By ANDREW HOFFMAN
“Sonic the Hedgehog” burst onto the scene in 1991 as Sega’s mascot and quickly established itself as one of gaming’s prominent franchises. However, after several fantastic games in the 90s, things have turned sour for the series. Each new Sonic console game was worse than the last and it became clear the series needed a change.
“Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood” looks to do this by taking a franchise built on speed and turning it into a role-playing game (RPG), one of the slowest game genres. Unfortunately, the end result is a mixed bag of great and bad ideas, making for a game that is both very and not at all likeable.
The story of “Sonic Chronicles” features Sonic and his group of friends questing across the planet, and across dimensions, to fight a malevolent group known as the Marauders. The story does have a couple of interesting twists but, overall, there isn’t much to it.
There isn’t much depth to what’s going on and it takes a good two to three hours for the plot to even get going in earnest. However, this is all balanced by the interactions between the characters. The writing is sharp with some genuine cleverness and humor to it, but it isn’t enough to fully cover the lack of a driving narrative.
The battle system is yet another mixed bag. In battle each character has a certain number of actions per round in which you can attack, use a special attack, use an item or flee, which starts up a mini-game in which you jump over crates and hit boost pads to escape your foes.
The problem is that battles usually take too long as too many enemies have abilities which dramatically reduce the amount or damage you do or make your attacks constantly miss, forcing you to use certain special attacks to do any real damage.
The problem here isn’t just the feeling of emasculation and cheapness but the tension between the desire to do damage and your limited ability to use special attacks. However, when these problems don’t occur, the battle system is a joy to play. The battles then become quicker and more intense.
Unfortunately, the game also suffers from some design elements which are not so good. Mission design is one disappointment, relying heavily on fetch quests to advance the game. You’ll spend most of the game wandering all over the world looking for communicators, weapon parts, Chaos Emeralds and so on.
The lack of inspiration here begins to grate after a while. Another problem is level design. Most areas are inoffensive but some levels are designed in a confusing manner or even specifically designed to punish the player.
The ultimate problem with “Sonic Chronicles” is its competition. While it has its flaws, it can be rather enjoyable at times. However, it’s on the same system as vastly superior RPG’s, such as “The World Ends With You,” “Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time,” and “Chrono Trigger.” That makes a mixed-bag RPG with only about 15-20 hours of gameplay tough to recommend.