Earlier in the year the indie gaming scene was graced with a charming title that harked back to an era many of us hold dear, that of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Shovel Knight from Yacht Club Games delighted retro gamers and newcomers alike with its classic NES like charm, wonderful retro soundtrack and cleverly constructed levels, polished off with a unique art style that celebrates games of the late 80s. Now it seems that it’s the early 90s turn to shine with Freedom Planet, a title from indie developer Galaxy Trail that harks back to the era of a console I hold very dear, the Sega Megadrive (otherwise known as the Genesis in the US).
Freedom Planet clearly takes great inspiration from many Sega Megadrive games, most notably Sonic The Hedgehog which the bulk of its gameplay elements seem to mimic. It also evokes memories of Treasure’s fantastic platform shooter Gunstar Heroes with much of its design and there are even elements of Capcom’s Mega Man X series, so there’s a little bit of Super Nintendo love in there somewhere too. The 90s nostalgia doesn’t stop there either, Freedom Planet’s art style and story is reminiscent of early 90s cartoons such as Bucky ‘O Hare with its tale of anthropomorphic freedom fighters taking on a militaristic threat to the galaxy, this time in the form of intergalactic overlord Brevon, an insectoid tyrant with dreams of absolute, intergalactic domination. This cartoon like feel is further captured in the way the story is told as it follows the three protagonists, Lilac (an anthropomorphic dragon), Carol (an anthropomorphic cat) and Milla (an anthropomorphic rabbit) who are portrayed as innocent, adolescent characters finding themselves thrust into a dangerous war that their sense of right forces them to engage.
The gameplay of Freedom Planet flows beautifully. Much like the Sonic series it pays homage to, much of the game involves racing around levels collecting gems and smashing your way through enemies at high speeds. Level designs are colourful and large ranging from a lush rainforest shrouding trap filled Aztec ruins to a bustling Chinese styled city in the middle of a celebratory festival, each level boasts new and interesting mechanics to get to grips with and a nice variety of enemies to fight. Boss battles too are cleverly thought out, a joy to look at and offer a significant, fast paced challenge that really gets the adrenaline pumping. The games three protagonists control somewhat differently, Lilac feels very much like a Sonic character with her ability to pinball around levels whereas Carol feels more like a Mega Man character with her ability to wall jump, she also has a Chun Li style kick attack that gives her more of a fighter like feel, Carol also has a motorbike that she can use upon finding gas cans scattered about the various levels, making her much faster than before and changing up her abilities slightly. Milla is a little more unique, she has the ability to create energy cubes that she can throw as projectiles, she can also create a small energy shield and has the ability to flap her ears to execute a type of double jump. Of the three main characters Lilac definitely feels like her play style fits the flow of the game best.
The soundtrack to Freedom Planet is definitely deserving of a mention, the music is absolutely phenomenal and with a whopping two hour OST (no small feat for such a small Indie project) you’re going to hear a number of great tunes that you’ll want to listen to again and again that really set the tone for every stage and situation. The voice acting is also great for such a small title, some of the actors are noticeably better than others, however the bulk of the voice acting is top notch, Lilac, Carol and Milla sound especially convincing and carry the tone of the story across well.
All in all for £10.99 (the games price on Steam as of the time of this review) you really can’t go wrong with Galaxy Trail’s Freedom Planet, especially if, like me, you’re a retro, platform fanatic who grew up during the Sega Megadrive era. If this sounds like you then this nostalgic trip down memory lane is definitely a game worth looking into.