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April 13, 2015

Sonic and the Secret Rings (Part 2)

Missed the first part of this review? Read it here!

When we left Friday, Sonic and Shahra were on their way to the Evil Foundry. What's gonna happen there? Keep reading, you'll find out!

Can you feel the heat in here? It's enough to drive people crazy!
It already happens in Florida, and it's less hot than here!
The two travel through the Evil Foundry, which contains lava pits, robots (still called djinns – yeah, I don't get it either), large machines and all the stuff you'd expect from a factory located in a castle in a volcano. You shouldn't expect a factory in a castle in a volcano, however... Anyway, Sonic reaches the center of the Foundry, and unlocks the Soul Gauge! Enters a complicated but awesome gameplay mechanic, the Soul Gauge. You may have noticed thousands and thousands of little floating orbs in the levels. Well, those are finally gonna be relevant! You see, Sonic's soul is tied to the Judgment Flame thingy on his heart. Well, now he can use it with the Soul Gauge to get an avantage! If you press Down while the Soul Gauge is at least half-full, time will slow down (Time Break!), giving you more time to see the incoming dangers. It might even let you see special things you couldn't see before! If, on the other side, you press Up, time will speed up (Speed Break!), and Sonic will zoom through the level like crazy, only stopped when he hits obstacles or gets hurt by enemies (however, this super-speed is so damn fast that, in most cases, he'll obliterate just about any enemy in his way).

"Ifrit"? One of the lamest names ever. I can't even make a
pun about it!
At the center of the Foundry, Sonic and Shahra witness Erazor Djinn call forth a giant fire spirit, an Ifrit! (He mentions Iblis, but seriously, we don't need any reminders that Sonic '06 actually happened.) Erazor also mentions that Sonic's life force is already half gone. Funny, I'm a positive guy, so I prefer to say that he's got half of his life force still. Anyway, Djinn leaves, and Sonic tries fighting the Ifrit, but he's unable to harm it yet. He has to resource himself away from the factory, and thus he escapes with Shahra thanks to the Time Powers mentioned earlier.


At this point, the time powers become important gameplay elements, so you need to go and practice them in the preceding worlds. Sonic races against Uhu in Sand Oasis and defeats the wind spirit easily thanks to Speed Break. He and Shahra go back to Tails-er, I meant Ali Baba, who says Sinbad might know a way to help them. Sadly, Sinbad was captured by a Rukh, one of those pterosaurs seen earlier, and taken to their nest world, high up in the skies. So Sonic and Shahra find themselves having to travel to the Levitated Ruins, a world that is almost entirely located on the backs of colossal Rukhs. I mean, those birds are so big a civilization was built on them! That's pretty big.


So huge that Eggman's Egg Carriers are put to shame.
While I like this level – let's face it, I like all the levels in this game, they're just so creative and beautiful to look at – I must admit the strong wind blowing your way annoys me quite a bit. You see, there will often be a wind blowing so hard Sonic will inevitably slowed down... and when the hedgehog jumps, he gets thrown back instead of jumping forward. Now, there's an in-story reason for this: They're high above the rest of the world, and on top of giant flying creatures, no less. But it's still annoying. Also, that level has plenty of moments where Sonic has to run behind a small Rukh who's producing a light floor for Sonic to run on, even in the air. Those parts are really fun too, because you can Speed Break at will during those moments, but it's still dangerous because some enemies take that opportunity to get in your way...

Never thought I'd say that, but Knuckles looks kinda pitiful
alone in that cage.
Anyway, Sonic and Shahra reach Sinbad... who's portrayed by Knuckles. Huh. Sadly, the “wise” Sinbad is trapped in a cage locked with a magic spell! So if Sonic wants Sinbad's wisdom (a word hard to say, considering Sinbad is portrayed by Knuckles, who is notorious for constantly getting tricked by Eggman's schemes), he has to free the sailor. He has to go around the giant Rukhs, climb towers and activate switches to send light from giant mirrors onto the magical locks. ...Don't try to understand. Anyway, Sonic does just that and finally manages to free Sinbad. After which the sailor suggests a way to defeat the Ifrit Golem before it destroys what's left of the Arabian Nights. Turns out Sinbad can control water and would have enough to dump on the Ifrit... if only he had the blue World Ring that lets him do that. Sadly, the pirates who locked him up took it, and they have to go take it back from them first.


Of course they're fighting. It's Sonic and Knuckles.
OF COURSE they're fighting.

Woah, those things are POWERFUL!
Opens the sixth world: Pirate Storm! Still, before getting there, Sonic believes it important to complete a few more missions (Rule of gaming 101; The end of the world is always close enough that you're supposed to do everything in your power to stop it, but it's always far enough that you've got plenty of time for side-quests). After one in which he defeats 20 nasty Djinns, he finds the Levitated Ruins' World Ring! He starts to notice that those rings are extremely powerful and hurt him when he touches them the first time. That doesn't sound like good news. Shahra hands Sonic something that she says will be their last resort if they fail to defeat Erazor Djinn with everything else they got. She says she cannot use it herself... I think I guessed what it is, but I'm not saying it. You'll have to try and guess.


A few missions still in Levitated Ruins, and then we move on to Pirate Storm! Stormy skies, shaking platforms, corsair and electric djinns, and ships and cannonballs galore. Sonic even rides a freaking cannonball at one point! Turns out that World Ring gives these pirates the ability to summon storms. And they're shooting at Sonic to annoy him (though, considering how often they miss, they might not have the best aim). No one annoys Sonic and escapes his rampage afterwards, you hear? And boy do the pirate djinns get what's coming to them. “Rampage” is just the right word. And then a mission that is the complete opposite, where he must not defeat any opponent. And then there's another Rampage mission. Now, Pirate Storm might be my least favorite world in the game. It's pretty, sure, and it's quite challenging... but many missions beyond the full level contain sections that are goddamn difficult to get through. It might be the zones where the ships shoot cannonballs at you, sometimes just in front of you, and you're unable to brake in time. It might be the zones with those goddamn flying blade wheels, which are either going too fast, or are located at places where it's hard as Hell to avoid them. Including right over the water, and if Sonic falls in the water, he loses a life, which means you have to restart a section of the level again (And in some cases, the whole mission). Or it might be those moments when giant spike balls fall in your way... Three annoying obstacles. Great. And many missions make use of all three.

Pictured: AUGH.

That thing is a floating face with arms.
In video games, it's more common than you think.
So, after rampaging for a second time, Sonic sees plenty of djinns merging to form a pirate monster... Captain Bemoth! That's one tough fight, as Sonic has to chase Bemoth, home in on the thing and pull all four of its horns, one at a time. Could be easy, if there weren't so many obstacles and if Bemoth didn't stay that far from Sonic... Still, Sonic manages to kill Bemoth and earns the Blue World Ring. No one can touch those rings, except him... that's odd. Ali Baba arrives (Hey, he can fly with his tails? I thought he was Ali Baba, not... Tails!) and says the Ifrit keeps growing stronger... Time to kick a colossal robotic flaming djinn's fire-resistant steel ass!

The battle is just around the corner!

It would be impressive if it was a full body, not just a head, a
torso and arms. Just saying. Atleast it wouldn't have to rely on
its arms to stay out of the lava...
Sonic summons a storm in the Ifrit's room with the Blue World Ring, which weakens the monster. Now they can fight! Not like it's gonna be easy; the Ifrit is one Hell of a hard boss. You'll need to know how to use Time and Speed Break to the best of your abilities in order to beat it. Well, it would be easy, if you could access that big button on its head... but first you need to break its knuckles on one hand so that it falls into the lava below, and then run and jump all the way to the head. Which is difficult, since the lava level has risen. Also, when I tried using Speed Break on the big button, Sonic then started going the opposite direction, which didn't make it impossible to break its knuckles.... but it made it impossible to reach the Iifrit's head, sadly. Glitch aside, it's still a very hard boss, and you'll need to try multiple times before you can win.

And there goes another part of our travels.
Do me a favor, tell Sinbad we're more adventurous than he is!
Anyway, once the Ifrit is defeated, it lets out a spherical object... which is ticking. In the next mission, Sonic's job is to run out of the factory to throw this thing before it goes kaboom. That gets done quickly, and when the bomb explodes, a red World Ring comes out. When Sonic grabs it, he feels great rage... So, wait a minute, those rings contain emotions? That's really strange... Shahra says that King Solomon created the rings, so he might be able to explain why they seem to have those properties... but King Solomon is, well... kinda dead, y'see.

The penultimate world in this game is the Skeleton Dome. Here, the djinns are skeletons and the place feels like a coliseum where too many bloodsports took place. Well, I sure hope we're not gonna have to take part in those bloodsports! Things would get nasty. Thankfully, Sonic makes his way through the Skeleton Dome, all the way to the throne of old Solomon. Older than his own life, because now he's a crown-wearing skull. ...Actually, Erazor did that to him. Something about the 40 Thieves resurrected and the rest of Solomon's body scattered all over the Skeleton Dome... As you can guess, Sonic's next missions are to defeat 40 enemies and pick up Solomon's bones around the Skeleton Dome. So, in other words, we have a bone to pick with the 40 thieves? ...Send in your angry e-mails about this groan-worthy joke at Nicolasnevermadeanaccountherenoreallyheneverdid@gmail.com.

So, Sonic defeats the 40 Thieves and gains the White World Ring, which is apparently filled with “desire”. Shahra explains that all these emotions are found within the stories of the Arabian Nights. Well, I guess if a story doesn't give you feelings, it might suck. But why would Erazor want them? So many questions that will find an answer only when Sonic reaches the evil genie... So, the hedgehog brings Solomon's bones back to the skull, reforming Solomon's body in the process. The undead (he's still a skeleton, after all) tells Sonic and Shahra that bringing back all the erased stories would take a miracle. Heh, that's not the first time Sonic does something impossible. Solomon also drops that since Erazor is a genie, that means he used to live in a lamp, and retrieving it should be Sonic's priority, since it's Erazor's sole known weakness. Sonic and Shahra leave, too early to hear Solomon saying he can sense death coming...

Opens the final world, Night Palace. Sonic and Shahra get out of the Skeleton Dome and use the power of the White World Ring to get to Erazor Djinn's giant floating castle. However, the arrow flame in Sonic's chest is starting to hurt... And now, we get the best cutscene in the entire freaking game.

Sonic lands in a large field, with a large castle in the distance. The castle rises in the skies. Inside it, doors open, revealing a void. A tornado comes out from the skies outside and enters the palace, making it way right into the void. The tornado itself is composed of Arabian letters (which we're shown flying by in slow-motion, which immediately reminds me of certain letter-themed creatures...) entering the void and vanishing.


You can almost hear it in the background.

Once the tornado of letters has been completely engulfed by the void, the doors close again, and we get a glimpse of a battle-ready Erazor, ready to finish his dirty job. And Sonic's ready to put an end to this madman's impulsive designs. Sonic grabs the arrow flame, which for some reason raises the earth all around him... and he runs towards the Night Palace. That was badass. It's now or never. Time to end this all!

This picture is too awesome for a caption.

If Erazor stole this castle, does that mean he wanted to be
caliph instead of the caliph?
The Night Palace is a hard level, but then again, it IS the last one. It's got plenty of tricks: A carpet ride, a cursed hallway, glass floors in “space” with giant arrows breaking the floor, poison gas, falling ledges... even though I still find the level a bit difficult, I don't think it's as bad as Pirate Storm. Plus, like every other world, it's simply beautiful. When Sonic reaches the end, Erazor shows up, ready to battle. You can choose to fight him now, or you can complete a few more missions around Night Palace to get the last World Ring (which contains sadness) immediately.


Is this... in space?

Throughout the adventure Sonic has picked up that Erazor and Shahra know each other, so he asks her to tell more about him. Were they friends? Lovers? She prefers not to reveal that. I'd be ashamed too, if a friend of mine turned out to be an omnicidal maniac. Apparently, he was Aladdin's genie, locked in his lamp and forced to grant the wishes of a thousand people. He grew a hatred of mankind during that time (I suppose too many jerks wished for horrible things to happen to other people... Let that be a lesson, kids: Never use a genie to inflict harm upon others!). The fact that his entire existence was written this way made him bitter, and he gained a desire to destroy the Arabian Nights, all of it, and possibly escape that world. If this guy leaves the Arabian Nights, Sonic's world is next in line... Holy crap, we gotta stop him!

Turns out he's right here. Let's fight!...


...This Friday! Don't miss Part 3!