In late October, SEGA released the first piece of the Sonic Boom franchise by way of the Archie comic book series of the same name. Despite the much touted TV series and video games, the comic book was our first official trip into the Sonic Boom universe. In my review of the first issue, I noted that I really enjoyed the fun, loose, self-referential nature of the comic book series. I compared the Sonic Boom comic to Archie’s early Sonic the Hedgehog issues. My exposure to the franchise continued with the TV series, which I also enjoyed, noting that the series felt very much like DiC’s 1993 series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. By this point, I was feeling fairly positive about Sonic Boom. And then the video games released.
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U was my first experience with the games, and while you can read George’s full review for the official SEGAbits grade, I will briefly share my thoughts on the game. Ever play The Simpsons Game? If you have, then you’ve pretty much played Rise of Lyric. The Wii U game felt like your basic licensed platformer, never really scratching that Sonic the Hedgehog itch. Sure there were speed sections and springs and dash pads, but none of those elements functioned well. What was playable and passable were the slower combat and exploration segments, but I’ve played games that did such things far better and honestly who plays Sonic games for melee combat?
I also noted just how disconnected the Wii U game felt from the TV show and comic books. Aside from the main characters and voice talent, I never felt like I was in the Sonic Boom universe introduced to me in the comic book and TV show. Locations were unfamiliar, notable characters like Orbot and Cubot were absent, and even the style of humor felt different. Rise of Lyric was a definite stain on the Sonic Boom franchise. Not the worst Sonic game ever, at least it was playable unlike Sonic The Hedgehog (2006) , but still one of the worst games to carry the Sonic name. Then, I played Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the Nintendo 3DS. Unlike Rise of Lyric, Shattered Crystal feels much more connected to the TV series, something Mat Kraemer of Sanzaru Games confirmed in last month’s interview. Sticks joins the main cast, replacing Amy who has been kidnapped by Lyric, and there are recognizable elements from the TV series like the grass huts and various collectable toys representing elements of the show. Another welcome addition is composer Richard Jacques, who is no stranger to the Sonic series. While his tracks in Shattered Crystal are not nearly as catchy as his Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic R tunes, but they suit the adventurous feel the game aims to convey and there are a few standouts like the Seaside Beach and Worm Tunnel tracks.
The game itself takes cues from past Sonic titles like Tails Adventures and Sonic CD, emphasizing exploration but still maintaining recognizable Sonic gameplay elements. While the game only has six action stages, they are quite large. One could speed through a stage in 5-7 minutes, but fully exploring a stage for items like crystal fragments and blueprints can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes and sometimes you may have to return to a stage to find an overlooked item. Both blueprints and crystal fragments as well as completing a stage earns players an emblem, which in turn unlocks additional stages. While I am not a fan of unlocking additional stages with emblems or medals (curse you, Sonic Unleashed!), the collecting process is not too difficult and if you play the game with the goal of finding crystal fragments and blueprints – something Sonic CD required of players. There is an incentive to collecting blueprints, as they unlock additional abilities such as revealing items on the map screen which makes the exploration process much easier and boost combat abilities.
Speaking of combat, in comparison to Rise of Lyric, Shattered Crystal is much more in line with a traditional Sonic title when it comes to enemies. Enemies typically take a single hit to defeat, with some enemies requiring use of the EnerBeam to remove a shield or an additional hit. Unlike traditional Sonic games, however, simply jumping at an enemy will not cause damage. While removing the spin jump from Knuckles, Tails, and Sticks makes sense, there is no reason to strip Sonic of this classic ability. Without the spin jump, the homing attack becomes essential, and while I am not a homing attack hater, I do like having the option of both attacks. A gameplay element that I liked was seeing characters like Tails and Knuckles with color power-like abilities, something I’ve been personally wishing to see in a Sonic game following the release of Sonic Colors. Instead of using an alien to turn Sonic into a drill, why not call upon Knuckles to dig through the ground or Tails to fly (or in the case of this game, fall with style)? Shattered Crystal does a decent job at making each character unique enough while still requiring players to switch between them. In regards to switching between characters, the transition is not as instantaneous as Sonic Heroes, however unlike Rise of Lyric you are not sent elsewhere on the map to wherever a computer controlled character ended up at. Also, unlike both Heroes and Rise of Lyric, Sonic and friends are not chattering throughout the stage with blatant instructions for which character to use.
As mentioned, the game is made up of six action stages which exist in six different islands. Each island is accessible via an EnerBeam slingshot, which makes use of the touchscreen requiring players to pull back and shoot the character to the next island. On each island is the main action stage, a worm tunnel, and a toy shop. Select islands also have rival races and island exclusive locations. The worm tunnels play much like Sonic Lost World‘s speed stages, which in turn play very much like Sonic Dash (which in turn plays very much like Temple Run). The worm tunnels feel very much like the game’s take on special stages, and they can be quite challenging later on in the game. It’s just a shame that the music and environments never change for each tunnel, only the layout. The toy shop allows players to spend in-game coins on a capsule toy machine featuring enemies and characters from the game, as well as some surprises for fans of the TV series. It’s a goofy but fun addition to the game, which makes me wonder if Sonic is able to win a small Ryo Hazuki figure.
Rival races, which there are only three of, feature Sticks, Shadow, and Metal Sonic. Gameplay is similar to Sonic Rivals, with Sonic racing his opponent to the finish. I enjoyed these segments, but was let down by the fact that only three exist and only Sonic is playable. Given Shadow and Metal Sonic exist in the game, but cannot be unlocked, is also a disappointment. If I can race Sticks and play as her, why not allow players to swap Sonic with Shadow or Metal as a bonus? As for boss battles, the game only offers up one by way of a final boss fight with Lyric. Unlike the action stages, no real effort was made to extend the life of the rival and boss stages. They’re easy to master, and offer little reason to return to, which is a real shame given how boss battles in the 3DS releases of Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World were also underdeveloped.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is a mixed bag, but a far better game than Rise of Lyric. I liked the exploration aspect, and nods to Tails Adventures, as well as the characters different abilities and the game playing more like a Sonic game than Rise of Lyric ever did. I also liked the music and the fact that the game was much more in line with the TV series. However, several elements of the game were underdeveloped thanks to what I assume was a limited development window. Rival races and boss battles deserved more, and I would have liked to see more unique gimmicks in each action stage. Despite these faults, I found myself enjoying Shattered Crystal far more than the 3DS version of Sonic Lost World. Like Sonic Lost World, the game is underdeveloped in some areas, but unlike that game I found Shattered Crystal to be a far more consistent experience.
I opened this review comparing Sonic Boom’s various media to past Sonic media, and if I had to equate Shattered Crystal with any past Sonic games I’d pick titles like Sonic Spinball or Tails Adventures. Shattered Crystal has some good ideas, and presents a reasonably fun experience from start to finish, but it is also sorely lacking in other areas. It’s not a bad game like Rise of Lyric, but it also does little to rise above other so-so Sonic titles.
- Takes inspiration from the TV series, unlike Rise of Lyric
- Emphasis on exploration balanced reasonably well with speedy platforming
- Characters are varied enough and have unique skills
- The toy shop is a goofy but welcome addition
- Rival Races are underdeveloped
- Worm Tunnels lack graphical variation
- One boss fight. ONE!
- Story is forgettable