More middling-to-good reviews for BioWare's handheld RPG Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood have hit the web. VideoGamer.com goes with a 8/10.
The main reason for this is the game's linear structure. Yes you can pick from a number of lines of dialogue when you speak to the rest of your crew (loads of Sonic's well known friends turn up as possible party members) as well as NPCs, but your conversation choices have little to no effect on what's going on. Basically, you can decide to take that quest from the NPC or not. Or you can chat with Tails, or Amy, or Rouge, or Big the Cat, or Cream the Rabbit, or anyone else you might find fighting alongside the Blue Bomber (including some surprises we won't spoil for you) and get an idea of their state of mind, but that's it.
At one point Sonic is presented with what looks like an important game changing decision: side with Knuckles and head to Angel Island to stop the Marauders, a secretive group of technologically advanced beings who have stolen the Chaos Emeralds (again!), thus forcing Sonic out of his world-saving hiatus; or go with Tails' idea and try to stop Eggman (Dr. Robotnik), who he believes is the real evil behind all the trouble. Whatever decision you pick, the game forces you to go with Tails' idea.
Combat is a simple affair really, your four characters will line up on the screen, facing up to the four enemies, then like in most DS RPG's you will then choose the actions for each of your characters, such as attack, heal, defend etc and then these actions will be played out on the screen. There is one twist in that you will sometimes be required to interact with combat, to do this you will be required to tap circles or follow dotted paths as they appear, this will then allow you to dodge attacks or pull them off. This will be repeated until someone wins, all basic stuff really.
The presentation of the game is probably its strongest point it simply looks really good. I had recently been playing Lunar Knights on my DS, but it looks pretty bad compared to Sonic Chronicles. I'd say this game is one of the better-looking games on the system, at least from an artistic standpoint, and sports a level of polish you don't normally find on either of Nintendo's two screens. The levels themselves are hand-painted backdrops populated with 3D characters, and the effect works quite well for the most part.
Pocket Gamer 6/10.
Battles move to full 3D, and these are pretty good, too. For the most part, the system is a traditional turn-based one, but special moves break things up. These require you to perform various actions with the stylus to successfully pull off, forcing you to always be on your toes. It's a good idea for the most part, although it can be annoying when you start off, and keep forgetting that the move you've just initiated will fail unless you drag your stylus around.
The first issue is the fact that a role-playing game depends almost entirely on a large cast of interesting characters - which is exactly the thing Sonic has been lacking for the last ten years. Any hope that someone has managed to make Big the Cat and Vector the Crocodile seem anything less than an embarrassment are quickly dashed once you begin to endure the insipid dialogue.
To be fair it's not all bad, but the few attempts at knowing humour fall flat on their face. Not least because the game lets you be rude to characters as an optional dialogue choice but, unlike BioWare's other games, never lets them remember the transgression and form a grudge. The story does fare better, although it only really becomes interesting several hours in.
Like many RPGs, Sonic Chronicles features equal parts exploration and combat, both of which are solid but not spectacular. You'll use the stylus to move around the environments, which are lush and impressively rendered, with the DS's top screen acting as an overhead map. Since each character possesses a particular skill (Sonic can run fast, Amy can smash crates, Knuckles can climb, etc.), there will be areas that you can't access if you don't have the right character in your party. While some of the exploration is fun, there are some missions that force your party to traipse all over previously explored areas in search of mission-specific objects. These fetch quests can get very annoying, especially when you've already spent hours in a particular area. There's a lot of backtracking in Sonic Chronicles, so it almost pays not to explore an area until you're forced to.