by Marty Demarest

Hang on a second -- that's Sonic. As in Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog. Mascot for the systems that went head to head with Sony and Nintendo. What's he doing on the Game Boy Advance?

Since Sega dropped out of the console market a few months ago, deciding to concentrate exclusively on the creation of games, some of its better franchises are starting to appear everywhere. On the Dreamcast, Sonic was slick and three-dimensional; but on the hand-held Game Boy Advance, he gets a chance to return to his two-dimensional roots for some old-style video game play.

The concept this time around is as simple as ever: players can control Sonic or any of his three friends as they race through seven different zones collecting emeralds. The purpose of all this is to stop longtime nemesis Dr. Robotnik, although there are plenty of other enemies to confront along the way.

Because each level can be played through using each character, the difficulty of each level changes. The flying characters don't need to worry about many of the jumping puzzles, for example, but they aren't as powerful as the earthbound ones when facing a battle.

Overall, there's a lot here that fans of old-school video games will appreciate. Even the music is happily retro. What's new is the ability to connect the Game Boy Advance to the GameCube and share data between the two systems. Sonic Advance uses this function to raise small creatures that can be trained for combat, and send them to the companion game Sonic Adventure 2 Battle. While it's not much of a game on its own, it's a decent bonus feature, and suggests that both of Nintendo's newest systems may end up being more complex machines than they first appear.

Our Legacy: Our Voice, Our Action, Our Power

Thu., Sept. 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
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