Sonic Chronicles, Sonic's first step into RPG land
Hardy any red blooded Sonic fan could say that they weren't at all excited for this game, Sonic with a decent developer at the helm once more is a hard thing to pass up. Sonic Chronicles ultimately turns out to be a worthwhile game, with some confusingly bad presentation choices that let it down a little and make it somewhat akin to driving down a very senic road that's riddled with pot holes.
One of the first things you'll notice about Sonic Chronicles is that it is almost entirely controlled with the touch screen. This starts out being fun and indeed it is fun to see a game taking full advantage of the DS capabilties, it also works pretty well, Sonic runs faster the further away the stylus is and slowls to a crawl when it's sitting right next to him. Menus and battles are navigated entirely with the touch screen, in fact most of the battle mechanics revolve around carefully timed screen taps and swipes. All good in theory, but what you'll quickly find is that the touch controls are gimmicky and not fun to work with, sooner or later your arm starts to ache from the uncomfortable position and you find yourself wishing that the game could be controlled with the buttons aswell.
The battle system is also a good idea mostly in theory. It's a dynamic system that requires a lot of active thought and skill, which really keeps you in the action. Special moves consist of combinations of timed taps, quick taps and guided swipes across the screen with the stylus, these all vary from move to move, but are always the same. You also have to defend opponent's moves in this way, or face being hit with one of their equally powerful special moves. Problems come across in the balance of battles in that they all feel like a chore after awhile and some common enemies are strong enough to wipe out your team in a few seconds if you so much as put one toe out of line. The stylus command system is all very good, but it forces you to stay on your toes too much, getting one action wrong can often mean your special move misses, this is especially true of healing moves. Sometimes it just feels like every enemy in the game is a boss, perfectly possible to defeat, just a taxing effort and after a short while this gets old.
Some of the most confusinly bad parts about Sonic Chronicles are just some of the overall presentation choices in the package. Some of the sound effect choices are just goofy sounding, especially impact sounds and for some reason at the end of battle you can hear a group of children cheer, giving the game a bit of a saturday morning cartoon feel. Another strange thing is the fact that tips pop up after every battle, none of which are particularly useful and are all mostly common sense that you should pick up in game or could look up in the manual, one of these is a message telling you to visit the game's website, which kills the imersion like a spin attack to the skull.
All of this is a shame because the story is generally quite good, even mixing in some ideas from the Japanese Sonic series with the western TV shows. There is a slightly similar system of dialogue trees, like in Mass Effect and KOTOR, though nothing quite so deep, it's not possible to make Sonic evil, just a bit of an asshole. Character interactions can be quite deep, dialogue is generally well written and the characters are all spot on. Some major story points are told in a comic book style, which is pretty clever considering Sonic's comic book status and for the most part the scenes are well done, with the occassional bewildering switch in art style every now and then.
Overall, Sonic Chronicles is a good game, but it really has some confusing flaws that make it only possible to recommend to Sonic and RPG fans. Really it's disappointing to see so many little flaws on Sonic Chronicle's tempting visage, it could've been a better game with more polish and possibly if it were just on a better system with better controls.