Review by MetalIceWolf
Reviewed: 10/22/08 | Updated: 05/26/09
This game will speed on by just as fast as Sonic himself.
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is Sonic's first foray into the RPG genre, which may surprise some people since he has been around since the Genesis days of the early 90's. Mario, another famous mascot, had gotten his own RPG game back in 1996, and it turned out to be a great game and is still praised and widely loved today by many gamers. Instead of Square, however, Sonic Chronicles is being made by Bioware, the creators of the popular and very successful, critically acclaimed RPG games Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and plenty more. Since Sonic Chronicles was put in good hands, perhaps the game would turn out as great as Bioware's other franchises. So, how did it go?
Well, first of all, the story is well done. Bioware did an excellent job of portraying the characters and their personalities. Even Big the cat, a pretty much unpopular and disliked character of the Sonic franchise, is a fun comedic relief with some good lines. The characters' personalities being done correctly helps make the story more interesting. It starts out with Sonic and Tails on Green Hill Zone (which, sadly, isn't like the original level from Sonic 1.) Tails tells Sonic that Knuckles have been captured by a mysterious group known as the Marauders. Sonic and Tails then set out to find him, and little do they know they're about to be swept up in a battle to save the world from some crazy alien races. Overall, the story is good, especially for a Sonic game.
The music, most surprisingly, is really disappointing. Most of the tunes sound like MIDI's. Usually, Sonic games are known for their awesome music, but sadly this isn't the case. Some tunes, however, are recycled and remixed and provide a good sense of nostalgia (I recognized the Central City music right away!) While nostalgic is a good thing, they could have at least made the music better and not sound so archaic and MIDI-like. Seriously, some music will make you think it's from a old Gameboy game. There's actually some good songs there too, though, not many. The battle theme is alright, as is the techno-type music that plays during some of the cutscenes. The sound is disappointing, too. I like how they used some sound effects from older Sonic games, but the sounds the enemies make are really annoying, and some of the characters, when they get hit, don't sound like themselves. Both the music and sound effects tend to be a bit glitchy too at some points. Overall, music and sound are 5/10.
The graphics are well-done. In particular, the 3D character models were great, and I loved the comic style cutscenes. The environments are all pretty and look like they were taken out of a cartoon. Bioware did a good job with the overall look of the game. Sure, it could have been better, but for what they did, it's well done. The only real concern I have is the recycled sprites of the enemies, since the variations are usually just differently coloured. 7.5/10
Now...for the gameplay. The game is entirely touch-screen controlled with the stylus. While it isn't too bothersome, it would have been really nice to be able to control it all with the control pad, or at least be able to move your characters around the maps with it. The main point of the gameplay is exploring the many environments in search of missions, rings, item boxes and Chao eggs, along with battling, of course. While exploring around, you'll have a chance to do some side quests that are usually fetch-style, whether it's bringing someone a certain item or finding someone's lost son who apparently got stuck in a well...you're rewarded experience points for the missions you complete. These side missions are optional, however. Items are used for the usual healing process, or to cause certain temporary effects like increased evasion. There's also equipment in the form of shoes and charms that can increase your characters' stats. There's also the chao eggs, which, when collected, are placed in the chao garden that you can access at any time. Chaos each have a special effect that can help out your characters if you equip one to them.
Battling is quite annoying. It's turn-based, with elite-beat-agents style attacking with POW moves and for countering your enemies' attacks. When an enemy uses a special attack, you can block it by correctly inputting the touch screen sequence that appears. If you fail to do so, the attack can do a huge amount of damage to you, or if you are successful it will miss. The same thing applies when you use a character's POW move. This definitely isn't the type of RPG you can sit down and watch TV while battling. It requires your constant attention, and you should hopefully be quick enough to input the touch screen attacks correctly in order to save yourself some hurting. The character's stats are Speed, Attack (Accuracy), Defense (Evasion), and Luck. Your normal attacks will usually miss frequently during the beginning of the game, and your attacks will always do no damage or just 1 point worth if an enemy uses a special evasion move, which I found really annoying. Most of the enemies in the game are quite over-powered, too, so you'll constantly be using POW moves until your PP runs out (which doesn't take long.) Some of the normal enemies are actually much more harder than the bosses. Some of them, even more annoying, can restore their entire HP amount after each round, while some can be revived right away after you've knocked them out, so the battles can be endlessly long and drawn out. The sad part is that some of these battles in particular can only give you a measly amount of 10 EXP. The good thing, however, is that you can run from most fights, where you'll play a minigame type thing that requires you to jump over a bunch of boxes correctly in order to escape. Overall, I found the battle system extremely annoying, and, at times, frustrating.
The game itself is very short, hence the title I gave this review. I'd say it took me no longer than 10 hours to beat it, over a four day period, and this is with exploring every area, finding all the items and Chao eggs that I could. The game's ending isn't very satisfying. Once you beat the game, you have the option to go through it again, with your characters staying the same levels as they were when you beat the game, though you lose your items and Chao eggs. I personally see no point in playing through it again. Overall, gameplay gets a 4/10.
To sum it up, this game was a disappointment to me. It's over far too soon, and the choices you make with Sonic could have had been dealt better, perhaps with real consequences or more additional scenes. It's not a bad game, it's just that it had plenty of potential to be much better. I was really hyped for it, myself being a big fan of both Bioware and Sonic, thus I expected much better than this. I would only be able to recommend this game to Sonic fans. If you have no interest in Sonic then you probably won't enjoy it at all.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (US, 09/30/08)
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