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[ Writer ] = CMoon|
[ 02/16/04 ] = Sonic Heroes|
Sometimes there's no good explanation why a game is good. It tries so hard to be a bad game. It throws in every wincingly-bad hook that made all its predecessors bad. It even invents new rotten shit to ensure complete and total commercial failure. But somehow the game just can't lose. This is the story of Sonic (Heroes).
There's no doubt that a long time ago Sonic was actually
a good series. I never owned a Genesis (my butt belonged in the arcade,
not sitting on a couch at home), and by the time I played the 'classic'
Sonic games, they were only of minimal appeal. But far more horrific were
the Dreamcast entries, and not just because they were bad games but because
they had taken the somewhat cute characters and made them into talking
entities. It isn't just that Tails is gay, it's that we had to visually
and aurally experience
Have I said how bad the voice-overs are in the Sonic games
yet? Fortunately the Genesis wasn't really equipped to do voice-overs,
but the Dreamcast sure was. This would be great if Sonic was designed
for 3 year-olds, but it isn't really - at least Heroes isn't. With its
roots still securely in the soil of 16-bit platformer goodness, I don't
see how the average 5 year-old could enjoy the Sonic games, so I can only
reason the voice-overs are there to piss us off. I need a Tails plushy
so I can punch it every time his
Oh and then there's the music. I'll probably go to hell
for saying I like it, but I do in a really 'guilty-pleasure' sort of way.
With all that said you're probably wondering why I'd even
bother reviewing Sonic Heroes (GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox), and the
answer may come as a surprise to many: Underneath all the layers of 'bad
presentation', Sonic Heroes is a really fine game. If
What Team Sonic did was put the speed back in the game. There is hardly a moment in the game where you can't be flying through levels so quick that everything is a blur. That's right, Sonic is once again a fast game. And I'm not even joking about being fast. Sonic Heroes may be the fastest moving 3-D game I've ever played, and despite not looking like much more than its DC predecessors, the speed at which polygons are being pushed is truly impressive.
Part of the solution to this problem of speed was to turn the game into teams instead of individual characters. Nobody wants to play the slow (and gay) Tails levels, but having Tails on your team will let you fly when you really need to. Likewise, Knuckles' slower (and item-hunting) levels have also been eliminated, but he's along for the ride to punch the crap out of anyone or anything that gets in your way.
When you need the powers of one of your teammates, a simple push of a button puts him (or her) at the front, subsequently changing all the properties of your team. It isn't just that you put Tails in front when you wanna fly, but putting him in front also makes your team slower, you jump farther, and in this case, your group actually stands taller (by standing on each other's shoulders.) With Knuckles you move at a medium speed and everyone spreads out - great for grabbing multiple rows of rings.
So the whole team feature (without going too in-depth) is a real stroke of genius. It lets you do everything at once, meaning the levels are designed to let you do everything at once. And that is where Sonic Heroes saves its own butt! Who would want to play a fast character that can't fly and with limited offensive capability, when you can play a team that does everything? Apparently Team Sonic answered this question for themselves.
Now with the freedom to make universal levels for all
the teams (instead of just being suited to one character), some real creativity
was able to surface. Levels became longer with emphasis on speed, flying
and power throughout! Despite being 3-D, the game took on a marked resemblance
to former 2-D outings with precision and memorization necessary for mastering
levels. Run as fast as you can with Sonic, switch to Tails long enough
to down a flying enemy, switch to Knuckles long enough to destroy the
And yes, memorization. Sonic Adventures introduced lots of loops and so forth where the player could just let go of the controls and watch Sonic do his thing. In a way that hasn't changed, there are so many little deviations you can make from the 'obvious' path (many of which are mid-loops or in other places you wouldn't expect) that to really achieve at the levels, you'll need to look carefully at all your surroundings and remember the specific time you'll need to make a death-defying leap.
The difficulty also feels rather satisfying. Some may question this, since levels can for the most part be easily beaten. But you will also notice a grade, a score, and a time. Sure you can beat a level easily, but the number of times I've gotten an A rank is a very, very small number. Getting a level down to minimum time can also be hard. And remember, it's Sonic: beat a level with over 100 rings and you get a bonus level. You may easily get to the end of a level, but doing well is an altogether different thing. That's the kind of difficulty I like.
And I suppose I need to discuss the core gameplay itself.
It may be with polygons, but for the most part, Sonic plays like it's
2-D - from time to time you'll hit a larger area and Sonic will gain a
3rd dimension. Perhaps this is why Sonic Heroes is so glorious. By taking
out that 3rd dimension, you're left to running and platform hopping -
and given how fast you'll be moving, that can be pretty freakin' amazing.
So what I'm really saying here is that despite being dressed up like Sonic
Adventures, Sonic Heroes is
With all that said (and plenty more I could say), let me sum this up for the attention-challenged:
] = Pros
[ Rundown ]
My final take: This is a surprisingly good game that is unfortunately out on every console (ensuring the GameCube will die). Old-schoolers will dig it, but it has plenty of appeal for everyone. It won't last long though, if you're the sort who just wants to see the end.