Review by Relle
Reviewed: 06/19/03 | Updated: 06/03/04
The blue blur is black...I mean, back!
A little while after the Dreamcast was launched, Sonic was brought into 3D gaming. Like Mario, Link, and many others before him, the transition could've been either smooth or a nightmare. In this case, it's as smooth as could be. The similar transition to Gamecube fame puts the original in the Adventure series in the odd form of the sequel to SA2B, and if that's not enough to cause the universe to cave in, it's just a tad better.
So, how did Sonic fare as a 3D adventure? Well, if you haven't played either the DC version or SA2B (or the equivalent DC game) it actually came through pretty well. You have six characters to choose from, though the majority of the game focuses on Sonic. Here's a breakdown:
Sonic - Run, run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm Sonic, man! As you would expect, when playing as Sonic, you can expect to be speeding through a stage, with the prerequisite jumps, loops, and speed boosters. The early stages have you holding the control stick up most of the time (reminiscent of holding right on a D-pad back in the Genesis days). The later stages become a bit more complicated, requiring more puzzle solving and carefully timed jumps across beds of spikes or bottomless pits.
Tails - More speed, though not in the same vein as Sonic. Rather than simply race through a level, you must race against Sonic and others. Instead of the mech in SA2B, you have full control over Tails' flying capabilities, and you must use them often if you want to win.
Knuckles - Remember all those emerald hunts where you could only seek them out in order, unless you lucked out and spotted one? No more. This time, all three emerald locators are enabled in every stage, so you're able to seek out every emerald piece from the get-go. Knuckles' stages are wide-open, based more on exploration and gliding around than running.
Amy - Sonic's self-proclaimed girlfriend (though he doesn't see it that way). She's been targeted for capture by Eggman's robot, ZERO. Your mission? Guide her through her levels and escape ZERO's clutches. Your only means of attacking is a giant hammer to bash minor bots and stun the tenacious ZERO.
E-102 Gamma - Remember Eggman's levels in SA2B? Those were spawned from this guy. Your mission is, oddly enough, to 'rescue' your 'bot brothers by destroying them. In an odd twist, your time counts down instead of up, and you must gain more time by destroying enemies. Target a large number of them simultaneously, and you'll gain even more time.
Big the Cat - The odd cat out, Big's assignment is to rescue Froggy (who is...guess what...a frog) by fishing in various locales. As you can probably tell, you'll do no real fighting using Big, but you still must avoid enemies while searching for your amphibious friend.
Something very interesting is that all these characters, whose tasks seem so different, are all in this together. Their individual stories intersect with each other many times over the course of the game. More often than not you'll spot Big looking for Froggy while you're hunting down Chaos Emeralds as Knuckles, or see Sonic in Station Square as you run from ZERO (and search for the above-mentioned Sonic) as Amy. It really gives you the sense you're not just playing six separate characters, but filling in the blanks of a larger epic.
As with all Sonic games, you must collect rings to stay alive. Holding even one ring keeps you from dying, but just one hit will make you lose every collected ring thus far. Each stage for the six character has three emblems to collect, one for each rank (C, B, A). The higher the letter grade, the more challenging the task you must complete for an emblem. In addition, there's a brand-new mission mode providing various tasks to reward your bad self with emblems. Not enough? There's also twelve Game Gear games to unlock with said emblems.
The one major difference from previous Sonic titles is the adventure fields. Here, you're basically able to free-roam where the game will allow (early on you can't go everywhere, naturally). There are emblems hidden here, as well as special chao eggs and powerups.
The chao garden makes a return appearance as well. Worried about having to re-raise all your chao? Worry not! If you have a GBA and link cable, you can transfer your SA2B chao to your GBA, then back into SADX. Groovy!
Four-year old Dreamcast graphics may look bad when stacked up against games like Metroid, but the minor update they received was worth it. Everyone is...shiny. That's the best way to describe it. Little things like individual fingers were added, whereas the Dreamcast version had all the characters with solid hands with only black lines to distinguish the digits. The environments retain their "ooh, aah" effect as large, expansive and very pretty...if you can actually see them while you're blazing past at a million miles an hour.
Something worth noting is the load times between transitional areas like the hotel and Station Square are now all but gone, which is a welcome change. The downside is, most of the adventure fields have tiny pauses that happen on occasion, something that happens when you run like hell across Station Square or Mystic Ruins. The action stages themselves, however, rarely have this problem, and since that's where the 60 frames per second count, it's a good thing.
The dub for this game is worlds better than Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, but still behind recent noteable titles like FFX and Xenosaga. Fortunately, the game also gives you the ability to choose between mediocre English voice acting, or mediocre Japanese voice acting. While many of you out there may not understand Japanese, trust me, it's not that great in either language. The music is the standard Sonic tunes, which are great during levels, but I'm not too used to a rock beat during calm conversations. The title song, though, which is played during the final boss battle, is pure sweetness.
The story mode won't take many hours to play through, but unlocking all the Game Gear games will. Some stages' emblems are incredibly challenging and will genuinely test your skill, and that's reason enough to keep at it. If you're a chao raiser, you automatically gain days, weeks and even months of play time. Enjoy, speed freaks.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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