Hey droogs, guess who’s still alive.
Yeah, the economic down turn is bad, but the biggest drain on my pocket at the moment is the glut of triple A game titles around at the mo. I spent last week completing Fable II’s main plot, started playing Fallout 3, started up Guitar Hero World Tour (or as I like to call it “super arrgh I can’t do three things at once magical drum simulator”), my import copy of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia’s arrived, SSFII HDR comes out some time today and I still haven’t even considered giving time to Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge or Left 4 Dead yet!
Following my obituary for sonic the hedgehog a couple of weeks ago, and based on the recommendation of Chesterfield’s premier/only independent games retailer I decided I’d find time in my frantic gaming schedule to give Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood a rare opportunity to redeem it’s franchise.
Sonic Chronicles is a Role-playing game based on the popular sega franchise, and developed by the hand held division of Canadian company Bioware, better known for creating the Neverwinter Nights series, Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic. Considering Bioware’s staggering back catalogue of RPG success going into SC:TDB I was quietly optimistic feeling that Sega had made the right decision to pass the game to a third party rather than leaving production with Sonic Team (Probably too busy making a hash of Sonic Unleashed at the time).
The game picks up sometime after Sonic and Friends have once again defeated Dr Robotnik(His name’s Robotnik. Not Eggman!), Sonic is brought back following some much needed R ‘n’ R to find that the Chaos Emeralds have been stolen (again) and Knuckles has been Echidna-napped by an organisation referred to as the Marauders. Sonic assembles his usual team of Mammalian cohorts, slaps on his Ricky Rocket-pants and saves the day via an unusual team member, a trip to another universe and a whole heap of ring collecting.
The challenge presented to Bioware in the production of SC:TDB is the need to keep a hell of a lot of people happy by creating a product which will not only be marketable to Sonic fans, but is also of a high enough quality to appease sceptics amongst their own fan base. I feel to a degree at least they’ve pretty much cracked it.
The presentation of the game is exceptional with the majority of the game played in 3D across an Isometric plane, the locations themselves are well designed with re-creations of various classic Sonic stages such as Green Hill, Mystic Ruins and Angel Island. The character design is of a usual high standard with few suprises as to the design of new characters fitting into the fifteen year old tried and tested formula, new protagonist Shade fits well into the rest of the characters, though expect a change of costume before her next appearance.
The game play utilises 100% touch screen control, much like Phantom Hourglass all field abilities are activated by tapping a context specific icon on screen. During combat the game adopts a variation on the traditional JRPG style. Protagonists line up at the bottom of the screen, antagonists at the top, the two factions then wait for their turn to batter each other until all of one side is defeated. To add to this tried and tested formula, Bioware introduces a system similar to Elite Beat Agents/ Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for activating special powers. Pow moves use up Pow points when used much like Magic Points in a Final Fantasy game to activate the Power move however a small rhythm-action style puzzle needs to be completed involving tapping and dragging icons with the stylus, it offers a welcome variation to an otherwise humdrum activity.
As a warning to fans of Bioware do not come into Sonic Chronicles expecting the complex plots and sub-plots seen in Mass Effect or KOTOR, while the plot is relatively well written, this is a simpler game than many of Bioware’s other efforts, an RPG lite for a younger audience. Don’t let this put you off, as while simple and with a low difficulty level that doesn’t mean that Sonic Chronicles isn’t a pleasure to play. I managed to complete this game in under 15 hours, which I considered to be about right. In terms of sub plots and side quests, there are some, though most of these aren’t really more than fetch and carry quests for NPC X. Apparently there is a Bioware romantic sub-plot ( though without Mass Effect’s Alien Rumpo) between Sonic and Amy Rose, though to be honest I didn’t pursue this and have since found out about it through GameFaqs.
While Sonic Chronicles may not be to everyone’s taste I found it to be an amusing diversion, if somewhat easy to complete. Though I maybe wouldn’t advise my peers to go out and buy it, I wouldn’t hate myself for giving it as a gift to a younger gamer. It is a well polished adventure which goes someway to repairing the damage done by previous games to the franchise. Repairs aided by the fact that it’s possible to complete the game without ever having to use Shadow.
I only hope that Sega takes note of this return to form, and doesn’ t do anything stupid with the next Sonic game, y’know like turning Sonic into some kind of lycanthropic hedgehog, man, chimp, thing. Man, that would be stupid.