Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii) Review

Sonic and the Black Knight released for the Wii this week, so why not use this opportunity to take a look back at the first title in the Sonic Storybook Series, Sonic and the Secret Rings. The reception for Secret Rings between fans and reviewers was very mixed. This may be one of my earliest reviews (you might be able to notice), but what side of the fence did I stand on?

A red sneaker in the right direction.

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Sonic's had a rough series of years. Sonic Heroes, which I loved, was panned by most critics as mediocre. Shadow the Hedgehog brought guns and vehicles into the fray. Once again, most critics were not brimming with positive energy towards that installment. Finally the game that was supposed to redefine the series, Sonic the Hedgehog for the 360 and then PS3, bombed in both reviews and sales, deservedly so. Now we're in 2007, and although Sonic hasn't been completely poor (see Sonic Rush), it's been mostly a bumpy road for Sega's blue mascot.

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The environments are mostly beautiful.

Sonic and the Secret Rings attempts to move the series in a different direction thanks to the Wii's innovative remote control controller (redundant, isn't it?). Rather than simply port Sonic Next-Gen with toned-down graphics, Sega/Sonic Team decided to create a fresh new blue hedgehog entry for Nintendo's new Wii console. Personally I'm thankful for that decision. Save the masses from the dreadful mess that was Next-Gen Sonic. This game is close to what a 3-D Sonic should be like.

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Time to fly? Go sky-high!

Sonic Wii starts off with a napping blue hedgehog nestled in a lounge chair with a book resting on the table beside him. From this book, the genie Shahra, calls forth her desired master to save the world of the Arabian Nights. Sonic becomes unwillingly pulled into the book. It is here where Shahra tells Sonic the sad fate that looms over the book and its worlds by the evil Erazor Djinn (get it, Eraser... razor...? The developers slay me.) Erazor Djinn is a daunting, menacing looking man with purple skin and a cool switchblade-ish weapon. That is to say he's menacing when he isn't talking. Otherwise he's a total dweeb. Sonic isn't the only familiar face in the world of Arabian Nights. Characters such as Eggman, Tails, and Knuckles also make appearances in unlikely ways as characters in the book.

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Don't look back!

All this sets up Sonic to jet off into seven themed worlds and a very boring tutorial level, Lost Prologue. It's great that the developers want to teach you how to play the game, but the beginning level is, simply put, boring. However once you get out of the opening tutorial level and enter your first world, you're golden. You hold the Wii remote sideways as if you were playing Excite Truck. Tilting the remote left moves Sonic left. Tilting the remote right-- you guessed it-- moves Sonic right. The 2 button controls your jumps. Holding it down begins your charge in order to jump. Releasing the button leaps Sonic into the air where you can initiate a homing attack by jerking the Wii remote forward. The 1 button applies the brakes when Sonic is going way past fast for your liking. Finally tilting the Wii remote backward allows for Sonic to move backwards. Note, the camera and Sonic are still facing forward. This presents itself as a problem when you speed past a group of enemies or platforms and wish to head backward. While walking backwards, obstacles like spikes and other enemies may collide into Sonic. This causes a problem with backtracking in levels. The problem is simple: it's usually a pain in the hedgehog's ass-- literally.

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No net? No problem!

Backing up issues aside, controlling Sonic starts off a little clunky but never totally unmanageable. Once you level up (which is done by defeating enemies, beating missions, and so on), acquiring new moves and abilities, Sonic controls much smoother and seamless. Executing aerial maneuvers, grinding, sliding, homing attack proximity, starting boosts, sidestepping from side to side-- all can be upgraded through abilities. You have a set limit of skill points which you can equip to one ring (not to be confused with the life-supply rings of most Sonic games). As you gain levels, your skill points increase, allowing you to equip more abilities to Sonic for easier use. The RPG element allows players to mix and match skills to fit their playing style. Need to go fast? Equip speed skills. Need to kill some baddies? Equip offensive skills. The possibilities are numerous.

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Maybe if you jump high enough, you'll reach the Sun.

World progression is made by completing multiple missions in each world such as beat the level, defeat twenty enemies, don't die, etc. Some of these missions are enjoyable while others such as racing a blue ball of stop-taunting-me-as-you-pass-me-you-miserable-cretin are frustratingly difficult most of the time. Adding to the replay value are medals that can be earned by beating missions fast. There's also fire souls which unlock multiplayer content and a book containing unlockable concept art, music, and videos.

The multiplayer mode is nothing to write home about. The games are horribly designed with bad controls mostly. And in true party game fashion, winning is based more on luck than skill. The only plus I saw to this mode was the odd inclusions of Shadow and Silver the Hedgehog (who has sex with hedgehogs to create all of these things?!) and Blaze the Cat (Sonic Rush).

Overall, Sonic and the Secret Rings shows that there's still fun to be had with 3D Sonic entries. The fun use of the controller, action-packed levels, and sheer speed are all present and accounted for. Those yearning for a challenge will certainly find one. Others may want to pass for something less frustrating.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]


Anonymous said...

I didn't really like this game as much as other people did. Theat whole constantly moving thing kinda killed it for me, but it is a lot better than some of the more recent atrocities.

Zac Pritcher

Kyle said...

I agree with Zac, the game was mediocre but still a bit entertaining, though wonky controls and the always moving forward thing that Zac mentioned are some of my biggest complaints.

Though it still did impress me visually and the combat system was entertaining I thought.