Game Description: When longtime Sega mascot Sonic the Hedgehog made his debut on the Dreamcast console in Sonic Adventure, gamers were stunned. Sega had not only used the game to show off the tremendous possibilities of the then-new hardware, but they had reinvigorated the platform-style arcade adventure genre with massive, intricate levels, gleefully distracting minigames, and even a new kind of virtual pet, called a Chao, that could be combined with other pets, traded with friends, and even exchanged over the Internet. Sonic Adventure 2 ups the ante of its predecessor with all-new puzzles and levels, and even faster action reminiscent of the early Genesis-era games. Knuckles and Tails are back, as are the Chao pets (who can now talk!).
Ill readily admit that Ive never been the worlds biggest Sonic fan, but I know a good game when I see it. When it comes to Sonic Adventure 2, I dont see it. Rather than beat around the bush, Im just going to cut to the chase here.
Sonic Adventure—a game which I enjoyed quite a bit—was notorious for the extremely poor quality of its dodgy camera system. Every gamer alive, Sega fan or no, would have sworn that improving the camera would be Sonic Teams top priority for the sequel. Well, Sega proved us all wrong. The camera hasnt been improved one iota, and its debatably even worse. The camera controls dont always respond, the view jumps back and forth at times, and some of the stages (particularly the Eggman/Tails stages) seem like the architecture is too complex for the camera to navigate properly. 'Nuff said.
Something I enjoyed a great deal in the first Sonic Adventure was the fact that there were several styles of play to pick from, and while they werent all great, at least there was some variety and a choice of which character to use. Well, scratch that idea. For some odd reason, Sonic Team decided to take away the freedom of choice and force the player to skip from character to character in rotation throughout the game. It gives a very herky-jerky feel to the flow and disrupts immersion, in my opinion. Just as you start getting into the rapid-fire groove with Sonic, the pace grinds to a standstill while you futz around with Knuckles for far too long. As soon as you start getting used to Knuckles pathetic game, you switch hats again and start blasting things with Tails. The pacing here just feels wrong and doesnt come together the way a good game should.
Not only is the ability to choose gone, there arent even as many types of play as in Sonics first Dreamcast game. With six distinctly different types of action in Sonic Adventure, its sequel only provides an unsatisfactory three. There are still six characters in total, but Shadow, the evil hedgehog, plays exactly like Sonic. Rouge the Bat plays exactly like Knuckles and the evil Eggman and Tails are gameplay twins as well. Six characters, with only three types of play design. This kind of lazy character duplication is weak.
If the three types of play presented were solid and entertaining I probably wouldnt be grousing as much, but even this area got downgraded. While Sonic and Shadows stages are the best in the game, theres still too much of the marginally interactive "hold down a direction and watch the scenery whiz by" philosophy. It LOOKS great, but its more visually impressive than actually being the type of solid gameplay the series older incarnations are known for. Still, Id rather have a game full of those kind of stages than have to endure even one more level of the absolutely horrid "Find the gems" Knuckles and Rouge missions. I cant even describe how boring and frustrating these were. To have to search huge levels for tiny gem fragments was bad enough, but with the crap camera compounding the problem, it was completely unbearable.
Other low points include a complete lack of a cohesive adventure field to tie all of the stages together and embarrassing rap music complete with lyrics for the Knuckles stages. Just having the cheesy, diseased pop/lounge lizard type of warbling in the games tunes is bad enough, but do we really need to have second-rate wannabe hip-hop stylings? Please.
Oh, and before I forget to mention it, the game has great graphics. Sonic Adventure was no slouch in the visual department, and Sonic Adventure 2 edges it out. Theres some fabulous texture work, and most of the stages are pieces of art. However, graphics alone do not a good game make. Even worse, adding insult to injury is the fact that you cant ever use a "lookaround" button to fully enjoy the games strongest asset. There are some nice environments here, but the eye candy doesnt make up for the games numerous downsides.
Its amazing to me how some games seem to actually get worse with sequels. Logically, the developers should have the time, feedback and experience to turn out a better product every time a new game comes to shelves. Whatever happened to learning from your mistakes? Sonic Adventure was a great game. It certainly wasnt perfect, but it was a fine effort and a very respectable reintroduction for the character which defined Sega for years. Sonic Adventure 2 is not a great game. Its barely a good game. As I said earlier, Im not the worlds biggest Sonic fan, but even I can see that the little blue guy deserves much better than this. If you must play a Sonic game on the Dreamcast, go for the original Sonic Adventure instead.
The way I see it, the problem that plagues Sonic Adventure 2 is its simplicity; none of the two-button gameplay has any depth worth mentioning. Out of the three shallow modes of play the game offers, the Tails stages are the worst offenders, where you lumber around in a mech robot shooting everything in sight. Mashing the B button and shifting your aim wildly takes care of almost all the baddies, and the painfully slow platforming doesnt liven things up either. The only thing that proves challenging is navigating jumps while the terrible camera goes haywire behind you.
Same goes for the Sonic levels. As Brad pointed out, they can be fun, but theyre nothing more than half a dozen little platforming vignettes scattered between a bajillion grinding rails and swing vines. In a game where you don't rotate from mode to mode like you are forced to do in Sonic Adventure 2, you eventually get comfortable with the game and the controls But when sandwiched between the agonizingly slow Tails and Knuckles levels, the pace feels terribly wrong, and by the time you get in a groove with Sonic, it's time to switch again.
If the pace was the only thing wrong with playing as Knuckles, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Unfortunately, this mode isn't just bad, it includes some of the worst 3D gaming ever. There is zero skill or challenge involved. All you can do is aimlessly wander around the insanely huge environments, hoping to run across computers that hand out vague clues about the gems you need to collect. These embarassingly bad levels are in the end what weigh the game and keep it from achieving mere mediocrity.
Sonic Adventure 2 is a case of lazy development, where a bad game is released on the strength of its name brand. I could envision this being a wonderful title with a lot more editing and refinement, but the Dreamcasts death probably doomed the game to be rushed out the door to make room for their next-gen projects. That's the only possible explanation I have for the mind-numbing Knuckles levels, other than Sonic Team outsourcing the job to 3DO. I suppose the head honchos at Sega guessed (and correctly so) that the gaming press and gamers alike would give it a free ride....after all, its Sonic! If this game was stripped of the franchise label and given an anonymous name like Kao The Kangaroo or Super Magnetic Neo, it would have received many more of the damning reviews it so richly deserves.
According to the ESRB, this game contains: Violence
Parents have nothing to fear. Theres nothing extreme or distasteful in Sonic Adventure 2 besides the negatives which I listed above. In terms of questionable content, theres no harsh language, no nudity (Sonic IS wearing shoes, after all) and no violence of any consequence.
Gamers in general should probably rent Sonic Adventure 2 first. Its very eye-catching and attractive, but the dazzle soon wears off and I feel its safe to say that its not going to be everyones cup of tea. The Knuckles/Rouge missions alone are enough to kill most of the good feeling the Sonic/Shadow portions may generate, and Sonic Adventure outdoes the game in every area that really counts.
Sonic fans are either going to be extremely disappointed or marginally satisfied depending on how fanatical they are about the hedgehog. I think Sonic Team got away with some serious underachieving here, and I expect them to batten down the hatches and make the next Sonic game more shipshape than this one was.
Dreamcast owners will probably want to pick up the game since its anybodys guess how many new titles will actually make it to stores before the system is officially lowered six feet under. I cant really recommend it, but you might want to savor these last few releases before the Dreamcast goes completely into the secondary market.
Hearing-Impaired gamers get full access to the games script with accompanying text. Its actually a godsend, since the voices get drowned out by the music and I couldnt even understand what they were saying half the time.