.