Most of you probably remember having a sleek black console with some 16-bit goodness. Remember that there was a mascot that managed to hold its own against Nintendo’s Mario? Yeah, Sonic has slipped a lot since then, but what if someone went back to that original framework for Sonic and improved it? You’d probably get something like Freedom Planet.
Freedom Planet started out as just a fan game of Sonic in the early development stages, but after a successful kickstarter and a lot of hype from fans of that niche, it developed into its own game by GalaxyTrail.
Freedom Planet is a love letter for Sonic fans, and SEGA fans in general, by Sonic fans. The game looks like it came straight off the SEGA Saturn. The graphics consist of beautifully done pixel art from Arnaud Tegny, Gashi-Gashi, Stephen “Strife” DiDuro, Picsandpixels, and Matthew Weekes. The gameplay is silky smooth 60fps. There’s plenty of nice visual effects, but nothing intensive, so you can probably get it running smoothly on any potato you might have laying around. The aesthetic is nicely backed up by its music.
The music is written and composed by Leila Wilson (Woofe), Stephen “Strife” DiDuro, Shane Ellis (Blue Warrior), and has vocals from Dawn Bennett. It captures the style of the early 90’s games successfully and even expands upon it a bit. With music conjuring images of the deep-seas to music adding weight to a character’s presence, it goes along well with the ambiance established by the surrounding level or imagery. It’s the strongest part of the sound design. Unfortunately, the rest of it doesn’t fair as well.
For the most part, the sound design is fine. It has plenty of sound effects to add to the impact of your movement and attacks. Every tick of damage you deal, you get a satisfying and prominent sound. The part where it suffers is with repeated dialogue. With one of the main character’s attacks, she says the name of the attack “Cyclone!”. It’s not that grating, but it does get annoying when you use the attack repeatedly. It doesn’t help that the voice acting is also a bit lacking. The voice acting is hit or miss. The villain has a great intimidating voice that sounds like he’s mocking you with every breath. The main characters are mostly fine, sometimes they falter with certain ranges of emotion, though. Side characters, however, are pretty weak. Though the writing doesn’t back them up that well, either.
The story is about what you’d expect, if you ever played or watched action oriented science fantasy in the early 90’s to the mid-2000’s. It’s not terrible, and there are legitimately funny and emotional moments, but there’s plenty of cringy scenes where you just have to sit back and try to enjoy it for what it is. You start off watching the villain kill the king to a local kingdom and brainwash the prince. Then it cuts to the main heroes of the game: Lilac and Carol. Lilac sees a ship being attacked in the distance and decides to go help, against Carol’s advice. Carol ends up following Lilac due to worrying about Lilac. The story goes on from there, with plenty of characters being introduced and plenty of references (some a bit obnoxious) to classic games. Lilac is your stereotypical strong-willed hero, having a strong sense of right and wrong. Carol is your rogue. She’s not that concerned about anyone but her friends. That said, she will go to the ends of the Earth to protect her friends. There’s plenty of gameplay differences between them.
Speaking of gameplay, it’s a great evolution on the classic Sonic gameplay. Lilac is your speedster. She moves quickly and has a great ability that allows her to quickly pickup speed and even fly through the air for a short time. She also has a wide variety of attacks and combos. The main thing you’ll want to watch out for is your energy meter. The boost will quickly burn through your energy and your attacks rely on it as well. Luckily, it quickly replenishes passively. Carol on the other hand is generally slow. She makes up for it, though, with the ability to climb walls and having a wider variety of attacks. She also can use her motorcycle if you find Gas Cans spread out throughout the various levels. The motorcycle gives you a different set of abilities, and it defies gravity. It can fly through the air and drive up walls with ease. The gameplay, overall, is tight and fast. It could use some more polish, though. Aerial momentum is awkward to get used to early on and there’s an odd delay at times if you try to combo inputs together. Not to mention sometimes some minor bugs might show up involving collision. Those are minor issues, though, and are easy to ignore.
Overall, it’s a good game that will only set you back $15. If you enjoyed the Mascot Action-Platformers of the 16-bit and 32-bit era, this is for you. It supports Windows, Mac, and Linux as long as you’re running some 32/64bit version of X86 architecture. A lot of people have claimed it’s a good Sonic clone, I’d argue it’s a great Sonic spiritual-successor.