Sonic Forces me into Disappointment…

Yes, I know that putting this game’s title before a regular sentence is a meme done to death at this point; I guess one could say that the name of this blog post is pretty forced.

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Okay, I’ll stop now…

Anyways, Sonic Forces is actually the second game featuring the famous blue blur to release this year, coming out mere months after the wildly successful Sonic Mania, a game which I, alongside many others, had highly praised. While the Sega-supervised indie team was developing the retro-inspired Mania, Sega’s own division, Sonic Team, worked on the more modern-styled Forces. The two games were announced simultaneously at Comic-Con 2016, and I was intrigued by Sega’s apparent “best of both worlds” approach to the series.

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Aside from a few of its duds, I generally enjoy the modern incarnation of Sonic. However, while I loved the likes of more recent titles such as Colors and Generations for their fun gameplay, one thing that I have felt has been missing from the series as of late is solid storytelling. Although it is debatable as to whether the games at the beginning of the “Modern Era” (around the early 2000s) have aged well overall, titles such as the Adventure duology excelled in character development and world-building. After the failure of Sonic ’06, a soft reboot of sorts occurred, as the cast of characters was greatly reduced, and the plots not only became simpler, but also stopped building upon Sonic’s established lore, so imagine my excitement when the first trailer for Forces depicted a dark, dystopian world in which the evil Dr. Eggman has, in a twist, actually won.

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However, I was slightly put off by one aspect of the initial teaser: Classic Sonic would appear as a playable character alongside his modern counterpart. This confused me, given that the ’90s icon was already getting his own game via Mania, and a crossover between the Classic and Modern iterations already occurred in 2011’s Generations. As such, I was concerned that Forces would come off as redundant. Nevertheless, I remained cautiously optimistic, seeing as I enjoyed Generations, and hoped that Sega would take cues from the Mania team when designing Classic Sonic’s stages and physics.

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In the months leading up to Sonic Forces’ release, I noticed a pattern of sorts: for every good thing revealed about the upcoming game (such as the promising premise), there would also be something disconcerting (such as Classic Sonic’s inclusion) announced. Likewise, when a third playable character in the form of a customizable avatar was confirmed, complete with species-based abilities and different gadgets to choose from, I felt this was a great way to give players some freedom in how they played through levels. However, around this time, gameplay surfaced of Green Hill Zone, a classic stage so constantly referenced and remade in the series that it has gotten downright annoying. Similarly, I was excited when learning that several heroes and villains were being brought back into the game’s supporting cast, hoping that the series would finally build upon its stagnant lore, but was simultaneously concerned by how overtly linear and easy the level design was shaping up to be.

Not surprisingly in hindsight, this mixture between good and bad announcements ultimately foreshadowed how the final product would turn out to be: mediocre. The story, while a step up from the most recent Sonic games, was only slightly so, and did next to nothing to truly develop its characters or world. In terms of gameplay, the graphics and music were great as always, and while it was admittedly satisfying to mindlessly speed my way through the game, the fact that the levels were shallow in their design to be like that felt like a step down from the more intricately-made stages of previous titles.

All in all, while not an objectively bad game, Sonic Forces is not very good either, being rather forgettable in the end. Sadly, I cannot recommend this game to anyone outside of Sonic’s core fanbase, which is disappointing considering how I was able to easily do so with the excellent Sonic Mania just three months ago.

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