Review by geotracker9

"Blue Streak Speeds By, Sonic the Hedgehog!"

I bought this game three days after its release. I hadn’t played a Sonic game since his Genesis days, and I was really looking forward to some old-school-loop-the-loop-run-as-fast-as-you-can-gameplay. You know, the classic Sonic formula. What did I get? Read on:

Story: 7/10
Ok, the story is almost exactly the same as every other 2-D Sonic game. Dr. Robotnik (a.k.a. Dr. Eggman) has stolen all seven of the Chaos emeralds once again, and it’s up to Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy to get them back and beat Eggman once again. So why did it get a 7, you ask. Simply because it’s a classic element in Sonic games, and considering this is Sonic’s first multi-platform jump, why would Sega mess with a good thing? Let’s just hope they spice it up a little bit if a sequel comes our way. In addition, some bad translation jobs on Sega’s part has the Chaos emeralds referred to as Chao emeralds. You’d think the company that created them would know how to spell it.

Graphics: 9/10
Let’s just say Sonic and his pals have never looked so good in 2-D. Everything is marble smooth, and it really shows the raw power of the GBA. Sonic actually looks like he’s running as fast as he is now, thanks in part to advanced character design and more sprites than on the Genesis. I had originally planned on giving this an 8/10, but I was playing it the other day and noticed for the first time that when Sonic jumps on a springboard, his back spines actually move from the wind! Now, Sonic Team definitely deserves high praises for that! My only gripe? The characters get kinda fuzzy looking when they go horizontal, although most of the time you never notice it because they’re moving so fast.

Controls: 10/10
This is where the game really shines. The controls are spot on and probably the most responsive yet. The slew of new moves for each character is a welcome addition as well. Sonic now has a summersault and can grind rails, tails can fly higher and perform a tailspin, Knuckles can do a three-punch uppercut combo, and Amy…well, let’s not get into Amy. Sure, she isn’t a bad character, but when you can’t do a standing spin dash or you have to rely on an additional button when you jump to attack enemies, it can seriously hinder your experience. In other words, yeah, stay away from her unless you want something new.

Gameplay: 8/10
This really hasn’t changed at all from the previous Sonic installments, and for us old-school fanatics, you’ll love every minute of it. Your character runs and jumps through a level, collecting magic rings along the way. If you run into an enemy robot, you’ll loose all your rings and they will scatter across the screen. Each zone is divided into two acts. At the end of the second act, you will have to fight Dr. Robotnik or one of his robot creations. Then you move on to the next zone, etc. Sure, the formula is tired and true, but it just seems to work here. The Special Stages, which are hidden in certain levels, offer a unique view of your character falling down a pipe, collecting rings along the way. If you succeed, you reward is one of the seven Chaos emeralds, which you’ll need if you want to see the game’s true ending.

Music & Sound: 8/10
Now, many people gripe about how annoying the music is, but I love it. But what really kicks it up a notch is the fact that each act, not zone, has it’s own music. Had it been like previous Sonic games with one soundtrack for each zone, I probably would be going crazy right now. But Sega had the decency to add that little something that’s makes us all so happy. The sound effects from the jumping *boing* to the magic ring *ding* are all there, but there is no voice acting at all, which keeps the score from being perfect. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if, when you had Sonic stand still for a while, he just looks at you and goes “I’m waaaaaitiiiiing!”

Difficulty: Average/Easy
Sonic Advance is not a hard game, so younger players will feel right at home. In fact, I don’t even know why Sonic Team bothered letting you choose the difficulty level in the options menu (Easy or Normal) because it doesn’t change very much at all. So what about us older gamers? Well, there are some “surprisingly annoying” parts (like when spikes shoot out of the ground), and collecting all the emeralds is not easy, but you will, unfortunately, breeze through the game. But who wants to play a hard Sonic game anyway?

Replay: 7/10
Look, I like to play this game over and over, but that’s just me. I’ve heard plenty of complaining from other people how boring it gets, but that’s just their opinions. This is mine. Yet, the game is on the short side with only 14 levels. But some of them are really long (Egg Rocket Zone anyone?) and you just can’t help but play them over.

Modes of Play: 7/10
In addition to playing through the game as each of the four characters, there is also a Time Attack, in which you try to get through any level as fast as you can, and it even keeps records of your best times. There is also mutiplayer, but no one I know has a GBA so alas, I have been unable to play it and unable to grade it. Then there’s the Tiny Chao Garden. In it, you raise a Chao much like a digital pet by feeding it, petting it, and playing mini-games. The real purpose of it is to be able to transfer Chao data between Sonic Advance and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the GameCube. This is a pretty cool idea, but I don’t own a GameCube and will not utilize this function. This is bad, because transferring the data is the only way your Chao will evolve. So, the Chao Garden is nice, but it get’s boring after a while and the music sounds like something out of Sesame Street.

Overall: 8/10
This game is an instant classic, definitely worth your $40. The thrill of playing a Sonic game on a handheld is back, and it is a worthy successor to the old GameGear or Neo Geo ones. Rent it if you’re still iffy, but I’d recommend it in a heartbeat, especially because of the lack of quality GBA titles out right now.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/14/02, Updated 02/14/02

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