Game: Sonic Adventure 2
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Sonic Team USA
Available on: Windows PC, Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network
Reviewed on: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Over a decade ago, Sonic Adventure 2 released to critical acclaim on SEGA’s last ever home console. It was considered to be one of the last great games on the Dreamcast and was the blue hedgehog’s final appearance on SEGA hardware. However, a lot changes in eleven years. In 2001, Hear’Say had a number one album, the third Jurassic Park released in cinemas and Real Madrid signed footballing wizard, Zinedine Zidane. Video games’ growth as a medium, is much quicker than some others and Sonic Adventure 2 is clear evidence of this. What was once considered “great” among the masses, is now simply dated. A lot changes in eleven years.
The story is pretty rubbish, but it does attempt to do one interesting thing by splitting up the action between the heroes and the villains. Before you begin, there are two options to choose in single player, Hero and Dark. Within the Hero story arc, players assume the role of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles throughout levels with different elements of gameplay. The Dark campaign runs parallel with the Hero storyline, as gamers get to play as Dr. Eggman and newcomers to the series, Shadow The Hedgehog and Rouge The Bat, with gameplay mechanics that are similar to their heroic counterparts. This Pulp Fiction fashioned approach is definitely intriguing and gives some context to the villains’ motives, rather than just placing them in the role of “The Baddies”, for the sake of it. However, an interesting way to tell the story, does not a compelling story make.
Dr. Eggman travels to the gloriously named Prison Island in search of a secret weapon, which he learned about in his grandfather’s (Dr. Robotnik) diary. The secret weapon turns out to be Shadow and the two set out to take over the world, obviously. Understandably enough, Sonic and chums must stop the moustache sporting doctor and the black & red clone. The voice acting is down right atrocious. Sonic’s one-liners aren’t even ironically funny, Tails’ whiny voice gives more ammunition to fox haters and the roster of characters being added to Sonic’s universe was becoming frighteningly overwhelming at this stage. Throughout the cast, which is massive, no single character is in the slightest bit endearing, leaving players blasé about the whole thing.
Just like the voice over work, the soundtrack is dreadful. Some of the tracks can be enjoyed in a pure cheesy way, like the iconic City Escape Stage music, but it must be said that, on the whole, Sonic Adventure 2 would be enjoyed more on mute while you shuffle through your favourite iTunes playlist. Some of it is just terrible, like the laid back hip hop of the Wild Canyon Stage. Those that choose to wear rose tinted glasses while playing, however, may get a kick out of it.
Without any pre-conceived notion of nostalgia, Sonic Adventure 2 looks of its time. With the HD lick of paint, it still pales in comparison to some other titles that have received the same treatment. In-game action now takes place in 16:9 ratio, but the CG cutscenes are still in 4:3. It isn’t all bad though, blocky and polygonal models are saved by how colourful the whole thing is. Yes, it looks like a video game from 2001, but trying to fault it for that seems unfair, even if some other games from that period looked better.
The levels are varied throughout the game because of the different set of characters in each campaign. Sonic and Shadow bring the 3D, fast paced platforming that we’ve all come to know and…yep, that’s it. Last year’s Sonic Generations has been one of, if not the only time that 3D Sonic has worked, to certain degree. Playing Sonic Adventure 2 just reminds the player that the blue hedgehog doesn’t translate to 3D, all that well. In the lightning quick sections, the game doesn’t stutter and almost feels automated. Once the platforming sections start, the problems begin. A commonplace action such as collecting a ring becomes an issue, as judging exactly where that lifeline is, is a game of cat and mouse – wherein the mouse is a static golden circle. Frustration builds, as seeing the object of interest in front of you is simple, but grabbing it is somehow impossible.
In the Dr. Eggman and Tails’ sections, the player controls a bi-pedal mech that can shoot missiles and also lock onto multiple targets before firing. On top of that, in these stages, the player will have a life bar, which is obviously a tad bit different in the Sonic realm. Out of all the gameplay mechanics within the game, this one, which is the least like traditional Sonic, is the best. Everything moves at a slower pace, allowing for more precision platforming and the shooting isn’t all that bad. The doctor and the fox don’t reinvent the genre, but they’re the most satisfying sections within the game.
The least satisfying, by a country mile, are the levels where Knuckles and Rouge take centre stage. In these shambolically designed areas, The Echidna/The Bat must track down three items of interest; three keys, three emeralds, etc. There is a radar system and it is laughably horrible. A small image of the item you are looking for will flash at the bottom of the screen, if you are close. The difficult thing is, there is nothing to tell you where to go in the first place, which leads to aimless jumping and faffing about until you know you’re in eyeshot of something. On one particular occasion, I spent close to 15 minutes on a Rouge The Bat level trying to figure out where my objective was in the area. They are certainly different, but on the other hand, they are indubitably bad to play.
One thing ties all of these together; the camera. The camera is detestable in Sonic Adventure 2. It’s erratic in how it moves, it can change view whilst you are platforming which will more than likely lead to death and it has a tendency to stick to invisible walls. It also has, what can only be described as a fit, when you try and manoeuvre it to your liking. On top of all that, there are parts of the game where the camera is placed uncomfortably close to the playable character and cannot be touched at all. Again, leading to death. The camera in Sonic Adventure 2 is one of the most awful I have ever come across. Some may believe that this is indicative of a camera from the early noughties, but there were multiple 3D platformers that had far superior cameras, as far back as 1995.
A lasting memory for fans is the Tamagotchi-esque Chao Garden. Here, you raise little blue creatures by providing them with love and affection or, if you feel like it, tough love and affection. Your raised Chao will then turn out to be on the Hero side of things, or the Dark side. You build up a Chao’s stats by giving them Chao Drives, which in-game enemies drop, animals, which you collect in the different stages, and by feeding & nurturing them. This can be a fun little distraction from the abomination of other areas in the game, but trying to hatch a Chao takes too long and the process of raising them feels laborious on occasion.
VERDICT: There’s a lot to do in Sonic Adventure 2. A story mode which will take a considerable amount of time, the Chao Garden and a local two-player mode that may interest some. Though, quantity can never out weigh quality. Sonic Adventure 2 is a bad game. As a HD port, there are niggling issues like the the entire package not being in 16:9 not to mention the fact that plenty of games from that era looked much better than Sonic Adventure 2 already. Cheap deaths and the prohibiting camera are two massive factors in a game that is glaring with faults. If you enjoyed Sonic Adventure 2 back in 2001, don’t kill your childhood by booting up this title.