Review of Sonic Heroes – Setting the stage for a hero’s parade

If you’re a longtime fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, you will no doubt have heard the common opinion that Sega’s flagship franchise has zero business having 3D adventure games in its lineup.  We usually hear that the blue blur’s 3D endeavors have been plagued with issues regarding the controls and cameras, but there are still some huge Sonic fans (Like myself) that are able to look past the shortcomings as long as they are not total dealbreakers.  And if I had to pick my favorite 3D Sonic game, Sonic Heroes would probably be #1; I’ve got plenty of reasons as to why I love this 2004 action game so much, so feel free to eat some chili dogs while I rave about this rad Sonic game.

As I mentioned earlier, Sonic Heroes came to North America in 2004, which was two years after the heavily-lauded Sonic Adventure 2 Battle was released for the GameCube.  While the story is connected to SA2, this game does away with the open-world aspect of the Adventure trilogy and focuses on the action and linear levels.  But the biggest hook of Heroes is the concept of controlling a team of characters.  12 characters make up the game’s playable roster, comprised of four trios known as Team Sonic (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles), Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge, and Gamma), Team Rose (Amy, Cream, and Big), and Team Chaotix (Espio, Charmy, and Vector).  Each team has a speed-type character, fly-type character, and power-type character.  While you’re racing for the goal ring (Or trying to do whatever your mission requires), you must change the leader of your team with a touch of a button and use his/her skills to your advantage.  It may seem a little complex to an outsider, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

For a 2004 game, Heroes looks very pretty thanks to the use of Criterion’s RenderWare engine.  Everything moves at a constant 60 FPS (30 on the PS2) with little to no pop-in.  The colors are so crisp and vibrant that you’ll feel like you’re actually on the beach, in the sky, or any other environment this game has to offer.  Even the cutscenes not rendered in the game engine look really nice for their time.

No Sonic the Hedgehog game would be complete without a bangin’ soundtrack, and Heroes delivers in spades.  Crush 40 and company provide an incredible mix of rock and electronic jams, with each song being completely appropriate for the team you’re adventuring with and the environment you’re exploring.  Chances are the title screen theme will be stuck in your head for a very long time (I’m guilty as charged in that department).  You’ll probably enjoy the music more than the voice-acting, not that the latter is terrible; Some of the lines may seem a bit forced, but it’s above-average most of the time.

Like the Adventure games, Heroes contains multiple stories and lots of emblems to collect.  Each level has a key you must hang onto, as doing so will give you the opportunity to complete a special stage.  Every odd-numbered mission has a special stage that is simply a high-score challenge, and the even-numbered missions have special stages in which you race for Chaos Emeralds.  If you miss out on getting Emeralds in the story mode, you can go into the challenge mode to gain access to the special stages, gain said Emeralds, improve your mission rankings, and even complete harder versions of the story’s missions.  Once you complete all four team stories, you can access the final story once you have all seven Emeralds.  Adding to the replay value are seven modes of two-player, which involve competitions like foot-racing, battling atop a platform, chasing a Chaos Emerald, collecting rings, and bobsled racing.  The only catch is that you only start off with Action Race and the only way to unlock the other modes is by earning emblems; All 120 are needed for the complete multiplayer experience.

Heroes won’t replace the Genesis masterpieces, but it combines and sharpens the best elements of Sega’s most iconic franchise.  With beautiful graphics, an incredible soundtrack, and more replay value than you can shake a pair of Power Sneakers at, Sonic Heroes is a fantastic piece of the blue hedgehog’s 3D library, and that’s all it needs to be.  Chili dogs at the ready — It’s Emerald-collecting time!

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