Game Description: After several years in video game retirement, Sonic the Hedgehog returns as the star of a graphically stunning 3D adventure game that blows away every other game in the genre. Sonic is joined by five of his friends in a massive quest that spans over 50 game levels filled with remarkable visuals and a pulsating soundtrack. Taking full advantage of the unprecedented processing power of the Dreamcast, Sega's development crew, Sonic Team, has designed several gravity-defying game levels that will keep gamers hooked.
Up until the release of Sonic Adventure, Sonic the Hedgehog hadn't made the same splash in the three-dimensional pool as other popular game mascots. In fact, Sega's cocky blue rodent had hardly caused a ripple when you consider the waves games like Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon created. This became somewhat of a mystery, because without Sonic there would probably be no such thing as Crash Bandicoot. Sega had already created long-running franchises for their mascot on the Genesis and Game Gear platforms, how did they miss such an opportunity during the short lifespan of the Sega Saturn?
Instead of releasing a full-on 3D adventure of the same caliber as the aforementioned games, we saw the curiously non-3D Sonic 3D Blast—an enhanced version of a Genesis title. There was also the hopeless mess that was Sonic R— a racing/adventure hybrid that didn't do either particularly well, though it pushed Saturn's 3D graphics power to new heights. Besides those two forgettable games, the "new-age" Sonic could be seen on Saturn in a cameo role in Sonic Team's Christmas NiGHTS, and in the 3D portion of the compilation disc, Sonic Jam. Big deal, right?
Thankfully, Sega was looking to make amends with their huge Dreamcast launch title, Sonic Adventure—a blockbuster game of the highest order. You talk about a game with size, the latest entry in the Sonic saga is filled to the brim with fully-spoken dialogue; detailed, impressively animated and expressive characters; massive, colorful (and fast-moving) 3D environments; up-tempo, original pop music (complete with vocals); adventure scenarios; action scenarios; mini-games; a complete, integrated A-life game; and a VMU adventure. The only things you won't find in Sonic Adventure are a first-person shooter mode or a real-time strategy option.
For sheer spectacle, this is a game that would be difficult to top. However, it's downright disappointing that it couldn't be a more worthwhile playing experience. To say that Sonic Adventure is a treat for the senses would be an understatement, but that doesn't automatically translate into "fun game." Don't get me wrong, the game certainly has its moments, but the prevailing feeling here is that Sonic Team spent too much time trying to make the game look cool (no doubt the result of the pressure to make up for lost time) and not enough time thinking of ways to make it play better.
The biggest and most-talked about problem with Sonic Adventure is the 3D perspective, or the "camera" through which we see the action. In short, it's all over the place. Sonic Team showed a similar inexperience in handling 3D gameplay in NiGHTS Into Dreams... and Burning Rangers, but they actually take several large strides backward here. The camera in Sonic Adventure can never seem to find the right position, so it stays in constant motion. Not only does this confuse matters in terms of the controls ("Do I push up or down—or left to right—to go forward?"), but it makes the landscapes difficult to negotiate. Sometimes the camera pulls so far back from the fray that you think it's going away to cover another game, then suddenly it zooms in on Sonic's nose hair and you almost pass out from bewilderment. That's too bad, because the game does such a good job conveying the necessary sense of speed. In fact, in the best example of style over substance, the game actually takes control out of your hands on several occasions—going on auto pilot so the game can continue to move fast and still look cool without you (the dumb player) accidentally steering Sonic into a chasm and ruining it all. There's one scene at the beginning where Sonic is running on this flimsy dock, when he's suddenly chased by a giant killer whale (for those of you interested, this scene was stolen from Panzer Dragoon II Zwei). The game takes over here and moves the viewpoint to a low angle in front of Sonic, at which point he opens it up full throttle and charges at the camera in exhilarating fashion. Well, the game would have to play this part for us wouldn't it? How could we navigate Sonic if we can't see what's in front of him? I guess so long as it looks neat, huh?
I also thought the game could have gelled more. There are so many different things to do—from the adventure mode, the action stages, and the Chao raising game, to the mini-games, the event sequences and the five other adventures for Sonic's buddies. The game never blends all of these elements into a cohesive structure, instead they're presented as separate parts. I found it hard to stay interested as a result. Equally distracting was the fact that Sonic and his five friends are the only talking animal characters in the game. It's like they were inserted into the wrong game (one full of regular people). I found it a little bizarre that the humans took no notice of, say Tails' slightly smaller stature and yellow fur coat (not to mention his two tails that let him fly like a helicopter).
Overall though, I don't have a problem recommending Sonic Adventure. Though not as playable as it could have been, there's still plenty to do and much to see. Even this long after its release, it's hard not to marvel at everything this game throws at you. I wonder though, is it possible that Sonic the Hedgehog was meant to stay in two dimensions? After all, the character was created with fast-moving, side-scrolling environments in mind, and I haven't seen anything to convince me that Sonic is at home in a 3D world. Maybe some games weren't meant to test these waters? In today's polygon-crazed world, there's probably no chance we'll ever see Sonic go back to his 16-bit roots. Even though Sonic Adventure is perhaps the ultimate expression of Sonic's presence, I still believe his best days were on the Genesis, Game Gear and Sega CD.
As a staunch Nintendo fanatic, it was neigh impossible for me to warm up to Segas little blue challenger to Marios throne. Now that I am well past that stage in my life, I can admit to liking the hedgehog although still not as much as Mario. I liked Sonics propensity for insane speeds, his tude and the way that all played into the gameplay. Having never totally experienced Sonic in all his 16-Bit glory, I was eager to get my hands on his first journey in the world of 3D. It may have taken almost a decade and millions of angry letters from disgruntled Saturn fans, but Sega has finally unleashed Sonic and friends into a 3D world. Unfortunately, Sonics blazing speeds and developer inexperience have him tripping over his own feet throughout the entire game.
In truth, there arent that many problems with the game, its just that the few problems that exist are fatal to the game as a whole. For one thing, Sonics manic gameplay worked well in a 2D world. Way back on the Genesis, controlling Sonic meant hitting the run button, occasionally hitting the jump button while watching Sonic bounce of walls and go through loop-d-loops. However, if you take that same gameplay and throw it into a 3D world, problems will crop up. As Ben mentioned the camera system is now notorious for its ineptitude. This wasnt a concern for a Sonic game until now and it shows. The very fact that it never could keep up with the action on the screen made everything that should be easy—like turning corners and collecting coins—all the more difficult. Its constant shifting always had me guessing as to which direction I was to be pointing the analog stick and thanks to the aforementioned speed, this made navigation a lot harder than it should be.
Ben was too kind when he commented that the game "could have gelled more." Sonic Adventure just a mess from beginning to end. It was like Sonic Team was envious of all the side games and multiple objectives crammed into such hits as Super Mario 64, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time and Banjo Kazooie. With all the "extra" that I was expected to accomplish while playing I am really surprised that I continued playing as long as I did. And it isnt even that they werent all fun—because they were—its just that having so much to do with so little focus did nothing but confuse and overwhelm me.
Sonic Adventure does have its good points. The graphics are great; even when reduced to a blur during Sonics high-speed runs and the soundtrack is lively. The vocals and sound effect samples are some of the best Ive heard in a videogame, let alone a 3D platformer. Its just that Sonic Team tried too hard to match Shigeru Miyamotos efforts with Super Mario 64 and The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time on their first try. They should have seen this as an impossibility from the beginning. After all, Miyamoto and his development team had well over three years to learn how to design Super Mario 64 and even longer to develop The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time—a luxury Sonic Team would never have. But excuses aside, the end result was no where near what it could have been, and thats hardly what fans were expecting after all these years of waiting. A sequel is on its way, but it will have to prove two things. It will have to redeem Sonic Team as a top notch mascot-game developer and it will have to show the world that Sonic can hack it in the 3D world once and for all.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Mild Animated Violence
Even with its out-of-control camera and inconsistent pace, Sonic Adventure is a good 3D platform game that's high on production quality.
Even as a first-generation Dreamcast title, this game still manages to impress. It's one of those games for all ages, too. There's nothing too shocking for the kiddies and a good enough challenge for true gamers. Probably not the landmark game Sega was hoping for, but not a bad game, either.