Review: Sonic & The Secret Rings

A new generations brought with it a new venture as partners with Nintendo for SEGA, Sonic would feature on the Wii in a brand new exclusive adventure called Sonic Wildfire. Of course this would have to be renamed slightly…

SONIC & THE SECRET RINGS (WII)
Review by TA Black

In 2007, SEGA was slowly starting to come out of its Hedgehogus Horribulus. After the failure of SONIC the Hedgehog and the stigma of Shadow the Hedgehog, it seemed like SEGA could do no right. Many were saying the hog’s days were over and done with (despite a very positive reception from Sonic Rush – everyone seems to forget about that being a fantastic game, don’t they?). With the release of the Wii and its unique motion control system, they decided to try something different. Their solution was what sounded like a bad fanfiction – Sonic placed into the Arabian Nights story. Surely it can’t work…can it?

The result was a game that, although was maligned for its poor control scheme, was nonetheless a game that helped SEGA keep Sonic a viable franchise. Although the less said about the swordy-swingy sequel that killed the Storybook group, the better. But this game certainly was enjoyable, and it introduced a bunch of things that still carry over to this day.

The plot is, as expected, not important in a Sonic game. Simply put, Sonic is reading the story of the Arabian Nights, before seemingly being pulled into a mystical storybook realm by the Genie of the Ring, Shahra. She tells our blue hero about the Erazor Djinn, a being who is erasing the tales of the Arabian Nights. So Sonic, with help from Shahra, must seek down the legendary World Rings to not only try to stop Erazor, but to save Sonic’s life (who took an arrow to the knee – I mean, heart).

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There were also little extras that the game had that made it slightly different. Each level gave you a ranking based on your time and score – bronze, silver and gold. These acted like the rankings in other games, but as medals instead of letters. You could also get Fire Souls within levels, which unlocked items such as concept art. This would reappear in future games as the Red Rings in Generations and Colours. By far the most unique deviation was the exclusion of Super Sonic. Instead, a darker version of him called Darkspine Sonic was used, which hasn’t appeared since. Though given no game has used the World Rings since, it’s kinda expected.

The key focus was the idea to tilt the Wiimote (in its lengthways style) to move Sonic left or right, with a flick of the controller to get him to boost and the pressing of A to jump. A simple control scheme, but it required a LOT of practise to master. It wasn’t the tightest of controls – frequently, you could get Sonic to fall off and into a hole, undoing all your work. With decent checkpoints, it did help reduce the need to redo levels again, but it did frustrate you if you had to redo the same bit over and over and over and over…

The game itself, actually, was really good. Once you got over the control scheme, the game was fast and fluid. There were about 100 missions, each one covering a different task or challenge. It could be “Clear the level without being hit” or “Defeat X enemies” – each one offering a different take on the levels the game has. Every mission you cleared netted you experience points, which levelled Sonic up. With levels, Sonic could “buy” skills to make it easier (or harder) to clear levels. This set in stone the idea of having skills to benefit Sonic, which was carried over to Unleashed and Generations (albeit in a different way). This adds to the life of the game and keeps it fresh.

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The music is okay for a Sonic game. The tracks help set the atmosphere of the Arabian Nights, but sadly aren’t overly memorable. The title track, however, certainly is as, in my opinion; Seven Rings in Hand is one of the more memorable title tracks of the recent set of games. The voice acting in this game is actually quite good. Mike Pollock once again excels as Dr Eggman as the King of Persia. Amy Palant and Dan Green do good turns as Tails as Ali Baba and Knuckles as Sinbad respectively. And Jason Griffiths finally settles into the role as Sonic as…well, Sonic. Certainly an improvement from the vocals done in Shadow the Hedgehog. Graphics wise, it certainly is nice and bright, and was a great example of the Wii’s hardware in its early life. It could’ve been more defined, but overall, not that shabby. The use of storybook-style cutscenes is an inspired idea and adds to the effectiveness of the story. It also, in my opinion, makes it look nicer – best to do 2D well than to do 3D not as well.

The game is, however, not without its flaws. The level system, although clever, certainly required grinding in order to help you get better skills as early as the 3rd world. And some of the missions do raise the difficulty curve to more a difficulty brick wall. The added multiplayer mode was a nice extra, but doesn’t add anything to the game and just seems unnecessary. But by far, the control scheme is the big problem. When discussing this with Blake and Ram, Ram came up with the idea that the control scheme that can feel “very buttery”. Personally, it required a lot of practise, but you could improve. However, a tighter control scheme could aid it a lot.

This game certainly helped push Sonic onto a whole new platform. Although it was okay as a one-off, it helped introduce the blue hedgehog to a world of brand new fans…even if they ended up hating the controls. It’s a shame that Black Knight did destroy what Secret Rings did, but if you class it as a standalone game, it was an experiment that did pay off with an enjoyable, if frustrating, game.

Lovely 2D cutscenes and nice 3D environments help make this a nice looking game early in the Wii’s life.
3.5
Decent music, if not particularly memorable. But the main song does help keep it from obscurity.
3.0
A very “buttery” experience, according to my draconic friend. If you can get to grips with it, the game becomes a lot nicer…but only if you’re prepared to learn it
2.0
The 100 Missions and Soul Fires help keep the game active long after you defeat the Erazor Djinn, but only if you want to. Otherwise, the core story is enough to keep you occupied for a good while.
3.0
A nice game to introduce Sonic to a new audience, but not without its flaws. A bit of extra work could’ve made it better, but it succeeds in helping to dispel the bad memories of SONIC 06… if you can get over the controls.
3.0

 

“NO NO NO NO NO. Not this Nintendo bull again, Sonic should only be available on consoles that no longer exist. That is the way of things. SEGA will make more money that way. The soulless, greedy backstabbing sons of plumbers. What the hell is with this Wii as well, it has a stupid name! Sonic doesn’t have stupid names, if only Doctor Eggman was here now, he’d CHEQUER WRECKER-BALL ALL YOUR LAME ASSES. Wii? Pffts. This game is lame. This console is lame. SEGA is lame. I hate everything. Pass me my Nomad, I’ll play it on there!!”
0.0
T.A Black

Author: T.A Black

Currently LMC's resident reviewer, I also take a huge interest in anything from Nintendo to Square-Enix, and beyond. My interests are certainly random, as are the games I review and enjoy.

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1 Comment

  1. Good review, you hit all the major aspects of the game perfectly except one. Come on, the multi-player mode is the best part of the whole game. I had tons of friends coming over to play the “Mario Party” style modes. We had a competitive blast in the mini-games. Most of my friends ended up buying the game just for the multi-player. The different modes were creative and fun. The mini-games themselves were a blast and the occasional broken control schemes made it even more frantic and fun with friends. Plus the mini-game scenerios were hilarious, like launching your character to stick to a target, or waving a flag to avoid being shot by a canon. Pulling the carpets at the right time so the genie doesn’t fall on you! They were way wackier than Mario Party has ever been. The multi-player was also the key motivator that made me want to continue to play the single player mode, so to unlock more characters. The multi-player should definitely earn this game at least another half star.

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