Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Review
It’s kind of strange to see a game with the name ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ appearing on this website. With this being an RPG Site and Sonic being a series more firmly based in the platforming world than his rival Mario, Sonic is really as far removed from the kind of games we cover as possible – fast paced, reflex-driven, and... well, not a RPG. That’s all changed with Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, though.
Coming from Bioware, the US based development studio that brought us some of the best Western RPGs like Mass Effect and Jade Empire, this game is an interesting take on the Sonic the Hedgehog universe, featuring some of the characters in ways they’ve never been seen before. Bioware’s trademark morality choices also make an appearance, with Sonic able to make choices on occasion that will affect the path of the game and the world around him. Make no mistake – this is no Mass Effect – but the morality decisions in this game still have an impact.
In terms of gameplay, Sonic Chronicles takes more direction from the Japanese RPG world than the Western RPG, opting for turn-based battles instead of real-time fighting. This is an interesting choice, considering the franchise being used is one that has a primary focus on speed, but after a short time with the game it becomes clear why Bioware chose this route.
In a way, Sonic Chronicles plays like “My First RPG,” which is no bad thing. These days many RPGs are aimed directly at the hardcore and have difficulty and gameplay designed at a level to challenge RPG veterans. There are few RPGs in this day and age as simple as Sonic Chronicles and as easy to grasp for children and those new to the genre – in fact, the only other one I can think of would probably be Pokemon.
The comparison with Pokemon is a great one, actually, as Sonic Chronicles also features the same level of depth. It can be played at a level that is comfortable for new gamers, but it’ll also welcome the hardcore with open arms, providing sidequests and extra missions for those wishing for more from the game.
The game is beautiful looking and well presented, with many famous Sonic Zones from games past and present represented in isometric 3D on the DS screen. Menus are pleasant to use and characters are easy to control, and overall the game is enjoyable to play and a treat to look at. Music is a far larger part of RPGs than many other genres of game, and Sonic Chronicles seems to know it. The game is unafraid to dip into the Sonic franchises’ archive of classic videogame tunes, and also adds some new classics to that list in the process.
The main downfall of Sonic Chronicles comes sadly in its difficulty. One character in particular has such amazing healing powers it can be considered game-breaking, and many of the side missions are simple fetch-quests with basic morality choices sitting at either end. This is where the ‘My First RPG’ concept falls flat on its face a little – as while this game is perfect for kids or Sonic fans who’ve never played Final Fantasy before, RPG veterans and gamers who have played a wider variety of games will find Sonic Chronicles lacks the challenge that even Pokemon has towards the end game.
Despite this, the game manages to avoid becoming boring. Some RPGs with battle systems that are easily broken – Final Fantasy VIII for example – quickly become boring once you’ve mastered those god-like abilities, defeating every enemy with a few idle button presses. Sonic Chronicles manages to remain engaging even when the game has become easy – and we found that dropping the aforementioned character from our party line-up increased the game’s difficulty significantly.
Sonic Chronicles is a game full of good ideas – beautiful, iconic art design, familiar characters, and a franchise with an appeal to both kids and adults. The gameplay is easy, sure, and the story is equally as simplistic, but both of those things are still worlds apart from what we are used to seeing from the Sonic franchise. It’s a solid game, and perhaps a great start to a series of Sonic the Hedgehog RPGs to rival Mario’s ‘Paper Mario’ franchise.
Sonic Chronicles is an essential purchase for Sonic fans, and definitely worth a look for RPG fans in general. Despite lacking difficulty and trying to remain simple, Sonic Chronicles still manages to be a shining beacon for the RPG genre on the already RPG-packed DS. It’s a compelling experience, even if in places it lets itself down. And it’s definitely one of the best Sonic games in years.
Just take our advice: If you want a challenge... Don’t use Cream the Rabbit.