So after Sonic Adventure 2, it was now time to grace the world with a new 3D Sonic game that wasn’t a port of a dead console and a game that started the multi-platform series of Sonic games. Sonic Heroes (ソニック ヒーローズ Sonikku Hīrōzu), developed by Sonic Team USA and published by Sega and was released in 2003 in Japan and in 2004 in the US and Europe.
Sonic, Tails and Knuckles get a letter from Dr. Eggman, he wants to take over the world and they decide to stop them. Meanwhile, Amy Rose, Cream the Rabbit and Big ‘Duke Nukem’ the Cat is searching for a chao named Chocola and Froggy…yep, Big lost the bleeding frog again. Also, Amy wants to find Sonic and force him to marry her…so shotgun wedding I suppose? Oh, and if the genders were reversed it would be considered creepy…actually, it wouldn’t, all stalkers are creepy equally.
Meanwhile at the Chaotix Detective Agency, established of Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon, and Charmy Bee get a job and take it because they need to pay the bills. AND MEANWHILE, Rouge the Bat infiltrates Colony ARK, finds E-123 Omega and Shadow, who survived whatever happened to him in Sonic Adventure 2, he’s lost his memory and Rouge tells him what happened…oh no she doesn’t…why?
So the game now follows a unique feature: team-based gameplay. You can play as twelve characters, who are split into four teams. Team Sonic has Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, Team Dark has Rouge, E-123 Omega and Shadow, Team Rose has Amy, Cream and Big, and Team Chaotix has Vector, Espio and Charmy…and sadly Mighty was left out of the fray.
Each character have different abilities…well kind of. There are three character types, Speed, Power and Flight. Sonic, Shadow, Espio and Amy are the speedy characters, they can perform homing attacks and light dashes and can also perform whirlwinds, Knuckles, Big, E-123 Omega and Vector are the power characters, and they can break through objects and glide with the other characters. And finally Tails, Rouge, Cream and Charmy are the flight characters; they can fly in the air for a short period of time and can attack flying enemies.
So the gameplay is like a 2D Sonic game in 3D and it does it well for the most part. But due to the team-based gameplay, you can switch between characters, so if you need to run fast, switch to the speed character, then to hit rocks to progress, switch to the powerful character, then the flying character to fly to a platform and mix and match and vice versa. This switching can be finicky and can break the pacing with the game and I’ll explain that more in a bit.
If you can score points, collect rings and defeat enemies, you can fill up the Team Blast meter, activating it will make the characters do a powerful team attack that can clear enemies on-screen, and then they can have unique abilities for a short periods of time. This is a great feature for when you’re battling tough enemies since they now have health bars so they take longer to destroy; it’s also fantastic to battle bosses since they have health bars too.
Each level has three acts with the third act being the bosses; the bosses are pretty good apart from the alliance of robots because Eggman needs to figure out what machine he can use. Then…there is the specific Special Stages…AND IT’S THE WORST SPECIAL STAGES IN ANY SONIC GAME…EVER!!! And I thought the Sonic Advance Trilogy Special Stages were the worst. So you need to collect spheres as they’re boost power, they’re OK. But the other stage is where you need to collect a Chaos Emerald before it gets to the goal. The controls for this are completely broken, jittery, and just downright unplayable. If you do catch up to it, then it’s based on luck, and APPARENTLY, in order to get to the last story, you must finish the levels and collect all the Chaos Emeralds…I GIVE UP, IT’S OVER!!!
The gameplay is very unpolished at times, especially when running. At times you can never control the character because the physics don’t always work, leading you to fall and die. This leads to the camera, which is also awful, you always need to calculate your jumps, especially at pitfalls. Oh, and there’s a lot of glitches too, like this one:
The music isn’t that great, they’re not memorable and not as good as even the Sonic Adventure 2. The voice acting isn’t up to standards of Sonic Adventure 2, but by far the worst voice change is Tails, it sounds like a 5 year old trying to read a script, I know he’s supposed to be young but not that of a baby who magically can speak long words. The graphics are really great for the time and suits the Sonic universe down to a tee, the level design is also great, trying to get that element of 2D Sonic games without completely going off the deep end (foreshadowing for the next game I suppose).
So here are the biggest problems with the game. If you finish one of the team’s missions, don’t bother play the other team’s levels. First, the characters with their abilities play the same, like the speedy characters playing the same, the power characters playing the same and the flight characters playing the same and everyone plays the same levels. The Chaotix levels are the same too but they’re in the form of missions instead of just going to the exit but they’re annoying because they’re mostly collecting stuff and if you end up at the exit and didn’t collect all the items in that level you go all the way back and it takes ages to complete their stages.
Other than that, it’s not worth finishing all of them because you’re mostly going to play the same levels over and over again. Then there are issues of being so fast, trying to perform advanced things in the game can end you. Take Rail Canyon, you have to grind on rails, but at times you need to jump on the next one to progress, but sometimes you just fly off and die and this can happen all the time.
But all of these criticisms are hampered by the fact that if you even want to see the final level, then you HAVE to collect the Chaos Emeralds and it’s a crap time getting them all with the way they were designed.
The game is also known to have problems depending on what port you got. The PlayStation 2 port is known for being very glitchy and having framerate issues, and I know, I played that port. The Xbox and GameCube ports are the better choices (though I played the Xbox port).
Overall, for all its flaws, Sonic Heroes is still pretty decent but the fact that the levels are the same for all the characters, it becomes repetitious. But considering the gameplay, it’s still good though again it’s not the best 3D Sonic game but it perfectly emulates the 2D style of gameplay and so if you like the game because you grew up with it, then I don’t mind. It’s one of those games where you play a good chunk of levels and be satisfied with it, and it’s the only way you should play it if I ever want to recommend this game…at least the music is alright.
I did play this as a child, at a friend’s house, it was my first 3D Sonic game I ever played, probably the reason why I have some kind of forgiveness to it, though I’m honest and I will look at the issues of games even if the game is decent or good.
You can get it on the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows and PlayStation Network.
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