In Desperate Need Of Love: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

So, way back in my first Way Cool Wednesday posting, I posted a link to ‘In Defence of the Fairy Dance Arc’, an in depth series of posting by Takuto’s Anime Café. One of the things that impressed me with this was the way that postings chose to go against the commonly held negatives associated with that particular run of Sword Art Online, and instead focused on the positives that could be found therein.

Being a fan of positivity, I decided that I’d like to do something similar, albeit not quite on the same scale. What I want to achieve here is to provide some occasional quick postings where I show some support for things that don’t get quite as much love as they perhaps should. You see, I have this habit of finding that I actually like some of the stuff that other people seem to dislike. It’s not intentional, I don’t set out to like unpopular things, but I can usually find some form of positive in a fair few things. And so, ‘In Desperate Need Of Love’ has been born.

sctdb1For this first IDNoL posting, I wanted to give a shout out to a game that I am yet to get around to finishing. Released on the Nintendo DS in 2008 (2009 in Japan), Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood was Sonic the Hedgehog’s first foray into the realm of RPG. Now, both Metacritic and GameRankings show that The Dark Brotherhood was not entirely negatively received. In fact, it has an average score of a little over 70%. So why do I feel that this needs a little more love? Well, some of the criticisms of the game are not, in my opinion, entirely justified.

Let’s not start there though, let’s start where the game is generally praised. The graphics are usually picked up as being pretty good for the era. The characters and the environment are all vividly imagined, and the animation during battles in particular has some nice touches with the camera shifting around to catch the action from all sorts of different angles. The cut scenes range from click through text based pieces with some beautifully drawn character shots (including a wide variety of facial expressions), to simply animated comic style videos, and both styles are executed about as well as you’d expect from the DS.
The characters available were also praised as being well written and generally likeable. A couple of reviewers even picked up on this being an improvement over previous games where a handful of the characters that had appeared before were somewhat less well presented. Given the mixed reaction that Sonic characters have had over the years, that is in itself a great achievement.

So where do the criticisms start? Well, part of it stems from the story itself. Despite being sctdb4praised for characterisation, the general storyline has suffered from a bit of a mixed reputation. For the most part, both the story itself and its chapter based lay-out have been thought of as being predictable, lightweight, and cartoony. Now, I take umbrage with this being a negative. Let’s look at what Sonic the Hedgehog actually is: a high speed, blue, anthropomorphic hedgehog that is fighting an evil genius to ensure the safety of his friends, both feral and anthros. Can you honestly say that that is neither cartoony nor fairly simplistic? Of course not. No matter what elements have been added in recent games (I believe me, I do like the new stuff that’s been added to the lore), Sonic is at its heart a kids’ game.

Now, I’m not saying that the franchise does not appeal to adults; whether they be on a nostalgia trip or simply think that the concept is cool, adults love the series, but that doesn’t change what it is. Sonic is meant to be suitable for children, and so a cartoony storyline seems fine to me. On top of that, despite any predictable elements, the tale really isn’t that bad:

Dr Eggman was defeated, and is presumed dead, but peace is short lived. Knuckles has been kidnapped, the chaos emeralds have been stolen, and the culprits are a group of Echidna calling themselves The Marauders. These Echidna form the Nocturnas Clan, a science loving race that had been banished to the Twilight Cage, an alternative dimension that acts as a pseudo prison. Now, they have returned, not in peace, but to conquer …

sctdb2As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty cool. We learn a little more about Knuckle’s race’s history, and we find that he’s not as alone as he thought. On top of that, we were introduced to a new character and potential love interest for said Echidna: Shade. Shade is a member of the Nocturnas Clan, and bares some similarities to Julie-Su, Knuc
kles lover in the Archie series of comics. The big difference between the two is that, while Ken Penders’ creation is sometimes referred to as being a bit of a Mary Sue, Shade doesn’t get quite the same treatment. I should probably point out that I actually quite liked Julie-Su, but I have to admit, Shade was better executed overall, and it’s a real shame that she hasn’t been seen since the game’s release. As to why that is, it possibly has something to do with Ken Penders’ lawsuit against Sega for the character, but I couldn’t say for sure on that.

Anyway, moving on the fun little storyline, we come to the gameplay. Moving around
screen with the stylus feels a little clunky at first, but once you get used to it, it’s pretty easy. The battle system is the main point of contention for people though: utilising a turn based system, special attacks come with the added element of needing to complete various on screen actions with the stylus to ensure success. This can range from tapping symbols at the right time to dragging the stylus in line with a dotted guideline. Evading enemy attacks is carried out in the same way. Generally speaking, the system was received with a love-hate reaction. Some loved it, others found it annoying and frustrating. From my standpoint, I’d say this: I find turn based combat to be a mixed bag in general. There are turn based games that I’ve enjoyed (such as FFVII and FEDA: Emblem of Justice), but for the most part, I find it dull. The additional elements required to perform bigger attacks actually add to the experience for me, and I would imagine that it would have the same effect for younger players. On top of that, it gives an easy and fun way for the game to incorporate team up attacks depending on who you have in your team at the time.

Finally, the difficulty. Well, some people found it too easy, and others found it satisfyingly tense. This is the sort of thing that will vary greatly from gamer to gamer. Me personally, I’ve been enjoying the difficulty level. It’s not ridiculously easy, but it certainly isn’t Battletoads either.

sctdb3

In summary I’d say this:

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is an often forgotten piece of the Sonic cannon, but it’s one that is worth checking out, at least once. Sure, it doesn’t feel like a traditional Sonic game, but it does tell a pretty interesting tale. On top of that, with 11 playable characters (9 main and two hidden), the game offers a little more variety than you may be led to believe.

So there you have it. I have given some love to a title deserving of a little bit more than it sometimes gets. Until next time, I hope you enjoyed my ramblings! Meanwhile, please do let me know what you thought of the game, or if there are any games, films, books or series that you feel deserve more love than they get.

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8 comments

    • Thank you. I tend to find myself liking a fair few things that are overlooked, and I like to try focussing on positives where I can, so I may keep this up with anything I cone across that isn’t as well received as it could be.

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  1. Matt! I must say, we are definitely kindred spirits! I love this game to death mainly for its storytelling and adherence to series lore. The gameplay’s not too shabby either. I had fun doing the motions until I wanted to win with no effort, so by that point I started farming those Ferox Chao that allow you to skip the actions (simple solution to a simple problem). I had actually planned on doing something similar to this for this underappreciated gem (in the not so forseeable future), but thankfully your post here protects my laziness. I’ll have to correct one error though, there are only 10 characters because Rouge is absolutely useless in this game, to the point of being unplayable. That annoyed me, cuz she’s usually a powerhouse in whatever she’s in.

    Another gem that you should look into if you haven’t already is Sonic Battle for the GBA, a Sonic style Smash Bros. sort of arena fighter. That game had a tight combat system, an upgradable robot that you could slap various character techniques onto (think Sonic’s speed, Knuckle’s power, and Tails’ tech), and an engaging story. I found out later that Dimps made it and suddenly the quality made a lot of sense. And Sonic Brotherhood is more or less a direct continuation of that story with events and lore from it heavily influencing the last act of Brotherhood. What’s sad is Brotherhood has an amazing ending that totally hypes you up for the next one, then you remember that EA bought Bioware and that sequel is totally not coming…EVER.

    Anyways, great post! If you continue this and I continue my Closer Look series then we’ll have informed the masses of many great gems. I tend to also like games that aren’t appreciated by the masses. I’m obsessed with this game called Yugioh: Duelist of the Roses, a game that eschews about 90% of the Yugioh rulebook for something closer to chess than a card game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent! I’m glad i’m not the only who enjoys the thing, there have been so many worse games in the Sonic franchise, yet this seems to get forgotten. I do know of Sonic Battle, but I haven’t played it as yet. I thin the last GBA one I bought was the first Sonic Rush where they debuted Blaze.
      I definitely want to continue this, though I may not just stick to games. I really want to write something defending the director’s cut of Aliens 3 for example.
      I’ve not heard of the Duelist of the Roses game. What system is that one on? Were you going to be doing the Closer Look series on your blogspot site btw?

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      • I’ve never played Sonic Rush, but I heard those were really good and if I remember right, Brotherhood uses plot threads from it too.

        I think you have a good idea here. I think a lot of movies are also unrated/undervalued or just hate on because of their flaws. I always pay attention to clever ideas and execution and so when something gets that right, I can’t help but give credit for it or at least point out that amidst the crap there is some gold.

        Duelist of the Roses was a PS2 games. I played it a lot in High School. They haven’t made another with its “Perfect Rule” system ever since, but I thought the concepts were just begging to be expanded upon. I actually forgot that I changed the name of the Closer Look series when I moved it from my Tumblr to the blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done one, but I call them Breakdowns now. I’ve only done a few, with the rest scattered as notes in various notebooks (can’t play a game without taking notes nowadays). Here’s one I’ve done of Guardian’s Crusade (http://belartscorner.blogspot.com/2014/08/throwback-guardians-crusade-videogame.html). I think I’ll revive it for the blog soon thanks to your post here. Its always nice to see an underdog get some spotlight.

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  2. I bought this game back in the day, but didn’t get very far into it. Sonic mixed with RPG elements sounded like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately for me I just couldn’t grasp the combat system or stylus controls (I abandoned some of the handheld Zeldas for similar reasons.) I wouldn’t mind giving the game another chance although I don’t know if it is worth the time investment, as I hear the ending is an unresolved cliffhanger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve not finished it yet, but I do hear that the ending clearly sets up a sequel. It’s shame that never came to fruition really, as the concept was really good, and they could have easily addressed any major problems people had with it.

      Liked by 1 person

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