Crispy Gamer

The Five: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

I have to admit that I'm a bit torn. I have never been a fan of the Sonic series, as platformers aren't my thing. BioWare, on the other hand, has always piqued my interest because of its stellar storytelling ability and involved plot twists in its RPGs. So when I decided to take a look at BioWare's marriage to Sega's blue hedgehog, I wasn't sure what to expect. Here's what I came away with from the demonstration of the game on the DS at E3:

1. BioWare has full license to do what it wants with the Sonic universe. Anything that BioWare adds to the game, including locales, characters or abilities, becomes part of the Sonic "canon." BioWare has already added at least one new character to the list of Sonic's friends, and that character and its abilities will be revealed at a later date.

2. The storyline is rather involved and can take the player up to 40 hours to complete if they explore all the side-quests and visit all the different places in the game. Average gameplay time is 25 hours; following just the "critical path" will end the game after about 12 hours, but the player loses out on meeting new characters or getting new power-ups.

3. Speaking of power-ups, they are little creatures called Chao. Each one has a different name and different ability, ranging from more hit points to more power points or increased luck. Each party member (up to four) can have a Chao, and they are carried in the group's inventory to be swapped out whenever necessary.

4. There will be a trading component in the game, by which players can trade Chaos amongst themselves. Just like Pok?mon, gotta collect them all.

5. The game requires you to get at least seven characters with which to build your party. Each has different abilities, and some abilities overlap. Other abilities, however, are unique to a character, and you will need to have a particular character in your party to get past a given obstacle. These characters will be available on the "critical path," so there will never be a place the player is stymied because he does not have the right character.

The demo showed off the second half of the game, which is set in outer space, with new planets and creatures. The space area was completely designed by BioWare and could be revisited in future Sonic games. The game seems to be geared more towards kids or people who have enjoyed Sonic's antics previously, but the BioWare angle has me intrigued enough that I might give this a whirl. When the words BioWare and RPG are in the same sentence, the game really should not be ignored.

The game is set for release on Sept. 30. This preview was based on a developer-driven demo of an unfinished version of the game at E3.