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Sonic Unleashed
Sonic unleashed boxart.jpg
Sonic Unleashed European box art.
Developer(s) Sonic Team[1]
Dimps (Wii/PS2 Day time level design)[2][3]
Publisher(s) Sega
Producer(s) Akinori Nishiyama
Designer(s) Yoshihisa Hashimoto (Director/Lead Designer)
Toshiyuki Nagahara (Wii & PS2 Director)
Takashi Iizuka & Shun Nakamura (Level Design Special Thanks)
Takao Hirabayashi (Lead Planner/Night Time Level Designer)
Artist(s) Sachiko Kawamura (PS3 & Xbox 360 Art Director/Publicity Artwork)
Hideaki Moriya (PS2 & Wii Art Director)
Yuji Uekawa (Publicity Artwork)
Writer(s) Sayako Yoshimura
Composer(s) Tomoya Ohtani (Sound director)
Kenichi Tokoi
Fumie Kumatani
Hideaki Kobayashi
Takahito Eguchi
Mariko Nanba
Engine Hedgehog Engine (PS3, Xbox 360)[4]
Modified internal engine (Wii, PS2)[5][6]
Platform(s) Wii, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3[7]
Mobile phones[8]
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Platformer, Action, QTE
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) CERO: All ages
ESRB: Everyone 10+
OFLC: General
PEGI: 7+
Media Blu-ray Disc (PS3), DVD-DL (Xbox 360), DVD-SL (PS2), Wii Optical Disc (Wii)
Input methods Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Gamepad

Sonic Unleashed, released as Sonic World Adventure (ソニックワールドアドベンチャー?) in Japan,[14] is a video game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series developed by Sonic Team[1] and published by Sega for multiple platforms in 2008. The game follows Sonic the Hedgehog as he attempts to restore the world to normal after his nemesis, Doctor Eggman, splits the world into pieces, as well as his struggles with his new beast form, Sonic the Werehog. Gameplay features two distinct styles, with each being played either during daytime or night-time. Daytime stages incorporate Sonic's traditional platforming and trademark speed, with a combination of behind-the-back third-person viewpoints and 2D side-scroller platforming; gameplay seamlessly transitions between these two views.[15] Night-time levels see Sonic transform into the Werehog; gameplay slows down to accommodate greater platform play, and involves combat against waves of enemies using the Werehog's brute strength.

The game's existence was first brought to light when Sega trademarked the Unleashed name, and shortly after, images and a gameplay video were leaked to the public in March 2008. Public anticipation for the game was high, owing to the video's demonstration of some two-dimensional gameplay, seen as a possible return to Sonic's platforming roots. However, critical reception for the game was mixed, with reviewers praising certain elements, such as the sense of speed in daylight stages and the graphics and audio that make up the environments, and criticizing others, such as the new Werehog game mechanic, as well as several gameplay and design concepts. Reviewers felt that Unleashed was ultimately not the title that would be able to reinvigorate the series. This is the final Sonic the Hedgehog game released for the PlayStation 2.



Third-person gameplay in daytime levels (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 version).

Gameplay in Sonic Unleashed focuses on two modes of platforming play: fast-paced levels that take place during daytime, showcasing Sonic's trademark speed as seen in previous games in the series, and slower, night-time levels, during which Sonic's Werehog form emerges, and gameplay switches to an action-based, brawler style of play, in which Sonic battles Gaia enemies (those created by the main enemy in the game, Dark Gaia).[4][16] Each level takes place on a particular continent, each of which have been modelled on real-world locations.[14] In sections of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, the player may choose to advance the time of day in order to play as either Sonic or the Werehog; in the PlayStation 2 and Wii versions, time is advanced automatically.[17]

Daytime levels focus on Sonic's speed, and to this extent, sees the player control Sonic through fast-moving stages containing both 2D and 3D styles of gameplay.[18] 2D sections are reminiscent of the Mega Drive/Genesis-era Sonic games, where the player controls Sonic in a side-scrolling fashion,[19] while 3D sections sees the camera placed behind Sonic, so the player may move in all directions. In addition to moves available in past games, such as wall jumping and the homing attack,[20] new moves are also introduced. For instance, a new side-step feature is available known as the Quick Step, allowing Sonic to dodge left-and-right, and a Speed Drift feature allows Sonic to turn around corners at high speed, without slowing down.[20] The game also affords a gameplay mechanic for speed used in the Sonic Rush series in the form of Sonic Boost, which temporarily increases Sonic's speed, as well as allowing him to smash through objects, destroy enemies instantly, or even access different level paths.[21] In the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, an on-screen "Ring Energy" meter is used to display how much boost is available.[21] The amount of boost remaining may be increased by collecting more rings, and is decreased when the player uses it.[21] In contrast, the PlayStation 2 and Wii versions of the game, available boost is represented by bars, which may be increased by performing "Action Chains", destroying multiple enemies in quick succession through the use of homing attacks or by collecting rings.

Side-scrolling gameplay in daytime levels (Spagonia, PS3/Xbox 360 version).

The night-time levels feature slower, action-oriented gameplay, in which Sonic transforms into the Werehog, a beast form that has great strength and stretchable arms.[22] Gameplay here sees the player use a variety of melee and combo attacks to defeat a large number of enemies, collect items and move items around to advance through the level, and use his stretchable arms to cling to distant objects;[22] simple puzzle elements are also featured.[23] Collecting rings in these segments replenishes the Werehog's health,[19] while a special move, Unleashed Mode, allows the Werehog to channel his anger into increasing the power of his attacks for a short time.[24] Night-time levels have been adjusted in the Wii version to allow greater use of the Wii Remote, where players may control the arms of the Werehog by using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in order to grab onto objects and move forward in the levels.[17] The Wii version of the game also expands upon the ratio of night-time levels to daytime, with more than three times as many night-time levels (twenty-five in all).[25] After night-time levels are completed, Dark Gaia Points are gained, allowing access to bonus moves.

In addition to these two gameplay types, Sonic Unleashed also features hub-worlds, in which the player may find out about information, as well as advance the story of the game.[22] Hub-worlds operate differently depending on the version of the game being played; the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions feature fully-interactive, explorable 3D hub-worlds, where townspeople may be interacted with and sidequests may be undertaken, in order to gain experience or unlock items, such as artwork, videos and music tracks.[19][22] In contrast, the Wii and PlayStation 2 version features a menu-based map system, where players simply click the appropriate area to talk to the townspeople and find information.[17] Within both day and night-time levels are medals that Sonic may collect, two types of which exist: Sun and Moon.[21]In the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, collecting these medals allows the player to level up Sonic's Sun and Moon stats, and these must be increased to reach new stages in the game, with a certain number of Sun medals for Hedgehog levels, and a certain number of Moon medals for Werehog levels.[21] Because only the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions feature playable hub-worlds, this is also the only version in which Sun and Moon medals may be found by exploring the towns, talking to the citizens, and completing side-quests.[21]


Sonic Unleashed begins with a cold opening that sees Sonic confronting his nemesis, Doctor Eggman, bounding around a fleet of spaceships and transforming to Super Sonic in order to stop him.[26] However, Eggman manages to trap him using a powerful new ray weapon which drains the power of the Chaos Emeralds[14], causing them to turn black and useless. He then uses the Emeralds' energy to unleash a powerful beast, Dark Gaia,[27] from the center of the planet, which has devastating consequences, shattering the planet into pieces.[26] In addition, the ray and drained Chaos Emeralds have the unforeseen side-effect of transforming Sonic into a "Werehog" — a beast form with greater strength and abilities — at night.[15][28] Eggman then ejects Sonic into space, who then lands safely onto the planet below. After landing along with the Emeralds, Sonic encounters a friendly creature who appears to suffer amnesia.[29] Assuming he has caused it with his fall,[29] Sonic decides to assist him in his quest to find out who he is, and the creature becomes a guide for the player;[26] Sonic soon gives him the nickname Chip.[30] Sonic's quest begins, and with the help of some old friends, such as Amy Rose and Tails,[25] he attempts to solve the crisis by traveling the world's continents, finding shrines that will fix the Emeralds, in order to return the world, and himself, to normal.[14]

After six of the seven continents are returned to normal, Chip is able to regain his memory; he is in fact Dark Gaia's opposite, Light Gaia.[31] For millions of years, the two of them had been in a cycle since the beginning of time where Dark Gaia would break the planet apart, and Light Gaia would put it back together.[32] Chip was released along with Dark Gaia, but because both of them were released prematurely, he lost his memory, and Dark Gaia was broken apart.[33] They are able to place the last Chaos Emerald in the shrine on the final continent at Eggman's new empire, "Eggman-Land", but are interrupted by him;[34] Eggman orders a now-whole Dark Gaia to destroy Sonic, but it turns on him, and reabsorbs the power that turned Sonic into a Werehog, curing Sonic of the lycanthropy.[35] Chip calls all of the Gaia temples together and forms the Gaia Colossus, and begins to fight Dark Gaia.[36] He then gives the restored Chaos Emeralds to Sonic, allowing him to turn into Super Sonic and defeat it; Dark Gaia then sinks back into the planet, but the battle takes its toll on Super Sonic. Chip saves an exhausted Sonic by throwing him to the surface, before returning himself to the inside of the planet; he leaves behind his necklace and some parting words, and Sonic places the necklace on his hand as a bracelet to remind him of their adventure together. The game ends as Sonic speeds off with Tails, who flies alongside him on the coastline in the Tornado plane, the duo heading off for yet another new adventure.[37]


Screenshot of the Wii version, featuring Sonic the Werehog.

Sonic Team began development of the game in 2006, after having begun work on the core technology, the Hedgehog Engine, in 2005.[38] The title was first brought to public attention when the Sonic Unleashed name was trademarked by Sega on March 12, 2008.[39] Screenshots of cut scenes, artwork, and a video were leaked ten days later,[39] with the title then officially confirmed by Sega on April 3, 2008[7] with a small selection of screenshots and an updated video. The game was developed internally by Sonic Team in Japan.[1] It was originally intended to be the third installment of the Sonic Adventure series[40] and subsequently, at an early development stage, had the working title Sonic World Adventure, complete with work-in-progress logo. However, the development team began to introduce enough new innovations to separate it from the Sonic Adventure titles,[5] and so a new title, Sonic Unleashed, was decided upon.[41] It was then later revealed that the game's name in Japan would in fact remain Sonic World Adventure for its release there.[14]

Sonic Team decided early on in the development process to reduce the number of characters present in the game, as well as to make Sonic the only playable character; this decision was taken to get more quality out of fewer characters.[42] While it felt that these ideas combined with traditional Sonic gameplay was a good beginning, it also had to consider how to introduce newer gamers unfamiliar with the Sonic franchise to the series, and so the concept of the Werehog was born.[42] Director Yoshihisa Hashimoto felt from the outset that there would be both praise and criticism, but hoped that long-term Sonic fans would understand and empathise with the ideas and direction the team had taken.[42]

In terms of technology, Hashimoto remarked that the visual style was born out of desire to see a global illumination solution used for the game's lighting — that is, light reflecting from one object in the scene onto others.[42] To this extent, development on the renderer for this process began, and the final solution allowed the developers to use distributed rendering over hundreds of computers to calculate lighting for each ten- to twenty-kilometer action stage in around two or three days.[42] Characters, enemies and objects are then lit at run-time with Sonic Team's "Light Field" technology to blend them in with the surrounding pre-calculated lighting.[42] Because the game was being developed for two levels of hardware capability depending on the target platform, two development "silos" were set up to work on two separate builds of the game: one for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version utilizing the Hedgehog Engine, and one for the Wii and PlayStation 2 version, which instead utilizes a modified version of an existing, internal Sega engine.[5][6]

As well as the unique motion-based gameplay mechanics, the Wii version of the game also supports the GameCube controller, and also the option of using the Classic Controller.[26] The daytime levels for the Wii were altered to accommodate the motion control-based drift mechanic,[43] while night-time levels include a mostly behind-the-back view and different platforming styles and combat mechanics.[17] Developer Dimps, who had past involvement in the Sonic franchise, was involved in the design of the daytime areas for these versions.[3] In addition, overall, the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions have fewer daytime levels than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 counterparts.[22]

Initially, it was stated that Unleashed was to be intended solely as a single-player experience, and would not offer any multiplayer or online modes.[5] This was cast into doubt when references to online modes were alluded to around E3 2008,[44] but later interviews re-iterated that Unleashed would have no online modes at all.[27] However, downloadable content, including additional levels, would remain a possibility after the game's release.[27] A demo version was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace on December 8, 2008[45] and on the US and EU PlayStation Stores on December 18 and 24, 2008, respectively. The demo does not contain any of the Werehog stages.[45] On March 12, 2009 Sega released Sonic Unleashed's first downloadable content for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, consisting of four Chun-nan daytime stages and two night stages in addition to two new missions. Since then, more downloadable levels have been added: Spagonia, Holoska, Mazuri, Apotos, Shamar, Empire city and Adabat.[46]

Speaking after the game's release, Sonic Team member and Sonic and the Black Knight director Tetsu Katano remarked that although he did not feel the Werehog concept was a mistake, time and resources were a limiting factor in the game's production. He also remarked that the Werehog may reappear in future games, or possibly in a sequel to Sonic Unleashed, should one be made.[47]

Game developer Gameloft announced in May 2009 that it had secured a licensing agreement with Sega Europe Ltd. to produce mobile phone versions of Sega properties, and that its first title would be a version of Sonic Unleashed for mobile phone platforms. It was released in June 2009 in Europe, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.[8]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 60/100 (360)[48]
66/100 (Wii)[49]
54/100 (PS3)[50]
66/100 (PS2)[51]
Review scores
Publication Score C (360)[52]
D (Wii)[53]
Eurogamer 4/10 (360)[54]
6/10 (Wii)[17]
Game Informer 6.0/10 (360)[55]
6.5/10 (Wii)[56]
GameSpot 3.5/10 (360/PS3)[57]
7/10 (Wii)[58]
GameTrailers 7.0/10 (Wii)[59]
IGN 4.5/10 (360)[60]
7.0/10 (PS2)[61]
7.2/10 (Wii)[18]
Official Nintendo Magazine 79% (Wii)[25]
Official Xbox Magazine 6.5/10 6.0/10[22]

Initial anticipation when the first media for Unleashed was revealed to be high, as the demonstration videos hinted at a possible return of Sonic to his traditional platforming roots, especially because of the series' declining quality in recent years.[62] and a number of poorly received titles in the franchise that preceded it, such as the 2006 game, Sonic the Hedgehog.[62] However, critical reception to Unleashed was mixed and average, with Metacritic aggregate scores of 54 and 60 out of 100 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions respectively, and 66 out of 100 for the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions.[48][49][50][51] The added element of motion controls for the Werehog sections, as well as text-based hub worlds and better Werehog level design and camera system, were reasons cited for the higher review scores for the Wii version of the game,[17][56] though a few review websites, such as 1UP, gave the Wii version a lower score than its 360 and PS3 counterparts.[52][53] The game sold 2.45 million units combined making it Sega's third best selling game during their last fiscal year period of 2008.[63]

Positive elements of Sonic Unleashed remarked upon by reviews include the environments, such as the "postcard-perfect architecture",[52] and the graphics, with stages looking "absolutely gorgeous"[52] and being "very pretty and lovingly animated",[19] with one reviewer comparing them to a playable Pixar film.[24] Praise was given to the technical competence of Sega's new Hedgehog Engine as a whole on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, with "bright cartoonish graphics that fly by without a stutter";[56] however, some complaints were raised about frame rate reduction when large numbers of enemies appeared during the Werehog sections.[64] Although the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions do not use the Hedgehog Engine, graphics for these platforms were still praised for their high quality,[18] with the title being nominated for Best Graphics Technology for the Wii by IGN in its 2008 video game awards.[65] The soundtrack to the game was also praised as being an improvement on more recent installments in the series;[18] use of an orchestral score, rather than rock as in more recent games, was appreciated.[19]

An overwhelmingly negative reaction was given by critics to the Werehog concept and corresponding night-time sections, which contributed greatly to the lower than expected review scores. Complaints stemmed from the game's change of speed, from high-speed daytime sections to the slower, night-time sections; the "pace-breaking combat levels"[24] were described as "plodding",[56] as well as "lethargic" and "combat-heavy".[52] Further to the change of pace, the new style of gameplay that accompanies the night-time levels was widely criticized, involving "frustrating" platform elements[56] and combat described as not "terribly interesting"[66] and "boring",[56] with "awkward" action sequences overall.[23] Some reviewers felt that the Werehog as a concept did not mix well with the daylight areas and traditional Sonic gameplay; GamePro's review described them as "dreadfully out-of-place",[23] while IGN stated that they have "nothing to do with Sonic whatsoever", feeling that the Werehog was "being slapped on" to the Sonic experience.[60]

In stark contrast to the Werehog sections, many reviewers found the daytime levels to be enjoyable, especially the "exhilarating"[52] sense of speed they provide; with "the most satisfying gameplay of any Sonic title in years",[23] the game "perfectly [captures] the feel of classic Sonic".[23] Many also enjoyed the mixture of, and transition between, 2D and 3D sections.[24] Indeed, many reviewers remarked that they would have appreciated the game more had it comprised solely of, and expanded upon, the daytime levels.[52][56][64] GameSpot's review for the Xbox 360 version however argued that the controls were "unresponsive" in the daytime levels, and that most of them were "horribly designed",[57] instead describing the Wii version as a "vastly superior experience", with its daytime levels praised for better control and design.[58]

Aside from the criticism of Werehog levels, further aspects of the game were criticized, contributing to the mixed review scores. The quests that players must undertake in hub-towns were described as "inane"[52] and "tedious",[56] where "figuring out what happens next involves aimlessly wandering through towns and speaking to citizens, only to discover that most of them don't know what we're looking for".[64] The story and overall tone of the game, including the new character Chip, were criticized,[64] some remarking that it was too juvenile,[19] or comparable to that of a Saturday morning cartoon. most reviewers felt that the English voice acting was poor.[52][25][56][66]

Other media

The game's original soundtrack was released in Japan on January 28, 2009. The three disc soundtrack is entitled Sonic World Adventure Original Soundtrack Planetary Pieces.[67] The main theme music for the game is entitled "Endless Possibility", and features Jaret Reddick of the rock band Bowling for Soup.[68] The ending theme music for the game is a slow tempo ballad entitled "Dear My Friend", and features singer songwriter Brent Cash.

Archie Comics has made an adaptation of Sonic Unleashed featuring the opening cutscene and Sonic's transformation into the Werehog.[69] A short 3D animated film was released on November 21, 2008, entitled Sonic: Night of the Werehog, which tells the story of two male ghosts who live in a haunted house taking pictures of scared children in order to woo a female ghost, and their frustration with an unafraid Sonic who enters the house with a very afraid Chip.[70] The film was produced by VE Sega Animation Studio.[70]

In the future, a pack of Sonic costumes will be released for the PlayStation 3 game LittleBigPlanet. The Werehog will be one of the costumes included.


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  29. ^ a b Sonic: And you are? Chip: Huh? Hmmmm. Huh? What IS my name? AHHH! I don't know! I can't remember! [...] I remember something falling from the sky... and everything just going all white... and then nothing! I can't remember a thing past that! Sonic: Uh oh, did I fall on him? Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  30. ^ Chip: Chocolate chip... sundae... supreeeeme! [...] Wow, this chip-whatever stuff is great! Sonic: If you say so. How about you give me a hand help look for somebody who knows you, Chip? Chip: Chip? Sonic: Gotta call you something, don't I? Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  31. ^ Chip: My... My real name is Light Gaia. I draw power from the day and light, and guide the planet to its rebirth. Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  32. ^ Chip: My job was to protect the planet from Dark Gaia. [...] Dark Gaia grows over millions of years, then rises to destroy the world. And I put it all back together. [...] We've been doing this over and over, again and again... since the very beginning of time. Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  33. ^ Chip: Eggman broke the world apart himself, and Dark Gaia and I were awakened before we should've been. That's why Dark Gaia broke apart, and I didn't know who I was. I didn't remember what I was supposed to do. All because this isn't the proper time of awakening. Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  34. ^ Chip: The final Chaos Emerald... Back at last! This should put the world back to normal. Dark Gaia will go back to being sealed within the core, and my work will be done. [...] Hmmm? Do you feel that? Eggman: Ahh ha ha haa! Looks like you're a bit too late, Sonic! Sonic: Eggman!Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  35. ^ Chip: It's Dark Gaia! Eggman: Yes. YES! Dark Gaia, crush this insolent little hedgehog! Kick him to the outer limits of space! ...huh? Eggman is catapulted upwards. Why meeeeeee ?! Chip: Sonic! What's wrong? Sonic roars as the power transfers back to Dark Gaia, and he returns to normal. Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  36. ^ Chip: Seven lights of the earth rekindled! Awaken, and gather here to me! The colossus forms from the joining of the temples. Sonic Team (Sega). Sonic Unleashed. (Sega). (2008-11-18)
  37. ^ Chip: Sonic. Sonic, you have to live! The Colossus throws him upwards, and he lands on the surface. Sonic: Owww... Chip's voice: I'll never forget you. I'll be here by you, always. A part of the earth you tread. Sonic places the ring on his arm as a bracelet, before running off towards Tails' plane. Tails: Hey, Sonic!
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