Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood Hands-On

We take a peek at what happens when BioWare meets Sonic the Hedgehog.


Sega and BioWare reps were on hand at Nintendo's recent press event to show off Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, the upcoming DS role-playing game starring Sonic the Hedgehog. The unlikely pairing of publisher and developer, not to mention subject matter, initially left many scratching their heads. While it's no mean feat to show off a meaty BioWare RPG, our look at the game offered a good idea of how the promising title is shaping up.

Sonic Chronicles looks quite sharp for a DS game.
Sonic Chronicles looks quite sharp for a DS game.

The game's story is being kept fairly under wraps at the moment. The only thing we got from Sega reps is the basic setup, which, unsurprisingly, isn't reaching too far beyond the typical Sonic storyline. Basically, Sonic is vacationing (in some of his rare downtime), but one panicked message from Tails and one kidnapping later, an adventure ensues. As with any RPG worth its dropped items, Sonic Chronicles won't be sending the hedgehog into danger by himself. You can plan on having three other familiar faces along for the ride, each with unique attributes you'll need over the course of your quest. One thing we can say after trying the brief demo is that you'll do a lot of talking, but that's par for the course in any RPG.

Now as far as the actual game goes, we were able to try out two areas: Green Hill Zone and one of the towns you'll find yourself in. The two areas were a good primer on what to expect from the game's two main types of gameplay: exploration and combat. The exploration sequences had us guiding Sonic and company via the touch screen, a la Phantom Hourglass, by simply tapping where we wanted them to go. The big twist to the action were points we came across that had action buttons for us to tap with our stylus. For example, when we came across one of Sonic's patented loop-the-loops, we simply tapped a nearby icon to get him to run through it automatically. We were also prompted to talk to a random character, which helped us get accustomed to the dialogue. Conversations were a mix of reading and making choices on a menu. It also seems--based on some of the later stuff we saw--that conversations and action points will be key to solving some puzzles because you'll have to split your party up to progress.

The other major component in the demo was combat. Sonic Chronicles takes a familiar approach to battling: You'll walk into enemies and trigger the shift to a close-up view of Sonic and company. The battles are turn-based, and you'll find the same basic array of options in the game's radial-style menu. You'll be able to perform normal attacks as well as power moves, which will cost you "fatigue points." Fatigue points are like mana or magic points in a typical RPG. The power moves are a slightly different take on traditional magic-style attacks; they'll require you to do some timed tapping on the touch screen with your stylus. The most important element of the power moves is the combination of characters in your party. Some moves require specific characters to be in the same group in order to perform them. Once the battles were over, we scored loot and experience points. The loot included rings and, sometimes, gear we could equip on our characters in one of three slots. The experience helped raise one of four stats on each character: speed, attack, defense, and luck.

The visuals in the game are shaping up to be a winning mix of art and technology. The areas we saw showcased gorgeous 2D art and a robust 3D engine that pumped out colorful characters and moved pretty well. The exploration segments moved smoothly and transitioned to the various action sequences we mentioned earlier. The combat sequences weren't quite as smooth, with some of the expected "work in progress" frame-rate hitches that are common in an unfinished game. The character models looked remarkably sharp for a DS game. In addition, there was a respectable number of special effects going on during combat.

Based on what we played, Sonic Chronicles looks to have a lot of promise. The gameplay has a nice feel to it (rough spots aside), and typical RPG trappings seem good so far. The jury's still out on the story, but we reckon we'll find out more on that soon enough. The key thing right now is that the game seems fun and accessible. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is slated to ship this fall. Look for more in the months to come.

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Avatar image for Wetty01

I hope there will still be high speed action scenes

Avatar image for DIGN

sounds cool

Avatar image for megaoverlord12

For Sonic 's sake ,I hope it works out as good as it seems.

Avatar image for aravindashwin

This game as well as Sonic Unleashed are gonna be amazing! Can't wait til they come out

Avatar image for SilentHill176

This looks like it's going to be a great sonic game. so i cant wait to read this review when the game comes out this fall.

Avatar image for Pickleking23

looks like it shaping up to be a great game, kinda reminds me alittle of Super Mario RPG(SNES).....God i'm hoping for a remake of that btw.

Avatar image for F0ilman

It might be good, well Mario Superstar worked and that was an RPG.

Avatar image for AddictedGamer50

This could be a disaster if SEGAs not careful.

Avatar image for sebastianfava

I don't think it will work well but I will give it try when it comes out =)

Avatar image for fishnpeas1

2 Sonic games I actually want?!? I'm amazed, epecially after breaking a controller in disgust on Sonic the hedgehog on 360.

Avatar image for Mokenatale

It's a RPG & it's BioWare...has BioWare ever done bad with a RPG?

Avatar image for RaiKageRyu

the RPG setup seems to ***-like despite this being from BioWare.

Avatar image for Shadowed_Valor

This relationship is quite surprising. The underdogs pair up with the raining champs of RPGs? Well, as "Ask a Ninja" would say, "I LOOK FORWARD TO PLAYING YOU SOON!"

Avatar image for slayersdeath200

can u please go back to the way it was originally 2d platformer is that too much to ask

Avatar image for chazer127

Sonic + Bioware = Me want game. simple

Avatar image for SonicHusky

Sonic wasn't made for RPGs. Howabout SOME FREAKIN SPEED?!?

Avatar image for Trashcan_Man

Sounds aweome: semi-oldschool RPG and stars characters from the Sonic universe--what more could anyone want? If this game has a compelling story (for a Sonic game), then it easily beats out the Mario Partners in Time DS game as far as RPGs go...more equipment options, more dialogue (hopefully meaning better story), interesting art design, more diverse characters in your party, etc.

Avatar image for DesertClawX2X

While many of the more recent Sonic games have tanked (or at least been sub-par), that fact that BioWare is working on this also may warrant a buy from me.

Avatar image for Vindictae

Looks nice enough, and Bioware has a good resume. Something to look forward to, especially since the Sonic DS platformers don't appeal much to me.

Avatar image for nate1222

Normally, this would seem like a typical "turn-based" RPG. But with Bioware developing it, it may wind up in my DS library.

Avatar image for *I_is_smart

This is compuzzling. I wish they made a 3-d ds sonic game where it was a sonic game where you could use homing attack etc. where the gameplay would be like sonic andventure2 or sonic heroes or sonic the hedgehog for example. Graphics look nice for a ds game though. I have high hopes though

Avatar image for bluej33

Eh...far as I can tell now, it's just a standard, run-of-the-mill RPG with Sonic characters. I doubt it'll be that good, and I doubt I'll buy or even play it.

Avatar image for VenomRitual

rpg? do u think it'll be like the mariosuperstar saga?

Avatar image for Nintendoguy325

It is coming...and it will devour our attention span to reality, making it impossible to put down.

Avatar image for SilverStar-90

Looks pretty good

Avatar image for Gin_Tama

"I am a pony!!!!!!!!!!!!1!11!" Neener neener?

Avatar image for CaptianTwig

I am a pony!!!!!!!!!!!!1!11!

Avatar image for tennisman101010

i think a new rpg on the ds would be awesome, bioware made mass efects so my hopes are high, but sega has had no goood games lately. hope fully bioware will shape them up

Avatar image for lionheart234

This should be a interersting combination..... =]

Avatar image for FlamingFury

It may seem ridiculous, but the Mario RPG's turned a tired and recycled franchise into quite an interesting side venture, and it was done really well. They had their faults but they were still awesome games, way better than all the other mario titles. Sonic is a cruddy kids series that has died over the years and dropped to low quality 3D platformers that don't stand up against mainstream competition like Ratchett, Jak or Mario. However, Sonic Battle was a nice twist on the series and this may turn out to be a kickass game. Although there is still "The World Ends With You" to come out, I reckon this is a fairly good contender for the RPG titles for DS. Mostly cos it's Bioware. I'm keeping an eye on this one.

Avatar image for awaltzforvenus

This looks kinda cool, but I look at it and kinda wish they'd done Crisis Core like this style of game for the DS.

Avatar image for fmobliv06

i thought this game was a joke when it was announced. now it's actually looking promising, just as long as the story holds up. that's the most important part of any bioware game.

Avatar image for poetsoul

I'd rather they took it more seriously, actually. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for the comic series...

Avatar image for InsaneTyranitar

Positives of this: It's Bioware. Enough said. Negatives of this: The frranchise still seems to be taking itself too seriously. Overall, I'm cautiously optimsic about this.

Avatar image for acidrain1976

Sonicles, anyone?

Avatar image for koHd

I love sonic, and RPG's. You'd think I'd be interested in this game then. You'd think... But that story just sounds ridiculous so far. I suppose I'll give it a try and see how it goes. At the end of the day, the Zelda stories are silly and repeatative and I love those games. So maybe I'm judging this one by the story too early...

Avatar image for danthegamer32

I believe Bioware will do Sonic proud, they need to! I have faith in Bioware as they ALWAYS make quality RPGs. Oh, and Phelix806, Mass Effect is just a taste of Bioware brilliance, try Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire as well!

Avatar image for Trashcan_Man

Even though it appears to have a lot of "been there, done that" it will be awesome to play an RPG on the DS not set in a medieval world. Make more RPGs based on big-name characters!!! [Super Mario RPG II FTW]

Avatar image for Phelix806

Looks really great, just beat Mass Effect (my first Bioware game) cant wait to pick this up...... I need a job so I can afford more games.....

Avatar image for vinallen

ill buy this game

Avatar image for Shmoe82

great. not that I can afford a ds and wii to go along with my ps3, but I freaking want this damn game.

Avatar image for Wikipedian

Think it would be as great as Baldurs Gate or Neverwinter Nights?

Avatar image for sk8trux

I'm not big into RPG's but this looks like a decent rpg. but i want to see more before i think of getting this game.

Avatar image for PhantomPhoot

Can you say "REDEMPTION"?

Avatar image for hobobski

just another pointless attempt to induce fans by changing the genre. that's not to say i don't want it. i do. BUY IT NOW!?

Avatar image for greatanimekid

OK I WANT THIS GAME NOW! it looks great plus i love a good rpg

Avatar image for Mariois1

I don't want to get my 'hype' up too soon! What needs to take into account is the fact that Bioware is being very precise of how the story and gameplay will turn out. SEGA knows if they tried tackling this element alone will either be rushed (meaning some events unexplained) or glitchy (going to a certain path in a game makes you fight a unbeatable boss until etc...etc) I love SEGA and Sonic Team but what I don't like is that they tried to please all those fans out there instead of going with their instincts. Bioware however; I never played any of their games.

Avatar image for joshi1s3

Green Hill Zone? Isn't that the first area in the first sonic game? Anyway Bioware is win. I expect this game to launch sonic back into the limelight

Avatar image for Dragon0932

the dark brotherhood?? someone has been playing too much Oblivion!!

Avatar image for Willy105

Paper Mario, but with Sonic. That's more than enough to bring back Sonic to stardom!