Many were actually hoping for a return to form for a classic gaming icon: "Sonic the hedgehog" (You might remember him being an icon. Now he hangs out with Mark Hamill and Courtney Love doing "anything" for a penny) is his name. The name that takes you back to bouncing on Caterkillers as you ran through marbled ruins in the swiftest possible timeframe. The premise was simple when it was announced - Sonic's rebirth, a reinvention of the franchise that would revolutionize speed like the Mega Drive original. What we actually get is somewhat less euphoric, some points even actually manage to downgrade the experience from 2005's woeful Shadow the Hedgehog. Sega just missed the platform with this one... Ironically so will you.
Firing the canon
Though you can't expect much from a game that doesn't even remember it's own canon. Touted as being "Sonic's first foray into the human world" proves that Sega have not played their own games for quite a number of years. Totally ignoring Station Square's population of badly rendered humans and Central City in it's sequel is a little silly because at the same time this game is trying to be Sonic Adventure. Though this game does have some awesome points they are too often overshadowed by familiar complaints that seem to affect every 3D Sonic. The useless camera is still a Sonic team trademark. It revels in making you fall off gaps you didn't even see until you were already in them and with limited lives this can get frustrating. Especially because they send you back to your last save when spent.
All the usual characters are present and accounted for (Contrary to Sega's promise of few characters) - Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Eggman, Rouge, Omega, Shadow et al. There are newcomers too in the futuristic Silver and the oddly retconned Blaze the Cat (From the wonderfully black and strong Sonic Rush). All the characters have been changed, some for good while others feel wrongly adjusted.
Tails for instance lacks any real form of attack. Gone are his spin attack and tail attack and in come throwable ring boxes (Which he can also use while posessing zero rings bizzarrely) that are meant to be targetted from a first person perspective. The lack of a crosshair and actual aim time however make it difficult and you'll find yourself avoiding conflict entirely or firing blind due to the robots reloading time compared to yours. He has also been slowed down quite significantly. Amy can only use her hammer from a standing position meaning that she has to get dreadfully close to land a hit and often recieving unfair counterattacks in the process. Blaze converts very well and from her level it makes you kind of wish the game was called "Blaze the cat". Rouge isn't bad either but Omega seems to be doing a feeble impression of Gamma and Tails' mech. Sonic and Shadow can no longer attach themselves to walls at will which means the falls cannot be stopped. I guess gimping Tails was their reinvention.
The game is divided into chapters representing Sonic, Shadow and Silver's storylines, though Shadow and Silver are initially locked. During the course of the narrative the three tales intertwine and at these points they become unlocked. The titular blue hedgehog is as you would expect pretty damn fast. The problem is that his control's aren't too tight and he often commits suicide to such a degree that he almost faces a lawsuit from Sony's green-haired rodents. His levels are built around speed supposedly but that doesn't prevent him from having to pitstop to dispatch a few enemies with his homing attack "skillz" (Mainly because his "spin attack" jump no longer deals any damage, in fact you are hurt if you try to simply leap into an enemy). All too often he is lumbered with babysitting Princess "Kairi" Elise who allows him to utilize a strange shield that protects him from his ultimate nemesis... the water/sand of death (Which is good considering most of the time at speed there are barely any clues of the sand being different). Oddly it doesn't knock enemies aside or help in any real way when you're trying to blast through a level.
Shadow is back too and his levels are similar to Sonic's but with the additional bane of many, many enemies. To compensate he comes with a combo kick (Read: Press A to beat game) added to his homing attack and some fancy chaos attacks that are dreadfully fiddly to use (Activating chaos actually destroys homing attack sections). Luckily the guns are gone but he retains the vehicles that nobody even used anyways (Although now certain sections demand him to handle like a dead pig in a burned out car that happens to be on bricks). Shadow has been slowed down too which must be some kind of masochistic way of encouraging vehicle use.
Silver is a change of pace as he is fairly slow on his feet and requires some thinking about. He can also move things with his mind! Some puzzles are a joke while others are much more devious (Like knocking a ball-bomb down a passageway filled with holes with just his psychopunch... uh... thing). He can glide without losing altitude to a limited degree and can throw almost everything, don't expect any form of targetting though. Sadly Sonic and Shadow in general are a more enjoyable experience.
Technically we should rename this game Sonic adventure 2.5 as it attempts to keep itself steadfast in the Dreamcast era. Graphically the characters look quite nice and generally they are animated quite well. After a jump or fall however Sonic lands on straight legs which is kind of weird to the eyes and probably to his bones. The scenery is a little lacking in areas but sometimes is great (Especially the future). The effects on the water are horrendous, You are capable of knocking a huge stone tower into the water without causing a slight splash. Surely the new generation machines are capable of this little detail. In fact the whole game has it's points where you find the framerate going to hell repeatedly - particularly in Silver's stages. The enemies come in robot or monster varieties, the robots being the most detailed. The fire monsters appear to be retextures of the Black arms aliens from Shadow's solo outing.
There's another type of level too - Town stages. These attempt to reflect the town's you encounter within RPG games with little side quests and places to buy new abilities (Like the totally not useful scale technique that let's Sonic go tiny). Sorry Sega, we don't play a speedy game like Sonic to shuffle around town like a malformed (and now scaled down) Big Issue salesperson.
The loading times between these places are bad but nothing compared to the side missions. Talk to a person who has a problem that needs solving and it begins loading... a line of dialogue pops up and you are ready for the game. Oh wait, what's this? More loading. Now you're into the action and their couldn't be any more loading, right? Wrong! Whether you are sucessful or not it loads again afterwards. What's worth noting is that most of the missions take place in a zone that is already loaded in order to first talk to the mission-giver. This game loads everything, though cutscenes don't take long to load. Possibly loading time is calculated by people who happen to love 4kids?
Technical and gameplay points aside however we have a game. Games have to get a narrative, right? Well that's here too. Voiced by those wonderful "talented" people that gave Pokémon's Meowth a Brooklyn accent and more recently gave voices to papier mache. You'd half expect Knuckles to challenge you to a "d-d-d-duel" and make up rules as he goes along. The story isn't exactly complicated but it seems a little too much for the little blue milk thief. They've taken the Mario concept and tried to pull a Final fantasy with some Back to the future/Terminator added presumably with chaos control. Sonic's attraction to the human princess also feels a little wrong. Remember when you were performing fatalities when your parents were watching? Yeah, like that.
Any Sonic fan before 1997 would expect to find this game under someones foot or crushed in the road like Sonic's own family (If they didn't have a heart-attack from the graphics that is). Anyone born close to '98 just expects this from Sonic by now. It's really quite degrading to the one who once challenged the might of Mario to be subjected to these constant niggles. Maybe now he's in Brawl he'll actually be in an excellent game. This one is decidedly average.
6 / 10