Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal Review (Nintendo 3DS)
Sonic the Hedgehog has definitely seen better days. Ever since his jump onto HD consoles, Sonic’s career has seen more ups and downs than the Green Hill zone. Lately, Sonic games have been on a bit of a losing streak, and the drastically different character redesigns for the new Sonic Boom games (and TV show) certainly didn’t do much to giv®e fans hope for this next adventure. However Sega has released two different versions of Sonic Boom on Wii U and 3DS, so it essentially has two chances to impress an already apprehensive fanbase. Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal isn’t the game that is going to save the franchise by any means, but this isn’t another Sonic ‘06.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal looks pretty good on the 3DS. There are no framerate issues or stuttering at all, and the character models are all smooth and animated very well. The stages and background are all nice to look at, but do get quite repetitive. There’s very little in terms of enemy variety though, and they typically only serve as launch pads to higher areas or are just there to slow you down. The only time the game’s 3D elements are noticeable are during the Worm Tunnel levels, which are very similar to the bonus stages in Sonic 2. These are actually pretty fun, and are a welcome change to the normal levels. They just don’t happen often enough. Overall the game looks great on the handheld. It was actually nice to explore some of the stages just to see the detailed environments, and some were reminiscent of old Sonic games as well.
The gameplay, however, falls a bit flat. It seems to contradict the concept of Sonic himself, which is to go fast and blaze through a level as fast as possible, unlocking secrets on repeat playthroughs. In Sonic Boom you can switch between four different characters: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Sticks. Sticks is a new character introduced in this game. She’s a paranoid badger with a boomerang that can activate switches from afar. All of the characters including Sticks have unique abilities. Sonic is faster than the other characters while Tails can glide, and Knuckles can burrow in certain areas. You have to master all of these abilities in order to progress through levels and gather all of the collectibles. Exploration in this game is not only encouraged, but mandatory, as you need to have a certain number of badges to unlock levels, and you need to gather all of the crystal shards and/or blueprints in a level to earn more badges. Just beating the level isn’t enough.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the stages weren’t so long and difficult to navigate efficiently. The in-game map is nearly useless since it only gives you a silhouette of the area you’re in, and it doesn’t give any indication as to the location of any shards or blueprints. You can unlock upgrades that highlight these things on the map, but that means that for the first few levels you’ll be blindly exploring stages that can take upwards of twenty minutes, even when you aren’t scanning every inch.
Upgrades in this game range from basic to useless, particularly since you have to travel all the way back to the first area of the game in order to purchase them. Outside of the map upgrades mentioned above, the upgrades don’t affect gameplay enough for them to matter, and are quite forgettable. The forced exploration makes the first half of the game feel like a chore, and slows the gameplay down to a crawl, which is very bad for any game, let alone a Sonic game. The lack of worthwhile upgrades and rewards makes collecting items that much more tiring and undercuts the strongest part of the game, the platforming.
The stages themselves are actually fun to run through, and harken back to some of the level designs and aesthetic of the original games, namely the Ancient Ruins and Cloud Kingdom stages. Those areas feel ripped right out of Sonic 3 and feature some tight platforming and good level design, but they’re also the biggest, meaning you’ll be exploring them for a long time, and they quickly lose their appeal. The fun is short lived though since you’ll constantly be stopping to switch characters and backtracking for collectibles.
There are a few levels where you race another character or boss to the finish line. These levels easily have the game’s best platforming, but are very few and far between. Speaking of these boss characters, Shadow the Hedgehog and Metal Sonic appear as bosses in the race levels, but feel forced into the game as there’s no explanation as to why they’re there. By the time you reach the final boss stage you’ll forget why Sonic and his friends are on this adventure. The game isn’t even that long, and the story is forgettable. In a game that only last a few hours, the flaws are amplified and the amount of fun you have feels diminished by the tedious backtracking and laughably bad dialogue.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is bogged down by slow and repetitive exploration, but there are moments of great, fast platforming that call back to Sonic’s heyday. There is fun to be had though, in the form of racing stages, worm tunnels, and even the final battle with Lyric is enjoyable despite its simplicity and repetition. Even though Sonic Boom is slow and almost painfully short, its shows that the franchise still has potential even though Sega’s latest effort through Sanzaru games falls flat in most aspects. There’s some good old fashioned Sonic speed platforming in this game, it’s just a shame that it’s hidden under a mountain of useless collectibles.
This review was completed using a retail copy of Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the Nintendo 3DS.