Sonic Adventure 2 was made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Sonic’s career in the gaming world back in 2001. The Dreamcast version was highly received from critics and audiences, and many believed it was the best Modern Sonic game of them all.
A decade after its release has passed, and an HD release for the Xbox Arcade and PlayStation Store in 2012 gives players the chance to relive or experience the Blue Blur’s adventure against Egg man and the antihero Shadow the Hedgehog.
While most of the core player engagement has passably aged, Some aspects of the game haven’t aged particularly well such as the design choices in the hunting and shooting stages, and the voice acting and in game cut scenes were comically bad then, and there still so bad it’s good even today.
Is this adventure still a fun ride, or is it an old dog that hasn’t kept up with the new tricks?
The story is divided into two sides, the hero and dark side. When both are finished a last story will unlock and conclude the game’s story after beating the final level and two final bosses.
The story has the series antagonist Egg man once again aiming for world domination.
This time he discourses the location of a secret weapon mentioned in his grandfather’s diary. He goes Gi Joe on a G.U.N base and finds the weapon, which turns out to be a black hedgehog named Shadow.
The weapon offers to assist Egg man in his goals of world domination by gathering the Chaos Emeralds and meeting him at the abandoned space colony ARK. The protagonist, Sonic is mistaken for Shadow and they form a rivalry when they encounter each other.
The focus of the story has Sonic and his sidekicks Amy, Knuckles and Tails trying to stop Egg man and his allies Shadow and Rouge from collecting the Chaos Emeralds and activating the Eclipse Cannon which destroys the moon in a CGI cut scene, so its power is naturally something to be concerned about.
The plot is simple and enjoyably entertaining in its unintentional moments of hilarity and was the debut of Shadow, who was one of Sega’s attempts in making a serious character in the sonic franchise.
There are three distinct gameplay styles through the course of the game and are experienced in the hero side with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, and the dark side with Shadow, Egg man, and Rouge. The first is Sonic and Shadow’s fast paced action stages.
These stages have a great sense of momentum and there is a good variety of environments such as White Jungle, Final Chase, City Escape and Metal Harbor. While Sonic and Shadow have separate exclusive stages, both characters have identical gameplay, and this applies to the rest of the gameplay styles.
Sonic’s stages have more gameplay variety such as Crazy Gadget’s gravity changing switches and the time limit in Green Forest. Shadow’s stages are more focused on the core gameplay of spin dashing and rail grinding to the goal.
Both deliver on the heart pumping psychedelic speed that characterised the Sonic franchise and the best parts of the gameplay experience.
The other gameplay style is Tails and Egg man’s shooting stages.
These stages have both characters in combat machines blazing through their respective stages Rambo style. Like Sonic and Shadow, Both play identically to each other, but both have slightly different power ups such as Egg man’s armour upgrade or tails obtaining the bazooka upgrade near the end of the hero story.
Instead of the usual sonic rule of one ring allowing the player to survive a hit from bosses and enemies, Tails and Egg man’s machines have health bars which can take a few hits before crashing, and collecting rings recovers health gradually.
It is certainly a benefit to not have to constantly hold one ring all the time, and the simple gameplay of rushing and shooting certainly delivers with its lock on combo building action.
The controls for the machines are acceptable when moving in a straight line, but have a slow turn when moving left or right, which can make it hard at times for both characters to lock on and fire at foes when they are surrounded.
There are also instances of non-telegraphed enemy placement, and the player can’t really work around this problem unless they have been victim of this design fault and have post knowledge of where the enemy will pop out of the sky right in front of them.
The final gameplay style is Knuckles and Rouge’s treasure hunting stages. These stages have Knuckles and rouge finding three pieces of the Master Emerald, and occasionally a set of keys or Chaos Emeralds.
The treasure hunting stages are more about taking your time finding the three objects randomly scattered through the stages, with the exception of Rouge’s exclusive stage Security Hall where you have to find three Chaos Emeralds in five minutes.
These stages are a great change of pace if the player wants to take a break from the action stages of Sonic and Shadow or the rush and shooting stages of Tails and Egg man. The hunting stages also have a level of creativity put into them such as Pumpkin Hill’s Halloween themed mountain, and flying through the lush and vibrant natural bug life of Dry Lagoon.
Both characters are very acrobatic, being able to drill dive down the sky and still be able to glide a far distance into the sky and this makes negativing levels such as Pumpkin Hill and Mad space a joy.
The hunting stages are significantly larger than Sonic Adventure 2’s predecessor Sonic Adventure, and this can make finding the emeralds a bit of a chore when there hidden well, or occasionally moving on their own free will.
While both characters have great controls, the stages suffer from some poor design choices.
The radar and hint system have been downgraded from Sonic Adventure, with the hint system needing the player to be acquainted with the level in order for it to be helpful, and is only helpful if the player has spent a considerable time in the levels trying to find one particularly tricky emerald.
In Sonic Adventure, the hint system would guide the player to the emerald’s location which was leaps and bounds better.
The radar can only detect one emerald at a time, which can be an issue if the player struggles to find that specific emerald. In the predecessor, the radar would detect any emerald in its scope of range witch cut down on the player going on a wild searching goose chase for the emeralds.
Because of these faults, the duration of the time a player spends in these stages is Schizophrenic, and in stages like Mad Space can result in the player taking ages finding the emeralds without a clue or sense of direction because of the expansive size of the stage.
The 3-D camera for the treasure hunting stages is acceptable, but is turned into an infuriating fault when in confined levels such as Aquatic Mines and Egg Quarters/ Death Chamber.
The narrow corridors and swimming sections of Aquatic Mines and the maze structure of Death Chamber/ Egg Quarters bring out the worst in the 3-D camera, often obscuring the players view and when the Emeralds are difficult to find in these stages, potentially have the player quitting in frustration.
The other levels compared with Aqua Mines and Egg Quarters are open environments encouraging the player to use the acrobatic and gliding skills of Knuckles and Rouge, which makes negativing these open levels the best part of the treasure hunting stages, and contrast with the enclosed confinement’s of Aqua Mines and Egg Quarters/ Death Chamber.
On a personal note, I experienced this one particularly frustrating moment when trying to obtain a second emerald piece in Aquatic Mines. The emerald piece was located above a dirt square under earth, and while the radar let me know I was above the emerald, I had to be very specific with where I dug and I eventually gave up and drowned myself so the emerald location would migrate to an easier place to dig it out.
So at times the emeralds can be particularly frustrating to obtain when in very precise locations, but the player can always lose a life so the location changes and the player doesn’t lose any emeralds they already obtained unless they reset.
There is also Chao Garden which deviates from the core gameplay styles and is a pet simulator similar to Tamagotchi.
In Chao Garden, you can raise chaos by hatching them from eggs and raising their stats by giving them animals and Chaos Drives which are obtained by defeating enemies, and finding animals roaming the levels or defeating specific robots.
The player can also take their Chao to a school where they take lessons that raise specific stats, check the doctor to see the Chao’s stat performance, give your Chao a name, and purchase items and Chao eggs from a black market.
The player can buy rare eggs once they obtain a certain number of emblems from missions in all the levels, which gives an incentive to play the levels over again. Once the player has their Chao developed they can partake in mini games that range from obstacle courses and karate.
There is a surprising amount of depth put into the Chao Garden, allowing the player to breed highly skilled Chao and create light and dark Chao when specific requirements are met, such as feeding specific fruit and being taken care of by characters from the hero or dark side.
Chao Garden serves as a deviation from the core gameplay were the player can spend a good deal of time raising the best Chao and is a distraction that can arrival the core gameplay if the player has an interest in that Tamagotchi style.
There is also a kart racing game with an option for multiplayer.
It’s very basic and doesn’t have much to offer in terms of game mechanics, but there is some enjoyment when the player’s kart collides with a by passer car and hurls them into the air, deifying the laws of gravity and flying into the air even when in a highway tunnel.
Most of the boss battles are quite easy, sporting predicable patterns and obvious weak spots. The final battle with Sonic or Shadow depending on which story side the player picked, and the Bio lizard and Final hazard are the only boss battles that challenge the players skill.
There are boss battles were the opposing team fight each other, but are easy to defeat and the only way of doing damage is simply landing a hit.
The only boss battle that is remotely challenge outside of the three final bosses is the Egg Golem against Eggman. When playing as Eggman, the boss becomes challenging because of Egg man’s slow movement against the Golem’s rotating fist swings and crushes, which can knock Egg man down into the quicksand.
When playing as Sonic, the Egg Golem is defeated easily due to sonic being able to effortlessly run around and homing attack it’s weakness.
The overall aesthetic in the presentation has aged soundly, but the character modals wear their age, but have a more improved look to them compared to the predecessor. On the other hand certain textures have aged well, particularly the wood and water of Green Forest and White Jungle and the rock textures found in Pumpkin Hill, and most of the stages have an overall pretty look when judged on their own merits.
While Egg man and Shadow’s voice actor’s do a decent job on delivering the personalities they portray, the rest of the voice acting is laughably bad which is made even worse by the in game cut scene animations, which well and truly display the horrendous lip movement.
There are many instances when the character’s lip movement don’t match with the voice performance, cases were they don’t move their lips at all, or they leave there mouths wide open which can result in unintentional moments of hilarity.
There is a strange audio bug in the Xbox and Playstation 3 versions of the game where the audio is louder than the voice over, which can make listing to the voice over slightly hard, but the in game cut scenes always have subtitles, so understanding the dialogue isn’t really an issue. There are no options in the HD version that allow the player to change the volume of the audio and voice work.
The Sonic games have always had great music to accompany them and is no exception with Sonic Adventure 2.
From the guitar riffs of Sonic and Shadow’s action stages, the rap songs and smooth beats of Knuckles and Rouge’s treasure stages, and Crush 40’s song Live And Learn, The soundtrack is the highlight of the experience and it’s likely that one piece of VGM will get stuck in the player’s head.
The Xbox and Playstation 3 version run at 60 frames per second and further enhances Sonic and Shadow’s action stage’s sense of speed. There are no instances of slow down and results in very smooth animations.
Sonic Adventure 2 is a game that focused on the best gameplay aspects of its predecessor and cuts out the mixed enjoyment factors of certain characters, a la Big’s fishing stages, and created more accessible level progression rather than the predecessor’s over world.
This more linear design also brought along a more to the point story rather than having to finish six characters side of the story one by one. The story is mostly what players have come to expect from 3D Sonic games with Egg man aiming for world domination and the cocky adventure driven attitude of Sonic.
But the debut of Shadow the Hedgehog resulted in a character who became one of the more memorable characters in the sonic franchise with his unfortunate past and his power of chaos control.
Sonic Adventure 2 is ultimately a game that stood for many as the high point of Sonic’s 3D game carrier. Camera issues and questionable design choices can at times have the player giving up in frustration, and some might not enjoy the expansive treasure hunting stages.
But Sonic Adventure 2 excels with the heart pumping action stages of Sonic and Shadow and the G.I Joe style shooting stages of Tails and Egg man, and while the hunting stages can be less than stellar with the at times wonky camera and levels like Aqua Mines go against the open navigation of the other treasure hunting stages, they provide a change of pace.
Sonic Adventure 2 is a game that delivers on the sense of speed that the Sonic franchise is famous for, and it’s gameplay Varity can give a little bit more to the player if they want more out of a Sonic game, and stands as one of the finest Sonic games in the franchise.