I’m generally disappointed in myself that I’ve allowed Freedom Planet to fly under the radar for as long as it has since originally releasing back in 2014 on PC. Since then, it has released on the Wii U in 2014, the PS4 in 2017, and now it’s finally coming to the Nintendo Switch. Developed by GalaxyTrail, this is a beautiful love letter to the 16-bit era platforming juggernauts we know and love. More importantly, a game like this hasn’t existed since Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. In a day and age where Sonic Mania is also a thing, I couldn’t be happier to finally get a chance to play through this journey.
Title: Freedom Planet
Publisher: XSEED Games
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 30, 2018
Game Provided By XSEED Games for the Purpose of This Review
Freedom Planet puts players in control of three anthropomorphic female characters. There’s Lilac, a purple dragon. Carol, a wildcat. And Milla, a basset hound. The three work alongside Torque, who himself is a duck with a secret, to try and stop Lord Brevon in his attempt to take over their planet and then the galaxy. At the beginning, you’ll have the option of playing through the game in Adventure Mode or Classic Mode. There’s one slight difference between these two modes. Adventure Mode features the cutscenes, voice acting, and storytelling. Classic Mode is simply moving from one stage to the next. If you’re playing for the first time, I highly recommend playing through Adventure Mode, as the story isn’t bad. It’s not great, but it isn’t bad. Subsequent playthroughs can then be done in Classic Mode to speed things along.
Speaking of speed, that’s the name of the game! Borrowing heavily from the Sonic franchise in terms of game mechanics and stage designs, you’ll be speeding through these levels as fast as possible while still stopping from time to time if collecting things is your cup of tea. Otherwise, there’s nothing in the way of you and the high-speed thrills of watching the levels cruise by. The way these levels are designed and put together truly made me smile time and time again. While there’s always a main path that’s easy to identify and can be stuck to a majority of the time, there’s alternate routes and hidden secrets scattered about that reward players with extra blue crystals, flower petals, shields, or cards.
The four items just mentioned are what you can expect to find in every stage. Blue crystals act as a point system, but collecting a certain amount will add an extra life to your character. Flower petals represent how many times you can be hit before eventually dying in battle. As you take increased damage throughout the stages and the difficulty begins ramping up even more, I highly suggest seeking these out in order to not unnecessarily lose lives. Shields can do a multitude of things, from protecting you against the enemy attacks, pulling in crystals and flower petals, and making you go invincible. It’s very Sonic in that nature. Cards are the collectibles which can be accessed and viewed through the main menu.
It wouldn’t be fun if Freedom Planet was simply a clone of the games starring the lovable blue hedgehog, and thankfully, this is not a clone. While stage designs do feature a series of ramps, springs, and loop-the-loops to run across and use to gather speed, combat is where things begin to differ. Unlike in more retro platformers like Mario and Sonic, jumping on enemies is not how you dish out your own form of damage. Instead, Lilac, Carol, and Milla have individual abilities they can utilize with one of the trigger buttons, and basic attacks with the face buttons. Most enemies can be incapacitated in just a few strikes, but the boss encounters will require strategic planning. It’s vital to play the waiting game for a majority of the tougher encounters, or else you’ll quickly find your health depleting and getting sent back to the checkpoint to try again.
I was extremely satisfied with the difficulty found within the game, as it struck a nice balance of easing new players in, but increasing just enough with each level to continue providing a challenge. Some of the boss encounters near the tail end of the game were truly brutal, but they maintained a sense of enjoyment while still being difficult. It’s been a long time since a game truly made me utter out-loud an obscenity while playing, but Freedom Planet managed to do that for me. But I never felt defeated, and I always wanted to immediately get back in and try a different strategy or just be patient for a second longer.
An average playthrough of the game should take five hours, with players seeking out collectibles getting closer to eight or nine. Completionists can easily expect double the amount of play time as you’ll need to run through the campaign with each character, and some of the cards are truly hard to find throughout the levels.
While this isn’t a perfect game by any means, it’s extremely refreshing to see a new IP tackle this genre and be a total throwback to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis era of gaming. Developer GalaxyTrail has already stated that a sequel is in the works, and what’s truly exciting about that is the developer who recently was behind Sonic Mania is going to be helping out with the game. That being said, I’m so ready to see what Freedom Planet does next. Anyone that’s a fan of the old Sonic games, or just misses this style of game and is looking for a new experience. You owe it to yourself to pick this up on Nintendo Switch. It’s a combination that just can’t be beat.
8.5 / 10