All hail Eggman! After years of struggle, Doctor Robotnik has finally thwarted that obnoxious hedgehog and taken his rightful place as the ruler of the world. Wait... what? Yes, it would appear that is the actual setup here; Sonic and friends are losing the war, and 99% of the planet has already fallen to Eggman's army of robots. Mayhem is reigning on a global scale, and the darkness has brought change to many beloved areas. Entire cityscapes are in ruins, and the Green Hill Zone has started to wither. This is probably the closest we get to a post-apocalyptic Sonic game, and the battle to reclaim the world will begin in just one month when Sonic Forces is released on all major platforms.
After several years on Nintendo systems, Sonic is finally returning to PlayStation and Xbox, and the synopsis for the game alone is enough for us to get excited about his comeback. The conflict is on a larger scale than ever before, and so is the cast of characters, as pretty much every single animal that's ever been part of the Sonic mythos is joining the rebellion, with Eggman having his own companions as well. Classic villains such as Shadow, Metal Sonic, and Chaos are back, and they're being led by a mysterious new baddie called Infinite, so it'll be great to see all of these familiar faces gather for the big showdown.
One mustn't forget that the blue hedgehog's honoured us with his presence once this year already when he returned to his roots in the critically acclaimed Sonic Mania. The 2D platformer was developed by community members and die-hard fans, but the upcoming Sonic Forces is a different beast entirely. It's being developed by Sonic Team in Tokyo, and they're continuing their tradition of three-dimensional Sonic games, like Sonic Generations and Sonic Unleashed.
We know what you're thinking: Sonic isn't always at his best when being portrayed in three dimensions. We get that. But Sega believes that there's room for both types of Sonic experiences now, and we actually agree with them. It's great that old school fans can enjoy Sonic Mania, but it's not a bad thing that Sega is trying to reinvent their mascot to attract brand new fans at the same time. And to be honest, Sonic Forces might just end up being the hedgehog's most ambitious adventure to date.
During our time in Tokyo last month, we got to take a tour of the Sonic Team offices and check out some of the key features in Sonic Forces. In more ways than one, the game seems like a big best-of compilation. For starters, they're bringing back the adorable Classic Sonic character from Sonic Generations, a game where two different incarnations of the hedgehog cooperated to stop Eggman. In Forces, the Modern and Classic versions of Sonic will once again meet up and have their own separate levels, the older Sonic running, jumping, and spin-dashing from left to right, just like in the good old days. One of the levels in the game is called Casino Forest and is obviously inspired by the Sonic Spinball levels of old. The newer iteration of the character will, on the other hand, run forward and use homing attacks, just like it worked in Generations.
Other returning features are the wisp abilities from Sonic Colors, and the tag team levels from Sonic Heroes where the player got to control multiple characters at the same time and alternate between their special abilities (luckily, the werehog from Sonic Unleashed is nowhere in sight). Sega is also holding back on the number of playable heroes this time around, so don't expect any fishing mini-games with Big the Cat (for better or worse).
There is, however, a third playable character present in Sonic Forces, who takes the central role in the story as a rookie recruit among Sonic's band of heroes. This character will be the player's own creation within Sonic's world and will be fully customisable in the final game. You'll be able to choose the gender, species, and clothing for your hero, and then take Eggman head on. These so-called Avatars will have their own levels within the game, separate from Sonic's levels, and they'll rely heavily on weapon-based combat.
There'll be a number of weapons to choose from (referred to as wispons in the game) such as flamethrowers, lightning guns, drills, hammers, and the like. More wispons will be unlocked as you go, and they'll all have unique abilities that'll enable alternative paths through a level that might lead you to hidden secrets.
The ability to design your own creature within the Sonic universe sounds very enticing to us, especially with so many options available. While we didn't get a chance to play around with the character creator ourselves, Sega did show off a couple of their own avatars during the studio tour. We got to see a bear wearing goggles, a cat wielding a machine gun, and a very creepy Darth Vader-inspired rabbit (expect to see wolves, dogs, birds and more hedgehogs in the final game as well). Sega even has a bunch of pre-order exclusive costumes planned for the release of Sonic Forces that'll give players the chance to dress up their characters like AiAi from Super Monkey Ball, Beat from Jet Set Radio, and the protagonist from Persona 5.
The three characters and their levels will play very differently, and Sonic Team is also making a few other major changes to the formula. Just like in previous Sonic games, our heroes collect rings that scatter when they take damage, but in Sonic Forces the rings you lose will disappear for good - you won't be able to pick them up again if they fall out. This has led to plenty of outrage among hardcore Sonic fans, but Sega ensures us that this is to improve the gameplay. They don't want players to stop dead in their tracks to pick up rings every time they get hit, so every level and every enemy in the game was designed with that thought in mind. If it pays off remains to be seen, but we're glad they're not afraid to take risks.
If Sega and Sonic Team manages to balance the three different characters and their unique playstyles, Sonic Forces might become the hedgehog's best three-dimensional adventure in a very, very long time. The game sure looks ambitious, and the story seems grand and epic. We haven't been this excited by a 3D Sonic game since Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast, and we won't have to wait long before we know for sure whether it was worth the wait. Sonic Forces is released on November 7 for the PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One. Gotta go fast!