Genre : Action
Developer : Sonic Team
Publisher : Sega
Release Date : January 27, 2003
In one way, this has been a long time in coming; in another, it's completely unexpected.
Sonic the Hedgehog's been around for a good while now, but his appearances have run few and far between as of late-rather, his new appearances. The Sonic Adventure games continue to resurface, first on the now-defunct Sega Dreamcast, and then in slightly updated forms on the Nintendo Gamecube. Adding to this list are the Sonic Advance games. All the while, gamers have been waiting patiently for the next "true" Sonic game, the continuation of the series, and-hopefully-the sequel that will restore Sonic to his former glory after the hit-or-miss Adventure runs.
Enter Sonic Heroes, which aims to do just that, and by the looks of it, it may well succeed. It's also the first platform-agnostic Sonic game, meaning that for the first time, Sony owners can experience the Sonic franchise without having to buy a new system (and bitter Sega zealots can seethe and sulk even more).
I now impart unto you, the gentle(?) reader:
The Sonic Heroes Recipe:
- Take Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. Mix thoroughly.
- Make everything bigger and more varied, including stages, environments, and backdrops. Make it prettier, but not too pretty-just enough for a difference to be noted and appreciated. Use as many vibrant colors and as high a resolution as possible.
- Double the cast of the Sonic Adventure games (for a total of twelve), make them all playable, and incorporate a new team dynamic and special move system that refreshingly breathes new life into the series.
- Inject storylines that are mainly old hat, yet still intriguing enough to keep one's interest.
- Remove 90% of everything that was frowned upon in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2. This means no more boring treasure hunts-except for one team, and they aren't all that bad or tough. Heroes hearkens back to the roots of the old Sonic games on the Genesis, and puts emphasis on speed and combat in order for players to make it through the game's fourteen challenging stages.
- Make the stages inventive: for example: a giant pinball machine, BINGO table, or reactor plant are all good candidates. Make them longer as well; to the point where a single stage can take upwards of fifteen minutes to complete.
- Inject music that doesn't sound as nice as the Adventure games, yet is still faithful to the series and can bring back memories of the older games on more than one occasion.
- Add voiceovers that range from decent (Shadow, Sonic, Rouge) to just plain horrible (Cream, Tails).
- Make Big the Cat not suck, and Team Dark the greatest thing ever.
- And, just for kicks--or hey, it could be nostalgia purposes--keep in all of the control and camera issues that have been plaguing the Sonic series ever since it first went 3D over four years ago.
- Garnish and serve. Suggested audiences: Sonic fans will eagerly enjoy it and ask for more, despite the obvious lumps; more jaded types may find it tough and hard to manage; some will like it, some will refuse further helpings.
Sonic Heroes is an imperfect, yet highly fun game. The PS2 version has been reported as the most technologically primitive of the lot, however, and it shows. It runs at thirty frames per second whereas the Gamecube and Xbox versions run at sixty; and the colors look a bit washed out. It also seems to have some rendering and processing issues. Still, the game makes a decent showing. The control and camera problems from the old games are back in full force here; however, a bit of perseverance and frustration tolerance (or being used to the Adventure games) is all that is required to get past them.
As things stand, Sonic Heroes is a taste of good things to come, and promises that there are better times ahead for platformer, adventure, and Sonic the Hedgehog fans. Save your pennies and purchase this baby when it hits shelves on January 27th, if for no other reason than to convince Sonic Team to give the little blue guy one more go, and to further refine a formula that's so close to perfection.
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