Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sonic Rush Adventure (DS) Review

Mario and Sonic at the Winter Games is coming out this October, so why not dig up two old reviews in anticipation? The first will be posted today while the second will be posted tomorrow. For now, here's a return to Sonic Rush Adventure for the Nintendo DS.

Blue seas, blue skies, and the blue blur

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Sonic the Hedgehog once again speeds onto the DS hot off the heels of the incredibly fun Sonic Rush with its sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure. While the 3-D Sonic games haven't been everyone's (or should I say anyone's?) cup of tea, the 2-D Sonic titles have ranged from average to fantastic. Does Sonic Rush Adventure continue to blaze a trail of good games for 2-D Sonic fans, or should this title stay at the bottom of the sea?

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Sonic in stellar form.

While flying over the ocean waters in Tails' plane, Sonic and Tails suddenly get engulfed by a savage ocean twister. Found washed up on a beach by an Australian raccoon named Marine, Sonic and Tails meet up with Blaze the Cat from the previous Sonic Rush game. It's from this meeting that the two realize that they're in Blaze's dimension. Not only need they find a way to return to their dimension, but they also take on the task of stopping a tyrannical pirate named Captain Whiskers from taking over the seas of Blaze's dimension. What follows is a tutorial level giving players the ins and outs of Sonic Rush Adventure's platforming gameplay.

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Chart a course to uncharted isles and more.

One thing you might notice immediately in Adventure is that the game is split up much differently from previous 2-D Sonics. Zones are on different islands spread around the world map. Sonic must chart a course to reach each island, but his starting jet ski can only reach so far. By upgrading to larger vehicles, the crew can reach out of the way zones, secret islands, and even races with a metallic shark named Johnny for chaos emeralds. After charting a course you're taken into a minigame depending on what craft you're using. There's four crafts in all, and each has a different gimmick to them. The jet ski is the most enjoyable of the bunch. You drag the stylus to move the jet ski left and right on a set track, gathering rings, avoiding enemies, and launching off ramps. When you launch off a ramp you'll be prompted to move the stylus a certain direction in order to initiate a cool trick. The sailboat, however, isn't as much fun. All you do is take out enemies by tapping the touch screen, destroying the projectiles they launch at you, and collecting rings simply by touching them. You'll also pilot two other crafts which control different ways as well. None of these are as enjoyable as the jet ski, but they all serve their own purpose. You'll eventually need to use them all to reach every nook and cranny the ocean hides.

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Face off against Johnny to earn Chaos Emeralds.

Charting courses to other island breaks up the normal pace of the Sonic platformers. Instead of just transitioning from one zone to the next, each zone is split up needing to plot a course to the next zone, enduring the usually tedious storyboard cutscenes, and taking part in one of the aforementioned minigames. This may turn off some players used to the more common "one-zone-to-the-next" gameplay of previous titles, but it works pretty well when you get used to the formula.

There are seven or so zones in Sonic Rush Adventure in all. These range from your typical tropical island to a coral cavern to a haunted pirate ship. Each zone has its own brand of gimmicks like mushrooms that propel you to higher places to mine cart rides taking you through a level at a rocket pace. Most zones you can simply press right, jump occasionally, and voila-- you're at the goal. This is more hyperbole than anything, but for the most part that's what you'll be doing. Sonic Rush Adventure is all about speed and less about the intricate platforming of the original Sonic the Hedgehog games for the Genesis. Thankfully there are far less bottomless pits in this game than in Sonic Rush, so by missing one platform doesn't necessarily mean you're going to lose a life. This is a welcomed fix, and it's appreciated that the developers actually listened to their fans for once. You'll still most likely run into an enemy as you speed through the levels as some of them are put in very peculiar locations. And jetting through the levels with only a split second to dodge only hinders this.

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A nod to a personal favorite of mine, the Ice Cap Zone.

There are two acts to each zone followed by a boss encounter. These take place in 2 1/2 D environment. The bosses and backgrounds are in full 3-D, but Sonic is limited to a 2-D plane whether that'd be a circular platform around the boss or simply a line. The bosses aren't too incredibly challenging, but they can give younger players a run for their money. Each boss has their own weak points, patterns, and gimmick to them. One boss will have you knocking the balls on its arms up and smack dab into its head. Another will have you waiting for it to poke its head out for you to hit its weak point for massive damage. Sorry, folks, no giant enemy crabs here.

Not only are their the main zones to play through, but there's also hidden islands spread out across the sea. These are much shorter levels than typical zone acts, but they add even more platforming goodness for players to partake in. Most of these are more difficult than normal acts, so be forewarned. These will most likely put your Sonic Rush Adventure skills to the test. Additionally there's one-hundred missions to complete. These range from getting a set number of rings within the time limit to reaching the goal. These are mostly optional, but to get the true ending of the game players will need to play through some of these in order to gather all the sol emeralds. Likewise gathering chaos emeralds is done by racing Johnny who hides in several areas of the world map waiting for a jet ski race. Prepare to do some of these races over and over again until you learn the tricks of beating Johnny at his own game. It just takes a little patience, practice, and know-how with your watercraft.

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One of the many end-of-zone boss battles to complete.

However, Sonic has a lot of moves at his disposal outside of his watercraft. He can grind rails as if he were emulating Tony Hawk, and he can perform a super boost as long as his tension gauge has some juice in it. This is great for gaining speed up steep slopes so Sonic need not have to begin a spin dash (a signature Sonic move dating all the way back to the second Sonic the Hedgehog game) all the way back at the bottom just to reach the top of the slope. Performing mid-air tricks awards players with more juice in Sonic's tension gauge. After a few zones you'll be able to choose to play as either Sonic or Blaze in levels. Blaze acts nearly the same as Sonic, so it's merely for aesthetic purposes or personal preference to who you choose to play as.

Sonic Rush Adventure is a fast game. I'm not saying it's short-- it simply plays fast. Thankfully the framerate keeps up rather well without hiccups. The varied zones are detailed, colorful, and a pleasure to look at, and the models of Sonic and company are very impressive. The 3-D aspects of gameplay like the boss battles and boat portions of the game shine rather well as well. While Hideki Naganuma (Jet Grind Radio, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Sonic Rush) did not return to compose the music for Sonic Rush Adventure, the music very much tries to emulate his style. Most of the tracks are quite good actually, and I really dig the boss music to be quite honest. However, the rest falls flat and is nowhere near the quality of Naganuma's past works.

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The zones are varied and quite colorful.

Sonic Rush Adventure may seem disjointed by not being able to play through the zones all in a row like previous games, but the new additions like watercraft segments do just well. I'd prefer a more arcade-ish feel like past games, but needing to chart a course to where you want to go doesn't make the game horrible. While Marine may be one of the most annoying characters I've ever witnessed in a Sonic game, thankfully you can skip story segments. Also, it would have been nice to have an auto-save function. I can't imagine the number of stories of gamers who quit Sonic Rush Adventure only to find out that the game never saved their progress.

A remarkable new addition to the Sonic franchise is online play. Yes, you and a buddy can battle one another in the various maps of the game, or you can try to speed through a zone as fast a possible to see how you rank among the world via online leaderboards.

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Baddies abound in some precarious locations
occasionally in Rush Adventure.

Sonic Rush Adventure may not triumph over its predecessors or even Sonic Rush, but it's an incredibly competent Sonic game from Sonic Team, no less. There's a lot of gameplay styles to sift through, but the main trademark speed of Sonic remains true. Whether you're charting a course to new island, participating in one of four watercraft exercises, or speeding through a zone for a best time, Sonic Rush Adventure has enough content and fun to warrant a purchase. It may not be the best 2-D Sonic, but it's certainly an engaging one.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

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