Sonic and the Secret Rings Feature Preview

We get our ring on and check out a near-final version of Sonic the Hedgehog's Wii adventure.

Much like the speedy blue hedgehog that serves as its title character, Sega's upcoming Sonic and the Secret Rings has made a zippy run to release. We got our first look at the game at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo where the promising game debuted among the varied crop of new software for Nintendo's funky new platform. In keeping with the unique vibe that ran through all of the Wii software, the game used the Wii Remote to control Sonic as he sped through levels. Though we've had the chance to see the title on and off since its debut, we haven't gotten a proper look at the game. But, with its release fast approaching, Sega popped by recently to show us a near-final version of the game to give us an idea of just how it has turned out.

In many ways, Sonic and the Secret Rings offers a retro Sonic experience. Whereas the spiny hero's past few adventures have forced him to share the spotlight with various faces from the Sonic universe, Sonic and the Secret Rings takes a back-to-basics approach. The blue blur will be the only character you'll control throughout the whole adventure. Although the game goes back to its roots by keeping the spotlight on Sonic, its story takes a pretty radical departure from the standard setup. The narrative finds our hero visited by a female genie named Shahra who has a "Princess Leia moment" and pleads for his help. It seems her 'hood, the world of the Arabian Nights storybook, is having a really rough time. An evil genie named Erazor Djinn is looking to wipe Shahra's world out, one story at a time.

Never one to turn down a damsel in distress, Sonic offers his services and heads off with Shahra to take care of business. Unfortunately, his first encounter with Erazor goes pretty poorly, and he winds up getting shot in the chest with a fire arrow that is slowing burning out, like a fuse. Erazor tells the hedgehog that the only way he'll remove the arrow is if Sonic travels into the world of the Arabian Nights and collects the seven secret world rings. While helping a villain isn't typically Sonic's style, the spirited hedgehog doesn't have much in the way of a choice because his life will be "forfeit" if he doesn't bring the rings back before the arrow's fire burns out. (D'oh!)

So, with his life on the rapidly burning line, Sonic heads off to do what he does best, collect rings. Fortunately, Shahra comes along for the ride to lend a hand, which is the least she can do, considering she got him in the mess in the first place. While this story may sound like it takes Sonic far and away from the familiar crew he's run with in his previous games, you'll actually come across a number of individuals in the Arabian Nights world who are pretty close doppelgangers to Knuckles, Dr. Eggman, and others.

Once you hop into the game, you'll find that, in keeping with its storybook theme, its levels are broken into multipart chapters that feature different challenges, which open up as you progress. The first level is the Lost Prologue level, which essentially functions as the game's tutorial. Shahra will show you the ropes on Sonic's various abilities in short chapters. Though you'll play through eight short chapters initially to get the basics of controlling Sonic down, you'll actually return to the prologue a few times once you get further into the game as Sonic gains new skills.

Sonic's quest for the secret rings will soon begin on the Wii.

We were able to try out a handful of different levels, set in unique areas that reimagined many signature Sonic locales with an Arabian Nights twist. All told, we checked out six levels: Lost Prologue, Sand Oasis, Dinosaur Jungle, Evil Foundry, Levitated Ruin, and Pirate Storm. As we mentioned earlier, Lost Prologue is a tutorial actually set on the pages of the storybook. The level is functional and just features a path where you'll test out Sonic's abilities. Sand Oasis is the now-familiar desert area, which eases you into the action. Dinosaur Jungle is a fanciful level that finds you tearing through a lush jungle populated with, you guessed it, dinosaurs. Evil Foundry showcased a more industrial area that was a bit out of the Arabian Nights norm and closer to the traditional look of a Sonic level. Levitated Ruin kept closer to the storybook theme but married it with the scarier elements of the sky levels from the Sonic Adventure games. Wind plays a huge factor in progressing, and you'll need to use the environment to block for you. Finally, the Pirate Storm level was an insane mix of racing and platforming set against the backdrop of an ocean wracked by a storm. You'll play through each level a number of times and try to meet various mission requirements (you'll find 100 missions in all to go through).

The gameplay in Sonic and the Secret Rings seems fairly simple at first blush. The game is essentially on rails and takes you through what appears to be a set path in each locale. You'll simply "steer" Sonic to avoid the odd obstacle in your way or jump if needed. You'll hold the Wii Remote sideways, in much the same fashion as Excitetruck, to control the adventurous hedgehog. The game's basic controls have you tilting from side to side to move Sonic as he runs forward automatically and pressing the 2 button to make him jump or slide. Tilting the remote fully backward causes him to backtrack if needed. But, before you think that the game offers some variation on Sonic R's simplistic gameplay, think again. Sonic and the Secret Rings makes some smart choices to ensure there's a modest amount of depth to keep things interesting. Sonic's patented homing attack can be performed by flicking the controller forward when an onscreen icon cycles from red to green when Sonic's in the air.

In addition to an involved single-player game, the Secret Rings will also include plenty of multiplayer fun.

In addition to these core elements, Sonic will earn experience that will allow him to gain new skills to enhance his abilities (you'll find 100 skills to choose from). The skills can be housed in special rings Sonic can equip. Besides passive extras, like starting with five rings, the skills include special moves that rely on a "soul gauge" you'll fill by collecting specific orbs. We checked out two: a speed break, which shoots Sonic forward with a quick speed burst accompanied by a sonic boom that takes out enemies, and a time break, which is essentially a bullet time effect.

In addition to Sonic's own moves, we saw several gameplay elements come into play that are expected parts of Sonic's moves, such as grinding and bumpers that launch him in the air. A new wrinkle in the experience is flying pots you need to get airborne by pumping the Wii Remote. The combination of all of the above, as well as the presence of hidden paths and assorted collectibles you'll have to find and earn to unlock content, actually make for a good amount of stuff to do for an on-rails experience.

In addition to the single-player game, Sonic and the Secret Rings also features a party mode that supports up to four players. The fast-paced mode features a collection of 40 minigames (some of which you'll unlock by playing through the single-player game). Players will be able to choose one of several characters, several of which you'll have to unlock. The games include parasol diving, cart-racing skydiving, and vegetable skewering to name a few. Each game features pick-up-and-play mechanics that are in the Wario Ware vein of accessibility.

Sonic's visuals have come together nicely since we first saw the game. The two main levels we were familiar with, Sand Oasis and Dinosaur Jungle, featured added polish while the new areas showcased an equally sharp look and impressively fanciful designs. The game's controlled presentation allows the visuals to get an extra special bit of love resulting in smooth performance, a lush color palette, and inventive design that's interesting. Most importantly, the almost out-of-control sense of speed is always appreciated in a Sonic experience.

The audio in the game is well in line with the Sonic formula that's been in play for years but features some Middle Eastern touches in keeping with its theme. The voice is a touch on the underwhelming side, but thankfully, you can toggle several variations that include subtitles and a Japanese voice. The music is the now-expected mix of questionable rock and bouncy tunes--all with a Middle Eastern flare. The mix works well enough, although if you're not a fan of '80s rock, you may have some issues with a few tracks.

The most important aspect of any Sonic game--the awesome sense of speed--is well intact in the Secret Rings.

Based on what we played, Sonic and the Secret Rings is looking like a fun entry in the Sonic series. Though that may not be hard, considering how low the bar got moved with Sonic's recent Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 outing, we'll still take a polished rail game over something busted. Our sampling of levels and minigames showed much promise for the final game but, as always, we're curious to see how the experience holds up in the long haul. Still, the game makes a nice first impression and appears to recapture some of the charm lost in Sonic's most recent adventure. Sonic fans will want to keep their eyes peeled for Sonic and the Secret Rings when it ships for the Wii later this month.

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140 comments
GEMINI_CYBORG
GEMINI_CYBORG

That game looks so awesome!! Now, if I only had a Wii...darn.

gam3r3OOO
gam3r3OOO

this is the best sonic game in years

ajw4pc
ajw4pc

Hopefully they get it right this time, but im not holding my breath

Slashman
Slashman

This sonic game better be right this time

pyromofo
pyromofo

this looks dumb. give up sonic ) =

alsephV2
alsephV2

if anything is gonna keep sonic alive..THIS is it! I mean the 360 game...flat out failure

pdo4545
pdo4545

it dosnt look so good....

Sacif
Sacif

I hope they get one right this year, the track record isn't too impressive over the last decade lol

Kantoma
Kantoma

Sounds like an Excellent game, but we've been disappointed before, brother. let's just keep our fingers crossed

OhhSnap50893
OhhSnap50893

Looks like a good game, but I'm more excited for SSX Blur.

Litchie
Litchie

Sonic games have sucked pretty badly, lately, and although I'm sorry to say this, this Sonic game probably isn't an exception.

llamanu
llamanu

looks like one of those games the video game store will pay you to buy...

ChitoKiryoku
ChitoKiryoku

Andrew_LL , either your taste in games sucks or you're lying that you've played it. I've played it too (a friend's uncle works for nintendo ^^ yay) and while it's indeed like Diddy Kong Racing in the aspect that you're going fast and along a track, that's kind of to be expected from a game that's on rails and, well, fast. Diddy Kong Racing is a simple racing game though, SATSR is a racing game combined with a platformer, in addition to all the cool skills you can use and the fun multiplayer. Plus, I doubt anyone'll listen to you anyway, considering so far EVERY professional review I've read on SATSR was positive about it

Andrew_LL
Andrew_LL

I've played it. It is a let down. It's pretty much a faster version of Diddy Kong racing (N64)

ReggieNametaker
ReggieNametaker

SuperSonicx2005, I seriously doubt 10.0 is going to be given to what is ultimately just another sonic game...

katamari
katamari

It sounds and is looking pretty good!! Hope it does well and doesn't let me down like the recent Sonic games. A return to what made Sonic great to begin with should help the game.

SuperSonicx2005
SuperSonicx2005

I preorder the game today and I am going to get it next on February 21, 2007 this game is going to be Awesome its going to score 10.0 I hope or 95.0

HyPeRRuSh
HyPeRRuSh

I agree with IVK1 when it was said that the Voice of Knuckles was horrific!!! I personally like the voice of Knuckles from Sonic Heroes 10x better!!! Amy sounded better there too. If only SEGA would get the hint and keep those voices from SH, the game may be just be a bit more enjoyable.

walkerctranger
walkerctranger

honestly, i really consider sonic the hedgehog for the 360, possibly, the worst video game ever made, ut was in no way fun entrtaining, or anything besides terrible, but this one looks like alot of fun, and think that the wii will be sonics only savior

michaelareb0001
michaelareb0001

Hrmm.... Departure from the normal Sonic storyline. Aribic theme, dopplegangers to other Sonic characters.... why does this sound familiar? I wonder if you have control over sonic's speed (i.e. can slow him down and even stop to look around or if it's like he's always at full blast till he hits something. That would make this game alot like some of the sequences in Sonic for the 360, which I really found frustrating. It was like steering a runaway train. Oh well, if the games any good, I'm buying it. I haven't touched a Sonic game in close to 5 years.

chocolate1325
chocolate1325

I am happy that Sonic is the only playable character in the adventure because Sonic games are about one thing speed .

reformedgamer
reformedgamer

The highlight is that the controls are as simple as they were in the old 2D Sonic games, so that's a good sign. Also, the fact that they're making the game an on-rails affair, that'll improve the experience. It may not become the best Sonic game ever, but I've got hopes that it'll be one worth playing.

bob_newman
bob_newman

I want this game to be good so badly

xtiansk8
xtiansk8

they should put a long story gameplay in sonic games. cause in any sonic game, or you beat the game up in one day, or you spend 4 days trying to beat up the gaem 4 times with other different characters.

Samus_Man
Samus_Man

I love the 3D sonic games. No matter how broken they are, I love them all the same. Why? I don't know. But this game has alot of real potential. It's simplistic approach will appeal to the casual gaming audience, and it's depth with the skill system will appeal to hard core gamers. This game won't lose because it keeps the rail style. This method of control removes all the issues people have with the 3D games.

fantasticlink
fantasticlink

Its true that the 3D sonics suck. Lets just hope this is the sonic we've been waiting for. Oh and for once you only use sonic, thank god. No more of those crappy new characters like Silver.

EXxile
EXxile

I hope to God this Sonic is stellar. Cause with every new 3D Sonic, he comes closer to his death. The graphics actually look real nice too, some of the best I've seen on the Wii thus far.

kdt55
kdt55

Score Prediction : 5.9 - Its Sonic, what else is there to expect.

Cgreen903
Cgreen903

Sigh....If you name the best Sonic games of all time, are they in 3D or 2D. How hard would it be to make a 2D game nowadays? Make one that is in 2D, include a few CGI cut scenes, different characters, and you have a hit. All of the Sonic games that were in 3D wern't that good to me, maybe its time to go back to 2D where you actually felt that Sonic was fast.

evry1snice
evry1snice

The_Legend501 "did anyone even buy the wii anyway?" Only about 4x as many people that bought a PS3

The_Legend501
The_Legend501

now who on earth would wanna play this game with that goofy controller for the wii when i can play the buffed up version on my ps3???? this game is going to have major control issues... did anyone even buy the wii anyway?

lVK1
lVK1

I have high hopes for this game :) Oh, and i saw the video... It left me with the horrible screeching voice of knuckles ringing through the inner caverns of my mind... and it may have permanently damaged my ear drums... I see the horrible VA is never going to go away... but it can still be good fun :)

UltimaCloudX
UltimaCloudX

I really tried to like Sonic on the 360 but the camera just about made me homicidal. In a way I kindof like the 3d aspect of exploring, but they just need to polish it up somehow. Make the camera/controls a bit more friendly. This new sonic sounds interesting. I've always been a fan of the Sonic games since I was younger, and if it keeps the speed and intensity of some of the earlier ones... sounds like this may be the way Sonic will best transition to 3d, and in the future.

fon1988
fon1988

Let's hope this game isn't as buggy as the Sonic The Hedgehog on the Xbox360 and Playstation3. I loved that game to death but damn it needs some serious work done to it.

Alucard62889
Alucard62889

Seems like a nice game to try out! I've never played a game like this, an "on-rails" game. Seems really cool!

STHedgehog85
STHedgehog85

Once again, Sonic the Hedgehog for the PS3 and 360 does not suck. I am really getting tired of these guys trashing just about every 3-D Sonic game that comes out when these games sell extremely well. Obviously Sonic Team knows what they're doing because these games keep making Greatist Hits / Player's Choice / Platinum Hits status, so I am pretty much ignoring anything GameSpot has to say on any Sonic game because chances are it will still sell very well. And don't be surprised when GameSpot trashes this game as well even though they are hyping it now.

Bigboss232
Bigboss232

i want da wii i want da wii i want da wii but im poor cryies

09n
09n

I like back to basics. I like speed. I think I shall like this Wii game. I also liked the Next gen graphics from the PS3, 360 game, I will also miss Knuckles and Shadow, but their roles have been screwed up by sega. Sonic shall rise again!

silent_seaxx
silent_seaxx

Wow, this seems so great! Japanese, great graphics, interesting plot.. and party games? Wow.. I don't know whether I should get this or SSX Blur!

Pork_Lord
Pork_Lord

Hmm... this could actually be decent.

segafreak1999
segafreak1999

Party games + fast Sonic + Japanese voice soundtrack = insta-buy. I hope to high above that this is the Sonic title that we've been waiting for.

cameron06
cameron06

im gettin this gane on launch ni matter what =D

demonoroth667
demonoroth667

This sonic game is a lot more the "real" Sonic than all the other games that have been coming out. Many people complain about it being a rail type game. You could say the old sonic was a rail as well. You could go up, down left and right on your screen, nothing more nothing less, and just blast through the stages as fast as possible. This game is the same the only difference with the old 2d games is that instead of it being 2d and seeing sonic from his right side, everything is now 3d. I'm a huge Sonic fan myself and the 360 and ps3 game just plain sucks. The game is full of bugs, its just aweful to play. Even I as a huge Sonic fan have trouble to enjoy playing the damn thing. Many people complain aswel about the storyline. Who gives a damn any way. Sonic never had an epic story -line. The only purpose the story in sonic games has is to bind the stages together and that's about it. Also many call it "kiddy" while they know nothing about it yet so there's no use going on about that. The 360 story-line wasn't great either and far from original. Go save the princess and the world.........you could consider that "kiddy" as well. Another thing many complain about and that I see with mostly younger Sonic-gamers is that it's only Sonic you can play with. Hell I'm glad it's only sonic you can play with, it was about time SEGA did that. This is what every old-school sonic-fan has been waiting for. And as for you Anarchicgoth. If you call this not the real Sonic then you don't really seem to know what Sonic really is. From all we have seen this game is already 10 times better than the 360 and ps3 game. From what we have seen this game is going to be a great title to put sonic on the right track so I would say SEGA did a good job and the making solo-sonic is the smartest move they have done in years. Going back to the basics was needed for Sonic and this will do his image good. So I say well done SEGA and make sure the game plays as good as you make it seem now. If so then they should make all games like this.