Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Nintendo DS
Reviewed: 05/13/2009

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood had many RPG fans scratching their heads from the get-go. A Sonic RPG? Unheard of! Well, unfortunately not any more. While the game offers some neat gameplay aspects, it ends up falling short of being worthwhile.

The first immediate strike against the game is that it feels like one big shrug. Bioware has a reputation for great story and gameplay, but it seems that they may have decided to rely more on the series’ name to sell the game than actually delivering a quality product. Why try making a good story or superb gameplay, it’s Sonic! There are so many parts here that feel like they could have been excellent, but right as they are about to get interesting, the concept is either dropped or given up on.

The game is a mishmash of elements that are interesting and a ton that are just annoying. The level system is pretty standard, as players have definite control over how they choose to build characters. Each level, players can add to a stat (attack, luck, etc.) as they see fit. Not only that, but they’ll get points to use to upgrade or gain abilities. In this way, leveling characters feels like it is directly under control of the players. The system would probably be addictive enough to make players want to grind for fun’s sake, if it weren’t for what a drag the battle system is.

The battle system suffers not so much from mechanics as from repetition. As players attack or use skills, they’ll be interacting with the touch screen in timed touches or motions that increase the power of attacks or prevent damage. It’s a neat mechanic (though not really unique) that makes battles a little more interactive. The unfortunate part, however, is how long the battles are, and how frequently they occur. Players can avoid most fights but the amount that players are required to fight in order to level up is to high, because each battle can drag on for several minutes. Even the most basic battles will have players fighting for at least a minute and a half. Adding to this is that once players get to a high enough in level, enemies flee, and a minigame in which players must chase them in a sidescrolling fashion, jumping over boxes, grabbing coins, etc. ensues. Another problem is that enemies seem to make up for the ease with which they are defeated by simply having a ridiculous amount of health that forces players to go through several rounds.

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There’s another way players can customize their characters with  “Chao”. These are basically little fluff pet… things… that let players get extra bonuses upon “hatching” them in the Chao Garden. It’s nothing super special, but it is a mildly interesting bonus for people who explore the environments thoroughly.

The game’s “story” doesn’t do much to help either. It’s honestly not even memorable enough for this reviewer to recall the names of the major villains or even some of the main characters. It apparently tries to make a mysterious world in which players must find what the “Dark Brotherhood” *ooo scary* is doing, but it’s so childish most players just won’t care.

However, the quality of the story isn’t as big a strike against it as the lack of direction. Sure, it’s not exactly an open-world game that players will wander around for hours, but the game rarely gives legitimate directions nudging the player on where to go. This flaw is especially apparent in the side quests, as players will spend frustrating time trying to even figure out where to go for various quests. In a game that is clearly designed for a younger crowd, this lack of direction is unforgivable.

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Sonic Chronicles is not a bad looking game at all. The environments are quite varied and look pretty. While the 3D models of the characters aren’t spectuclar, they aren’t awful either. It’s a good looking game. The music is totally forgettable, but at least it’s not bad.

Ultimately Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood falls into the category of “games that didn’t need to be made.” This reviewer really wanted to like this game, and there is some enjoyment to be had here, but overall it’s a shallow, slow experience.

-Joseph Wartick

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Below Average
Story Horrible
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Below Average
Replay Value Horrible
The Verdict: Three