Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

Being BioWare doesn't give you the right to do whatever the hell you want with a game.

By Daavpuke, Posted 28 Nov 2010

Nowhere in my eighties youth would I ever imagined Sega working with Nintendo; let alone working for them. Flash forward a few decades and Sega's horrible marketing choices have led it to be a software supplier only. Luckily, there's a redeeming factor in providing some great titles here and there. But Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood isn't just unique in its collaboration; it's also the very first Sonic RPG ever created. And it was made by RPG giant BioWare of Baldur's Gate fame no less! I could go on and on about it, but those are some huge speedy sneakers to fill.

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The adventure starts you off in the Green Zone we all know from older Sonic Games. Something's not quite right and our blue hedgehog friend just loves sticking his nose everywhere he can. After some investigations, Sonic and 'pals' discover that there are dark forces out to harm their planet Moebius. Dr. Robotnik must've somehow managed to rise up again, that smelly egg-like person!

But they also find another force at work, calling themselves The Dark Brotherhood. The storyline isn't golden, but it has its moments; although some original turns will also feel abysmal. In all, the chase to defeat the bad guys and save Moebius once more will sweep you through 10 Chapters and even more worlds.

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Visually, everything seems in order. The worlds are all fairly different from each other, with plains, cities, apocalyptic ruins and more. They're also detailed and large enough to keep things flowing. A general map will take you some time to explore and will offer numerous interactive parts within.

The interface is presented in a simple, but very effective way. The inventory is tucked away in the lower left corner, which leaves optimal visibility possible whilst exploring. Menus require numerous amounts of clicks, but nothing too annoying. There's even a little Chao garden, where you can watch all your critters frolic about. But in particular, the combat interface is kept as efficient as possible. A ring offering you 5 options, gives you every option you might need, from attacking to special moves and items.

The strongest visual point however, is the comic panel cutscenes you sporadically receive. These are so refined and tell gaps in the story with such finesse; they're a moment to look out to. Sliding from side to side or popping on your screen, all of them are very entertaining and are just perfectly made.

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Chao's in your garden can change your stats when equipped.

Combat is also well done in Sonic Chronicles, as to be expected from BioWare. In turn-based combat, you can choose from a few simple options to help your party towards victory. Special moves can be acquired by leveling your characters and can be upgraded up to twice, for extra strength. When using these moves, you'll need to input a combination with your stylus. You either use precision, timing or speed to complete the given combination; which adds extra depth and skill towards playing. You'll even need to execute these combos during enemy moves, which is a nice way to implement interaction throughout the entire combat phase. Some combos are a bit overkill to perform, so it is advised to keep your attention to a maximum when playing. For instance, one skill will never work if you miss even 1 of the 7 or so timed hits. This guy had a few stylus crunching moments because of those events, especially with later skills.

Even though leveling helps you get stronger moves and such, it all does happen a little fast. During endgame you'll suddenly spike 3 to 5 levels and that just takes the fun out of it. People with a grinding aversion might like it, but even then it feels like a rushed adventure. You simply don't get the time to enjoy one level before moving on the next. The last two chapters will whiz on by and you'll have gained about 7 levels and defeated the main boss before you even realize it. It's a really strange timeline in game flow and it gives you the feeling you're being pushed towards the end. Perhaps they had some sort of deadline and wanted to focus on Dragon Age? Who knows; at least Dragon Age was pretty awesome.

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Another very strange choice in development are the controls. You can virtually do nothing with the buttons on your DS and will even have to run with your stylus. The strong implementation of the touch screen can be commended, but that's really going overboard. Being BioWare doesn't give you the right to do whatever the hell you want with a game; so don't fix what isn't broken next time.

But the worst by far and the only thing that really grinds your gears in this game is the characters. I grew up on classic Sonic games, so I never had the misfortune of playing with side characters. Until recently, I thus never gotten what was so bad about new Sonic games; but now I do… Everything you ever read was true: These side characters are not only completely dismissible; they're harmful to your gameplay experience. I can cope with Tails and even Knuckles is cool, but the rest of them can go die in a fire. They're just so unlikeable and boring; you'll never want to play with any of them. But you'll be forced to do so anyway.

Who created these characters? Why? What was the point? If you want to know when Sonic games started becoming bad, you'll find these questions on top of the explanation. For instance, Amy comes off like she's the party slu...mber part guest of honour. One character in particular should never be a playable character. I died a little inside when that person was added to the roster. Once more: Why Sega, why?

If you can swallow that jagged pill, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood still is one of the best franchise games to come out in some time. It might not save the hedgehog from shame, but it sure tries really hard. It has a lot of enjoyable parts for you to go through and as an underdog RPG, it works on DS. After about 15 to 20 hours, you'll get some of the cleverest credits to grace your screen and you'll end things with a laugh.

It's always a nice touch to go out on.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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  • Never was much for Sonic games.

    Posted Dec 02, 2010


General Information

Platform(s): 3DS
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): Bioware
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Platformer
Release Date: 2008-09-26

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