I am a Sonic fanboy. That little fact needs to be put out there right away because, though I\'ll try to be unbiased in this review, the history I\'ve had with the star of Sonic Heroes must be addressed. The first game consol my parents ever bought me was a SEGA Genesis, and the first game was Sonic the Hedgehog. That game blew my five-year-old mind and it still holds up today (along with it\'s 2D sequels) as one of the best side-scrolling platform games in history. Where the Mario games were slow, Sonic was blindingly fast. Where the plumbers graphics were bold but simple, Sonic\'s were lush and detailed. Sonic\'s gameplay outclassed everything else produced in the 16 bit era. But then came the birth of 3D, and the blue Hedgehog has not been the same since.
Sonic Heroes is Sonic Team\'s third attempt at translating the classic 2D franchise into the third dimension, and it has gotten one step closer to accomplishing it\'s goal. Unfortunately, there are many more steps to go. The game is short on story, with only brief full-motion video cutscenes after every two or three levels to tell the tale. The story is very simple yet still manages to be confusing at times because of the rushed narration. Don\'t get me wrong, I would rather have no story in a game than a bad one, but it is still disappointing because the Sonic Adventure games actually had fairly complicated and interesting plots.
At least the gameplay concept is solid. Sonic Heroes basically makes an entire game out of only the fun parts of the two Sonic Adventures. That means no "warmer/colder" scavanger hunts, no lame shooting levels, and certainly no fishing. Thank the Lord there is none of that blasted fishing, and just the flat out, seat-of-your-pants speed courses that we all love. There is a twist to what would otherwise be a straight forward roller coaster of a game: the player controls three characters at once. There are four playable teams, and each includes a speedster like Sonic, a brawler like Knuckles, and a flier like Tails. This impressive roster of covers pretty much every character from every Sonic game, including Big the Cat and the obscure team Chaotix. The player can cycle through the 3 characters with the tap of the button to select the character best fit to overcome a certain obstacle. This mechanic could have led to some interesting puzzles or unique situations, but since there are signs everywhere recommending which character should be used at every junction, it boils down to a glorified game of Simon Says. That\'s too bad.
The good news is that each of the levels is a blast to play through. Each of the game\'s stages is like giant, virtual thrill ride filled with unpredictable turns and dizzying loops. The pinball level in particular is a joy, as the fury characters will roll into balls and bounce through a giant, bumper-filled machine. There are even nice subtle additions, like power-ups that increase a specific character\'s attack power until he or she dies and the ability occasionally perform a screen-clearing "Team Blast".
Unfortunately, sometimes the passe slows down for a fight or a platform jumping sequence and things get wonky. The camera is terrible and out of control. It gets stuck behind walls and enemies at the most inconvenient times and, worse still, it sometimes doesn\'t even focus on that platforms that need to be jumped on precisely to avoid certain death. The deadly guessing game of jumping is made even worse by the controls which I can only describe as "slippery". The entire game feels like it is coated in a layer of grease because Sonic and company always take a few extra steps before stopping when the control stick is released. Nearly the entire game takes place over narrow paths of which falling off means plummeting to death, so the loose controls make some levels maddeningly cheap. As if all of that wasn\'t bad enough, getting hit by an enemy means flying back several feet and that is usually enough to push Sonic and his friends into the abyss. Also, each attack stuns the characters for just long enough to make avoiding follow-up attacks impossible. I can\'t count the number I\'ve died because all of these flaws worked together to kill me in devious ways.
Never the less, I couldn\'t put Sonic Heroes down until I beat it completely. The four teams each have the same 14 levels with the only real difference being the difficulty of each teams version. Team Rose\'s levels are shorter and easier variations, while Team Dark\'s are populated with tougher enemies. Team Chaotix is actually a little bit different because each of their level\'s have slightly altered objective, but they mostly all involve collect enough of a certain item before getting to the end of the course. Even with those alterations, it still feels like playing the same game four times. I wish it was more like Sonic Adventure 2, where the two sides had completely different stages. It feels like a big step backward in a game filled with steps forward.
There is some replay. In order to confront the real final boss you will need to collect 7 chaos emeralds which are obtained by completing special stages which are unlocked by finding the hidden key in each level. There is also a challenge mode and the usual multiplayer races and battles for those who want to squeeze a little bit more out of the game, but these aren\'t as fun as blowing through the main game is.
I played Sonic Heroes on the Gamecube, so keep that in mind as I discuss the graphics. The Cube and XBox versions are far superior to the PS2 version which, according to multiple review sites, is the most shoddy version of the game.
On the Gamecube, Sonic Heroes looks very polished. Everything is as smooth as cream and the frame rate holds up at 60fps even during sequences of extreme speed. The character models have improved since the last few 3D Sonics, and the environments are fairly detailed as well. I really have nothing in particular to complain about graphically, but Sonic Heroes just doesn\'t push the Gamecube to its limit. Games like Resident Evil 4 have given us a taste of just how amazing Gamecube graphics can be, so it is hard to be very impressed even when the graphics are quite good.
I find the music in Sonic Heroes both irritating and hopelessly catchy. The background music is the 80s-style electronic rock that has been a part of the Sonic experience since the beginning. It isn\'t as good as Sonic 2\'s classic soundtrack, but some of the tunes were suck in my head for a few hours after I stopped playing. Each of the four teams has a theme song with vocals that play during their end credits and there is also an opening theme. I can see seven-year-olds dancing to this music, but I found them brutally terrible. It doesn\'t help that some of these themes stick with you even more so than the background music, so not even the mute button will necessarily save you from the awful notes rushing through your head.
No for the worse news: the voice acting is atrocious. It isn\'t just bad, it\'s painful. Sonic\'s nasal voice is worse than a bullet through the eardrums, and I actually felt my IQ drop every time a member of Team Rose spoke. It\'s too bad that the characters are constantly chattering with each other during gameplay because, with only a few repeated lines recorded for each character, the audio is both painful and repetitive. If I had to hear "look! Eggman\'s robots!" just one more time I would have thrown my Wavebird through the TV screen just to make the agony stop. The delivery is also awkward. It\'s obvious that each character\'s lines were recorded in a separate booth, because none of the dialogue flows like an actual conversation would. Your ears will not thank you for this.
Cartoon Type Silly, Non-Deadly Violence (Ex. Simpson?s Hit and Run, Crash Bandicoot) (-2 pts)
No Gore (-0 pts)
No Blood (-0 pts)
Sonic and his pals only do battle with robots in this E-rated platformer, so the is nothing gruesome in the game. Characters can jump, punch or throw each other at enemies and once they are defeated the simply go "poof" and dissapear.
No Foul Language (-0 pts)
No sexual dialog. (-0 pts)
The game is squeaky clean in terms of language.
Characters clothing is sexy or accentuates their sexuality (Ex. tight clothing or low cleavage) (-1.5 pts)
No Sexual Content (-0 pts)
One character, Rouge the Bat, has a bit of cleavage. Being offended by a deformed, anime bat\'s slight cleavage would be a little weird if you ask me, but I\'m here to give you the facts.
There is no occult or supernatural in the game. (-0 pts)
There is a halloween themed level that includes ghosts with jak-o-latern heads and a few creepy decorations, but I\'d hardly take points off for that.
No authority issues involved with this game. (-0 pts)
No prejudicial bias in the game. (-0 pts)
No gross humor in the game. (-0 pts)
Good value decision making is required to progress in the game. (-0 pts)
While there is a "Team Dark" that is playable, those characters aren\'t really "evil". "Dark" refers more to their attitudes. The other three teams are clear-cut good guys, and there isn\'t anything immoral in the game that is worth noting.
Sonic fans should rent Sonic Heroes, and parents looking for a decent, G rated game might want to get it for their kids. Everyone else should probably pass this one up for better games in the genre. This is a step in the right direction for the Sonic franchise, but the formula (at least in 3D) is fundamentally flawed. Sonic Heroes offers a fair share of fun and can be quite addictive, but you can find more for your money.