Game Review

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Is Sonic’s first foray into the unknown land of RPG actually any good?

Let’s face it; Sonic has been a bit of a dick lately hasn’t he? You can mark the start of Sonic’s dive into mediocrity from a point in the late 90’s when someone at SEGA decided it would be “cool” to give him a “rad attitude”. From that moment onwards we’ve winced as Sonic has “rocked out” a slew of twitchy controlled adventures. In fact the only place where Sonic has stayed true to his roots is on handhelds, with the Advance and Rush games being among some of the best our spikey-haired hero has ever starred in. Sonic Chronicles, whilst being an RPG, does not alter the trend of Sonic’s best performances in recent years being on Nintendo handhelds.

The game starts with a well designed comic-book-esque sequence set in the past. Sonic has finally defeated his arch enemy Dr. Eggman and heads off for a well deserved vacation. Fast forward a few months and a panicked Tails gets on the blower – Knuckles has been kidnapped along with all of the chaos emeralds! Never one to shy from the action, Sonic returns home to clean up this mess and begin a brand new adventure.

The game drops you straight into Green Hill Zone where armed with your stylus you must make your way to Tails’ workhouse for more information on this sordid kidnap. You will learn a lot about the way Sonic Chronicles plays within the first half an hour of play due to a detailed and well integrated tutorial system.

The whole game is controlled with the stylus – tapping the screen and dragging will move Sonic in the desired direction whilst pressing various on-screen buttons will handle interactive elements such as jumping, spinning and talking.

You come across your first “random encounter” (don’t worry, they can be avoided) early on in the game against a rather unfriendly armadillo. The combat system is a familiar turn-based system with a hint of strategy to it. Fights are split up into “rounds” and in each round you are given a number of turns. Should you choose to attack or defend all of your turns will occupy this action. However if you wish to use an item or a POW attack (special move) these only occupy one action allowing you to place further attacks or evasions afterwards. Given the strict set of rules for the battle system it can be confusing at first but once you progress further you’ll garner a complex understanding of how and when to use attacks, evasions and items for the best effect.

The POW attacks drain “POW Points” but are the most effective in the game. They can be performed by completing a short reaction mini game which requires you to press the centre of some fast appearing circles. In later, more important battles using the POW attacks can be frustrating because of the hit or miss nature of the mini-games -- but they add variation at the least.

Chaos also make a re-emergence to add weight to the battle system. Attaching a chao to a character in your party will give them special abilities during the battle. Whether it improves attack or defence, they both can be effective.

As you progress further through Green Hill Zone you’ll encounter an age old friend, Amy Rose. Conversation in the game takes place over both screens with Sonic appearing on the bottom. You usually have a choice over what Sonic says allowing you to either move on with the cut scene quickly or push for more information. Throughout the game you will encounter a number of Sonic’s “friends” (include the new female character, Shade) who will all promptly join your team. Seeing as you can only take four characters on your travels at any one time the game quickly adopts a management element which is particularly taxing because each character has different strengths and weaknesses.

One of the strongest assets Sonic Chronicles has as a video game is the constant banter between the characters. Each one of the thousands of lines of text in the game are well thought out and genuinely interesting. It really brings the characters to life and makes you believe that you are playing a Sonic RPG not just an RPG with Sonic in it.

The landscapes are also beautifully drawn and coloured providing the bright backdrops we’ve come to expect from Sonic games over the years. From Green Hill Zone to Mystic Ruins the homage to famous Sonic lore is outstanding and there will always be more to come back to and explore. Which is sadly where the gameplay falls apart somewhat.

Many of the games objectives are hinged upon you performing certain “specialist” tasks which can only be completed by certain characters. Sadly because you can only have four characters in your party at any one time you’ll constantly find yourself backtracking to the nearest base in order to switch them. This can be extremely irritating and it’s sad that a lot of the games puzzles hinge on this prospect.

Having said that Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is a solid looking game with an interesting universe and plot. The game will probably only appeal to a niche audience of Sonic fans who happen to enjoy RPG’s but never the less the gameplay is simple enough to be accessible by most.

Conclusion

If you are patient enough to overlook a few niggles and are interested in investing some time into a decent RPG with an attractive cast of characters then look no further than Sonic Chronicles on the Nintendo DS.

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Game Trailer

SEGA release the first trailer for the upcoming Sonic RPG, Dark Brotherhood.

User Comments (11)

James

#2

James said:

As a huge Sonic fan I got this as soon as it came out, but I have to say it didn't blow me away as I was expecting it to. The story just didn't grip me until a twist extremely late in the game, and I found the combat much too easy and frequent. One thing I love about Sega RPGs is the emphasis on amazing rare weapons and armour (Skies, PSO, SFIII...) but all I found were some sparkly gloves and tough slippers.

I thought the puzzles were really poorly designed, with most just needing you to stand on switches in a seemingly random order to get anywhere. I blundered my way through all of them without any thought or logic, but I was glad for the chance to use each character's individual skills to explore, which I thought expanded the game quite nicely.

What really sealed the game's fate for me was that, after completing it, you start again with all your stats and equipment against level 1 enemies, meaning you don't even need to do anything in combat!

I know I sound very harsh but I've been after a Sonic RPG for years and years, and this just didn't measure up to my expectations, possibly because I'm used to Sega's Japanese RPGs and have never played a Western RPG before. From its sales performance I think Sega would have to change quite a lot before committing to a sequel, although the tease at the end at least makes me believe the second game's plot would be better.

Crikey, that comment was longer than the original review I think! haha

Wiiloveit

#3

Wiiloveit said:

@Prosody: Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and it's nice to see the game from another P.O.V.
I myself don't care for this too much (as an RPG-hater), but I still like normal Sonic games.
Basically, don't buy a game because you like the character or their traditional games, do it because you like the game itself.

James

#4

James said:

Thanks for that insight, Wiiloveit. It seemed from all the videos and everything I'd read about it that it would be right up my street, but sadly it didn't work out that way. I'm not going to whinge about it because there's a whole army of poor RPGs on DS and it does have a great deal to recommend it, I just wanted to like it a lot more than I eventually did.

Sonic Unleashed is still going to be incredible though :D

antdickensAdmin

#5

antdickens said:

You think? I think Sammy has a point that Sonic games on consoles still haven't found their niche, Secret Rings has come closest for me, but the controls still needed improving before it would be a solid title. Hopefully they've got these issues fixed.

Aviator

#6

Aviator said:

Just for future reference. When you say that knuckles has been kidnapped. Don;s have the first screenshot with a picture of him.

sonic_brawler95

#7

sonic_brawler95 said:

Thats an odd way to start a review. :/

Anyway, great game, but I think they could've polished it up a bit more.

Colors

#8

Colors said:

I've replayed this game 4 times. cant wait for the rumored sequel:)

Azikira

#9

Azikira said:

I have nothing but fond memories for this game. I was even thinking of picking it up again just to enjoy the sonic universe. I think my fascination with Sonic Comics definately helps fuel my love for this game (even though it gets a bit underwhelming sometimes).

Tigus

#10

Tigus said:

I hate to say it (NOT) this is the worst sonic game for DS out there. Story wise its great but it has realy bad music it seemed more like a kids game super easy never realy hard at all not a good rpg, good for first time rpg players but thats about it.

RudysaurusRex

#11

RudysaurusRex said:

Ugghh. I would like this game, but the cheer at the end of a battle sets me off so much, I just hate this game.

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