Hands On with Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for Nintendo 3DS
At Nintendo of Canada’s recent holiday preview media event, I had the opportunity to see a lot of familiar games on display– some released recently, such as Bayonetta 2, and others coming soon, including Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, both of which I’ve played before and hope to be reviewing fairly soon as well. There were also two games I there I had only seen anything of online– Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for Nintendo 3DS and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for Wii U, both due soon from SEGA.
Of the two, I dove into Shattered Crystal first. This was the one that seemed to have generated the more positive buzz, and besides, the demo unit was open.
I only had the chance to play two levels, though there seemed to be several more available on the map screen for the demo. Going all the way to the starting point, I found myself in a Sonic-esque foot race against newcomer Sticks the Badger as none other than Sonic himself. If you’ve played the Sonic Rivals games or even the 2-player race modes found in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or 3, then you know the type, though this of course used its own mechanics instead.
Despite trying to get used to how this game felt, I managed to place first. Sticks nonetheless kept pace with me much of the time, not getting too far ahead nor allowing me to leave her behind, either. It was during this race that something became rather apparent about playing Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal.
Despite the sense of familiarity and use of classic elements, such as loop de loops, this was not the Sonic I knew. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either, but attempting to play this like a classic Sonic title was clearly going to get me killed… or at least cost me a lot of rings, which serve as the life meter here in a more traditional way. Once I managed to stop myself from jumping into enemies while expecting Sonic to spin, things began to fall into place and I started getting the hang of it.
In that way, it was about forgetting what I knew about Sonic on the whole and starting fresh– which seems to be very much what Sonic Boom as a whole is designed to do with the franchise. There’s something almost zen about clearing your mind and opening it to new possibilities here.
Sonic isn’t completely devoid of his signature moves, however, and he’s even picked up some new ones. In this case, you need to specifically use his Homing Attack in mid-air to take out baddies through jumping. Sonic also has his Spin Dash, along with a new move, a sort of air-dash which allows him to burst forward in one of the four cardinal directions and break through specific obstacles to reach new areas.
Also of note is that much like in Sonic Lost World, there is a run button used here as well. Sonic moved swiftly on his own, but much as in Mario titles, this was good for picking up the pace when necessary while still allowing more precision platforming. Unlike that game, though, I didn’t notice any parkour-style moves to help the Blue Blur get around, though there are several speed pads around which offer a bit of a boost as well.
In addition to Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and the aforementioned newcomer Sticks the Badger are all on hand as well. They each seem to share the core set of moves/abilities, and you can switch between them by pressing their corresponding direction on the Dpad to use their own special abilities to better get around. Tails throws bombs that stick to enemies before exploding (to sometimes-amusing results, if you can get it to land on their faces) and can fly with his twin tails, but only when aided by a wind current; Knuckles punches and headbutts his way through enemies, and can dig much like the Drill Wisp from previous titles, though presumably without the time limit; and Sticks has her boomerang, which can be guided with the Circle Pad to bob and weave its way down dangerous corridors to hit enemies and switches. It’s actually rather fun and easy to use.
But perhaps my favorite addition to the characters’ arsenal is the EnerBeam. The EnerBeam has gotten a fair bit of screen time and has been a major talking point since Sonic Boom was first revealed, and for good reason. In addition to pulling enemies’ shields away from them, leaving them vulnerable to attack, there are also spots which allow you to pull back with the touchscreen and launch the character you’re using to a new part of the stage.
What makes it my favorite, however, are the swing points which you’ll find situated throughout stages. I’ve been a fan of a good swing mechanic since Bionic Commando on the NES, and Shattered Crystal features one of the best I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve used some bad ones). The control, the sense of momentum, the ability to quickly swing from one point to the next with little hesitation and Homing Attack enemies on the way– it just feels good, even exhilarating– and basically serves to combine two of my favorite franchises in a most pleasing way.
The only thing missing from my time with the demo was the sense of a “Sonic Metroidvania” I’ve heard people use to describe the game, but then, I only got to play two stages. The latter of the two was certainly substantial, however, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some secrets I missed as I made my way through the level which beg for a return to play again.
Overall, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal has left a good impression on me, feeling like a good progression for the series, and I hope to get to play it more.
That just leaves the question: How does the Wii U counterpart, Rise of Lyric, stack up? Come back tomorrow for our look at other side of the Sonic Boom coin.
Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for the Nintendo 3DS will be released on November 11th, 2014.