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 Freedom Planet

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PostSubject: Freedom Planet   Sat Aug 26, 2017 4:31 pm

So while waiting for the PC version of Sonic Mania to arrive, I decided to check out another indie title made with the intention of being a throwback to classic gaming. I figured I was gonna have to start figuring out Steam eventually, and while I have my issues with Steam, getting to play this game was a plus for it.

What started out as a Sonic fan game soon evolved into something that's still very clearly inspired by it, but has enough of an identity of its own. A fast paced 2D Platformer that looks like it could have been released on the Gameboy Advance.

The story is your pretty typical video game fair. Magical crystal of life plot device, villain wants to take over the world, protagonist with an unconditional desire to help others. Throw in a few feuding countries and you have Freedom Planet.

The game has full voice acting in every cutscene and loads of story, sometimes taking up to ten minutes between stages. The voice acting isn't particularly terrible, but it is kinda awkward sounding, giving it a clear impression of being a fan project instead of a professionally made video game. 

Normally I wouldn't be against that, when I see the same small 2D sprites I'm playing as moving their mouths and talking, I can't help but feel like I'm watching a parody video on Newgrounds. I think I would have liked it better if the dialog was done with profile images of the characters, even if they don't move at all.

Fortunately the game has a "Classic Mode" which has all of the same gameplay, but without the cutscenes.

The gameplay is what matters most, and it's a great reminder of why I enjoy 2D platformers most of all. The movement is fluid, the controls are perfectly responsive. It never feels like a death was anything but my own fault. The action is fast paced and lively, though never feeling hectic or like the game is playing itself. There's less of an emphasis on speed than games like Sonic Advance 2 or Sonic Rush. It's more in line with the Genesis Sonic games in that your character can move fast, but the stages are designed like classic platformers, rather than stages being made for the purpose of speeding through them.

And boy is speeding through stages something you do NOT do here. If there's one thing I wish they had taken from Sonic games, it's dividing the stages into acts. These suckers can take up to half an hour to get through, especially if you spend a lot of time exploring around and collecting goodies.

One of the oddest things about this game is that enemies don't hurt you simply by touching them. Understandable given that you might be moving fast enough to encounter them before you can react, and you don't attack them simply by curling into a ball. 

Speaking of curling into a ball, the true Freedom Planet experience is pressing down on the D pad whenever you're running down a slope, hoping to roll and build momentum, which never works.

I've played a little bit with Lilac, the main character and she seems fun to run around the world map with, but a little too fast and frantic for my liking. Her dragon boost ability reminds me a bit of the laser wisp from Sonic Colors, which doesn't fill me with much confidence that I have any idea what I'm doing when I'm using it. Her play-style is especially unnerving in boss battles, where she pretty much has to throw her body into them to attack.

Instead I immediately gravitated toward Milla, who was added as a playable character in later updates that the Wii U version never received for some reason and that's why I haven't played the game until now. Not only is she a total cinnamon roll, but her play style is much more geared toward taking your time and exploring your surroundings. Her "Puppy Float", as it's called is similar to Yoshi's flutter jump, but lets you actually fly upwards, giving you a wide range of precise exploration, as opposed to Lilac's "Shoot for the moon and hope you reach something useful" style.

Combat wise Milla's abilities require you to be more strategic and less in the enemy's face, with her abilities being mostly about reflecting enemy attacks and waiting for the right moment to attack. She's tricky to use, especially since she gets about half as much health as the other characters, but her particular play style is right up my alley.

There were supposed to be two other characters added in later updates, but that was apparently dropped. Oh and there's also Carol, a green cat who can ride a motorcycle. Yea.

And maybe it's just because I'm sticking with Milla, but I feel much more engaged by the boss battles than I have ever felt in a classic Sonic game. I tend to dislike bosses that are just about dodging attacks and waiting for the chance to mindlessly wail on them. Instead the bosses here require you to recognize their attack patterns. Some of them change phases pretty rapidly, and can dish out the pain pretty quickly if you're not prepared. But they don't feel unfairly difficult either.

Also there are a couple of bosses that take place while moving at high speed, which is really hard to look at. I often end up just having to focus on my character and blur out everything else.

With the game's updates coming to a close and the sequel planned for next year, I feel like I picked this game up at the right time. I'll definitely be going back to playing it once I'm sick of Sonic Mania, as I feel like this game has more to offer than yet another example of nostalgia pandering.
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