Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: BioWare

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NDS Preview - 'Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood'

by Thomas Wilde on May 1, 2008 @ 5:20 a.m. PDT

BioWare is creating a stylish blend of strategy and speed for Sonic’s first RPG, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, mixing a rich story, hand-painted visuals, fast-paced team combat, and wireless collectible trading into a uniquely compelling adventure.

Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Bioware
Release Date: Fall 2008

The easiest way to describe Sonic Chronicles is that it's the Sonic franchise's take on Super Mario RPG, but that doesn't really capture the essence of it.

It's easy for people who aren't big fans of the character to forget this, but Sonic's been around for over a decade now. His cast has ballooned up into the dozens, he's had a couple of surprisingly successful cartoon shows, and his Archie comic book series will apparently be one of a handful of things that will survive a nuclear holocaust. For a little while now, his actual games have almost been surplus to requirements.

That means, though, that there's a fair bit of story to be had in the Sonic universe, and that's part of why Sonic Chronicles is here. Bioware has created a game that they think will make longtime Sonic fans happy, with plenty of continuity-based fan service and a huge cast of characters, along with their trademark attention to world-building and dialogue.

You play the entirety of Sonic Chronicles with the stylus and touch-screen, dragging the stylus's tip along the screen to move Sonic throughout the world. As you move around, you can gather up rings from your environment, which are later used to buy gear.

Eleven members of the Sonic cast can be recruited for your group, including Sonic (naturally), Amy Rose, Knuckles, Rouge, Shadow and Tails. Each one has a special ability that you can use to explore, such as Tails' flight, Knuckles' climbing, or Amy Rose's ability to smash through obstacles with her hammer. The game has a lot of secret areas and hard-to-reach items scattered throughout it, so it pays to be thorough.

If you diligently investigate everywhere you can, one of the things you can find are Chao eggs, which eventually hatch into Chaos. These can be equipped to each of your characters to give them special combat abilities, both active and passive, such as health regeneration.

The combat system is probably the most interesting part of the game; it's like the engines from Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star had a kid. Your characters' speed plays a big role in their combat ability, allowing them to land multiple hits inside a single round, which resolves itself in seconds. You can also learn a variety of combo attacks, such as Amy Rose whacking Sonic at your enemies like a golf ball of doom.

Outside of combat, you mostly control Sonic as your viewpoint character as you start on the trail of what may or may not be a new plot from Dr. Robotnik. As you might expect from a Bioware RPG, the story is told with a heavy focus on dialogue trees, allowing you to be as heroic or snarky as you want to be.

Sonic Chronicles is very much made for the fans of the character and the universe he inhabits, with enough of a game around it to intrigue casual players and RPG nuts. The stylus-based controls take a little bit of getting used to, as does exploring the overworld; it initially feels like you're playing a board game version of one of the original Genesis platformers. As with most DS titles, though, you quickly get used to it, and surprisingly, by the end of this year, you'll have a chance to do so.


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