8.5

The most commonly-referred to GBA game in the Sonic franchise, Advance 3 is one word- fun.

One of my all-time favorite video game franchises is Sonic the Hedgehog. I don't care if some of his more recent 3D games have "not met expectations," the games that I have played are fun and unique. The concept of being able to run at the speed of sound (or so the game tells you), while navigating zones with crazy puzzles and non-linear platforming truly creates an amusing experience.

Sonic Advance 3 is the game in question today. Many refer to it as the best handheld Sonic game ever made to date, and I can't argue with that claim.

What is the most important aspect about a game? Being able to play it, of course! Sonic Advance 3 quite clearly payed the most attention to true quality gameplay, and it payed off. The game is a kind of game that you can just pop into your Game Boy Advance and start playing. It's not too complicated, and the levels have their own unique designs, challenges, and enemies.

Selecting the zones you want to play in is different from other Sonic games. In this game, you have a "Zone Map," which has three rings, numbered "1, 2, and 3," which you can enter to go to the zones. You can play the zones in any order you want to, but you can't challenge the boss until you've completed all three. I find having to travel to the different zones kind of annoying, especially after you've lost all your lives and are back at the Zone Map again. This is especially annoying when you're trying to beat the Final Boss, having to go through all those steps repeatedly just to get to there. With the way this was set up, I feel that a standard menu screen would have been much better.

When choosing your character, you must also select a partner character. You can choose from Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and Cream. With your partner character you can perform various "tag actions," such as jumping higher than formerly possible, flying, spinning, etc. These depend on which character and partner character you choose.

But what's annoying is some of the tag actions just plain suck, as do some of the characters' special attacks. For instance, when you play as Tails with Cream as your side partner, Tails' special attack is this stupid fly move that only lets you hover so far, and doesn't let you control it very well.

There are a great variety of Boss fights, and some of them have to be defeated in a way that is not obvious at first. This can tend to get a bit annoying after a while, when it takes you nine tries to figure out how you're supposed to hit this freaking boss. Also, the difficulty per world of the Boss Fights seems to change. For instance, the World 4 boss is moderately difficult, the World 5 boss his breathtakingly hard, yet the World 6 boss isn't nearly as hard.

The sound effects in this game are fun to listen to. There are different arrangements of a particular tune per different Act in each world, each of which sound great. The Boss fight music is decent, but once you unlock the Sound Test and see the boss fight music that was not used, you may be a little disappointed.

But what I find strange is that the boss music for the World 7 boss is different from all other boss music. I find that it has a much more epic and intense sound to it than the final boss music. If the two had been swapped, then that would have been a little better.

Like in every other Sonic game out there, your side quest is to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds. And like every other Sonic game out there, this is painstakingly difficult, but in Sonic Advance 3 it is taken to a whole new level of frustration. At first I was like "How do I get the freaking Chaos Emeralds?" But in the instruction manual, it says that this is what you have to do: in every zone there are ten hidden Chao, hiding in places that you would never think to look. Once you have hunted throughout the entire zone and found all 10 Chao, you get an opportunity to collect a Special Key in that Zone. You can use that key to unlock a springboard on the zone map which you use to jump into the special stage.

This might sound like a challenge, but it's more than that. It's a pure frustration. And if you fail at the special stage, you can't use the same key again- you need to go through the entire stage over again and get that evasive key! The special stages get even more frustrating as they go on through the game, but they are quite fun.

The hardest part of this whole ordeal will be finding the Chao. They're scattered all over the zones, and they're in the most obscure and unreachable areas.

What haven't I talked about yet? How about the graphics. The graphics are what you would typically expect of a GBA game- nothing too special, but not bad. I don't really have any complaints toward the graphics, so I'm not going to make any comment.

After all that, here's the final score for this game:

GRAPHICS: 8
SOUND: 9
GAMEPLAY: 9
ENTERTAINMENT: 9
OVERALL: 35 out of 40 (8.75 out of 10)

Thank you for reading and have a good day.

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