Review by ShadowGuardian9

"The Heroes have arrived."

Sonic the Hedgehog, one of gaming's most iconic characters, has always been a favorite amongst the gaming world. After Sega's departure from the console market, they began making games for other companies, some of which included their treasured mascot. After some Sonic remakes for the Gamecube, Sega prepared a special project featuring Sonic. In 2004, Sonic Team was ready to release the first new all-new Sonic console game since the Dreamcast. Sonic Heroes is Sonic's all-new adventure, and this time, he's brought some friends along for the ride.

Sonic Heroes starts off with a typical invasion from Sonic's arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. Eggman has designed a fleet of advanced airships to take control of the planet. Without delay, Sonic teams up with his friends Tails and Knuckles and takes off to battle Eggman. Normally, that would be the plot. However, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles aren't the only team out to stop Eggman. There are nine other characters, divided into three more teams to fight Eggman, rounding out to twelve characters assigned to four teams. The first, Team Sonic, consists of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. The second is Team Dark, consisting of sneaky treasure hunter Rouge the Bat, newly-assembled battlebot E-125 Omega, and Shadow the Hedgehog, returning after a long hiatus. The third team is the lighthearted trio, Team Rose, consisting of determined romantic Amy Rose, kind and quiet Cream the Rabbit, and friendly fisherman Big the Cat. The final team is Team Chaotix, three heroes who haven't appeared in a Sonic game since the Sega 32X game Knuckles Chaotix. Ninja Espio the Chameleon, fun-loving Charmy the Bee, and strong leader Vector the Crocodile round out Team Chaotix. As expected, each team has their own place in the storyline, along with their own gameplay.

Unlike past 3-D Sonic games, Sonic Heroes is a serious Sonic game. What I mean by this is that there's no hub world to run around. No mech-walker shooting levels. No searching for pieces of the Master Emerald. Sonic Heroes doesn't cut corners in providing a 100% “complete the levels, watch the cutscenes in between” experience. This format of levels makes the game fast, no-nonsense platforming. Although some load times do appear to slow things down, the entire game does a good job of not forgetting what the Sonic games are about: fast-paced gameplay. There's plenty of boost-pads, bumpers, and springs to keep the gameplay over-the-top and quick. Sonic Heroes is a good example of Sonic returning to his roots, and though not 100% successful, is well done.

But Sonic Heroes mixes up the breakneck stunts by adding the Team system. Each of the three characters in a team have a specific skill, either Speed, Flight, or Power. Speed characters are the fastest, allowing for jumping off walls, homing in on enemies, and just running. Flight characters...well, can fly. They can also attack from distances and reach areas too high for other characters. Power characters are best used in combat, as their strength can bash robots, rocks, and obstacles to bits. Power characters can also ride updrafts to reach new areas. Switching characters is easy; simply press X or Y to change characters. Along the way, characters can collect orbs to increase certain characters skills. Let Speed's homing attacks be stronger; let Flight's distance attacks shoot further; let Power's attacks take out stronger badniks. Also, when enough enemies are defeated or rings are collected, pressing the Z button allows for a Team Blast, an all-out blitz that does major damage to enemies on screen. Surprisingly, the team aspect is well done. The game doesn't slow down too much, although some situations can grind down to a crawl.

The first three teams, Sonic, Dark, and Rose, follow simple instructions: get to the end of the level. Remember how much fun it was running around in Sonic and Tails' levels of Sonic Adventure? Remember how much fun it was dashing across the paths in Sonic and Shadow's levels of Sonic Adventure 2? Well, Sonic Heroes returns that concept. Run, collect rings, run, smash robots, jump, run, run, and run. Sure you have to flip a switch or open doors sometimes, but at the game's core, Sonic Heroes is a Sonic platformer. The path is linear so you most likely won't get lost, keeping the rapid pace of the Sonic franchise in full effect.

Team Chaotix, however, is different. Most of the time the crew isn't out to reach the end of a level. Instead, they are led by a mysterious client of theirs who wants them to complete certain objectives. As for the quality of these objectives, the whole concept can typically be described as search quests. While this may sound like Knuckles' missions in the Sonic Adventure games, it sadly isn't. The linear level design prevents this concept from getting off the ground, making Team Chaotix's missions the only ones that truly suffer from this improvement. Overall, search quests like the ones in Team Chaotix's missions can't find a place in such fast-paced and linear levels like Sonic Heroes, making their story much less fun than the other teams'.

Gameplay in Sonic Heroes is diverse enough to stay smooth throughout, but the game's breakneck pace can be interrupted by the game's camera. The game's linear pace does a decent job of showing you where to go, but the game can get frantic in wide-open areas, where a cliff can catch you by surprise. In worse cases, the camera can mistarget a badnik, costing the player not only a hit, but the rings. The camera, though a definite improvement, isn't perfect. Another serious problem is some of the difficulty, which is divided amongst teams. For example, Team Rose's levels are shorter and much easier, while Team Dark's levels will put even Sonic veterans to the test. Since all of these stories must be completed to finish the game in its entirety, this can be frustrating. In addition to these problems, the voice acting can sound off far too much during gameplay. Characters will sound off with repeated hints or annoying quips. It's not horrible, but can easily become tiresome.

One of the biggest improvements is the Special Stages. Unlike the Sonic Adventure games, Special Stages make a triumphant return. By collecting special keys in levels and completing a level with them without being attacked, the player can enter a Special Stage to earn a Chaos Emerald. The Special Stages throw color at the player along a circular path, where the player must collect orbs to speed up to the Emerald. The stages are full of challenge, but never seem impossible. They're also some of the best looking sequences in the game.

As far as replay value, Sonic Heroes has all the bases covered. The grade system returns, with multiple missions for multiple grades. Once a level is completed with a team, it can be replayed with a different objective, like collecting rings, reaching the finish line in time, or destroying a certain number of enemies. Also, with four stories to complete, there's plenty to do, even though some of the levels are the same. Some more missions would've been better, but there's plenty of things to do in Sonic Heroes after the game's story is completed.

Graphically, the game is a step above Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. Classic and familiar environments exist in Sonic Heroes, from lush greenery to casino pinball tables. The textures are very well done, though can appear a bit messy in some places. Cutscenes are extremely good to watch, with detailed video and stunning effects. Audio, despite the annoying voice acting, is good. Crush 40 remains an important factor and the band's rock sound is still extremely well done in the themes. Multiple music themes sound for each team, and the level themes provide a great amount of character.

Pros
+ Much faster than previous 3-D Sonic games
+ Special Stages are a rush
+ Plenty of replay value
+ Bright and colorful graphics
+ Team aspect is executed well

Cons
- Camera isn't perfect
- Voice acting can get annoying
- Not the “perfect Sonic game”

Sonic Heroes is a welcome improvement for 3-D Sonic games. Despite initial doubts, the Team gameplay is surprisingly fluid and switching on the fly isn't as difficult as originally thought. The level design is pretty well done, with plenty of interesting twists arising behind the beautiful graphics. For the most part, the game follows a faster pace, but while Sonic Heroes is a step in the right direction towards the perfect Sonic game, not everything is executed to its fullest. The camera still remains a critical problem and the game's team aspect sacrifices the breakneck pace that the Sonic franchise is known for. Some of the levels (especially the Chaotix levels) suffer from an annoyingly slow pace. Also, the voice acting is pretty sub-par, and hearing the teammates sound off every five seconds is sure to get annoying after a while. Don't go into Sonic Heroes expecting a purely, breakneck, adrenaline rush; it really doesn't deliver to its fullest. However, anyone looking for a solid platformer with plenty of style, gameplay, and replay value will definitely like Sonic Heroes, because it definitely succeeds there.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/06/06


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