Cons: You know where Sega can shove the emerald pieces when you find them
The Bottom Line: Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a... Wait, that doesn't work. Able to leap tall... Er, no. Alright, just faster than a speeding bullet.
Can you believe its been 11 years since an energetic blue hedgehog who goes by the name of Sonic first rolled his way onto the Segs Genesis and into our hearts? The original Sonic the Hedgehog was the game that turned Sega from an upstart to a contender in the video game industry. Upon its release, Genesis units sold like opening weekend tickets to Spider-man. Sonic became the mascot for Sega, and three more games inside the core series followed.
The original Sonic games were very fun games, with blazing speed and giant levels that you never got tired of exploring. But, as with any best-selling series, the core series also spawned off a ton of spinoffs, like Sonic Spinball for the Genesis and Game Gear and Chaotix for the doomed-at-launch 32X. While many of the adventure games still had the qualities that made the original so entertaining, the series could only keep going with current technology and techniques for so long. Sega knew this, and being the innovaters they are, they released Sonic 3d Blast, a pseudo-3d game in which the playfield seemed much more limited than it had been in the past. It turned out to be an instance in which their innovative ways didn't work, but Sega didn't seem to get the message. The dollars racked up, and so a year (or maybe two) later, Sonic was given the ultimate slap in the face as his first Dreamcast adventure thrust him into a full-out 3d world which removed the traditional nonlinear qualities of the original games. 3d Sonic appalled me so much that it earned a place on my worst-games-of-all-time-list (badly in need of an update, now that I think of it).
The problem with 3d Sonic is that the extra dimension removes the element of pure speed combined with exploration and simplistic gameplay that was present in the 16-bit originals. In the 16-bit Sonic games, you could curl up in a ball and fly right through the level on whatever path you felt like taking that day. It didn't cause a lot of problems because the speed would take you over the gaps and being curled up would eliminate Robotnik's creations. In 3d, you have to keep Sonic in a straight line so he doesn't fall off the playfield. and to attack, you have to aim. Even with the radar lock, you still have a chance of missing your target-which would often be sitting on the edge of the level, thus causing you to gracefully fall right over the edge and into the bottomless pit.
For the little blue guy's big 1-0 birthday, the programmers gave him a new game, Sonic Adventure 2, which, ironically, feature very little of Sonic himself and more of Tails, Knuckles, Robotnik and three more characters I've never even heard of. Amy (not playable, just there, and may I add wasted), Shadow and Rouge. I keep wondering what I missed that those three were in, as they just appear out of nowhere.
But that's beside the point, at least as long as the game plays well, which it does-to a point. Admittedly, one of this game's biggest selling points on me was the ability to play as the bad guys. Its a shame they play exactly the same as the good guys. Shadow mimics Sonic, Tails mimics Robotnik, and Rouge mimics Knuckles. Since when was Tails a mechanical genius? I know-since they needed a good guy equal to the Robotnik stages.
I'll at least give Sega credit for giving the gameplay a little variety and their usual innovation. Between the six characters, we get three different modes of gameplay, with good and bad copying each other. For Sonic and Shadow, its the same as it always was-speed, speed and more speed. The speed levels are the most fun in the game. The idea of flying through levels at high speed holds the same appeal as it did ten years ago, but again, the levels are linear. You can only run on the path you start on, only breaking off occaisionally to find a needed special item. While they still make a great roller coaster, you don't have a lot of control. All you really have to do is curl up in a ball, get a snack, and when you get back, Sonic or Shadow will either be at the goal or dead. And the annoying camera makes hitting some of the jumps almost impossible.
Tails and Robotnik also get incredibly linear levels, only they get to run around shooting things. This is actually more fun than it sounds, but it can get very repetetive after awhile. This is partially because of linearity, but mostly because of the complete lack of challenge. The enemies don't stand a chance against you because your laser automatically locks on to the closest target, even if its a mile away. All you have to do is run through with your thumb pounding the fire button. If these factors don't put you off, this will-the enemies rarely, if ever, fire back.
With Knuckles and Rouge, you finally get that trademark Sonic nonlinearity. You also get as frustrated as your anger level will allow, if not for the outrageous amounts of time you spend tooling around in their levels then for the fact that their powers, coolest in the game, are wasted on this. Awhile back I wrote an article called Why Action Games are Going Downhill in which I basically expressed my disillusionment with the future of the genre. It has since become my fourth most-read article ever and has recieved a lot of positive feedback, despite the fact that I was a newbie and not even seperating my paragraphs then. All shameless self-promotion aside, I'm bringing this up because everything I hate about 3d games is examplified and magnified in these levels. You wander around huge worlds trying to find pieces of the master chaos emerald. That's it. Nothing else. Which blows because, with the abilities to fly, fight hand-to-hand, climb walls and dig, they had so much potential in action levels. To boot, these levels are unnessicarily HUGE and just as confusing.
The graphics are nice, but they don't represent any kind of 128-bit graphical breakthrough. There are no delightful, quirky little details and the backgrounds have nothing worth looking at besides a clear blue sunset or similar backgrounds in the themed levels. The sprites are nice, but, again, nothing that couldn't be handled on Nintendo 64 hardware.
The game fares much better in the sound department, despite the barely audible, horrendous voice acting. The music has a great amount of variety and originality, ranging from alternative to techno to hip/hop, and some of it even has lyrics. It all fits in with the characters nicely. I say characters because some of it repeats when you play as certain characters.
One factor that drags the 3d Sonic games down is the very challenging camera. You do have the ability to move it with the triggers, but that won't stop it from screwing around with you as you try to make those difficult leaps. What is it with programmers that they can't ever seem to get it in the right place when you need to make a jump while on a ledge against a wall? Sonic and Shadow have the ability to grind rails, but for some reason you can never get them to go as fast as you want them to while on rails-everything you do seems to slow them down. Robotnik and Tails have a button to jump and a button to shoot, so they won't pose any real problems. Rouge and Knuckles are also very easy to control. Their abilities, especially their ability to fly long distances, make their already tedious levels seem a lot less tedious. Its a shame the two of them are wasted on those horrible treasure hunt levels.
Oh, man, I want to recommend Sonic Adventure 2. But I can't. For the variety, it just gets too tedious too fast and does more wrong than it does right. Sometimes I wonder what we've done to Sega to make them do this to us. Maybe they did it because no one was buying the Dreamcast and they figured they could get away with making a cheapie. Whatever the reason, Sonic Adventure 2 is more of a novelty gamers' game and not worth the time a hardcore gamer would devote to it. Sega should be ashamed. Their loyalists deserve better than this.
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About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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The gaming world's fastest blue "trailblazer" is back! Sonic The Hedgehog , always known for his attitude and speed, is showing off his 10-year endurance with the launch of Sonic Adventure 2. When the original Sonic Adventure appeared in September 1999, "faster" failed to describe the action that was taking place on-screen. 830,000 units later, gamers are screaming for more! Sonic Adventure 2 builds upon both the excitement and storyline of the first incarnation and amplifies the action ten-fold. With new moves, new characters and some wickedly cool gameplay innovations, Sonic fans everywhere will dive into this all new adventure at 60 frames-per-second.