After completing the first chapter, I'm quite enjoying Sonic's first RPG adventure. ?The combat system is simple but involved and plays like a combination of Final Fantasy and Elite Beat Agents. ?It's definitely different, but a lot of fun too.
The game has an awesome opening theme accompanying a well-made video, but sadly the music has fallen apart pretty quickly. ?It's now very minimalist, and in one song I've encountered so far the instruments contrast with each other. ?It's not pleasant. ?The art is fantastic though.
<i>10/02/08 - 12:20</i>
I've gotten through the second chapter, beginning the third. ?I'm not entirely sure how I feel at this point. ?The basic structure of the game is excellent, as one would expect from BioWare. ?The game is filled with intricate puzzles that involve all the characters to solve, which is surprising, as BioWare has not been known for puzzles in any of their other games. ?The battle system is extremely JRPG as well, which makes the fact that Sonic Chronicles was produced entirely in North America all the more surprising.
One thing I'm not entirely happy with is the speed at which battles occur. ?BioWare, as they mentioned in interviews, used a turn-based battle system to try to convey the speed of Sonic through combat sequences. ?While this does play out really well, with each character taking multiple turns per round, and Sonic getting more than any, the battles in their entirety are surprisingly drawn out. ?Missing entirely with attacks is common, but the combat is extremely involved as all special attacks require an Elite Beat Agents style series of screen taps to either successfully perform or successfully defend against.
One thing I'm very happy with is the difficulty, which is pretty much dead on. ?The game isn't too hard once you learn to time the EBA stuff and once you learn to balance your PP use in each battle with regeneration. ?Characters get very little PP to work with, and most attacks take up 40-60% of their total, but they gain some back when they defend instead of attack, which makes the Defend command actually USEFUL. ?I know, it's unheard of, but it's true. ?I've taken to having all my characters attack or use their special abilities while Tails throws down a regeneration ability and then defends, regenerating a bit of PP so he can do it again the next turn. ?It's working quite well.
Failing to adapt to the battle system and it's quirks, however, can lead to death quite quickly. ?Special attacks hit HARD, and failing to defend against them can be deadly. ?It actually reminds me a great deal of the difficulty curve in the Penny Arcade Game, which was easy once you got the hang of defending properly.
I think that's enough for now. ?More to come tonight.
<i>10/03/08 - 03:20</i>
Chapter 3 is behind me, and at this point I've completely explored the first three zones, out of a total six zones present on the world map. ?I can only take this to mean I'm roughly 50% through the game after an estimated 5 or 6 hours. ?I have to estimate, as there is no game timer, so I can't really be sure. ?Not much has changed from the overall formula, but I have acquired a few new characters, bringing my grand total to seven at this point.
<i>10/03/08 - 05:45</i>
Chapter 4 is done, along with another zone. ?The game's puzzles have become progressively easier now that I seem to have acquired all the important puzzle-solving abilities. ?There are still characters I haven't acquired yet though, so there's always a chance that they'll add something new to the mix. ?The level design for each of these zones is fantastic. ?There are so many little different sections of the environment to interact with to find all the hidden eggs and rings. ?Of the four zones I've been to so far, I've found all the rings and eggs in each.
Two zones left to go.
<i>10/03/08 - 09:45</i>
Chapter 5 is complete and I think I'm very close to the end of the game. ? What the world map showed was misleading, as another has appeared and I expect at least one more will appear after that.
I have to say, I'm starting to get annoyed by the length of battles. ?It's not just the length, mind you, but the lack of experience rewarded from them. ?Levels come very slowly in this game. ?My characters are only level 10 at this point. ?BioWare seems to have gone back to the D&D style of experience curve.
The game would be a lot less frustrating if characters didn't miss so often and enemies couldn't activate evasion modes. ?Battles would end quicker and would be less tedious.
<i>10/03/08 - 10:30</i>
If it isn't my old friend the false ending.
A new world map just appeared with six new areas to explore. ?I'm far, far from done. ?I'm putting it down for today. ?Look forward to more over the next few days.
I think I have all the party members I'm going to get, so I'm trying to come up with a comfortable party to work with. ?The best seems to be Sonic, Knuckles, Amy, and Cream, but Amy's only in there because I usually need her movement ability.
Sonic Chronicles has a party and menu system the likes of what I open-faced sandwich with rye breaded and moaned about regularly during Infinite Undiscovery. ?Namely, party members can only be swapped out when in a team base, and this causes all sorts of problems because not only do you have to balance your party for battle, but for their movement abilities too, and only a handful of them are able to use the level 3 versions of these abilities. ?Amy is the only character who knows Smash level 3, which means I pretty much can't get rid of her since it's fairly commonly used. ?I need Knuckles for Climb, and either Tails or Cream for Fly. ?And this still doesn't cover the Invulnerable movement ability, though that has only come into play in a single area so far.
The enemies in the area I just finished were brutal. ?High HP and heavily armored, making them almost invulnerable to all but armor-piercing special attacks. ? Battles are already pretty lengthy, lasting as much as three or four minutes, but these ones were taking upwards of ten! ?At least the XP they were giving was good.
<i>10/05/2008 - 22:15</i>
Another chapter behind me. A bit more strategy is going into combat, but the battles still last far too long. Even when they only last one round of combat, they're still lengthy, mainly due to how the combat rounds are designed. Each character takes more than one turn per round, so after deciding on the actions for a turn, it takes quite a bit of time for the characters and enemies to act those actions out, especially once you start using POW attacks more than regular attacks.
Unless the game changes significantly in the last few chapters or something really cool happens, I think this'll be my last blog post. I'm running out of things to talk about.
10/08/2008 - 03:50
The game is finished now, but I had to bring one last thing up, due to it's sheer awesomeness. Sonic Chronicles has what has got to be the coolest end credit sequences in history. Rather than the standard play music and scroll credit schtick, Sonic Chronicles ends with Sonic and Tails having a discussion about who made the game, and Tails rattling off all the names. Eventually Omega-123 takes over and lists off all the external (non-BioWare) people who worked on the game. It was highly entertaining, and the only time I've ever actually READ the credits for a game.
Also, big cliffhanger ending that I totally saw coming. Guess we'll have to wait for Sonic Chronicles 2.
Maybe I'll log out and check my e-mail or something...