Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Sonic is back in an RPG made by Bioware, known from many other excellent games in that genre. This can only be a good thing, we think then. However, what’s never certain is how far we go that side.
The Chaos Emeralds have been stolen once again and the trails lead in first instance to Dr. Eggman (aka Dr. Robotnik) which is strange to Sonic and his friends as Eggman in a recent past suffered a huge defeat thanks to them. While they continue looking for answers our heroes stumble upon the Marauders, a group of bad guys who also seem to have something to do with the stolen Emeralds.
That’s in short what it’s all about in Sonic Chronicles. Unfortunately you don’t head off to an epic adventure or something of the likes but have to do with a pretty mediocre background story that mostly serves to motivate your actions in the game.
It’s set up as an RPG. Next to the main quests that cover the story there are also side quests. However, often these are short and hardly interesting assignments and it’s good that the main ones aren’t set up so minimalistic. There’s plenty of variation and content to keep your attention. The third activity of Sonic & Co is the exploration of the game world. During this you can collect rings and Chao eggs whereby the first serve as money for all kinds of objects going from health restoral medicines to clothing that increases a certain combat parameter.
Collected Chao eggs will after a while turn into Chaos, little creatures that tied to one of the characters offer certain advantages like being harder to hit. Each character can only have one Chao and the more rare one is, the better stuff it offers. Another way of collecting these eggs is trade doubles with friends. This, however, is also the only multiplayer possibility of the game.
The controls are completely don’t with the stylus, pushing buttons has no effect. In the beginning and when you first encounter certain things you get a short but clear explanation so that you can go on your way quickly. In the end it’s all very obvious. When Sonic talks with someone you can often choose from different answers and you can gather extra information or make a joke here and there.
In some places (like the work shop of Tails) characters are automatically brought back to top condition. Outside only certain items will help with that. Not all areas all immediately accessible, some will need a riddle to be solved while others are blocked by (natural and some not so natural) obstacles. A lot depends on the story but also on the characters themselves. They have capabilities with which certain obstacles can be taken like Sonic being able to do loopings with his legendary sprinting qualities, Knuckles being able to walk up cliffs, Amy having a hammer to crush rocks, Tails being able to fly, and so on. Through a combination of these skills the more remote places can be reached and there there’s a lot to be found. Don’t try to get there through a different path as you won’t succeed, eventhough logically it should be possible. Pretty frustrating if you can find the right path to follow.
In the very beginning Sonic is alone, but as you progress more and more friends will join him. Next to Sonic you can keep three other characters with which you can switch at certain places. This isn’t unimportant as the skills of the different characters are – as said before – very important.
Throughout the world all kinds of enemies, going from wild animals to robots, are present. They patrol certain routes and only when Sonic hits them a fight will take place. Avoiding them is easy (or not if the characters need extra training). Hostiles that are part of the storyline, however, will immediately attack or block an entrance so you won’t be able to avoid them.
Once in combat there are different options available: attack, defend, use item, and so on. Next to these standard possibilities Sonic & Co also have some special attacks and to be able to complete these succesfully you’ll have to help a bit with the stylus. There are three movements that constantly need to be combined: follow a circle, tap at the right time or tap as much as possible within a certain time frame. What you do with your stylus follows somewhat the pattern that goes along with the specific attack. The better you do, the harder it will be for the opponent. On the other hand a full blown attack can miserably fail if you don’t manage the stylus movements correctly. In the same way you can also sometimes block hostile attacks and it’s a fun system except for when it’s about support like increasing the health of a team member or bewitching the enemy. In that case the bad sensitivity of the stylus can cause some frustration. Winning a fight gives experience and a reward in the form of some items.
Instead of fighting, the enemy or Sonic and his friends can decide to make a run for it. In this case a mini-game starts to decide whether or not those that flee can succeed or get caught. This is a mini-race where obstacles need to be avoided in order to not slow down and it gets more difficult as more people are present in Sonic’s team.
Overall the combat is fairly easy. The bosses do tend to fight back a bit more but not too hard. The same goes for the riddles: all too many times it’s about pushing the right buttons and putting the correct character on it. The difficulty degree was at times so low that I was wondering whether the game was meant for kids.
Qua graphics everything looks very nice. The game world is shown from a slight angle above while during combat the camera switches behind Sonic and his friends. These viewpoints never give any trouble and everything just looks good, just as it’s supposed to be. Also music and sound are better than average but a bit too happy to my taste but of course that’s normal for a colorful game character like Sonic.
Although things indeed went into the right direction, they didn’t go very far. An sich Sonic Chronicles isn’t bad but it does lack a bit of a soul. Good as go-between, not as main dish.