Revisiting Sonic Heroes

Saturday 17th April, 2021

Although it wasn't until many years later that I properly got into my Sonic craze with the 2011's incredible Sonic Generations, Sonic Heroes will always have a special place in my heart as the first Sonic game I ever owned. I can't exactly remember how I came to own it but judging from the sticker on the box it was pre-owned in Game for £14.97, back when they used to sell pre-owned copies anyway. Were they on shelves or in a large bin? I digress.

I was never really any good at the game but I do remember replaying the Team Rose sections a fair few times after realising they were the easy mode. It wasn't until a few years back that I came to know that my PS2 copy was the massively inferior version, with a choppy framerate and awful input lag. So, once the shops re-opened after the last Covid lockdown, I set out to trade-in my PS2 copy for the Gamecube one at CEX.

I spent the last few days replaying Team Sonic's story and actually enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Sonic Heroes is in a bit of a grey area in the fandom in which it's fondly remembered but then also remembered for not being too good at the same time. Don't get me wrong, it has its problems, some quite big ones, but the underneath to me shines so brightly I'm willing to look over it, similar to my feelings towards 2010's Splatterhouse reboot (I should really talk about that again sometime, Jennifer's *ahem* sexy photos notwithstanding).

I don't care too much for the stories in Sonic games either way; I loved Sonic Adventure 2's story growing up and I'll admit it is still a bit of a guilty pleasure to me now, but Heroes' complete lack of story also doesn't bother me, in fact it's quite refreshing to say the least. Sonic Heroes harkens back to the Mega Drive / Genesis games in terms of the lack of story and aesthetics, as well as completely amazing soundtrack (par for the course with Sonic games) and to me, that is one of its biggest selling points.

Unfortunately, one of my biggest gripes with this game, is the control. The characters are too fast and therefore slippery, making certain platforming challenges, or those bloody awful pinball levels, a complete and utter nightmare, and worse - leads to some extremely frustrating deaths. In fact, I really wish Sega would remake this game, or at least a talented individual would develop a mod for the PC version to simply slow down the acceleration of the characters and just give them more weight/gravity. I also hate how the Power characters always lurch forward when punching, leading again to sometimes falling off open platforms. The 'Rocket Accel' ability that the speed characters have is also downright useless, can't we just have the regular Spin Dash? Lastly, if this game does get remade/tweaked, the addition for the quick sidestep and especially a Homing Attack reticule would be a much needed addition. That's the only things I would change anyway.

It's a shame, because there's plenty of things I love about this game. The aforementioned graphics and music, but also the level design, to me, is some of the best in Sonic history. They're very opened and branched, rewarding skilled players whilst not pushing missing a jump or taking an easier route for inexperienced players. While some may argue the level lengths are slightly too long, I think the checkpoints are fair and evenly spaced, and I also noticed there is usually a 1-Up capsule between a difficult section and the previous checkpoint meaning Game Overs are unlikely. In fact, I had 20+ lives by the time I reached the final level. I also think they nailed the Power, Speed and Fly abilities (well, minus the Rocket Accel). They all bring something slightly different whilst remaining true to Sonic's core design, and each unique ability is used consistently and frequently throughout the levels.

I really would like Sonic Team to have another crack at the Heroes formula one day. Some slight tweaks as I mentioned above will truly make this game shine. I know fans have been clamouring for an Adventure 3, but honestly, something fast, fun and silly is exactly what Sonic needs right now.

And I think Heroes still has all of those qualities and then some.