Sonic Before the Sequel, the breakout title for then-fledgling game developer Felipe “LakeFeperd” Daneluz, shattered expectations for a fan-developed 2D Sonic game after its initial release in 2011. The full-length retro-styled game lived up to its ambitious name thanks to its gorgeous presentation, its ingenious Zones, a charming story featuring Sonic and Tails meeting for the first time as they try to stop the Death Egg’s launch, and, as of its rerelease for the online Sonic Amateur Games Expo in 2012, a stunning original soundtrack that even saw praise from THE Jun Senoue.
Title: Sonic Chrono Adventure
Release Date: December 15, 2013 / v1.1 (Version Reviewed): February 23, 2014
Daneluz returned later with Sonic After the Sequel, which improved upon every point BTS saw praise for, and the BTS trilogy was finally rounded off with a very different beast of a Sonic game through Sonic Chrono Adventure, Daneluz’s earnest attempt at a mashup of classic Sonic gameplay and the beloved Metroidvania genre after toying with the idea in Sonic Before the Sequel Aftermath. A union of Metroidvania and Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t something that hasn’t already been seen before within the series proper—see Tails Adventure for the Game Gear, or pick it up for yourselves on the Virtual Console for Nintendo 3DS—but it is a first seeing Sonic’s trademark high speed and platform-oriented gameplay within a genre that focuses on exploring an open world that reveals itself more to the player the more they advance through the game.
With that in mind, does Sonic Chrono Adventure prove to be a happy and fruitful marriage for these two distinctive genres, or does it show signs of a troubled and incompatible relationship early on?
Canonically taking place after the events of Sonic After the Sequel and Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic Chrono Adventure sees the Blue Blur spend his well-earned downtime in an expansive region known as the South Lakes. Up in the heavens hangs the ruins of the Sky Empire; a once thriving civilization that fell into ruin one hundred years ago after a mysterious accident destroyed its floating island city. Sonic’s vacation quickly goes awry with him being relentlessly hunted down by a battered EGGATS-2013, the owl-like robot fought as the final boss in After the Sequel. Now that the feathery robotic fiend has escaped the Special Zone and developed time-travelling capabilities as a result, EGGATS promptly thrusts Sonic a century into the past; rebels are fighting against the dictatorial rule of Doctor Ucano, the Sky Empire’s Director of Sciences who rose into power within a year before the events of the game. Sonic is forced to watch history unfold as the same incident that saw the end of the Sky Empire draws near under Ucano’s reign, and with Doctor Eggman attempting to assert his rule over the present-day South Lakes as well, it’s a race against time itself to save both past and present from destruction!
The plot of the game will have Sonic travel back and forth through time, as the title would suggest. These will be forced onto the player at first when EGGATS catches up to Sonic early on in the story, but upon acquiring one of its feathers after two round trips through space-time, you can use portals scattered around the world map to time-travel at any given point. The story is mainly presented through scripted sequences and expositional conversations with NPCs on the world map, rather than cutscenes like those in BTS and ATS. That is not to say that there isn’t any cutscenes period, as they are used sparingly and saved for important story events late in the game. In true classic Sonic fashion, the blue hedgehog is a silent protagonist throughout Chrono Adventure, with all player dialogue handled by a new character named Rodolia the ladybug; she acts as the mute Sonic’s voice, making her presence known as a flickering sprite in his quills.
As I played, there were some times where I felt that the plot of Sonic Chrono Adventure was lacking. For example, while I don’t mind Gerem, the sword-wielding green hedgehog who fights as part of the Resistance in the past, his character nonetheless felt woefully underutilized in the collective narrative – let alone the concept of the Resistance as a whole. Why must the Resistance only hole up in one region of the map when some of its members could be spread out throughout the world of the game? Not that they need to outright engage the player, but for them to at least make their presence more renowned in the past would have been appreciated and helped with world-building, what with the said 5 million people driven out of the Sky Empire-turned-police state.
Without giving too much away though, I still found the overall story in Sonic Chrono Adventure to be quite engaging during my playthrough, my personal highlight being that it did a great job characterizing an Eggman who was free to his own devices without any pesky rodent interference. Heck, I especially loved how high the stakes are suddenly raised right before the last stretch towards the climax – things went from tense to bleak real fast, making the cathartic payoff in victory and the game’s ending all the sweeter! My earlier concerns amounted to little more than tiny nitpicks for me in the long run, as they were not significant or problematic enough to deter me from enjoying the game in general.
Just like in Daneluz’s previous games, the presentation in Sonic Chrono Adventure does not disappoint, its graphics rendered in simple but finely detailed sprite art – altogether a blend of edits on Sonic Team’s own work, a handful of assets from Daneluz’s preceding projects, and for the most part, visuals unique to Chrono Adventure.
The Zones themselves are quite beautiful to look at and really help bring the world of the South Lakes together just going by the background in each area. Be it flying vehicles on the move in the far, far back in the Sky Empire stages, or hints of other locations (as pictured above: the bumper-happy park Angel Terminal Zone contrasting with the towering red and white beams from Wild Wave Zone in the background), these subtle background elements prove that there’s almost always something interesting to look at and point out. On a similar note, it’s also really charming to see and reflect on how each Zone differs greatly between their Past and Present incarnations: Wild Wave Zone, known as the partially industrialized forest connecting most of the map’s bottom portion, was the once snowy and slippery Wild Winter Zone; Eggman’s electrifying Power Park was built over the ruins of the appropriately foggy caves of the Misty Maze; the Old Castle used to be the home of the Polem City back when it was the New Castle; et cetera. Those familiar with Chrono Trigger—one of the main inspirations behind Sonic Chrono Adventure—will no doubt see some resemblances with a civilization living comfortably in the sky while those on the surface suffer the harsh winter cold back in the Dark Ages.
As for the enemies and bosses, they are split into three categories: we have Eggman’s own Badniks eager to chop down at Sonic’s life bar in the present, and in the past are the somewhat plain-looking Polem species of monsters who come in a number of different variants and the Sky Empire’s drones. My only gripe concerning enemy design is with the Sky Empire’s own machines, with how static and lifeless they are compared to Eggman’s own easily identifiable machines, but again, minor nitpicking in the greater scope of things. The bosses themselves looked great, my personal favourites being Eggmyte, Grandpé, and the optional SP Coconuts (featuring Danté from the Devil May Cry series – needs to be seen to be believed).
Yes, there are occasional grammar and spelling mistakes in the text, but I will admit that I’ve gone into Sonic Chrono Adventure knowing that English is not Daneluz’s first language, given the fact that he is from Brazil. None of the dialogue is incomprehensible by any means, and neither did the few misspellings here and there distract me from my fun. Therefore, with that said and with Feperd’s ESL status in mind, this will not weigh in on my final verdict, and I can only hope that he will continue to refine his English from here once Spark the Electric Jester comes knocking on Steam in August.
All in all, while I felt it was not as visually stimulating like the ever colourful Sonic After the Sequel, the presentation in Chrono Adventure still proves to be a sight for sore eyes when all is at the end of the day.
Now, onto the meat and potatoes of the review!
Sonic Chrono Adventure is built off of the fan-made Sonic Worlds tool, an engine which near-perfectly replicates Genesis-era gameplay. Those familiar with Sonic’s older adventures will then not feel too out of place, with momentum-based gameplay, Spin Jumps, Spin Dash, and specialized Shields intact. However, it is as I’ve previously said: this isn’t your standard fare Sonic experience, as Sonic Chrono Adventure is a Metroidvania—well, “Metronic”—game in design through and through. There is no time limit to keep track of, there are no signposts to spin around at the end of an Act before moving on to the next, and there are no conventional lives, 1-Ups, or continues.
Let’s get the positives out of the way.
Upon starting up the game, players will notice the HUD comprised of a life bar and their expected ring count on the top left, and an ability wheel to cycle through with the A and S keys on the bottom left. Sonic will be limited to carrying up to 30 rings at a time (although playing around with Ring Boxes in your inventory can push that limit higher – more on that later) and will lose 10 with every hit he takes; his life bar will replete itself with 10 ring increments. Once his ring count and life bar reach zero, it’s Game Over and back to the last Save Point you go, so I advise you take the opportunity to save your game once you find these checkpoints scattered around the map. I mentioned that the conventional life system is done away with in favour of the life bar system, so I was also pleased to discover that instant death hazards like bottomless pits, OHKO enemy attacks, and good ol’ flattening traps were nowhere to be found. There is one glitch where the Life Bar might not match your collected ring count, though this glitch is thankfully cosmetic in nature and is easily fixed by taking a hit or collecting more rings.
Sonic’s gold rings are not the only type of rings to be collected, as there are also silver rings dotted around each Zone. These special rings act as in-game currency, spent in shops to fill up your three-slot inventory; available in these shops are 10-ring boxes if you feel you’re running too low, a Flame Shield that protects you from fire/lava hazards and provides a forward dash attack, a Bubble Shield that grants a double jump and allows you to breathe underwater, and a Spike Shield so that the player can tread on spikes without consequence and can downward Dash attack. These are all strictly optional and are not at all required to make it through certain areas, though it makes for a neat incentive for the player explore a given Zone in order to find these silver rings, if only to make the game easier for themselves later.
The world of Sonic Chrono Adventure opens up more to the player as they acquire new items which further enhance the gameplay with extra abilities, thus expanding Sonic’s moveset, and allowing him to tear down certain barriers, access new places, and defeat more durable foes faster. Some items, namely the sword and boost shoes, can be upgraded by finding their respectively coloured EXP. orbs scattered around the world map in the past and present, and with Chaos Emeralds to collect in the present as well, players might find more reason to walk off the beaten path. Again, these power-ups are not required to advance through the story and are completely optional for you to hunt down.
The more abilities you collect and the further you advance in the story, the more the world opens up to you… and then it starts to open up a bit too widely. In itself, that isn’t a major problem should you opt to stick to the most linear route through the story, but should you decide to go for 100% completion, backtracking will become a chore as you will find yourself running through Zones over and over again. The option to fast travel becomes a welcome addition late in the game, but even its implementation is extremely limited; the taxi Sonic can take only travels back and forth between two areas in the South Lakes and while a pair of teleporters allegedly exist, I did not come across them during my playthrough while I combed through the level maps. On top of this, despite unlocking Super Sonic as well as collecting all of the Boost and Sword power-ups, there is no bonus reward for going through the trouble (like a bonus final boss and an exclusive ending) since accomplishing the bare minimum will still yield the same end result, thus making the treasure hunt seem like a waste of time.
As for my biggest grievance with Sonic Chrono Adventure, it’s… Polem Sonic.
There comes a time late in the story when Sonic takes a nasty fall deep underground and wakes up part-Polem. This locked transformation grants Sonic the unique ability to walk up the honeycomb walls of the subterranean Polem City as well as the capability to spit fireballs, just like the Polem enemies on the surface.
Unfortunately, I soon grew tired of using the former and had no reason whatsoever to use the latter. Polem Sonic’s ability to walk (not run) up walls quickly wears out its welcome thanks to the tedious platforming of the Zone he’s trapped in and to wonky air momentum (one slip-up and down to the bottom you must restart your climb), and while spitting fireballs is a great concept to be sure, Sonic can only do so while standing still – plus, there are no enemies that will spring out at Sonic for him to defend himself against. By the time you reach the hive Queen, after a near-30 minute trek through the Polem City and a couple of fetch-quests, he will have returned to his regular blue self.
As for the game’s overall difficulty, Chrono Adventure is an overall easy enough game that doesn’t demand too much from the player. The level design isn’t freakishly punitive (in part thanks to the lack of instant death hazards fans might have grown familiar with) and most Zones provide a fun mechanic unique to them to play with, such as Power Park’s charged beams for higher jumps and Silicon Support’s red-blue-yellow switches. However, mileage may vary on some of the bosses – the toughest boss for me would be Grandpé, due to projectiles becoming more and more overwhelming with every hit landed.
From a gameplay standpoint, Sonic Chrono Adventure handles as decently as you would expect from a competently developed fan game powered by the Sonic Worlds engine. There’s plenty to keep the player busy as they dash around the South Lakes collecting Silver Rings and item upgrades, even with no real payoff in the end aside from seeing more of the gorgeous world Daneluz has designed – although I only wished that I didn’t have to spend most of my time running from Zone to Zone to Zone towards the end of the game as I sought the last few upgrade orbs, and the lack of decent fast travel options only soured the final stretch of my collectathon. As for Polem Sonic, the only positive I drew from that experience is that it was a one-time affair.
When it comes to the music, there’s not a whole lot I can say seeing that Sonic Chrono Adventure does not boast an original soundtrack, unlike its predecessors. I can only guess that Daneluz did not want a repeat of After the Sequel‘s development (note: the game finished core development early on while work on its soundtrack delayed its release by nearly 9 months), so those going in expecting a grandiose OST will be disappointed.
That is not to say that the music is by any means poorly chosen. For the most part, there’s nothing among the song selection that sticks out like a sore thumb, with each chosen track befitting the atmosphere of their home Zone. Perceptive listeners will no doubt recognize music from the two previous LakeFeperd fangames and a handful from official Sonic games (Unleashed, Shadow, and All-Stars Racing Transformed come to mind), as well as some songs pulled straight from the likes of Ace Combat Zero, Super Paper Mario, and Kingdom Hearts among others.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from an experimental “Metronic”-style game at first, but in the end, I’ve had an absolute blast with Sonic Chrono Adventure and thoroughly enjoyed my time with it — although I do understand that the genre might not be enjoyable for everyone, so make of it what you will. Those looking to sink their teeth into something new before the upcoming September release of Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice on Nintendo 3DS (you can check out Alex and Jason’s impressions with the E3 demo in the meantime) could still do well to kill some time with this fun fan game from the mind behind Sonic Before the Sequel and After the Sequel. Sonic Chrono Adventure takes no more than a few hours to complete, so if you’re interested in giving the game a go, you can download the game for yourself here for free!
+ The arsenal of abilities and how ridiculously fun some of them can be;
+ The endgame and final battle against Eggman;
+ The absolutely gorgeous presentation;
+ Exploring the South Lakes;
+ The music selection!
– Everything about Polem Sonic. Everything. I mean everything;
– Lack of decent fast travel – get ready to backtrack a lot;
– No original music;
– No final reward for diehard completionists.
Sonic Chrono Adventure was reviewed using a MacBook Pro through the PlayOnMac app.
Second opinion by TAnner “goodbye18000” Bachnick
Sonic Chrono Adventure is without a doubt one of the best non-traditional Sonic titles that have ever been made, so much so that I treat it as an official title in lists of “Best Sonic ____” games. When I first tried Sonic Before the Sequel, I was so happy to finally find a Sonic-fan-designer who gets what makes Sonic good while also experimenting with new concepts. After Before the Sequel, but before After the Sequel, he created Sonic Before the Sequel: Aftermath (oh god my nose is bleeding), a short demo of what a Metroidvania free roaming 2D Sonic would be like. I played it on The Sonic Show when it first came out and, while bite-sized and feeling like a short beta you’d pay for in a Kickstarter, I was hooked. It was a format that meshed incredibly well. Flash forward about a year and Chrono Adventure came out to take that small concept and throw it into a whole game.
Let’s start with the things that I thought could be improved, actually. First off, most of the music is reused from Sonic Before the Sequel (2012 SAGE Ver) and Sonic After the Sequel. There’s very little “new” there, which is a shame because those soundtracks were so good that the official music producer for Sonic games, Jun Senoue, blessed them himself. Second, as Lake is not a native English speaker, there are a lot of lines that come out wrong, have misspellings, or simply sound awkward. Finally, there are some glitches that were present in the original version of the game that halted progress. They may be out of the newer version, but I am not sure.
And that’s it for the bad. Straight up. Let’s move onto the good. First, the music is mostly reused from Sonic Before the Sequel and After the Sequel. Those soundtracks are so great that this is not totally a bad thing. Next up, the transformations/forms/weapons for Sonic really change how the game is played. You’ll need to use them all for puzzles, but aside from that you can simply use them for traversing how you prefer. Want to boost like Sonic Unleashed? Want a form that keeps you fast but lets you attack with a sword? What about a slower, Knuckles-like boxer? You can choose your favourites, level them up, and move in your way. These are very helpful for area revisits, as this is a Metroidvania game. You’ll be running through areas again trying to reach new destinations. The map, while a little strange at first, becomes a lot clearer as you play and find new paths. I think I got lost once, near the end, but that was about it. For the most part it railroads you to the right places very nicely.
The story is not meant to be high art, and that’s okay. While the aforementioned English problems do keep it from having snappy Saturday Morning Cartoon dialogue like Freedom Planet, it’s an inoffensive story that does keep you guessing. Making Sonic mute and giving instead a Navi-like traveling companion was honestly a nice touch that keeps the Sonic Generations-esque image of Classic Sonic. There’s a lot of allusions to other series as well – the ending sets up LakeFepard’s upcoming original paid title Spark the Electric Jester, as well as numerous references to Kirby Super Star. These definitely keep Chrono Adventure in the fangame category – you won’t see SEGA picking it up and releasing it as an official title any time soon. It is also important to note the tone shift near the ending – while the BTS/ATS games were relatively laid-back and in tone with the classic titles, Chrono Adventure reaches some mature, even scary, areas near the ending. There’s a jumpscare that got me, and overall it has an unsettling taste to what was a normal, kiddy game previously. This isn’t a bad thing, for me, but it might scare some younger ones.
All in all, Chrono Adventure is an experimental Sonic title that works. It’s infinitely better than any other game Sonic Team has put out since Generations, and I hope they’ve seen what fans have done and like in regards to their upcoming anniversary game announcement.
You can check out Tanner’s full-length Let’s Play of Sonic Chrono Adventure for The Sonic Show in the playlist below!