Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Review.

Usually, I try to truncate my reviews, but for this one, oh man…I wanted to make sure I wrote down every last little thing that bothered me about this game, and I take pleasure in knowing that it’s my longest review. This game is probably one of the top 5 WORST RPGs I’ve ever played, and if you’re thinking of getting this game, or know anyone that might, you owe it to yourself to read this review and get a grasp of just what a BAD idea it would be. Hell, you should read it anyways just for the spectacle of seeing that a game can BE this bad.

Way back when I was 11, first playing through Super Mario RPG, I had an idea that was thoroughly uncreative, yet seemed like pure genius to my adolescent mind: “What if they made a Sonic RPG?” I even imagined that it would look and play exactly like SMRPG - that is, you walk around in a platformer style game while enemies that touched you initiated a turn-based combat sequence where you execute attacks by pressing buttons at the right time. Funny enough, in the distant future - thirteen years later - BioWare went and did almost exactly what I envisions with Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood…except they took out all the other things that made it fun.

Let’s get the compliments out of the way, so that it doesn’t ruin the pace of my no-holds-barred insults. The game looks good. Seriously, that’s about all the game has going for it. The game is presented in 2D with 3D character models that look really excellent, and the ‘movie’ scenes have a comic-book look to them. And yet, you don’t really get to see what is probably the most beautiful part - the 3D battle animations - because the battle system has you pressing the stylus in random places all over the touch screen, thus obscuring your view of what’s actually going on the entire time. There. Moving on.

Let’s talk about the music really quick: It sucks. The opening movie song is okay, and some of the battle themes are okay; however, most of them are really boring techno. Even worse, though, every NON battle theme is done with some sort of terrible-sounding midi beeps and bloops. The sound quality is better than I make it sound, but the instruments used are so sparse, and the music is so slow, that it’s easy to forget you’re even listening to music.

Perhaps it’s better that way; the music really gives the game this eerie quality that makes you feel like nobody making the game gave a shit about it. In fact, if I had to tell you the feelings I got from the music, I’d say “It made you feel like you were the last person on earth, and were incredibly depressed about it.” You just have to hear it for yourself. This might be the worst video game music soundtrack I have ever heard.

The story is painfully bad, even for what you might expect out of a Sonic game. Here’s the deal: Sonic comes back to…wherever he’s from, after beating ‘Eggman’ (What the hell is this, by the way? Since when did Dr. Robotnik start calling himself Eggman? Lame!) quite some time ago and taking some sort of unspecified vacation. Anyways, upon his return, Tails mentions that Knuckles was kidnapped by some sort of mysterious group called the Marauders, and that they are taking the Chaos Emeralds to use for some unspecified reason. So, Sonic needs to meet up with the gang and find Knuckles. The story unfolds from there, mostly consisting of learning the Marauders’ origins and going to random places to recover the Chaos Emeralds.

You may have noticed two things right off the bat:

  1. This game’s story rips off quite a few elements from Mario RPG stories: For one, it rips off SMRPG’s and the Mario & Luigi series’s “Sudden attack from an alien race for unknown reasons” element, and for two, it rips off the Paper Mario series’s “Have to go recover a bunch of magical mystical items in order to stave off the bad guys” plot device. Great job on ripping off ALL Mario RPGs at the same time in just one game, Sonic Chronicles.

  2. The game doesn’t really make an effort to explain anything to you. Sure, most gamers take for granted that the characters of Sonic are iconic and need no introduction; however, what if you gave this to someone who didn’t know anything? They’d probably say, “Who’s Sonic?” “What the hell was that intro scene about?” “Who is Tails/Knuckles/Amy that they mentioned just now?” “What are the Chaos Emeralds?”

To the game’s credit, there is a huge Codex built into the game’s menu that gives detailed information on everything you might need to know. But, you know what? Fuck that shit. Mario RPGs hardly relied on that aspect very little. This game just assumes instead that you have played every Sonic game ever made up until this point, and that you’d be willing to read a damned Sonic history book full of info if you haven’t. In otherwords, bad storytelling all around.

Even still, the undeniably WORST part of the story is that the game takes itself SO seriously! Mario RPGs had fun stories because they made fun of themselves the whole time! With Sonic Chronicles, you can’t help but feel like you’re reading an awful - and awfully long - piece of garbage fan fiction by a writer who desperately dreams of writing storylines for video games one day. …Oh, wait a minute!

The dialogue is just absurdly bad. For example: There is one point where Eggman is talking to your party - oh yeah, by the way, he joins you - And he says something like “I’m beginning to see why you guys do this adventuring stuff…it’s really fun to jump around and hop on stuff!” …Was that an attempt at understanding, or even worse, comedy? Because the end result is tragic: The game is full of stuff that is not only like this, but even WORSE, if you can even fathom what that’s like.

Enough about that, though. I saved the ‘best’ for last: The gameplay. I’m not even sure where to begin with this.

For one, the entire game is played on the touch screen. You hold the stylus in a certain direction, and Sonic (or whoever you have leading the party) will move in that direction. The farther the stylus is from your character, the faster they move. When running around the environments, you will see little icons that indicate things like “You need to do a Speed Dash, Fly, Climb,Break something, etc.” and pressing the icon will perform the task as long as you have a character in the lead who can do the specified task. This makes it so you have to use specific characters in specific places, and also gives more freedom to the level design, since not everything has to be switches and straight paths. Also, as you walk around, you will find money and Chao (accessories), as well as run into enemies; touching an enemy engages them in combat.

Combat is pretty simple: Everything is done with the stylus. So, you select your commands and options and stuff with the stylus. After doing so, a turn of combat occurs. If you chose any special moves, you’ll have to do a little mini game which involves touching parts of the screen at specific times, dragging the stylus across the screen at a specified spot (and time), and quickly touching a part of the screen a certain number of times. Every special attack uses one of these three mini games, or even a combination of two or all three of them; each special attack implements them ‘differently’, as in you have to touch a different part, or drag across a different space, etc. You also play these mini games when enemies use special attacks to evade or mitigate damage (all of this, by the way, is yet another way that this game rips off the Mario RPGs).

That’s the gameplay in a nutshell. Now, is there anything good I can say about this game? … …Well, I guess there were a few neat takes on certain gameplay aspects. For one, each character has a specific amount of actions in a turn. For example, Sonic gets three turns, whereas Tails will only get two, and so on. This is kind of cool, because you can do several things with a character in this way, like have them use an item, and then a special attack. There are also combination attacks, which are kind of neat, I guess - except for that the combination attacks are specified from the very beginning, essentially forcing you to use specific parties if you want to take advantage of them. Lastly, ‘attack’ and ‘defense’ don’t refer to damage, but rather to accuracy and evasion. Each character had a set damage modifier that never went up the entire game. This was cool, sort of.

But now, let’s get to the really interesting stuff: What sucks about it.

One of my main gripes is that the entire game is played with the stylus for NO GOOD REASON! It’s fun when a game uses the touch screen for something interesting that would have been inconvenient or impossible otherwise (The World Ends With You, anyone?); however, this isn’t the case at all! Playing Sonic Chronicles with the stylus is mostly a chore! Why can’t I walk around on the map with the D-Pad? It’s not being used for anything, and it’s incredibly hard to dodge enemies when you’re using the stylus, especially when most of the dungeons and environments consist of unbelievably narrow corridors. And for that matter, why do you HAVE to input your commands for battle with the touch screen? It’s this kind of stuff that makes Sonic Chronicles a SLOW game, thus flying in the face of everything that makes Sonic cool in the first place!

Combat is painfully slow, too. As if using the stylus to input commands wasn’t enough, every character getting multiple commands stretches out the turns for a long time - especially when characters use special attacks. Individual rounds of combat take up to ninety seconds, and I’ve had random battles that raged on for ten fucking minutes! A part of that is due to the way no character’s damage ever goes up. You see, there are these enemies that have super armor, so you have to use ‘Armor Piercing’ abilities in battle. However, what is never accounted for, is the fact that not everyone has armor-piercing abilities, and it’s possible to go into battle without any! Have fun killing an enemy you can’t run from by picking their life away 1 HP at a time - by the way, they have about 450.

So, the game forces you to use special abilities for enemies who have heavy armor, or have high evasion rates. Oh, but wait! Due to the absence of D-Pad functionality, you can’t actually see what your special abilities DO while you’re in battle - and don’t think for one second that most attacks give you any clue by their name, because they don’t. Also, you only have enough PP (points used for Special abilities) to use about two or three of them before they run out - given the multiple actions characters can take, that’s usually one turn! So, you then have to waste an entire turn using PP-restoring items. Now, granted, you do have support characters with PP-restoring abilities, but what if you don’t learn those abilities? Or better yet, if you mess up any part of the mini game for a support/healing spell, the entire spell fails! Good grief.

Top that off with other little gripes, like for example, the run-away mini-game that you have to play to flee from battle, which consists of touching your characters to have them jump over boxes. Seriously, why does running away have to be such a chore? It takes a good 15-20 seconds to do, too - not fast at all. And what’s worse is that it’s really hard to touch your top two characters - or rather, it’s easy to touch the wrong one on accident. Boy, if only you could use the BUTTONS to do this…

Or better yet, how the big ripoff mini games get old incredibly fast, because it’s always the SAME THREE for the ENTIRE GAME!? Or how about the status effect names? Distracted? Sluggish? Weakened? Vulnerable? All of those mean that a certain parameter is raised or lowered. Why did they need a special name for each one? Or how about how, if you decide you want to redo one character’s actions, you have to redo ALL of them!? Every single factor of the combat lends itself to being boring and slow - oh, sweet irony.

I’m just about tired of this, so let me wrap up the rest of this really quick. The narrow corridors ensure that you have to fight every single fight, so why didn’t they just have random battles instead of this cocktease bullshit?

Why is it that most dungeons where you need to fly through them are so absurdly hard to figure out? There are seriously places where you need to fly to reach, but the place you need to go to in order to fly there is on the complete other side of the map! And it’s not even like “oh, this is the highest point on the map”, it’s just some arbitrary spot that was chosen! What the hell!?

And finally, there are a bunch of sidequest missions which are totally pointless, mostly feeling forced into the game, and worse yet, consisting of typical MMO “kill x amount of x enemy” and “find x amount of x item” quests which I hate so much.

In conclusion, be careful what you wish for. If I could go back in time and tell my eleven-year-old self how stupid he was, I wouldn’t hesitate, cos oh man, did that wish ever come true. A laughably bad story that thinks it’s good, a Sonic game with SLOW combat and arduous controls, nice-looking graphics that you’ll be too distracted to see, and music that makes you want to kill yourself. That about sums up Sonic Chronicles. Avoid this game as if each cartridge was filled with AIDS, SARS, Cancer, Herpes, the T-Virus, the G-Virus, the A-Z Virus, and Anthrax.

Whee, I’m feelin’ the loooove!

I was in the store a few weeks ago, and I was deciding between this game, and DQ4. …Apparently, I made the better choice.

It’s a Sonic game and it’s not the early 90s, therefore it is absolute shit. This is pretty much physical law by now.

Oh, man…I stopped playing this game briefly when I got Order of Ecclesia, and I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I finished OoE and turned Sonic Chronicles back on. Like, my heart sank, and I got a dull headache. I procrastinated from playing it almost like a homework assignment or something. It was really that bad.

Pretty much, yeah. Dragon Quest 4 was a pretty damn good game.

Perhaps to other people who actually played later Sonic games. As I clearly implied, I didn’t - the latest game I ever played before this was Sonic & Knuckles. Besides, is it so hard to believe that an established developer of RPGs which has already made a name for itself could make a decent RPG? I didn’t expect it to wow me or anything, but I NEVER expected it to be THIS bad.

I was thinking about playing this about a month ago, but I slowly forgot about it. Also, better games came out apparently. After reading the review, it sounds like I should avoid it.

 	 		 			 				 					Originally Posted by [b]deathstryke[/b] 					

It’s a Sonic game and it’s not the early 90s, therefore it is absolute shit. This is pretty much physical law by now.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Like I mentioned in another topic, they need to just go back to Sonic’s 2D roots and stay with that. None of this 3D bullshit they’ve been churning out. Sega just needs to make another Sonic game (based on the S3&K engine) and stay with that. But…apparently they can’t do that right.

A couple of the GBA sonic games were alright.

I heard actually that Sonic Rush is pretty frickin’ awesome. I just don’t have the money to check if that’s true :stuck_out_tongue:

Not commenting on the review as a whole, though I always suspected the game would suck…

Dr. Robotnik has always been called ‘Eggman’ in Japan, to my knowledge. They just changed it when they brought him to North America since, frankly, it’s a pretty lame name. It’s kinda like the ‘Princess Toadstool’/‘Peach’ thing. And LIKE Princess Toadpeach, Sega seems to have incorporated both names into canon… somehow. I dunno exactly how, though. Sometimes I hear his full name is Dr. Eggman Robotnik, other times I hear ‘Eggman’ is just an insulting nickname Sonic and co. call him.

I’m not sure what is correct, and I don’t really care since I’ve never been much into Sonic. Robotnik is a much cooler name though, just like Bowser is better than ‘Koopa’ and ‘Mega Man’ is better than ‘Rock Man’.

At least Capcom has the decency to not start calling the series ‘Rock Man’ in North America for no other reason than ‘just because’.

Yeah, I should’ve made the GBA/DS games the slight exception. I’ve heard they’re pretty decent, but nothing too special. But I’ve never really played them. My bad. Might try out the DS games when I get some time.

Everything else more or less stands.

Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure do have a classic Sonic feel to them, and I enjoyed them greatly.

Yeah, according to the absurdly large codex in the game, his name is Eggman Robotnik. What a lame-ass name. You can’t even really do the ro-butt-nik nokes anymore :confused:

Also, I think Rock Man is much cooler. Or, at least, it would be if they changed ALL the names.

I didn’t mind Sonic Chronicles, it pales in comparison to, well, just about every other RPG (DS example: Mario & Luigi 2 shits all over it) but it wasn’t entirely broken, just not patched up particularly well. The stylus controls were hugely unnecessary, but the activating of the special moves was a nice feature. The Chao were also a nice feature, but could’ve been developed a lot more than they were. All in all, it’s not so much a ‘oh dear god no’, more a ‘must try harder’.

And fwiw, I didn’t think Sonic Rush Adventure was nearly as good as the first Rush game.