Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sonic Rush review

Early start to the writing today, folks. Maybe starting early will actually allow me a decent night's sleep!

Developer: Dimps
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: November 15th, 2005 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E for "Everyone"
ESRB Notes: Mild Cartoon Violence

Sonic Rush was the blue hedgehog's first ever appearance on the Nintendo DS. It is worth noting that this was the first two-dimensional Sonic game in ages, a great relief to fans who believe Sonic's recent three-dimensional adventures to be sub-par. Were fans justified in this belief? Would Sonic Rush really be the saviour of the franchise? Read on to find out.


In keeping with how things should be, Sonic Rush is primarily a side-scrolling platformer. Sonic Rush goes back to basics to deliver classic Sonic gameplay to the new millennium. A rare case of "out with the new, in with the old", you might say. And the game is worlds better because of it. No clunky camera, no slow-paced exploration. Just the fast and furious Sonic the Hedgehog we've all come to love. The only difference? Double-tall display, thanks to the Nintendo DS' unique dual-screened design.

Sonic Rush returns to the classic
2D gameplay of yore, now
spread across two screens.

This 100% increase in visual real-estate allows for even crazier and dizzying level designs than ever before. As seen above, you can get up and above your enemies using special rainbow-coloured hoops, which launch you into the air, and usually into the upper screen. Up there, you may find alternate paths through the level or even power-ups, such as barriers, invincibility and fillers for the Tension Gauge (More on that later). The double-tall perspective also allows players to see further above and below themselves than ever before, so as to know what lies above or beneath them. Sometimes, seemingly unreachable items or alternate paths are visible on the other screen. Of course, there are also times when there's nothing to look at on the secondary display, but usually you're too focused on keeping control of the speedy hedgehog to notice.

All of Sonic's trademark abilities return, such as his spin-jumps and, of course, the Spin Dash. But Sonic isn't without a few new tricks, either. New to the franchise is the Super Boost, an ability which pushes Sonic's agility to the limit, causing him to dash across the screen like a bullet, decimating any enemies in his way. Of course, this is far too strong an attack to be used endlessly, so also introduced in Sonic Rush is the previously mentioned Tension Gauge.

The tension gauge can be seen here on the left side
of the screen.

The Tension Gauge (As shown above) is a meter constantly visible on the left side of the active screen (Except during boss battles and bonus stages). The Tension Gauge can be filled by defeating enemies or obtaining special boost items. The Tension Gauge has three stages: Blue, yellow and red. For example, if your meter is blue and is then filled past the top, it will restart at the bottom of the gauge in yellow, and so on. No matter how much tension is built up, the strength of the Super Boost never changes (However you can perform it longer with more tension). Every use of the Super Boost drains the Tension Gauge, and if the gauge empties, the boost cannot be used.

Boss battles in Sonic Rush are perhaps the most technologically notable part of the game. Displayed in full 3D (As seen below), boss battles are far more epic than they've even been before in a two-dimensional Sonic game. However, despite the 3D display, you are still restricted to moving from left to right (Except in some special situations). Despite this, the new perspective allows for some interesting battle designs, such as running around the platform to attack from behind or actually climbing on top of your adversary by scrambling up their arm. You may be restricted to moving in two dimensions, but the creativity knows no bounds.

Boss battles are displayed in full 3D

Notice that purple cat on the front of the box? Her name's Blaze (Pictured below), and she's an alternate playable character with an alternate (Yet intertwining) storyline. I won't tell you where she's from (A bit of a spoiler), but I will tell you she has her own version of almost every one of Sonic's abilities. One technique unique to her, however, is the ability to hover by shooting flames from her feet. This is useful for accessing far away ledges and avoiding ground-bound enemies.

This is Blaze, and she'll be your
mysterious character for the evening.

When playing as Blaze in the main story, you'll find different dialog, encounter levels in an altered order, and even observe the opposite side of some strange encounters. As for who Blaze is and what purpose she has in Sonic's territory, well, you'll have to find that out yourself.

One more classic feature has returned from the old days, this time from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis). And that feature is the half-pipe bonus stage! Yessir, my all-time favorite bonus stage ever is finally making a return! But it's no mere rehash of the original product. Instead of just tapping the D-pad to make Sonic run left or right, the touchscreen has instead become your navigator. Simply touch the stylus to the screen and drag left or right, and Sonic follows you lead. Sometimes he lags behind a bit and ends up getting nailed by a mine, though, and that can really mess up your score. Usually, however, Sonic sticks right to the end of the stylus, and all is well.


Sonic games aren't exactly known for their gripping storylines, and that's okay with me. That being said, Sonic Rush still has quite the interesting little plot. It all starts with Sonic thwarting another one of Eggman's schemes, and noticing that the Villain Formerly Known As Robotnik dropped some strange gem. Sonic is about to grab it to check it out, when all of a sudden, Blaze swoops in and takes it away from him, saying "And that's the second one...". He tries to talk to Blaze, but she merely glances at him and goes off on her way.

Shortly after this, Sonic notices something strange happening to his world. After some investigation, Tails comes to the conclusion that there's a rift in the space-time continuum. Why is this happening? How can it be stopped? And just what is Blaze's purpose here? You'll find out all this and more as you venture through the game's many worlds and stages, as both Sonic and Blaze. SEGA wasn't afraid to go a little sci-fi with the story here, and I'm glad for it. Sonic Rush's plot is crazy and light-hearted at the same time, with plenty of overlapping plot points between Sonic and Blaze's stories. I'm a sucker for a good story, and while Sonic Rush doesn't deliver anything novel-worthy, it's still a great tale to accompany the action.


Sonic Rush may have been originally released in 2005, but honestly, it looks just as great as if it came out yesterday. It follows New Super Mario Bros.' art design, using 3D characters on 2D levels. The levels are bright and flashy, just like a Sonic game should be, and the scrolling background art is some pretty nice stuff, too. I really appreciate when such effort is put into such tiny details.

However, there is one tiny aspect in which the game's age does show, and that's in some minor slowdown against some particularly large bosses (The boss of Zone F is a good example). It's usually nothing game breaking, but once the decreased frame rate made me inaccurately time a precise jump, causing me to get pummeled by a boss. But, as I said, this has only happened once in all the time I've played the game. Otherwise, the boss battles are beautifully well done.

It was a real disappointment that the majority of the cutscenes were nothing more than a series of talking heads. With such great 3D character models, you'd think they'd at least have the talking people all standing there actually chatting, but we're stuck with Final Fantasy Tactics-style yapping heads.

The bonus stages in particular show off some of the DS' 3D muscle, with minimal slowdown and an unnoticeable draw distance. I have never once seen an object pop up out of nowhere, even when there's mines, monsters and rings all over the place. Very smooth.


The music in Sonic Rush is always well suited to the environment, but it's nothing so catchy that you'll notice yourself whistling it on a morning stroll. In the forest levels, there's light and adventurous music. In the high-tech levels, you hear beeps and boops over a fast-paced techno beat. All standard fare, but still of good quality.

One aspect of the audio that is slightly below average is the voice acting. Sonic and Blaze only have a few things to say, like "Yes!" and "Want a piece of me?". That's not the problem, however. The problem is their annoying little chatty sidekicks. When playing as Sonic, Tails always sits on the bottom screen during a boss battle, yelling "That's it, Sonic!" and "Just a little more!" whenever you hit the boss. It sure gets pretty annoying hearing that eight times a battle... But Sonic's the lucky one. When playing as Blaze, you have the annoyingly squeaky Cream cheering for you, yet I have no clue what the heck she's saying most the time. Sadly, character voices cannot be turned off, so you're just gonna have to either bear with it or turn off the sound. Tough choice, really.


Sonic Rush's multiplayer is similar to that in Sonic The Hedgehog 3, as it is a racing mode. Using any unlocked levels and playing as either Sonic or Blaze, two players can go head to head in a race to reach the end of the stage first. The best part is, only one game card is required, so no need to pick up two copies of the game. Apparently there's something extra if you do have two copies of the game, but I am unsure what it is. Anyways, the race is a great little distraction, and it can prove which of the two players knows the game best.


Sonic's main adventure will probably take you anywhere from 5 to 15 hours, with Blaze's storyline almost doubling that. Then there's multiplayer and the factor of 100% completion. If you're into squeezing every last bit out of your games, you'll enjoy Sonic Rush. Even if you aren't into that kind of thing, it's still a fairly decently long game. Plus, it's only $20 nowadays, so who can say no?


Gameplay: 9.0/10
Sonic Rush is fast, furious and frantic, just like any Sonic game should be. With 3D boss battles, the glorious return of the half-pipe bonus stage and a secondary storyline to boot, you'd be very hard-pressed to find anything significantly wrong here.

Storyline: 7.5/10
As I said, Sonic games have never been known for their gripping and deep storylines. However, Sonic Rush's plot is refreshingly dark and twisted, as well as quite mysterious at times. But still, it's cheesier than a Kraft factory most of the time.

Graphics: 8.5/10
The 2D stages go together surprisingly well with the 3D characters, allowing Sonic and Blaze to always stand out, but never making them look out of place. The 3D boss battles not only look great, but they add a lot to strategy as well. And just seeing the half-pipe bonus stages return in beautiful 3D brings a nostalgic tear to my eye. Even the scrolling backgrounds in this game look great! But the "talking heads" cutscenes really get on my nerves...

Audio: 7.5/10
The music is nice and fitting, but never whistle-worthy. The chirpy little sidekicks really tend to annoy the crap outta me, though. Well, at least they're not Navi...

Multiplayer: 8.0/10
When buying a Sonic game, you usually aren't buying it for the multiplayer. But, it's still nice to have, and the racing mode is good, quick fun. Also, the single card download play is a HUGE plus.

Longevity: 8.0/10
Sonic Rush will probably last any gamer a decent amount of time, especially if you're into getting S grades in each level and unlocking every feature. Even if you aren't, though, Sonic Rush is still quite the long game, especially for $20.

OVERALL: 9.2/10
Sonic Rush is an extremely exciting, adrenaline-injected adventure, with plenty of levels and unlockables to keep your attention. As a plus, the game's really easy on the eyes, too. Just not so soft on the ears, so you may want to plug in your MP3 player. Anyways, it's an amazing game, and quite possibly the best Sonic in years, if not ever. I look forward to Sonic Rush Adventure with the greatest anticipation.

So then, there's my first review in two weeks, which is probably the longest I've ever gone. Here's to the end of the unofficial hiatus! If only my computer cooperated more, I'd have had this done about two hours ago... Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the article!

The Duck Has Spoken.

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