If you have never heard of Sonic the Hedgehog then for goodness sake where have you been over the last decade? Sonic was one of the reasons I went and got myself a SEGA Megadrive and I can tell you I was not in the least bit disappointed.
With smooth and excellent looking graphics Sonic has it all. Catchy music, impressive visuals and a fast style of gameplay that even without saved games could bring you back time and time again to have another go.
As with any game Sonic has had to re-launch itself now 3D gaming is here and for a game like Sonic everybody held there breath until we received Sonic Adventure for the SEGA Dreamcast which I reviewed for my old site. Thankfully a lot of the magical elements of Sonic which tends to get lost when going from 2D gaming to 3D remained. The game was a mixed bag of pleasures and some dodgy times for Sonic. Sonic now had a voice which for purists was like the disaster of making Tom and Jerry talk in animation.
Sonic Adventure was basically a 3D runaround where you spent most of your time wondering what you were supposed to do next, but still was a very good game considering its flaws. Sonic Adventure 2 refined the game greatly although added 2 extra styles of play with Tails and Knuckles which were too tedious in my opinion.
Sonic Heroes has ditched these extra 2 modes of shooting levels and searching and instead merged the best bits of each to make a fast 3D platform adventure with some puzzle element to it. No longer just running around, now you have to think whether you need speed, power or a flying ability to get past the objects in your path.
Sonic Heroes has the clever idea of rather then running around with one character why not have three. You have four teams to choose from all having different difficulties. Team Rose is the easiest of the four with shorter levels and less problems. Team Rose consists of Amy Rose, Big the Cat and Cream the Rabbit. Team Dark is where you control Shadow the Hedgehog, E-123 Omega and Rouge the Bat. Team Dark is the harder setting of them all. Of course you are not missing your important hero Sonic with Team Sonic which consists of Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the Echidna and Miles ‘Tails” Prower which is the standard skill level. There is a 4th team but unlike the other three you search for items and follow other tasks until you are allowed to progress. This team is Chaotix consisting of Espio the Chameleon, Ventor the Crocodile and Charmy Bee. A lot of these you may recognise from playing earlier Sonic games but a few are new as well.
Now let’s assume you select Sonic Team in this review as I am sure that is the team people will most likely go for first. Sonic is the character to use if you require speed to get around the level. Knuckles is the powerful character so use him to bash through crates and defeat larger enemies and not forgetting Tails who is your flying ability which of course you use for reaching high places or platforms further away. There are also combo modes you can use for each character to get around other areas.
Through a level you also collect power ups which increase your character’s strength for attacking and after collecting rings and destroying enemies you raise a bar which when full gives you Team Blast which combines all three of your characters to release a powerful surge of energy destroying enemies close by.
The three elements ‘Power’, ‘Speed’ and ‘Fly’ formations work very well and do add a lot more interest to the game rather then just running around endlessly. The breaks in between that change characters to reach new areas help the replay ability of the game.
Graphically the game is colourful and reminds you much more of the original Sonic games with the textures used rather then the Dreamcast variations. Most of the time the game looks great to say it’s a multi-platform game but you do notice slow down particularly when fighting Dr. Eggman for the first time. There is a distinct improvement with the amount of activity on screen when you compare to the earlier Dreamcast games, although you feel sometimes a lot more could have been optimized for the Xbox system.
Sonic games in the past have also had that catchy yet maybe a little corny music which you hum while at work without realising it only to find your work colleagues have stopped working and begin to wonder where that tune is from you have been singing all day. This game is no different with the title in particular having that annoying stay in your head melody. Unfortunately the in game music is defiantly lacking appeal especially for us Dolby Digital 5.1 fans. The music is just a plain old Stereo soundtrack for the music backings making it more uninteresting then the background music already is. This for me is an area that should not have been overlooked especially when other SEGA games like SEGA GT did the music in 5.1 so very well in the past.
The character voices are pretty standard and while you cope with Sonic and the Knuckles voices, other characters make you turn down the volume as their screechy and often irritating vocals make you dash for the remote control faster then Sonic could himself. This is very apparent in the Tutorial section which is an essential start to playing this game to get to grips with the new formations and how to attack. The voice that explains these areas is dreadful, so best to mute and read the subtitles if you feel that your sanity is important. One thing that really sticks in my mind is when using Knuckles to attack it really does sound like he is saying “sh*t”, maybe it is supposed to be shoot but many of my friends have remarked on this also so hopefully it’s not just me who is mishearing it. This is more of a funny part of the game though then something to knock it over.
One last gripe is how often you will fall off a platform to your doom. Even if you feel you are in control, one mistimed spin or attack and off you go to plummet to the ground. This happens far too often especially in the levels where you grind down rails the whole level. You can be pushing forward and miss the rail through no fault of your own. Loss of life is far too common and should be resolved in the next game as people will not take this niggle for much longer.
For Sonic fans this game is a must especially if you enjoyed the stages in Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, but with some quite obvious niggles this game could easily be ignored when in actual fact there are some quality moments to be had and quite frankly there are not enough games of this style of gaming around anymore. Sonic Heroes is our Knight in shining armour but with a bit of rust that needs clearing up.