An interesting concept for a Sonic game on paper, but poorly executed in the end
The story shows Sonic running when he is joined by Tails and Knuckles. Tails shows him a message from Dr. Eggman; telling Sonic that he has built the ultimate weapon and will take over the world in 3 days. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles team up and race off to stop the evil Dr. Eggman once again. At the same time, other teams start forming like Shadow, Rouge and introducing Omega who all want answers from the Dr. Amy, Big and Cream are looking for their friends and the Chaotix Detective Agency (made up of Vector, Espio and Charmy) get a walky-talky with a mysterious voice hiring them for work. The story is pretty simple enough, just another "good guy stops bad guy" routine, but the writing is the worst part. Some of the dialogue throughout the game will make you cringe at such poorly written lines such as "We'll show that creep the REAL SUPER POWER OF TEAMWORK!!!". It doesn't help that the poorly acted characters never shut up during each stage.
For the time, the graphics look nice and colorful with plenty of aesthetics that represent the older Sonic games, like the orange checker pattern walls. After the Dreamcast games, this game looked great for its time. The music is ok, some of the stage tracks are good like Seaside Hill or Casino Park, but most are forgettable. The only tracks I recall disliking were the vocal tracks except for maybe "What I'm Made of".
The game takes the speedy formula from the Adventure games but with it comes the teamwork style. There are 4 teams to choose from and each team has 3 characters to switch between; speed, flying and power. Speed is used for the fast and platforming sections, flying is used to fly over obstacles and attack certain enemies and power is used to take out enemies and solve certain puzzles within each stage. As mentioned earlier, this is a really cool idea and it could have been great in the end.....but a few flaws keep it from reaching that full potential. The first problem is the game never lets you figure anything out. When you approach an obstacles, not only is there a sign that tells you what character to use, but it sometimes will automatically switch to the appropriate character, leaving little for you to figure out on your own. The next problem is the level design feels a little weak. Some of them can be fun like the Egg Carrier but most of the time you'll notice plenty of copy/paste moments which can cause some levels to drag on. It doesn't help that all 4 teams play the same and you have to beat it with all 4 if you want to see the real ending. In the end, the gameplay was a good idea to begin with and it times, it can be fun, but at the same time, the teamwork gimmick wasn't executed properly and the game just feels like it drags.
After every two stages or so comes a boss fight.....and by that I mean the same 3 boss fights repeated throughout the game; some bird-shaped ship, team battle (HEY, that evil scientist is going to take over the world, LET'S FIGHT EACH OTHER INSTEAD!) and wave after wave of robots. The bosses aren't anything interesting and they just feel lazy, especially since the same 3 boss fights are used twice.
The multiplayer also feels a bit underwhelming, especially compared to the last 3D Sonic game, Sonic Adventure 2. You have the option to race to the finish, race to the center, race on bob sleds, battle, ring battle, etc. Each mode has about 3 stages and a winner is decided after two victories. As you can see, most of the modes involve racing which is pretty much all it is; get your team to the goal, only half of the stage is actually used in the main racing event. Bob sleds move on rails and you have to dodge and jump over obstacles and race 3 laps before your opponent. Hitting obstacles will cause you to lose a teammate and make it harder for you to win (losing the speed character will destroy your speed and losing your flight character will make you unable to jump). Much like the controls to the actual gameplay, the bobsled feels lose and is difficult to control. Then there's battle mode, in which you must knock the opposite team off the level.....like Super Smash Bros., only without any interesting moves.....or fun.
I really wanted to love this game. I never owned a Dreamcast or a Gamecube, I was more of an Xbox guy myself so seeing a Sonic game on the Xbox and PS2 was a dream come true. However, what was such a neat idea on paper resulted in poor execution. This game can be fun here and there but it could have been so much more. You can probably find this game for a cheap price now and for that, it's worth a shot at least, but I expected more from Sonic's 3rd 3D adventure.