I was 10 years old when my parents bought a Sega Genesis system and I fell in love with the included game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Each stage had a unique atmosphere and beautiful music and the entire game was so much fun to play. This remains one of my favorite platform adventures of all time. The Sonic franchise has had more lows than highs in the last 20 years and many fans, like me, have lost touch with the series – aside from the phenomenal Sonic Mania. Freedom Planet was originally intended to be a fan-created Sonic title, but due to licensing issues the characters and story were completely reworked to be an original game. I missed out on the Wii U release of this game, but when I saw it was coming to the Switch I was immediately intrigued.
The game is set on Planet Avalice, which is in total conflict. The Kingdom Stone, the source of the world’s power, has been stolen and three rival nations are fighting to recover it for their own. Caught in the middle of this are the heroines: Lilac, a Purple water-dragon; Carol, a green wildcat; and Milla, a basset hound. Their goal is to recover the stone from the wicked Lord Brevon and his commanders and then discover who can be trusted as allies. There is a heavy amount of dialogue, all accompanied by voice acting and several cut scenes in between each stage. While the gameplay is sure to be enjoyed by any aged gamer, the characters and story would be best enjoyed by preteens. As a male in my mid-30s, I was quite bored by most of story and the dialogue and the voices proved to be annoying more often than not, with the exception being the villains. Lord Brevon is ruthless to the core and in the first scene he even beheads a ruling king and takes the prince hostage. So although the main characters are cutesy and appeal more to children, the game certainly has moments far darker than any Sonic title. Fortunately you can play Classic Mode, which eliminates all of the cut scenes and dialogue. I had a lot more fun just playing the game rather than having to sit through the drawn out storyline, but your mileage may vary.
Freedom Planet plays, looks, and sounds just like a classic 2D Sonic game. Many times I found myself attempting to do the spin dash – which is absent here, forgetting that I was playing a different franchise. In this adventure you run and explore through the stages, defeating enemies, collecting items and power-ups, and traversing through traps and dangerous areas. Nearly every stage features two acts, with a mini-boss between the two, and a stage boss at the end. Unlike Sonic, you cannot simply jump on top of the enemies or spin through them. Instead it’s more combat driven, as you use your fighting skills to kick or punch enemies. The stages are packed with moving platforms, loops, springs, and deadly spikes. The areas are all enormous with many different directions to go. You have the choice to rush through the levels, but if you’re a completionist it’s a lot of fun to spend time exploring and finding all of the secrets.
Rather than the ring system Sonic uses, Freedom Planet uses a more conventional health meter. You start with 7 leaves and you lose them when taking damage. Restoring health isn’t difficult, except during boss battles. Gems are everywhere and collecting 200 of them nets you an extra life. However, the game has unlimited continues and you pick up exactly where you left off each time, making extra lives essentially useless. Each character has a special attack, which when used depletes the accompanying meter, but this automatically regenerates over time. Lilac uses a mid-air dash, and has a spinning attack as her trademark move. Carol is able to wall jump, making some areas easy to access in comparison to Lilac. She can also locate and ride a motorcycle, which is one of my favorite parts of the game. Milla tags along with Carol and Lilac in the story, but can only be played in the Classic Mode once you unlock her. Her attack involves generating blocks that then can be used to throw at enemies. While the levels are vast they aren’t particularly difficult to beat, but the bosses are a different story. Many of them gave me quite the hard time and I appreciated the challenges. Most of them were gigantic robotic creatures that were marvelous to look at and fun to take down.
Visually the game looks like what a 2D Sega Saturn Sonic would have resembled. The stages feature a variety of environments to explore, each with their own special flair. The music has a classic, upbeat vibe to it and each track matches the level’s setting. Although the music is terrific, it’s not as memorable as classic Sonic tracks that I can still hum verbatim, such as Chemical Plant, Mystic Cave, or Marble Zone. Some of the stages are clearly influenced by previous Sonic stages. Fortune Night and the Relic Maze will surely remind gamers of Casino Night and Aquatic Ruins. The voice acting in the game is average – more of that has to do with immature dialogue and repetitious slogans yelled by the characters, such as “Cyclone!” when Lilac does her spin attack.
Freedom Planet is an incredible 2D level-based adventure. On the Switch it is probably my favorite right alongside Sonic Mania and Fox N’ Forests. I love this genre of gaming and it brings me so much joy to see indie companies like GalaxyTrail making amazing titles like this one. Kids will love the characters and story, but Classic Mode is there for gamers like me who don’t have the time and patience for drawn out story beats. There are about a dozen levels, and each character has an exclusive stage built for her to exploit her special abilities. Playing through the game with each hero will slightly alter the story and order of the stages. My complaints are minimal: I wish I had liked the characters better and the unlimited continues is a hindrance to me – as I like a more punishing and rewarding gaming experience. There are four difficulty settings as well as a Time Attack mode, but that’s about it for special features. But these are small quibbles and the bottom line is that this is a wonderful experience and a perfect fit for the Switch.
Freedom Planet Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Anyone who grew up playing the incredible Sonic games on the Genesis and Sega CD will love Freedom Planet. This is a perfect family game for everyone to enjoy and another excellent addition to your Switch library.
Freedom Planet was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.