Review by CosmicFalcon

"A definite Sonic boom!"

Well... I've waited a long time for this game. It has been one of the more hyped up of the recent Sonic games, mostly because of its new three character game play and its release on all three major consoles. I picked up this game on the EU release date, and I must say I am overall thoroughly pleased.

I was somewhat disappointed with the previous Sonic Adventure games. These were Sonic's first real jump into the world of 3D gaming. For this Sonic Team decided to add new styles of game play to go alongside the regular speediness of the Sonic genre. Mostly these other formats - such as treasure hunting and the dreaded fishing - were met with anger from the many veteran Sonic fans. Sonic Heroes does away with these slower styles of playing and Sonic Team promised us that it would be a return to Sonic's roots. I was brought up with the Mega Drive (Genesis) Sonic the Hedgehog games so needless to say I was pleased at this prospect. The next thing I heard about the game was that it would sport a new style of game play where, instead of playing as one character as in the previous instalments, gamers would control a team of three heroes. This news was met with mixed responses, as some saw it as a new gimmick to make sales. Personally I liked the idea, and no matter how much the original Sonic idea was loved, it simply isn't enough to keep churning out games that are fundamentally the same, as Sega seem to be doing with the Sonic Advance series.

But enough of the history lesson, on with the review...

GAMEPLAY

This was the big thing for Heroes, the new game play system. I couldn't wait to try it out. As it turns out, the team game play works pretty well. It is simple enough to change your team leader, and doing so hardly disrupts game play. The transition is smooth; you'll find yourself speeding down a path as Sonic, seeing enemies up ahead, seamlessly switch to Knuckles - where you'll slow down rather than jerkily stop - to take out the robots. It is a shame that they placed monitors everywhere to tell you what character to use, though, rather than letting the player use their brains. Sonic Team were true to their word, the speed and roller coaster feeling is definitely back, as well as the slight hint of puzzles and obstacles that the 2D games challenged us with.

However, it isn't all praise on the game play front. The poor camera that haunted the Adventure games is back. I found it slightly more noticeable in Heroes, but not horrible. Many people repeatedly talk about how the camera causes needless deaths, but this rarely seems to happen for me in any of Sonic's 3D outings. It is generally best not to use the camera controls, as they will cause you more problems rather than solve any. Moreover, on some levels there are areas where the camera physically prevents you from surviving. You'll bounce of a couple of springs; head back toward the camera and have to hold forward to land on the rails. The only problem is, forward is the wrong way, and making any moves while the camera is facing the wrong way will cause death. This is more the level's fault then the overall camera work, and any magnificent manoeuvre tends to cause a zoom-out, which throws off your controls.

Another flaw in game play is just that - the magnificent manoeuvres. When you hit a loop, all you have to do is merely hold forward and you'll pull it off. Anything else sends you to your doom. Rarely there are portions where you'll seem to have no control, as if you're just telling Sonic to ''keep running'' and he's doing the rest.

The enemies in this game have a small variety; many are the same with minor differences. The majority of robots are easy to destroy, and there's a big leap between those and the ones that are significantly harder to beat. Switching to your Power character and mashing B can generally beat most, however. While it is a distraction from holding forward and jumping, it proves little challenge. The bosses are much the same, in that you can beat them mostly by repeatedly tapping A with your Speed character. There are exceptions to this of course.

It's harder to point out the good things in game play because it is simply good overall. The fun factor of this game is intense, and I can see myself playing it again and again, even once I've beaten it all. As you progress you unlock 2-Player modes to keep you occupied - providing you have opponents to play. It takes a while before new 1-Player features are unlocked, but once they are they're sure to keep you occupied if you are intent on beating them.

A very good 9/10

GRAPHICS

I have to say that this is definitely one of the games strong points. The CG scenes, while few and far between, are deliciously beautiful. Sonic Team have evidently put a lot of time into these scenes and it has paid off. While the characters seem somewhat shinier than before, and their mouths have moved to the sides of their faces, which seems odd sometimes, everyone is looking better with the aid of the GameCube's awesome graphical capacity. What they've done here could have been done with the ports of the two Sonic Adventure games, had they put more time into them.

In the levels the quality of graphics doesn't fail them. The surroundings are bright and detailed - the background of Rail Canyon Zone is a spectacular view. The characters are looking good, although when Sonic falls to the ground, the way his quills spread out looks somewhat odd. Also, when attacking with the Homing Attack, characters seem to flip around more, and Sonic's spikes tend to fly around a lot. Not really a problem, I just found this quite odd. The enemies are simple in design to begin with, but when you get further into the game you will see some nice designs such as the 'Hammer Bots'. Sometimes, however, the graphics don't do so well under close scrutiny. But you won't really have time for that when speeding through the levels at Sonic speed!

Despite the graphical intensity of the game the single player mode never falls below 60 fps - which is very impressive, and necessary for a game so heavily based upon speed. In multiplayer mode the frame rate falters slightly, down as much as to 30 fps, but it still doesn't cause too much hassle in my opinion.

I give this 10/10, no major problems, and hardly any minor ones.

SOUND

Sonic Heroes truly has a wonderful sound track, and I put the sound test to good use. Each level has music perfectly suited for it, whether it is a casino city or a fleet of ships high in the air. The team themes - replacing the character themes of previous games - can have cheesy lyrics, but they don't let the overall feeling down. My personal favourites are the themes of Team Dark and Team Chaotix. The themes fit the characters just as well as the level music. Boss battles are accompanied by tunes of the same standard, and there are no obvious places where the music falters.

The sound effects get full marks for nostalgia. Veterans of the Sonic series will recognise various sounds from hitting pinball bumpers to bouncing off forest mushrooms. Any new sound effects fit in well. I find it hard to comment about sound effects for this game because of the way the blend so nicely into the level and game play, they're almost part of the music and level you're playing. Whether old or new, the sound effects certainly give the game a Sonic feeling.

Now for the voices. Many reviews have given low marks here, saying that you'll want to play the game on mute. I find that I disagree. While the voices of Tails, Big and Amy can get annoying (especially when they must talk every time you switch to them in the levels, and then some) they are more than bearable. All the voices fit the characters. Big would definitely talk with that slow and dull tone, Amy is more than annoying, and Tails - let's face it - is just a kid, even if he is a genius and a hero. Espio has a great voice, I think, which fits his character perfectly.

I will say 7/10 for this, because while the voices do fit, Amy's ''I'll take the lead!'' can get very annoying very quickly.

STORY

Some may say ''What story?'' and I don't blame them. Unlike the Adventure games, Sonic Team have very much taken the emphasis off of having a deep storyline. However, it is merely simple, not non-existent. The starts of the stories are almost too simple. Team Chaotix' story offers the most mystery right off the bat, as does Team Dark's if you've played previous games.

Heroes brings the return of three of the Chaotix - Espio the Chameleon, Charmy Bee, and Vector the Crocodile. It is nice to see these characters back, as I liked them when they first appeared in Knuckles Chaotix. It is best to note that Chaotix was not a Sonic Team game. This explains why the trio have had their characters completely revamped, and revamped well.

The story begins to pick up towards the end of the game - with the exception of Team Rose. However, it is still simple because it allowed Sonic Team to add the variety of level designs that where present in Mega Drive games. Having the choice of a deep story or lively, varying levels, I would choose the latter. You have to keep in mind that story has never been a driving factor for Sonic. If you want a good story, watch a movie, or play an RPG.

Here's an 8/10 for they could have had a little more on it.

GAME LIFE

Sonic Heroes is filled with long levels that can take you anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes to complete, or even more, on your first try. And that isn't even counting any times that you die. Some have been known to take a full half hour to complete some of the later levels. Because of this the initial game life for Heroes is impressive.

As you go along you will unlock 2-Player modes, of which there are many. If you have friends or family who will enjoy a good Sonic VS match then you have an almost immortal game right here. Otherwise, these unlockable will mean little to you. There are two unlockable features for 1-Player, the second of which is a challenge to unlock and even more to beat. If you really enjoy Sonic and want a good hard challenge then this will be for you, otherwise once beaten the game doesn't give you anything new.

On the other hand, Heroes hardly needs anything new. I find myself constantly going back to play some of my favourite levels, and probably will continue to if and when I complete the game 100%. This replayability will probably appeal more to the Sonic fans, whether they're new to the franchise or not.

This gets an 8/10, only for small or nonexistent unlockables and rewards.

OVERALL
Total Score: 42/50
Final Score: 8.4/10
Recommended - a great game, but better for fans.

Rent Or Buy?
This is a definite buy for any and all Sonic fans, whether you've played one Sonic game before or all of them. Otherwise, I still say buy, unless you have a slight or great disliking for the blue blur, in which case rent it first.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/11/04


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