Review by Bkstunt_31

Reviewed: 05/18/09

How is Sonic's first RPG game?

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood marks an important occasion for Sonic, as it is his first role-playing debut. Since it was made by the developers at Bioware (known for such classics as Knights of the Old Republic), I had to give Sonic Chronicles a chance. Here's what you can expect from Sonic's RPG debut:

Story: 7/10

The story in the game starts out showing Sonic and the team taking down a ship built by Dr. Eggman as he is off on one of his nefarious schemes. Shortly after crashing the ship and escaping via Tail's plane (the Cyclone), Sonic comes to learn that Knuckles was kidnapped while defending the Master Emerald. So, Sonic sets off to re-unite with Tails and try to come up with a plan for finding Knuckles.

Along the way, Sonic will unite with many different friends and characters from the series, and you will be able to form a party of four characters to play with. You will also be able to control what Sonic says throughout the game, as you are able to choose from a variety of dialog choices. Many of these choices will even provoke different reactions from who you are talking to. You can kind of guess what reaction you will get by looking at Sonic's portrait as you look at the different dialog choices since his facial expressions will show you how he means what he says. As far as I could tell while playing the game, these choices don't seriously affect the game play in any way, which is actually a departure from what Bioware usually has in their games (such as the choices in "The Old Republic" affecting which force powers you can use).

Overall, the story is good, but nothing spectacular. It maintains a fairly easy-going exploring vibe for the first half of the game and packs in the major plot points in the last half. Things that I didn't like include the fact that most characters have little dialog after you recruit them (aka they are forgotten), and that everything magically turns out right in the end.

Game play: 7/10

Most traditional role-playing games take a cast of characters and pit them against their enemy in a turn-based setting. The Dark Brotherhood is really no different, but does have some unique DS-based components added onto it. For example, as they level up each character can spend points on learning new skills. These skills can than be used in battle, but in order to be successful, you must complete a series of touch based prompts. These prompts include three different actions that you must do (each ability is different and can be made up of any one of these three actions): follow a circle while keeping your stylus inside of it while it moves, tap a circle as it is surrounded by a green icon, or repeatedly tap a circle before it is surrounded by a blue icon. For most attack-based abilities, failing to do this will merely diminish the amount of damage you do. However, for most support abilities (such as healing your HP or MP), failing will essentially give you nothing and waste your MP, which is very frustrating.

Aside from the touch based abilities, you can also attack, use an item, try to run, and defend. Defending will reduce damage as well as restore some MP. Fleeing initiates another mini-game where your characters run away from the enemy and jump over boxes blocking their path. If you do well enough, you will escape. If not, you will be caught and the enemy will get a free attack turn. So as you can see, the Dark Brotherhood has quite a bit of interactivity to it. In fact, enemies will also use attacks that you will need to follow on-screen prompts to dodge, and they can try to flee as well so you'll be the ones chasing them.

The Dark Brotherhood, like almost every other RPG, also lets you equip your characters with a variety of equipment to make the better (paid for by golden rings that you find, of course!). You can also find Chao eggs and hatch them. These Chao come with built-in abilities such as "HP Regen" and "Reduced Damage" that will further enhance your characters. Also, each character that you recruit has certain abilities that you can use on the world map to access certain areas, which will force you to arrange your parties with or without certain people at times. I should also note that there are ambushes in the game, which give your team (or the enemy) a free turn, and that there are a variety of side-quests to be found throughout the game which will earn you extra items and experience.

Overall, I thought the game play was fairly average. The on-screen prompts help to stay focused to the game, but also become a bit tedious after time; I think I would have liked to see a system implemented where you could "master" skills in order to turn off the prompts. Also, I found that throughout the game there were many instances of the game just being plain annoying, such as enemies that could dodge every attack after they use one ability, and enemies that could fully heal themselves after attacking you once. Fighting these foes isn't fun at all, and I was glad to move past them (which isn't what a gamer should want!). The Chao aspect was also a pain; true, you will find some good ones but you will also continually find sub-par Chao which you will have no use for. Also, the experience point gains from some enemies that the game thinks are beneath you is dismal, despite the fact that fighting said enemies takes a great deal of time. It is so dismal in fact that you will find yourself eventually avoiding these prolonged fights because you will gain almost nothing out of them. Where's the fun in that? So, to sum up, the Dark Brotherhood is a fairly average RPG with its own unique quirks and moments of frustration.

Graphics: 9/10

The graphics in the Dark Brotherhood are undoubtedly good for a 3D game, which is good as Bioware has a good track-record. The environments are very expansive and colorful, offering a large place for Sonic to run around, and since you only enter battle when you run into an enemy on the map, it makes it easy to avoid some enemies. Character designs were well0done, as they should be since these characters have been around for awhile. I will note, though, that Cream the Rabbit looks weird in her 3D model, almost like the rabbit from the Silent Hill series. Animations were fluid all the way around; even the on-screen prompts were very responsive and fairly easy to follow. Overall, the Dark Brotherhood is a good looking game, even running just as good as the 3D games put out by bigger developers such as Square-Enix.

Music and Sound Effects: 7/10

When you first start up the Dark Brotherhood, wait for awhile before you start playing to hear a GREAT guitar intro, which I feel is the musical highlight of the game. The rest is filled with similar music for the battles (dramatic guitar riffs on a loop, similar to the Mega Man X series), and has some easy-going music for the world map. So, the music is pretty good, the thing that got to me in the game were the weird sound effects. They went over the top with the cartoon sound effects, liberally spreading in the zany "BONK!" and screeching sounds. There were also some weird sound effects added in when you approached certain enemies on the map. Honestly, I could have done without these sound effects and have been happy, as they don't add much to the game.

Re-playability: 6/10

There is honestly little to do in the game after you beat it, as they merely start you off at the beginning while retaining your level and all of your equipment and Chao from the previous play-through. Collectors can attempt to find every ring and Chao as they progress through the game, as the game tells you how many you've found in an area as well as how many there are to be found. Bioware also heavily advertises their website community which you can visit as well.

Overall: 7/10

Sonic's first appearance in the RPG realm is a fairly mediocre one, with great graphics, average game play, and pretty annoying sound effects. It is still a landmark game for Sonic fans, and a worthwhile play for RPG enthusiasts. If you fall into either of these two categories, go try to find it used and give it a try. Have fun and keep playing.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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