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Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

 
   
 

Sonic's first RPG is surprisingly decent.

When people think of Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the first things that likely comes to mind is his speed. Sonic is well known for fast-paced platforming, collecting rings, and beating on his evil foe, Dr. Eggman. Needless to say, this game is drastically different from the speedy platforming we know Sonic for. Sonic Chronicles is a spin-off RPG series produced by none other than Bioware, which was enough to give the game plenty of hype, but does it deliver?

For the most part, yes. Despite my original doubts about how Sonic would work in an RPG, Sonic Chronicles is a decent game.

Being an RPG, a lot of emphasis is going to be put on the story, and I can safely say the story in Sonic Chronicles is far better than a lot of other recent Sonic games. It's epic and will likely continuously make some want to know what happens next. The characters were very well-written; Bioware have completely nailed their personalities. There is a bit of character development here and there, some for more characters than others. While some characters will get a lot of focus in this game, other characters will not.

Being an RPG, you will need to speak to people, but it's not just heaping your way through tons of text. A clever little feature enables you to choose various responses Sonic can give, not just restricted to 'yes' and 'no'. You can choose to have Sonic be a really nice guy or be a bit of a jerk, which can change the way some of the characters interact with you.

There are eleven characters in this game to choose from, though you can only have four in your party at any one time so you will need to choose carefully who you decide to have along with you. In certain areas, you may need to have certain characters along with you due to their abilities in exploration; for example, Tails can fly across gaps and Knuckles can climb walls. These abilities may prove to be essential later in the game.

It really isn't very difficult to know where you're going next, as the top screen displays a map of where you're going and a star will often appear on your destination. These stars will also appear in some of the side-quests, to assist you in knowing where to go there. The entire game is controlled via the touch screen and it works pretty well.

Much like in other Sonic games you can collect Rings, which you can use to buy items, though unfortunately once you've cleared out an area for Rings, they won't come back. Thankfully, for the most part, you can collect a good amount of items by battling or finding random chests containing items; this is handy if you're running low on HP or PP recovery items.

You'll also find Chao eggs in the exploration areas, and they too serve a purpose, in that many of them have various stats and can help make your characters stronger or weaker. For example, you could choose to equip a Chao with an earth element, and that could either do more damage or less, or you could use a Chao which increases HP or PP at the beginning of each round. They're not compulsory to use, and you could probably beat the game without them, but they are helpful in a lot of cases.

In terms of battles, it's all turn-based, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are two ways you can attack an enemy. A standard attack can be used in every round; depending on your character you can attack a certain number of times per round. For example, Sonic and Shadow are the fastest characters thus can attack up to three times per round, while slower characters such as Big can only attack once.

You can also use POW moves, and the system works really well. POW moves are slightly more powerful moves which can enable you to deal more damage to a foe, distract your foe or assist your friends. There are three types of characters; power, shifter and supporter. Power characters are more offensive in their attacks, supporters are more likely to distract or assist, and shifters can be a healthy mixture of both.

POW moves are pulled off using an Elite Beat Agents style of fighting, which actually works quite well as it enables you to be more involved with the fight. If you pull off the pattern correctly, your POW move should successfully be able to make the best impact possible. Getting the patterns right may also enable you to dodge a strong enemy attack.

Even fleeing has become more interactive; you must tap on the characters to get them to jump over obstacles in their paths. Hitting too many obstacles will mean the enemy will likely catch up to you. This is also used in catching up to enemies that try to flee from you.

Battling for the most part is fun for a while, but eventually it does start to lose it's appeal and become quite repetitive and dull. What's more, later on in the game I have encountered a few occasions of freezing, where the characters take a long time to attack after being attacked. However, these occurances are rare so shouldn't effect the gameplay too much.

The graphics are pretty good and each of the areas are designed really nicely. The character models are okay, not the best that's been done but not at all bad. The only thing I don't like is that in the cutscenes the character art looks like it came straight from the anime Sonic X.

The music is one of the biggest gripes I have with this game; while the opening and most of the the battle music sound pretty cool and work really well, a lot of the exploration areas have extremely poor music, which just sounds odd and annoying. However, the sound can be made up for by the lack of voice-acting in this game, barring occasions where they get hit in battle, which are easily ignorable.

Overall, I can safely say that, while I had my doubts originally, Bioware has managed to give us a decent Sonic game. It's not perfect; the poor music in the exploration areas, the rare lag and the repetitive battles pretty much are the negative points to this game. Oh, and it's a short game, especially by RPG standards. But other than those, this game is a lot of fun and really does do a good job of bringing Sonic to the RPG genre without changing a lot about who he is; he's still about speed. If you're not an RPG person, this game won't change your mind but otherwise I do say this is a game that might be worth adding to your DS collection.

 

RATING:

7/10

 
   
 

Review by Swift.

Fans and their reviews of video-games. xD