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Sonic Unleashed (JP) is a video game for the Wii released in 2008. Developed by both Dimps and Sonic Team and published by Sega, the game adds a new element to Sonic the Hedgehog by introducing his 'werehog' form, adding a new twist to the Sonic game which is usually centred around defeating Dr. Eggman, Sonic's arch-nemesis. The game is stylised upon a premise of a world adventure through day and night.

The game is split into two distinct styles, day and night - the former incorporates Sonic's normal platforming with fast pace and a multitude of alternating paths in typical Sonic fashion, whilst the latter features a completely new gameplay as Sonic transforms into his 'werehog form', with combat-oriented platforming that sacrifices speed for power. Whilst the game is mostly centred around traditional platforming as is characteristic of Sonic games, the game also incorporates 'beating 'em up' which takes place in the night mode as the game transitions from day into night. The level stages also combine 3D and 2D.5 perspectives, shifting between the two throughout.

The game was additionally released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and 3 consoles. The Xbox and PS3 versions completely differ from the Wii port as they feature HD graphics, hub worlds, different level designs and made use of the Hedgehog engine. The game had received very divided reception at the time; and despite the shortcomings of the Wii and PS2 versions, they actually gained higher Metacritic scores than their Xbox and PS3 counterparts. 

Plot

(Introduction)

Plot 1

The hedgehog is violently electrocuted

The game kicks off with Sonic the Hedgehog boosting through his arch-nemesis Dr. Eggman's Egg Fleet spaceships and wreaking havoc there, in his usual business of thwarting the evil doctor's schemes. Eggman eventually captures the hedgehog, but to his horror Sonic wields out the Chaos Emeralds he had been keeping the whole time, and activates his super transformation to break free and chase the helpless doctor, who flees until he becomes cornered and desperately seeks Super Sonic's forgiveness in a show of remorse. However, this is revealed to be a ruse as Eggman has deliberately lured him into a trap where Sonic is struck by an electrical field, stripping him of Chaos Emeralds and then has negative energy channeled into him, prompting the Werehog transformation. He is then cast out into space by Eggman and falls all the way to Earth, and is only saved when a bubble of light surrounds him. After the business of Sonic is settled, Eggman uses the Emeralds to begin his new nefarious scheme of taking over the world, this time by shattering the planet into seven pieces to awaken the evil deity, Dark Gaia, and harness its dark energy to aid him with his schemes.

(End of introduction)


Sonic the Werehog crashes down to Apotos, only to find company when he discoveres a mysterious and unconscious, flying red and white creature. After waking up, he meets Sonic but it is discovered he has severe amnesia, to the extent of even forgetting his own name. Sonic offers to help him gain his memory, and both search the town to look for anyone who could know him. By this time, the sun has rose and this brings an involuntary transformation in Sonic, turning him back to his usual hedgehog form that the creature witnesses. Sonic later names him Chip, having observed his strong appetite of chocolate-chip ice creams. 

Sonic's quest begins from this point, as he and his sidekick Chip venture to the Gaia temple of Apotos throughout day and night. At nightfall, they meet Sonic's old pal Tails who was able to recognise him, despite the former's monstrous werehog form. He explains the situation and Tails advices him to meet Professor Pickle, a university scholar of Spagonia who has knowledge of the Gaia Manuscripts that hold the secret to the operations of Light and Dark Gaia. To their shock, it is revealed that the professor has been cunningly kidnapped by Eggman and had to be freed from his base. 

Eggman mazuri

Eggman gets stoned in Mazuri

Meanwhile as Sonic and co. rescue the professor, Eggman attempts a forced takeover of Mazuri, only to be hit with resistance from the residents, and was sent packing when Sonic showed up and defeated him. The hedgehog arrives back in Spagonia at night, where he is encountered by his crush Amy Rose - she doesn't recognise his werehog form, however. It is revealed that night times have been a source of gloom, despair and vice for everyone around the world since the Earth was broken, due to the corruptive influences of Dark Gaia building up at night. Amy is later rescued from this by Sonic, but the latter immediately flees away. She later learns that the 'monstrous werehog' she saw really was Sonic, and volunteers to work with the professor and aid Sonic in his quest.

In the meantime, Eggman reassembles his plans for a worldwide takeover and securing the dark energy of Dark Gaia. It is revealed though that as Sonic restores more Chaos Emeralds in the temples, that his sidekick Chip was actually the Light Gaia, an embodiment of light - he too was released with his dark counterpart's awakening. In addition to this, Dark Gaia was found to have been awaken prematurely by Eggman and not at the full extent of its power.

Dark gaia

The awakening of Dark Gaia

After gathering six emeralds, Sonic and Chip fly to Eggmanland at the professor's instructions, to secure the seventh and stop Eggman. It is discovered that the entire premise was crafted from harnessing the dark energy. Sonic successfully defeats Eggman there, but soon afterwards Dark Gaia awakes and plunges Eggman off into space, disobeying his orders. It gains all its dark powers by stripping Sonic's werehog form and then proceeds to kill him, only for Chip to intervene and activate his hidden Gaia Colossus form, where the seven temples of the world literally raise themselves off and reassemble into a fighting machine. Sonic and Chip work together in tandem to fight the dark deity, but the latter pulls off its trump card by submerging the world in utter darkness and unleashing its perfect form. Sonic is forced to resort to his super transformation, and defeat Dark Gaia once and for all.

The dark beast is eventually defeated and fallen back into its slumber, but at this point Super Sonic has become fatigued from the difficult battle and had almost collapsed into the mantle - only to be saved by Chip, who then flings him back to Apotos. Upon waking up, Sonic discovers a blue Chip necklace left behind with him, which he realised was brought as a memory of his and Chip's glorious world adventures together. He then speeds off onto his next adventure, accompanied by Tails with the world's temples and continents restored.

Gameplay

The game itself is split into two different platforming mechanics for the day and night stages, which alternate throughout the game as Sonic explores around the world - there's a heavier emphasis on the latter, with as three times the number of night levels. Daytime stages comprise of one main level, with a couple of missions that follow afterwards which consist of collecting rings, dodging obstacles or finishing unscathed. The nighttime counterparts consist of three or more levels, and bosses are also thrown into the mix.

Holoska day

Sonic speeds through Cool Edge in daylight

The daylight stages have been given a revamp in terms of how the platforming is carried out - their layouts have been designed with speed in mind, as Sonic is equipped with a boost gauge. This is split into bars that are filled up by collecting rings, and enable Sonic to boost through the levels in an immense blast of speed. The main staple of Sonic's 3D platforming, the homing attack, returns but has also been adjusted to introduce a new skill, the action chain, where the hedgehog can spinball into a chain of enemies one-by-one, and reach new platforms. Another addition to the gameplay comes in the form of quick time events, where the player has to immediately input certain button commands with a second for Sonic to jump onto certain platforms. Other skills introduced are drifting to curve through sharp turns seamlessly, and quick steps to sidestep instantaneously. The main purpose of the day levels is to run through them as speedily as possible, generally within a couple of minutes.  

Spagonia night fight

When the sun comes down...up comes the werehog!

The night stages meanwhile take a completely different turn - when the sun comes down, up comes the werehog. In this transformation, Sonic loses all his trademark speed but gains brute strength in return. The levels concerned take upon much slower platforming combined with beat 'em up elements, as periodically throughout the level Dark Gaia beasts appear in large masses and have to be taken down. Despite being heavily outnumbered in this regard, Sonic comes with a wide range of fighting skills and tactics at his disposal to pummel his enemies, with more skills unlocked throughout the game as the werehog gradually powers up. The werehog also comes equipped with a health bar, which decreases upon damage from enemies or hazards but can be replenished with rings. In addition to this, he also comes with a blue 'Unleashed' bar - this fills up upon beating enemies or destroying obstacles,  turns Sonic into his 'unleashed' form, where he gains an aura of blue energy and can channel more damage into his enemies. The slow platforming style of these levels typically involves Sonic outstretching his arms onto distant poles to jump or rotate from them, and simple puzzles such as opening doors, switches or finding dark keys to progress further in the level. 

Each stage takes place on a different continent scattered across the world, to fit within the premise of a world adventure. The player is given an interface of the whole globe where each continents and their levels can be picked and accessed. The stages have to be accessed from the temple of the respective continent, using the collected sun or moon medals to gain access. The temple in question has to be found through communication with characters of the continent, and this is visualised through hub menus on a world map where Sonic and his sidekick Chip can talk to different characters, whether they be residents minding their own business or important temple guardians. 

Upon completion of each level, moon and sun medals are gained for day and night stages, respectively. Completing the main levels can gain the player a maximum of three, whilst missions come with just a single medal. The number of medals collected though in the main levels depends on the ranking that judges the player's performance - beating the level within the set time target gives an S rank and three medals. The ranks decrease as time drags further on, down to A, B and the worst, D which warrants no medal. Up to 103 sun and 71 moon medals can be collected in the game.

Another feature of the game are collectibles such as soundtracks, movies and secret documents which can be discovered throughout the game. Some are found through communication with certain characters, whilst others have to be discovered in item boxes that are scattered throughout the level. Each temple also contains a series of doors on either side, that have to be unlocked by collecting certain number of medals - they contain more collectibles and extras.

Continental stages

Image Name / description
Apotos hub

Apotos

This continent is where Sonic crashes onto after his fall from space, and marks the beginning of his adventures. The continent is very heavily inspired by the real capital city of Greece called Athens, even sharing similar titles and flags. White-painted buildings and houses and windmills form much of its landscape.

Spagonia

Spagonia

This is the second continent Sonic where travels back and forth to track down the professor at the university. This continent's design is strongly based upon the traditional cities of Europe and its culture, and as such features narrow town streets and clocktowers.

Holoska

Holoska

This is a very chilly and wintery continent that takes its design cues from the freezing Arctic regions of the real world, with a few residents living there within a small village. The landscapes comprise of many icy landforms like ice floes, sheets and caves. The name itself is derived from Alaska.

Chun-nan

Chun-nan

This continent this time around is based upon China and a celebration of its culture, boasting ornamental temples, sprawling pathways likely influenced by the Great Wall of China, along with mountainous backdrops and lakes. 

Shamar

Shamar

An arid and sandy region situated within a searing hot desert, the continent of Shamar is influenced by the Middle East regions like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Story-wise, Professor Pickle transfers his lab and researching resources to this region after the restoration of the previous continents.

Adabat

Adabat

The penultimate continent of the game (and the final 'natural' one), Adabat is geographically based upon southeast Asia with a tropical climate, boasting jungles and grassy plateaus over waterfalls and lakes, along with fishing coasts and stilt housings.

Eggmanland

Eggmanland

The final continent of the game, the Eggmanland is an entirely artificial creation assembled together by none other than Dr. Eggman - whose dreams of constructing such a place have been finally realised. It is a grotesque fusion of a dark carnival rollercoaster ride and factory that has been partially built with harnessed Dark Gaia's energy - the beast itself residing underneath the premises.

Stage levels

Continental bosses

Controls

The game's default setting of controls is to use a Wii remote and Nunchuk, but the classic and GameCube controllers can also be used. The controls listed below are for the Wii remote + Nunchuk:

Day

  • Move: move circle pad
  • Jump: press A
  • Homing attack: thrust remote forwards when locked onto an enemy
  • Boost: shake remote when boost gauge is filled
  • Drift: hold Z when turning corners
  • Quick step: press B + move circle pad left or right
  • Quick time event: press A, B or Z immediately according to commands on-screen
  • Crouch: hold Z 
  • Stomp: press B when midair above soft platforms  
  • Wall jump: jump + move circle pad in the direction of the wall to kick from one wall to another 

Night

  • Move: move circle pad
  • Jump: press A
  • Double jump: press A twice
  • Dash: push circle pad forwards twice
  • Long jump: jump whilst dashing
  • Reach platforms: press B to outstretch arms onto poles, ledges or even some minions
  • Right punch: swing Wii remote
  • Left punch: swing Nunchuk
  • Unleashed mode: press C when 'unleashed' bar is filled
  • Open doors: swing Wii remote + Nunchuk upwards
  • Open door switches: rotate circle pad clockwise
  • Pick up boxes: press B, then swing remote to throw them

Fighting skills

During night stages, Sonic the Werehog will acquire a larger range of fighting skills at his disposal which can enable him to tackle down more enemies with greater power; as the game progresses he will level up (up to 5) and the skills will become naturally available to him.

  • Were-Claw: Sonic swings out an uppercut with his claws onto an enemy, which also temporarily stuns them. To execute this, swing a punch with the remote whilst dashing. 
  • Were-Hammer: One of the earliest moves learnt in the game, Sonic jumps and slams his fists down on the ground to send shockwaves. This only causes mild damage but can startle large number of ground enemies. To do this, simultaneously swing the remote and Nunchuk.
  • Were-Wallop: Sonic delivers brutal double uppercuts into his enemies by slashing both his fists upwards, dealing great damage.To perform this trick, you need to have done a couple of combo hits in advance then shake the remote and Nunchuk together.
  • Earthshaker: Sonic develops gigantic muscles to slam his fists repeatedly on the ground with extra power, pounding down many punches and shockwaves on a large set of foes. One of the most powerful attacks in the game, this is unlocked in the later parts of the game. To do this, you need to deliver at least 4 combo hits then press A to pull off this skill.
  • Beatdown: With this attack, Sonic repeatedly whirls and batters his enemy around whilst grabbing it, delivering a brutal death for the dark minion in one move. To do this, grab a lightweight enemy then swing both the remote and Nunchuk at the same time. 

The skills will be unlocked throughout the game at various stages, depending on the amount of Dark Gaia orbs - energies of dark, negative energy - Sonic obtains after completing each of his night levels. Each of those skills are taught in optional missions in Apotos to introduce them to the player for practicing once unlocked.

When Sonic activates his 'unleashed' mode, each of the aforementioned skills will be replaced with even stronger and more ferocious attacks, making them useful for fights against massively sized dark enemies that are encountered in some levels.

Development

The game was officially announced in April 2008 under the finalised title of Sonic Unleashed. However, during the early origins of development the game was going to be built in a similar vein to the Adventure series [1]. Knuckles and Shadow, the two significant characters of Adventure series, were originally proposed to be included. Another evidence pointing to the signs of a possible Adventure-style game in the pipeline is the alternative title given in the form of Sonic World Adventure [2]  - in fact, Japanese copies of the official game are named with this title.

In the end though, Sonic Team had introduced a multitude of innovations and fresh changes to Sonic's gameplay so it was decided that the game should be given its own identity, with the title of Unleashed chosen. Such innovations include the introduction of a boost gauge for Sonic to blast through the levels in a quick burst of speed for a faster experience that Sonic Team wanted to achieve, with the aim of making their mascot character as fast as possible [3] . This paved the way for structural overhauls of traditional level designs and addition of gameplay features like quick step.

The Wii port of the game differs structurally from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, which both utilise the advanced Hedgehog engine. Instead the Wii port was built under a modified version of the existing Sega engine with input from a third-party developer called Dimps, who had experience of working on Nintendo consoles as they helped to develop Sonic Rush. Furthermore, Dimps had actually first introduced Sonic's new boosting mechanism in the aforementioned Rush game, and assisted Sonic Team with the creation of daylight levels and implementing this feature in 3D [4] . The port had also been designed to make the most of the Wii's motion control system that set it apart from its rival consoles.

Reception

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
GameRankings 65.94% [5]
Metacritic 66 [6]
Review scores
PublicationScore
1UP D [7]
Eurogamer 6/10 [8]
Game Informer 6.5 [9]
GameSpot 7/10 [10]
IGN 7.2/10
Nintendojo 6/10
NGamer 58/100
Nintendo Life 6/10 [11]
Nintendo Power 8/10
Nintendo World Report 4/10
Official Nintendo Magazine 79%

Despite being a downgraded port of sorts, the game received moderately positive reviews in an ironic contrast to the mainstream Xbox 360/PS3 versions, which received more scathing treatment from the critics and a lower Metacritic average score.

The daylight stages were lauded as the highlight of the game, with comments that "they hearken back to the 2D classics and are positively overrun with raw speed, zigzagging pathways, loop- de-loops and more, all of it complemented by responsive controls and good technology" according to IGN [12].

The combination of 2D and 3D perspectives within the level designs and the artistic visuals were also commended, with Official Nintendo Magazine stating that "playing through them is also a complete feast for the eyes. As Sonic zips round each stage, flipping from 3D to 2D and back again, there's no denying that it's impressive stuff and some of the best-looking action you'll see on the Wii." [13]

However, on the other hand the nighttime Werehog sections were unaminously criticised due to their slow repetitive combat and platforming. Nintendo World Report lamented the stages as "clumsy, slow-paced, combat-heavy levels with terrible controls", whilst the combat was dubbed a "God of War ripoff." [14]

Trivia

  • Two stages, Mazuri and Empire City, were omitted from the Wii port for unknown reasons. However, the Mazuri continent did make an appearance with just the boss level, Egg Beetle.
  • The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions received DLC packages that boasted more levels; however, the Wii port didn't.
  • As well as ports for the four consoles, there was a fifth version of this game - on Blackberry mobile phones.[15]  
  • The game was the first 3D platformer to introduce Sonic's new style of boost mechanism gameplay. This change proved a success as this style of gameplay is still in use today, having been used in ColorsGenerations and Forces.
    • However, it was actually originated from Sonic Rush, a 2D platformer for Nintendo DS that predated Unleashed by 3 years.
  • This game is the first one in the Sonic series since the original Sonic the Hedgehog game where only Sonic himself is a playable character - excluding the first phase of Dark Gaia boss battle when a Gaia Colossus-transformed Chip fights the dark deity.
  • In one cutscene towards the later stages of the game when Eggman is sitting inside his Egg Dragoon machine, he interestingly appeared to have a Sega Dreamcast console with him. [16]
  • For a second time, Amy had mistaken another person for her beloved crush Sonic, when she hugged the werehog at night in Spagonia. Ironically the werehog was actually Sonic, but in a different form.
  • Additionally, this is the second time where Eggman has almost succeeded in killing Sonic. In this game, Eggman has cast Sonic out into space in the introduction - the werehog only survived due to Light Gaia summoning a bubble of light around him during his fall. 
    • Again in Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, Eggman trapped Sonic in a space capsule and launched it down to Earth. The hedgehog only managed to escape by performing a Chaos Control trick that he learnt from Shadow to teleport out before the capsule combusted.
  • For the third time in the history of Sonic games on Nintendo consoles, Eggman ended up being betrayed by a more superior force that he had been trying to control from the start of his plots. In this case, when Dark Gaia awoke from its slumber, it immediately tossed the doctor out into space.
    • In Sonic Adventure DX, Eggman was attacked by Perfect Chaos when the water deity received all the Chaos Emeralds and flooded Station Square against his will. He was subsequently attacked with a laser beam, blasting him away.
    • In Sonic Heroes, Eggman ended up being overthrown and imprisoned by his out-of-control Metal Sonic which transformed into Metal Overlord, in its attempt to capture the world for itself and build a population of robots.
    • In Sonic Lost World (released five years later), the Deadly Six gang that Eggman tried to control had rebelled against him when their conch was broken - this resulted in an uneasy alliance between Sonic and Eggman to stop them.
  • Sonic's super transformation makes two appearances in this game, at the beginning and the end.
  • The game saw the third appearance of the Egg Fleet.
  • In the Wii port of the game, 1-up lives are absent. At the start of each main level, the player is always given two lives. Losing both will simply return the player back to global map to try again.
  • The main theme of this game is Endless Possibilities, with the vocal track played out by Bowling for Soup and the orchestrated version played out in the final boss against Perfect Dark Gaia.
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