It has arrived. After changing the formula with Sonic Heroes and getting mixed responses, the Team have gone back to basics and stuck with what works. The result is a mixture of Sonic Adventure’s town stages and level structure and Sonic Adventure 2’s involving plot lines. Now we’ve hit the next generation of consoles, does the tried and tested work in Sonic the Hedgehog?
Well, you would think so, but it’s all a bit of a mixed bag. From the moment you turn on the game you’re introduced to a series of wonderful cutscenes. As ever, the CG team behind these stunning pieces need awards or something. Impressively, sequences using in-game graphics look amazing too. The difference between CG and in-game cutscene is very slight, you really couldn’t tell the difference.
The story is involved and very entertaining, and if you can forgive the plotholes here and there (and the irritating “Lose-Princess-Save-Princess-Lose-Princess” structure of Sonic’s Episode), it can easily rival Sonic Adventure 2 for its mature premise and ultimate foreboding in the Last Episode. Voice acting is your typical Sonic fare – they should probably all button it. Jason doesn’t put a foot wrong as Shadow though, and Mike Pollock does Eggman further justice. Lacey Chabert’s role is really rather token but she makes the most of it.
One thing this game has gotten perfect is the personality and animation of the characters. The graphics are pretty basic for a next generation console, but for a Sonic game they are more than adequate. The one thing the series has lacked until now is a perfect personality representation of the characters. The moment Sonic bounces into view you know our cocky hedgehog is back. Hell, we even like Shadow again now, as his new role is pretty badass. Seeing Omega do hilarious standby animations by rotating and scratching his robotic belly is a joy to behold when passing the time.
While looking superb, the characters control pretty well too. For those new to the game, it can be a bit of an adjustment as even Sonic is considerably slower than in past games. This is not a bad thing; in fact it’s perfect. Unlike Sonic Heroes or Shadow, where moving forward a little bit would result in you speeding off with little traction, the inertia here from walking to running speed suits Sonic just right. Sonic’s attacks have been stripped so that only his bounce attack and homing dash will actually destroy enemies. Just jumping does nothing, which is just a little bit irritating. There will be times when the bounce attack is executed when trying to do a Light Dash, and the Spin Dash can only be used from standstill. Otherwise, Sonic plays pretty well. Just not with as much accessibility as we’d have liked.
Shadow plays much better without guns. He has a homing attack melee move, which can knock down an enemy’s health bar considerably. This is a great move because we really, really hate enemies with health bars in Sonic games. They shouldn’t exist. Far from being cheap, it makes your level flow a bit better. The vehicles work much better too, although you will hate the town missions involving jeeps and motorcycles. It’s not without its moments of tedium but simply put, Shadow the Hedgehog should have played like this.
Silver’s the new kid on the block, and his levels are very enjoyable. You can pick up items and lob them at enemies, use your PK to cross-large areas and hover across gaps. It’s a welcome gameplay addition, and it’s just a shame many of his levels are marred with slowdown. Each character has a special meter for powers – Silver can use his PK energy to lift items, Shadow can use Chaos Boost to perform major attacks, and Sonic can customise his abilities with shoe gems purchased from the shops. Obtaining new abilities via shop is novel, but very simple as you always collect more rings than you need. Aside from Silver, you won’t be using your special abilities most of the time, as Sonic’s gems usually just get in the way and Shadow is more than adequate without Chaos Boost.
Amigo characters are annoying at the worst of times, with jumps not harming enemies, leaving them to defend themselves using crummy close range moves. Knuckles’ attacks you can get the hang of, but it’s no great shakes, while Tails’ item box bomb instead of his tail whip is just plain lazy. The amigos serve to be more frustrating than enjoyable; especially considering Knuckles/Rouge can’t even jump off a climbed wall 90% of the time.