Note: I re-reviewed this title in 2019. Please disregard this review.
Yes, yes, I reviewed this back in June, found it to be very upsetting, but felt I should give it another look after being compelled to look at its predecessor and finding myself enjoying the game far more than I expected. Mind you, the game in question is still riddled with problems and from an objective standpoint is not very good, but these reviews are ultimately subjective and just because something is not good does not make it unenjoyable.
Sonic Adventure 2 Battle Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360, GCN
Developer: Sonic Team USA
I compared the first Sonic Adventure’s storyline to that of a grade schooler trying to tell a complex and epic tale that really was rather simple and executed pretty darn awkwardly. Going with that theory, Sonic Adventure 2 very much reads like something that a sixth grader wrote in an attempt to make a darker and more dire storyline with tropes that the age group tends to latch onto. You’ve got the heroes on the run fromt the government, a group of “dark” antiheroes, one of which being the face of a trope, and the other one existing for sex appeal, increased emphasis on destruction, and a far less mystical look at the past, favoring dark backstories and the like when they may be squeezed in.
However, the overall presentation, writing, dialog, and voice acting all improved with it, making the story less laughable, and a bit more delightful in how it assumes that the title is being edgy or somehow clever. When really it is not very well written or explained. I could throw around so many issues about how and why this or that happens, but seeing as how the title begins with Sonic escaping the military by tearing off part of a helicopter, dropping from the sky onto a random road in San Francisco, and then snowboarding down the hilly street, I decided to simply go along for the ride.
But the question about whether or not I can enjoy that ride hinges on how enjoyable it is to play, and I do think that it is a bit more refined than the game that came before it, as one would assume, but boy, did this game get on my nerves as I was aiming to simply play through it. While I will very much say that I find most of the earlier levels to be very much enjoyable and slightly buggy fun, the title reaches a point where the last third of its stage count becomes something very, very frustrating. With confusion, falling into an abyss, and losing all of one’s rings being rather common unless the player adapts to the game’s unrefined nature, something that does not jive well with an attempted difficulty spike for the conclusion. Instead, it just gets frustrating as you are trying to brush off any of the “stories” the game is divided into.
Or to add a bit of a personal information to this review, Sonic Adventure 2 is a game I assumed that everybody could beat with little difficulty, but had a lot of trouble with as a kid, and thought I was just very bad at video games. When really the game is just occasionally broken, and whereas Sonic Adventure seldom demanded much beyond success, Sonic Adventure 2 chooses to judge and grade the player on their performance with a rank. When really the game lacks anything close to the level of polish, control, and reliability for this to be acceptable. On top of that, the game still feels the need to throw verbal tutorials in every stage, and the construction of the missions the player must do in order to get each A rank, which the game very clearly wants, is just lazy in many facets. Keeping the same objectives even if they really do not fit the stage or character that well, which brings me to the three game types.
Each of which is comprised of two characters, who are in themselves divided by two stories, but I’d be surprised if anybody reading really needed that clarification. The Sonic and Shadow sections are the most memorable, striking, and to a certain extent most fun of the three. Involving a character gracefully go through a level, navigating through obstacles, exploiting shortcuts and providing the player with a sense of accomplishment in moving the character through a stage. However, much like nearly every Sonic game I’ve touched in recent years, the level of unreliability is noteworthy, as so much of the time I had next to no confidence that the game would read my actions properly and not decide that I should be punished for trying to homing attack onto a rail, and not be sent into an endless abyss.
There is a level of confidence in one’s movement that is constantly smacked in the face while doing anything from going down a halfpipe, to jumping with a less than stellar camera informing me of where a certain platform or enemy is, to sometimes just trying to work around the rails the game introduced to the series. It is admittedly a collection of little grievances, and the game can certainly be a blast when going through City Escape, Metal Harbor, White Jungle, and Radical Highway, but as difficulty supposedly rises, the stages get far less enjoyable. As Final Rush and Chase both took me several tries, where I restarted as opposed to dying because of just how easy they are to screw up and barely scrape by with an E rank, like a failure. Though I will say that repeated add an incredible amount of enjoyment to the stages, as you know what is coming and have a much appreciated sense of control over the situation.
The Knuckles and Rouge stages involving treasure hunting were among my favorite as a kid, but that was due to how uncertain I was of movement in most of the Sonic stages, and found the slow pace of searching for Master Emerald shards of macguffins to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, it is a pretty major step down from Sonic Adventure, as stages are far bigger, almost annoyingly so, with Mad Space in particular being synonymous with aggravation in my mind. You can no longer go after items in whatever order you please, and must go for number 1, 2, then 3 regardless of where they are located on the map. Meaning you can start with one right next to the main character, but not notice. That, and instead of having a ball of light point you in the right direction, the player must now break down hints that encourage memorization, which does encourage repeated playthroughs, but much like the Sonic stages, quite a few of the later stages just are not a lot of fun. That, and the game can be pretty finicky when it comes to digging up items in regards to its actual location.
Tails and Eggman stages were… actually very solid from what I played. Yes, it is certainly a bit annoying whenever you are hit while in the heaviest character of the bunch with no means of dodging, but the lock on and multiplier based third person shooting is rather fun when you manage to more or less glide through a stage. Racking up combos simply feels good, and while the aiming is not the most ideal, it ultimately works and doesn’t really overstay its welcome. I actually would have liked to see some form of challenges made for these stages as, out of all of the gameplay this felt the most solid.
Unlike a pair of driving minigames that, while annoying in simple concept, are nothing short of aggravating to play on top of being very perplexing conceptually. I mean, who looked at a Sonic game and decided that there should be a driving minigame that has some of the worst driving controls that I have ever seen? I suppose it is easier than Big’s sections, but the fact that somebody decided to add a mission wherein the player must avoid hitting all cars and walls on this ludicrously designed highway makes the fact this entire section come across as something irrefutably vile.
It is the opposite of the Chao raising, which has criminally not been revived since this title, when it is arguably the best thing about it. There is simply an appeal of raising a creature by boosting its stats with animals who in turn give it animalistic features, racing them, teaching them how to play the drums, feeding them fruits, or putting them into battles where they kick their brethren in the bellies, until one of them starts crying. I actively went through many stages several times in order to raise my Chao more, even after finishing the obnoxious finale of the game. Hell, after beating this review I am all but certain I will regularly pop back in just to raise the adorable little creatures who are admittedly time consuming to raise, but in a manner that is only annoying when all of them decide to go to sleep at the same blasted time.
As for how it looks, the models are very notably different from the first Adventure, which were fixated on being far more smooth, while hindering animation in the cutscenes. Now the characters all move more fluidly, but saying their animations are smooth would be a compliment that I would need to say after adding the context of it being a Dreamcast game. However, when going through the stages I found little that looked poor in quality, but I’m more akin to tie that with the HD upgrade the title received than claim my vision was rose tinted.
What is once more not affected by the same standards of age is the title’s score, which I would praise to no end. The tracks are very much diverse, experimental, and downright enjoyable to listen to, with each character having a set of four to six level based tracks that all manage to fit into their theme, and subtly add something to playing as every character. Although, it was some of the only music I ever listened to as a kid, so I may be bias. That does not, however make up for the nothing short of awful cutscene audio mixing, as the music can often drown out voicework, which can itself end as another character’s lines begin. Why this was not fixed in the HD re-release is beyond me, but I’d guess that Sega just threw out the original voice recordings.
In conclusion, Sonic Adventure 2 is a game that I feel I can look at more objectively and see that it really is not very good. It once again has plenty of good elements, but is very sloppily held together. I feel I can say that about every major Sonic title in the past decade, but the fact that there is a twinkle of something that can be amazing inside of the title made me carry on, and is what keeps me coming back to something I really should have tossed away and set ablaze long ago.
…I love this rejected Sonic Boom design, okay?