Review by Malorkus
The demise of the Dreamcast saw both Sega and Sonic Team at a crossroads. Sonic was clearly still a viable franchise in spite of becoming a 3rd party asset and a mixed reception to the two Adventure games. In addition, fans just did not know what they wanted at the time (and arguably still do not). Still tinkering with Sonic in 3D but wanting to break free of the Adventure formula, they created Sonic Heroes - a new multi-platform Sonic title that brought back old characters among new ones, and ditched the occasionally unnecessary story elements of the Adventure games for something more straightforward. Gone would be the tedious fishing and treasure-hunting stages in favor of more linear platform stages that focused on speed. Unfortunately, they ended up making only one-quarter of a game, and then slapped it over four times in an attempt to pass it off as a full new experience.
Dr. Eggman ignorantly informs Sonic of his plan through a letter, saying that in 72 hours, the world will be his. Sonic's up for the challenge, bringing Tails and Knuckles along too. Meet Team Sonic. Meanwhile, perverted fan art favorite Rouge the Bat sneaks into Eggman's abandoned laboratory and finds a capsule containing Shadow the Hedgehog and a robot named E-123 Omega. Team Dark forms to seek revenge on Eggman for locking them up. Amy Rose is relaxing on the beach with Cream the Rabbit, who is searching for her friend. And that big idiot Big the Cat is also there, for Froggy's gone missing. Again. As Team Rose, the three decide to search for their missing comrades. And lastly, a retired detective agency known as Team Chaotix is resting in their old office when they suddenly get a call. It's their first case in years, as someone is in need of detective help from Charmy and friends. Unfortunately, they picked a bad time to come back.
Sonic Heroes does not have you play as just one character, as you instead control three at the same time. The teamwork gimmick drives everything, with each character falling into one of three categories Speed, Power, or Flying. Obviously Sonic is a speed character, and he and other characters in the category can use spin jumps that home in on enemies, swirl around poles, and jump between walls. Power characters, such as Knuckles, specialize in breaking down blockades. Flying characters do what you would expect them to fly. Not for very long, mind you, but they can hover above large chasms and launch teammates in lightning balls. Unfortunately, the teamwork system is its own worst enemy. You are so tied to it that you have no freedom whatsoever. The game has you switching between teammates every three seconds or so, making each stage a tedious and repetitive romp. The momentum suffers because you are repeatedly interrupted by having to do some menial task with another character.
Flying characters have it the worst. You control them stacked on top of the other two characters, making any non-aerial movement virtually impossible. This also results in the lack of overall speed, which Sonic games have built their foundation upon. The stages are much longer than those in the Sonic Adventure games. Each lasts anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes, which becomes really tedious. A handful are fun, like speeding through the bustling skyline of Grand Metropolis. But most are a bore, such as fighting through the extremely long halls of Mystic Mansion, or struggling through a pinball machine in Casino Park that depends entirely on luck. The camera, a burden of the Sonic Adventure games, is somehow even worse here. It's impossible to turn the camera around. If you pass an important object, there is no turning back, as the camera permits you from doing so. Half your deaths in the game will be from the camera getting trapped behind a wall, not allowing you to see what's happening to your character.
The game's repetition is only enhanced by the differences between each team. Why? There virtually isn't one. Each team goes through the exact same 14 stages as one another, with only minor changes such as enemy count. This means you have seen everything after playing one-quarter of the game. If you play through the game with one team, you have basically played through all of them. Team Dark's stages may be slightly harder than the others, but they are vaguely different. Team Chaotix actually has different objectives, but the stage layout is exactly the same. Their objectives include collecting objects or defeating enemies as you go through the level. These take a very long time and are boring, tedious, and amount to "busy work" to lengthen the game's duration. If you can muster up the will power, each stage gives you a ranking for how quickly you completed it.
Sonic Heroes is also glitch-ridden as hell. You could be falling and suddenly freeze in mid-air, forcing you to reset the entire game. The multi-player mode is alright, even though it has very little to offer. You can compete in races or battles, and more modes are unlocked with the more emblems you collect. The races were one of my favorite aspects of Sonic Adventure 2. Unfortunately, the races in Sonic Heroes are extremely short, and only cover about one-quarter of the actual stage. Miscellaneous races, like the bobsled races, are also far too short-lived for their own good. There are better and harder races to unlock, but they require so many emblems that most players will never see them. The game's soundtrack is one of its better points, being fun and cheesy but rarely embarrassingly so like the infamous Knuckles rap. Character voices, on the other hand, were most likely recorded at some random pre-school. Remember Tails' annoying 8-year-old voice? Well, this time, he sounds like he's four. The others are not much better.
Sonic Heroes was an interesting idea that ultimately turned out to be the final tipping point in Sonic's decline to despair. The teamwork system is its own worst enemy. There is no freedom, no speed, and no fun. Playing with speed characters would be fun if the constant switching did not interrupt your time with them. That, combined with the excess technical errors, makes for an almost unplayable game. It's not that a teamwork system is impossible to make good in a Sonic game, as Sonic Advance 3 did it beautifully. But that particular title gave you complete freedom with your character. Sonic Heroes only puts limits. The game also has a weirdly prominent number of bugs, and having to play through each stage four different times just reeks of a rushed and lazy product. This game is anything but heroic.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Originally Posted: 03/19/07, Updated 01/03/17
Game Release: Sonic Heroes (US, 01/05/04)
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