I have to say that, in terms of childhood gaming, Nintendo didn’t have nearly as big an influence on me as Sega did. I was a spry young lad when I received my Sega Genesis for Christmas, and it was easily my most played console. I played games like Shining Force, DecapAttack and Ristar so much that I could probably still recite the levels backwards and forwards in my sleep. But the game that I played most, of course, was Sonic the Hedgehog.
Fast-forward to the moment not too long ago when I booted up Sonic Adventure 2 for the first time (I didn’t own a Dreamcast or a Gamecube, so I’d never had the opportunity to play the game before), and I was wishing, hoping and praying that Sonic Adventure 2 had been developed before Sega’s little blue mascot had gone to seed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. The best I can say for it is that there are moments that hark back to classic 2D Sonic wonderfulness, but, for the most part, the game is as tedious to play as the last few modern Sonic releases.
The story within the game is pretty ridiculous, which stands pretty much on par with the rest of the series. Dr. Eggman releases Shadow the Hedgehog from the captivity of G.U.N., an extremely poorly named military organisation. Believing himself to be the ‘Ultimate Life Form,’ Shadow agrees to help Eggman take over the world, or destroy it, or something. I’m not actually entirely sure as to his ultimate motivation: it kind of flip-flops between the two, though the ending, without spoiling, leans drastically in one direction. In all honesty, when the game stops being about a spry blue hedgehog saving cute little woodland creatures from a man with an inordinate amount of robotic gadgets – not to mention a really fantastic moustache – it starts to get extremely silly. Not entirely in a good way, either.
None of this is helped at all by the painful voice acting. If this is one of the earliest games in the tradition of making Sonic sound unbelievably unappealing, Tails like a twelve-year-old, Knuckles completely stupid, and introducing a cavalcade of uninteresting and poorly acted side characters, then that’s all the more reason to dislike it. But even from an entirely objective standpoint, it was almost enough to put me off playing further. The dialogue itself is completely horrendous, which makes it all the worse. You’d be better off muting the TV and turning off subtitles, if that’s an option. You could probably glean just as much from watching the cinematics as you would from actually listening to the game.
Realistically, the poorly-acted, only-adequately animated (even for the time) cinematics serve only as unengaging breaks between levels. It doesn’t really get much better, though, as most of the gameplay sections themselves are just as annoying as Sonic’s voice. The game is split into two stories – Hero and Dark – and each features three characters. On the Hero side, you’ll play as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles; on the Dark side, (they have cookies… *ahem* … sorry about that), there’s Shadow, Rogue the Bat, and Eggman himself.
There are three distinct gameplay styles, and the corresponding character from each story falls into one of these styles. Sonic and Shadow both come about as close as you’re going to get to the classic style of Sonic games. They’re more or less platforming levels, where you run really fast, collect rings, and smack up some baddies. Tails and Eggman have these robotic walker-suit things, which sound cool, but are actually pretty boring to play as. They are, more or less, dumbed-down platforming sections, but the robots are equipped with homing missiles, so destroying enemies becomes as simple as holding down a button and waiting for crosshairs to appear upon all enemies in sight. Knuckles and Rogue levels are more or less ‘search and finds.’ They involve trying to locate three of something, without fail.
Unquestionably, the only levels that even come close to tolerable are the Sonic and Shadow sections. There are moments when the 3D doesn’t get in the way of the enjoyment, but the problem with controlling a fast-moving hedgehog with the camera stationed behind him is that, at times, you’re moving so fast that things directly in front of you are obscured until you run into them, and lose all your rings. This isn’t even mentioning the levels where sometimes enemies will descend directly in front of you while you’re running. Disregarding all that, though, these levels are still usually fairly fun to play. The homing attack is an extremely useful addition to the game, which is about the only positive the 3D games have added to the series, and stringing together high-speed movement while taking out several baddies without touching the ground is actually fairly satisfying.
The other playstyles are far from enjoyable, though. Hunting for three of something is annoying enough when it’s diverting from other, more interesting gameplay, but when the other gameplay is only passable, it becomes intolerable. There’s nothing remotely interesting about the levels you play as Knuckles and Rogue in, certainly nothing to motivate you to scour them to find what you’re looking for, and the tracking method is vague, at best. When you get close enough to an item – usually a Chaos emerald shard – an icon will turn green, and when you get really close, it’ll turn red. But when the levels are larger, your only direction is vague hints that you get from random TVs strewn throughout the level. If they were all quick and concise, it would just be obnoxious. But since they can stretch out if you’re not entirely sure of where you’re going, they quickly become a reason to stop playing.
The Tails and Eggman levels are just boring. The platforming is straightforward, homing missles aren’t nearly as fun as the homing attack, the level designs are somehow worse than the Knuckles and Rogue levels, and the addition of a health bar, rather than a simple ring count, is rather baffling. You’d think that, as the levels feature robotic walkers, they’d automatically get some points in the bank. But they’re just so uninspired that there’s no way to spin them in a positive light. Plus, the Tails levels feature Tails, which means you have to listen to Tails’ voice.
All the problems with the gameplay styles are compounded by a rather quirky camera. Twitching the right stick should just turn the camera slightly, but sometimes, it can send it into complete spasms that make it impossible to see what you’re doing. It’s at its worst in the Knuckles and Rogue levels, where seeing in all 360-degreees would be extremely beneficial.
Sonic Adventure 2, at least on the PS3 version, also features the 2-player battle mode from the Gamecube update of the title. This mode lets two players compete in races, the goal of which is to reach the goal ring first; gun battles, which sees the player whose walker runs out of energy first as the loser; and treasure hunts, where the player that collects the three shards first as the winner. There’s no online functionality, so it’s strictly split-screen, which is a real throwback and actually kind of nice to see. However, since it’s essay season, and none of my roommates are gamers, I didn’t have much opportunity to try it. However, I can hazard a guess that the races would have been the most fun, and the uncooperative camera would be worse when you’re only viewing half the screen.
Overall, this game is really only for hardcore Sonic fans. I recall it being pretty well received upon its initial release, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. The levels are uninspired, the camera is uncooperative, two of the three play styles are snooze-worthy, and the third is only fun some of the time. The voice-acting and dialogue have no saving graces, the side characters are just as uninteresting here as they are in modern Sonic games, and the story is so silly as to be just boring. There’s nothing here to satisfy anybody who doesn’t need a little blue fix, which, as someone who used to love Sonic, is extremely disappointing.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ It’s Sonic the Hedgehog
+ The homing attack is a useful addition to gameplay
+ The battle mode lets you duke it out with a friend…
– …but no online functionality makes it feel fairly limited
– Boring, uninspired levels
– Intolerable voice-acting and dialogue
– Uncooperative camera
1 (RIP) to 4 are varying degrees of a bad game. A 1 (RIP) being a game you would actually pay money to not play, and a 4 is something that just fails to reach even the not-so-lofty level of “mediocre.”
Sonic Adventure 2 was developed by Sonic Team USA and published by Sega. It was released for the PlayStation 3 via PSN and Xbox 360 via XBLA on October 2nd, 2012, and can be purchased for $9.99. The Battle Mode DLC is an additional purchase of $2.99. A copy of the game was provided to RipTen by the publisher for the purpose of review.