Matt Keller
20 Oct, 2005

Sonic Heroes Review

Xbox Review | PALGN dives into the back catalogue for a look at Sonic's most recent 3-D outing.
Sonic the Hedgehog is arguably one of the most popular mascot characters in videogame history. With over 40 games under his belt, there’s no sign that he’s going to stop thwarting the plans of the evil Dr. Robotnik anytime soon. In fact, Sega are stepping up their efforts with their favourite hedgehog, releasing more and more Sonic titles each year. Sonic Heroes is a first for the series – the first multi-format Sonic the Hedgehog release. There’s been a lot of division over the 3-D games in the Sonic franchise – some love them, others can’t stand the lose control and the terrible. Is Sonic Heroes the first to address the problems of the 3-D series, or just another competent, yet slightly flawed addition to one of gaming’s biggest franchises?

Sonic Heroes breaks away from the standard single character formula seen in most of the games in the franchise to date. There are four teams in the game; Team Sonic (Sonic, Knuckles and Tails), Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge and Omega), Team Rose (Amy, Cream and Big) and Team Chaotix (Espio, Vector and Charmy), who appear for the first time since their debut on the ill-fated 32X. Each team has their own respective plot, which is told with the assistance of some lovely CG cutscenes. Essentially, the main Sonic theme is in play – stop Robotnik from hatching his latest evil scheme or he’ll take over the world.

Vector, Espio and Charmy make their long awaited return

Vector, Espio and Charmy make their long awaited return
Within each team, there is a speed character, a power character and a flying character. You’ll need to switch between the characters based on the situation you’re presented with, which is done via the face buttons. Each character has his or her own abilities – basic abilities linked to the class, and moves unique to that character. At times you’ll find that you can’t switch characters (especially when mid air), and this can be particularly annoying. This team based play method is a refreshing change from the terrible fetch and shooting missions we’ve been forced through in previous 3-D Sonic games – but wouldn’t it be better if we could play as Sonic, and Sonic alone? We’ve nothing against the additional characters in the Sonic series, but they don’t really seem necessary, particularly in this game, where the teams are essentially the same, outside of a few minor story changes and extra moves.

Big gives Amy and Cream a whiff of his body odour

Big gives Amy and Cream a whiff of his body odour
The levels in Sonic Heroes are massive, but are extremely linear – with only about three paths through each level; the path you take basically depends on who is leading your team at the time you pass through the particular section. All of the twists and turns, loop the loops and corkscrews you’ve come to expect from the series over the years are in here, occasionally broken up by some light combat or puzzle sections, with a boss fight every few levels. A lot of the level designs seem to have been inspired in part by Sonic’s 2-D adventures on the Megadrive, which is a welcome change to the slightly stale city levels from the two Adventure titles. Control and camera problems have plagued previous 3-D Sonic titles, and they rear their ugly head in Sonic Heroes, though things aren’t quite as bad as they have been. Control is still a little too touchy, which can lead to players running into walls or flying off the side of a level at random times. The camera is improved over Sonic Adventure 2 – it’s fine until you fiddle with it – adjusting the camera is extremely touchy and can lead to frustration at the best of times. This is more of an issue in the interior levels, as the camera is well behaved in the larger outdoor areas.

Each team’s story mode takes place over 14 levels, which should take anywhere between 5 and 25 minutes to complete, depending on your skill and ability to cope with the controls and camera. The levels don’t vary much from team to team, usually with only the main objective of the level changing. Boss fights are thrown in every few levels, and are not really up to scratch in comparison to previous Sonic bosses. There is no Chao Garden in Sonic Heroes, so fans of the little scamps will be disappointed. The emblem hunt also appears again, and this time, gaining more emblems will unlock mini-games for 2 player mode, such as the bobsled race, special stage and team battle mode.

Some levels have a very distinct visual style, reminiscent of the older games

Some levels have a very distinct visual style, reminiscent of the older games
Sonic Team switched to Renderware for Sonic Heroes, and the game does look slightly better as a result, though still bears resemblance to the original Dreamcast game. The visual style of the game shares a lot more in common with it’s 2-D predecessors than the two 3-D prequels, with the appearance of some levels being reminiscent of the early levels in Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2, while the casino level looks like an amalgamation of Casino Night Zone from Sonic 2 and Carnival Night Zone from Sonic 3 – with more glitz and glamour than was seen in either of those two games. Unexpectedly, the Xbox version of the game actually has a bit of trouble maintaining a steady framerate – something that is very crucial in the 3-D Sonic game. Sonic Heroes features a 60 Hz mode, provided you have the option set in your dashboard. The soundtrack in the game is a lot like what we’ve come to expect in the Adventure series, with a bunch of Japanese pop/rock style songs with rather cheesy, Sonic-oriented lyrics. Some of these tracks are catchy, and as a result you might get a few weird looks from people when you start humming them on the train. Non-lyrical tracks in the game bear some resemblance to the music style from earlier 2-D Sonic games. Voice Acting isn’t really that good – especially Tails, who sounds like a retarded toddler, rather than an 8 year old. There’s no option for Japanese voices, unlike the Adventure games, which is a bit of a bummer.

Sonic Heroes isn’t a drastic change to the 3-D Sonic formula – if you liked the two Adventure titles, then you’re likely to enjoy Heroes as well. Unfortunately, most of the problems that plagued the two previous Sonic titles this generation are still present in Sonic Heroes – it’s like Sonic Team isn’t learning anything, or pushing themselves as much as they used to. Sonic fans should check it out – the throwbacks to older Sonic titles give a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling, and at a budget price point, it’s not too big a burden on the wallet.

This review is brought to you courtesy of Infinite Gameplay, with unlimited game rentals starting from $19.95 a month.
The Score
Sonic Heroes isn't a drastic change from the Adventure games, and happens to suffer from most of the same problems. That said, the extra nostalgia factor and team play system do make it that little bit better. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
I expected a far more harsh review from you icon_razz.gif

Ive got the game when it first came out and being a Sonic fan I was quite dissapointed but not as much as Adventure 2. The graphics are beautiful but the gameplay itself just isnt as great to me as the 2D versions are.
8 years ago
7.0? A bit kind, IMO. Personally, I'd give it a 6 or lower.
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