A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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What's it about?
When you think of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's fleet-footed mascot, you think of speedy platformer games full of running, jumping, and rushing crazily about like a roller coaster gone off the rails. But Sonic, who's been around for 17 years now, is now venturing into a new video game genre. By mixing Sonic's mythic backstory into a role-playing format, Sega has created SONIC CHRONICLES: THE DARK BROTHERHOOD, a fairly deep DS offering centering upon a simple premise: someone or something has kidnapped Knuckles, Sonic's sometime pal and sometime rival. It's up to Sonic and ten of his pals to find the sharp knuckled, short-tempered Knuckles.
Sonic Chronicles shines as an entry-level role playing game that has at least 20 hours of game within, all of which is played via the touch screen. As you play as a Level 1 Sonic, you're given a generally understandable tutorial which tells you how to move Sonic by touching a spot on the lower screen to which you want him to travel. You're told to talk to everyone by touching icons above them and you're shown how get powerups by simply running into them. The battle system, which at one point not only has you fighting but chasing down a drone, is also explained in the too-long tutorial.
Is it any good?
BioWare, the game developer, impressively put a lot into a game. The graphics and cut scenes are full of personality and panache. The characters and story become really interesting one-third of the way through. And the battle system comes with a variety of ways to combat enemies by using all of Sonic's pals. But by trying to do everything their way, some elements were left out.
After a few hours of play, you'll find that battles take too long and can get boring, despite the variety of so-called POW moves, which are implemented via the touch screen. You do have to play a mini-game to make sure you hit your opponent with the POW move, but these sometimes don't have enough diversity in them. As with many RPGs, you must do a lot of exploring for not much payoff. Plus you meet a lot of the same enemies when backtracking. And yet, you have to applaud this detailed effort that's often brilliant. For instance, you'll like discovering Chao eggs, which, when put in your garden, grow up to be powerful helpers in battle. You can trade Chao wirelessly, too, if your pal has another Sonic Chronicles game. So while the new Sonic isn't perfect, overall, it's joy to play.
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