There once was a time when Sonic the Hedgehog was a contender. Back in the early days of console gaming, there was no rivalry greater than that of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Nintendo’s Super Mario. But where Mario made the transition into a three-dimensional environment almost perfectly, Sonic, sadly, did not.
Ever since Sonic went 3-D in [i]Sonic Adventure[/i] for the Sega Dreamcast, there’s been something missing from the series. While the game received much acclaim from gamers and reviewers alike, it was very obvious that the series had taken a drastic turn. The frenzied speed of the original Sonic titles for the Sega Genesis was gone, replaced by slow moving action of Knuckles searching for shattered Emerald pieces. Even Sonic’s part in Sonic Adventure had slowed to a crawl, with the classic corridor-style level replaced with spacious, full blown-out 3-D levels. The excessive amount of new characters didn’t do the series much good either, taking the main focus away from Sonic and more on side characters. The series has also seen some of the most annoying camera angles and horrible voice acting in gaming. Now, nearly 5 years after the release of Sonic Adventure, [i]Sonic Heroes[/i] tries it’s best to revive the original speed of the 2-D era, and while it does succeed in doing so, it fails in other areas.
Note the ‘Heroes’ part of [i]Sonic Heroes[/i]. Yes, it’s plural, meaning more than one. [i]Heroes[/i] separates itself from Sonic’s previous installments by letting you control three different characters at once. The game has four different teams, which we’ll cover later, and each of the three characters in a team has different abilities that must be used to progress through the story mode. There are three different types in each team; Fly, Speed, and Power. For example, in Team Sonic, Knuckles is classified as the Power character, and is used to fight enemies and break obstacles that the others cannot. Tails is classified as a Flying character, and helps Knuckles and Sonic up to higher ledges. And Sonic is the Speed character of the bunch, used to speed quickly through loops and pathways. You need to learn how to effectively switch between characters in order to complete levels, and while it takes some getting used to, it will eventually become second nature.
As said earlier, [i]Heroes[/i] has 4 different teams to choose from. Team Sonic is made up of Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles ‘Tails’ Prower, and Knuckles the Echidna. Team Dark is made up of Rouge the Bat, and Omega, the only robot made by Eggman that has actual emotions. Team Dark also has Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic’s alter-ego, who was supposed to have died in space at the end of Sonic Adventure 2, but somehow survived to be in this title. Amy Rose, Cream the Rabbit, and Big, the… I don’t know what Big is exactly, make up Team Rose. Team Rose is by far the most annoying team in the game, with Cream sounding like she’s voiced by a 30 year old man trying to sound like a little girl at times, and Big, who has the brains of an infant and is obsessed with his Froggy. Then we have the most questionable team in the game, Team Chaotix. Chaotix is made up of Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon, and Charmy Bee. If you have never heard of these guys, don’t worry, you haven’t missed a new addition to the character pool in the last few years, nor are they newly introduced to [i]Heroes[/i]. These guys were last seen in Knuckles Chaotix, for the ill-fated 32X add-on for the Sega Genesis. The only people who might remember these guys are die-hard Sega fans who bought the 32X, or perhaps people who read Sonic the Hedgehog comics back in the day.
All these characters and team selections bring up [i]Heroes[/i]’ first problem. For a Sonic game, [i]Heroes[/i] really doesn’t focus on Sonic. In fact, in its entirety, Sonic is almost treated as a minor character in the game. The only time Sonic shows up is when you play as Team Sonic and during other team’s cut scenes (which isn’t often). Even when you’re playing as Team Sonic, since you have to use all three characters, you’ll only end up using Sonic one-third of the time. On the plus side however, [i]Heroes[/i] doesn’t add any new characters to the Sonic universe, although it does take existing ones from Chaotix, Sonic Advance 2, and the Sonic Adventure series.
One of the things [i]Heroes[/i] does right is bring back the speed of the original Sonic titles. Compared to its previous 3-D titles, [i]Sonic Heroes[/i] is easily the fastest and is the first 3-D Sonic title to come close to the frenzied speed of the Genesis’ Sonic. However, the team swapping slows down [i]Heroes[/i] considerably. As soon as the speed begins to pick up, you will usually have to switch characters and stop to fly over obstacles, or find a switch to activate a door. It’s a good feeling of Sonic nostalgia when you begin to pick up speed and go through loops at lighting fast speeds, but just as soon as it starts, you’re forced to switch characters to compete certain tasks. It really slows down the speed of the game.
Another big problem with [i]Heroes[/i] is that, aside from difficulty settings, every team plays through the exact same levels in the exact same order. The only real difference is that some team’s levels are longer while others are shorter. Team Sonic’s levels are moderate in difficulty, while Team Rose’s levels are shorter and much easier. Team Dark’s levels are just like Team Sonic’s, but they have more enemies, some being more hazardous. The only team that really sticks out is Team Chaotix, which plays through the same levels, but has different goals, such as destroying every robot in a level. [i]Heroes[/i] still goes by the harsh level grading system that the first two installments had, and in order to get all A’s, you’ll have to play a good long time.
The camera angles were very awkward in the previous Sonic Adventure games. [i]Heroes[/i] improves slightly on the camera, but for the most part, it’s still flawed. At times, it won’t lock onto an enemy, specifically bosses and you’ll be forced to navigate the camera manually. Other times, it will get stuck at an awkward angle and you won’t be able to see what’s going on 50 feet away from you. The voice acting is much improved over Sonic Adventure’s horrid voice overs, but it is by no means tolerable. The game even has some major glitches in it, although they rarely happen. One such glitch was at the beginning of a fight against another team, the opponents started out over the water. As soon as the fight began, they dropped into the water, giving me the victory. Other glitches include your character falling through the floor. The spastic controls don’t help the game much either. At times, you will press the B button only to fly all over the place, and most likely off the edge of a platform. The controls are one of the more intolerable features of [i]Heroes[/i].
[i]Sonic Heroes[/i] is one of the more disappointing Sonic titles to come out in recent years. Die-hard fans of the original Sonic titles that didn’t enjoy the previous 3-D Sonic titles may get a kick from the revived speed, but be cautious. Be aware that the Gamecube version is supposedly the best version you can get, while the Xbox version is mediocre. The PS2 version however suffers from poor frame rates and is generally lesser in quality than the Gamecube and Xbox versions. [i]Sonic Heroes[/i] may serve many better as a rental.