Review by Ryock
Good game, but has a few annoying problems
Hello there. For as long as anyone can remember, Sonic has been a long time running mascot of SEGA, and continues to be to this day. However, most people will tell you that he has, as of recent years, been in a bit of slump, with a lack of good games. The last good Sonic game, in my opinion, to have come out, was Sonic Riders; which was kinda sad, given it wasn't even a platformer, adventure, or any of the types of genres people are used to seeing Sonic in.
Well, he finally ventures into the RPG world like SOOO many people have been wanting for many, many years, myself included. Like Super Mario RPG, Sonic has different people working on the RPG variant of the game. As Square is to Nintendo, Bioware is to SEGA. So, with Bioware working on this title, every one's expectations are quite high, for good reason, too. Bioware has a very good history behind them, and is pretty much one of the best choices for a company to design an RPG. Bioware proves again in this title, that they're very good with RPGs. This game was satisfying to me, but it was also disappointing in some ways, many ways actually. But this is a good game. With that, let's get down to the details.
This story is pretty predictable, for a Sonic game. The game starts off a few years, presumably two years, after Eggman's defeat. Sonic apparently has gone away for a long while, and has returned just recently. He's informed by Tails that Knuckles has been kidnapped, Chaos Emeralds are disappearing, and these mysterious people are showing up, who are responsible for Knuckles' kidnapping.
So, as anyone can expect, you need to find these Chaos Emeralds, and rescue Knuckles. I won't say TOO much about it, but the game does delve a little deeper into Knuckles' clan, which I was actually quite happy about, since it's left a lot of people on the edge, wondering. I don't know if it's just me, but I believe most people were expecting this game to have a T rating, simply because Bioware were the ones designing it. Personally, I was looking forward to it. Sonic Adventure, and Sonic Adventure 2 had some of that action, and I think that's what made it so fun.
Sonic I think, deserves a darker tone, and a more serious story to promote the blue hedgehog. You can see this in both Dreamcast Sonic Adventure games with Chaos, Shadow's death, Maria's death, etc. To me, it just seemed Sonic is more deserving of that tone, rather than a little kid, let's go save the world kind of plot. If you want to know more about Knuckles, the game won't disappoint in that aspect; there's lots on Knuckles. Just don't expect a whole ton of story from this title.
Game Play 8/10
The game play is pretty simple, which I guess is a curse and a blessing at the same time, being a DS game. The entire game, except for the L and R buttons, is played completely with the stylus, and nothing else. This can be a huge turn-off to playing the game, but it actually is quite easy to learn, and grab the handle of, very quickly. Unlike most DS games, the stylus restriction actually made the game interesting. If I were to complain about it though, it'd be that I wish that there was an option to change it so you can play without it. It's annoying to point on the screen to make Sonic walk, and run into an enemy or not be able to see where you're walking, because your own hand is in the way.
The game is played like traditional RPGs. Anyone who has played Super Mario RPG will know that this game is almost exactly like it in terms of a battle system. You earn XP points at the end of battle and this can level Sonic and his friends up. When they get levels, they get 5 points, which they can spend(or not spend, and instead, save) on skills, which all cost 5, 10, and 15 points to learn. Can't take your eyes off the game for a second during battle, either, if you want to survive. Whenever you or the enemies use skills, you need to perform certain actions with the stylus on screen. If you can do all the actions successfully, you will counter the enemy's attack. Likewise, if you use your skills perfectly, you can get maximum damage potential.
This can make the game patronizingly easy unfortunately... as once you get good with the stylus, enemy skills become useless on you, as you become too good, and dodge absolutely everything, and the enemies actually become a bigger threat when they use normal attacks instead. Through the whole game, I only had to revive my characters in battle two or three times, and only one of these was a boss battle. The game is easy, but in fact... a little too easy I believe.
Through the game, you can also equip armor, accessories, and Chao. Chao are special, in that they can give your characters specific, unique abilities, for example, one Chao has the ability to make it so every time you use a normal attack, there's a chance of an instant KO. Chao bring a little more depth to the game, as there's also rare and unique Chao, and although I haven't personally tried it, you can also trade them with friends.
The game play is okay, but don't expect anything grand. Going through the whole game without losing a single battle is very possible to do, and the last boss is very simple as well.
The music and sound effects aren't bad. Well... backtrack, the music isn't bad. The music is actually the type of music I'd expect to hear from Bioware and SEGA, honestly. The sound effects, however, kinda make me flinch and are a bit annoying when I hear them, since they're very unrealistic, and should I say... bouncy? Like, for example, when a killing blow is made on the opponent, I won't say ALWAYS, as I can't really recall, but from what I know, a BOING sound is made. Not the kind we like, like the Sonic springs, but the kiddy types, where you're half expecting a Jack-in-the-box.
The music makes a nice turn every time something bad happens, or you end up in a bad situation, but all the sound effects don't mix with it. You got this nice rock and roll, some type of epic music, and it makes you feel silly when the sound BOING happens after knocking an enemy out. It sadly reminds me a pre-teen who just had his first dose of Dragonball Z and thinks combining the sounds of Blue's Clues and the music of Dragonball Z is "cool", or "funny".
Replay Value 7/10
The game has a New Game+, and you can keep all your levels, equips, items, and Chao as you go into this new game. Although it makes things laughably easy, you can go back, finish little side quests you never did or forgot about, get the two optional characters you might have missed previously, collect all the other Chao you missed, and overall just mess around with the characters and their other speaking options. It's pretty fun, but probably won't keep someone entertained enough to actually finish the New Game+.
Last Notes: I think Sonic Chronicles is a good game. This could have very been a test by Bioware to see what they could get away with. The game is interesting, fun, and will keep a person highly entertained for a few days. I recommend this game to almost any person who plays a Sonic game, but a warning to them as well. The game is terribly short. To give an idea how short, I think it should be at least twice as long. The game is also, as I said, patronizingly easy one you get the hang of the stylus. Getting the hang of the stylus also takes only about an hour really at the most, if that.
The sound and music is okay. Music is alright, sound could used a bit of work. The plot is simple, predictable, and monotonous, but still fun to play around in simply to see more of Knuckles and his past. So, as we can see, there are a few annoying flaws. Goofy sounds, short and easy, not enough detail really. I'd say a sequel is very likely, since the game leaves the player on a cliffhanger. If one does come out, perhaps we'll see something different from this one... hopefully. A generally good game, but needs work.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (US, 09/30/08)
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