Let’s just get this out of the way. Yes, Freedom Planet is a game clearly inspired in part by the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. I say this now because this will be the first and last time Sonic will be mentioned in this review. Freedom Planet is its own fresh and beautifully-designed beast with an incredible amount of love and care oozing from every facet.
Freedom Planet by Galaxy Trail was clearly made people who adore classic 16-bit action titles like the Treasure titles on Genesis and Rocket Knight. With all of the critically acclaimed nostalgic indie games based on the 8-bit era (ie. Shovel Knight), it is wonderful to finally have a high quality indie title with 16-bit sensibilities.
Freedom Planet’s story is rather simple but incredibly effective. A dragon girl named Sash Lilac and her two friends Carol Tea and Milla Basset get tangled into a war against a mysterious alien force led by main antagonist Lord Brevon. The characters are so well done that they carry the simplistic story to new heights. Every character’s personality is very believable and lovable to the point that I found myself laughing and getting invested all the way through. The voice acting is also surprisingly top-notch. Hardly a single voice actor seemed uninterested, confused, or lacking in skill. The characters sprites are also some of the most expressive I’ve seen in a 16-bit game, which just added to the sincerity of character interactions. How the major characters conversed with one another reminded me of the realistic and enjoyable character interactions in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. If Freedom Planet ever got a TV series, it would be enjoyable enough as a slice of life series with how awesome the personalities are.
The game has an absolutely beautiful 16-but style with very detailed backgrounds and foregrounds. Spites often explode onto the screen with the same excitement of a game like Gunstar Heroes. Every stage has its own unique style and gameplay gimmicks including small puzzles and new objects to interact with. Even small details, like characters dancing when you let go of the controller in one specific area in the game, add so much to the atmosphere.
Gameplay does consist of many sections of fast running, but Freedom Planet does have a decent emphasis on combat. Each character has their own unique set of moves to fight small baddies and stage bosses with. Lilac is fast and has a very useful charging dash attack that can damage enemies and bring her to higher areas in a stage. Carol can use her motorcycle to ride on walls and can also wall jump ala. Mega Man X. Milla is the strangest of the bunch as she is more defensive rather than offensive, and she has the lowest health bar of the three. She is kind of seen as a hard mode for veterans. All three characters control very well and are different enough to satisfy, but I do recommend sticking with Lilac on the first playthrough since her moveset compliments the stages the most. An extremely small complaint I do have is that extra lives and collectibles are mostly pointless since you don’t have to repeat a level over again after you get a game over.
Bosses are one of Freedom Planet’s highlights. Many of them are absolutely huge and beautifully animated. The exact amount of challenge is presented and difficulty does increase rather gradually. Whether you’re fighting one of Brevon’s minions, a giant mech, or an ancient creature, the fast-paced action excited me in every single boss encounter. The fights are very pattern-based and don’t have much variation, but to me, that’s okay when bringing back to life the feeling of a great 90’s action game. This game competes with Treasure’s Alien Soldier when it comes to dynamic and detailed 2D boss battles.
The game’s sound effects and music bring feelings of the greatest classics on the Sega Genesis and Saturn. The soundtrack is so good that I’m still listing to it weeks after my initial playthrough. The music ranges from hard-hitting boss themes to relaxing and beautiful sounds.
I would recommend Freedom Planet to anyone who loves 2D action games. With over a dozen unique stages, multiple characters, a story filled with lovable personalities, and lots of bonus material you can unlock by finding card collectibles in the stages, Freedom Planet is the complete package, and it is one of the greatest indie games of all time. It’s not too expensive. and you can get it now on Steam or on Wii U when it releases on that relatively soon. I hope that we get more 16/32-bit style indie titles in the future.