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.
For 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 praised 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 …
As 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.
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.