Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Previews

GameSpy and IGN both previewed BioWare's upcoming take at the Sonic universe inside a DS RPG. GameSpy likes the "Beautiful hand-drawn graphics; classic turn-based combat; innovative combat twists; world map exploration", but on the iffy side is, get this, "No real way to predict how the game will turn out."
One icon indicates a party-splitting puzzle. We saw a puzzle that required getting a bridge in place. It was fairly simple -- put the land-based guys on the weight-sensitive triggers on one side of the bridge, put the flier on the other side on the other trigger -- but it's a good sign that TDB will take advantage of the stylus and your party member choices.

All of The Dark Brotherhood's art is hand-drawn, giving the navigation through the world map an almost luxuriant feel. It's a very pretty game, despite the limits of the DS. Although hand-drawn art isn't limited to the world map, that's really where we noticed it. Its easy to be drawn in or cast out from the illusion a game builds by being forced to stare at a world map, your core point of interface, that just looks bad. The Dark Brotherhood definitely draws us in.
And IGN.
Like Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi, the game introduces an interactive turn-based battle system. When players encounter an enemy, the game will zoom out of its overhead 2D perspective and whoosh into its fully 3D battle engine where players will fight for life. Each attack is selected via the touch screen and a menu system, and many attacks require real-time input from the player. In one attack, for example, we had to tap a circle as it appeared on screen timing and accuracy counts. In another, we had to tap and hold the stylus on the screen, and then follow the circle as it rotated around. This was one of the tougher motions in the game. The battles were nicely rendered and moved at a pretty decent framerate, but like the chunky overhead perspective engine, it still needs a bit of polish before it really wows us.
The sad news is that Amy will return and - from the dialogue screenshot in the IGN preview - is still as dumb as ever. Last up is 1up.
The difference is simple, of course: Sonic Chronicles is being crafted by Canadian RPG gods BioWare, a developer whose design sensibilities are rooted largely in the legacy of Western RPGs. Their latest creation has some definite similarities to what the Japanese teams at Square, Alpha Dream and Intelligent Systems have created for Mario over the years -- the isometric perspective, the thoughtful integration of trademark platform game elements into an adventure, the transformation of action heroes into diverse role-playing archetypes that remain true to their original selves -- yet it's clearly a BioWare game.