Review by horror_spooky

"The beginning of the end"

One of the main reasons that I got a GameCube was simply to experience Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. Growing up, I only owned Nintendo and Sony systems, and as such I had never had a chance to experience a Sonic game beforehand. I absolutely loved Adventure 2 and it was great for a variety of reasons; the game had amazing multiplayer, an addictive Chao Garden to mess around with, and very solid single player gameplay. Due to this, I was very pumped when Sega announced Sonic Heroes, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it for at least a similar experience to the one I had with Adventure 2.

Instead, I got smacked right in the face. Sonic Heroes is one of those games that are just barely playable, rarely provided a fun experience, and is difficult for all of the wrong reasons.

The main gimmick in this game is that instead of just controlling one character at a time like in the previous game, you can control three characters at once, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are four teams and they all have their own story with small variations. For example, playing as Team Sonic will give you the main game experience as it is considered normal mode, but playing as Team Rose will give you an unbelievably easy experience as it is easy mode. Team Dark is hard mode and Team Chaotix is a whole different experience because instead of just getting to the end of the level like all the other teams, you must complete various tasks like destroying every robot in the level or collecting things.

Each team has its fast guy, tough guy, and flying guy. The fast guys are basically used for minor platforming and combat, but they are also, obviously, the fastest out of the group. The tough guys are used more often to fight enemies and they can break through obstacles, while the flying guys can hover around for a few seconds and can also be used effectively in some combat. This whole team thing could have been a brilliant idea, but some major flaws hold it back.

Firstly, the controls are sometimes unresponsive, meaning that you will try to switch between your teammates and have to hit the buttons more than once or sometimes you will be switched to the partner that you didn't even pick. That is just pure laziness on the developer's part.

The other problems occur due to flaws with each of the characters you can play as. The “wind” attack that the fast characters can do often doesn't work right, the homing attack is even more annoying to use than before, and cheap deaths are more abundant than the freaking floating rings. The power guys will sometimes go sliding right off the edge with a simple press of a button, and the checkpoints are placed at really annoying areas around the level, meaning that the game is sometimes too easy and other times ridiculously frustrating.

Some hardcore Sonic fans may enjoy the difficulty that Sonic Heroes brings to the table and they may also be able to appreciate the 2D platforming feel the game provides, but the like I said, the game is difficult for all the wrong reasons. Cheap deaths are everywhere, checkpoints are placed around almost sporadically, and you only get a set number of lives until you are forced to start an entire lengthy level over.

One of the great things about Sonic Adventure 2: Battle is that it provided two different story modes, one for the good guys and one for the bad guys. What made that great was that not only was the plot pretty different, but the levels were way different, providing for two different gameplay experiences. Sonic Heroes had the chance to improve upon this since there are technically four different stories you can play through, but the opportunity was wasted because all four stories are way too similar and the levels are very nearly identical. This means that you will get bored of the game pretty fast and may not even have the inspiration to get that “last story”.

The actual levels are sometimes cleverly designed to provide a nice sense of speed, but other times they are just frustrating. There are secret areas that you can reach that reward you with absolutely nothing and the poor controls can sometimes hamper what could have been a pretty good platforming experience. The wretched combat doesn't help either. On the bright side, there are some pretty cool things you can to like speed through a ton of rings with Sonic and “level up” to make your characters somewhat more effective, but even these minor things don't reach their full potential.

Instead of the amazingly addicting Chao Garden we were treated to in the previous Sonic game, we get a very shoddy mini-game that involves running down a pipe, collecting balloons, and chasing after a floating diamond. That's right. They replaced Chao Garden with a mini-game. The thing is, to even get to this mini-game you have to collect a key and then not take any damage throughout the rest of the level. On top of that, in order to even complete the game fully, you have to collect three diamonds in these stages which is just downright frustrating.

A pretty neat concept is the “Team Blast” moves that each team can perform, but as Sonic Team was starting to score some points, they dropped the ball. None of the Team Blasts are any fun to watch and they are just a waste of time. Hell, some of them even hinder your progress, like the after effects of Team Dark's Team Blast which freezes everything momentarily, meaning you will have to sit there for a few seconds twiddling your thumbs.

Well, one of the main reasons why Sonic Adventure 2 was such a great game was because of its multiplayer. Surely they just lifted the multiplayer from that game, spiffed it up a little, and shoved it on here, right? Well, I wish I could say that, but they really messed up with the multiplayer, too. You don't even have all of the multiplayer modes available to you from the start, meaning that you are forced to trudge through the awful single-player experience. The races aren't nearly as fun because there is less focus on rail grinding and the battles are mindless button mashing fests. There are other multiplayer modes you can unlock but they are more or less slight variations on the first two. I really had hope for the game in this department.

Well, Dr. Eggman is at it again I guess. The story doesn't really develop into anything awesome like other games in the series and to get all the meat you'll have to actually go through all the damn teams' stories, which is almost indescribably tedious and nauseating. There are some “twists” that fall flat on their face thrown in there, but if you want a short summary of the basic plot, please re-read the first sentence of this paragraph.

Surprisingly, Sonic Heroes looks pretty decent. The draw distance is nice, but other parts of the game look a little too generic. Character models are great and the cut-scenes are nicely animated, even though they get a little on the bland side. This is where the praise ends because after this you are treated to plenty of glitches where you will sometimes fall right through the floor as well as go through plenty of other objects besides the ground you walk on.

Even though it was corny, I absolutely loved the music in Sonic Adventure 2. Sure, it was a terrible sham of rock music, but it was still catchy and plenty fun to listen to. Thankfully, the soundtrack in Sonic Heroes isn't too much of a step back, but it still doesn't have that lasting value that Sonic Adventure 2 does. Voice acting is decent, though the voice actors really don't ever have anything important to say, and they sometimes repeat their lines to the point of absolute annoyance.

Assuming you can force yourself to look past all the awful glitches and cheap deaths that you will surely encounter with this experience, Sonic Heroes will probably last you somewhere around ten hours, and that includes even collecting all of those pesky gems. After that, you can try to unlock some things by doing near impossible feats (getting an “A” rank in this game is practically futile), messing around with the very lazy multiplayer, or you can enjoy some of the game's better moments with a CG theater. Still, even with all this thrown in, I can't imagine most gamers even bothering to finish the game, but if you do, I bet you'll have about twelve hours of gameplay during your time with Sonic Heroes.

Throughout this entire review, I have pretty much bashed Sonic Heroes right into the ground, but if you read closely, you will find some good things that can be found in this game that keep it from being complete garbage. I couldn't recommend this game to anyone, unless they are a crazed Sonic fan. Even then, I think they'll only pretend to enjoy this game to keep their loyalty in check with Sega because I honestly wish I would have stopped playing this series after Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. Almost everything since has been an utter disappointment.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/25/08, Updated 10/08/08

Game Release: Sonic Heroes (US, 01/05/04)

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