|Posted by Kelsy on April 24, 2020 at 9:55 PM|
A "Sonic Advance" 100% Complete Review by Kelsy "SuperGirlKels" Medeiros
Platform: Nintendo: Gameboy Advance (SP)
Hours to Complete fully: 12 Hours
Portable gaming has always been the dream. To take a console experience on the go for workers, kids, teens at school for constant entertainment. Up until the Gameboy, this was impossible to achieve. And even with the gameboy colour being well… in colour when released in the 90’s it still wasn’t as vibrant as playing on your SNES or Genesis on the nice big screen in front of your couch. This was of course… until the Gameboy Advance that released alongside the Gamecube in 2001. The gameboy advance promised to be… advanced. With SNES technology making colours stand out crisply, detailed sprites, backgrounds, voice acting and more. It was finally the age where the console generation can be taken to go. Games that were released for the NES were being re-released for the Gameboy just to show its capabilities. Now mind you, there were no 3D graphics such as having Nintendo 64, PS1 -like 3D models on the console. But at this time, 3D was still growing… and not many gamers have caught onto it yet since it was more expensive, and didn’t really look that cool yet until later around 2004-2006 where the next generation was forming. But this is 2001, and all people want is a great gaming experience and the best experience in platformers, and other genres. SEGA has been trying to compete with Nintendo in both the console market and handheld market for quite some time. Though they achieved spectacular success in the early 90’s… their handheld SEGA Game Gear never caught on like the Gameboy’s Pandemic that took over the world thanks to it’s lower price, and lighter weight, while having a smoother feel… not to mention better games. After a very disappointing late 90’s for SEGA, it was time to find a new direction for the company. In 2001 SEGA released an official statement that they would no longer be making video game consoles, and will be moving into software development.. meaning…. SEGA was going to be on Nintendo and other companies such as Sony, and Microsoft. There was a lot of pressure as to if SEGA was going to hold their ground and their legacy while being on other consoles… and if they were doing to even continue to make good games… with their first test… Sonic Advance hitting store shelves that same year of the software announcement. This is Sonic’s first game off of a SEGA or PC platform… which means it was time to introduce Sonic to a whole new audience of gamers who never got to play the iconic series with SEGA.
SEGA introduces Sonic to the new generation of gamers in an entire different platform by having the same idea as the first Sonic game. Let’s not make it complicated, and just have Sonic and his friends go after Eggman for trying to take over his home world Mobius and kidnapping the flickies, turning them into his robots. As Sonic 3 friends: Tails, Knuckles, and Amy track him down… they must succeed against 7 challenging zones each with 2 acts including Eggman himself ready to challenge and trap you at the end of the 2nd act. As you overcome these worlds, 7 Chaos Emeralds are hidden in stages as Special Zones in which the player must conquer and collect to earn the true final ending to stopping Eggman once and for all!
The story… while it’s so simple and has been done time and time again… is genius. This game marked Sonic’s 10th anniversary part of the celebration, also being a huge milestone to introduce the series to a whole new potential fanbase. The best way to introduce these kids, teens and even adults is to show why he was so iconic in the first place… and that began with Sonic 1…. 6 zones. 1 final boss. and emeralds to collect unlocking the true ending. The story stays true to it’s roots while providing new upgraded content that brings in a whole new “cool” to Sonic including his new 3D look from Sonic Adventure released 2 years prior, and attacks to Sonic’s familiar lineup of movesets.
As most Gameboy Advance games did, Sonic Advance is done in complete sprite animation that is so detailed with shading, animation, and colour that you wouldn’t even guess it is sprite while looking at it for the first time. Sonic and characters look absolutely identical to its 3D predecessors where the eyes, mouth, ears, and emotion are all very visibly shown clearly bringing out each character’s personality. Personality, has always been Sonic’s strong point in the 90’s being the only character who would… “tap his foot” while waiting for the player to “go”. So this was an important feature that needed to be shown to the player… to introduce how the characters act and play out for new fans everywhere to fall in love. There are shadows and shades across each character in every environment meaning the team really took the time to analyze each zone , where the sun, and shades hit while making sure the characters reflect off of that environment to make it as realistic as possible. It works, Sonic Advance looks amazing.. and feels quite advanced. It looked exactly like Sonic 3 on Genesis, but now upgraded to a whole new generation. The background including trees, water, and flowers are blooming with animation with wind blowing by and rays from the sun effecting their movement. The game feels absolutely alive, as to every environment being so detailed. Showing especially in Zone 2, where the little cracks in the walls of the factory are so visible along with the metal and bumpy tracks that Sonic and friends are running on. Eggman as well is very detailed showing when he is in command with a big smirk on his face, showing when he will attack… and reacting to when he is being attacked. The robots have loads of sprite animations meaning it’s easy to react to what’s happening on screen against him, making boss fights fair and fun while challenging as the game progresses. Even while the characters are just standing in place, they each move around on their own standstill… while each character has their own waiting animations, and standing poses as it brings out more emotions and personality to each character.
MUSIC / SOUND EFFECTS
Sonic Advance needs to be played on repeat. I still remember the first time I ever touched this game as a kid, how the music just stuck with me forever. When I turned on this game last year for the first time in over 15 years… I still remembered the main menu theme… to the first level… to the boss fights. SEGA approaches a more “rock” look inspired by Sonic’s new upgraded look in sonic Adventure who has a similar music style. It works so much better here in my opinion, because of the aesthetics of the Gameboy Advance. The way the sounds come out, and how the music tells the story of the environment that each character is in … such as Casino Paradise Zone feeling like you just hit Las Vegas with a touch of Sonic the Hedgehog 3… is like no other feeling. Ice Mountain welcomes you to a blizzard Canadian time while rocking Mount-Everest. And the final Zone? The X-Zone? Whoa. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you ever need a final boss soundtrack to rock out to while working out this is for sure an inspiration. The main music theme of the menu is welcoming, and not chaotic which other Sonic games have done in recent years. It holds anticipation as to what’s to come and tells the player to select carefully on to who to bring for the next zone (even if you have to defeat each zone with each character anyway). The game sounds outstanding, and is recommended to play with headset to amplify the soundtrack even more that couldn’t be done back in 2001.
As for the sound effects, they are just as great. Sonic’s ring collect, jumping, hitting enemies and item boxes are all from the iconic Sonic 1-3 titles. Spindash has been tweaked to sound more modernized, but sounds almost the same and familiar enough to get by. It sounds more like a spinning sound, rather than a cartoony jump as he’s about to rip through enemies in his path haha! Hitting Eggman is super satisfying, with a sound that impacts your ears and the visuals with a flashing egg man in white that sounds like Eggman’s robot is about to crack open. All sound effects have been thought about carefully as to what should stay the same as the classics, and what should be modernized for the new age as Sonic has also evolved in design and character in the past 10 years. DIMPS and Sonic Team did an excellent job at playing out what should sound like what, and why.
There was a difficult progress that I can imagine that came out of Sonic 3… the last 2D Sonic game since before Sonic Advance. How do you surpass Sonic 3 and Knuckles? The game had 2X the map size of both Sonic 1 and 2 combined with different layouts and play changes depending on the level route you took. There were 14 Zones not including the true final boss and ending for each character (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles) while each character had their own story minus Tails having no Super Tails until the Super Emeralds…. the no final boss ending. Though Sonic Team and DIMPS didn’t achieve the level design that surpassed Sonic 3 and Knuckles… they did however do a great job. It wasn’t about holding forward, and pressing the A button. Okay… maybe Zone 1 was… but isn’t that what level 1 is for? A tutorial? As the zones progress you are challenged with oncoming enemies at fast pace, and avoiding obstacles from left to right. You’re going backwards, forwards, up, and down to progress while avoiding bottomless pits and sharp spikes! Some stages will have gimmicks such as bumpers in the Casino, and platforms to … well platform yourself over carefully through the delicate canyon. Mastering each characters’ speed, tricks and platforming are all keys to completing each challenge. One thing that does disappoint me with the level design is how linear each stage is. There are maybe 2 paths that you can take in each level… either a high or a low… but they always end up in the same spot that may only cut a few little seconds off. Stages don’t automatically begin after one another such as in Sonic 3 that gave a big depth in story telling by just cutscenes (which there aren’t any here). It feels that the game was rushed, and was lazy in level design in terms of potential. The team for sure knew what they were doing, but as to why there are enemies right when you land from a spring? or why there are bottomless pits at every corner and an enemy to knock you into them? I have no idea. It was revised, and wasn’t reviewed to where the team thought that level design was urgent as a task and value to provide. The amount of replay value that could have been added through level design with every character’s individual tools could have changed up the game entirely… similar to how Sonic Mania (2017) was done.
If you have played any 2D Sonic game prior to Sonic Advance, then you know what to expect. If not, let me break it down for you! You pick a character out of the 4 total playable characters: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. You have 10 minutes to get to the end of a level, so you gotta move fast! Platforming your way through obstacles by running using the D pad, and pressing A to jump. You can also Spindash by curling up into a ball by holding down…. and pressing A while holding down. You character will launch themselves in a ball attacking oncoming enemies, or to gain speed down ramps and downward areas and loops. Every character has their own unique abilities to make them different, and add exclusive gameplay to their run. While Sonic moves at high speeds and can launch himself forward in the air by pressing forward twice after jumping… Tails can fly high catching high paths that other characters can’t reach. Knuckles can climb on walls and break rocks discovering secret paths and Amy being the hardest character to master, is a lot slower than the rest of the gang and can’t curl up into a ball. Instead of spin dash she jumps forward. But she has her trusty piko-piko hammer to use against enemies as you make your way to the end. All characters control very smoothly, but I couldn’t help but notice the lack of momentum on speed. When you would press forward on Sonic 3 or any of the classics… Sonic would jump forward. Now, it seems the characters are a lot slower than the classics where jumping forward sends you literally nowhere and you must now build momentum with speed to have any distance on jumps. This has confused me as a classic Sonic player many times causing me to miss jumps and platforms that seemed very easy to access, but the lack of speed made it so hard to achieve. It was frustrating to know that Sonic and his friends have gotten slower… and not faster. Luckily this is fixed and changed drastically in the sequel in which I will be reviewing shortly. The only other issues I have with the gameplay is once again regarding the level design which is how linear each level is compared to how stages used to be… and the placement of enemies. Enemies are in random spots and cut your reward for earning speed. It feels you always have to move super slow as you progress because you don’t know what’s going to hit you. When you make it through a platform section or any challenge, usually you are rewarded with speed and adrenaline to enjoy. Unfortunately, enemy spawns make it difficult to enjoy these moments. The only way to avoid these enemies is to learn each stage perfectly and time your jumps and speed to avoid being hit by them. Some enemies will hit you putting you in tumble, which bounce you off edges and into bottomless pits. This has been the most frustrating part of my run. There has never been so many bottomless pits until this game… which will become a common recurrent issue with DIMPS in the future. Luckily though, many rings are available through all stages making it easy to earn extra lives and bonuses through special stages and zones. Speaking of special stages, in order to 100% Sonic Advance… mastering the special stages are required. Every zone has a secret big spring hidden in the same spot. These springs will lead you to Special Stages for your chance to win a Chaos Emerald. By collecting all 7, you will unlock the True final boss with Super Sonic, and true ending on how to finally defeat Eggman. These special stages are difficult to stay the least. The 3D gameplay of falling through a warp hole on a surfboard is already a big question. You must guide your way while performing tricks to collect enough rings before you reach the end of the warp hole. Because of the 3D, and… no clear knowledge as to where exactly you are… it makes it incredibly difficult to align yourself correctly with rings. Most of the time I would be right on top of rings… or so I thought.. and would just have myself fall right past them. I wasn’t even close. There is no target, shadows or anything to help guide as to where you are. It took a lot of trial and error and studying as to where your character actually is aligned with each ring. Finally, I got the hang of it and was able to obtain all 7 Chaos Emeralds for the true ending. The true final boss… was totally worth the struggle. Though, it doesn’t change the fact that the special stages were complete booty… and I’m glad they never resorted back to this gameplay for special stages. It just simply… didn’t work. Now Sonic Advance 2 has a Time Trial Mode where you also must complete every stage with every character from the 6 zones as fast as you can. It doesn’t earn you anything, but honestly its great for practice and to just enjoy every stage over again without interrupting your fun with distractions like getting the chaos emeralds or fighting bosses. You just simple get through each act as fast as possible for the best timer. It’s super challenging and fun to beat your past time, and SEGA’s! The final mode that you can play on is related to Sonic Adventure! The Chao Garden, connecting with your Sonic Adventure 2 allows players to bring their chaos to go and train them in a tamagotchi style by giving them pets, fruit and play mini games. It’s a fun accessory that I unfortunately never got to experience since I never owned the Gameboy Advance multiplayer cable until recently. But this doesn’t count as Sonic Advance’s main game to 100% , so we’re all okay! It’s still a really great feature that they added and allowed casual gamers to just enjoy themselves on the go by-raising their Chao the best way possible. They can show their friends their stats, and show all of their chao names and looks!
ROAD TO 100%
- Complete Story Mode with all Characters
- Collect all 7 Chaos Emeralds
- Defeat the True Final Story
- Complete Time Attack Mode with all characters
Sonic Advance is a true classic of the 2D platform genre. It was a big step for SEGA as their outing from their home console market and into software development for other consoles. It’s the first time 2D Sonic was done since 1994, and it was such a refreshing time to play what made Sonic so amazing… and still feels just as amazing. Even with the lazy level design… horrible special stages… the game is addictingly fun. If that’s a word? The challenges are gold, every character feels fresh, and stages are fun to master and get through. Bosses are challenging yet rewarding and the fight for the true ending is truly… a treat to finish off the game with. I wish Sonic Advance 4 would somehow come to life! It was smart that they did not call this title Sonic 4… but Sonic Advance truly is an advancement at the time where Sonic was being modernized for an entire new generation of gamers.
+ Unique character gameplay
+ Fun Gameplay
+ Sprite artwork / Graphics
- Enemy placements
- Lazy level design