The original Sonic Rush was easily one of the fastest Sonic games in history, and in a year that also brought us the likes of Shadow the Hedgehog, it also stood as a reminder of how good his games could be in the middle of increasingly dark times for the franchise. It introduced probably the best new character in ages with Blaze the Cat, and brought the blue hedgehog to the dual screened, polygon capable DS for the first time. That said, the game had its flaws. It was filled with bottomless pits, and the speed was often so intense that death by hole or suddenly appearing robot was far too common. Does Sonic Rush Adventure alleviate the flaws, or just add some new ones with its new focus on adventure?
SRA still has the same game play that people loved from the original. Sonic speeds through levels and can achieve instant speed through his speed boost move. Levels are loaded with boosts, springs, swings, and barriers that need to be smashed through. Blaze the Cat is still essentially a Sonic clone, though this time around she is nearly completely unnecessary to use beyond the Sol Emerald missions. The primary changes lie in how you get from level to level. In the place of SR’s simple world map is an ocean that you must chart your way through. Instead of just walking from place to place, you have to use your stylus to draw a path for you to sail one of four water craft. Using these water craft, Sonic must race and shoot his way from island to island.
Using these watercraft can be fun at first. The ski-do mini game is fast and feels very at home in a Sonic game. The sail boat requires quick action with the stylus, and the hovercraft is a very simple rail shooter. The submarine mini game is probably the weakest, because it is so slow, and can be a little difficult to grasp at first. The problem comes when you are essentially forced to play these mini games over and over again whenever you need to go to another island. The game also forces you to play stages over and over again in order to get the materials you need to build one of these vessels. If these water craft games were just one off mini games, they would be a pretty benign addition at worst. Unfortunately the game uses them as an excuse to recycle the same content over and over again and extend the life of the game.
The most promising part of this concept is also rather disappointing. Part of the idea behind making this an ocean adventure was the prospect of discovering all new islands to play through that had nothing to do with the story. The problem is these islands are typically very small and recycle locations you’ve already played through. Their only real benefit is the material that they give you, since you can use additional material to further update your watercraft.
Sonic is also still very accident prone. While I found myself running into enemies far less, I still found instances where avoiding bottomless pits were almost unavoidable the first time through. This problem is still less pronounced then it was in the original Rush, but it still exists. In addition to this, the Sonic Rush model of “instant speed over physics” is still an inferior design to the more physics based game play of Sonic Pocket Adventure and Sonic Advance. While fun in its own right, the general lack of platforming and physics makes Sonic Rush Adventure feel too much like a racing game, or a two dimensional extreme sports game. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. The game is still a very fun test of reflexes. It’s not quite as deep as the more exploration/platforming/physics based classics. My default method of playing this game is to simply spam the trick button while I’m in the air, and then spam the boost button while I’m on the ground. Combined with some platforming and jumping, this is all still quite fun. Just not what I’d really like to see from a Sonic game.
The game also adds a 3D island hub that can be changed by sending a koala NPC out to find things, as well one hundred optional missions that can be played. Finally, the game has added an online head to head competitive mode similar to the offline multiplayer mode in the original Rush.
Musically, Sonic Rush Adventure contains the same kind of upbeat tunes that got so much praise in the original. The game uses a different composer for the music, something I’ve seen some diehard fans complain about, but by and large I found the music to be incredibly catchy. Not exactly the best Sonic soundtrack, but certainly a good one that makes effective use of the DS’s sound capabilities.
Visually, Sonic Rush Adventure is beautiful. The cell shaded characters look great as they speed through areas, and the two dimensional levels are very colorful and well designed. My personal favorite stage is the steam punk inspired Machine Labyrinth, probably the most unique looking technological level I’ve seen in a Sonic game in a long time.
The graphics aren’t all rosey though. The otherwise impressive fully polygonal boss battles suffer from significant frame rate issues, especially the bigger battles with larger areas and more things happening on screen. The frame rate is picture perfect during game play and isn’t a constant problem in boss battles, but it’s still noticeable.
Sonic Rush Adventure isn’t quite as good as its predecessor. While it’s certainly massive in scope, it suffers from recycling too much of its content. The watercraft, while fun, are an unneeded edition, and only served as a catalyst to force players to play the game levels and mini games over and over again. The Rush game play also feels far too automated. Nevertheless, the game is still incredibly fun, and the level design will definitely please fans of the original. If you enjoy platformers and don’t mind recycled content, some automated play and some distracting mini games, SRA is a definite recommendation.
- Incredibly fast adrenaline pumping game play
- Marginally improved level design over its predecessor
- A wonderful soundtrack
- Solid graphics
- Still an instant gratification boost fest
- Level design still has many of Sonic Rush’s quirks
- Some frame rate problems in the boss battles
- Boating mini games get old
- Most islands don’t offer much
- Game requires you to play through each level multiple times to create new boats