3D Sonic games suck. Everyone knows that. Sure there’s been a few outliers with games like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Generations being on the positive side of the spectrum but for the most part the 3D Sonic games have ranged from unimpressive (Sonic: Lost World) to terrible (Sonic 06). So with this history of disappointments, why are fans so excited for the upcoming Sonic Forces? Surely the game will be another letdown for fans of the blue blur and will quickly be forgotten right? RIGHT?! Well, I’m not so sure. We’ve only seen a tiny snippet of gameplay from the game but so far it’s a very promising first look. The game looks like it has all the elements that make a Sonic game great. It’s fast, simple and looks to offer a fair degree of exploration. So is this the 3D Sonic game that finally gets it right?
Here’s what we know so far about Sonic Forces. The game will offer different gameplay styles based on which of the three main characters you choose to play as. So far we’ve gotten the reveals for Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic and are awaiting to see what the third is all about. There’s honestly not much to say about Classic Sonic at the moment, as the cherubic hedgehog’s gameplay looks like a modern take on the classic 2D Sonic formula. There might be more to it but for now there simply isn’t much to say about his gameplay. Modern Sonic though is much more interesting and is the reason why I think Sonic Forces can make Sonic great again.
For starters, the gameplay is fast, real fast. The best Sonic games are built upon speed and chaining together runs to get through levels as fast as possible and Forces seems to have no problem getting Sonic to go fast. This has often been an issue with more recent 3D Sonic games that tend to play more like adventure games rather than pure platformers, which by their very nature will slow down the action to allow you to explore. Our brief glimpse of Sonic Forces show the exact opposite; levels built along a main path where small changes in course will reward you with a prize (we can catch a glimpse of a Star Ring in the trailer). This type of gameplay would mean that Sonic can zoom through stages to his heart’s content but also challenge the player to make split decisions to explore off the beaten path.
Of course this is just what we’ve seen and surmised from a very short gameplay trailer and doesn’t even come close to what we want to see in the final build of Sonic Forces. For one, it would be great if the game offered a seamless transition between all three characters, allowing you to switch between 3D and 2D (and 4D?!) on the fly. This could open up some very interesting gameplay opportunity for the series and help the game break new ground in a genre and series that rarely sees positive change. Then, what about cramming the world with collectibles, treasures and prizes that players will want to find? I completed Sonic: Lost World too 100%, and none of the game’s hidden items ever excited me or pushed me to keep exploring, whereas in games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, I scoured every inch of the world looking for anything I could find. Sonic Forces needs to bring back this type of exploring to the series and create levels that reward proper exploration and experimentation.
Now experimentation is a scary word when it’s mentioned in the same breath as the Sonic series. Experimentation is what got us nu-metal, guns, making out with humans, wherehogs and whatever the heck was Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. But that doesn’t mean Sonic Forces should play it safe and avoid any new ideas, on the contrary, I hope Forces is jam-packed with things brand new to the franchise that help take it in a new direction. I just hope Sega pays close attention to what has been said about their most recent Sonic games and put the effort and energy into Forces to make it something that is both familiar and creative, like how Nintendo manages to constantly reinvent Mario while keeping him grounded in the past.
So, will Sonic Forces be any good? So far it’s looking like it but we’ve been burned by Sonic and his (many) friends before. From what we’ve seen though the gameplay, look, feel and energy that the franchise was crafted on all look present in Sonic Forces and that’s definitely a good sign for Sonic fans everywhere. But hey, even if the game sucks and perpetuates the stereotype of 3D Sonic games being a hot mess at least we’ll have Sonic Mania to keep us entertained this summer right? Wait, what? It was delayed again!? That’s not a good sign…