Released in 2001, Sonic's second outing into 3d has been touted as one of his greatest triumphs throughout his history. The speedy blue blur found himself racing through brand new levels, concepts, and modes. But how does it stand up in 2021? Let's find out.
Story- The game begins with our favorite blue hedgehog... in Government Custody? After escaping from a prison helicopter, we swiftly learn the Government's true enemy: Sonic's doppelganger Shadow the Hedgehog! It is told to us that this "Shadow" was an Ultimate Weapon created by the grandfather of, you guessed it, Dr. Robotnik. With Dr. Robotnik in the picture you know some serious stuff is about to go down, as it is discovered that he is using the Chaos Emerald to power his own Death Star! Called the ARK, Eggman uses it's power to annihilate a significant portion of the moon, threatening to turn it on Earth. Hitching a ride aboard a Space Shuttle, Sonic and pals are able to infiltrate the Ark, and defeat the maniacal Eggman. Helping to stop a being called "FinalHazard '' from crashing the ARK into the Earth, Sonic and Shadow enter their Super Forms to save the day.
I was surprised with how in depth the story was for a Sonic game. The character of Shadow was most intriguing to me, due to how they characterized him much more than being a generic evil rival. He had an actual Character motivation (The death of his companion Maria Robotnik). Although the other characters weren't as well developed, they didn't have to be. Sonic is cool, Tails is smart, Knuckles is serious, they don't necessarily have to go beyond this (Which is something I definitely had a problem with in games like Sonic 06).
Gameplay - Whooh boy am I going to get some flack for this section. I just could not find myself enjoying the gameplay of Sonic Adventure 2. The game has you select one of two groups, the heroes (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles), or the villains (Shadow, Dr. Robotnik, and Rouge). The game forgoes the hub worlds of the original in favor of singular levels dedicated to a single character with cutscenes in between. This was a poor change in my opinion. Wandering around the original hub worlds, trying to find levels and secret surprises, was one of my favorite elements in Sonic Adventure.
The in-level gameplay is a mixed bag, really. Similar to the original version, each character has different gameplay methods. Sonic and Shadows speed oriented levels are easily the best in the game. Blitzing through vibrant levels as fast as possible feels exhilarating, and exactly how a 3d Sonic should feel. City Escape is possibly one of the greatest levels in Sonic history. The Tails/Eggman Mech levels, or Knuckles/Rouge treasure hunting levels? Eh, not as much. Tails and Eggman have a few good levels, with Tails' versions of Prison Lane and Radical Highway being highlights, but the slow moving mechs just feel like a complete slog with poor camera angles. I felt a sense of PTSD having to recount Knuckles and Rouge's treasure hunting levels. They are 20 minute long snoozefest which involve you wandering around a vast level in a vain attempt to find shards of a Master Emerald (Shattered courtesy of Dr. Robotnik). They are randomized every time you play the level leaving you cheeky weasels who thought you could cheat with IGN guides completely out of luck. They can even be hidden inside the walls and ground, leaving you to randomly mine into the ground trying to find them. Thankfully you are given a meter which beeps in proximity to these shards, but it doesn't reduce the monotony by much. I suppose if I had to pick one I enjoyed, Pumpkin Hill had one of the chillest rap bops of the game which eased the boredom a wee bit.
Graphics- I think that the graphics hold up rather decently. While the cutscenes can be rather janky, the actual gameplay looks crisp and smooth. The aesthetics of the locations that Sonic and friends visit look great, especially that of City Escape, and Final Rush. Although it definitely looks like a Dreamcast game, and for a Dreamcast game I don't have many qualms. The only real issues that I see with the graphics are a few textures which look much more low resolution than the rest of the game (Such as certain signs or wall textures).
Sound Design- Should I even write this section? It's a Sonic game! Performed by the much loved Crush 40, these rockin tunes will give you a reason to blare your TV volume as loud as possible. From the Lyrical Bon Jovi-reminiscent Live and Learn, to the techno filled Radical Highway, this might be one of Sonic's best soundtracks ever. However, I will have to begrudgingly dock the sound design for the poor quality voice acting which litters the games story mode. Characters often Cut off one another, don't match the mouth movements, or even misinterpret the original Japanese words. The voice cast returns from the original Sonic Adventure, with Deem Bristow as Dr. Robotnik who I believe put up the best vocal performance.
Longevity - If I had to hand one thing to Sonic Adventure 2, its that it has incredible longevity. Y'see the game has these little tamagotchi creatures called "Chao". Each Chao can be raised, taught, and can be made to compete in little minigames like racing. You can even transfer them to a VMU, and take them for walks. I was never too good with this portion, but it definitely adds an extra couple hundred hours to the game for those into that sort of thing. For those who prefer the gameplay segments, there are little collectables called "emblems". You can earn these by beating challenges in the game's Quick Play mode. Although they don't have a massive payoff for collecting them all (A neat little version of Green Hill Zone remade in 3d), these little things are a daunting task. You'll certainly take a long time to earn them all.
While the gameplay is not fully fleshed out, I think that the game has enough redeeming merits to deem it worthy of a purchase for Dreamcast owners.
- 1-4 Players
- Single Disc
- Published by Sega