The announcement of a new Sonic game usually results in hysteria as the REAL Sonic fans work themselves up in anticipation of the new product. Every new screen released results only in fevering the already hysterical gamers that have been waiting and hoping for a Sonic game that can capture the dizzy thrills of the immensely popular Genesis games of the 90’s. Unfortunately, the fans are almost always disappointed. And Sonic Heroes does little to change that. Yes, this game has its moments, but ultimately it’s a disappointing and frustrating romp.
Sonic Heroes has taken Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and ironed out all the non-essential parts, such as a half-way decent plot, and the Chao. This leaves you with the most basic of platformer, with most levels being a simple case of classic “Get from A to B”-style gameplay. However, Sonic Team has come up with a new idea—the teams!
You can choose a team from a choice of four (Team Sonic, Team Dark, Team Rose, and Team Chaotix), and take them through a succession of colorful levels. Each team has a “speed” character (Sonic, Shadow, Amy, Espio), a “Power” character (Knuckles, Omega, Big, Vector), and a “Fly” character (Tails, Rouge, Cream, Charmee). Speed characters can use a homing attack to bounce along trails of enemies and grab useful items, Power characters can break heavy objects and smash open new routes, and Fly characters can carry their teammates over obstacles and bring down flying enemies. This team system is more than a gimmick, as you have to use each character in order to progress through the levels.
The controls, then. The buttons are all in the right places, but they don’t do what you tell them to! This problem is most evident when you are switching characters in the heat of battle. All too frequently I have pressed the “character switch button,” only to end up with the exact opposite character I selected. This is just not good enough in a commercial video game. This kind of glitch should have died with the Sinclair Spectrum. Also, jumps are unpredictable, as occasionally a press of the jump button will send you hurtling forwards in a vain attempt to homing attack absolute nothingness.
The difficulty level of this installment of the Sonic series is high. And not because of devious enemy placement. You will find yourself dying due to overly floaty controls and the lack of any progressive movement. Pushing the analogue stick only slightly forward will result in your character just standing there, but pushing it further in will set them dashing off like a lunatic. This means that the later levels, with their reliance on precision jumping, are rendered amazingly hard.
Another factor adding to the difficulty is the lack of a shadow below each character. This again means that jumps are nearly impossibly to accurately judge. Also, levels that are simple all the way through can be spoiled by a stupid and cheap obstacle at the end. One such obstacle is a tower of rising lava at the end of the fourth stage. You must make your way up, destroying every enemy you come across. The camera angle this is viewed from is insane, and it is teeth-grindly frustrating to have to repeat an entire stage because of one poorly-thought-out trap. The levels aren’t short either, most clocking in around at least eight minutes of gaming.
The sound in this game varies in quality. The main theme is outstanding—appropriate, engaging, and catchy. Also up there on the musical scale are the casino levels, special stage themes, and the otherwise infuriating Bullet Station. Unfortunately, the voice acting is completely tragic. Tails sounds like a sniveling little child gargling on horse vomit whilst being jammed in the stomach by a red-hot poker. And don’t get me started on Charmee Bee…
This games graphics are the very definition of “fine.” The colours are attractive and the sensation of speed is put across very nicely. However, the camera is a waste of time. Moving the right analogue stick to adjust the camera has the tendency to throw you into a COMPLETELY POINTLESS first-person viewpoint. Thus, you are restricted to using the L2 and R2 buttons to change the view, which feels awkward and unnatural. The perspective on certain areas is also ridiculous, and makes the game needlessly tough.
Enough bashing, though. This game is not ALL bad. It has some brilliant moments that will make you proud to be a Sonic fan. You just have to work for them. The very first level is masterful. It will suck you in more than any Sonic game has before. When you see those chequered hills, you will feel instant nostalgia, and you won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling. Another sweet moment is when you first reach a special stage. To access these bonus levels, you must obtain a special key from somewhere inside the level, and keep it to the end. This is easier said than done, as a single hit will cause you to lose the key. When you finally reach the special stage, you will revel in the colour and speed. They are even hypnotizing at times.
The replay value is high, with “A” ranks to achieve to unlock new multiplayer modes (which are fairly poor), and a secret single player mode. The problem is, would you want to? Beyond collecting all the emeralds and finishing the final stage, the game may lose its appeal.
Sonic fans will buy this, anyway. Others—worth a rent…maybe.