"What no one would have believed 5 years ago, however, is that Sonic's triumphant return to his 2D roots would come on a Nintendo system, and that's just what's happened to the first Sonic game ever on a Nintendo-made system, Sonic Advance."
It started on the Genesis. Sonic the hedgehog - Sega's pride and joy. The 2D Sonic games were fun as hell, to put it frankly. With precision jumping and high-speed straightaways, as well as top-notch level and character design, they were good enough to rival Nintendo's Super Mario series. And now, after the 3D Sonic Adventure series on the Dreamcast (and now the GameCube), Sonic returns in 2D. Which was expected. What no one would have believed 5 years ago, however, is that Sonic's triumphant return to his 2D roots would come on a Nintendo system, and that's just what's happened to the first Sonic game ever on a Nintendo-made system, Sonic Advance.
True to the Sonic franchise, Dr. Robotnik (aka Dr. Eggman) is trying to take over the world by turning all the animals into robots. As Sonic and his pals, Miles ''Tails'' Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and Amy Rose, you must stop the maniacal doctor to save the world. Hey, hasn't that been done before?
The Sonic games have always been full of vibrant, lush color and textures and wonderful character animations, and S. Advance pretty much improves on it all. The sprites are based on the new Sonic Adventure/SA2 designs, and are almost toon-shaded in their appearance; they're outlined by a black line, and look a lot like cartoons. I was disappointed, however, by the horrible job in Knuckles' sprite - while Sonic looks cool, and Tails' sprite is flawless, Knuckles' lacks detail. The animation is good also, and each character's personality is outlined by their actions. Levels contain a lot of detail - slightly more than Sonic 3 - but backgrounds are rather bland, though they still look good. And while the later Genesis Sonics had horrific framerates, Sonic Advance stays smooth throughout the entire game, and maintains the blistering speed Sonic is famous for.
The levels seem to be designed on previous Sonic elements, with few new ideas. They still work well, though, but running through them with each character on basically the same path can get a little repetitive, though using each character's specific traits to get through the levels (and beat the bosses) is rather fun. In each zone there is a hidden ''Special Spring,'' which, when you jump on it, brings you to the bonus stage. The bonus stages are very similar to Sonic 2's: your character falls through a long tube on his/her snowboard (skyboard?), and you must collect a certain number of rings to advance through the stage to the ultimate prize, one of the seven chaos emeralds. The biggest problem with the stages is that, because of the GBA, the placement of the rings is sometimes hard to recognize, and knowing where to move your character to grab the rings is a challenge.
Much like in Sonic Adventure, each character has his/her own traits that they use to move through the stages (which are exactly the same for each, for some reason). Sonic has his trademark spin dash, as does Tails, though the two-tailed fox can also fly through the air. Knuckles can punch, glide, and climb, while Amy uses her hammer to hit enemies and jump high. Amy is arguably the most difficult character to use, and her jump doesn't attack, and she can't really blaze through levels at high-speed like Sonic.
The music is some the worst of the series, with no real amazing melodies, and the GBA speaker doesn't exactly help. Of course, the music isn't bad - there's much, much worse on the GBA - but considering some of the stuff Sonic Team's done with the Sonic games, it is a slight disappointment. The sound effects, however, are just like they should be - all the sounds are there, from Sonic's spin dash to the chime of a checkpoint. Some things are different, though, such as the bumpers in the Casino Paradise Zone. Also, I would have liked to have the original Sonic Theme Music, or the Act Clear music from Sonic & Knuckles (which was used in Sonic Adventure/SA2; go figure).
And new to the 2D Sonic formula is the addition of a Chao garden for the GBA version. Here you can raise a Chao and even upload it to Sonic Adventure 2 Battle for the GameCube via the GC-GBA Link Cable. By using the rings you gain in the 1P mode to buy various fruits or toys, you can raise your Chao, and the two mini-games for the GBA Chao are slightly entertaining, but nothing really special.
Something to note: this game has an outstanding multiplayer mode, or so I hear. I don't know anyone who's willing to link up to try out multiplayer, but from what I hear, the modes are very fun. If I have a chance to try out either the Single Pak or Multi Pak modes, I will update this review with my impressions.
Overall, Sonic Advance is a nice addition to the Sonic franchise, and a wonderful title for the Game Boy Advance. However, with Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 right next to it on the shelves, it's up to you to decide whether you like Sega or Nintendo's mascot better. Regardless, Sonic Advance is a welcome addition to anyone's GBA library, and a great foundation for (hopefully) Sonic Team's next GBA endeavor.
Staff review by Zack M (Date unavailable)
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