When two big names come together to create a game, it can either be a hidden gem or just a pile of wasted ideas. This was my original thought when I was putting Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood into my DS and booting it up. As most of you will know, Sega is the founder of ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. However, some of you may not know that the other development team behind this is Bioware, who have been responsible for brilliant RPG’s like the “Knight of the Old Republic” series, as well as the popular “Mass Effect”. So, does this game live up to the standards of both companies or does it crash, burn, and leave a bitter taste of what’s to come of the Sonic saga?
While the RPG gaming realm isn’t Sonics’ natural home ground, immediately the game sucks you in and makes you want nothing more than a few more hours playing this game alone. The game starts out with our hero Sonic having once again defeated Dr.Eggman to return the world to a safe and normal environment. Suddenly, all peace and harmony is cut short as Knuckles has disappeared along with the Chaos Gems, and it’s up to Sonic to find out what’s going on. The format of the game is pretty much your standard RPG turn based style. All characters which you can play have a standard melee attack as well as special “POW moves” that can increase damage, help find weaknesses in enemies and help you defend against them. In total there are eleven characters which you can have in your party, but you are only allowed 4 characters at one time. The main characters from most of the Sonics games are there, including Sonic the Hedgehog himself, Miles “Tails” Prower, Amy Rose, Dr.Eggman, Knuckles the Echidna, Rouge the Bat, Big the Cat, Cream the Rabbit and Shadow the Hedgehog.
There is a main quest for you to do, which follows the storyline of the game and takes you to most of the twenty areas. But you would be missing out on so much excitement if you didn’t do any of the sub-quests that are available through out the game. While most sub-quests help break up the main storyline, most fit in and give you bonuses such as certain enemies not attacking you anymore and even certain characters which you will be able to use on your team.
While this game uses the standard levelling up system, it has been dulled down to allow younger gamers to use this system without getting too confused on what they should be doing. This system allows you to upgrade four main areas of your characters which include Attack, Defence, Luck and Speed. After upgrading these areas you will then be taken to a screen where you will be able to buy new POW attacks or upgrade others. While on most characters you will see that some attacks are not available, this is usually down to whom you have in your group, as certain characters can do group attacks which normally cause more damage, but take a turn from both characters.
What is also good is that while characters are not in your group they also gain experience and will be able to level up when you next select them to join your group. This also means that you wont end up with characters higher levels than others and having problems with lower level characters getting too easily beaten in fights.
While getting experience is the key to levelling up, there never seems to be any level grinding, and most people will get through the game without having any problems or feel the need to stop just to level up the characters.
To upgrade your character even more you can go into the towns and find items which characters can equip to boost stats, as well as giving them more Health Points (HP) or even more POW, so they can use special attacks more often. Also, while you are navigating around the world you may happen to find eggs. This may seem pretty weird at first, but you will soon discover that this is the final area in which you can upgrade your character. Once an Egg hatches you will notice that a “Chao” has been produced, which can be equipped to a character to give them a boost. For example the Chao may be a shield or even help regain health after a battle. While all Chao’s are collectable, you will find common ones as well as rare ones, which you can trade with your friends via a Wireless DS Multi-Card. If you play with friends you can collect as many as you like, on top of trading ones you don’t need any more. While this game supports Wireless DS Multi-Card play, the game DOES NOT support DS Download play. This can prove a downside because if any of your friends don’t have the game and would like to link up with you, then it may be a disappointment for your friend.
While the combat is a turn based system, navigating around the map world is controlled through the stylus. In the map world you will be able to collect rings to purchase equipment, health items and POW items. For example you can purchase a POW candy to regain POW points at anytime, and you can also purchase a Health Seed which can regain your health. You will soon see that many of the areas require special skills from your characters. These skills include climbing, smashing crates out of the way, running at high speeds and flying.
The Main problem with this is that each of the characters has only one certain skill which you can use. While this means you will have to make sure you have chosen the correct people to tackle a certain area it is also very annoying if you have picked the wrong people and have to keep going back and forth and changing characters to get through certain areas.
Along with making sure you have at least a character with one of the main skills, you will also be faced with puzzles which will break the group up. This means asking you to solve a puzzle by directing your four main characters to either stand on platforms, pull switches, or move objects to unlock new areas of the map, or even to get certain items to help you along the way of your quest. The graphics in this game are quite good. No scrap that, they’re actually brilliant. While this is on the DS, this game looks smooth and doesn’t seem to have any problems with the 2D/3D view the game has. Everything is crisp and detailed and looks pretty great, especially for a handheld game. Though moving through these view modes can sometimes be a bit tricky, especially if you get a stuck on a corner. The cuts scenes throughout the game resemble a comic book, with scenes depicting the action as frames slide in and out of the top screen of the DS. While most of the zones in the game you will recognise, such as Green Hill Zone, Mystic Ruins, Angel Island and Central City, there are new areas also featured, such as Blue Ridge Zone. The music also seems to be using some of the classic tracks from most of the older games, but it seems that most tracks come from Sonic CD, with a few new arrangements just for good measure. While the music doesn’t seem to be prominent through the game, it’s nice to know that it helps set the scenes throughout the game and does add to the atmosphere to it.
While this was a step in the dark for the Sonic team, it’s a refreshing change from the 2-D or 3-D dash-and-collect games. While there are a few problems with the Stylus controls; due to you are unable to use the arrows for general walking around. The game itself is solid and enjoyable, and if you have liked any of the current Bioware releases then this one is worth checking out, as this is probably one of the best handheld RPGs out there at the moment. If you’re a fan of Sonic you will love it and won’t want to put it down even after you have finished it.
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (Reviewed on Nintendo DS)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
When two big names come together to create a game, it can either be a hidden gem or just a pile of wasted ideas. This was my original thought when I was putting Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood into my DS and booting it up. As most of you will know, Sega is the founder of ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’.