Reviewed: February 7, 2006
Released: November 15, 2005
Sonic Rush is the first Sonic game for the Nintendo DS, and the first 2D Sonic game since Sonic Advance 3. Developed by the same team who did the Game Boy Advanceís Sonic Advance games, which can be either a blessing or disappointment depending on your tastes, the team has really been pushing for a Genesis-style Sonic this time around. It's not going to invite nostalgia of course, with the Nintendo DS it'd be very hard to make a game that similar to the Genesis Sonic titles, but to compensate theyíve come up with a few creative ideas that add some new things to the game, without making it overly gimmicky.
Sonic Rush has only two playable characters this time around, Sonic the Hedgehog and a new character called Blaze the Cat. Sonic is still hunting for the Chaos Emeralds to keep them out of the hands of a new arch-nemesis, while Blaze is trying to recover the "Sol Emeralds" in order to stop Eggman. Similar to most Sonic games, the story itself matters little in comparison with the rest of the game.
When you start Sonic Rush, you have the choice between Story Mode and two-player mode. Story Mode allows you to play straight through the game on a map based system, but donít be fooled-itís VERY linear. Two-player mode allows you and a friend with a Nintendo DS (does not have to own the cartridge) to pick stages and race against one another. Once the game is completed as either Sonic or Blaze, Time Attack mode is unlocked, in which you choose a stage and attempt to complete it as quickly as possible.
Controls are, for the most part, classic 2D Sonic. Run left or right with the D-pad; the longer this is held the faster youíll go until you enter Ďboostí mode, which Iíll talk more about later. Hold down on the d-pad to crouch, and up to shift the top screen to the bottom if you are on top. You can jump with either the A or B button, and if the R button is pushed while in the air youíll perform either a Homing attack or Jump Dash dependant on whether youíre Sonic or Blaze, respectively; each has its own strengthís and weaknesses. The X and Y buttons both activate Super/Fire Boost mode when held down.
Similar to, yet vastly different from the early Sonic Adventure titles is the boost mode. When you travel fast enough, you go into boost mode, which is basically a state of Ďmoving-really-fastí. The real treat is Super/Fire Boost Mode, in which you use some of your Ďtensioní from the tension meter in order to travel extremely fast and make you invincible for a time. You can fill up your tension meter by doing tricks, a combination of A, B and R button keypresses while in the air. The new abilities do not directly affect gameplay, but are instead a nice addition to help you traverse a level quicker and with more style.
Bonus levels, where Sonic gets the Chaos Emeralds, are back. Activated by jumping onto rotating swings and using the tension meter, the bonus stages are very reminiscent of Sonic 2. You control Sonic with the stylus as he navigates down a half-pipe trying to grab rings while avoiding the spiked mines. Once you grab the required amount of coins, youíre able to move forward in the bonus level unto you get the Chaos emerald. Early stages are easy, but they do get progressively harder.
The graphics in Sonic Rush are nicely rendered 3D models on a 2D plane. The levels themselves are very scenic, although when moving quickly the whole screen tends to blur. Itís a nice effect, but it starts to make everything blend together and then it becomes harder to see rings, boxes, and critical jump points, at times leaving you very frustrated at a death that seems to have come from no where.
Another addition to Sonic Rush is the use of the Nintendo DSís dual screens to create a level, which is twice as tall, as normal. While this opens up more level design and scope, itís disorienting to use at first. The screen you use to play primarily changes, but not all the time: you will control Sonic/Blaze until you reach a part which will give you a big vertical lift, for example, you will play on the bottom screen until you run up a particularly steep hill, and then you will control the character on the top screen, with the display changing screen too.
Frame-rate is steady throughout the single player experience, but once you begin two-player mode, performance takes a pretty heavy hit. While far from being unplayable, it is slightly annoying.
The sound effects are generic yet well done. The voice acting, howeverÖ Wow. Itís enough to make you ashamed to play this in public. The voices are mediocre, but the script and any attempt to pull it off are horrible.
The soundtrack, however, is quite possibly the best one to come out of any Sonic game and fills the genre completely. The entire soundtrack is composed by Hideki Naganuma and is reminiscent of Jet Grind Radio and Jet Set Radio Future for obvious reasons. Both Sonic and Blaze have their own soundtrack for each stage, and both are similar but contrast each other well.
Sonic Rush is short. It seems the designers have gotten stuck in a 7 emeralds = 7 stages kind of rut and without enough features to keep you occupied, one might be hard pressed to justify the original retail purchase.
A total of 15 stages, a two player mode, the attempt at getting perfect S ratings on every level and a Time Attack mode whose reasons for existence I canít fathom are all this game has to offer. Itís fun, no doubt, but unlike Sonic 2, 3, Knuckles or CD, the design just isnít there to keep you coming back.
This is a Sonic Advance title through and through-it does not have the depth that its Genesis predecessors do. Despite this itís an extremely polished title, with the exception of the storyline script, and thereís been a lot of work put into level design. The difference between enemies is no longer cosmetic, and there have been a bunch of tricky platform parts that prevent you from simply holding down the right button on the d-pad. The music is good, and the graphics are pretty. The top/bottom switch is neat, but until you get used to it, it can throw you off.
Itís annoying however to be traversing through a level and then without any warning or because you were moving too fast youíre thrown to the bottom of the screen and death. Iím all for a challenge, but this kind of punishment simply is not good design. In a game that promotes speed, holes with no ability to recover seem rather out of place. In conclusion, Iíd say this is definitely worth a play, whether youíre a fan of the originals or not.