Review by LordShibas
Sonic, What Has Happened to Thee?
As the quality of the Sonic the Hedgehog series continues to degrade, Bioware has attempted to revitalize the franchise by constructing an RPG based in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe. This comes in the form of Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood for the Nintendo DS. While I do somewhat commend Bioware for not simply doing a reapplication of the standard Sonic the Hedgehog formula, the game is riddled with shoddy gameplay, terrible music, and a less than stellar presentation that really puts the game into a substandard position amongst other RPGs of its kind.
Gone are the fast paced, quick thinking days of the Sonic series, and in comes slow, boring gameplay that is no longer indicative of the Sonic franchise. On the bright side, the new style of gameplay will grow on you after a while, and the branching dialogue paths can be somewhat interesting if you allow them to be.
The game controls exclusively with the DS stylus, and even though the interface is pretty streamlined, it creates many problems as well. All of the in-game menus are simple to figure out and you will be given a nice tutorial concerning most aspects of the game. You will drag Sonic and his friends around the screen with the stylus. Sonic will either walk or run depending on how far away the stylus is from him. This creates the first showing of the imprecise controls. Sometimes its hard to make Sonic move at the pace you want him to, and he often gets caught up on the environments.
When you approach an object of interest, like an NPC or a loop to run through, a little bubble will come up that you can click on to interact with the object. By simply clicking on the bubble, you will perform a plethora of actions based on the object. This is another problem I had with the game. Walking up to a loop and tapping on it to run through it just isnt as enthralling as building up speed, rushing towards the loop, and firing around it and out the other side. I know that this is an RPG and some things need to be sacrificed, but there is almost no speed implementation in this game, and thats pretty much one of the core thrills that comes with the Sonic series. So dont expect to see Sonic deftly bouncing around the screen in Sonic Chronicles, its just not going to happen.
Bioware has chosen to make the character dialogue somewhat rich by employing a dialogue tree similar to Mass Effect. You will be given the option to choose multiple responses to almost anything that is said to you and it will produce different responses from the people you are talking to. Bioware actually did a decent job with this part of the game and had quite a chore in giving the characters of the Sonic universe some personality. However, most of the dialogue is rudimentary and it ends up giving each character about as much personality as a stack of phone books.
Ill get to the battles in the gameplay section, but they are quite possibly the biggest disappointment in the game.
Even before coming out of the stable, this game has the deck stacked against it big time. Lets find out if Bioware was able to save this game from utter failure.
Instead of opting for a 3D Sonic adventure, Bioware chose to make the game from a top-down perspective, much like the look of Sonic 3D Blast. While some of the areas are decently designed, they really lack details that could have made them more interesting. Everything just looks really plain and recycled.
When you get into battles, things shift to a pseudo 3D effect that moves the camera behind your characters. The battles look slightly better, but the effects could still have been pulled off of the Genesis. Sonic Chronicles is just not very impressive to look at overall.
The only saving grace is the comic book style cut scenes that happen when certain events take place. These were somewhat refreshing.
Sounds and Music 1/10
Wow, what happened here? Sonic Chronicles contains quite possibly the worst music I have ever heard in a DS game to date. Most of the music sounds like Midi files. There is just no excuse for this.
The sound effects are ripped from previous Sonic games and they often seem out of place and are a tad overbearing compared to the music. Its like Bioware knew the music sucked, so they cranked up the volume of the sounds effect to try to deceive you.
Even though the story of Sonic Chronicles is supposed to be the selling factor, its still poorly done, and sitting through the story elements ends up being quite the drag as the game goes on.
Biowares branching tree dialogue is interesting, but its more fluff than anything else. If you really like the characters and want to see all of the interactions that they are capable of having, then its a fun little feature to have, but your decisions in conversations are rather arbitrary and dont affect the game beyond getting a different response from the character you are talking to.
The story itself is pretty generic. Knuckles and the Chaos Emeralds have gone missing and its up to Sonic, Tails, and the rest of their crew to find out what happened. It creates a basis for the game, but its not something that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The gameplay in Sonic Chronicles just simply isnt very fun. For most of the game, you will either be exploring the areas, fighting in battles, or sitting through character dialogue. However, none of it is really noteworthy and youd be better off playing one of the classic 16-bit Sonic games.
When you are in exploring mode, you will have multiple characters in your party, and each party member will have a proficiency that they can utilize. You will need to switch between your characters to use their abilities and solve some basic puzzles. Its one of the better features of the game but its basic in design and none of the puzzles invoke much thought.
The battles are quite possibly the worst aspect of the game. When you see enemies on the screen, you can engage them in combat by running into them. The battles are turn based and you will be able to perform the standard functions that are available in most RPGs. You can use standard attacks, use PP (Power Points) for super moves, or flee the battles, which prompts a quick little mini-game that requires you to jump over some obstacles to successfully run away.
When you use your skills, the game goes into a mini-game much akin to Elite Beat Agents where you have to touch and move on-screen indicators with the stylus to enhance the attacks or negate the damage from the enemies attacks. The mini-games are neat at first, but they end up dragging out the battles far too long for the meager amount of exp. that they give.
The enemies also have the uncanny ability to restore health after certain rounds of combat which can be quite frustrating and drags the battles out even longer.
There are just too many poor design decisions that were made with the gameplay in Sonic Chronicles for it to be an enjoyable experience.
Longevity and Re-Playability 2/10
The re-playability for Sonic Chronicles is rather funny. I know a few people that actually enjoyed playing through this game, and even they admitted that they would probably never want to play the game again. Its just not the kind of game that behooves you to come back to it once you have played it.
The game can be completed in about 15 hours and I see little reason to play the game again once you complete it.
I would say that people should purchase Sonic Chronicles at their own discretion. Hardcore Sonic fans might find some redeeming factors in the game, but most people will pass this game right by and look for something better. Keep in mind that this is not a standard Sonic game, its a complete revamp of the series that some may like, but most will not.
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Product Release: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (US, 09/30/08)
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