Sonic Heroes GameCube Review

10 years ago a legend was born, today he returns and he’s bringing reinforcements! That’s right, Sonic has returned in his all new adventure to save the earth. Can he stop Dr. Eggman once again? More importantly, will this game prove to the critics that 3D Sonic games can be good?

Graphics

This game uses the same engine as the one from Burnout 2, which is pretty strange, you’re probably thinking. Yeah, I had the same thought and if you didn’t know what it is it’s called “Renderware”. Anyway this is the first Sonic game to have convincing hair movements or so Sega have said…Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and the rest of the crew have fully flowing hair whether it be running around or jumping into the air. Its quite good and reacts depending on how strong the wind currents are, hence it goes insane during windy levels. Another fantastic point about the characters is that they finally (thank god) have good mouth movements and convincing expressions. In the Adventure series, particularly Sonic Adventure 1 or DX they where pretty terrible and looked as if their faces had been stretched out of proportion every time they talked. One small detail I do have, however, is that the Japanese game has Japanese speaking and so the lip movements are spot on. Whether it’s the same for the US game I do not know.

Another major addition to this game is the sublime CG cut scenes, which are very Disney like but show certain important plot scenes and the opening sequence fantastically.

Sonic Heroes’ environments are exactly what you would expect. The first level is very retro, it is basically Sonic 1 in 3D and it’s pulled off quite well. Later levels, such as the classic Casino levels, are vibrant and scream colour.

Sound

The cheesy music from Sonic Adventure has pretty much gone and this will please many fans. It has been replaced with normal beat music which suits the theme of the level. For example, on the first level the music has steel pan drums in the background. In later levels, where you are in the air, a lot of the soundtrack is ‘airy’ music.

Now here’s the bad part; Sonic Heroes’ voice acting (for some characters) is terrible. Its awful, I want to rip my hair out at Charmy’s, Cream’s and Tails’ voices, they really don’t suit the characters at all. Still, bare in mind that this is the Japanese version so they all speak Japanese, but I have heard the English Tails’ voice and it isn’t any better. One improvement is the people who did the voices have quite a lot of emotion in there voices, particularly Amy’s and her love for Sonic, it does come out quite well. Shadow’s stubborn ‘I’m so great voice’ comes out very nicely. The characters have quite a few different voices depending on what formation you are playing in which I will go into later into more detail.

The game also supports Dolby Pro Logic II, however I haven’t had a chance to test this feature yet.

Gameplay

The teams for Sonic Heroes have been brought from Sonic characters past and present.

Team Sonic: Sonic the Hedgehog (Speed), Miles “Tails” Prower (Flight), Knuckles the Echidna (Power)

Team Dark: Shadow the Hedgehog (Speed), Rouge the Bat (Flight), E-123 Omega (Power)

Team Rose: Amy Rose (Speed), Cream the Rabbit (Flight), Big the Cat (Power)

Team Chaotix: Espio the Chameleon (Speed), Charmy the Bee (Flight), Vector the Crocodile (Power)

For people who don’t know who the Chaotix are, they were in the Sonic Comic magazine and starred in their own game, Knuckles Chaotix on the 32X, and was probably it’s only good game.

In previous Sonic games, the action has been split up into different game types and people liked only one of them, the running sections. So finally Sega listened to us and that’s what you do in Heroes, but this time you have to think quite a bit. Pressing X and Y to change formations does keep you busy in later levels but you usually find your self in Speed formation most of the time. The objective of Team Sonic is after getting a letter from Eggman telling them he will take over the world in 2 days and he challenges them to stop him. Team Dark started after Rouge found Shadow and Omega in a locked room and they set out to get Eggman. Team Rose are in search of Chocola Chao and Froggy. Oh, and Amy is after Sonic…again. Finally the Chaotix have a detective company and they have a client who wants them to stop Eggman.

The game itself is split into 4 sections; Team Sonic, Team Dark, Team Rose and Team Chaotix, as they all have their own stories and routes in each of the levels. This provides very simple yet different Gameplay for each. Chaotix have very different levels as they are mission based. On level 1 you have to find 10 hidden crabs whereas with Team Sonic you need to run to the end of the level with maximum score and rings by the end. Once you have finished a level you are given a grade from E-A. This only matters once you have completed the game fully and you want the extra emblems for getting all A ranks. Emblems give you unlockables and there are 120 of them in the game. You get one for killing a main boss or finishing a level. Each level has 2 in it, one for doing the main mission and one for doing the extra mission. Plus,you also get some for completing each team’s game.

The game’s major part consists of running which is slower than the Adventure series. This is a good thing as it has hugely increased control as well as the camera which has improved one hell of a lot since Adventure. The flying sections are mostly getting from one place to another without running out of flying power (which is on a gauge bar that goes down quickly) or flying to another platform which is high, and the power character is needed for killing larger enemies (explained later) and breaking down walls and blocks to pick up items and special stage keys.

Each character has 2 functions; an attack and a jump/fly as well as specialised functions for each character. Every character can jump, some not very well, and all can grind on rails at insane speeds. Speed characters have jump, attack (like a whirlwind attack), wall jumping, pole swinging and spin dash/kick dash attacks. Flying characters can walk but only if the other two characters are down or dead, most of the time they hold the other two characters by them, clinging on to each others legs. Obviously the main job of the flying characters is flying around for small amounts of time and they have a powerful attack for taking down airborne enemies which is helpful in heavy combat. Power characters have a very weak jump, you usually use A for triangle dives (kind of like all 3 characters gliding together in a sky diving position), their main job is kicking serious ass. Power characters are very strong on most things but they can be slow to attack, also there are quite a few tips and combos you can learn. For example, with Knuckles, instead of attacking you can tap B slightly to swing the characters around you which is good for a quick block or an easy shot at an enemy. A key feature in this game is the new combat system. In previous games, enemies were a one hit kill system. Now, depending on what the enemy is or who is attacking it, larger enemies and bosses have up to 150 hp so a power character is probably the best thing to use in that situation. Another very handy addition to the game, especially when you’re swamped down with enemies, is “Team Blast”. Each team has its own, Team Sonic, Chaotix and Rose have a standard attacking one, Dark uses Chaos Control from the last game which kills all enemies and then freezes them for about 10 seconds which is pretty cool and funny when there’s a random explosion in front of you and a dead enemy just lying there.

Another new feature is the levels system. The maximum level during a level is 3 at which your characters are at their strongest and fastest. For example Tails at level 0 is weak and can’t fly very far at all, at level 3 he can fly extremely far and attack in different and stronger ways. Being at level 3 for all characters gives you an elite squad, and there’s pretty much no need for the power characters as the speed characters can kill pretty much everything. You level up by killing certain enemies and they drop coloured spheres corresponding to the character or you run through a check point for example if you have a power character on that character levels up.

Special Stages make a return in this game after a 5 year break from the console world. You get to a special stage by finding one of the two keys on each of the even numbered levels 2,4,6 etc. Getting on an odd level gives you a bonus challenge at which you get nothing for completing it, kind of pointless. One problem with the system is that if you get hit just once you lose the key and you will need to find another, so I suggest using the easiest Team’s level which is probably Team Rose as their game is very easy and you have to do about half the levels instead of the full thing.

Now my favourite part: the problems. The main one is lack of control, on the grinding sections instead of going fast I opt to use the flying characters and go slower so I don’t randomly fall off if I try to land on a platform or jump from rail to rail. At the moment I’m stuck on a Team Sonic level where I have to finish 3 tasks and every time I lose control on this part. It has some terrible level design towards the end of the game, when hundreds of missiles are coming at you and you have to get to the end of the level and you can’t get up because every time you do you get knocked down again, not very nice Sega. Also another problem I find is that you slip off the edge randomly if you go too fast with Speed characters, at which you get annoyed and have to go back a checkpoint. Checkpoints are also too few and far between. Many times I am at the end of a tough section and you die and then have to go about 3 minutes back to a previous checkpoint (as the levels are up to 15 minutes long)

The great thing about Sonic games is that they are easily accessible. In my review it seems that the game is quite complex but it really isn’t. I picked the controls and gameplay up by the second level, and there’s also a tutorial if you get very stuck, which can help new players. Team Rose is a first time choice as they have very easy levels and not many enemies, Team Dark have the hardest game as you are given wave after wave of enemies, which is quite fun but some players might have a hard time.

Controls:

Control Stick: Move
A: Jump
B: Attack
X: Change formation
Y: Change formation
Z: Team Blast
L & R: Move Camera
C Stick: First person view

Lifespan

So far I have had this game 2 days and I’m 73% through with Team Sonic. Dark and Chaotix are at about 30%, and Team Rose is completed. I still play Adventure 2 Battle and I’ve had it since launch, Heroes has much longer levels: the shortest is 5 minutes long and only if you really run fast through it.

Overall

I definitely recommend this game to anyone that is a Sonic fan as the game is a welcome change to the Sonic franchise. If you hated Adventure, try this game. It really is nothing like it apart from moving forwards in a 3D world. The new combat system makes the game harder but more enjoyable and the pros easily outweigh the cons. This is probably the best £40 I have spent, importing this game, in a long time.

9 out of 10
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