The battle between gaming’s two biggest icons was at its zenith near the end of the 16 bit era, and with new consoles on the horizon, I was looking forward to see how the Sega Saturn would put together a worthy adversary to opposite the wildly successful Super Mario 64. Time passed…and passed…and passed. The Sega Saturn died without a true Sonic game, one of the many death knells of the maligned console, and Sonic fans would have to wait until the Dreamcast before being able to play as the Blue Bomber. And this was the first time I’ve seen a complete overhaul of a video game character to the point that I found myself feeling ambiguous about stepping into this next generation.
The first thing that was advertised was Sonic’s new appearance. Gone was the squatty little ball with the pudgy belly and almost Mickey Mouse-like qualities, Sonic’s new look captured more attitude with his aggressive grin and longer, more defined quills.
His body is also sleeker and built more for agility and speed. This new Sonic looked primed and ready for action! Just a side note in regards to examining gaming from the perspective of a reboot or update (take Barry Burton’s dialogue from the Gamecube remake of Resident Evil compared to his goofy script from the original that made him n internet meme), have you ever noticed that more often than you make fun of what you once cherished when it is brought to attention?
VISUALS & ANIMATION 7.8/10: As Sonic Adventure was the first attempt to bring the speedy hedgehog into a free running, 3D atmosphere, there’s a checklist of materials that need to be implemented in order to have a successful playthrough of a fast-paced Sonic game while avoiding certain programming hiccups. To get the easy stuff out of the way, the character models look pretty good. Sure the timing of the lip flaps and the dialogue are off by about a week, but characters are pretty expressive and try to be more than just lifeless wireframes with texture. I also have to look into this, but did you notice that early 3D character models for the longest time seemed to bob around or look as if they had just got finished running a 10k sprint? I have always wondered what the reasoning for that was. Emerald City is rendered in real-time 3D, something the ‘Cast was pretty good at doing before the PlayStation 2 wrecked it’s shit with Metal Gear 2 Sons of Liberty.
I need to stay on track with this, but does Mobius exist in the video game canon of the Sonic universe? I have never consistently read the Archie Comics Sonic series and I haven’t finished watching Sonic X, where most of the game canon seems to be legit, but has it been explained why these giant, anthropomorphic animals are just running around human civilization to the point that they are recognized for their heroics? And why is Dr. Robotnik the only grotesquely-shaped human when everyone else looks normal? These are the questions I sit and think about when I’m stuck at O’Hare airport because of a flight delay.
So while the game looks great, boasting a great variety of level designs that are very huge and unique, the collision detection and controller calibration can be a little spotty depending on which campaign you are playing through. I’ll get to this more in the controls, but for missions (mainly Sonic’s) where the emphasis is on speed, the camera is not your friend most of the time. It can often swivel out of the playing field and staring into the emptiness of the abyss or a creepy inside-out view of Sonic’s innards can be pretty common when it shouldn’t be. If it were possible to adjust the camera so that it isn’t so close this could mitigate some of these problems. Some leniency was made to keep the action as fast as possible, and while it could be more disastrous, time and effort was put into making sure the camera stayed within the boundaries of the playing field…most of the time.
GAMEPLAY 5.5/10: A major reason why I prefer Sonic Adventure over Super Mario 64 is how much variety this game offers you with several play styles and six campaigns that all follow an interlocking story. While some translate better than others and one is nearly unplayable, each of the characters have their own unique style of attacks, enemies and objectives to achieve, whereas when Mario runs up an incline that may be too steep to ascend, you have to watch his helpless ass slide back down to your starting point.
Sonic and his crew, on the other hand, can earn special abilities by acquiring items to aid in their quest with the help of Tikal the Echidna, who will also provide tips and advice in the case of getting lost.
Sonic’s campaign No surprise, Sonic’s missions are all based on speed, which in some levels it works okay, but trying to keep the fast pace going can prove to be a little frustrating. I try to Spin Dash for some easy momentum, but Sonic out runs the camera and as it desperately tries to catch up, I have already collided with an obstacle. He has the most stages to play through and involves a lot of running back and forth Emerald City. Sonic also gains the Homing Attack, which is a Godsend for his offensive arsenal!! Finally, Sonic can hit stuff!!! Now, one of those things that Super Mario 64 has over Sonic Adventure is Mario’s playability allowed itself to easily be converted to a full 3D environment. That might sound hypocritical to my previous statement above, but I’ll explain that, Craig. Sonic’s play style more suits a straightforward, linear approach. If you are unable to continue to move forward at a progressive speed, “Gotta Go Fast!!” gets somewhat lost in translation. It has been the question that has proven difficult for Sega to answer for years.
Tail’s campaign Similar layout to Sonic’s, but with an emphasis on racing Sonic to the end, and if he wins, gotta do it over. This a parallel to Tail’s story, feeling he always slows Sonic down. Tails’ pace is slower than Sonic’s and easier to manage because the camera isn’t a detriment this time around. The races get really tough near the end on the Egg Carrier, where the layout can get kind of confusing. Tail’s ability to fly means I can glide over obstacles with ease, but with larger gaps and tricky depth perception, relying too heavily on it caused me to fail often. Getting to pilot Tails’ plane, the Tornado 2, shakes up the gameplay’s pace for a bit, giving to two stages that play similar to the rail shooter Panzer Dragoon!! Now THAT’s boss!!!
Knuckles’ campaign Knuckles may be even slower than the former, but he has my favorite format; Knuckles is searching for the shards of the Master Emerald, so unlike the linear play of everyone else’s game. Knuckles is in a smaller playing field and you have to locate three pieces that are spread throughout each stage. As you get closer to a shard, the chime gets louder and faster. Knuckles’ flying, wall climbing, and physical attacks work reasonably well, unlike some other Sonic games that may have been mentioned. There’s a chance that He might be a little too powerful, but that was established when Knucks was first introduced into the series. By today’s standards, he’s as effective as Abarai Renji.
Amy Rose’s campaign Amy is eluding Dr. Robotnik’s Zero robot, whom is in constant pursuit of her and the Flickie she’s carrying. There isn’t much to her missions, they play similar to Tails’ stage, but I have admit, I love whacking things with her Piko Hammer.
The Zero robot can be slowed down, but other than that, I didn’t find him all that much of an obstacle to avoid. He chases you for a while and then will disappear inconspicuously. Did he take a lunch order? Amy’s hammer does come with a slight delay when attacking, which can be troublesome when gauging how close some of the trickier baddies are to you.
Gamma’s campaign Robotnik’s machine is a playable character, and he can be pretty hit or miss. His levels are paced slowly and involve defeating one of his several brethren. His initial walking cycle fairly slow, but when he starts to gain momentum, his legs become treads and his left/right movement goes haywire.
There is a lot of stopping and starting with Gamma and the pace can be jarring with the need to stop and attack with his homing missile. You can’t guide the target over foes manually, it does itself. Once you get his hovering upgrade, it becomes a little easier and when you get the hang of his homing laser it can get pretty cool, but Gamma’s play scheme seemed to be a little bit raw. With some fine tuning it may have fared better, like a standard pulse rifle shot or more effective targeting system and maybe charging the attack into a homing beam, perhaps that might make it a little too easy.
Big The Cat’s Horrendous Fishing Game- And here is where the praise for Sonic’s attempts at trying something different comes to an end!! Thankfully he has the shortest run time of the six characters, so the need to suffer is minimal, providing you can ace the most obtuse fishing controls in the history of video game fishing mechanics!!
Not even Jeremy Wade will be able to catch a damn thing with Big’s equipment and cumbersome controls! Before each campaign, a brief tutorial will tell you how each character’s specific weapons and attacks work. Self explanatory, yes, and you would think that after reading Big’s little sum up, it would be easy as pie. His little buddy Froggy runs away after Angel Island crashes to the ground and Big takes it upon himself to fish his buddy out of whatever body of water he lands in. After throwing your lure in, you would expect it to bob up and down gently. Well, instead it sinks and keeps on sinking. I know next to nothing about fishing, but I’ve played the fishing mini games in both Dark Cloud 2 and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and those were pretty effective at making you feel like you were baiting the fish in with gentle tugs.
In Big’s little befuddled mess, you have to hope the lure and bait falls right in front of Froggy’s face and he bites. I think you’re supposed to pull down on the analog stick to secure a bite, but every time I did it, I felt lucky. Reeling the fish in is pretty much a battle of patience as opposed to any kind of fishing skill.
They don’t tire out, and if you cast your line in from a weird angle, the fish will get stuck on a wall, making it impossible to reel in. I tried tugging in the opposite direction (NOTHING), letting them take the line and then yank back to surprise them (NOTHING). The best result is to lure the damn frog as close to wherever Big is sitting and try to bring him in a couple of seconds. This was a mistake that should’ve been omitted from the game. No psychology, no real tactics, no Super Sonic campaign if you don’t do it.
Super Sonic Final Boss Battle- As cool as the Super Sonic concept is (it gradually became less cool when I discovered how much I hate Super Saiyans), I have never liked controlling him. Sonic’s already fast controls make him suspect to handle in the first place, so making him faster and even more hectic seems like a lateral move.
Combined with the rate at which he consumes Ring Power, makes this a power I could probably do without. Now, with that being said, this boss battle with Perfect Chaos is EPIC!!
The theme music plays in all of its Crush 40 glory (Did this band ever catch on? They were awesome!!) as Sonic rockets towards the beast, evading his deadly blasts, cycloning up into him and explode in fantastic triumph!! I was willing to forgive the cheap hits the monster landed on me, or how many times the rings were depleted, This is still my favorite final boss battle in a platform game since Super Metroid!! The bosses in this game had been a cakewalk up until now, so that makes it much more justified when I finally crushed the bastard! It’s difficult, the maneuvering is tricky to get a grasp on, and keeping full speed in order to land a successful hit will drive me mad, but holy hell, is it exhilarating!!
Also available is the Chao garden, where you can take eggs you find and hatch them as well as raise them! These buggers are so cute, but if you aren’t careful and treat the eggs with poor care, they can grow up to hate you! Your VMU can also double as a Tamagachi-like game. My batteries are old and seldom save the data correctly, which sucks!!
SOUND & MUSIC 9/10: Sonic Adventure has a pretty rockin soundtrack with tunes that have been stuck in my head for more than a decade. A great blend of alternative rock anthems with some cheery pop themes, along with some classic Sonic sound effects straight from the Genesis games is always a treat to hear. Again, Crush 40 is excellent in capturing the new spirit and attitude of the series. Each character’s individual themes are pretty catchy, though Amy’s theme sounds a little out-of-place. I don’t think Puffy AmiYumi were big at the time this game came out, but they would have been perfect! The voice acting is surprisingly decent. While Jaleel White will always be Sonic to me, Ryan Drummond brings a great combination of edge and playful wit to the character, and honestly should still be voicing him today. My only complaint is why does every big, lumbering giant with a slow brain and an innocent heart has to sound like Lenny from Of Mice and Men?
IN CLOSING: You know, I really wished things had worked out better for Sega and they were still developing their own consoles. It still feels eerie to play a Sonic game on a console with Nintendo’s logo on it. Sonic Adventure may not be a perfect game, and it doesn’t seem to get the praise Super Mario 64 did for converting a popular and successful side scrolling platformer into a real-time 3D game in a time where people were still trying to figure out how to make these kinds of titles, but I found it to be a more memorable experience (And I’m a huge Nintendo guy!!). OVERALL SCORE: 6/10
PROS: High replay value with a pretty interesting story. Fantastic soundtrack. The Chao Garden is absolutely adorable!!!
CONS: Jerky camera. Controls can be clumsy. Big the Cat’s fishing. I’m still not calling him Dr. Eggman, it’s Ivo Robotnik!! They don’t call Dr. Wily Mr. Moustache!!!
This was a little personal for me, as I really loved the blue hedgehog, the Dreamcast was dying quickly with the releases of the PS2 and the Gamecube and Xbox. Things got weird for Sonic years later on the Dreamcast, what with the introduction of the repugnant Shadow character (I never cared for him), Sonic Shuffle (Sega’s answer to Mario Party), and those misguided Sonic Heroes games. I don’t know if Sega’s financial woes and bad business promises had anything to do with these decisions, but Sonic’s credibility began to quickly fade I feared I would never see another great Sonic game again. Sonic Adventure would be the last awesome Sonic title until Colors on the Wii and Generations a little later, which did some effort of keeping the Blue Bomber in the hearts of gamers young and old. I just feel too jaded that Sonic has become a bit player at the mercy of bigger names instead of being a mascot for a cutting edge new Sega console. Bitter pills, I guess.