Review by Sprock
"Live and Learn."
At first glance, the original Sonic Adventure seemed like one sweet ride, overclocking at over sixty frames per second as Sonic's crisp surroundings suddenly became a blur as he zipped past. The atmosphere was deceptively inviting, with gorgeous scenery and an excellent soundtrack to boot. Of course, under the skin, it was an unfortunately flawed game in so many respects. For one, the game required you to play as a variety of additional supporting cast members, all of which had either incredibly tedious (Big's fishing stages) or pathetically simple (Gamma's hunting missions) goals that you had to achieve. This is not to mention the horrible technical aspects of the game, with the primary blame going toward an unresponsive camera and a surplus of game-destroying glitches. Fortunately, the game's sequel fares a fair bit better in most departments. With the introduction of new characters and the fortunate absence of such past nuisances, Sonic Adventure 2 takes many of the techniques and concepts of the original and presents them in a much cleaner, and consequently, more enjoyable fashion. A few ugly objectives still exist, but for the most part, this is a substantial improvement over its predecessor and a benchmark for the 3-D Sonic series as a whole.
Always the persistent one who just does not know quite when to quit, Dr. Robotnik / Eggman sneaks into Prison Island in an attempt to recover his grandfather's lost weapon the so-called ultimate life-form, a.k.a. Shadow the Hedgehog. A cheap alternatively colored knock-off of Sonic the Hedgehog, Shadow offers the good doctor a request fulfillment in exchange for his release from his military capsule prison. In a kill-two-birds deal, Eggman is able to frame his nemesis, Sonic, by having his look-alike wreak havoc across the city, while his more sinister plans unfold aboard his grandfather's orbiting space colony. Miles Tails Prower and Amy Rose team up to break Sonic out of prison (eventually assisted by Knuckles) to put a stop to the sinister plans of Eggman and his cronies, whatever they may be. While Eggman and Shadow team up with Rouge the Bat (perverted jail-bait bestiality material) to obtain the Chaos Emeralds to power Gerald Robotnik's ultimate weapon, they discover a few disturbing details in the process. Which side will you choose to assist? You'll have to play both eventually, so just choose one and get it over with.
As stated, you have the option of choosing from one of two story modes Hero and Dark. Hero Story covers Sonic and his happy-go-lucky pals, while Dark Story involves the unpredictable Dr. Eggman and his cohorts. Each of the three available characters on each side draws a parallel to the other team. For instance, Sonic and Shadow will face similar obstacles and course designs. Drawing a distinct similarity to the first Sonic Adventure title, Sonic's stages focus on the essence of sheer speed. The goal of hedgehogs' stages is to reach the final destination at breakneck speed, destroying drones and spin dashing across springboards along your way. Sonic collects rings to keep his health up, just like in the Genesis classics, as he speeds through loops and outruns obstacles chasing in the foreground. The homing attack enables you to dash and destroy airborne enemies consecutively without touching the ground, but the technique is flawed in the way that it's difficult to control which direction you're attacking. Sometimes, Sonic will even unintentionally go into a homing attack. However, the game's sensitive controls will not always land you directly where it intends, sending you plummeting to your doom. Still, despite these flaws, Sonic and Shadow's stages are easily the most enjoyable aspects of the game.
Tails draws the parallel to Dr. Eggman. Rather than following behind Sonic and flying him to higher ground, Tails patrols a walking robot in this game which morphs from his plane; it's features similar to Gamma's in Sonic Adventure. Eggman also pilots a robot walker, though it's much heftier in comparison. For those unfamiliar with Gamma's scenarios, these stages basically involve progressing though a stage by shooting stuff. The robots are slow moving, but easily controllable. The controls will automatically lock-on to any enemy that the cursor beaming from the machine happens to draw close by. Points are tallied by the number of enemies you defeat, and locking onto as many enemies as you can at one time will maximize your bonuses. The robot walkers also come equipped with a hover feature, which allows you to temporarily hover over gaps for approximately five seconds at a time. Since the walkers are so gargantuan, steering clear of pits of quicksand or acid can actually prove to bit a relative challenge. Maneuvering in narrow locations can be exceptionally tricky and frustrating in many situations, however.
Knuckles and Rouge find themselves in a quarrel over the shards of Angel Island's fabled Master Emerald, which has once again been shattered. Seriously, that thing is far too frail. In each of their stages, you will be required to collect three types of specified gems in treasure hunt missions, which I know are everybody's absolute favorite part of the game (Hint sarcasm) A trusty gem radar at the bottom of your screen helps you locate them by flashing a certain color when you draw near. These shards can be hidden atop high alcoves, inside enemies, or even in plain sight. Not surprisingly, these stages can be very tedious, and since many of the stages are incredibly vast and widespread, you will literally have to search through every single aspect of each stage. Knuckles and Rouge both have a variety of neat abilities in their arsenal to assist, however. For one, they are able to glide across gaps and canyons without breaking a sweat, making travel from high ledges to another easier. They can also climb walls with ease and dig into them to uncover treasure. When combat moves are necessary, they can charge an enemy with their flying fists. Knuckles is particularly versatile physically, able to punch through solid metal with ease. Yet for some unfortunate reason, the spunky red echidna and his jailbait rival have been shafted by the equivalent of housework chores.
Rings act as your life support in this game, as in previous titles of the Sonic franchise. Rings will generally appear in chained groups, so you can pick up multiple rings per run. If you get hit by an enemy, you will lose all your rings, which will scatter about around you and rapidly vanish. If hit when you have zero rings remaining, you are done for. That said, it is wise to keep at least one ring at your disposal at all times. Completing each stage for the first time will grant you an Emblem. For all the completionists out there, collecting all 180 Emblems will prove to be the prime challenge of the game, as each stage offers multiple emblems for achieving certain tasks, including completing the stage within a certain time limit or collecting 100 rings. Occasionally, your adventure will be briefly interrupted for a boss battle. These battles really are not anything special, but fortunately, they do not take up a lot of time. Usually, all the strategy required in this fights is to find a flashing weak spot on your foe and attack it repeatedly until they fall. Other times, you may be squared off against your character's equivalent on the other team. Sonic battles Shadow, Tails battles Eggman, and Knuckles battles Rouge. Since you both have the same abilities at your disposal, the main goal is to outdo your opponent by maneuvering more intelligently.
Sonic Adventure 2 also features a multiplayer mode. Even though a lack of development effort is evident, the mode is still surprisingly addictive. Like the main single player mode, types of play are divided into three different categories - Races, shooters, and treasure hunts. You have the option of choosing from any one of the characters playable in Story Mode, in addition to a few other characters dragged in from past Sonic titles, including Tikal, another furry jail-bait specimen. The courses are drawn from the actual stages themselves, though often times either shortened or chopped to make them feasibly playable with others (A few stages, like Pyramid Cave, are omitted completely due to multiplayer complexity). The framerate is impressively steady, able to clock 60 frames on each screen simultaneously without any slowdown. In the shooter courses, the goal is merely to drain your opponent's health bar by locking onto their vehicle and shooting them. The arenas are relatively petite, though balloons are scattered about that contain giant plasma cannons and the like for massive pain. The treasure hunts are nearly identical to their single player counterparts, although surprisingly much more enjoyable. There are still three gems scattered about, and the player who collects the most gems wins. Really, considering the limits it has, this is quite an enjoyable collection of matches.
One of the more popular and charming features comes in the form of raising Chao, obnoxiously cute blue critters that can be raised as pets in the game's Chao Garden. Those familiar with the first Sonic Adventure title may be familiar with the basic concepts, but the sequel's system is far more complex and fleshed-out. For those unenlightened, the Chao can be hatched from eggs found in the Chao garden. Once they hatch, your job is to care for them by petting them, feeding them Chaos Drives, or giving them animal friends to play with (The latter two are obtained by seeking them out in the actual stages). Certain items will raise the status points of your Chao in different categories, such as strength and endurance. Also, depending on how you treat them, they can evolve into hero Chao or Dark Chao. (So if you want a Chao devil incarnate, repeatedly hurl it against the wall and torment it.) Once their stamina has been built up, you can enter your Chao in racing or wrestling competitions. Most of the time, all there is to do in these competitions is sit back and watch, hoping your Chao isn't stupid enough to take the wrong path or step on a bomb. While the Chao Garden is a favorite feature of many fans of the game, personally, I find it incredibly tedious and boring. It takes a lot of patience and determination to rake in every reward. Also, it isn't nearly as expansive as in the game's Battle version. Fortunately, this is not a required aspect of the game unless you're an obsessive completionist, so the people it's not for will not have to suffer.
The visuals that the game sports are adequate. While there is not anything as stunning as the cinema opening to Sonic Adventure, the in-game textures are much cleaner. There are a few glitches that were still not cleaned out, though at least none of these are data-threatening. The soundtrack, however, is probably the highest point of the game. Few gaming soundtracks absolutely sell me. This one does. Many of the original vocal songs like Live and Learn and Throw It All Away are fantastic and addictive, with a few songs from the original remixed into new form. Even the incredibly cheesy vocals like I am the Eggman you cannot help but enjoy and laugh at. The non-vocal tracks are even better. While swiftly traversing a steamy jungle that will explode within ten minutes, a fast-paced riff will sound, setting the frantic mood. I will, admit, however, that the rap songs featured in Knuckles' stages are incredibly lame. But hey, I don't expect anything good from rap, anyways. While the music may be the yin, the voice work, of course, happens to be the yang. Sega has a fairly consistent track record of hiring the absolute worst in the industry. Sonic has an irritable redneck accent to his voice, while Tails sounds like he'd just sucked a hot air balloon clear of its helium.
Out of all the 3-D outings brought on by Sonic and the gang, Sonic Adventure 2 is really the only one that manages to edge above mediocrity. In fact, if you can look past its various flaws, it's a downright enjoyable platform title. As one may expect from a title of the Sonic vein, sheer speed is without a doubt this title's merit. Witnessing Sonic and Shadow overclock themselves at insane speeds reveals the core of the game's value. And seriously, who does not want to waddle around as Dr. Robotnik blowing crap up? Yeah, the treasure hunting is annoying as ever, but the simplistic-yet-thoroughly enjoyable multiplayer warrants some solid replay value. The Chao system is charming and innovative, even though a few people will not appreciate it. If you wish to familiarize yourself with some of the game's basic concepts beforehand, go ahead and give Sonic Adventure a whirl, but do not expect to find the true quality gameplay until you delve into its sequel. (And stay away from Heroes while you're at it.) Whether you pick up the original version of Sonic Adventure 2, or the ever-so-slightly upgraded Battle version on Gamecube, you will discover a glitch-ridden yet highly entertaining adventure well worth your time.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/13/06
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