Review by Kane
"A great game with a few "dark" points..."
To be totally honest with you reader, I was not expecting much from this game for some reason. Sure, I liked the demo I got with PSO, but I was not convinced yet: it just looked too similar to the first installment to me... I still remember when I played Sonic Adventure for the first time though: it literally made my jaw drop on the floor, because it looked a lot like the perfect game I had been waiting for... forever. Of course, the game turned out to be excellent but not perfect. For me, it seems as if the Dreamcast was born with Sonic Adventure, and was about to die with its sequel. I did not even buy this game by myself, actually -shame on me- I got as a gift from my girlfriend. She saw me looking at the case of the game, probably thinking that I was getting too old for Sonic games (the first one on Genesis was like a revelation to me, who had been all about Mario for a long time then).
I did not pay any attention to previews or even reviews of the game before playing it, could that explain why I am enjoying it so much? I do not know the answer to that question, but I know how to recognize a kick-ass game, when I see one, and this is easily one of the Dreamcast's best games in my opinion. Is this game worthy of being a representation of Sonic's 10th birthday? I have read many negative comments about this game, and I do not totally agree with them... Now let's end this unbearable suspense, it is time for me to explain you why I like this game so much!
I guess it is not a surprise here: Sonic Adventure 2 looks gorgeous. The levels are varied and extremely detailed. You will not find any shameful bug or bad texture, this aspect of the game is almost flawless, in my opinion. Some of the levels are more impressive than others (Green Forest, Radical Highway, Pumpkin Hill all look great), but all of them are way above average anyway. One thing I particularly liked is the fact that the levels are not repetitive. You never get that feeling of "Haven't I been here before?" that you can find in most 3d platformers. SA2 still feels like an adventure in the sense that the game opens a huge world to your disposition, and you will not find two similar places in it.
The characters also look great: they roughly look the same as in the first game, which cannot be a bad thing in considering how groundbreaking it was. Shadow, Sonic's new archenemy, looks extremely cool... The same goes for Rouge the Bat, Knuckles' treasure hunter rival. The Sonic team has a talent for creating charismatic characters with an attitude, and they did not fail this time. You can see how much time they spent on the characters during the cut-scenes in which you can see them up-close. This game really looks like a 3d cartoon. Robotnik and Tails now both have a "walkers", which adds to the variety of the game. As in every Sonic game, the enemies are well-designed and original, especially the bosses. Some of them -such as the Golem or the King of Ghosts- look huge and very impressive!
The animation is another area in which Sonic Adventure 2 excels. Trust me, you have never seen a platformer that fast! Playing through the Sonic and Shadow levels is very enjoyable thanks to the absence of slowdown. Many people seem to forget this aspect, but SA2 is a lot faster than its prequel! Even the Shooting and Hunting levels are pretty fast actually. The characters generally look more "real" than in the first game, and it seems that the developers fastened Sonic and Knuckles animation rather than giving them many new animations. The 3d models are perfect and totally fit into the stages. I was at first under the impression that the game felt "sloppy", but that impression went away after a while. I think that is mainly due to the fact that I do not play many platformers anymore nowadays. Looking back, I think I could say that Sonic Adventure 2 is almost perfect in the department.
The meat of the game... You might be surprised by the low grade. But I personally think that it is what the game deserves. Not that it is bad or anything, but it is flawed and there are several areas in which Sonic Team did not improve from the first game.
Will they ever learn from their mistakes?
This is what comes to mind when playing this game sometimes. Not that it is bad, it is actually rather fun and enjoyable actually, but it can be frustrating sometimes. This game was very close to become a personal favorite of moi, and it is indeed raging to see how much better it could have been.
You cannot choose your character anymore, you get to choose your side of the story (Hero/Dark) and then you have to play through all the levels, which is something that disturbed a few gamers. Each story is divided in 3 types of levels: Racing (Sonic/Shadow), Hunting (Knuckles/Rouge) and Shooting (Tails/Robotnik). You also get to play a F-Zero style stage which is quite fun but rather short.
The Racing levels are very reminiscent of SA1, except that the developers very original stage this time. I personally think that these stages are the most enjoyable in the game. I hear so many people complain about how boring the Hunting stages are... I can understand why, since they are slow-paced, and more about adventure (you need to find the pieces of the Chaos Emerald using the radar at the bottom of your screen). But I liked these stages a lot, even my first time through. Seriously. I really don't see what all the fuss is about. Yes, the Racing stages are probably cooler, but hey, you can't have everything, right? I thought the Hunting stages were enjoyable. I am a bit less enthusiast about the Shooting stages, though. I think they are a nice addition and that they prevent the game from becoming too boring... But sometimes, they are really too slow. I enjoyed most of them, but sometimes I have to admit I thought they were tedious. I really like Tails as a character, but it was frustrating not to be able to use him without his walker except in Chao World.
The Chao system is said to be vastly improved from Sonic Adventure: it is still a "tamagotchi"-style artificial life form that you raise either in your VMU or in your DC. I have not been able to fully understand the possibilities of this option yet (I need VMU space). I will update this part as soon as I know more about it than what the manual says -classroom, races, and mini-games are supposed to be available in this mode.
Even though I have not read any previews on the game, I realize that this is Sonic, Sega's mascot, and that an average game should not be tolerated. This is why I can understand the legitimate complains of some players, for instance concerning the camera, the lack of adventure, and the fact that you do not get to play as Sonic very often. I agree with them, actually. I would have liked to play as Sonic more. I miss the adventure part of the game, contrary to many players apparently... I thought it was a fresh change from the Genesis and Sega-CD Sonic games. I also agree about the camera: it is quite bad sometimes. I often found myself in situations in which I could not see where my character was going, or where I was supposed to go. This is particularly frustrating in the Knuckles/Rouges levels in my opinion. And this problem was already present in the first episode, which makes me wonder why the developers did not fix it, since the Dreamcast is totally capable of it. And I do not agree with the people who think that the fact that some of the parts of the game (Sonic levels mainly) are cut-scenes is bad. When I think of that part when the truck is after Sonic in the first level, I really cannot understand what their problem is... The gameplay would be messed up without these cut-scenes. After all, the original Sonic games did not have that much gameplay actually, apart from jumping and occasionally pressing down. But what made them so great were the awesome controls, and Sonic Adventure 2 has them as well.
I was extremely impressed with the music in this game. I actually liked it a lot more than the music of its predecessor. All the characters have different themes and some of them even include hip hop freestyles -much better than the Donkey Kong Rap in my opinion- and catchy beats. Some of the tunes sound a bit odd (Tail's themes sound a lot like J-Pop) but they are always cool and original. I think the soundtrack of this game equals the original Sonic, which means a lot.
"I must save Amy because she is in danger!"
The voices are quality, but the script makes the English voices sound cheesy. I did not mind them that much, but if it really matters that much to you, you can put the setting on Japanese, the voices sound a lot better then. Either way, Knuckles is still the coolest to da max!
I did not like the story that much. I know it is supposed to be secondary to the gameplay, but this game has the word "adventure" in its title, so I was expecting a bit more. The story really did not interest me one bit, even though the backgrounds were cool. But I liked how you could play as the evil characters, that is a welcome innovation in the Sonic series. I actually liked the story of the first game better...
Where is the Adventure?
It is not REALLY bad, but sounds a bit weird at times. Do not expect an rpg-like story, you will be disappointed. You can clearly feel that Sonic Team wanted to go back to the roots of Sonic, and that the story is just an excuse for the levels. But then again, why call it Sonic then? This is an aspect that the developers could have improved, which explains the average grade.
Sonic Adventure 2 is more than decent in that area... While the game itself can be easy to finish, getting all the secrets, emblems and "A grades" can take a LONG time... The game lets you replay every stage as often as you want after you have completed it. But in real "game" time, it seems SA2 has less to offer than the first one.
However, I really like the 2-player Mode, which is something an extremely rare option in a platformer nowadays. Racing against a friend is fun, and while the frame rate is lowered a bit it is still totally playable. I personally had a great time playing against my girlfriend (who is a casual gamer who usually does not even want to hear about games).
In the "Extra Menu", there is a download event option. It looks like Sonic Team is going to put some new features online, which would not hurt the replay value. A good idea that deserves to be noticed.
buy or rent?
You can try to rent it and see if you like it. I am positive that the game can be completed during a rental, but it would be very hard to get everything the game has to offer in such a limited time. I would recommend to any Dreamcast owner to get this game, if only to see what that console was capable of in its prime. I think Sonic Adventure 2 is much better than the first one overall, or at least I had a lot more fun while playing it. It still has flaws, but for me, this is the best platformer available on Sega'a 128-bit console. If only the developers had listened to the complains some gamers expressed after playing the first game, this could have been close to the perfect game... But it is still very good, in my opinion, and worthy of being Sonic's "anniversary game".
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/04/01, Updated 02/02/03
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