Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is an odd title in retrospect. It didn't just take Sonic the Hedgehog into a different genre; it was poised to become its own spin-off franchise of further collaborations between Sega and BioWare. It also involved quite a few characters who haven't been seen in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise since. The upcoming Sonic Frontiers sounds like it will be a little more experimental with the Sonic formula, which makes now a great time to reflect on games like Sonic Chronicles that also tried something new with Sega's iconic cast of characters.
As with many Sonic games, Sonic Chronicles revolves around the Chaos Emeralds. When the Emeralds and Knuckles go missing, Sonic and Tails go searching for them. Aside from reuniting with Knuckles and eventually teaming up with others like Rouge the Bat and Dr. Eggman, Sonic and company discover a new echidna called Shade from another reality called the Twilight Cage. This world contains a lost society of echidnas called the Nocturnus Clan, as well as a villainous leader named Imperator Ix who wants to conquer Earth. Sonic reclaims the Chaos Emeralds and defeats Ix, only to learn that Eggman has taken power again in the team's absence, ending the game on a cliffhanger.
Like many Nintendo DS games, Sonic Chronicles makes heavy use of the touch screen; players explore and interact with the world using it. While exploring, players have to solve puzzles using each playable character's unique abilities, from flight to climbing. Turn-based combat is a core component of Sonic Chronicles. Each character has special attacks called POW Moves that spend POW Points and become more powerful if players tap the screen appropriately. Team members can also team up for even stronger special attacks.
Sonic Chronicles wasn't met with acclaim across the board, but critics still noted that Sonic did well in the RPG formula. Unfortunately, there's probably no hope for a Sonic Chronicles saga. Shortly after the game's release, Sega was sued by Sonic the Hedgehog comic writer Ken Penders, who claimed the Nocturnus Clan infringed upon his copyright for the Dark Legion, a similar echidna-related group that he'd created in the comics. That means although Shade the Echidna has earned some fans, she and the rest of Sonic Chronicles' new characters probably don't have a future.
Still, even if Sonic Chronicles as a series is lost to time, Sega's willingness to try something new in this entry is valuable. With its "open-zone" design and mysterious new setting, Sonic Frontiers channels the spirit of Sonic Chronicles without necessarily using its story or mechanics. Sonic the Hedgehog has seen plenty of games with experimental mechanics in the past, but Sonic Frontiers has the potential to be something totally unique. Even if Sega and BioWare's Sonic foray is a thing of the past, Sega can still harness the principles behind that game to power the franchise's next ventures.
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS.