Language : Japanese or English?
A couple of days ago I took another step toward bankruptcy and availed myself of two crisp, twenty-pound notes at my local games emporium. In return I received a Japanese copy of Sonic The Hedgehog Advance. I had been promised great things by the staff. When I asked, will the Japanese language get in the way, I was laughed at. Not a bit of it, I was told. Within seconds of firing up Sonic Advance I realised why. The first screen cleared up any confusion with its English language option… And so I quickly learnt what all the fuss was about. Sonic The Hedgehog Advance features four playable characters, link cable support for multiplayer and one of the best original Sonic adventures since the death of the Mega Drive. The GameBoy Advance version trounces its predecessors, with zero slowdown and a few of the Super Nintendo's biggest strengths; Mode 7, for example, and multiplayer versions of Chaos Emerald Hunt and Battle modes. Sonic has plenty of new tricks up his sleeve this time too. As with his recent appearance on the Dreamcast, Sonic can railslide on virtually anything, and this along with Sonic's ever-tight control system adds another edge to the game's already blistering speed. Sapping a bit of the pace, intermediary stages can be linked to the GameCube via a link cable, allowing players to download and upload Chaos grown from Chao eggs on either system. The GameCube version - which unfortunately we couldn't afford at the time - features a Chao Races section where (oddly enough) you can race your little blighters.
Chaos in Action
The GameBoy Advance offers a playground for little Chaos, with players raising the creatures by collecting rings in the single player game and using them to help buy food and seeds for the Chaos. Interestingly, the Chao's overall appearance will change depending on which Sonic character was responsible for its upbringing. Both the GBA and GC games feature eggs exclusive to one version or the other, so it's impossible to get certain Chaos to appear in the GameCube version for instance, without first finding and transporting them out of the GameBoy Advance. Sonic Advance's single player mode is more interesting than previous Sonic games, because the main characters are modelled on their counterparts from Sonic Adventure 2. This means they are bigger and more detailed. Thanks to the GameBoy Advance's larger screen though, they don't dominate proceedings to the point of distraction. There is a greater amount of detail on Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy than we've seen in other 2D Sonic adventures. Particularly during jumps, the animation doesn't pull a lowest common denominator blur and ruin the illusion, as it once did on the Game Gear and Neo Geo Pocket Color. Animation routines are shorter and more precise, and the GameBoy Advance handles the action perfectly, so there's no slowdown at any point. The emphasis is still on speed and rings, and the boss characters are suitably impressive. Dr. Robotnik has a giant hammer in one area, and thanks to the English language option on my copy of Sonic I could pay attention to the (fairly complex as far as Sonic usually goes) storyline.
The GameBoy Advance version of Sonic The Hedgehog is a poster child for the modern videogame. It's based almost entirely on previous games in the series with some spicy new features borrowed from other games, and since everyone loves the main character it will sell by the truckload. That said, we - perhaps embarrassingly in retrospect - can't get enough of it. If you know where to go you might as well pick this up on import. Otherwise, you can wait for the domestic release. Either way, this one's a good prospect.