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Sonic Heroes Review for Xbox
Posted on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 @ 01:18:36 am E.S.T

When Sonic Adventure was released on the Dreamcast back in September of ’99, Sega fans everywhere raved about the new concept of taking their beloved 2D running machine and porting him to a powerful console. At the time, the game was stunning. With only camera angle problems and minor gameplay glitches riding against the title, it seemed as if Sonic Adventure was the start of something fantastic. Five years later I'm sad to report to you that while a few additions (mostly characters) have been added to the mix, the latest Sonic title is just Sonic Adventure all over again, with camera glitches and all.

Like the previous 3D Sonic installments, Sonic Heroes will have gamers performing three familiar tasks in almost every level: grinding, jumping, and running. While taking this all into account, it’s a relatively good system of gameplay, but it gets ridiculously repetitive. Most of the time you’ll find that by simply holding “up” on the analog stick you can get through a majority of the levels with ease, which just gets redundant and boring. This gets so boring that at one point in the game I had a rubber band pulling the analog stick up on my GameCube controller while I sat back played my Game Boy Advance. Even with this simplistic gameplay, there are numerous parts in the game where you’ll constantly fall off an edge or die somehow due to the poorly developed control system. Grinding is very similar to running in the sense that 95% of the time it’s possible to simply hold in the “fast-grind” button and finish a segment of rail. One of the biggest disappointments of this variety lies in the boss battles, because the bosses are idiotically easy to defeat. In one specific instance my left hand sat in paralyzed while my right hand was pressing the jump/attack button and I still defeated the boss.

Tails can fly, how typical.
Tails can fly, how typical.

There’s also the aspect of controlling multiple characters at once. Now this is obviously Sega’s gimmick for this game, so it’s expected that this triple-character-controlling addition should be what sets this title apart from the previous installments of the Sonic variety. On each team, there are basically 3 types of characters: the speedy kind (Sonic), the ones that fly (Tails), and the kind that excel specifically in strength. (Knuckles). Various levels contain certain obstacles that only one of the three can accomplish. For example, if an enormous wall blocks your path, Knuckles will doubtlessly have capability of blasting through it, while our friend Tails is able to increase the team’s vertical leap three fold. And Sonic’s chief capability hasn’t changed at all over the years, because his matchless aspect is still the ability to run really, really fast. The other three teams, excluding the Sonic team, are more or less different degrees of difficulty, rather than separate game modes.

Levels designs resemble past three-dimensional areas in the other games, and are still, for the most part, linear and predictable. It does, however, seem like the developers tried to emulate the classic 2-D levels in a full three dimensions. There are multiple casino/pinball levels, but unfortunately controlling Sonic, or anyone else, is extremely blocky and awkward. Other blasts from the past like the giant mushrooms that characters jump on make appearances in the game, which gives it a slightly homier feeling for old-school gamers. It’s almost certain, though, that in any given level (apart from boss areas) you’ll find loops, straight-aways, grind-rails, and platforms of some sort. The fairly-repetitive design leaves much to be desired, especially when considering this is the third time we’ve seen these patterns three times now.

Graphically, Heroes is a small step up from Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, and the re-vamped Sonic Adventure for GameCube. In one-player mode, the visuals are lucid and crisp with a near-constant framerate. Since most of the characters have little to render, their animations are smooth. Detailed environments feature a vast color scheme that gives off a variety of different “feelings” to each level. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback to the game, graphically, is the glitchy camera. Apparently, it’s possible to control the camera by pressing the L and R buttons, but good luck actually getting the camera to work together. Sonic’s so-called “smartcam” is, on the contrary, exceptionally unintelligent in the sense that it will either randomly change angles or concentrate on looking ahead in a linear fashion. Also, it should be noted that in 2-player mode, the framerate drops dramatically to a low 10 to 20 frames-per-second.

I hope ya like to spin.
I hope ya' like to spin.

The audio for this game is nothing special at all. A mixture of Sonic-esque sound effects correspond with character movements in a similar manner as in the previous games. Obviously, since you are constantly repeating the same actions with your team, you’ll be hearing them a lot. However, it’s not the actual sound effects that will get you annoyed, but rather the side-comments each character makes when jumping or striking an enemy. Hearing Knuckles say words like “Shih!” and “Oo-rah!” over and over again will make you wish echidnas had no mouths. Along the lines of speaking parts, you can correctly assume that the same bad voice actors from the previous games have come back to record each scantily spoken cut-scene. (And no, they’re still not synched with the visuals.) All of the in-game music is just dandy. Each track is neither really bad, nor really good, which is slightly disappointing considering the wicked-awesome tunes Sonic Adventure 2 had (which I still carry around with me on my MP3 player).

Pure and simply put, if you like the game, there’s plenty of replay, but if you’re like me, all of the bonus levels in the world couldn’t make me want to spend immense amounts of time with it. Though there are a few unlockables, once you play through the game with each team (though I doubt you’ll even want to do that) the game’s pretty empty. Playing with two people is basically just as fun as it was in older titles, but when considering that this game is mainly a one-player adventure, multiplayer seems more like a mediocre add-on rather than a separate mode of play.

Overall, all this game really made me want to do is play Sonic Adventure 2 again (which, mind you, is step up from Heroes). With sloppy controls and extremely frustrating camera angles, there’s not much entertainment to squeeze out of this game. It seems that anytime Sega’s hard-pressed for new ideas for their mascot, they decide to add more characters. I’m half-expecting the next Sonic title to be something like “Sonic Armies: with 46 all-new characters!” If you’re a hardcore Sonic fan and have sincerely enjoy the Sonic Adventure games in the past, then there’s no reason not to own this game, but don’t expect too much out of it. It’s only worth a rental, if that much, to everyone else.

Review By: Dacvak - 1036 Reads

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