Sonic and the Secret Rings Review

Many of us have been acquainted with a little blue individual that wears red sneakers. He runs at astonishingly high speeds and has the strange urge to collect gold rings. That character is none other than Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s primary icon and game personality for the company. Sonic made his first appearance on the Sega Genesis in 1991, and has continued to do his high speed acrobatics and antics on various other consoles ever since. Now, Sonic makes his true debut on Nintendo’s Wii in the game Sonic and the Secret Rings.

As with all previous editions of the Sonic games, the gameplay is based upon directing the little blue hedgehog through a predetermined path of roads, obstacles and novel contraptions on his way to finishing the level and gathering as many gold rings as he can. The signature characteristics of this series are its extreme portrayal of fast motion and amusing gimmicks. Even the early games on the Sega Genesis provided an eye popping experience of speed that seemed way ahead of its time for platform games during the era. In this latest edition for the Wii, Sega has tried to keep the basic concepts of gameplay true to the original ideas while introducing some twists and novel elements to the series.

Sonic and the Secret Rings opens with a pretty interesting storyline. Yes, sports fans, there is a storyline in this game. The premise is that our hero, Sonic, has been drafted to save the story characters of the book 1001 Arabian Nights. (You all remember that one. It was one of the books that we were forced to read in school.) A genie named Shahra explains that the book and its citizens are in danger of extinction and are slowly being erased by the uber meanie, Erazor Djinn. Sonic is her only hope and he must stop the dastardly fiend from destroying all of the chapters by finding Seven World Rings.

The game is broken down into three segments: Adventure, Party and Story Book. Adventure is the single player portion of the game and is divided into eight "chapters," and these chapters are subdivided into numerous "paragraphs," or game levels. Story Book is a special feature where special pages are recovered during the game — these collected pages offer you the opportunity to look at game artwork, cutscenes, videos or play in-game music. Party is SATSR’s multiplayer mode and offers contests and races for up to four human or computer players.

When you first start off in Adventure, you’ll have a chance to get familiar with the game controls and how to perform special moves with Sonic by means of a few short training levels. They don’t last more than a minute or two and quickly get you up to speed. The Wiimote controller is held horizontally or vertically, depending on what you are doing in the game. Holding the controller like a steering wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions is comfortable and gives you the ability to direct Sonic by tilting the controller left or right, or forward and back; using the jump dash move is a quick flip of the wrists forward. This control scheme works pretty well, although the precision in getting Sonic around tight corners and narrow spaces may be a little too loose for some.

As all loyal Sonic fans know, Sonic doesn’t run at top speed when he starts off in a level; he takes a few steps, and progressively runs faster and faster as long as you don’t crash into anything. SATSR plays just like Sonic runs — the game starts off a little slow but quickly ramps up in speed and intensity. The camera follows closely behind and to the left of Sonic and offers a real sensation of extreme speed. At other times, the camera will zoom out or take a completely different angle to follow the action. Of course, Sonic is at his best when running at top speed and collecting the gold rings, but added to this is his ability to do jump-dashes in midair. Certain obstacles, enemies, and objects can be totally obliterated by utilizing his jump-dash. He doesn’t turn into Superman, but the effect is the same — he is able to leap tall rocks/objects/monsters/ in a single bound.

Each level plays out like a puzzle. You not only have to memorize how each course runs, you’ll also have to remember what moves you need to make at critical times to keep from failing the mission. The courses are short and sweet, and only take a couple of minutes to complete. The boss battles found at the end of each chapter will go on until you either die or defeat the baddie. The fun part has to do with all the different environments that Sonic encounters. He doesn’t’ just run anymore, he’ll be rafting on floating logs, doing sidesteps on precariously thin ledges of cliffs, sliding on the backs of dinosaurs and doing long grinds on rails, just to name a few things. In some ways, the game reminds me a little of the Crash Bandicoot titles, only much, much faster.

As mentioned before, the paragraphs or levels within the eight chapters aren’t very long as far as gameplay time is concerned, but that doesn’t mean you’ll fly by these levels — there are a truckload of paragraphs for each chapter to play. Each course (outside of boss battles) may only take a few minutes to finish, but you’ll be replaying these levels many times in order to achieve a passing grade or to improve upon your finishing times. If you’re really fast, you are awarded one of three medals: bronze, silver or gold. The levels that you complete successfully will reward you with unlocking other paragraphs, special features and experience points. As you go forward in the chapters, the experience points can be used to modify special magic rings that you can use during your journeys. These rings, in turn, can help you to gain additional gold rings at the start of races, make your turns more effective, increase your running speed and other enhancements that will make Sonic more powerful.

Party mode games are a hoot and will provide lots of laughs and fun for anyone who enjoys games like Mario Party or mini-games in general. The games are competition based and the winner is the one who survives in the contests. Each game goes by quickly and will have you trying to avoid bees, looking for treasure, floating in parachutes, paddling in canoes and a host of other amusing endeavors. The great thing about Party mode is that even if you can’t find another gamer to play with you, Party mode allows you to go solo against computer opponents.

The graphics are especially well done because of all the interesting settings the game places you in. The characters, animals and action sequences are done with humor and detail and the colors are what you’d expect on Wii: bright and bold. You’ll really enjoy playing each themed chapter. Sonic looks as good as (or better than) he ever did, and the amazing camera angles will really keep your eyes jumping around while you play through some of the faster moving levels. There is a very good animation at the beginning of the game, and it really shows off the graphical abilities of the Wii. However, during the cutscenes of the game the developers have decided to just use stills to move the plot along. That was somewhat of a disappointment; including live animation during the story telling would have really made this game better.

Music is a nice mix of Power Ranger’s style music and goofy mini-game tunes. If you’re not a fan of power chords or metal bands, you’re out of luck because there is no option to tone down the music in the main game. When you play through certain levels, there will be a short connecting cutscene which explains the progress of the plot. The action stills are narrated by some unintentionally funny voice acting which actually adds to the overall enjoyment of this game. If you are lactose intolerant you’d better skip these sequences because there is a ton of cheese. Interestingly enough, there is a speech option which allows you to switch over from English to Japanese dialogue. I tried this and found that while Japanese wasn’t as cheesy as English, I missed all the bad voice acting in the English version.

Sonic and the Secret Rings is a surprise and offers some excellent old-school platforming fun with good graphics, new gameplay features and challenging mission levels. The Party multiplayer mode will be a hit with friends and family, and will be fun for kids or the casual gaming crowd. For those who have gotten tired and/or fed up of the Sonic series, SATSR offers enough improvement in the gameplay to warrant some serious consideration. This game should prove to be a good addition to any gamer’s Wii library, and is a hopeful sign for our favorite hedgehog’s future.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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