Review by SSJ6Gohan

Reviewed: 10/15/08

A great adventure for Sonic fans or casual RPG gamers

Being the nature of drawing both RPG gamers and Sonic The Hedgehog fans, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood was destined to get a mixed reaction. I am of the latter group and I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, and eagerly await the sequel that is not so subtly hinted at when you reach the end. I feel that Bioware did a good job of providing an amusing game to a broad audience.

Gameplay - What The Player Does

Sonic Chronicles is a turn-based RPG, meaning that in battles, you give all your characters a command (or several) and once their actions are set, the two sides duke it out, one combatant at a time, and when everyone's finished the turn ends and you repeat the process. For the less hardcore RPG fans (such as myself) Bioware made the battle process more engaging by requiring stylus interaction during power moves, which I will address later. Power moves are special moves that have less chance of missing, and deal more damage, especially those that combine two, three, or even all four of your characters. Besides power moves, you can do a normal attack, attempt to flee, or use an item. Some characters get more actions than others; for example Sonic and Shadow get 3 while Omega and Big only get 1 each turn. This is part of the strategy behind setting your team up. The battle system has its annoyances however. Normal attacks seem to miss very often, and even some power moves (Amy's anger attack for one) tend to miss even when you do them perfectly. Or, the enemy can counterattack and cause YOU to get hurt when you attack them, which happens very often with the later enemies. You also collect chao which improve your characters in different ways. As a casual gamer this system pleased me very much overall.

The other part of gameplay is exploring environments. Each character has one or more special abilities to help you, such as flying or punching crates. You run into your enemies here and can talk to neutral characters who may help you if you complete their missions. There are also shops to spend the rings you find scattered around the map. There are also many chao to find, which will hatch soon and be useful for your battles. You can freely navigate between the different zones at the beginning, but unfortunately after the first 4, you are closed in the next one, and then you reach 5 colonies that you are restricted to; I felt it would have been better to be able to explore everywhere and give a huge open-ended feeling, though maybe the story might have suffered in this case. Angel Island especially had a short-lived life.

Another part (yes there's more!) is dialogues. For some of Sonic's responses, you can choose from up to 4 candidates that may ask questions, or fling flippant remarks, or simply get the team ready for action. This is actually a bit integral, as you can learn more information if you ask for it, and thus be submersed into the game, or you could make important decisions for the team or get access to missions with the right responses. I appreciate the depth of this part of the game, and together all these aspects of the game give it a well-rounded gameplay experience.

Gameplay: 27/30

Controls - How the player does it

During power moves, you must perform well-timed and well-placed taps with on-screen targets to deal maximum damage. It is not too hard to adjust to, but it is scary because some moves do not work at all if you miss even just once. You must also do this interactivity to avoid enemies' special moves. Some of the sequences are fast and furious, and you must focus to get a perfect combo. Other than that the battle system is easy to tap your way through. You also use the stylus to guide yourself through the environments, and you can either tap the icon or press L or R to do a certain action. Dialogues also just use tapping. Pretty simple but effective controls for the game.

Controls: 9/10

Length - How Long The Player Does It

I clocked in at just under 20 hours for this adventure, which for me is a substantial amount of time for a game, though apparently it is short for an RPG for more hardcore players. It also depends how deeply you explore the environments and how many missions you do, which will also affect how much you enjoy the game. The box says there are 20 environments to explore but I can only count 12, though I was still pleased with that. If you take your RPGs like you take fictional stories spanning no less than 6 books, you might feel let down by this game's single novel adventure. Otherwise you should find a good amount of entertainment in Sonic Chronicles.

Length: 14/15

Graphics - How It All Looks

The 3d Character models look a bit childish (bug-eyes and all) but look very good and are fluidly animated, down to the swaying quills that Knuckles sports when he rushes forward and the blue blur that is Sonic. The environmental animations are not as fluid but are not bad either. Enemies also look and move great. However most other things are sprited; all the environments are 2d, and the battle arenas look like very flimsy 3d imitations of the environments, that look like they were supposed to animate but didn't (ex. puffs of smoke just sit in place). The interface looks pretty good.

Graphics: 8/10

Audio - How It Sounds

The sounds are strange in this game; for instance some robots give the same comedic yelp that Big gives when he is hurt. The characters just get generic and weird grunts instead of personalized sound samples. The environmental music is MIDI sounding for some reason and does not catch my ear much, except some familiar tunes like central city's theme. The battle music sounds like noise that's a mesh of dance/rock, and I'm usually into that but not this time around. This music also has rather low quality and sounds mushed up. The intro theme is very catchy though (too bad its battle equivalent has all the interesting parts removed).

Audio: 5/10

Story - What Drives the Player?

The story is, surprisingly to Sonic fans, interesting and a bit complicated. It is NOT a "beat Dr. Eggman" crap plot (though it sounds like the sequel may return to this...) but instead deals with a whole new dimension - literally. Okay, so maybe inter dimensional jumps have been done a lot in Sonic as well, but this time it makes sense, honestly! There are new characters and conflicting feelings that turn up in the group (some of which you can influence in the dialogue) and you just have to figure out what's going on! Unfortunately some questions are left unanswered, I suppose for the sequel, but still it felt a bit inconclusive.

Drive: 9/10

Replay - How much life does it have?

So far I have felt not much need to replay this game, even though it encourages you to, to get more rings, and chao, and use your leveled-up sonic. I suppose when you've let it sit for a good amount of time you might be up to it again, maybe the next time changing a few things around with the dialogue etc. Still, unlike other Sonic games, this game just flat out finishes when it's over.

Replay: 3/10

Title - Does it fulfill expectations?

This is a bit conflicting depending on your perspective. If you expected a full-fledged RPG, then the length probably kills it. If you wanted a good but different Sonic game (and I think it's marketed itself that way well enough) then yes it has fulfilled expectations pretty well.

Title: 4/5

TOTAL 79/100 (I rounded up to 8/10)

This is a well-developed game with plenty of meat for Sonic fans, and some good quick fun for RPG fans. The audio and replay-ability are sore points, but are bearable because its good factors are much greater than the bad ones. Bioware has made a successful, interactive RPG with the beloved Sonic characters, and, unless something fundamental breaks down, it can only go up from here.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (US, 09/30/08)

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