System: GBA :: Rating: Everyone :: Players: 1-4
Genre: Platformer :: Released: 05 February 2002
By Kellen Scrivens
When I first heard about Sonic Advance I just about fell out of my seat. It was a real shock, mostly because Sonic the Hedgehog was gracing the screen of a Nintendo system. Worse even, Mario's system. So it was kinda surreal to see the Nintendo and Sega logos on the same cart.
The story isn't exactly important; Robotnik is going for the Chaos Emeralds, and it's up to Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy Rose to stop him. Typical and by the numbers. At least the Sonic Adventure games had real stories; I think they just wanted to shaft Nintendo on this one.
The gameplay is a lot of the same side-scrolling greatness that you saw back in the days of the Sega Genesis, you know, race through the stage, collect loads of rings along the way, nab helpful item boxes, avoid enemies and spikes, etc. However, over time it seems to have lost some of the stuff that made it so great and original back in the 90s. Gone are the constant loop-de-loops and portions of the game where you would go faster than the camera could keep up with you. It really seems watered down. Also, some sections are very tedious and excruciatingly hard; you'd be surprised how difficult it is to hop over certain gaps. Another thing I need to bring up is that, unlike Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, where the levels are changed up for each character, nothing of the sort happens here. The hard parts with Sonic can usually be easily flown or glided over by Tails and Knuckles, and one needs to be an expert to play with Amy.
The levels, while fun for the most part, are lifted straight from previous Sonic games. Though Neo Green Hill Zone and Green Hill Zone have nothing on common (other than a shared name, of course), there's Carnival Zone and Ice Zone and an Angel Island Zone, which is a name that's lifted straight from Sonic 3. It's all been done before.
The graphics are essentially late Genesis style-graphics with a little more depth added and a fresh coat of paint. Also, a few movements have been changed, most notably the way Tails flies and Sonic's head gestures. Instead of merely looking up, the blue hedgehog glances back and forth like a tool. I bet Miyamoto gets giddy when he sees that. And while the graphics might been tweaked, the music and sound don't stand up. Outside of the Ice Zone's music, nothing really stands out; even the basic jumping sounds seem a step below the Genesis games. If you want to hear real Sonic music, do yourself a favor and find a soundtrack filled with Genesis tunes.
The special stages in this game suck. Period. It's a horrible ripoff of the special stages in Sonic 2, only you can free roam through the entire pipe on a hoverboard. This makes it just about impossible to collect any rings, and I've yet to grab a single Chaos Emerald. Quite frankly, I've just stopped trying. It's not fun to even try.
There is really no challenge for my money in this game; it seemed so easy. There were hard spots every few levels, but after 20 seconds of thought you could take care of it no problem. The bosses are too easy, providing little more fight than the normal enemies.
One day, when the Sonic the Hedgehog series is finally retired (or dies) and fanboys such as myself look over the history of Sonic, this won't really show up other than a historical footnote. It doesn't have the impact of the first title, the popularity of the second or the sheer greatness of S3&K. Heck, it doesn't even get the distinction of the first good handheld Sonic game. (Does anyone else remember the Game Gear?) As I said, it will be referred to as a historical footnote, mostly because it was the first Sonic games to appear on a Nintendo system (predating Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, a GameCube game, by one week... in the US anyways; Japan had SA2:B first), but what Sonic/Sega fanboy wants to remember that?
If this was a standalone title, it would be a good game. But given the legacy behind it, it just doesn't live up to the standards of the series. Whenever I play Sonic Advance, I have the immediate urge to turn it off and throw in Mega Collection on my PS2. It's quite depressing to see how far the star has fallen for Sonic; it's not the worst game, but at the same time very disappointing. A 2 out of 5.
As always, if you have any thoughts about this review, I urge you to email me at Kscriv@hotmail.com, or, as always, you can take it to the boards.