Bioware has been having a hard time lately. EA has virtually run the developer directly into the ground and, after the disaster of Anthem, they may very well be on the chopping block. But before they sold themselves to EA, they were good right? Well, let’s look at the last game they developed that wasn’t published by EA. A Sonic RPG for the Nintendo DS.
So, Eggman has gone missing and is presumed dead. I’m sure that will totally stick for the entire game. In this situation, Sonic gets contacted by Tails and told that the chaos emeralds have been stolen & Knuckles is a prisoner to a mysterious group called the Marauders. Sonic has to go on a journey with friends, and foes against the Marauders, including a mysterious Echidna named Shade.
The story isn’t bad. It’s just not very interesting. It’s one of those kind of standard “hero works with his villains against a new common foe” types of stories. Bioware tries to spice it up a bit with some dialogue options and relationship building, similar to what you might see in Mass Effect except it really doesn’t make any difference and it’s a lot less interesting.
We’ve got Sonic’s usual gallery. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Emo Sonic, Rouge, A random robot, Cream, Amy, Eggman, & that shitty obese cat no one likes. They’re joined by Shade the echidna. A classic character so beloved, she’ll never be in anything else.
I say that, but Shade is a decent enough character. The Marauders in general aren’t bad. Although they were similar enough to some of Penders’ comic creations that he filed a lawsuit for infringement.
This is where Sonic Chronicles really suffers. A relatively lacklustre story might be excusable if the game were fun to play. Unfortunately, this is one of those DS games where the touch screen controls are shite. The over world can be counter-intuitive to navigate at times. The worst part, however, is the combat. Your special attacks require a combination of touching the right spot with your stylus and dragging your stylus across the touch screen. Not only is it really finicky, but some of the abilities demand such a degree of precision and flawless execution that they’re not even worth trying to use. The healing abilities, especially Cream’s, are the worst in that regard.
The final boss is the worst. You have to do a long chase sequences where you have to touch your party to leap over obstacles and it can be a slog because if you hit an obstacle you lose progress and there’s a delay to your inputs. The characters don’t just jump immediately. Which means you have to get used to the timing. This all contributes to make the game decidedly not fun to play. Its one saving grace is that its difficulty level is so low that you can make quite a few mistakes on account of the terrible touch screen controls and still manage to win handily.
The art style isn’t bad. The characters, cut scenes and everything look fine. And I can’t really fault Bioware’s efforts in that regard. It might not look as smooth as the actually polished Sonic titles of the time, but they were also on console and this is on the DS.
The music by Steven Sim & Richard Jacques is pretty good. The OST is honestly the element that holds up the best. Is it going to match the classic scores of the Megadrive? Probably not but it’s a worthwhile effort and the sound effects are fine.
Areas of Improvement:
- Make the combat more traditional turn based. While I appreciate that giving players a more active impact on combat can be a good thing (one just has to look at Legend of the Dragoon, The World Ends With You or even Mass Effect) it doesn’t work here. Bioware clearly had no idea how to use the Touch screen for it. Which is what hurts the game more than anything else. A more traditional turn-based system would have been much more seamless and a lot more fun.
- Get rid of the chase sequence in the final boss fight. Again, this is an element that’s really not fun and is more frustrating to deal with than anything.
- No Big the Cat. Seriously, no one likes this character. He’s the worst part of the cast in any Sonic game that features him. You could replace him with any one of the Chaotix and it would be better.
Sonic Chronicles is an unfortunate entry in the franchise as a whole. It may be better than actually broken games like Boom or ’06 but its garbage controls are some of the worst touch screen controls out there and its lacklustre narrative doesn’t do it any favours. Ultimately, I’ll give it a 4/10. It’s not an RPG that’s worth picking up.