Sonic and the Secret Rings Review
I still remember the very first game I got for my Sega Genesis on Christmas in 1991 – Sonic the Hedgehog. This was the time of the great Genesis v Super Nintendo war, the first true console war today’s gamers may remember. Nintendo would run SNES ads and Sega would instead try to be the edgier and cooler system, at points mocking Nintendo. At the end of the ads, you’d get blasted by a voice that literally screamed SEGA. Sega’s games also started up with a familiar but much less jarring mention of the company name.
Sega was missing something, though, in this console war. They needed someone that was cool – someone much cooler than the silly red plumber on Nintendo’s side. Enter Sonic the Hedgehog, a blue hedgehog that was a bad dude and really symbolized Sega’s stance with the Genesis. It was the cool system, and Sonic was here to bring you that cool. Sonic’s second game even brought with it the concept of Blast Processing – a technique that, according to claims, let the Genesis process movement faster. With or without this Blast Processing, the 2D sonic games were an absolute pleasure to play. However, Sonic’s transition into the world of 3D gaming was more difficult than Nintendo’s less cool mascot, leading to a string of games that ranged anywhere from barely mediocre to absolute failures. In an effort to bring the series back to the success it once had, Sega has released a new Sonic game on, of all systems, the Wii.
Sonic and the Secret Rings is definitely a departure from the current generation of 3D Sonic games. Where they are more open to you moving around and exploring a world, Sonic and the Secret Rings is pretty straight forward. You run and, on occasion, turn around to go backwards. You can move over to the left or right, but it is more like the bonus stages in Sonic 2 than the current crop of 3D Sonic games – you don’t turn to the left or right, you just strafe to get out of the way of obstacles. All of this is accomplished through motions on the Wii controller and a couple of button presses – jumping and stopping Sonic are the only things you’ll have to press a button for.
The controls are really what sets this new Sonic game apart from the others, but they do have their issues. First of all, moving from side to side isn’t always easy. You can tilt the controller, but, a lot of the time, Sonic really doesn’t respond too well to it. You’ll see the same issue when trying to do a lock-on attack – to do this, you have to thrust the Wiimote forward. Now, this isn’t much of an issue if it works every time. However, you have to thrust it forward really hard to get Sonic to actually attack the enemy he is locked in on – I don’t see why a gentler motion couldn’t have been used. Of course, you only have to worry about this if your lock-on is successful as, at points, Sonic won’t lock on to an enemy for some bizarre reason. Finally, my last two control issues were with the choices of what the 1 and 2 buttons do. The one button just makes Sonic stop moving – why couldn’t you instead doing this by rotating the controller towards you instead? And secondly, the jumping. Now, after having played other games on the Wii, jumping is something I think is done by doing a sort of upwards thrust with the Wiimote. Not the case here, though – you have to hold onto the 2 button to charge up a jump, then let it go to actually do the jump. This was horribly confusing to me and it made no sense as to why I couldn’t just use a Wiimote motion or use a tried and true method of tapping the button for a low jump or holding onto the button to perform a higher one with the jump coming when I press the button and not on the release.
OK, so the controls aren’t the greatest in the game – that can be looked past to a degree if the rest of the game is solid and fun to play through. Thankfully, Secret Rings does manage to save itself somewhat at this point. The game’s worlds all have a vastly different feel to them – yes, you get to race through a world with dinosaurs in it and another that is a pirate ship. The world design in Secret Rings is just really cool. All of these neat worlds are pretty, too, thanks to the game’s usage of both 480p and 16:9 widescreen. In all, Sonic and the Secret Rings is, by far, the best looking game yet on the Wii. Sadly, the somewhat cheesy music doesn’t live up to the graphics, though it can at least be entertaining for a little bit due to this cheesiness.
There are some other neat elements to Secret Rings that depart from the normal Sonic stuff. First of all, Sonic isn’t the super-speedy hedgehog that you’re used to at the start of the game – you’ll have to actually level him up by going through the game’s seven worlds and various challenges contained within. Each of the levels net you experience points which, in turn, translate to skill points. You’ll be able to get new skills as you level up to make Sonic into a more efficient speed demon. While I wasn’t so sure that I’d like this at first, it does add a sort of progression feel to the game that previous Sonic games didn’t have. It is definitely a departure from the series, but it actually works.
In all, Sonic and the Secret Rings is a solid first attempt at a Sonic game for the Wii. It uses the Wii’s main advantage, the controller, to decent effect – there needs to be a good bit of tightening up Sonic’s response, though. The graphics are just excellent and the worlds are fun to run through and well-designed. The party games included, seemingly a staple of everything released on the Wii, are not a reason to pick the game up but give you something else to play with your buddies in between rounds of Wii Sports and Wario Ware Smooth Moves. In the end, I came into this game not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. With some more polish and a fixing of the blunders in the control department, the second Wii entry for Sonic may just bring the hedgehog back to his former glory.