Sonic Adventure 2
Review by SimJetJock747
"Two of the same game for the price of one? Sure, but at least the graphics don't suck!"
I had high hopes for Sonic Adventure 2 when it came out. Coming off the heels of SA1, I guess that's only fair. After all, SA1 lacked multiplayer, a good story line, and varied enough gameplay to keep some gamers enthralled beyond the admittedly very nice graphics.
What I found when I removed the shrink wrap and placed the disc inside my Dreamcast was interesting, to say the least.
Without spoiling things, there are six playable characters, just as the first game; the playables are split into two classes, "Hero" and "Dark." Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles form the Hero class, and Dr. Eggman and two new characters, Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat, form the Dark class. This concept of dividing characterisations between the good and the evil is pervasive in this game, and will also be somewhat pervasive in this review.
The gameplay was nice, at least for two-thirds of the cast. Each character in one story has an analogue in the other story; Sonic and Shadow share gameplay styles, as do Eggman and Tails, and Knuckles and Rouge. This makes reviewing easier, and makes the game easier to play, but at the same time, it detracts from variation.
Sonic and Shadow share a goal: get to the end of the stage as fast as possible. Getting there fast means you get a higher bonus, which puts you ever closer to an A rank for that mission. (More on the ranks later.) The gameplay is fun and fast, and is a graphics showcase for the Dreamcast.
However, their levels are a touch too linear for my liking, even though many of them feature shortcuts to make you take less time. They don't compare to the levels in other platformers such as Rayman 2, where the emphasis is less on speed and more on puzzle solving. I like the levels in these other platformers more than the ones in SA2, because they are more enjoyable on a cerebral level.
Tails and Eggman share a likewise goal: get to the end of the stage in one piece. Their method of doing so involves each stage being a massive shooting gallery, filled to the hilt with things to shoot at. As you go through the stage with their combat walkers, you point, aim, and let them do the shooting. It's more fun than it sounds.
In fact, it reminds me rather pleasantly of the stages in SA1 where you played as the robot E-102 "Gamma," only without the time constraint holding you back. And I must admit, playing as Dr. Eggman is rather cool.
Knuckles and Rouge also share a likewise goal: find the three things in the stage, in as little time as possible. Use hints if necessary, and follow them carefully.
Stop right there. The treasure hunting aspect of this game is easily its most annoying aspect, and you have to do it twice?! That enough takes 34 points away from the gameplay score! Now, Knuckles' treasure hunting levels in SA1 were annoying enough, but this takes the cake! The hints don't guide you so much as confuse you, unless you pay very diligent attention to the level in which you're playing. That alone makes me want to throw my DC controller through the wall every time I play one of their levels.
What makes me want to throw the DC with it is the sheer degree of backwardness caused by only beeping the radar for one piece at a time. In SA1, whenever you were close to a piece -- any piece, mind you -- you could get it, and not have to worry about it. No dice in SA2. The game engine obviously wants you to get the pieces in sequential order, damn the timer in so doing.
What killed the gameplay in this game so very much for me was the simple fact that the characters are so much alike. I'd like to have seen a playable character on one side that was nothing like a character from the other side. Like, say, Amy Rose, whose hammer attack in SA1 was cute enough, and funny enough (where does she hide that hammer?), that I'd like to have seen it in SA2. Or something along the lines of Knuckles' Chaotix for the 32X for Knuckles' character. Or another character entirely for the Dark side; I can't easily imagine such things.
The point I'm trying to make with these posturings is simply this: Sega is a company creative enough to coin new ways to play. They've done it with other games. Why not with their flagship franchise? On their last home console, no less? That's all I want. Some creativity in a Sonic game. The gasps I hear, I'll ignore for now.
The graphics in this game are incredible. As one of the last major games for the Dreamcast, I'm not surprised. The framerate stays constant at 60fps, the colour saturation is fantastic, and the motions of the characters and the way they move through the stages is simply gorgeous, even today.
That said, the graphics in this game are simply incredible. Attack a badnik with Sonic or Shadow's homing attack, and the parts of said badnik fall away in a semi-realistic manner, and the puff of smoke dissipates quickly enough not to seem like it's lingering, but not too fast to be realistic. Dig into the ground with Knuckles or Rouge, and the clods of earth that they move look rather nice. Use Tails' or Eggman's hovering ability on their walkers, and you will notice the puffs of smoke that you generate when close to the ground. The visual details are many, and are very nice indeed.
The framerate drops are very rare in normal gameplay; they're somewhat more common while fiddling with the Chao, because of the sheer visual complexity of the Chao this time round. The Chao and their environments look very realistic in comparison to the first game, I'm happy to say, and that makes raising them that much nicer.
A lot of things bounce in this game as well. Sonic's and Shadow's spikes move in such a fashion when they land from a long fall, and seem to shiver when they're in free fall. The Chao look a little chubby in this game for the same reason; they bounce quite a bit, especially in the stomach. For those who were wondering, yes, Rouge's breasts even bounce.
All in all the graphics are wonderful in this game, from the smallest detail to the biggest eye-popping landscape. They are the game's best aspect outside the far-more-interesting story line and the improved Chao handling.
The voice acting is somewhat better in this game than in its predecessor. Sonic still carries the same G-rated attitude he had in the first game, but it's a bit punchier in places this time round. Shadow, for what it's worth, sounds perfectly evil, as does Dr. Eggman. Knuckles' voice fits him to a tee, and Rouge sounds like I expected her to. The accessory characters have good voices too.
Note that I left Tails out of that listing, and for good reason. His voice still sucks, even on the Japanese vocal track. He still sounds like a prepubescent boy, and just like in SA1, that's the most annoying voice possible for a main character.
The sound effects in this game are as fantastic as the graphics, and they are quite many. This game is indeed packed with them, from the screeching sound that is made when you bring Sonic or Shadow to a sudden stop, to the metal-hitting-metal sound that you hear when one of the combat walkers hits the ground, right down to the sound of picking up a ring, which is the same one as in SA1 and all the Genesis games. That one sound alone, as well as the associated sound of losing all your rings, makes me feel rather at home with this game. Just like its predecessor, the sound effects are the best part of this game's aural landscape, if you pay close enough attention.
The standouts in this game's soundtrack -- wait a second, there are no standouts! I can tell you, however, that the only good songs on this soundtrack are the only thing Sega does well as far as music is concerned -- the same bland guitar rock that they used in SA1, Sega Bass Fishing (someone explain that to me!), and myriads of other Sega games. The soundtrack gets downright ugly when we start talking about some of the less nice aspects of it, like rapping about the Master Emerald. Now I'm not a big fan of rap and hip-hop, granted, but this takes the cake for bad (very bad) rap music. Who on earth would perform such music, much less listen to it? The insipid music kills any appeal that Knuckles' stages would've had for me, and they would for you too. Unless you like hearing rap music about the Emeralds. I'll keep reaching for my MP3 player and putting on something sane, like KT Tunstall or somebody else I actually like.
Long-Term Appeal (95/100)
As far as keeping this game in your library, it's got a lot of long-term appeal, if you enjoy playing the game. There's always the Chao to raise, and the Hero/Dark aspect even takes root here: the Chao can assume either "Hero" (with a halo) or "Dark" (with a spiked ball) forms, in addition to the normal forms from SA1. The racing aspect is much more involved this time around as well, and since there are ten emblems to get, the incentive is there to raise the best Chao you can.
Speaking of emblems, there are 180 of them this time around, and you have to play this game in top form to get them all. You have to finish all the missions (five missions per stage) with an A ranking, finish all the stories (this goes without saying), and play all the minigames (this also goes without saying) in order to get all 180 emblems. The challenge is there -- I've had this game since it came out, and I fancy myself a good player, but I never got all 180 emblems.
As far as multiplayer mode goes, I'm admittedly rather unfamiliar with it, but I understand that you can play the kart racing minigame with another person, and also certain kinds of challenges. There are some characters in multiplayer mode who are unplayable in single-player mode without a cheat device, too, so it's worth checking out at any rate. It only supports two players, though, which removes some of its appeal for more social gamers, but they're probably not playing Sonic Adventure 2 in the first place anyway.
The Story (35/55)
The story line in this game is rather good. It's more involved than the story in the first game, and comes to a very nice climax. The addition of Shadow and Rouge to the game made me initially doubtful, but at the same time I've had my doubts about a lot of things in Sega's game repertoire. My doubts evaporated the first time I saw the ending of the game, however. It's one of the better endings to a Sega game, and is the majority part of this miscellany score for just that reason.
The Chao (20/55)
Chao raising was a lot more fun in SA2 than in SA1. The Chao themselves are better programmed, so they're far more affectionate and emotive than in SA1, and they can do a lot more in this game than they could in the first game. Like I said above, the racing is a lot more involved too, and more demanding of you as a Chao "parent." It requires patience and diligence, two things that not a lot of games seem to require these days; for that alone, Sega gets a lot of well deserved credit. Chao Adventure 2 is also an improvement over its predecessor; much like the game you download it for, it's more involved and more fleshed out.
All in all this is one of the better games I've played for the Dreamcast. Sonic Adventure 2 improves on its predecessor in a lot of ways, including graphics, story, and even the sound effects. However, the gameplay suffers a bit for it, and as I said in the tagline for this review, it's basically like playing the same game twice, once for each story line. What backstory there is is well executed, and to Sonic Team's credit, it is a wonderful effort for the last Sonic game on a Sega console.
Total: 383/500 (76.6%) (8/10)
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/28/08
Game Release: Sonic Adventure 2 (US, 06/18/01)
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