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Preview: Sonic Forces on Nintendo Switch is a bit of a mess

| September 23, 2017

Preview: Sonic Forces on Nintendo Switch is a bit of a mess Articles  Sonic Forces Sega Nintendo Switch

After the blazing success of Christian Whitehead’s Sonic Mania, SEGA and Sonic Team are in a bit of sticky situation. Every executive under the SEGA brand must know by now that 3D Sonic is pretty much just one big joke; failure after failure, meme after meme—Sonic’s transition into three dimensions has rarely been good. Hell, I implore you to take a look back into the classic Adventure titles and see just how broken and bad they really are.

Sonic Forces is SEGA’s next chance to prove everyone wrong. Not only do they have to prove Sonic Team’s competence against a brand-new team of developers, but they also have to prove that 3D Sonic is indeed relevant in an undeniably flip-flopped turn of events where two-dimensional Sonic is not only pertinent again, but also hailed as one of the best platformers released this year.

It’s a mediocre demo wrapped in a currently terrible port

Sadly, the demo I played of Sonic Forces at EGX 2017 was underwhelming at best, and that’s not including the numerous technical issues that plagued the Nintendo Switch build I decided to opt for. With three levels available—a 3D Sonic stage, a classic Sonic boss fight and an “Avatar” stage, Sonic Forces’ Nintendo Switch demo isn’t exactly a great showcase for what the game could have been.

3D Sonic stages play the same as they have since Sonic Unleashed—and I guess 06—with a near-linear patch taking you through a level with highly active background scenery. You auto-lock from enemy to enemy and springboard to rope handles until you reach the exit. It’s as basic as it’s ever been here and in the EGX demo it feels incredibly simplistic, almost like “Baby’s first Sonic game”. There are multiple routes of increasing difficulty spotted throughout but none of these feel particularly rewarding when compared to, say, the earlier stages of Sonic Colours.

Preview: Sonic Forces on Nintendo Switch is a bit of a mess Articles  Sonic Forces Sega Nintendo Switch

Next is the 2D stages. While we get a small taste of 2D platforming in the 3D levels, Forces follows the Sonic Generations way of doing things by having a more traditional classic feel for its nineties Sonic levels. Playing as Classic Sonic, we’re set to fight the evil Dr. Eggman in his classic pod, which after just four hits, turns into the Egg Dragoon. It’s a simple boss fight where you wait and jump over obstacles before Robotnik throws metal balls at you which you can hit back, woo!

Classic Sonic’s stage was probably the hardest available level in the entire demo due to one major change in the blue hedgehog’s formula. The classic ring system is weirdly replaced with the blue blur dropping his current ring count over the stage when hit, leaving him extremely vulnerable and unable to pick up any dropped rings. Not only did this make the boss fight more difficult, but Forces’ drastic change made everything feel less rewarding. There’s no risky play anymore when fighting against bosses; what’s the point of trying new things when you don’t have that safety net of rings on the ground to mop up should you royally screw something up.

Last up is the new avatar stages which in this demo was probably the best section that I got my hands on. It plays incredibly similar to the 3D Sonic stages, albeit with you playing as a DeviantArt OC instead of an actually well-designed character. These stages are more combat orientated with your character able to use simplistic melee combat to take out a variety of Eggman’s robots—in this demo I had access to an electric whip.

SEGA has a lot of work to do before Sonic Forces releases on Switch on November 7th

Sonic Forces has a lot of interesting ideas, and while I definitely appreciate Sega’s will for variety in this 25th-anniversary installment, Forces seems to have less competence than some of its predecessors. None of these modes, no matter how much they attempt to spice up the classic Sonic formula, feel great to play. Forces is nowhere near as memorable as some of the earlier games, it feels like a Poundland Christmas Selection Box whereas all the other kids are getting the tastier, not-much-more-expensive Cadbury’s ones.

On Nintendo Switch, Sonic Forces is even worse. It’s a mediocre demo wrapped in a currently terrible port. During my time with the game, Forces was one of the worst performing games I’ve played on the system so far. Input lag felt large with jumps taking almost half a second to register which is obviously not the best for a fast-paced platformer such as this. Framerate was also wildly inconsistent, shifting between thirty and sixty, sometimes barely reaching the former. Compared the what I got to see of the PS4 and Xbox One versions, Forces’ Switch port definitely suffers from the lower spec hardware.
That said, the game does still look fantastic on the Switch which managed to impress me heavily. It may not be as impressively gorgeous as the upcoming Mario Odyssey—oh look, Sonic vs Mario arguments in 2017—but environments and main character models do look fantastic in their 720p presentation.

Nonetheless, SEGA has a lot of work to do before Sonic Forces releases on Switch on November 7th. While the demo didn’t impress me, less input lag and a smoother framerate would make Forces a lot more enjoyable to play on Nintendo’s handheld/portable hybrid.

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  • Wuvwii

    TL;DR for the technical observations without the blatant gameplay bias: There appears to be some obvious compromises most people won’t notice for it to run on Switch, and should still be enjoyable in this form to fans of the gameplay style.
    You’re welcome.

    • Lewis White

      Actually, Sonic Forces’ switch port doesn’t compromise enough to keep a solid performance. Input lag is insanely high which is a huge detriment to the fast-paced gameplay.

      I don’t have a Sonic Bias; in fact during the article I say that I enjoyed Sonic Colors. I also enjoyed the non-werehog sections of Unleashed and had a fun enough time playing Lost World. Generations was also quite good.

      • Evan Gustavson

        You know bias means letting your preferences get in the way of your judgement, right?
        The key word here is “preference”
        And another thing: do you know what the word “preference” means?
        Because liking something and preferring it are two very different things at times.
        I can enjoy something a little, but vastly prefer something else.
        For instance: I like Frosted Strawberry Poptarts a little, almost on the fence where I’d eat them after running out of other deserts, but Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts?
        I go crazy for em’ gobble em like I hadn’t eaten in 2 weeks.
        If I tried to force myself to gobble Strawberry the same way, I’d start losing my appetite before I got through the second pouch, and that’s IF I was given an hour to down both pouches.

        Your diction shows clear bias against both Adventure and Boost formula.
        On top of that, you just sound snarky and pompous.

        It sounds like you had more faith in the 2D sections than the 3D sections before you even tried them.
        That is called bias, like it or not.

        • Lewis White

          Sorry, I was commenting in between meetings and games at EGX. I apologise for my mistakes.

      • Wuvwii

        Phrasing an experience at an event as proving facts like you have analyzed a copy makes those claims extremely click-baity at best. Nobodies arguing it won’t be scaled down, but if you want anyone taking the specific observations seriously they’re lost in all the gameplay bias. The way this is now nobody is going to care you think you proved anything about any lag. Be honest about the bias and then say hey this is what I experienced, otherwise I don’t even believe you.

    • In fairness, I was hands on with the PS4 build today at the same event, and it was no where near as good as expected. The main issue I found were the controls were far to unresponsive.

      • Wuvwii

        Thanks. It’s funny I would approve of this, but what are the chances either one of you would go back to a previous game in the franchise and notice at least some bit of the same issue? If it’s there, old or at least a new bug of the engine, my simple takeaway is I’m not someone who would probably notice (the same with all the frames talk). But for those who would I also hope it’s not a final game issue.

  • Wuvwii

    TL;DR for the technical observations without the blatant gameplay bias: There appears to be some obvious compromises most people won’t notice for it to run on Switch, and should still be enjoyable in this form to fans of the gameplay style.
    You’re welcome.

    • Lewis White

      Actually, Sonic Forces’ switch port doesn’t compromise enough to keep a solid performance. Input lag is insanely high which is a huge detriment to the fast-paced gameplay.

      I don’t have a Sonic Bias; in fact during the article I say that I enjoyed Sonic Colors. I also enjoyed the non-werehog sections of Unleashed and had a fun enough time playing Lost World. Generations was also quite good.

      • Evan Gustavson

        You know bias means letting your preferences get in the way of your judgement, right?
        The key word here is “preference”
        And another thing: do you know what the word “preference” means?
        Because liking something and preferring it are two very different things at times.
        I can enjoy something a little, but vastly prefer something else.
        For instance: I like Frosted Strawberry Poptarts a little, almost on the fence where I’d eat them after running out of other deserts, but Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts?
        I go crazy for em’ gobble em like I hadn’t eaten in 2 weeks.
        If I tried to force myself to gobble Strawberry the same way, I’d start losing my appetite before I got through the second pouch, and that’s IF I was given an hour to down both pouches.

        Your diction shows clear bias against both Adventure and Boost formula.
        On top of that, you just sound snarky and pompous.

        But sales don’t necessarily point to a better game, take Call of Duty, for instance, so take Sonic Mania’s sales to mean there’s a bigger market for 2D Sonic, but that doesn’t make it a better game by default.

        The fact that you show inherent bias against 3D sonic, you even seem to almost be not-so-subtly suggesting they should cut out 3D portions from sonic altogether, which means your simply not part of the target audience for that gameplay.

        That is called bias, like it or not.
        The fact that actually playing them did nothing but reinforce your existing opinions could be seen as your opinion being set in stone in the first place, and we get it: it’s not your thing.

        PS: not to be nitpicky, but… for an author, that comment has numerous glaring mistakes: First, you used the wrong tense of “say”. Second, you forgot a comma or two.
        Finally, you punctuated what I assume is meant to be an exclamation or a statement with a semicolon
        “I don’t have Sonic Bias! In fact, during the article, I said that I enjoyed Sonic Colors”

        You see, you didn’t say the past tense of the word, “say”, which is “said” despite the statement itself otherwise being past tense.

        • Lewis White

          Sorry, I was commenting in between meetings and games at EGX. I apologise for my mistakes.

      • Wuvwii

        Phrasing an experience at an event as proving facts like you have analyzed a copy makes those claims extremely click-baity at best. Nobodies arguing it won’t be scaled down, but if you want anyone taking the specific observations seriously they’re lost in all the gameplay bias. The way this is now nobody is going to care you think you proved anything about any lag. Be honest about the bias and then say hey this is what I experienced, otherwise I don’t even believe you.

    • In fairness, I was hands on with the PS4 build today at the same event, and it was no where near as good as expected. The main issue I found were the controls were far to unresponsive.

      • Wuvwii

        Thanks. It’s funny I would approve of this, but what are the chances either one of you would go back to a previous game in the franchise and notice at least some bit of the same issue? If it’s there, old or at least a new bug of the engine, my simple takeaway is I’m not someone who would probably notice (the same with all the frames talk). But for those who would I also hope it’s not a final game issue.

  • FlyD

    TL;DR it drops below 30 fps on switch and has bad input lag.

    • Wuvwii

      I’ll either take proof or consider claims that are being fair about what’s being observed in the first place. This could’ve easily put that info out there to consider without raising such ridiculous red flags in how it’s put and then there’d be nothing to call out.

  • Jose Covarrubias

    TL;DR I’m a Mario f#g

  • Jose Covarrubias

    TL;DR I’m a Mario f#g

  • Keon

    Sonic Defense Force incoming

  • Keon

    Sonic Defense Force incoming

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    i don’t think anyone seriously expected this game to be better than mania even if it exceeded their expectations.

  • Valtiel

    Adventure games weren’t broken, just the shoddy HD ports and the Gamecube port of SA1.

  • Marco Espim

    The Nintendo Switch sucks and it’s SEGA’s fault. Makes sense.

  • Marco Espim

    The Nintendo Switch sucks and it’s SEGA’s fault. Makes sense.

  • Shadow Knight

    Switch is not powerful enough what are you expecting from something equal to the xbox 360 and ps3.

  • Shadow Knight

    Switch is not powerful enough what are you expecting from something equal to the xbox 360 and ps3.

  • Hossi Blumengaarten

    so glad this game sucks, i want to see the sonic fans lose their minds

  • Hossi Blumengaarten

    so glad this game sucks, i want to see the sonic fans lose their minds

  • Hifihedgehog

    As a note to the author, I linked your impressions here in the Sonic the Hedgehog subreddit’s The Sonic Forces EGX Impressions Mega Thread ( https://www.reddit.com/r/SonicTheHedgehog/comments/72fvy7/the_sonic_forces_egx_impressions_mega_thread/ ) I just posted. Thank you for sharing your impressions, as it should help gamers of all preferences in making a grounded, well-informed decision.

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