Note: I re-reviewed this title in 2019. Please disregard this review.
Oh boy, somehow I knew that I would end up here after reviewing games with no rhyme or reason other than what was in my list of titles owned. Well, here it is, a review of one of my most cherished games of my youth, which I will admit to not having completed due to the unsurprising revelation I had about finding the game to be seeping with problems and issues and seeing enough for me to justify my words while my obscured memories can allow me to piece in the rest enough so I can properly review the title while only having gone through most of the hero story for what would be the twelfth or so time in my life. Let’s begin.
Sonic Adventure 2 Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), XBLA, PSN, Dreamcast, Gamecube
Developer: Sonic Team USA
The first thing I recalled upon starting this game up again, albeit a different version, I recalled its story and began having my mind race through the sequence of events that transpired, only bringing in flashes that the game very much did not fill as properly as I recall it. The actual story in Sonic Adventure 2 is one filled with leaps to certain events without much consideration placed in regards to how the necessary pieces were set into place. It has a sense of nonsense that a child can understandably ignore, but even when judging the game strictly by the cutscenes and not questioning how its world, which is very similar to the real world aside from the rainbow colored anthropomorphic creatures, it is among the most poorly told stories I’ve seen in quite some time, if only for how bad the cutscenes are. It would be enough if the stilted dialog was there, offering far more exposition than any humanoid creature should mention, but it is so poorly mixed with the background audio and lines often pick up as other characters are still talking. Yet, seeing as how they are not particularly well shot and have lip flaps that are, at best, unaltered from the Japanese version and at worst were given next to no attention by the development team.
Oh, but its not like much of their time was spent refining the game, which consists of thirty decently sized to downright large areas, equally spread across three gameplay varieties that all have their own unique oversights. With the Sonic and Shadow stages, I am reminded of my reviews for Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, where I felt as if the physics and level design didn’t work all that well together, as the intense speeds and precision were difficult to maintain due to how the game lacked the level of refinement for the player to have the utmost confidence in their each and every action. Or in simpler terms, was difficult because the game was not well constructed in terms of what’s under the hood. This is something I still found in a title ten years older, as the problem, while mutated, still stays true. It is invigorating to have a character gracefully go through a level as the game reads your actions, with the exact opposite being when the game misread them, causing you to waste a life or exit out of the game in order to keep those you have accumulated.
However, there are certainly issues I found to be unique to this title, such as the use of buttons or lack thereof. To put it simply, A is for jump, while B is for everything else. Press to do a summersault, hold for a spin dash, press it in front of rings to do a light speed dash through them, pick up objects, place or toss them depending on your speed, in the air press it to bounce off of the ground, or potentially into your death instead of doing the light speed dash. All of which exists while X also acts as the B button, while Y is designed to switch the functions, despite the game being score based, and therefore requiring a level of immediacy to the player’s desired action. Yet, even then the game gets on my shit list for implementing the player’s accumulated rings into their final score, effectively meaning you must go through every level without getting hit in hopes of getting a quality rank. Which is easier said than done, as the number of times where I was hit due to factors out of my control was greater than the opposite.
Much of this does apply to other modes, such as the treasure hunting with Knuckles and Rouge, which I would describe as a disjointed mess that leaves the player frantically searching areas that require memorization more than skill in terms of achieving their set goal of getting quality ranks at the end. In short, you are instructed to find three objects hidden in a stage, but where they are is determined by a randomized aspect of the game, with unjustifiable interactable screens giving you helpful to obnoxious hints about one of the three. Downside is that you are only instructed as being nearby one of the objects at a time. This, along with the scope the levels eventually adopt, make these treasure hunts more of a chore than anything. As the best method of finding these objects is to print out a guide telling you what each clue means, and going there in what would be to new players a completely foreign and often nonsensically constructed environment. And to make things worse, the game’s camera is inverted horizontally with no means of natively changing that.
The final mode, the shooting stages with Tails and Eggman, are oddly the most tolerable and reliable sections of the game, as they are pretty straightforward mech shooters with automatic lock on to enemies, and obtaining points through hitting multiple targets simultaneously being the manner to get as many points as possible. It is admittedly slow, and the described gameplay is both nothing special as you do only have one means of attack, with mobility peaking at being able to hover through stages. Only stopping at how awkward I found Tails’ movement to be when regularly twisting and turning to lock onto as many enemies as possible in the linear stages he possesses. Although, I can hardly think of a reason for recycling the same audio clip of the character saying okay whenever you get a combo of two or three destroyed targets.
Yet the final mode is where the game ultimately shines, despite the fact it may as well have been stapled to the game, and if I were to get hit in the head to the point where I had to understand its innerworkings, I would heavily criticize them. I am of course talking about raising Chaos, that’s Chao plural not the idea or character from… nevermind. Point is that just raising one in what little time I invested was a wave of nostalgia that hit me, even though from a critical standpoint, the Chao raising is a very poorly crafted metagame that does not fit well with the mechanics of the game, and could be removed without much changed aside from the upheaval of collectable animals who you have the Chaos absorb attributes from, whether they be floating in space, or inside of a robot.Yet if there were another means of raising them that did not tie in with playing through an ultimately poorly crafted title that even years of rose tinted fondness couldn’t make look good.
On that very subject, Sonic Adventure 2 only helped my belief that Dreamcast games have aged well in terms of looking at them. Textures are not very blurred, models are colorful and easily identifiable, and stage assets certainly do not look very bad, in fact I still find the actual themes to be appealing and well done when not a whee bit nonsensical in their construction. Although, much like how those who grew up with an NES tend to have a very strong fondness for certain pixel art that, when you get down to it, isn’t especially well constructed, Little Nigma used this to define many things in a game, and appearance certainly held up better than the proper gameplay. While the soundtrack is something that I view as classic, as it was one of the few CDs I owned as a child, and one of the three I actually still enjoy to this day. Although the voice acting is still a stilted mess, regardless of the actors’ intentions.
I feel as if I have gotten to the age where one goes back to assess things in their childhood, and Sonic Adventure 2 is something I will place in the camp of things I only enjoyed as a child, and not during any time afterwards. The title is something of a mess when looked at as a whole, and while some may say the gameplay aged poorly, I’d say people back in the day just had absurd tolerances for bad 3D movement controls and a general lack of reliability in one’s actions. A fatal fate, as it effectively means I not only cannot enjoy it, but feel a bit of a mild depression for having done so in the past.
There are points of noteworthiness, but as the titles goes on they become far less common when compared to all too common mundanities. Would not recommend.
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…You know, I was about to ask why “safe sex” is one of the tags, but I think I’d better leave that one alone for now. It’s probably for the best.
In any case…yeah, I can’t say I’m too surprised by the score. You know there’s a problem with your SONIC game when you do more treasure hunting and mech-shooting than running through stages. I mean, I’ve entertained the thought of doing a full run through the game, but when I think back to having to play Knuckles’ and Rouge’s final stages, I just go “Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh…” and back off.
Also? Cripes, that screenshot with the president. That’s some serious nightmare fuel.
Also also? If we’re talking about stilted dialogue, there’s no beating Sonic Adventure DX.
English version of a cutscene: “Huh! I was on a snooze cruise!”
Japanese version: *silence*.
Not gonna lie, though — I can’t help but smile at some of the lines. You have to admit, they’re pretty memorable. If only for, you know, all the wrong reasons.
I remember the game well from playing it as a child, but actually going back and playing it with the mind I have now very much left me upset.