On September 9th
, 1999, Sega released what would be their final game console, the Sega Dreamcast. One of the launch titles for the Dreamcast was Sonic Adventure, the first truly 3D Sonic platforming game (yes, games like Sonic 3D Blast had some 3D aspects to it, but they weren't’t full-on 3D games such as Sonic Adventure). While the Xbox Live/PSN versions didn't go over too well with some critics, the original Dreamcast version was very well received. Two years later, Sega released Sonic Adventure 2 on the Dreamcast and, much like its predecessor, it also received favorable reviews from critics. Just recently Sega released Sonic Adventure 2 on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, so it’s time to see if the game has held up over the years. (For the record, this is the Xbox Live version, so if you play this on the PS3, your mileage may vary a bit)
In the story of Sonic Adventure 2, Dr. Robotnik (known as Eggman starting in the original Sonic Adventure) has discovered the existence of a secret weapon that was created by his grandfather, Gerald Robotnik. After infiltrating the G.U.N. Research Facility, he discovers the secret weapon, a black hedgehog named Shadow who offers to help him take over the world by using a super cannon located on the space colony ARK known as the Eclipse Cannon. Shadow eventually steals a Chaos Emerald and has Sonic framed for the crime, because black and blue are apparently pretty hard to tell apart. Tails, Knuckles, and Amy (who is not playable in this game) help Sonic escape from prison and proceed to track down Dr. Eggman and Shadow, with Knuckles hunting down pieces of the Master Emerald after he shatters it to make sure Dr. Eggman and Rouge, another treasure hunter, can’t get their hands on it first. Eventually they make it to the ARK and prepare for the final showdown with Dr. Eggman and Shadow and prepare to take out the Eclipse Cannon.
That’s the story in a nutshell, and there’s plenty more to it, but if I were to get fully into the story it would take a couple more paragraphs. The game has options for single-player and two-players, but I’m going to focus on single-player for most of this review, though I will talk about the two-player options in a bit. The single-player game will have you choose either the Light Story or Dark Story, each one focusing on three characters during the course of the story. If you pick the Light Story, you’ll follow Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles on their attempt to stop Dr. Eggman from activating the Eclipse Cannon, whereas the Dark Story follows Shadow, Dr. Eggman, and Rouge as they gather what they need to activate the cannon and rendezvous on the space colony ARK. What’s nice is that not only do you see the story from both sides, but you can switch between them on the same save file without losing your progress on the other, so if you’re getting sick of playing as the good guys, you can jump over to the evil side of the story for a bit.
No matter which side you choose you’ll encounter three types of stages: standard platforming (Sonic/Shadow), platforming/shooting (Tails/Eggman), and treasure hunting (Knuckles/Rouge). The basic platforming stages are pretty straight forward: get either Sonic or Shadow to the goal ring at the end of the stage, while the platforming/shooting stages with Tails and Dr. Eggman are the same in concept, but where the Sonic/Shadow stages focuses a bit more on speed, the Tails/Eggman stages put you in control of a small mech that you use to take down security robots as you make your way to the goal. As for the treasure hunting stages, you have to use either Knuckles or Rouge to find either three parts of the Master Emerald or three keys, depending on the stage. This is accomplished by exploring the stage and watching your indicators on the bottom of the screen as to where the objects are. The icon will flash green when you’re nearby the object, yellow as you move closer and finally red when you’re almost on top of it, with a red and yellow exclamation point appearing when you’re practically on top of it.
That’s basically the main game, a little over two dozen stages per story, but there’s a lot more to the game than just that. In each stage there are three Chao containers, the first you find will have a key that lets you visit the Chao World after the stage is done, the second box contains a few animals, and the third contains a special animal. If you find the key and complete the stage, you go to Chao World and can raise a Chao (if you don’t know what a Chao is, I have no clue how to explain what they are). Once you get a Chao to hatch (honestly, the best way I got one to hatch was pick up an egg and just throw it against the wall) you can give it some food to level it’s stamina, or you can give it the animals and chaos drives you find throughout the stage to level it’s other stats. What good are these stats? Well, you can also have your Chaos compete in a couple mini-games which earns you emblems (I’ll get to these in a moment). Otherwise, if you don’t care about emblems, I wouldn't’t worry too much about Chao World unless you actually want to raise a Chao.
Once you get past a certain stage in either story, you’ll unlock a Kart Racing game. However, it’s not that great. You can choose from several different characters and one of three courses. Every twenty rings you pick up allows you to boost for a short period of time. Other than that, that’s all there is to it. There are no power-ups to collect, so the races are all about skill. However, the main problem I found is that the carts have no collision detection with other carts. In fact, I tested this by trying to crash into another cart, only to go right through it.
Now for the meat of the replayability with this game: missions. Each stage has five missions, and by just going through the game you’re completing the first mission for each stage. Once a stage is completed you can choose it via Stage Select under the single player menu and play the other missions. For the most part, the rest of the missions are identical with a couple exceptions thrown in. The second mission is typically just grabbing one hundred rings, the third has you finding a secret Chao somewhere in the stage, the fourth mission is to reach the goal in a certain amount of time, while the fifth mission is to just clear it on Hard Mode. Again, these do change here and there depending on the stage, but otherwise seem consistent from stage to stage. Each mission you finish you get an emblem. However, some missions can’t be finished without finding various upgrades for each character. While the upgrades Karen’t required to finish the main story modes, they are necessary for completing several missions and until you find them, you have no chance to gain every emblem.
Okay, so what’s the deal with the emblems? Well, there are 180 emblems in the game with most of them coming from the missions on each stage (155 of them to be exact). The rest are obtained from the Chao mini-games, getting first place on each course in Kart Racing, and the hardest ones of all to get are getting A ranks on each mission for each stage. I won’t spoil things for you, but getting all 180 unlocks a special stage that I’d love to check out, but I’m nowhere near getting 180 emblems…let alone just getting A ranks on each mission.
So with all the good there has to be some bad, right? Well…yes. As much as I love this game, there are two things that I can’t stand. The first are the treasure hunting stages. When I think of a Sonic game, I think of running through the stage as fast as I can, jumping and defeating enemies with pinpoint accuracy, and relying on my reflexes to get me past whatever’s in my way. What I don’t think of is wandering aimlessly around digging for keys or pieces of an emerald. Granted you can get clues to help you (up to three per object), but some of them are kind of vague as to where to look. It also doesn't’t help that there are lots of places the objects can be hidden and the game randomly picks three each time you play, so they’re never in the same place as last time, which makes it even more tedious. I love the Sonic/Shadow stages, and can even tolerate the Tails/Eggman stages (with one exception that I’ll get to next), but I can do without the Knuckles/Rogue stages.
The only other issue I have with this game is, unfortunately, a big one: the camera. Granted this was originally a Dreamcast game, so camera controls are/were limited, but that doesn't’t excuse the poor excuse for a camera in this game. You can use L and R or the right control stick to move the camera left and right, but half the time it either won’t let you or it’ll swing back around once you let go. On top of that, you can’t look up or down, and combine that with the aforementioned issues makes it easy to mis-time a jump or walk right off a cliff because you can’t see what’s around you. Even though this is really the only major misstep with this game (the treasure hunting stages notwithstanding), it’s still a misstep that can bring down the enjoyability of the game.
That’s pretty much it. The only other things I didn't’t comment on were the two-player options and the DLC. The two-player options allow you to do the kart racing with a friend or compete in face-offs between Sonic & Shadow, Tails & Eggman, or Knuckles & Rogue. That’s basically it. While I don’t have the DLC (20 MS Points short), I believe it just adds about half a dozen more multiplayer characters and more maps. In other words, it kind of upgrades it to the GameCube’s Sonic Adventure 2 Battle…but from playing, I’m thinking that it’s already a port of the GameCube version, not the Dreamcast version just based on the differences I’ve read up on. The upgraded HD graphics don’t look too bad, but I wish they would have fixed the dialog scenes a bit for two reasons. First, seeing the mouths move in just generic patters instead of to what’s being said is kind of weird when the mouths still move and no words come out. Then again, maybe they’re moving to the speech in the Japanese version. The second issue is that the music volume is loud, sometimes to the point of hardly hearing the dialog that’s taking place. I tried to turn it down, but there are no options anywhere to adjust the volume of the music and/or dialog. However, the couple problems mentioned aside, Sonic Adventure 2 is still a fun game that I’d recommend at least checking out the demo if you’ve never played it before.