No. 5) SONIC CHRONICLES: DARK BROTHERHOOD
A hard title to place, I settled on 5th place simply due to the game’s lack of replayability. Sonic Chronicles was a brilliant merging of Sonic’s unique aspects with RPG elements – something I was wary of right from the start. While it was a little easy for the most part, it was pulled together so well in other places that you could almost forgive the eventual ease of the battles – which only really became an issue near the end of the game, once your characters had reached their full potential. With a wealth of secrets, references, and character development, this could easily be the greatest Sonic spin-off I’ve played.
No. 4) SONIC ADVANCE
The first portable Sonic game I ever owned, and one which evolved the ideas of Sonic 3 & Knuckles in the way you would have expected of Sonic 4. An additional character, new abilities for the mainstays, and numerous multi-route levels to explore however you see fit. My only real disappointment was in the lack of story, although certain moments did still retain a glimpse of the cinematic feel it’s forebearer held – such as the appearance of Mecha Knuckles in Angel Island Zone, and the time-limit inducing launch gimmick in Egg Rocket Zone. The best 2D installment, since the conclusion of the Mega Drive era.
No. 3) SONIC ADVENTURE 2: BATTLE
The sequel to Sonic Adventure was, to me, definitely a more polished and streamlined product, with an improved plot, and less “unnecessary” gameplay styles. However, it always felt like it was just missing “something” to me. The lack of adventure fields, for instance, and the inability to explore the same levels with different characters. The new levels did seemingly allow the developers to tailor them much more specifically to the three gameplay styles – making each experience a much more focused one – but it just didn’t feel like it had that sense of “adventure”, ironically enough, that Adventure did.
No. 2) SONIC 3 & KNUCKLES
The epitome of 2D Sonic gameplay, the second/third game in the “Death Egg Trilogy”, when combined, truly felt more-or-less perfect to me, as far as the system’s capabilities were concerned. With each character having different exploratory abilities, and each stage having multiple routes, and hidden areas, the game had a lot to discover – and encouraged the use of different characters to explore the levels in different ways. Also, the cinematic way in which the levels transitioned from one another was minimalist enough not to interrupt the game flow, but still managed to establish a sense of story.
No. 1) SONIC ADVENTURE
Sonic’s first fully-3D outing will always hold a dear place in my heart. It took the varied playstyles of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and expanded the concept to create 6 characters with completely distinct gameplay styles, while still allowing them to play through the same levels, with minor variations. The adventure field/action stage structure really aided in the sense of immersion, and the addition of collectable emblems, and the Chao Garden, guaranteed the game would have replay value far beyond the initial playthrough. I still go back to this game today, in a futile attempt to earn just one or two more emblems…