Sonic Unleashed, also known as Sonic World Adventure in Japan, is a video game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series and the third Sonic game with the rating of E10+ (fourth, counting SEGA Superstars) developed by Sonic Team Japan and published by Sega for multiple platforms. The game follows Sonic the Hedgehog as he attempts to restore the world to normal after his nemesis, Doctor Eggman, splits the world's continents into pieces with a powerful new ray weapon and the power of the Chaos Emeralds, as well as his struggles with his new beast form generated by the corrupted Emeralds, Sonic the Werehog. Whilst incorporating Sonic's traditional platforming and trademark speed, the gameplay style for this game is notably different, focusing on 2D side-scrolling platform gameplay rendered with 3D visuals, as well as behind-the-back, third-person stages; gameplay seamlessly transitions between these two styles.
Gameplay primarily consists of two modes: 2D side-scrolling platform gameplay, rendered with 3D visuals (as found in the Sonic Rush and Sonic Rivals series), with seamless shifts to behind-the-back, third-person stages. Concepts returning from past games include Sonic's trademark high-speed gameplay, as well as improved lock-on for automatically targeting and hitting enemies. Sliding across the ground also returns, and a new feature, Speed Drift allows Sonic to slide around a corner at high speed. Players will also be able to perform a new side-step maneuver known as Quick Step, allowing Sonic to instantly dodge obstacles to the left or right. As the player goes through the game, and Sonic gains more experience points, player is able to upgrade and gain new abilities for Sonic and Werehog.
An on-screen Ring Energy meter can be filled by collecting rings, which is used to activate a temporary speed increase known as Sonic Boost, during which time the camera uses a fish-eye effect and motion blur; hitting enemies and obstacles will reduce the meter. Action Chaining allows the player to collect energy more quickly, by collecting rings faster or by stringing together sets of actions, including button input sequences, some of which will be in midair. Repeated action chains will allow the player to perform special moves or access different routes in the level. Shield pick-ups from previous games will make a return, protecting Sonic from various hazards.
During night sections of the game, Sonic transforms to his alternate Werehog form, and gameplay shifts from fast-paced action to a slower, more platform-oriented style of gameplay. The Werehog form allows Sonic a great deal of strength, and gameplay involves smashing enemies and destructible environments, whilst his stretchy arms will allow him to reach high platforms and perform special attacks.  The Ring Energy meter changes to two bars, Unleashed and Vitality; the Vitality Bar acts as a health bar and replenishes by collecting rings, whilst the Unleashed Bar activates with a button to increase attack strength, decrease vitality loss from enemy attacks, and enables special moves, and replenishes by defeating enemies, and defeating enemies.
Nine levels exist in the game on seven continents, all of which are based on real-world locations. Each stage is place on a different continent on Earth. These locations include:
- Apotos (Windmill Isle/White Island): This level is the first level in the game and serves as the backdrop to most of the tutorials in the game. Its architecture is influenced by Greek Mediterranean architecture, like the real Greek island of Mykonos.
- Mazuri (Savannah Citadel/Clay Castle): The sandy, desert-like level inspired by Africa. This is present in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 versions as a hub world, day, and night stages, on the Wii and PS2 version it is only playable for the boss Egg Beetle and as a map page.
- Spagonia (Rooftop Run/Orange Roofs): A level influenced by western European architecture, like the real Italian city of Siena.
- Holoska (Cool Edge): An icy location, most likely based on Alaska (due to the name).
- Chun-Nan (Dragon Road): A level inspired by China. It includes a run along what looks like the Great Wall.
- Shamar (Arid Sands): A stage designed to resemble a Middle Eastern desert landscape, probably Petra, Jordan.
- Empire City (Skyscraper Scamper): A location based on New York City where Sonic is shown to run between skyscrapers. This stage is not available on the Wii and PS2 version.
- Adabat (Jungle Joyride): A level inspired by Angkor and Southeastern Asia themes. It contains many flowing rivers and high cliffs.
- Eggmanland (Crimson Carnival): Eggman's empire, based on an island near the fifth continent. The stage is combination of an amusement park and a factory. It resembles a fusion of Circus Park, Lava Shelter and Final Egg.
Levels have been designed so that the two aforementioned modes of 2D and 3D gameplay will be switched between roughly every fifteen to thirty seconds, whilst no stage will last for more than five minutes. In addition, the game features a day-and-night system; some parts of the action stages have been specially built so that time will pass, and these can be played as either Sonic or his werehog form, while others are only built for one specific form, and during these areas, time will not pass. The player is easily be able to advance time manually during the areas allowing either form, should they prefer one or the other.
The game also features town stages, or "hub-worlds", that are set in the same environments as the action stages, and players also are able to walk around the environment freely and speak to townspeople, even gaining items from them. However, this "overworld" can be completely ignored, should the player prefer to simply play through all the stages. Optional side-quests are also available from these stages, for instance, using Tails to fly the Tornado plane; side-quests will be the only time characters other than Sonic will be playable. Such side quests are only available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game.
Due to the different power and capabilities of the consoles of the PS3/Xbox 360 compared to the Wii/PS2, there are significant differences between the two versions of the game released.
- The hub world in the Wii/PS2 version consists of selecting an area to go than exploration. Also, the time of day is only changeable after the continent has been restored.
- The Mazuri and Empire City levels were removed, as well as Empire City in its entirety, from the Wii/PS2 version.
- Sonic begins with all his abilities in the Wii/PS2 version, while he must acquire them in the PS3/Xbox 360.
- Werehog Sonic is the only one who levels up and what he gains is predetermined when he acquires a certain number of orbs in the Wii/PS2 version. He also has significantly less moves than in the PS3/Xbox 360.
- Sonic's top speed and Sonic Boost gauge can't be leveled up and are determined by rings gathered in the stage on the Wii/PS2 version. The PS3/Xbox 360 version allows these to increase in level.
- In the 360/PS3 version, the Sonic Boost is performed by holding down the boost button. It works continuously, can be filled by collecting Rings and can be leveled up to increase the bar length. In the PS2/Wii Version, the Sonic Boost works by pressing the boost button and the boost lasts for 2-3 seconds. It's filled by collecting Rings and performing Action Chains. It costs one square of the bar to use a single boost and the bar can be increased by collecting Rings from a total of three bars to six.
- Sonic must find Medals in the PS3/Xbox 360 version in order to access new levels. In the Wii/PS2 version, these are determined by rank or gathered automatically after certain missions. They're used to unlock Secret Areas at Gaia Gates.
- Sonic's rank is the PS3/Xbox 360 version is determined by score and its worst ranking is E. On the Wii/PS2 version, regular Sonic's ranks are determined by completion time while Werehog Sonic's are judged on three factors: level-up orbs gathered, completion time and number of rings gathered and the worst ranking of this version is C.
- For boss battle rankings, the PS3/360 version is determined by score. The Wii/PS2 version uses time as its sole factor and has no ranks besides S for a medal and C, which earns none.
- Eggmanland is one long stage where Sonic switches forms in the PS3/Xbox 360 version. On the Wii/PS2 version, it starts with the daytime stage and missions before switching to nighttime.
Sonic Unleashed begins describing the end of an untold story which sees Sonic confronting his nemesis, Doctor Eggman, bounding around a fleet of spaceships, and transforming to Super Sonic - Sonic transformed using the power of the Chaos Emeralds - in order to stop him, destroying Eggman`s mech and knocking Eggman himself to the ground. As a trap, Eggman pretends to plea for mercy. When Sonic is close enough, he activates his laser, which traps Sonic in the center and begins drawing the Chaos energy out of Sonic and the Emeralds in a fashion that is clearly extremely painful for Sonic. After the laser is charged, Eggman fires it at the earth to wake a monster known as Dark Gaia, splitting the planet. The dark energy of the Emeralds is brought out by the ray, transforming Sonic into a monstrous version of himself and rendering the Chaos Emeralds gray and powerless. Eggman then opens an airlock which sucks Sonic and the drained Emeralds out into space and down to Earth. While Sonic is saved from a fatal landing due to an unknown energy source, he still ends up taking a heavy fall, landing on top of a flying dog-like creature whom Sonic names Chip. The resulting impact causes Chip to lose his memory (which Sonic thinks is his fault). Sonic agrees to help Chip restore his memory during his journey.
After exploring the city of Apotos, Sonic and Chip run into Tails, who reveals that Professor Pickle of Spagonia University may be able to help them. Once they reach Spagonia, they discover Eggman has kidnapped Professor Pickle for his knowledge on Dark Gaia. After traveling to Mazuri and freeing him, Professor Pickle explains the nature of Dark Gaia and reveals that restoring power to the Chaos Emeralds via the Gaia Temples would help the planet return to normal. Sonic then sets out to the seven Gaia Temples to restore the emeralds and reassemble the planet. All the while, Dr. Eggman makes plans to reassemble Dark Gaia and finish Eggmanland.
During the restoration of the sixth Chaos Emerald, it's revealed that Chip is in fact Light Gaia, the opposite of Dark Gaia, and he lost his memories because, like Dark Gaia, he was prematurely awakened by Eggman's laser; likewise, Dark Gaia has not yet been fully reborn due to his premature awakening, and Sonic must stop Eggman before Dark Gaia's full powers return. At this point, Sonic travels to the location of the last temple, over which Eggman has built Eggmanland using Dark Gaia's power. While Sonic is able to restore the last emerald and defeat Eggman's newest mech, Dark Gaia becomes complete, knocking Dr. Eggman out of the way. Chip uses the Gaia Temples to form a body to combat Dark Gaia with, and he and Sonic hold off the beast, but Dark Gaia manages to take its final form. Sonic then transforms into Super Sonic and take Final Dark Gaia down, but the battle leaves him too drained to escape. As the final continent moves back into place, Chip flings Sonic back to the surface while he remains behind. After Sonic wakes up, Chip's necklace and some parting words are found on the ground. Sonic then picks it up and puts on the necklace as a bracelet to remind them of their adventures together. The game ends as Sonic runs off with Tails, who is in the Tornado, towards another adventure.
While these characters were confirmed to appear in the game, Sonic is the only playable character (although the player does take control of Chip for brief sections during one boss battle). However, optional mini-games were going to be available, during which time another character was planned to be used in order to complete them. Tails also controls the Tornado plane in missions similar to that of Sonic Adventure and that is played in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Super Sonic
- Sonic the Werehog
- Chip/Light Gaia
- Gaia Colossus
- Amy Rose
- Miles "Tails" Prower
- Professor Pickle
- Doctor Eggman
- Dark Gaia
The development of Sonic Unleashed was announced in April 2008. Unleashed was originally intended to be the third installment of the Sonic Adventure series 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, and so a new title, Sonic Unleashed, was decided upon. It was then later revealed that the game's name in Japan would in fact remain Sonic World Adventure for its release there.
The title was first brought to public attention when the Sonic Unleashed name was trademarked by Sega on March 12, 2008. Screenshots of cut scenes, artwork, and a video were leaked ten days later; the title was then officially confirmed by Sega on April 3, 2008 with a small selection of screenshots and an updated video.
The game was being developed internally by Sonic Team. It is a multiplatform release on the Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3,and the Xbox 360. There are two development "silos" that work on two separate builds of the game: one for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version, and one for the Wii and PlayStation 2 version. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions run on Sega's "Hedgehog Engine", which has been in production for three years and will produce a frame rate of 30 frames per second. The Wii and PlayStation 2 versions do not take advantage of the Hedgehog Engine, instead using a modified version of an existing, internal Sega engine.
The Wii version of the game has been developed specifically to take advantage of its controller's capabilities, with notable differences in gameplay. The game uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk option; whilst character movement and basic actions are assigned to buttons, certain actions will benefit from physical movements. It supports the GameCube controller, and also the option of using the Classic Controller. The levels, whilst sharing the same styles, themes and motifs as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, are different to those shared between the Wii and the PlayStation 2 versions, and Dimps was ony involved with design of the daytime stages for these versions.
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. This was then cast into doubt when references to online modes were alluded to around E3 2008, but a later interview re-iterated that Unleashed would have no online modes at all. A demo was said to be available on the PlayStation Store and on Xbox Live near to the game's release, and was released recently.
On March 12, 2009, Downloadable Content was released for the Xbox 360 called the "Chun-Nan Adventure pack" the expansion includes four new daytime stages and two new Nighttime stages. A framerate patch was include to fix framerate issues on areas and levels in the game such as the hub-worlds and Adabat. The package cost 250 Microsoft points to download while the framerate patch comes free. On March 26, 2009, an additional expansion was released called the "Spagonia Adventure Pack", just like the level before it, it contains four new daytime stages and two new nighttime stages. Several other Downloadble Contents were released. Later, a "Holoska Adventure Pack" and a "Mazuri Adventure Pack" were released on April 9, 2009 and April 30, 2009 respectively, also containing four daytime levels and two nighttime levels. On May 21, 2009, another Downloadable Content was released including extra levels for Apotos and Shamar, including five daytime levels and four nighttime levels between the both of them. In June 11th 2009, another Downloadable Content was released including extra levels for Empire City, and Adabat, including five daytime levels and four nighttime levels between the both of them, and it was also said to be the last downloadable content for Sonic Unleashed. On April 2, 2009 the "Chun-Nan Adventure Pack" was released for the PS3 on the PlayStation Network. It has the same features as the 360 version and again will likely receive updates as well. On April 15, 2009, these two packs were made available to USA PS3 owners. It is highly doubtful if the Wii version will receive extra content due to the system's limitations and due to the fact that it was made by a separate team.
The game's theme song is Endless Possibility by Jaret Reddick. The song seems to take Sonic's point of view as to the events of what happens within the game.
The ending theme is Dear My Friend, about the brief but touching friendship between Sonic and Chip.
Sonic Unleashed received mixed reviews. Initial anticipation when the first media for Unleashed was revealed was high, as the demonstration videos hinted at a possible return of Sonic to his traditional platforming roots, especially after the decrease in the series' popularity and critical success after Sonic's transition to three-dimensional gameplay and a number of poorly received titles in the franchise that preceded it, such as Shadow the Hedgehog and the 2006 game, Sonic the Hedgehog. However, critical reception to Unleashed was mixed, 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. GameSpot gave the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions each a 3.5/10 while giving the Wii version a 7.0/10. 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, though a few review websites, such as 1UP, gave the Wii version a lower score than its 360 and PS3 counterparts.
Positive elements of Unleashed remarked upon by reviews include the environments, such as the "postcard-perfect architecture", and the graphics, with stages looking "absolutely gorgeous" and being "very pretty and lovingly animated", with one reviewer comparing them to a playable Pixar film. 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"; however, some complaints were raised about frame rate reduction when large numbers of enemies appeared during the Werehog sections. Although the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions do not use the Hedgehog Engine, graphics for these platforms were still praised for their high quality, with the title being nominated for Best Graphics Technology for the Wii by IGN in its 2008 video game awards. The soundtrack to the game was also praised as being an improvement on more recent installments in the series; use of an orchestral score, rather than rock as in more recent games, was appreciated.
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" were described as "plodding", as well as "lethargic" and "combat-heavy". Further to the change of pace, the new style of gameplay that accompanies the night-time levels was widely criticised, involving "frustrating" platform elements and combat described as not "terribly interesting" and "boring", 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", while IGN stated that they have "nothing to do with Sonic whatsoever", feeling that the Werehog was "being slapped on" to the Sonic experience.
In stark contrast to the Werehog sections, many reviewers found the daytime levels to be enjoyable, especially the "exhilarating" sense of speed they provide; with "the most satisfying gameplay of any Sonic title in years", the game "perfectly captures the feel of classic Sonic". Many also enjoyed the mixture of, and transition between, 2D and 3D sections. Indeed, many reviewers remarked that they would have appreciated the game more had it comprised solely of, and expanded upon, the daytime levels. 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", instead describing the Wii version as a "vastly superior experience", with its daytime levels praised for better control and design.
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" and "tedious", 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". The story and overall tone of the game, including the new character Chip, were criticised, some remarking that it was too juvenile, or comparable to that of a Saturday morning cartoon. Some reviewers also felt that the English voice acting for characters was poor.