Review by Aegis_Runestone
Reviewed: 03/23/09 | Updated: 12/23/09
Even with its design flaws, Sonic Chronicles fits into the RPG genre quite comfortably
Sonic the Hedgehog has been a staple game series for years from Sega's Sonic Team. Unfortunately, their recent games have declined severely in quality. To tackle this problem, Sega made a marvelous move to join up with Bioware to create a new type of Sonic Game--a Role-playing Game (RPG) version--that would change the hearts of many. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is a game that, while has its flaws and is nowhere near perfect, inspires depth into the characters, introduces an interesting battle system, and a fascinating storyline.
Bioware did an excellent job with the hand-drawn areas. They look vibrant and lush, yet retaining the cartoony feel that is fitting for Sonic games. There are some rough edges in the battle backgrounds, making them look a little choppy and pixelated. The pixelation gives the battle backgrounds a little bit of an unfinished feel, as if Bioware rushed this section of the game.
However, the models and special effects are well-done for a game on the DS. They are almost on par with some of the other games that have great models, like Final Fantasy IV for the DS. The character animations are smooth, and enjoyable to watch. The POW move animations are fantastic, though, because of the limited number of moves, it becomes rather repetitious to watch.
Overall, however, Bioware gets a gold star for their efforts with the graphics of Sonic Chronicles.
Sonic Chronicles does not have fast gameplay like a typical Sonic game; it is more based on exploration and questing. Like all typical Bioware RPGs, you can choose whether to do side-quests or just continue with the game. Again, there is a lot of exploration to be done in this game; Chao eggs and rings are scattered all over the areas for you to figure out how to find and collect. You'll need to use special overworld abilities like dashing (Sonic), flying (Tails), or climbing (Knuckles) to get past obstacles in your way to get these items.
There is a flaw with the money system: you must run into the rings to gather them up. They are your cash for the game, and are very limited. Granted, you can sell items for rings and get rings while fleeing or trying to catch an enemy in battle, but you mostly have to survive on the rings you get from running around each area. The counter to this error that Bioware made was to make most items relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to other RPGs.
To the battle system. The battle system is almost perfect; each character has their own strengths and weaknesses in battle. For example, Sonic has low damage and defense, but can act three times a round. Some characters have abilities that can pierce armor or heal the entire party. Each character is very useful in their own way, which is a big improvement from other Sonic games. POW moves (the special battle abilities) are fun to use, once you get used to them, and highly effective against enemies. Mastering POW moves is essential for conquering certain bosses and enemies, and practicing them makes it easier to use them.
There is a flaw in the battle system that is bothersome however. If you make a mistake when inputting a character's commands, the option you have is to redo the entire round over again. It is very tedious to completely redo all the other characters' commands for a single mistake. Other than that, the battle system is well-made.
Another problem is the difficulty. This game really panders itself to casual gamers. You will probably never lose a battle once unless you're completely unlucky and/or have difficulty with the POW moves throughout the game. It is a bit of a let down for those of us looking for a challenge.
Overall, the gameplay is interesting and fun to interact with, even if it lacks speed.
Bioware made a fantastic story. It takes the characters and the game itself and gives them greater depth than they had before. First off, you have the power to change some of the story's course through Sonic's choices (from what he says in conversations). You can be nice to people, be neutral to them, or just plain enrage them from your snarky comments. There are some very interesting things the characters will say in response to whatever you choose.
I did say that Sonic Chronicles's storyline gives greater depth to their characters, and it does. While it is not a gigantic step forward, there is little character development and a storyline for each character (though some have a lot more than others). Personalities are enhanced, and little quirks are added to each character's psychology, making each character more enjoyable to play with to a point. Eventually, all chat trees lead to the same thing. An unfortunate flaw.
The storyline itself is interesting. It starts out with Knuckles being kidnapped and Sonic having to find him. It doesn't sound exciting from that statement, but as you continue throughout the story, the plot builds upon itself repeatedly. This makes it more and more engrossing as you move along the plotline. There are also a (thankfully) lack of plotholes in the story. Everything wraps itself up nicely, and keeps itself from breaking most of the rules of a good plot.
Great plot, great characters, and great choices make a marvelous storyline.
I say that every Sonic game is like a classic Epic Hero; each has at least one fatal flaw, and here is the one for Sonic Chronicles: the music and sound. The music is just plain awful and the sound effects are mediocre at best. The only saving grace is the battle music, which seems to have had more effort put into it than any of the other songs combined. The battle music has quite a few catchy tunes. From what it sounds like, the music had some potential. Thus, if Bioware had put more effort into it, then we might have had a great soundtrack. But alas, we do not.
-=Replay Value=- 6/10
So, once you beat the game, do you want to play it again? I say it depends on your opinion if you want to play again. To the dismay of many gamers, Sonic Chronicles is much easier the second time through. This is a problem because it takes away what challenge the game originally had. You'll have the POW moves down pat, and will be able to cancel out enemy POW moves with ease. It almost makes battles pointless.
However, you have the option to go back and try to collect all the chao, rings, and see the different dialogues you can get from other choices, creating a slightly different feel to your second playthrough. It is at least worth it to go through the game twice, especially if you want to complete 100% of it.
Other than that, Sonic Chronicles is lacking in the replay value department.
Sonic Chronicles was an enjoyable experience for me. As a Sonic fan, a Bioware fan, and an RPG fan, this game enraptured me. If you hate Sonic, but love RPGs, I recommend you give this one a go because it will not fail to deliver your RPG needs and requisites. Like Bioware set out to do, you will learn to love Sonic and all his friends in this game.
Overall Score: 8/10
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (US, 09/30/08)
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