Sonic Boom Wii U and 3DS reinvents the SEGA franchise

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Sonic Boom gameSadly, SEGA’s a long way away from being the gaming leviathan that it once was, but thankfully it’s still going strong and it’s about to give its talismanic blue hedgehog a much needed shot of adrenaline in the upcoming release of Sonic Boom. While the platform has had a number of new adventures recently with Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World, they haven’t exactly lit the touch paper in the same way the series did during the height of its success in the 90s, but in Sonic Boom SEGA might be on their way to getting back to their best.

Bringing a new look and feel to the key characters in the game and an epic looking backdrop, it’s shaping up to be an exciting prospect to look at for. With a Sonic Boom TV series to accompany the game, it’s definitely the most significant charge forward from the legendary Japanese developers since they first set Sonic’s whirlwind blue sprinters in motion back in 1991.

Sonic Boom Wii U & 3DS Release

The official UK and worldwide release date for Sonic Boom hasn’t yet been announced, but if logic prevails it’ll be hitting the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS in the run up to Christmas 2014, as a part of SEGA‘s exclusivity arrangement with Nintendo. The games will be subtly different on each of the Nintendo consoles as you’d expect with the tech variance between the two, but more significantly, they’re being developed by two different companies.

The 3DS version of the game is courtesy of Sansaru Games Inc., while the Wii U edition has been created by Big Red Button using the third generation of CryTek’s CryEngine, which adds to the prospect of the game.

If you’re not up on your gaming engines, it might be easier to put things in terms of other games that CryEngine has been behind to give you an idea of why this is big news for Sonic. Previous generations of it gave us the likes of Far Cry and Crysis, while the 4th generation has delivered the stunning Ryse: Son Of Rome and will be behind Turtle Rock Studio’s Evolve.

If that’s not enough to give you a sense of why the Sonic Boom Wii U game has got our attention, you can add the fact that Bob Rafei, creative director of Big Red Button Entertainment, will be heading up the team responsible for the game. You may be asking yourself why that’s worth a mention, but you’ve only got to look at his previous successes, Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted and the Jak and Daxter series, to get a feel for what he’s going to be bringing to the Sonic franchise.

Storyline

The storyline for the game sees Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy crash landing in a strange and exotic land with all sorts of crazy terrain and dangerous creatures to tackle. In the adventure, the four friends must face an ancient evil if they are to save the land and get back home safely.

It acts as a prequel to the TV series of the same name, which is Sonic’s first CGI animated adventure, planned to be exclusive on the Cartoon Network from late 2014, running into early 2015.

While Robotnik (AKA Egg Man, as he’s unfortunately known in the modern day Sonic universe) hasn’t been confirmed as being at the heart of the computer game, he is a central character in the cartoon, so it’s likely he’ll be making some kind of surprise appearance in the Wii U and 3DS adventures too. There’s also the robotic, tentacle thrashing monster that’s teased at the end of the Sonic Boom game trailer below to take into account, which would sort of imply that the villain is once again behind all of the mayhem.

One thing we can say for sure is that this game looks like it’s going to have a storyline that’s much more enthralling than has previously been the case with Sonic The Hedgehog games. As a prelude to the cartoon there’s more weight on the plot to set things up well, so it could be one of the defining factors in the success of the game.

Gameplay

The gameplay for Sonic Boom is a third person 3D platform adventure style game. However, it differs massively from all previous iterations of Sonic platformers in that it involves a whole lot more exploration and fight action, making it more akin to games like Jak and Daxter (as you’d sort of expect with Rafei at the helm). You take control of one of the four main playable characters – Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles “Tails” Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and Amy Rose (also a hedgehog, in case you didn’t already know, of the pink variety) – to make it through the mayhem of the paradise-like, dangerous unexplored land.

Each character has their own unique abilities, methods of getting around the place and attack capabilities and you get to switch between them to make it through the game, similarly to the Lego games. For example, where Sonic’s speed, jumping, water running and homing attacks aren’t enough to tackle a certain section or boss you can switch to Tails to use his aerial skills or firepower.

If they’re not the right combination, you’ll also have the option of changing to Knuckles to use his brute strength, digging and climbing, or Amy’s hammer to swing on poles and deliver devastating twirling blows to the baddies.

To refresh the Sonic gaming experience further, SEGA has also equipped each of the four characters with what it’s called an EnerBeam. This is an energy whip device that gives you even more options for getting around the levels. You’ll be able to use this for everything from reaching and hanging from hard to get to locations to enemy attacks and rail riding.

There will also be local co-op multiplayer fun for two players in the main game, so you can share the adventure, similar to other great Wii U titles like Super Mario 3D World.

Graphics

From our point of view, Sonic Boom on the Wii U looks like it’s going to have some of the best graphics we’ve ever seen in a Sonic game, but in all fairness it’s long overdue. You’ve only got to look at games like Pikmin 3 and Lego City Undercover to see how impressive 3D platformers can look on the Wii U, so it’s about time Sonic followed suit, considering it’s gaming heritage.

The massive sprawling levels are lush and detailed, providing a lot of eye candy as you speed, fly, climb and sling shot your way through the journey. There’s a lot of ground to cover, with a good range of beautiful levels to get through, including lava fields, waterways, futuristic factory settings, canyons, underground tunnels, sky platforms and rock faces.

There’s also a lot more advanced graphical features build into the game to bring it a bit more up-to-date. Lighting effects are dazzling with source, reflection and shadow tracking that gives the game a sense of solidity, draw distances are descent so you have detail in the background as well as up close and there’s even some sharp water rendering thrown in to boot.

Each of the characters have had a pretty cool make-over for Sonic Boom as SEGA try to repackage the spiky blue speedster for western audiences. It’s a change that we think works well with Sonic and co look cooler than they’ve ever looked before, with a lot of fluidity in their movement to make their new abilities well animated.

We’re firm believers that a game is often a hit or miss depending on the destructive brilliance of its bosses and if the one teased at the end of the trailer below is anything to go by, we’re expecting Sonic Boom to have some very impressive looking bosses.

This is the final of the exclusive games that SEGA promised as a part of its deal with Nintendo and from what we’ve seen and what we know about the game, it could be a modern day 3D platform masterpiece on the Wii U. We’ll need to see much more in terms of what the game looks like on the Nintendo 3DS before we can decide how it’s panning out on hand-held, but if it can feature a good amount of the positives from the Wii U version it should work well too.

Sonic Boom game trailer:

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