Our first look at Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhoodexplainedall the gritty details, but lacked a first-hand account of how it plays. Last week we were able to take part in a tour of the game's earliest area, the legendary Green Hill Zone, and can now shed a bit more light on BioWare's grand RPG experiment.
Sonic and Tails are together right from the beginning, already on a quest to find Knuckles. Using only the stylus, we moved Sonic through the beautiful hand-drawn area until bumping into a river and an old man. The latter is actually the first side quest of the game, which explains why his request was so simple - he just wants someone to help him chop wood. Upon approaching the pile, an action button appeared over Sonic's head, and all we had to do was tap it once to cut Oldy McGee some firewood. XP gained, side quest complete. So far the only downer we noticed was some choppiness when Sonic got up to full speed, but this is a pretty early build so that could easily be gone in the final version.
The action buttons appear throughout the game, each one corresponding to a different overworld move. Hopping down from ledges, summoning a raft to cross the river and even running through a familiar Sonic loop de loop is accomplished by simple tapping. Later on you'll see icons that allow you to fly (with Tails or Rouge) and climb (with Knuckles). It's a bit more simplistic and "hands-off" than we would expect from a Sonic game, but it makes sense in an RPG setting. Still, we're wondering if there will be a better melding of genres later on (the Mario RPG series did this brilliantly).
Chronicles also integrates stylus swashbuckling into the many turn-based battles. As with the Mario RPG series, you can tap yourself before being hit to reduce damage, plus many of the characters' special attacks require tapping, tracing or scribbling to pull off properly. Sonic's hurricane attack, for example, makes you swirl the stylus around a group of enemies to lift them skyward. It looks like even when you mess it up, the attack still goes through, though with lowered results.