Well we all know Sonic has been deemed to be at his best in 2D. His attempts to enter the realms of 3D gaming, although enjoyable were obviously flawed experiences. The Sonic Advance series became instantly popular because it was closer to the original MegaDrive games, and was also portable. Sega have learnt from this, and in a sense tried with Heroes, to take Sonic 'back to his roots'.
Of course that doesn't mean they've just gone and ported an old Sonic game to the GameCube and made it 3D. Something they could have done, as demonstrated by the unlockable Green Hill Zone level from Sonic Adventure 2. However that's not what they have done. Although they have clearly attempted to reinvigorate that old feeling of blasting through levels at 'Super Sonic speed' they have also taking the game in some bold new directions as well. Luckily for us the gaming giant has managed to find a rather nice middle ground, adding new features that 'fit in' with the classic feel of the 'golden oldies' is a very refreshing experience.
The biggest change from predecessors is of course the new team gameplay mechanics. It's a simple idea in theory, and is implemented so perfectly, that it will soon feel like second nature. After just a few levels you'll get the hang of it, each team is split up into three characters. For example Team Sonic, consists of the main man, or rather hedgehog himself Sonic as well as Tails and Knuckles. You take control of one at a time, the leader as it where, while the other two follow you, and respond to the leader to pull of various moves. You can swap between each character with a simple tap of x or y. Each character is also assigned to a certain field, for example Sonic is speed, Tails is flying and Knuckles is power, each of which are represented by a colour, blue, yellow and red respectively. The other teams also follow this idea, and it is essential that you learn how to implement it correctly during the game.
Do not fear though, as the developers have placed coloured signs throughout the levels to instruct the player when to change to a specific type of character. When your getting used to the idea of swapping characters this can be quite helpful, but the fact that they are left in every level right up to the end of the game, seems a bit stupid, as it significantly decreases difficulty and means the player doesn't have to think that much about what there doing, and so offering less freedom. The transition of changing characters is a smooth one, for example if your running a large stretch of ground, or wanting to travel at high speeds, you will instinctively place Sonic as the leader. After a while though, due to some rather clever level design, you will be forced to change character to advance further through the level, an example of this would be a large wall that is too high to jump over, so you guessed it, a quick change to put Tails as leader and your away.
Each character has access to their specific abilities when in leading position. Sonic can use his spin dash and light dash moves, Tails can fly and even launch the other characters at flying enemies while Knuckles can punch through large rocks as well as use Sonic and Tails in a similar fashion to boxing gloves or throw them at in-coming enemies. All of which sounds a tad overwhelming in comparison to just having to learn one characters set of moves, but it is really very simple and with a bit of practise will seem perfectly natural. There is one final move that can be accessed by any character within the team, and will achieve the same result, it is called Team Blast. It is charged up by using a certain amount of basic moves, and killing a certain amount of enemies, then when that amount has been reached the gauge at the top of the screen will fill, after that one press of the z button activates the devastating attack that destroys everything on screen!
The character models are all well animated and flow well throughout, but the levels are perhaps more impressive. At times some are just mind blowing, while at other rather average, of course you'll be travelling so fast most of the time you won't get a chance for site seeing anyway. It really is worth going back to some of the more impressive looking levels just to have a look around; you will discover some phenomenally breathtaking views at times. Then if you think those look good, wait until you watch the CG cut scenes, they truly are beautiful, artwork in there own right. Sonic Team really know how to make a game look good, and they held nothing back for these cut scenes, from the introductory movie to the plot-furthering snippets throughout they truly are the best looking Sonic graphics ever made. A site to behold, Sonic fans will just die when they see these, (metaphorically of course). What's even more impressive, while in single player mode the game runs at a constant 60fps, a truly magnificent achievement. Multiplayer does let the side down somewhat though, split-screen mode, will reduce that to 30fps instantly.
All in all Sonic Heroes is quite a large game, with the four teams and numerous different modes to get your teeth into. The game has 14 main stages, each team basically plays through the same stages, but they are slightly altered to add some variety and make sure the game doesn't repeat itself too much. Single player has two main modes, story and challenge, pretty simpler really, story mode takes you through the main game then once you've completed a level it becomes available in challenge mode, so you can practise playing through it again and again as well as improving your grades, which as before range from E up to A. There are also numerous multiplayer modes that require unlocking to be used, ranging from a straight race through a level to battling another team in a small arena, apart from the previously mentioned frame rate problems, these can lead to some nice light-hearted fun.
Heroes does suffer from a couple of small faults though. Such as the camera, although not as bad as in the Sonic Adventures, it has yet to be perfected. It's fine when following a predetermined route, such as when grinding at high speeds, but when it comes down to the slower paced fighting etc, it tends to have some problems, getting caught behind walls and the like. It is a relatively minor issue though, and doesn't detract much from the overall experience of the game. One last thing, that isn't exactly a problem as such, it's more down to personal preference, but after a high speed chase scene you are often plonked straight in the middle of a very slow advancing session, fighting a large amount of enemies for example, this transition isn't always as smooth as perhaps it could have been. Yet again though it rarely affects the game on a huge basis, which is good.
Another thing that is largely down to the individual gamer is music. Musical tastes are one of the most personal things about a person, and so it is very hard to create a game soundtrack that appeals to everyone, in fact it's impossible. In Sonic Heroes case, developers have stuck to the 80's guitar riffs they've been using in the Sonic Adventure series, some of it is very exhilarating and really adds to the fast moving feeling of the quicker paced levels, not all of it has this affect though. Again it really is down to the person, so it's hard to say whether or not you will like it. Sound effects on the other hand, are exactly as you would expect, from the classic 'pings' and 'pongs' of the casino levels, to the 'ding' sound of picking up a ring, Sonic fans will know exactly what to expect here.
Some truly awe-inspiringly fast paced scenes, that will have your heart beating faster than ever.
Lovely in-game graphics, running at a smooth 60fps. With those absolutely awesome cut scenes, make this one of the most beautifully crafted Sonic games of all time.
More 80's guitar riffs here, Sonic team seem to think this suits the style of the 3D Sonic games, and are sticking with it for the time being.
The main game won't take long to get through, even with 4 teams. However going back through to get those all important A grades helps add to the length.
At the end of the day, Sonic Heroes is not a perfect game, not by a long shot, but it is very much a step in the right direction for Sega and Sonic Team. Correcting most of the problems that troubled the Sonic Adventure's, while managing to win back some of that 'classic' Sonic feeling. Then on top of that still managing to take the game in new exciting directions, such as team-play, is a very impressive feat for the developers.