Review by Diocleziano

"Sonic sets out to redefine himself. For the most part, he succeeds, but not without problems."

Sonic the Hedgehog has finally arrived. The newest title in the Sonic series made a lot of claims before it's release, and thanks to some poor previous titles, it had a lot to prove. For the most part, it does reach those heights, but it is certainly not without it's flaws.

Story - 8/10

Certainly substantial for a Sonic game. There are admittedly a handful of cliches, but the story is heartfelt and honest, without the typical cheeseball stupidity frequently found in Sonic games of late. The three playable characters all have unique story paths to follow, that intersect with each other rather than play off each other. The result is 3 intriguing tales, all part of a greater whole, that actually all comes together and makes sense. The characters are adapting (Shadow, for instance, is finally beginning to come into his own, as opposed to his erratic behavior and constant personality switches of recent games). Also, in a nice twist of fate, the script is mercifully free of corny dialogue.

Graphics - 8/10

Truly impressive. The CGI cutscenes are simply gorgeous, no complaints on that front. The in-game graphics are impressive as well, but not without problems. In certain scenes, a close up of a character will reveal flat textures. It's not debilitating by any means, but it is noticeable. Also, there is a certain degree of popup on certain objects, which doesn't occur for any reason that I can determine. It isn't uncommon, for example, to see two pillars from somewhat far off, only to approach and suddenly realize that there is a wall between them. Finally, in some levels, most notably Tropical Jungle, there is a great degree of slowdown. It's not bad enough by any means to truly affect gameplay, but the fact that it is there at all doesn't make any sense, as it tends to occur in situations that the game normally handles without issue.

Sounds and Music - 8/10

The music is quality. There are a few memorable tunes throughout the game, some better than others. What stands out the most will be a matter of taste, but there is almost certainly something that will catch your ear. There definitely aren't any tunes that are unbearable; just not particularly memorable. The character theme songs are very good though, and an improvement over past themes. The sound effects are nothing to complain about. Some are interesting, some aren't. The voice acting is on par, at the very least. The new actors are improving a great deal, and the characters are sounding a lot more natural. Of course, there are a few actors who still seem to have a great deal of trouble learning how to emote, but overall it's a quality job.

Gameplay - 7/10

The simple fact here is that while a good bit has changed, a lot hasn't. First and most notably is the camera, the most frequent complaint of recent Sonic games. It's a mixed bag really. The level camera has improved, no doubt. It will no longer spaz out for no real reason, and you won't find yourself fighting the camera to move where you want it to. However, the problem is that it tends to move too high or low in certain situations. It may, for example, move too close to the ground for you to realize that there is a small gap in front of you. So, while you won't fight the camera, you do have to handle it on many occasions. The real problems with it arrive on several boss fights. Most notably is the battle with Egg-Cerberus, a giant robotic dog fought within the confines of a vast coliseum. In this case, the camera will frequently move up to a nearly top down view, completely obscuring the view of your surroundings. You'll wind up forcing the camera to move as you run, simply so you'll know where to move as to not get killed. There is clearly an issue when you have to move your view point to even be able to see an enemy that's 30 times the size of your character. Again, not debilitating, but certainly frustrating.

The controls, for the most part, are another story. While they certainly still aren't optimal, it's a noticeable improvement, especially over the last two games. The slipperiness has been essentially banished, and the movement is tight. The results are controls that are slick and responsive without being overbearing either way. Unfortunately, problems still rear their ugly head. In certain segments, which occur for no discernible reason (but almost primarily in Sonic's game) there will be an occasional bout of terrible stickiness or slipperiness. Notably, in Sonic's Mach Speed areas, where your control is limited to left, right, and jump, the controls become extremely sensitive, to the point where slightly tilting the joystick can cause you to overcompensate a great deal. It's possible to overcome this issue with practice, but that doesn't make it ok. Those areas are entertaining, and could have benefited a great deal from tighter control, or at the very least a way for the player to adjust the sensitivity of the stick.

Another frustrating note is the continued inclusion of "automatic" areas; places in certain levels where all you must really do is hold the stick up to keep your speed, and the game does the rest. Sonic's first level, Wave Ocean, is composed almost entirely of this sort of thing. It's interesting to watch, but tiresome to play. Thankfully, after that initial bout it is used very rarely throughout the rest of the game, but the series as a whole would do well to abolish it completely.

Moving on, there are essentially three gameplay types, based on the character you're using. Sonic's game is frantic and fast paced, high speed and quick reflexes. Shadow's game is still fast, but focuses a great deal more on combat, and he frequently finds himself battling dozens of enemies in a single area. The guns from his self titled game have been removed, but the vehicles remain. Thankfully, they have been improved a good deal in terms of control and usefulness, and they serve well to spice things up a bit and change the pace. Silver's game is surprisingly fun, feature a much slower pace with heavy combat. He's unable to physically attack enemies, but striking with objects using his "psychokinesis" is actually very fun and intuitive.

All three types work very well in their given situations. The helper characters all have their own styles, and while some are very slow, almost to the point of being clunky (Amy Rose comes to mind) they still work within their settings.

Interesting levels and some truly epic boss battles do make for a good time. There are definitely problems, but there is still a lot to enjoy here.

Playtime/Replay Value - 7/10

If you're only interested in the story mode, it certainly isn't short, but it isn't long either. As for everything else, the game will keep you busy, no doubt about that. There are a handful of unlockables, and there is definitely no shortage of things to collect and missions to complete. Perfecting every level to earn all of the 180 gold medals takes time. In this case, replay will really be what you make of it, but the options are definitely there in a big way if you choose to pursue them.

Recommendations -

If you're a happy Sonic fan with little to no complaints, there's no reason why you shouldn't head out and purchase this title. Have fun with it.

To wary Sonic fans who feel they have been burned before, you would do well to give it a rental first. There's a lot of new stuff here, but there is also a lot of the old "more of the same". By all means, at least give it a shot, but proceed with caution.

To those who haven't played a Sonic game before, or at least not any of the 3d titles, now is as good a time to start as any. But, if you are at all unsure, definitely rent first.

Overall Score - 7/10

Sonic the Hedgehog doesn't redefine the series the way Sonic Team probably hoped it would, but it is a step in the right direction. There is a lot to love, but there is also a lot on the opposite end of the spectrum. A mixed bag of epic proportions really. Still though, there are improvements. Hopefully it is a sign of good things to come.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/17/06

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