Authentic retro-style games are a rare breed yet Freedom Planet feels like a long-lost Genesis title. However, is this era worth revisiting in this day and age? Of course, so lace up your running shoes and let's go!
If you've ever played a classic Sonic the Hedgehog game then you already know the basics of how to play Freedom Planet. Some additional gameplay elements help make it stand out from the decades-old platformer such as various attacks and aerial maneuvers. As opposed to jumping on enemies' heads, you can pounce on and scratch up your foes until they meet their maker. The main character is a purple dragon named Lilac but you can also select Carol (a wildcat) and Milla (a basset hound). Each character has her own arsenal of moves, but you'll probably choose Lilac due to her more intuitive and easy to learn skill set. Anyway, the only downside to the gameplay is that at times it feels way too similar to playing one of Sonic's adventures, especially when you sprint quickly past loops and hills then leap off a spring to soar through the sky. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it did occasionally take me out of the experience.
Freedom Planet masterfully emulates the essence of what made the '90s such a memorable moment in gaming history. The pixel-perfect environments and detailed character models complete with smooth animation make it quite a feast for the eyes. Speaking of characters, the featured cast is impossible not to love. Everyone is bursting with personality and charm with plenty of humorous interactions and dramatic situations that bring out their traits wonderfully. The only inauthentic aspect is the voice acting since not many 16-bit games had it. Thankfully, it's spot-on for the most part. The girls sound bubbly and adorable while their enemies are menacingly sinister. However, a couple characters give average performances which can stand out like a sore thumb from the otherwise heartfelt work. Also, although the music is catchy and sound effects are oh so satisfying, the audio is rather imbalanced. Some scenes are quieter than others and certain characters may be difficult to hear. It's a minor issue but they definitely could have tweaked the audio levels.
You have the option to play the main campaign with or without the story segments, but why would you opt out of those cool scenes? At any rate, it took me a few hours to complete which is quite lengthy for a 2D platformer. As you progress through the game's stages, you'll face many platforming challenges, tough boss battles, puzzles, and plenty of other unique situations. Each stage is crafted with a great deal of care and it shows through how enjoyable they are to explore. Once you do, you'll discover plenty of hidden secrets such as tokens that take you to bonus rounds and collectable cards that unlock music, voice clips, and art. The challenge ramps up steadily and you might reach a point at about halfway that you'll have to really put some effort in if you want to keep going. If you start to get frustrated then don't worry since you can lower the difficulty to make it more manageable.
Being able to play as three distinct characters provides hours of enjoyable replay value all on its own. It may surprise you, but there's actually a lot more that'll keep you playing after you beat the main story. As previously mentioned, you can revisit stages to collect more cards that unlock extra content. Also, trying to collect badges (that act like Freedom Planet's achievement system) and attempting to complete any previously visited stage in the shortest amount of time possible is great fun. Additionally, there is a stage built just for time attack mode where you smash targets as quickly as you can within a variety of challenges. As you can clearly see, there is a lot to do which is fantastic for an already massive game because you definitely won't get bored of it easily.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting Freedom Planet to be as incredible as it is. Every minute of gameplay made me more impressed than the last. In the end, you'd be silly to pass on this gem of a game if you're at all interested in the retro scene since it's not only one of the best Wii U eShop titles out there; it would also be considered one of the best Genesis platformers if it came out 20 years ago.
- + Awesome 16-bit gameplay and presentation with hours of replay value
- + Lovable cast of vibrant characters
- + Stages are well built and fun to explore
- - Sometimes it feels a bit too much like Sonic
- - Audio levels are imbalanced