If Sonic Rush taught anyone in its release in 2004, it’s that the blue hedgehog can still be relevant in today’s games. It certainly wasn’t the perfect Sonic game (and many even said that the reason it was critically acclaimed was because it wasn’t as lame as recent console titles) but it showed that a decent game can be made using some original design and a bit of franchise savvy.
That franchise savvy, being the use of few characters and the return of level gimmicks and other design features that defined a Sonic game, has been further applied in Sonic Rush Adventure, a sequel that once again deals with the dimensional rifts taking place between the worlds of Sonic and Blaze.
Owing to the ‘Adventure’ part of the game’s name is the new major addition to the gameplay. In Sonic Rush you had a world map which outlined the stages in which you had to progress to. In the sequel, this is replaced with a sea chart that is fully explorable using ships and submarines. Exploring the chart uncovers new areas, but the cutscenes will give you a helping hand in where to chart your next course if you just want to blast through the Zones.
To explore, you simply draw your course using the touch screen and, depending on which kind of ship you use (there are four different kinds, all owing to different types of sea terrain) you enter a short minigame where you venture to that location, avoiding enemies and bombs along the way. It’s not something we see being in every Sonic game, but as a new gimmick it makes Rush Adventure pretty unique without becoming tedious.
There are also some new characters too. As Sonic and Tails end up stranded on a strange desert island, they come across an Australian-talking raccoon called Marine. The storyline in Rush Adventure is pretty good, although the cutscenes – while mildly amusing in places – can be pretty intrusive.
Cutscenes are really something that goes against the grain of the fast-paced arcade style action that we expect of Sonic, and indeed is chock-a-block in Rush Adventure. All in all however, we have no qualms. Blaze is still cool and unoffensive, Sonic and Tails rocking it alone is great stuff and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Eggman Nega thing is still pretty lame though, and we wouldn’t want to see Marine again lest we have another ‘Cream’ incident.
The levels themselves are improved over Sonic Rush, with a bit of an emphasis on alternate paths and the removal of the cack ‘door’ system – having to defeat enemies in a room before you can progress is a drag, and we’re glad Dimps thought the same. It’s just non-stop action with plenty more gimmicks involved, such as grabbing balloons, bouncing off huge mushrooms and navigating carts through mines.
Unfortunately there are still times where bottomless pits are involved, making for leaps of faith and cheap deaths. But these are few times in a huge level roster that includes countless times more enjoyable gameplay. We would also like to see a bigger emphasis on multi-tiered levels, akin to something like Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive – it would make a sequel to this game pretty much godly.
One of the things that did take getting used to in Rush Adventure however, was the music. After hearing Hideki Naganuma’s awesome soundtrack in the first Sonic DS game, the sequel’s game music was instead crafted by Sonic Team sound designers, which at first made Rush Adventure sound like it wanted to be Hideki Naganuma’s handiwork.
Listening to Plant Kingdom for the first time will instantly remind you of ‘Right Here, Right On’ in the previous title, but bear with it. After playing through the game a few times and learning not to compare the two soundtracks, it’s clear that Tomoya Ohtani and crew have made the game its own with irresistable hooks in Machine Labyrinth and a blasting tune in Blizzard Peaks. There’s even a Carribean style remix of the Sonic 3 Data Select screen in there.
Collecting Chaos Emeralds (and Sol Emeralds) is a slightly different practice than usual. The main villain, Captain Whisker, has a sidekick robot called Johnny who you race in a Waterbike to earn the Chaos Emeralds on the sea chart map. Blaze can collect Sol Emeralds in specially designed mission modes which usually consist of defeating bosses encountered in the main Zones. The Sols are quite simple to obtain, but the last few Chaos Emeralds will test your very fibres – it can frustrate, but you always have that ‘one more go’ attitude until you finally do it.
Speaking of which, the bosses are very original takes on the successful Sonic Rush idea. The very first boss is a huge dinosaur that you fight through two floors of jungle to take out. It’s great to see the kind of animation, design and attention to detail in the whole game, but the bosses really embodies the extra mile Dimps and SEGA have gone with thus.
The only thing we can gripe about with the setup of the game as it is, is the nature of replayability – we feel that as gamers we have to ‘want’ to replay a level rather than being forced. During your travels you collect ‘materials’ that are used to build new ships and travel further throughout the map. When you don’t have enough of a certain material, you will need to replay a particular level until you get the right amount. When the Zones are as good as they are here that doesn’t become too much of a problem, but we don’t like the kind of precedent that might set with future Sonic games.
Not content with all the extra clout that’s been shoved in the main gameplay areas, Sonic Rush Adventure also comes with a horde of additional mission modes that range from simple to challenging; a well-constructed online multiplayer full of different modes; a leaderboard and even little cute extras such as the ability to add decorations to the island that Sonic and Tails reside on during the journey.
Sonic Rush Adventure has taken what worked in the first Nintendo DS title, left out all the crappy bits and added new elements that although might be gimmicky to an extent, really suit the Sonic universe (… or Blaze’s universe, if you want to be picky).
The levels are tight, stage design and bosses that hasn’t been as original since Sonic CD, and a great wealth of longevity has been built into a game that has had real dedication spent on it. This has been the best example of a Sonic game in years, even surpassing Sonic Rush, and long may we see this handheld series evolve to become even better.