Review by Greliz
"A serious step up from SA2"
Anyone that played Sonic Adventure 2 could tell you how seriously flawed it was, from the small stuff like a multitude of cheap deaths and camera problems, to the bigger issues, mainly being forced into playing through irritating mech and treasure hunting levels, with very little focus on the speed element that has made the Sonic series so appealing. Thankfully with Sonic Heroes, Sonic Team's ditched the treasure hunting and the mech shooting and returned to something blessedly closer to the Sonic we all know and love. Well, kind of. This time around Sonic's paired up with Tails and Knuckles from the get go, and you have to use all the tools they have at their disposal to make it through the game alive. In addition, one element of the Sonic Adventure series has remained, multiple character stories to select, this time in the form of Team Rose (Amy, Cream, and Big), Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge, and E-123 Omega), and Team Chaotix (Vector, Espio, and Charmy).
Story: Robotnik's back, gonna take over the world, Sonic's gonna stop him, blah blah blah. I'm sure most of you know the drill by now.
The graphics are pretty similar to Sonic Adventure 2, though the levels and enemy designs are much brighter this time around, which I think makes it a lot more visually appealing.
The character models remain about the same in terms of quality, they're just a bit sharper this time through. There's also a handful of CG movies during the game that, albeit offering little story exposition in some cases, pull off some fluid animation very well. They seemed a bit blurry to me though, but I may be off on that.
On the music side, the vocal character themes are back, and just as cheesy. But no rap this time, thankfully. The stage music fits each area very well, and is a heck of a lot better than SA2, dropping the techno, jazz, and rap crap for themes harkening back to the days of 2D Sonic.
On the voice side, be prepared for some pain. While most of the voices are bearable, Cream has a voice capable of melting your brain into goo, Tails sounds like he's gotten a mean sinus infection since the last game, and Vector sounds like an obnoxious Eddie Valiant impersonator. He's still not as bad as Cream and Tails, though.
The first thing you may be wondering is the differences between the four teams. Team Rose acts as an easy mode of sorts, with shorter stages than the other teams. Team Sonic is pretty much the normal mode, with them blasting all the way through the stage. Team Dark's game is a lot like Team Sonic's, only with some path alteration and a lot more enemies. Team Chaotix's game is the oddball of the four, boasting mission based gameplay rather than just going all the way through the level; the missions are stuff like finding 10 crabs, sneaking past enemies, getting 200 rings, etc.
The game has 14 levels, which all of the characters go through, only with some path alteration to each. Think Sonic Adventure. Thankfully, Sonic Team was able to pull it off in a way that each team didn't feel like the same exact game. The game is back to having zones of sorts, with every two levels having the same theme, followed by a boss battle (more on those later). One thing you'll notice about the levels is that they're big. VERY big, with some lasting in excess of 10 minutes. Throughout the levels, you'll have to switch between your three characters (one speed, one flying, one power) to get past certain obstacles. The speed character is of course, best suited for the straightaways and loops of the stages, and using enemies as stepping stones with homing attack. The flying character can fly the other characters across gaps. The power character can break through certain walls and enemy shielding, and use air currents to get up to higher places.
The stages are laid out so you'll be constantly switching your lead character, but it never feels like a hassle or some sort of cheap gimmick. However, the stages are also tailored towards speed, featuring some excellent segments, particularly in Frog Forest and Egg Fleet. Granted, there's probably not a consistency of speed that one would hope for, though it is a lot faster than SA2. And really, it's not much fun jetting through a level without having to go through some obligatory jumping segments and puzzles now, is it?
Surprisingly enough, some of the later stages get pretty difficult, and it'll take you a few tries to get down how to get through them.
Combat has also evolved along with the team aspect of the game. First of all, Robotnik's robots no longer go down in one hit; they actually have life meters (about time he sprang for the stronger stuff). Second of all, some of the robots boast shields and other mechanisms to resist attack.
Luckily, because you have three characters on your team, you have access to three different modes of attack, depending on who's in the lead. The speed character can blow away shield, the flying character can take down flying enemies, and the power character can pretty much beat the snot out of everything. Your attacks can also be powered up by colored discs enemies drop at time. The last major aspect of the combat is the Team Blast, a powerful attack you can use once your blast meter is filled. It pretty much kills everything on screen and has an additional effect depending on the team.
As for bosses, they're a bit of a mixed bag. They ranged from absurdly easy to pretty frigging hard. There's team battles akin to the character vs. character matches in SA2, which are just irritating in general. Then we have robot battles, which consist of Robotnik hovering around the outside of a circular arena and throwing wave after wave of robots your way; kind of a cheap way to make a boss battle, but I actually find them a bit fun. Then we have the battles everyone looks forward to, the Robotnik battles. This time around, they're tailored a bit more like Sonic Advance 2, where you have to chase the boss down and try to get your hits in on him. Thankfully, it's a bit slower than in Sonic Advance 2, so you won't have much trouble keeping up with him. I would have preferred more Robotnik battles, since the 3D Sonic games have been severely lacking on them, being more reliant on pitting characters against one another, or making you fight progressively stronger versions of the same dang thing (I liked Chaos in SA1, I just don't like fighting him 5 billion times :P).
Grinding is also back, but is thankfully nowhere NEAR as bad as it was in SA2. Well, by that I mean it's easy to maneuver, otherwise they got downright EVIL with the grinding this time through; Rail Canyon is like SA2's Sky Rail hopped up on an Olympic pool full of steroids.
Oh, and Sonic Team FINALLY brought back proper special stages, where you have to chase down the chaos emeralds. You're placed in a tube and you have to collect colored spheres to fill up a meter you can use to boost your speed to chase down the emerald. Just watch out for fields of spiked balls.
As for problems with the game, it definitely has its share. While not very noticeable in some cases, the camera still comes back to bite you in the ass on occasion, putting you at arms with less than hospitable angles.
Cheap deaths can also be an issue, especially when attacking enemies; the power character runs right into the enemy when punching, and on narrower ledges it's a good bet you'll fall off the edge. But thankfully, you won't find yourself falling through floors to your death like some of the fun glitches we've seen in the past.
The distance you can fly with the flying formation also gets irritating; I can understand they can't go super far because they're carrying a heavy load, but the way it just kind of cuts out when your flight meter runs out can make for many many deaths.
With four teams to play through, it'll last you a good while, and since the true ending can only be unlocked by beating all four teams' games and getting all seven chaos emeralds, that offers a bit of incentive to play through them all. There's also the emblems to collect and A Ranks to obtain to unlock more two player stuff, so if you're a completist the game may last you in excess of twenty hours.
The game could be better if it wasn't for the usual camera problems and cheap deaths the game would be a lot better, but Sonic Team has given Sonic Heroes a much better presentation and feel than Sonic Adventure 2, and is definitely worth trying out. It's faster, more fun, and gets challenging to a degree. If the team element puts you off somewhat, rent it first, but quite honestly you won't even notice a difference in the core gameplay.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/11/04
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