Review: Sonic Chronicles – The Dark Brotherhood

When news was released that SEGA was starting up an RPG based on everybody’s favourite blue hedgehog, my view was quietly optimistic. After their success with Skies of Arcadia, I was looking forward to seeing what they’d do. After it was revealed that it’d be Bioware that would be involved too, the makers of the fan-pleasing Dragon Age and Mass Effect, it sounded like nothing could go wrong. Sadly, it was not to be the case.

If you’ve followed AAUK’s livestream of Chronicles (coming soon to YouTube) you’d know why this game wasn’t what we expected. Now, I’m going to break site consensus here. In my opinion…it’s not THAT bad. It’s certainly aged badly and seems to get a bad rep nowadays, but remember – it was rated highly on its release and it was supposed to be for younger fans. The 2D graphics looks stunning and really add a lot of character to Sonic and the others. The story was also quite good (apart from one bit), although its basis might warrant a lawsuit from Ken Penders due to Shade and her similarities with Julie-Su. But it was nice to have a female Sonic character that was a bit more independent (in the Blaze vein) and less annoying/stalker-like.

Anyway, the plot is as follows: after the supposed death of Eggman after a joint attack between Sonic and GUN, Sonic goes on a 2-year travelling adventure. When he returns, he finds out that Knuckles has disappeared, along with the Chaos Emeralds. He, along with Tails, journey to find out more, before uncovering a shadowy organization called the Marauders who have stolen the Emeralds and – perhaps even more shocking – Amy having a boyfriend. Well…not really. But it shows some desperation to name an imaginary boyfriend after a character from a cult TV cartoon.

Anyway, it turns out that the invaders were echidnas from WAY back in time, to about Tikal’s era. They were punished by the gods by being sent into the Twilight Cage, an inter-dimensional prison that houses species or tribes that don’t play nicely with the others. Only they’ve broken through to present day by the miracle of time compression*. And, to cut a long story short, Sonic and co need to face off against their leader, Ix, with the most unlikely of allies; including his lieutenant Shade and even (a very non-dead) Dr Eggman for a bit.

The characterization is pretty much spot on in this game. There’s a reason why fans praised it when it was released. It turned Amy into a saner character; becoming more…Well, it cut down her stalker tendencies at any rate. It gave depth to characters like Rouge and Omega. It gave Eggman a killer sense of wit. Heck, it made Big likeable.

The bad things however…Oh boy. The 3D animation is blocky and could be a bit more polished. Personally, 2D animation isn’t dead for RPGs, as The World Ends With You successfully showed. And if they stuck with 2D, it could’ve worked a lot better. It might’ve also left more space for some better music. Good grief; the music is awful in this. The worst, by far, is Central City. It sounds like those videos of cats playing on a keyboard (Quality Bioware Soundtrack, guys!). The general grunts of pain between foes and Sonic and his friends are also bad, with the same sound being used for Tails and various animals, meaning that there’s no individuality. There’s very little variety overall and they could’ve at least made an effort to get the music akin to the GBA platforming games.

The worst thing in my opinion has to be that ending. There’s having a fantastic ending that leaves space for sequels (Skies of Arcadia), there’s outright cliffhangers that conclude a story regardless (Assassin’s Creed)…and then there’s this. For those who haven’t seen it; here it is in a nutshell:

• Sonic beats Ix
• Sonic and co return back home to find Eggman has taken over their world
• The End
• Credits “commented” by Sonic, Tails and Omega in a really poor way

Seriously, the ending (bar credits) takes less than 5 minutes to view. It was a huge letdown to have a game story end so awfully. In my opinion, Bioware can’t do endings well, and this shows it.

The combat in this game – I’m sorry, but it is broken. You can either do rhythm inputs or cannot. If you can, like me, this game is easy. If you can’t…just hope for the best. The way you choose actions also boggles the mind. Who in their right mind chooses their attack 6 turns before it will occur? All you can do is hope that the foes don’t flatten you and pull out the healing spells ASAP at the beginning of the next iteration. But that’s not the worst bit. The kicker is that the most dangerous character in the game is a pre-teen rabbit. Cream is horrifically broken. If you upgrade her SP-healing move to its max and learn the patterns, she will regenerate almost all the SP you burn on special moves, leading to a lot of bosses going down very fast.

Another broken factor is the money system. Here, rings are used to get items. However, the only rings you can easily pick up are on the field, of which there are a limited number. Foes don’t drop them, instead rings only appearing when you flee or they flee. Meaning that if you burn rings needlessly, you’ll HAVE to sell gear to just buy healing items. Not fair. Not fair at all. You can’t even sell the Chao you pick up – not useful when you have 9 versions of the same one.

In conclusion, it’s VERY easy to pick apart this game for its faults. Similarly, it’s VERY easy to ignore them. Personally, it’s an average game. It’s by no means a Sonic 06, but it’s neither a Colours nor Adventure 2. It also, allegedly, suffered a lot in development as Bioware was told to get the game out ASAP to make way for Dragon Age Origins (thanks, EA…). So, if you like RPGs, it’s worth finding a cheap copy just to experience it. But don’t expect it to be the next Final Fantasy. And don’t listen to the music.

Lovely character portraits and 2D scenes, not so lovely 3D graphics.
2.5
Central City. That is all. Luckily the other tracks are better, but not by much.
1.0
Sonic is a bit floaty to start with, but gets better with time. Battle controls you’ll either love or hate – can’t help you there, I’m afraid.
2.5
The main story is long and there’s a few sidequests to keep you going, thought sadly not as many as I’d like. New Game + is practically the same but with levels and Chao carried over; not a reason to play it again in my opinion.
3.5
. It could’ve and should’ve been more than it was, but at least it wasn’t a stinker.
2.5

* Okay guys – it’s time for SCIENCE! Or failing that, me in an ill fitting labcoat and a bow tie. Anyway; time compression. You see, in the game, the Twilight Cage houses creatures from many eras. They don’t all die out due to the fact that time flows slowly in the Cage. So a day in the Cage might equal several years in our time. This leads the excuse that Shade; potentially the same age as Tikal when put into the Cage, is still alive.

Now; the time scale in this game is foggy at best. For this example, we can assume is that the period between Tikal’s era and Sonic’s era is about 4000 years. Say that 4 years has passed inside the Cage (for better maths). Then for every year in there, 1000 years has passed. This means that one day in the Cage is 2.7 years (taking a year to be the scientific value of 365.25 days).

Now, here’s the kicker. Sonic and co get into the Cage in the second half of the game. In real-game time, he’d spend about 10 hours max in there. If we take this to be real time for Sonic, he defeats Ix in about a year in our time. However, if we assume that the whole thing DOESN’T take a few hours (after all, the travel between worlds will take days even with a super space craft) but, say a fortnight, it would take 38.3 YEARS to defeat Ix in our time. If we take it to be a month, it would be 82.1 YEARS. And if it was 2 months? 164.2 YEARS – nearly 2 centuries.

Let that sink in. If Sonic took a month to defeat Ix in the Cage, Eggman’s Empire would’ve have been going for almost 70-80 years. The Chaotix, Vanilla, the party members you failed to recruit…all dead. GUN? Most likely destroyed due to Eggman. By playing this game, you have single-handedly handed Eggman the world due to Sonic’s prolonged absence.

Yeah…feels a bit of a hollow victory now, doesn’t it?

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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