Sonic Adventure 2

In a little break from the RPGs I wanted tackle something I liked but a lot of other people are far more critical about and Sonic Adventure 2 fits this description perfectly; Sonic games seem to have hit their ‘3D’ high point while Generations success, could be argued, is down to the series taking a step back ass opposed to trying to progress forward… But the franchise as a whole is a discussion best left for another time… for now here’s Sonic Adventure 2:
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SONIC ADVENTURE 2

When it comes to Sonic games and 3D ones in particular there is generally a consensus that as the series went on trying to create a capable 3D game the series took a downward spiral in quality until the most recent games when it finally came to stripping out the 3D elements and restoring the it to its 2D routes that it seemed to begin to capture its wonder again. Anyway before I loose my point lets look at Sonic Adventure 2; possibly the best game that came out of all the full 3D games.

Now its worth mentioning that when I say full 3D games I’m not referring to games like Sonic and the Secret Rigs that graced the Wii, the same for Generations and even Unleashed to an extent. These were limited 3D games, most of the time being 2.5D or games where your constantly being pushed forward akin to the of Sonic 2 special stages. Full 3D (in movement sense) can be seen in the main installments from Sonic Adventure to Sonic (2006), 5 games in total… anyway back on point once again; lets look at Sonic Adventure 2…

Story:

SA2 has two major stories; progressing from how SA1 split each character up into their own seperate story here we have 2 teams, one good, featuring Sonic, Tails and Knuckles while the bad guys are made up of Shadow, Rouge and Robotnik (Eggman). With one last story featuring all the characters from each side for the grand finale.

  • The General Plot:

Eggman breaks into a secret facility of the GUN military to obtain the ultimate weapon, developed by his Grandfather Gerald Robotnik,this weapons turns out to be Shadow the Hedgehog who agrees to help destroy the world using the Chaos Emeralds, along with the help of a thief named Rouge the Bat.

Sonic is mistaken for Shadow bu GUN (the world military of the Sonic universe) when trouble arises and has to break out from captivity, Tails and Knuckles also come to his aid after their stories intertwine and they follow Shadow and co into space. Shadow, after eventually remembering his past and a promise he once made to Maria Robotnik that he she didn’t want him to destroy the world but save it, however its revelled he isn’t the ultimate weapon and so all 6 primary players team up to destroy it and save the world.

  • Team Sonic:

Sonic and Tails pretty much work towards the stopping of Eggman once again on one of his dastardly plots to take over the world and Knuckles looking to regain all the shards of the Master Emerald after its scatted (this time by his own hand), eventually joining up with the other 2 to save the world. I’m sorry but there really is nothing more to this, while there is intrigue into the Sonic given his ability to replicate Shadow’s abilities with the Chaos Emeralds none of it is every explored and we really learn nothing new about any of them, Knuckles has a small sub-plot with a possible rival romance with Rouge but being a kids game it’s never delved into that much (Yet sonic and a human somehow was allowed in Sonic 2006!)

  • Team Eggman:

Given how little we actually learn about the hero characters it’s a very big shock that the characters on the dark side of the playable roster actually get a very big story! Naturally Shadow and Rouge are new characters to the series and therefore merit proper introductions and are both given well done backgrounds and personalities while Eggman; making his playable d├ębut in the franchise actually gets exploration himself alongside introducing his family, humanizing him as a person to a degree something that is also very well handled. His family also get development of sorts as support characters; while Gerald gets much further development in the later Shadow the Hedgehog game.

Shadow gets the most development of the game, which is odd because you actually spend the least time playing him with only 4 levels himself. He’s the focal point of the story, being at the centre of the story and you quickly come to love him as an antagonist while quickly leaning there’s more to his story as he begins to remember his past. He’s a worthy rival to Sonic and aside from having his speed which forces him to rely on jet boots to counter he’s actually Sonic’s effective double. It’s not hard to see why Shadow has become such a popular character given that you care for Shadow and his eventual turn into a good character and redemption through death is pretty heart warming and is the stand out moment in the game, it’s the heartfelt side characters in the story that shape him into becoming who he is at the end game, both maria in the past and his interactions with Amy in the future (Amy proves to actually have a useful role as opposed to token girl character for once).

Rouge proves to have the least to do in the plot, though it’s actually very major in the mythos of the world, as its revealed that she’s actually a secret agent working for the President. Its shows that humanity has accepted the Sonic anthropomorphic characters into their society, even working a top-level figures. Her only other main role is a semi rival to Knuckles in hunting down the master Emerald shards.

Game Play:

Thankfully after the experiment that was Sonic Adventure 1 Sonic team kept what worked and threw away what wasn’t that well received. There are 3 game play elements retained from the original game and characters are adjusted to fit these archetypes where necessary; Sonic and Shadow naturally embody the Sonic levels from the original, Rouge and knuckles hunt down Emerald shards like Knuckles did before and Tails and Eggman are given mechs to pilot so they can use the E-102 Gamma style of play.

Just having these 3 game play elements work very well, with the treasure hunting being the slog of the 3, but it generally doesn’t overstep its welcome too much, the running and shooting levels were the highlight of the first game and have been improved here to make them even more fun, the light dash ability in particular has been given a button press to activate as opposed to charging allowing it to be chained into jumps and its split second timing used to allow access to hidden alternative paths. The mech shooting feels like it did before but with stages made especially for them the environments are filled with exploding models everywhere and with an actual armies worth of military thrown at you, you actually feel like you can take on the world… the odds you go up against simple out match what Gamma’s levels had in the original.

Also unlike the first game adventure stages are stripped out in favour cut scenes between each stage and stages are no longer shared, while concepts and textures are naturally re-used, given you a final game with 30 plus levels, driving mini games and separate stages for bosses.. and then Chao world on top! Comparing that to the previous adventure where stages felt UN inspired being chopped up from Sonic’s stages, and even then there were only 10 of them to begin with.

  • Mini Games and Chao’s

Aside from the main game there are a few mini games scattered throughout, more so in the GC port as it features various competitive 2 player modes. Go karting is featured as a main mini game as well as having a karting based level in both sides of the story one point. It feels like a very watered down Mario kart but as a main game its fun.

However the Chao’s are certainly the main mini game feature of the game, and its far more in-depth from the first game. You can collect animals, chaos cores and special keys that are all used in the main Chao garden, using these things you can raise your own Chao normally or depending on your character choice it will either become dark or light and with it unlock further Chao gardens. There’s the black market and other features of the Chao school, allowing you to teach your Chao various things and use rings obtained in the main game to buy things here, giving you further incentive to replay levels on other challenges.

The main objective of Chao use to race them and fight them in races and karate fights. It’s all overly cute and naturally Chao’s never really hurt each other but in its own way its a nice little distraction, though it takes a lot of dedication to get all emblem rewards from winning everything.

  • Controls

Now one thing that the game still doesn’t get right is the camera; something that the Sonic games have never managed to perfect really, but here its at its better, as the game features a lot of narrower, less open areas the camera is generally set up correctly that you don’t have to worry so much about it. If you need to backtrack then you’re going to have issues.

While the game gets very hard towards the end game, the final level for each character is a steep challenge, while the last story can be even more so and approaches levels of crazy frustration and a small camera issue in these areas can mean instant death, however its the controls and not the camera that gave me the most frustration… the biggest annoyance would be the control system… with the light speed dash being made such an important hook in Sonic and Shadows game play making it context sensitive button was a stupid move! Sonic in particular has a bounce ability triggered by the same button and it your timing is slightly off on the light dash then your sent straight down wards… most often to your death in later levels! This should have been changed before release and certainly updated for its GC re-release.

Graphics and Animation:

Animations are a lot more cinematic than before as well, cut scenes look individually animated, with very little animation sharing between scenes. The graphics have taken a massive update from Adventure, showing their expertise with working with the Dreamcast, with the original being a release game. If you look at the Gamecube update Sonic Adventure 2: Battle there’s even a bigger jump in graphics, with new effects, features and models in excess of what you Dreamcast could have provided.

It’s an odd description but the world of SA2 feels neater; though it’s probably in general sense of evolution of Dreamcast game production and level design overall, levels are well presented and packed full of detail unlike the over world of Adventure. Only about a third of the game taking place in rural areas like jungles and deserts. Everything else takes place in modern or Sci Fi locations and while retaining that Sci Fi feel has so much colour that it ends up looking like the human characters that don’t belong here while the Sonic characters fit perfectly.

In Review:

So overall I have to say that SA2 is certainly my favourite 3D Sonic game… and something that I’ll likely use as a comparison if I review other Sonic games. It has a fairly reduced cast compared to a lot of the other 3D games, which is something that’s just gone out of control since then, Sonic Team actually learnt from their mistakes on SA1 and tried hard to make a game that improved in every way on what had come before.

The game is far from flawless but it seemed like the game went downhill after this, with what seemed like very few elements being retained in later games. It’s just better in every way over SA1; more levels, stronger cast and story, fun game play, improved graphics and animation and despite control issues the game seems far more responsive.

I highly recommend playing this game, either on the Game Cube or Dreamcast version. Hopefully there is an HD version in the works seeing we already have a version of SA1 and I think this games deserves an HD release as well, and I’d still get it if it was part of a collection with Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog… though those games fare worse in my opinion. Long and short of it just play the game,given the popularity of Sonic Generations its likely Sonic games will never be done this way again so its worth trying it when Sonic games in 3D were starting to improve and seen as a declining franchise!

David ‘Ryatta’ Wyatt
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About Ryatta

So about me... Well when I'm not reviewing things I'm a technical animator working in one of the UKs biggest game studios!

Posted on 02/29/2012, in Other, Text Reviews/Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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