Review by greyseal
"Excellent, with an asterisk"
This game is so hard to judge. Like the first one, it offers moments of brilliance, sort of wedged between somewhat maddening stretches of tedium and irritation. But the moments of brilliance are a bit more brilliant this time, so I keep going back to it.
Graphics: Oh my. Oh my oh my. These are extraordinary. You will not believe what you are seeing. PS2, eat your emotion engine out. Aside from the technical wonders here (the characters cast shadows on themselves!!!), the graphics have been ''hardened'' to really drive hom that Sonic edge. Sonic himself has become leaner and tougher looking. His roly-poly body has been replace with a just-out-of-the-gym, streamlined look befitting his speed. Very nice (though his eyebrows are a bit strange). The backgrounds are fuller and more impressive than SA1, though you rarely get a chance to notice while you tear through them at a perfect framerate. Never drops. Ever. Oh, and the water looks great. Too bad it didn't look like that in SA1!
Control: Ok, we lose some points here. Some of the fastest moments in the game get muddled under weird control. Especially when Sonic is on any sort of board. He feels like he steers all the way, or not at all. Very jittery. Other than that, the only sticky point is the CAMERA FROM HELL. Some people think it has improved since the first game, but it is inordinately worse. What did they do? You have almost no control of the camera anymore. You can spin it around with the triggers, but as soon as you try to move, it goes back. God forbid you want to backtrack at any point. You have to walk INTO the camera. Horrible. And, even worse, you can't look up and down anymore! Why? I don't know. Sometimes, the mind reels... for all their brilliance, Sonic Team is patently stupid for removing this option. Stupid. Yuji, you should be ashamed for this. Go sit in the corner.
Audio: Mixed bag. The sounds are fine. Even though the jumping sound is gone (!), they threw in other old sounds to make you happy (recognize that noise when you leave Chao world??? Yup.. from the bonus stages in the original game!).
The music is nauseating sometimes (especially when you're around the 20th minute in Knuckles Pumpkin level, listening to that horrid rap song in the background... shoot me), and I would kill to hear the real Sonic theme again (you know, from the very first Genesis game).
And the voices still blow. They sound like the ''actors'' had no idea what emotion was being conveyed (to be fair, Sonic isn't bad, and Eggman is well done). There's also a weird thing where everybody starts talking before the last one finished. I think this was done to make the speech sound more ''natural,'' but it didn't work. In addition, Robotnik speaks verrrry quietly, so he's hard to hear. Sonic was at his best when he shut up and ran. Now they're all blabbering all the time... ugh. And why? To give us some lame-brained plot that doesn't really matter? Too bad. And the lip-synching, despite what you've read, is still terrible. I don't know why people keep saying it's improved, cuz it isn't. And all this is, largely, why this game lost two points. It's that bad. It almost makes the game embarrassing to play.
Story: Um... doesn't really make much sense. Problem is, the Sonic universe has never been clearly defined in the games. This is the first time that they make it clear we're on Earth (they mention it by name). I don't like this, because there is no way to explain all the loops in the middle of San Fransisco. The chaos emeralds seem to take on different properties in every game, so nothing ever hangs together correctly. The Dark side is more interesting, but there's nothing award winning either way. And the already-poor plot is mucked up further by the terrible delivery (see Audio, above).
Replay: High. Very high. In fact, it's more fun to replay than to play, because you can just play the good stages (sonic and shadow, and a few tails and eggman). Truly, the Sonic and Shadow stages are fabulous. They are intense and controllable, and so much fun that you'll play the same level fifteen times in a row, and still not be bored. Personally, I'd have been happier if Sonic Team had ditched the other characters, and just given me more levels with these two. I play Sonic for the speed, not for the treasure hunting. It's all a bit short, but the ride is unforgettable. Really.
So, in the end, it's kind of like SA1. Great moments, messy game. But the great moments are a bit stronger now, and happen more often. Sonic and Shadow move through their stages smoothly and at top speed, and it all feels right. And, finally, they bumped the challenge up a bit (you will not finish Sonic's Final Rush unless you're pretty decent at this).
I lean heavily towards buying this, rather than renting. It'll keep you playing for a looooong time. At least until Sonic finally shows up on the Game Cube (gasp!).
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/22/01, Updated 06/22/01
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