Review by GavLuvsGA
"A great addition to the Sonic series"
I was excited about this game for some time, having been a Sonic fan since I first played it when I was 13. I was not disappointed with this game. This is an instant classic. It actually shocks me to see so many people slagging it off as the "Worst Sonic game ever", when there have been far worse games than this (notably Sonic Labyrinth and Sonic Blast for the Game Gear). Sonic returns in a completely original 3D game, which I personally think is excellent.
* Gameplay - 8/10
The new aspect of this game is the Team System. Four teams of three characters (Team Sonic, consisting of classic characters Sonic, Tails and Knuckles), Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge and newcomer E-123 Omega), Team Rose (Amy, Cream and Big) and Team Chaotix (Espio, Charmy and Vector for Knuckles; Chaotix) are available to play as. The team system takes a little while to get used to, but after a while it is good. The teams consist of a speed character, a flying character and a power character.
Another of the plus points about gameplay is the fact that many characters get better roles. Tails, for example, is no longer in that annoying machine (The Tornado) from Sonic Adventure 2/Sonic Adventure 2: Battle), and gets his own cool moves. Knuckles and Rouge are given normal levels (a first for Rouge), rather than spending their time hunting emerald shards. Big's previous levels consisted solely of fishing, which a lot of people found infuriating. Here, Big is given normal platform action, and Amy is just considerably easier to control than previously.
The Team Blast option is a fun feature, as well as the Level Up system, which makes gameplay easier as you get more. Team Blast allows you to eliminate all enemies on screen, as well as adding extra features for some teams. Team Dark activate Chaos Control, which freezes time. But this isn't always useful, as sometimes killing the enemies opens a door or makes a switch available for you to progress, and you must wait for time to un-freeze before you can continue.
There are a number of different gameplay styles. Team Sonic's is average, Team Dark's is hard. Team Rose's is easy (a little too easy in places, though), and Team Chaotix take part in miscellaneous tasks for a mysterious client, which range from normal straightforward levels to treasure hunting missions.
The levels consist of a wide range of different types, with the best in my opinion being the "Haunted Castle" levels (Hang Castle and Mystic Mansion). The game does, however, miss the classic underwater levels, something that would have been cool. Another gripe is that a few of the later levels put a bit too much emphasis on fighting rather than speeding through the levels in the tradition of the Sonic games, particularly the Final Fortress level, which features a number of giant robots that take practise to actually kill. Another cool feature is the return of the "Casino" level. Sure, we've seen this before (Casino Night Zone, Casino Paradise Zone, Casinopolis), but there are some cool additions. Casino Park has a special "VIP" table (easily accessible with Team Chaotix, and available as a cool secret with other teams), where you can win (and lose) twice as much as usual. Also, Bingo Highway brings about an all-new style of gameplay, the Bingo slides, where you can win a large number of rings by lining up numbers, which are randomly placed in rows. Another cool feature is the inclusion of frogs that make it rain, in two of the levels, which can cause plants to grow, providing extra platforms to stand on, or in some cases, kill plants.
The bosses are generally good. While the Eggman bosses continue the annoying "chase" format from Sonic Advance 2, there are some interesting variations. The team v team battles are interesting and make the four stories more unique, but once you realise how to do them, they are over too quickly. Also, there are some interesting battles against waves of robots. The minor bad guys are a bit of a disappointment. The old Sonic games had lots of really cool looking bad guys, such as Coconuts, the tree-dwelling chimpanzee, and the Caterkiller from a number of the genesis versions. Here, the robots are all generic-looking ones, and there are very few enemies that are actually unique to the levels (the exception being the pumpkin head ghosts found in the haunted castle areas).
The bonus stages are also worthy of note. The format is somewhat original, with having to collect spheres in order to increase your play time in order to reach the end of the stage, or in order to catch up with the emerald, rather than the rather tired "Collect XXX rings" format. Nothing like as frustrating as the stages that featured in Sonic Advance and Sonic Advance 2, your only entry requirement is to pick up one of several special keys and reach the end of the level without taking a hit. To make things easier, you only need to get each one once, so you can pretty much breeze through the levels with the key using Team Rose. The difficulty of the bonus levels is, for once, just right. There are some problems, such as the fact that sometimes the teams will start running towards the screen instead of chasing the emerald (I have no idea why this happens).
Two player mode is interesting, providing a few "new" levels, but consists solely of a "race" format. Also, as with Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, I would have liked to have seen an option to play against the computer, rather than needing two human players (considering that my sister is usually at college or too busy to play computer games, I don't get the full satisfaction of this mode).
The game is also not without the occasional glitch, such as characters falling through the floor, and bizarre things happening to my team after performing team blast while in fly formation, but on the whole the gameplay is good.
* Story - 7/10
Okay, the story is a bit thin compared to the Sonic adventure games. There are only a few cutscenes, and the stories are generally the three characters going on a long journey to find Eggman, but the characters are made interesting. There is an incredibly funny moment at the start of one of Team Chaotix's battle, which I will not spoil. The story improves somewhat at the end, with the plot explanation, and there are a couple of surprises. The ending is somewhat unresolved, and poses some questions, especially about Shadow, and I will feel immensely cheated if I don't see him in the next Sonic game, or indeed in his own game (which he fully deserves).
* Graphics/Sound - 9/10
The graphics are great, especially in the cutscenes. The music is good, with a number of memorable tunes (particularly Hang Castle and Mystic Mansion - yes, I love those levels). Most of the voice acting is up to scratch. I was a little disappointed with Tails' voice. Due to the fact that his original voice actor had to quit due to his voice breaking, a new one had to be cast. The result is Tails' voice being too high pitched. I can't stand Cream's voice either. But other voices (particulalry Sonic, Shadow, Eggman and a mystery bad guy whose identity I will not spoil) are still good.
* Play Time/Replayability - 7/10
The game doesn't take that long to beat, but getting all 120 emblems, and all 141 A rankings may take a while. The extra missions aren't really as good as those for Sonic Adventure 2:Battle, and in all honesty, they could have included a few more unlockable extras. Overall, this game is fun to replay, though.
* Final Recommendation - Buy. Particularly if you're a diehard Sonic fan like I am. This game will take you a while to get the full satisfaction that you deserve from it, and if you know anyone who likes Sonic, get it for them. This game is also available on PS2 and XBox, which is a bonus.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/04
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