March 5, 2007

Review: Sonic and the Secret Rings

Filed under: Gaming, Nintendo, Sonic the Hedgehog, Thoughts, Wii — Daniel @ 11:07 pm

Sonic Secret Rings

After sinking to the lowest possible depths, Sonic the Hedgehog is back in action, this time in Sonic and the Secret Rings for Wii. It’s been well noted that most (if not all) 3D Sonic games haven’t been all that good, so does a fresh take on the formula succeed?

The Story

To be blunt, the story isn’t very important here. Sonic is brought into the Arabian Nights book by the Genie of the Ring, Shahra, who pleads Sonic to defeat the evil purple clad Erazor Djinn who is carving up the pages of the book one by one (he’s erasing them..get it? Sigh..). No sooner has Sonic arrived inside the book, the Erazor Djinn appears, and casts a fire-arrow into Sonic’s heart. Sonic must find all 7 World Rings and bring them to the Erazor Djinn or else he will be sacrificed…


The Gameplay

Unlike other Sonic games, you have very limited control over where Sonic goes – Sonic runs forwards automatically. Holding the Wii Remote sideways like an NES controller, you make Sonic jump (by pressing 2), attack (by flicking the Remote fowards once airborne), and steer him left and right by tilting the Wii Remote. The 1 button causes him to stop running, while rotating the Wii Remote back towards yourself will make him walk backwards (!) in case you need to collect some rings you may have missed or need to defeat some enemies in order to advance (more on this later).

At first, the something seems to be wrong with the game, as Sonic, renowned for his breakneck speed, begins with a leisurely jog through the (overly long) tutorial. In addition, his movement isn’t as smooth as you’d like. However, as you progress, you gain experience points. When Sonic levels up, he gains new abilities that make him run faster, accelerate quicker, and control more responsively. There are many, many, upgrades that allow you to enhance Sonic, and customise him as you see fit. These include the ability to make Sonic brake harder, or cancel a jump while in the air, both of which prove invaluable in some of the later stages.

To use these new abilities, you must equip them to one of four rings. You can only wear one ring at a time, so it is wise to distribute the skills in such a way that you have a ring for each possible task – one ring equipped with speedy skills for those Beat the Clock! missions for example. Speaking of missions, the game has a strange level structure. When you beat the first level of a world, you must basically play a few more missions within the same level but with different objectives until you can advance. The objectives vary from the relatively simple Rampage! where you have to defeat a set number of foes, or the mundane Don’t Get Defeated! where death means you must restart the level. There’re even missions where you are not allowed to get hit at all, so be warned: this game can get very frustrating and challenging.

Eventually, Sonic will acquire a Soul Gauge. This meter can be filled by collecting Soul Pearls that litter the levels. Once your Soul Gauge approaches full, you can press Up on the D-pad to execute a Speed Break, which causes Sonic to move at ridiculously fast speeds for a limited time, or press Down to create a Time Break. When this happens, time slows to a crawl, and the screen turns to black and white. This allows you dodge traps and enemies more easily.

In another change to the Sonic formula, Sonic doesn’t lose all his rings if he gets hit. Additionally, there are no Lives to worry about. Should Sonic die, he will just resume a little way back from where he was (unless it’s one of the Don’t Get Defeated! missions).

The Graphics

In my opinion, Sonic and the Secret Rings is the best looking Wii game to date. The setting of the game, and the various locales, really gave the developers a chance to show off some neat graphical effects and touches. Highlights for me included the pouring sand in the Sand Oasis levels, or the water in the Pirate Storm missions. The colours are bright and vivid when they need to be, and muted and dreary to good effect when necessary.

Sonic’s model looks pretty good too (he certainly looks more like himself than the elongated version in Sonic the Hedgehog for 360/PS3). Overall, the game looks great. The difference between Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic Heroes, for example, is truly noticeable.


The Sound

Contrary to popular opinion, I’ve never found the music in the 3D Sonic games to be terribly offensive (I’m being nice here). But the main theme really starts to grate quickly, due in no small part to the fact that you’ll hear it approximately 117,256 times before the game is done. “7 Rings in hand!”…Yeh, I get it already! That said, there are a couple of tunes I honestly liked such as the Evil Foundry and Skeleton Dome themes. On the whole though, most of the music is largely forgettable. Except for that blasted main theme! Arrgh!!

Because the game uses near static hand-drawn pictures to develop the story instead of full-blown cut-scenes, the voice acting doesn’t suffer from poor lip-syncing, or characters’ mouths moving when they aren’t saying anything. There’s also no awkward pauses in between lines of dialogue either (or what I like to call the Final Fantasy X syndrome).

The voice acting itself is fine I suppose. It’s just the frequency of the voices (and Sonic’s voice itself), and the deplorable dialogue that bring it down. Sadly, you can’t turn the speech off, but you can opt to hear it all in Japanese if you prefer.

On the plus side, all the classic Sonic sound effects make a welcome return.

The Good

  • When Sonic gains the bulk of his skills, and you are able to move him left and right with ease, jumping to and fro, before running at full pelt through one of the many amazing set pieces, the feeling is one of exhilaration. The multiple camera issues that have plagued recent Sonic games are almost non-existent simply because the camera doesn’t have to move around as much as before since it knows where Sonic will be going at all times.
  • The skills system adds an extra layer of depth to the game.
  • Also, this is purely a Sonic adventure. None of his friends are along for the ride this time (not in playable form anyway – barring the inevitable mini-games), and it makes for a much more focused and cohesive experience.

The Bad

  • The game starts slooooooooooowly. The multi level tutorial drags on for too long, and is compounded further by Sonic’s early phobia of speed.
  • The theme tune.
  • The walking backwards thing. How are you supposed to see what’s behind you? This gets really annoying when you need to clear a room of enemies and you realise you missed one. The only thing you can do is walk backwards, and hope you don’t bump into something that’ll hurt you. Not a smart idea, Sonic Team, not at all.

The Verdict

The Sonic Fan – You need to buy this game. This is undoubtedly the finest console Sonic game for a long time.

The accomplished gamer who’s not afraid of a challenge – I say buy this game. It may frustrate at times, but it’s worth it. It’s that enjoyable.

The casual gamer/those turned off by difficulty – Rent it, or otherwise try before you buy.



  1. Dude, it looks like Sonic traveled to Persia.:)

    Comment by The Bear — March 6, 2007 @ 3:17 am

  2. Oh, and btw, I actually did read your entry on Sonic…some of it, LMAO.:D

    Comment by The Bear — March 6, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

  3. […] are scans, not direct feed images, so the quality isn’t the best. Looks roughly comparable to Sonic and the Secret Rings. It’ll be nice to see the game in […]

    Pingback by Sonic Unleashed Wii « MeepleMorph — June 27, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  4. jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

    Comment by santi — October 7, 2010 @ 11:11 am

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