Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Dr. Robotnik (Eggman) has been defeated and Sonic the Hedgehog is taking a well-deserved vacation in order to explore the furtherest corners of his world. Alas, his journey is brought to an abrupt end when Tails contacts him and reveals that Knuckles has been kidnapped for reasons unknown. The blue blur is left with little choice but to return to the Green Hill Zone and begin a search for his former companion/rival and the Chaos Emeralds (which have also gone missing). It is here that players, with a little help from some anthropomorphic party members, take their first step into BioWare's version of the Sonic universe.

Sonic Chronicles begins in a gorgeous, hand-drawn reimagining of the Sonic franchise's best known locale — the Green Hill Zone. Forgoing a conventional tutorial section, players are given a few tips and simply set free to explore to their heart's content. Character movement is handled exclusively with the touch screen, with players able to simply point at a location with the stylus and have a character move in that direction. Although the game is party-based, only one member of the party will appear on-screen at any given time. It is, however, possible to swap between characters on the fly. Doing so becomes essential when navigating to certain areas, including those that can only reached by flying characters (Tails, Cream) or climbing characters (Knuckles).

Screenshot for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Certain objects — loop-the-loops and climbable rock faces, for example — can be interacted with by tapping the touch screen or by pressing one of the DS' shoulder buttons. While the former will suffice at first, the latter becomes far more intuitive after time and helps to keep the pace of exploration fluid. Said interactions are crucial to finding every hidden ring (the game's currency), item and Chao egg in each location. Chao eggs eventually hatch into one of 40 Chao breeds and become usable in battle. Each character can be equipped with one Chao, making them more powerful, harder to hit, faster, luckier, and so on. It's a neat system that encourages exploration, but due to the ease of finding "Rare" Chao eggs early on, the majority of the Chao on offer are all but useless.

Despite the fact that enemy encounters are not random and can be avoided with careful manoeuvring, battles still constitute the bulk of Sonic Chronicles. Once a conflict has been initiated, players are given access to a selection of standard role-playing commands: attack, use item, flee, and so on. Battles are turn-based, so there is plenty of time to plan ahead, even if the action is fairly fast paced once it gets going. Certain characters, namely Sonic and other speedy characters, can perform multiple actions in a single turn, ensuring that players aren't forced to navigate the same few menus over and over again during a single battle. The battle system's real hook, though, is the incorporation of rhythm game-esque touch screen interactions when performing and defending from POW moves.

Screenshot for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

These interactions come in three distinct, reflex testing flavours: dragging, tapping, and frantic tapping. Let's take Sonic's "Whirlwind" attack as an example — once initiated, players are required to drag the stylus along a predefined arc for a set time before tapping the screen at a certain location and then repeating the process. If this is done successfully the move will initiate at full power, otherwise it will either fail or cause less than full damage. It's an enjoyable system that, at least initially, helps to prevent battles from becoming the monotonous, grind-centric affairs that they often boil down to in other role-playing games. Unfortunately, performing the same actions over and over again eventually becomes just as a repetitive as using a menu, except it takes far longer and requires more attention.

The problems presented by a repetitive battle system are somewhat nullified by the length of the game itself. We spent around eighteen hours completing the game with every ring and Chao egg (but only 37/40 breeds of Chao), and it was only towards the end that battles really started to drag on. This was largely because Sonic Chronicles isn't particularly challenging, with the exception of a few difficulty spikes. In fact, as the game progress, it actually becomes easier due to the player becoming more accustomed to its mechanics. The complete lack of a need for grinding is most welcome, but BioWare has clearly developed Sonic Chronicles with a young audience in mind, so while the low difficulty may be warranted, the result is an experience that is going to be a little too light for genre veterans.

Screenshot for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

In terms of plot development, Sonic Chronicles is entirely linear. The game is broken down into distinct chapters, most of which take place in a single or small handful of locations. Plot advancements take place during cut-scenes and discussions between key characters and foes. While there are a number of NPCs littered about the world, they only serve to initiate side-quests — most of which are uninspired 'go here, kill this, fetch that' affairs — and rarely if ever say anything worthy of note. It's a shame, because the dialogue system is well designed to reflect the various facets of Sonic's personality. During discussions with key characters (who also have access to a respectable repertoire of well-written retorts), players can choose from responses that range from friendly and inquisitive to plain rude.

If dialogue really isn't your thing, though, it's possible to get through conversations extremely quickly by picking the default response from Sonic in order to get back to the action as quickly as possible. We found this to be of particular use when playing through the game for a second time with characters in the same levelled-up state they were in when we finished it the first time. Alas, this is the only reward for completing the game (collecting every Chao egg and ring doesn't change anything) and it's a mostly superficial option because a fully levelled team can whiz through the entire game in a matter of hours. The ability to reassign POW abilities and try out those that weren't utilised the first time round is nice, but the novelty soon wears thin without any challenging opponents.

Screenshot for Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Exploration is handled well with a combination of touch screen controls and context-sensitive interactions, but the battle system, while enjoyable and varied at first, eventually becomes unnecessarily repetitive and long-winded.

Graphics

Gorgeous, hand-drawn environments are bolstered by solid 3D character models and a slew of comic book-esque cut scenes. It's definitely a new look for the Sonic franchise, but it's also a welcome one.

Sound

Classic Sonic sound effects make a return, but the music is a little hit and miss. Hearing snippets from classic Sonic tunes as part of new tracks is a nice treat, but the end result is rarely as pleasing to the ear as the original.

Value

We squeezed a little over twenty hours of gameplay out of Sonic Chronicles, including two play-throughs (the second with levelled-up characters) and a complete collection of rings, items and Chao eggs.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Good - Bronze Award

About this score
Rated 7 out of 10

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is a solid role-playing experience, but it's ultimately an overly lightweight one that is unlikely to truly grab the attention of genre veterans. Sonic fans will love the throwbacks to previous outings (including somewhat obscure titles like Sonic Battle), most will love the beautiful hand-drawn backdrops, but it is probable that only the younger audience at which the game is aimed will really enjoy the entire package from start to finish. If you fall into the former or latter categories, you might want to add a point to our final score; if you fall into neither, you might want to knock one off.

Read and post comments

 Buy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (Nintendo DS) Buy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (Nintendo DS)

Buy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on AmazonBuy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on Shop To Buy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on GameBuy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on TescoBuy Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood on The Hut

Share this Review Share this Review

04.11.2008

18

3833

Games you may also like...

Developer

Bioware

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (6 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Shame about this, I guess it could have been a lot better.

Maybe BioWare just weren't used to working on weaker hardware, so I'm sure the sequel will be much better.

Somehow I still don't have this. I desperately want it. Smilie

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

It's on my list of stuff to play, after I finish PW3 and Time Hollow.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Nice stuff Karn. I was a little worried about how it'd turn out, it's good but I found it hard to stick by it even at the beginning. Battle seems fine, the interface and things are clear but it just became so tedious (especially the running away part).

But ye, defo agree with the score. Better than a 6, but not good enough to slide into the 8/9 area. It's probably just me not being used to Sonic in an RPG environment; good idea, slightly too-innovative execution.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

SuperLink said:
Shame about this, I guess it could have been a lot better.

Maybe BioWare just weren't used to working on weaker hardware, so I'm sure the sequel will be much better.

Obviously not, the flaws as stated by the review have nothing to do with not being familiar with the hardware. Maybe the music quality, but from what I heard the compositions sucked to begin with.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I always had the feeling that this just wouldn't live up to the high expectations set by Super Mario RPG...and it certainly looks like I wasn't too wrong.

Didn't fare as well in the charts as I thought it would, to be honest. Everything Sonic-related seems to normally sell gangbusters on Wii/DS.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I think most gamers (myself included) had it down as a "Get eventually" rather than a launch day buy.

Dunno why, it just gives off that feeling.

So why did BioWare go wrong? Is this the same BioWare that make perfect critically acclaimed RPGs? I don't get it, perhaps the Sonic series really is cursed.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Perhaps the problem lay with either 1.) SEGA butting in on development, or 2.) Bioware trying to aim at a more casual market than it normally does.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I reckon it was the latter, SEGA luv BioWare.

Although I don't think Sonic Team would have been too happy about it.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

Yeah, it was almost certainly the latter. In fact, BioWare has said in the past that the game was aimed at a fairly young audience. The whole experience comes across as "roleplaying for beginners," which seems like a missed opportunity (for people like ourselves) given the company's excellent track record.

It's just a shame that the end result doesn't have the same level of universal appeal as classic Sonic platformers, which tend to be enjoyed by both children and adults alike. A sequel is definitely in the works, but I can't imagine a lot will be changed - we shall see, though.

I certainly had some mild fun with the game, but if it hadn't been based on the Sonic franchise (and I wasn't such a big fan of said franchise) I can't imagine that I, or many other people for that matter, would have paid it much attention based on its other merits.


Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Perhaps BioWare couldn't see that Sonic's biggest fanbase is the hardcore one that has stuck by him since the early days. Children only buy Sonic games because they enjoyed Sonic X (probably) Smilie

Kids have no real reason to love Sonic like I do. Smilie

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Spydarlee said:
BioWare has said in the past that the game was aimed at a fairly young audience. The whole experience comes across as "roleplaying for beginners," which seems like a missed opportunity (for people like ourselves) given the company's excellent track record.

Shame, since Squaresoft nailed Super Mario RPG, which is also seen by many as an RPG for beginners.

A sequel is definitely in the works, but I can't imagine a lot will be changed - we shall see, though.

Might be worth trying to get an interview with the team...I'll see if I can find a contact at Bioware.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

This is a really good Sonic RPG. Since it is the first Sonic game to be in this format it has had aa lot of work put in it. The colourful graphics and landscape design is amazing. The character design could have been better but still good.

( Edited 26.11.2008 19:04 by Super Sonic )



SuperYoshi6 PSN name
3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I think Square do make better games that fall in a similar style/genre to this, but what Square do is focus on decent moves, locations and story.

I think where Bioware has gone wrong is trying to "innovate" a bit too much with these little extras in battle and touch-screen based actions to a point where it becomes annoying and repetitive after a while.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I'll admit it IS a somewhat decent play. However, the new Chao system was a complete disappointment.

It requires great courage to look at oneself honestly, and forge one's own path.


I want this game but i dont have a DS Smilie

Bioware aren't quite as awesome as they'd used to be nowadays anyway. Mass Effect was a bit of a let down for me and everyone else expecting KotOR 3. As for the hardware thing, have Bioware ever been any good with hardware? Smilie KotOR and Mass Effect both ran like crap in parts.

Do you level up in this game like regular RPGs?

Super Duper Ultra Fun Time!
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

KrownsK said:
Do you level up in this game like regular RPGs?

Indeedy - it's like a regular RPG with some weird elements thrown in.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Comment on this review

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.

Follow this topic Follow this topic

Keep up with new comments with the RSS feed for this topic, or subscribe via email above.
Turqoise Radio - Cubed3's Glass to the Wall
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Latest news and updatesSite Feed
Vote on our latest community pollNintendo Poll
Vote: Which eShop Games will you Download this Week?
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl Demo
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Golden Sun
I am in the Movie
Mario Golf: World Tour Demo
My Exotic Farm
My Farm
Nintendo Pocket Football Club
Putty Squad
Tiny Games - Knights & Dragons
Member of the weekMember of the Week
This week's top member is jres80, awarded the most stars for great posts.
Online Play and ChatOnline Nintendo Play & Chat
General Chatroom: Click here to chat Wii U Nintendo Network Codes - Find other Nintendo Wii U users 3DS Nintendo Network Codes - Find other Nintendo 3DS users
Listen to our Nintendo Jukebox - Classic Mario, Zelda, Metroid songs and more Nintendo news and reviews on the move