Last Updated on October 20, 2023
Could you have been a bit unfair on the Wii version of Sonic Unleashed?
The Sonic series has been ever-evolving in new styles and gameplay elements, trying to push boundaries and introduce new ideas with occasional mixed reception from fans. The titular character that’s always “gotta go fast” has met his fair share of obstacles, one of the biggest ones was being transformed into a vicious beast.
Released in 2008, Sonic Unleashed was initially released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by Sonic Team, with later ports to the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii by Dimps. They weren’t exactly ports however, as the Dimps version of the title has a pretty distinct contrast to its Sonic Team counterpart. This review will be looking specifically at the Nintendo Wii version of the game as this was the first and only version I have played and it would be interesting to look at this version as a first-timer’s experience of this title.
Sonic Unleashed was that mainline game that turned Sonic’s speed on its head and added a gimmick that meant Sonic’s move set was slowed down, focusing on strength rather than speed for approximately half of the game. Who is Sonic without speed? Is he even Sonic anymore? The game likes to call these topics into question in various parts of the story and gameplay. The game starts off with one of the most cinematic cutscenes I have ever seen in a video game (despite being visually compressed in this version).
Sonic epically attempts to gatecrash Dr. Eggman’s plans of creating his beloved Eggmanland, using the information he gathered from ancient manuscripts to awaken the evil force of Dark Gaia in the Earth’s core, causing it to shatter the Earth’s surface. After becoming Super Sonic, our favourite hedgehog’s Chaos Emerald power is used against him, transforming him into the ferocious Werehog. The stunned Werehog falls down to Earth along with the powerless Chaos Emeralds. He meets a new but amnesiac companion which he calls Chip.
Together, they venture around the shattered world to restore the Chaos Emeralds and take down Eggman and Dark Gaia while figuring out who Chip really is. By day, you’re battling Eggman’s robots as Sonic and by night you’re encountering Dark Gaia enemies as the Werehog.
Sonic Unleased Wii controls
Having used the Wiimote and Nunchuk’s motion controls made for an interesting experience when playing this game. In the day stages, simple Wiimote shakes allow you to spin dash and boost which requires you to gather rings to increase the gauge (a mechanic that was introduced in Sonic Rush). These stages were fun to play through, and fairly forgiving and accessible compared to what I’ve seen in the Sonic Team version. I wasn’t exactly earning those ’S’ ranks at every stage but just completing the stage with some fluidity is always rewarding. Consecutive spin dash attacks that lead into focused ring collecting is certainly very fun.
Where this game becomes divisive for me is its night stages where you play as the Werehog. The sound effects when pounding through enemies rapidly with combos is satisfying, but moves can occasionally have some delay from Wiimote to actual gameplay. Pair this with the fact that there isn’t really a control to target enemies with means that these aspects of the game become tedious and sluggish, breaking up the momentum funnily enough. Traversing as the Werehog isn’t always a smooth experience either, especially with 3D platforming. You can target ledges and poles to latch onto, but the delayed targeting prompt has caused a lot of frustrating deaths and game overs.
The game’s redeeming qualities do make this more bearable though. Bosses are quite entertaining for the most part, changing it up between the fast-paced action for day stages and more contained night stages that focus on using your surroundings. My personal favourites were the Egg Beetle and Dark Gaia Phoenix. Unlike the Sonic Team version, medal collecting is much easier when they’re rewarded to you after stage completion based on your rank rather than obtaining them during stages. This makes game progression less tedious and more accessible for those who want a casual playthrough. The load was lightened in other ways such as removing a few countries that were in the original version and scrapping hub worlds for a point and click experience when talking to NPCs.
A fair amount of content was cut and changed for this version which definitely made for a more concise experience which I think can be both a pro and a con. I personally think including hub worlds would have added more exploration and a greater sense of world-building outside the stages themselves. Whilst the story isn’t anything groundbreaking, I certainly like the idea of Sonic having to adjust to his new powers, being seen differently by his friends and how that affects him emotionally (namely in the popular Amy Rose cutscenes) and learning to embrace the Werehog that he initially felt cursed with.
One thing this title got absolutely right for me was the soundtrack (available on Spotify) directed by Tomoya Ohtani, with each country having its own distinct music based on the culture and environments. Holoska’s chilling atmosphere is felt in the track “Cool Edge” and the East Asian inspired music is fused nicely into Chun-nan’s stages. Not to mention the end credits song “Endless Possibilty” which holds up as one of my favourite songs in a video game.
I have a lot of nostalgia bias “Sonic UnWiished” (as the fanbase tends to call it) with it being one of the first mainline Sonic games I had played. However, having replayed it recently meant that I noticed more of its flaws.
And of course, it’s not Sonic the Hedgehog, recently voted the most popular 2D game.
There’s a lot more I would love to discuss about this game and that’s only the Wii version! If I were to replay this game again I’d certainly love to give the Xbox 360 version a go to grasp the full scope of what Unleashed has to offer.
Sonic Unleashed (Nintendo Wii): Strong soundtracks and Wiimote-focused play are disrupted with sluggish "night" play, which detracts from what could have been an excellent port. – bhavdeepksoor
I am a media and pop culture enthusiast and love Nintendo and indie games, particularly Zelda and Stardew Valley. When I’m not gaming you’ll find me writing, creating fanart, and playing music covers of my favourite games!