game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games Read our review of the PSP here!
Review posted March 2006 by Corbie Dillard
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: November, 2005
ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
While the 2-D Sonic tradition has been carried on fairly well with the three Game Boy Advance releases, one can’t help but notice that with each new GBA release, the games began to feel a bit stale. The games were good enough in themselves, but they just didn’t really bring anything new to the series. Thankfully, Sonic Team decided that it was time to give the old 2-D Sonic a makeover with their new DS release “Sonic Rush” and the result is one of the best 2-D Sonic games ever released. Molding the intense speed of the original Genesis releases, with a fresh, updated visual approach, Sonic Team has breathed new life into the Sonic series and shown that our speedy blue hedgehog still has a few miles left in him.
In Sonic Rush, Dr. Eggman is at it again, and after yet another rumble with Sonic, Dr. Eggman runs off in a hurry leaving behind a strange Emerald that looks nothing like the usual Chaos Emeralds Sonic is used to seeing. But as Sonic goes to pick up the Emerald, a strange female cat swoops in and snatches the stone and takes off as quickly as she came. Sonic is once again thrust into an adventure to stop the evil doctor from carrying out his most recent evil plan.
Those familiar with any previous Sonic the Hedgehog games will have no trouble diving right into this game head first. Fans of the series will immediately notice the high-speed gameplay well intact, only this time, spanning not only one screen, but two. Sonic has all of his trademark moves like the “spin dash” and “speed boost”, but players will also be introduced to some new in-game moves that allow Sonic even more playability. Sonic Rush uses “Gimmicks” in each level to give Sonic the extra maneuverability he needs in order to complete the level. Gimmicks range from a Bungee Rope that grabs a hold of Sonic or Blaze’s feet as they fall down and then bounces them back up high into the air, to a giant water wheel that will spin Sonic and Blaze around and around and then give them an added speed boost out of it. Blaze the Cat also comes with a set of moves all of her own that add even more depth to the gameplay experience than you’ll get with just Sonic alone. Couple all of these gameplay ideas, both old and new, together with the creative use of the Nintendo DS’ dual screens, and you get a refreshing twist on the tried-and-true Sonic experience of old.
One consistent complaint over the years of playing the 16-bit Sonic titles was the fact that with the extremely high rate of speed at which the game’s levels scrolled, it was sometimes very easy to run into obstacles and dangers that just couldn’t be avoided in time by the player. The GameBoy Advance releases did relieve this problem a bit, but many felt like it took a lot away from the overall experience, and took too much control out of the player’s hands. While the levels in Sonic Rush on the DS still fly by at an alarming rate of speed, the game has a much smoother flow to it and seems to slow things down just in time for you to accurately avoid the dangerous obstacles or enemies in the level. That’s not to say that it’s perfect, far from it, but it’s clear that Sonic Team has at least made a good effort of giving the player back more control while still keeping with the super speed the game relies on.
The biggest addition to Sonic Rush has to be the boss encounters. While Sonic boss battles have been good enough in the past, Sonic Team has pulled out all of the stops with this game and created huge, fully 3-D bosses that span the distance of both screens. Not only do these bosses look fantastic, the boss fights now also have a lot more playable feel to them. No longer will you just walk across the screen long enough to bonk a boss on the head, now you have to keep an eye on both screens and decipher the many different patterns the bosses attack in. Boss battles in past Sonic games have always seemed more for show than anything, so it’s a really nice touch to see them play a much more integral role in the actual gameplay. Sonic Rush is hands-down the most playable 2-D Sonic game ever released.
Sonic Rush also offers up a little multiplayer action with the “Battle Mode”. Players can take on each other, using both a single cart download method or dual cart mode, in a selected Act. The first player to the end of the level wins. While it’s nothing too revolutionary, it’s a nice change of pace from the single player mode. As outstanding as the boss battles in the game are, it might have been nice to have seen a mode that allowed one player to control Sonic while the other player could control the boss, but I guess you can’t’ have everything.
What could be better than a screen full of high-flying Sonic action? Two screens! Sonic Team has put the dual screens of the DS to good use in not only allowing the playing fields to be twice as big, but also uses the dual screens for the enormous boss fights. Using a combination of 2-D sprites, as well as 3-D polygon graphics, the game has a very cutting-edge look to it, but also manages to scroll at high speeds with silky smoothness that’s a testament to the creative mixture of graphic styles. Bosses in the game are absolutely huge, in most cases spanning both screens at once, and being made up of 3-D polygons allow these bosses intricate and realistic movements as well. Even with all of this intense speed and action that’s taking place on both screens, you won’t see a single hiccup from the DS processor. Each area in the game has a crisp and unique look to it, and the detail in some levels is amazing. Even our pal Sonic has never looked better on the portable screen than he does in this game.
Sonic didn’t just get a visual update, it seems Sonic Team decided to take it a step farther with an all-new soundtrack. Not only are the tunes new, but also the entire music styling has been overhauled. For those who are familiar with the Jet Grind Radio series of games, you’ll immediately hear the similarities between the two games as the soundtrack in Sonic Rush takes the classic Sonic style music and adds a hip-hop styling to form some extremely catchy tunes. As soon as you hear that first “cling” sound when Sonic grabs a gold ring, you’ll know you’re smack dab in the middle of a Sonic game. Most of the sound effects are pretty standard stuff, but that’s certainly not a bad thing considering the Sonic series has always had some dynamic sound effects. The character voices are a very nice touch and top off what is one of the most ambitious yet solid Sonic soundtracks since Sonic CD.
Leave it to Sonic Team to take their most popular game franchise and somehow manage to give it a serious overhaul without taking away the classic Sonic experience. Everything that’s always made the 2-D Sonic games so much fun has been salvaged and put into a stylish 2-D and 3-D styled world. Sonic fans have waited a long time for a new 2-D game that not only feels more like the original Sonic the Hedgehog games, but that also brings the old-school feel into present day technology. Sonic Team has somehow been able to merge these two worlds into one and use the strong points of Nintendo’s DS system in the process. There’s honestly not much to complain about, other than the fact that the experience will eventually end and you’ll be left waiting for Sonic Team to finish with a sequel. If Sonic Rush is any indication of how good the sequel will be, it will be well worth the wait.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Watch the movements and patterns of the gigantic bosses as they normally have a very specific pattern of movement that can normally be exploited.
- Many levels have multiple paths that can be taken, so if you find yourself stuck in one particular place, try a different route.
- Always keep at least one ring in Sonic’s possession as it only takes one ring to save Sonic’s life if he runs into trouble.
- Look for the gimmicks in each level as they play a key role in your being able to progress through certain parts of a level.
- It’s perfectly normal to want to fly through each level in Sonic Rush, but sometimes it’s a good idea to slow down and make more cautious moves in some tight spots in the later levels.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
The dual screen format seems to fit Sonic Rush like a glove and perfectly compliments the game’s updated visual styling. The creative use of the 3-D graphics, especially with the enormous bosses in the game, adds a really smooth and clean look that we just haven’t seen from a 2-D Sonic game before.
The music in Sonic Rush might be quite different from anything we’ve heard in a Sonic game before, but it’s a good type of different. The game just has a really fresh sound to go along with its updated styling. Nice use of character voices and all of those familiar Sonic sound effects we’ve all grown to love over the years.
Any side-scroller fan will find a lot to love with Sonic Rush and Sonic fans will be all over this one. Updating all of the great aspects of the classic Sonic games and still finding room to incorporate the dual screen format of the DS into it all makes Sonic Rush one of the best Sonic games ever released and a must have DS title as well.
There is quite a lot to do in Sonic Rush, so it’s obvious that players will find themselves coming back to this game often. Given that this is also a very easy game to just pick up and play in short spurts, lends itself to repeated plays. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s one extremely enjoyable game either.