Review by Da Wrecka
"Sonic Adventure 2: Does it live up to the hype?"
Ahh, Sonic Adventure 2. Among the most eagerly-awaited games for the Dreamcast, and commemorative of the tenth anniversary of the world's most famous blue hedgehog. Does it live up to the hype? Unless you're a Sonic addict, unfortunately not. While plenty in the game is done well, the good bits are offset by what's done abysmally.
Gameplay-wise, SA2 plays quite similarly to original; Sonic has a good array of moves in his quest to stop Eggman's latest scheme. He's joined, like in the first game, by Tails and Knuckles. Unlike the first game, there's no E-102, Big the cat only plays the odd cameo, and Amy, while she is in the game, is no longer a playable character. The loss of Big is no bad thing, but E-102 and Amy shall be missed. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are joined by their counterparts; Shadow, the black hedgehog with Chaos Control; Dr Eggman and Rouge the bat, who believes all the jewels in the world belong to her, including the Master Emerald. While these are all well and good, there are a number of caveats;
The first is the mechs; while Tails' sections in the original game featured him attempting to reach the goal before another character, usually Sonic, this time around he's crammed into a mech, as is Eggman. This is not a good thing; the mechs are just a poor excuse to be E102 again, and don't handle as well as E102.
Knuckles' stages and Rouge's stages follow the same basic premise; locate three pieces of the Master Emerald. This is no different to Sonic Adventure, and in itself is not an altogether bad thing. However, the stages themselves provide ample disadvantage. Unlike SA1's treasure hunting stages, SA2's stages are huge. Gargantuan. Anyone who's been frustrated by SA1's stages, running around desperately trying to find the last shard to finish the stage, had best avoid this game. There are monitors placed around providing clues to the location of the current shard, but these tend to be cryptic at worst and puzzling at best. The radar is back, but crippled; it will only react to emerald shards in sequence. You can be a few pixels from a shard, but if it's not what you're supposed to be looking for, it will do nothing. Not much help there, then.
Sonic's and Shadow's stages are, in contrast, very well done. The aim is to get from the start to the end as rapidly as you can. There are numerous additions to this from the first game, like the rails. Jump on these, and Sonic or Shadow will grind along them. These are generally essential for getting those important A ranks. Not much is done wrong here, besides the Light Speed Dash. Unlike the first game, the Light Speed Dash, once the correct item is located, can be activated with but a single button press, rather than charging it up as in the first game. While this makes the LSD (no pun intended) more useful, it also makes the whole affair rather hit-and-miss; timing must be absolutely perfect, or you risk hurling yourself down a pit in some levels.
What was that about A ranks? Yes, A ranks. The emblems from the first game are back, although this time there's loads of them; 180 to be exact. Unlike in the first game, you are actually rewarded for getting all 180, but before you can do that you need to achieve 100% A ranks. There are 5 emblems per stage, and each is ranked from E to A, depending on how well (or not) you do. In order to get all 180, you must get all A ranks, and this is where things get frustrating. The criteria for getting an A rank differs depending on stage and emblem number. At no stage, however, are you actually told what these criteria are. Gamefaqs hosts an A rank guide, but the absence from the game itself is baffling, and quite irritating. For those without internet access, this makes A rank runs excessively frustrating, as you simply don't know what you have to do. A ranks normally require a certain score or a certain time, but those required for one level will be different for another. Add to this the lack of a freelook, and the fact that getting the other emblems themselves can be hideously difficult, this makes SA2 a needlessly annoying venture. And we haven't even mentioned the camera...
Oh yes, the camera. Those familiar with the first game will know of the quirks of the camera; the way you'd die because you couldn't see where you were going; the way it would dive into a cliff, making it impossible to see where you were; the way it would have a spaz-attack while you were in mid-jump, throwing off your aim completely, normally into a bottomless pit. Well, take those and multiply by ten, and you have an idea of how retarded the camera is in SA2. While in the first game you could use L and R to rotate the camera and see where you were going, in SA2, while this ability is there, as soon as you move one inch, the camera snaps back to its original position - which is usually useless. This makes blind jumps - where the target is completely out of sight - far too common. In addition, while the D-pad in the first game would allow you to freelook, sometimes letting you catch sight of your goal when otherwise you wouldn't, this is nowhere in sight in SA2. This makes Knuckles' and Rouge's stages almost zero skill and almost entirely luck, and they more often than not turn into aimlessly running around in the vain hope of locating a piece of emerald.
Graphics are quite good in this game. While I wouldn't go so far as to say they are as good as the first game, I'd say they come close. The character models are a little cartoony and naff-looking compared to those in the first game, especially while speaking, but there are no real gripes in this area. Instance of pop-up appears quite a lot, but the detail is much higher; a tradeoff must be made, and since the game maintains a brisk 60fps at almost all times, this is no bad thing.
Voices are a mixed kettle of fish. While the Japanese voices are perfect for their roles, the dub track, like in the first game, is absolutely AWFUL. Horrible hackjob aside, the voices can't even hold a candle to the greatness of the Japanese seiyuu. Perhaps it's the purist in me, but I can't stand the way Tails has the kind of voice you'd like to strangle. In short; learn Japanese and follow along with the Japanese dialogue. Much less painful than listening to the English dub.
Music is similarly mixed. While the level music is mostly excellent, the character themes are all hideously poor, with too few exceptions. For the most part, the themes are simply those from SA1 - obviously for those who have them - with different music. While some may think this is a change for the better, I can't help thinking the SA1 themes were infinitely better.
Overall, there's a lot to hate about SA2. Much more than there was in the first game. What isn't done poorly is exceptional, and better than the first game. However, it's the problems that knock holes in pros of the game. The game is quite good, but overall it is hideously, HIDEOUSLY difficult and frustrating. There's no question it can be enjoyable, but the hurdles which must be overcome to reach these points are tortuous.
The solution? Have something non-valuable to hand, and kick it repeatedly as you persevere through SA2's annoying, massive, needlessly difficult levels, as the bits in between are worth the effort. If you're a Sonic fan, there's enough to keep you interested. As a platformer, SA2 is not the worst. As a tenth anniversary commemoration, however, it's a sadly flawed end to a golden decade.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 02/15/02, Updated 02/15/02
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