When SEGA was still a company in the hardware side of the business, there was always one game that fans looked forward to upon the announcement of a new console or new peripheral. SEGA almost single handedly built their empire based on this blue hedgehog and his friends and when their demise came about with the Dreamcast, many may have feared that Sonic would be lost forever and only kept in the archives of older systems. Those fears were allayed when SEGA put Sonic on the Gamecube and Gameboy Advance. The GBA game being one of the most popular on the system and Sonic had found his new true, 2D home. In this third iteration the developers have tried something new, but kept Sonic's traditional look and created a fairly solid package for the portable fans of the hedgehog.
Sonic Advance 3 follows the fairly cliche storyline which most of the Sonic the Hedgehog games have followed in the past. Dr Eggman is up to his tricks again and is once again trying to take over the world. Sonic doesn't rescue little animals this time and rather is just trying to save the different worlds in which the gameplay takes place. So Sonic and his friends Cream, Tails and Knuckles all set out to try and save the worlds once again.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of the old megadrive games rather then the new 3d style sonic games you see on the latest next generation consoles. Basically your task is to get from one side of the map to the other as fast as you can without succumbing to enemies. The game offers two difficulty levels and also the option to turn the time limit on or off. If you leave the time limit on, sonic must complete the level within ten minutes or he loses a life. As with other sonic games, his lifeline remains his coins and as long as you are carrying at least one coin.
Each world has a level selection area which allows you to choose which level to tackle next. Although the levels have to be completed in order, once they are completed they can replayed at any time to try and break your speed record or just because you enjoyed that particular level. At the end of each world is the boss character, Dr Eggman in a various contraption which you have to figure out how to defeat (usually by hitting the area which exposes Dr Eggman himself). There are guides available if you require them but you may kick yourself when you find out how easy it is.
One of the more unique features of the game is the way two characters can interact with each other. At any one time two characters will be present on the screen but you will only control one. When the game begins you initially can only take sonic and tails but along the way you meet up with your other counterparts. Together the characters can interact with each other to help each other such as tails helping sonic fly over large gaps or tails throwing sonic in a spinball towards the air for a high jump. The other character can be hit and not killed, so the only time you only have to worry about them is when you want them to partner up for a special move.
The game is set across worlds as mentioned before and you can travel between these worlds once they are completed. You will encounter the typical worlds you expect to see in sonic titles plus unique worlds such as the ocean one which as the name implies contains an unusually high amount of water for Sonic to traverse. Each of the worlds are quite unique and offer rich and vibrant colours that you see in traditional 2D sonic games. The speed of the game is retained and that is always a crucial factor in a sonic title and the soundtrack features some of the classic tunes that people have come to associate with the sonic franchise.
The sonic advance series has always been one of the best franchises on the gameboy advance and the third title reinforces this notion. However the strongest point of the game is also its weakness. The fact that for most of the games features it remains the same as all the older 2D sonics will have some fans happy but other gamers wondering why they should again fork out for a few new features. Those who do fork out the money however will find a very solid, and replayable game to take with you on your travels.