Sunday, July 1, 2007
Sonic and the Secret Rings: Wii: Review
Sonic is back, this time on the Wii, but can he break the bad reputation he’s made for himself in the 3D realm? Read on to find out.
A decade and a half ago, Sonic the Hedgehog made his debut on the Sega Genesis. His first game was a fun, unique, and FAST platformer. Three other major 2D Sonic platformers for the Genesis followed, and the blue hedgehog was giving Mario a run for his money as the top video game mascot. Things have since changed. The first 3D Sonic game, “Sonic 3D Blast,” was the beginning of the hedgehog’s downfall. This game was decent by video game standards, but in a 3D environment Sonic couldn’t stay at a high-speed for very long, which took away the element that made the four original 2D Sonic games so much fun.
Sonic has continued at a steady decline over the years. In the 2D world Sega never had to worry about the camera, but camera control in the 3D world is vital. Sega still hasn’t nailing it. They added absolutely horrid voice acting to the Sonic games, and replaced the awesome classic Sonic music with ear-breaking lyrical music. The story plots have been terrible. Sega added GUNS of all things to the beloved franchise! They’ve tried to blend the world of Sonic with the real world, which unsurprisingly has turned out miserably. The Sonic the Hedgehog next generation game for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 hit the absolute bottom of the well. So, Sega had nowhere to go but up with Sonic and the Secret Rings… uh, right?
The story and various environments in the game are inspired by the beautiful Arabian nights. Unfortunately, the story is crap from the very beginning to the very end. It begins with a genie telling Sonic to “rub the ring” so he will get transported to the land of the Arabian Nights and it ends with Sonic telling a genie to make a mountain of handkerchiefs. Like, what the heck…? Oh, and the horrible voice acting of previous Sonic games is back again in full force. The actors aren’t entirely to fault though; I think they were victimized by the laughably, abysmally, undeniably horrible script.
Sonic and the Secret Rings is supposed to bring Sonic back to his roots, or so Sega says. Like the classic Genesis games, the gameplay is fairly simple. You hold the remote on its side and tilt left or right to move left or right. The game is not played in a full 3D environment, but rather you play on-rails. Sonic moves forward no matter what you do. (Uh, Sega, if you were really trying to bring Sonic back to his roots, maybe you would consider giving the player some control over if he was moving forward or not. I don’t recall Sonic moving forward uncontrollably in the original games.) Other basic controls are braking (1 button), jumping (2 button) and a homing attack (forward motion). At the start of the game the controls are very sloppy, but over time you unlock responsive controls and new abilities. Honestly, how dumb is that? Unlocking new abilities is cool, but having to unlock responsive controls is completely stupid. Maybe you should have to unlock a good camera and decent music as well.
The camera is actually not all that bad. It has its bad moments, but compared to most other 3D Sonic games it does alright. The music, on the other hand, is probably the worst of any Sonic game so far. The main theme is alright and a bit of the other music is fine, but most of it is absolutely horrible. I warn you, fellow gamers, if your ears are of value to you, don’t buy this game.
The game consists of seven worlds, each of which contains several missions. You start off only having access to one world, but as you complete missions and get experience points new worlds and missions are unlocked. Unfortunately, few of the missions are actually fun. There’s a very large amount of them, but few different types. Many of them force you to go slow, which removes what is supposed to be fun about Sonic games. Also most missions get very repetitive since there are so many of the same kind. Far too many missions are completely based on memorization. You’ll be cruising along the path, when all of the sudden an enemy falls on your head. What the heck? You can’t see the enemy at all until he’s right on you, so there’s no anticipation involved. Sometimes there are lines of rings that steer you in the right path, but often there aren’t. On the other hand, there are some missions that require speed and racing. These are very fun, and usually don’t involve enemies falling on your head. The problem is there aren’t near enough of these.
There are loads of unlockables, but few of them are worth getting. In each one of the very many missions, there are three items called Fire Souls. These are used to unlock unnecessary bonuses, such as classic Sonic game box art… but if you really wanted to see box art, you could so a search on Google Images instead. The only slightly desirable unlockables are new characters in Party Mode (explained later). Nevertheless, if you’re a completionist, collecting all the Fire Souls will be a decent challenge and whether the unlockables are good or not, at least you’ll be getting something.
The presentation isn’t great. Sega says the story sequences are meant to look like an Arabian Nights story book. Lame excuse. Once again, Sega takes the easy way out. Aside from the story sequences, the rest of the presentation isn’t below average.
The graphics in this game are excellent. Some of the environments are gorgeous. There are a couple GameCube games that look better, in particular StarFox Adventures and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but nevertheless, Sonic and the Secret Rings is one of the better Wii games so far from a graphical standpoint. There is one CG-style cut scene at the end of the game that looks fantastic, but because of Sega’s laziness with the other story sequences we don’t get to see any more of that CG goodness.
Party mode isn’t much better than the rest of the game. There are four modes, which are all decent, but unfortunately most the mini-games are boring and many have sloppy controls. I had an okay time when I played it with some of my friends, but still, it was far from great.
Despite the negative tone of this review, Sonic and the Secret Rings actually isn’t THAT bad. It just isn’t great either. It’s one of the better 3D Sonic games, but it definitely does not return Sonic to his former glory. I would rank it lower than Sonic Heroes but better than Shadow the Hedgehog.
Graphics – 17/20
One of the better outings on the Wii thus far. Some of the environments are absolutely beautiful.
Gameplay – 14/20
You have to unlock good controls, which is absolutely stupid. Many of the missions rely completely on memorization, but also some of them are pretty fun.
Sound – 7/20
Horrible voice acting plus horrible music equals one big ouch.
Story – 11/20
Some die-hard Sonic fans may enjoy it, but most of the story is horribly written and extremely cheesy.
Presentation – 13/20
The lazy story sequences hurt.
Final score – 62/100
There were some parts of this game that I had a good time with, but most of the game wasn’t fun. The thing that bugs me is that Sega said this game would bring the Sonic franchise back to it’s roots, but after playing Sonic and the Secret Rings I have a hard time believing they even tried. If they truly tried to bring Sonic back to his roots, they would have gotten rid of voice acting, gone back to non-lyrical, classic style music and they would put enemies in your line of sight so you would be able to avoid them, rather than making them appear right in front of your face at the last millisecond. Die-hard Sonic fans may enjoy this game, but it is not like the classic Sonic games in any way, shape or form, so if Sega truly attempted to bring this once great franchise back to it’s roots, they failed miserably.
Casual/Hardcore Appeal – 2/8