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December 30th, 2013

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09:43 pm - Sonic Heroes - Team Rose
In a lot of ways, the Sonic Heroes opening is a little capsulized version of the game itself. Look at that choppy framerate, the oddly plastic gloss on the characters, the way you can barely tell what Knuckles is doing to those rocks. That weird, jerky railgrinding!

...And yet, that is one AWESOME SONG. Look at all those characters! Look at that FLEET of battleships! This has potential! This has promise! Maybe if I take a deep breath I can enjoy this after all.

So of course I start off with Team Rose. Hoo boy.

There's four teams in Sonic Heroes. The Hero Team, with the main characters. The Dark Team, with Shadow and Rouge and some robot. The Chaotix Team, with some mooks who haven't been seen since the 32X. And the Wimpy Baby Team, or "Team Rose". Team Tutorial. Team Unwanted Characters, since it consists of Amy "Stalking Sonic Is My Day Job" Rose, Big "Why Are You Even Here" The Cat, and Cream "I Debuted In A GBA Title" The Rabbit with her Chao, Cheese. Because let's just keep shoveling chaos into the plotline. At least there's no chao garden for me to ignore.

(I really honestly do like Sonic games, y'guys. I swear.)

That said, their gameplay is the easiest and most straightforward, and this is a team designed to ease you into the new concepts of Sonic Heroes, so it makes sense to start off by playing with them. I do rather like Amy, when she isn't in the grip of "Chase Sonic, swoon" fever and gets to be her own heroine. Let's see how this goes.

In the Team Rose opening, Amy is... lounging around wondering where Sonic is. Sigh. When she loses the newspaper with his picture, Cream swoops in out of nowhere to reclaim it. Amy's got to be careful with "their only clue". Then Cream blows away in a stiff breeze, because she has the aerodynamics of a kite. Happily, Big is able to rope her and bring her back to safety.

If I hadn't read the manual, I would have no idea what their goal is: Find Sonic, Froggy, and Chocola (COUNT Chocola?) who are all missing. It's a MacGuffin plot! Let's roll! And by "roll", I mean "shove Big off the dock". Way to go, Amy.

On to STAGE ZERO, Sea Gate, where the controls are explained. Hello, Omochao. I did not miss you either. Omochao launches into a long explanation, but the highlights:

Sonic Heroes works on a "formation" system. You have a Speed character, a Power character and a Flight character. You can swap at any time, but some characters are ill-suited to lead at certain points and some formations are stronger against various enemies. Also, enemies have life bars now, so get ready to attack them four times when one hit should do the trick. And you can gain levels. Also, there are special techniques done by holding the button sometimes, and holding the button but waiting for your teammates to cluster up, and NOT holding the button, and it's all very complex and prone to misfiring because Big was standing three pixels to the left of where he should be.

I am amused by Cream's flight mode, where she flaps her ears and generates enough force to lift not only Amy, but also Big, who clings to Amy's legs. They don't look like they can support him! Then again, she IS the Speed character.

Big has also pulled a manzai-edition comedy paper umbrella out of nowhere, which he uses to glide around now? Okay sure. So I tutorial on to the end. Hooray, it only took me eight minutes.

So it's off to STAGE ONE, Seaside Hill. This doesn't take too long, but it does reintroduce me to the weirdness and awkwardness of Sonic Heroes. Presumably it'll get better with practice, but right now I'm having trouble doing things like, say... Lining Cream up so she'll slot through a flight booster. I also get a moment of utter bafflement as the entire team jumps in a little go-kart and zooms away down a track, complete with a time-trial score at the end. Really wasn't, uh, expecting that one.

For the most part my confusion is me going "Uh, what formation should I be in, here? Is there a visual cue?" and usually yes. Thank goodness. By the end I've picked up a key to the Special Stage, which is a lot like the Sonic The Hedgehog 2 "Halfpipe" special stage where you run along collecting rings (in this case, spheres) and try to make sure Tails (or in this case, Big and Cream) don't ram into anything. The special stage constantly swaps your characters around, which means suddenly you're wobbling awkwardly as a three-character pillar before abruptly Big is leading so you have to line up for three-wide ramps, and...

Man, this character switching thing is gonna be the bane of my entire playthrough. Deep breaths. I can do this.

On to STAGE TWO, Ocean Palace. Where Big gets lodged in a piece of scenery almost at once and has some kind of horrible spasm. "HYURPHYURPHYURPHYURPHYURPHYURP" he drones while twitching wildly back and forth, and then suddenly pops loose and shoots randomly off into the ocean with Amy and Cream running sideways to keep up.

Death by Glitch count: 1. At least it took until stage two to start that counter.

The same thing nearly happens AGAIN, which is starting to convince me that the controls on this game need the touch of a saint to work properly. There's a maze of cannons that shoot you so you're running straight at enemies, which takes a little work to get through, and then it's off to ... another special stage! Time to get a Chaos Emerald! Which is unexpectedly easy, since it basically just requires mashing the "Dash" button. Whew. THAT'S a relief.

From there it's on to a fight with Eggman's "Egg Hawk". I wish I could tell you how I beat this, except mostly I had Big bellyflop on it randomly, and then ran around in a circle and used the "Team Blast" move. So Big spins his umbrella around while Amy and Cream throw flower petals everywhere and then Eggman suddenly goes "THIS ISN'T OVER!" and flies away as fast as he can.

"Are you sure Sonic is in the city?" Cream asks.
"I feel it! My heart is NEVER WRONG!" Amy replies.
"Then it must be so." Cream decides.
"FROGGGGYYYYYYY" Big, uh, contributes.

So we're in the city now. Because plot? I guess. STAGE THREE is Grand Metropolis, and wow I love the visuals of this stage. Flying cars! Huge futuristic high-tech buildings! Walkways made of glowing light! It's so SHINY. Meanwhile at this point Big starts looking behind the fourth wall and rattling off tutorials. Big, who told YOU how to rail-grind? Why are you telling ME about the X-button? Was everyone else blinded by the limitations of reality?

At least the special stages hand 1-Ups out like candy. I'm gonna stop mentioning those, by the way. Anyway, now it's off to STAGE FOUR, Power Plant.

... Really. Power Plant? That's the best you got? Not even Power Plant Zone, or some kind of visual pun where it's a power plant being taken over by vegetation or something? Just... Power Plant. Okay. Sonic Heroes, you are not giving me the impression that you're TRYING very hard. I'm a little let down, Sonic Heroes. Not upset, just... let down.

Maybe they're saving all the good stage names for the other Teams.

"Eggman's robots are doing something around that machine!" Cream squeaks. "Let's get them!" Now Cream, I know you're like, six, but you can't just "get them" any time you feel like it. You have to have EVIDENCE and -- yeah okay no we smash all the robots because screw the criminal justice system. There is no higher authority than a squeaky bunny. GAZE INTO THE FACE OF THE LAW!

Ahem. Sorry.

Amusingly, at one point here we find an 1-Up and Amy goes "OH MY GOD!" Easy there, Amy.

After this level, Amy finds Sonic! Her words say "This time you'll marry me, Sonic!" but her body language says "OH SNAP, BREAKDANCING CHALLENGE YO!"

Actually, can we get a Space Channel 5 hack that replaces Ulala with Amy's cutscene model?

Can we get a Sonic Heroes hack that replaces Amy with Ulala?


Sigh. Anyway, boss fight. That goes quick. When you hit Knuckles, he goes "RRRRAAAAAAUUUGH" and sounds like he's gonna Hulk the fuck out. That is HILARIOUS. Anyway, post-fight Amy and company are suddenly in a giant casino! This is STAGE FIVE, Casino Park. Amy declares she'll fight Eggman to get "Her Sonic" back. Because... what did we just fight? ...nevermind. Amy declares the casino is just like Casinopolis, while Big cheerfully proclaims it "The City that Never Sleeps".

...yeah all right close enough, Big. We play pinball using the characters as balls for a while! It kinda works! It's very pretty, but I sort of miss NiGHTS Pinball. Oh well. Cream gives me a lengthy speech about how to use the slot machine on the pinball table that's still going long after I've rolled off the table and gone somewhere else. It very nearly lasts all the way to the goal ring. Eesh.

Next is STAGE SIX, BINGO Highway. Where you ... uh. You play Bingo. That is my stage goal: "Try out the Bingo Highway". So... we do. More extra lives, yay. As it turns out, I need those extra lives because during the next Special Stage while I'm trying to get a Chaos Emerald, Amy runs through the wall of the tube and off into space, failing the level for me.

Death by Glitch Count: 2.

Anyway, the "Special Stages" are getting incredibly unreasonable, both in design and in lack of controllability. I am worried I'm not gonna see the proper ending of this.

On we go to STAGE SEVEN, Rail Canyon. Big smells Froggy, the... chao senses the other chao, and Amy is all "OKAY LET'S GO" and then we rail-ride straight off a cliff. Oops. It turns out, as the stage restarts, that isn't supposed to happen.

Death by Glitch Count: 3.

Uh, so... then we bounce through the rails and fall off them a bunch because jumping sideways from rail to rail works half the time and half the time it really really doesn't... and then it's STAGE EIGHT, Bullet Station.

Bullet Station is kind of intense, and it's the first time the railgrinding mechanic (in this game) feels like any fun at all. Watching Big grind on his IRON CROTCH is kind of odd though. Then we fight a boss, and it mostly involves ramming Big's face into the Egg Whatever repeatedly.

Unfortunately, the Eggman we fought is a "Stupid Copy", according to Amy. His head pops out of his belly on a spring and laughs at us. So ... Team Rose shrugs and wanders off to "Frog Forest", where frogs live. This is Stage Nine. And oh man. At one point, Amy runs up a ramp, clips through it, shoots off into space, intersects another ramp, runs down it BACKWARD and ends up roughly where she started. I'm telling you guys, SONIC 2006 controlled better than this game. I don't know if it's the Xbox emulation on the 360 or what, but GOD DAMN.

"You sound like you're deep in suffering." the woof notes with amusement.

Okay. Stage Ten. This one's Lost Forest, and...

Death By Glitch Count: 12.

We're not talking about this level. ... Okay, at one point a black frog shows up and Cream is like "THAT BLACK FROG IS EVIL!" and I'm like "uhm that's racist" and then Amy is like "IT'S OKAY! FRUIT CAN DEFEAT THE EVIL FROG!" and I don't understand ANYTHING ANYMORE guys this game is actually hurting my sense of REALITY.

So I time out on ANOTHER special stage and we meet the Chaotix team. Amy thinks Vector is trying to date her, then Espio demands they hand over the Chao and Big goes into a rage and beats them all senseless while Charmy runs in circles and yells "PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW".

Then there's Stage 11, Hang Castle, which is full of gravity reversing switches. Stage 12 is Mystic Mansion, which ... we're in a haunted house because... god I don't even know or care anymore. There is more weird puzzle shit and then we fight Eggman, or as Amy calls him, "Mustache Monkey". Or more accurately fight swarms of his robots and then he runs away.

Sigh. So we move on to Stage 13, Egg Fleet, where Eggman is crowing about his MASSIVE BATLESHIP, built by the hands of a genius! Oh good, he's subcontracting now. Anyway this... this level. There's about 23 deaths and I can't even blame them on glitches. Jesus. Although at one point the camera pans around the huge fleet and Amy goes "WHY DOES HE NEED SO MANY SHIPS?" and Cream offers "Maybe he just has a lot of time on his hands?" which really explains EVERYTHING ABOUT Eggman.

And then Stage 14. Final Fortress. Because... why not. Let's go do FInal Fortress. Huzzah. Fuck these rails. Fuck these collapsing spots. Fuck these rails too. Fuck THIS rail in particular. Finally we hit the last boss fight, the Egg Emperor, which is a FUCKING FESTIVAL OF FUCKING RIDICULOUS BULLSHIT as he spams beam-walls, summons all the cannons on the planet as cover fire, and forces you to run down bullet hell corridors of robot beamspam.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough he loves to attack you while you're in the middle of a mandatory jump, sending you helplessly plunging into the endless abyss. Because there just wasn't enough TERRIBLE DESIGN CHOICES in this boss fight ALREADY.

I don't get pissed easily at video games. I hope the last two years have shown you all that. Because believe me when I say that the one thing I most want to do is haul off and pitch my controller dead-center of my TV where it'll hit his weak spot for massive damage.

So finally... fucking finally... he explodes. *collapse, sob* Eggman melts into a puddle of liquid metal for no obvious reason, out comes a frog and a chao. Amy spots Sonic on the battleship nearby. Roll the credits, play the ... admittedly very nice and catchy theme music.

...sigh. Three teams left to do. This was the EASY ONE, by the way!

This was the goddamn TUTORIAL TEAM.

This isn't even the HARD PART OF THE GAME YET.





This entry was originally posted at http://xyzzysqrl.dreamwidth.org/375596.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 31st, 2013 03:45 pm (UTC)
I laughed, repeatedly.
[User Picture]
Date:December 31st, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
You already got a *lot* farther than I did.
[User Picture]
Date:December 31st, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
Now you've built it up so much, I want to see you livestream this game.
[User Picture]
Date:December 31st, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
That's not a thing I'm capable of doing.
[User Picture]
Date:December 31st, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
But that means you beat it once so you don't have to again? Right?

... this game obviously doesn't work that way. Are you sure this is a game? Aren't those supposed to be fun?

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