Video Game Review: Sonic Adventure (PSN)

SEGA

Bad concept, good game.

     Watching a painful cut scene between Dr. Eggman and Sonic the Hedgehog midway through this game, I imagine my childhood with SEGA's nefarious mascot who will just not die. The Sonic franchise will not die, I mean, my childhood has been quite resilient as a matter of fact, despite my efforts. After losing my complete shit in excitement after playing Sonic Adventure for the first time on the Sega Dreamcast in a Best Buy back in 1999, I jumped at the chance to play it the moment Sonic Adventure was ported to the Nintendo Gamecube in Sonic Adventure DX guise, and boy was it incredible.

     The cut scene finishes and I am snapped back to reality: this is not the video game that I remember playing.


That's Because It Isn't

     Originally released for the dearly departed Sega Dreamcast in 1998, Sonic Adventure marked Sonic the Hedgehog's return to video games since the Sega Saturn. Aspiring to produce a technically advanced Sonic game, Sonic Adventure producer Yuji Naka worked closely with the Dreamcast development team, a move that worked as well to achieve his goal as the previous sentence did to alienate half of my audience.

SEGA, Evan-Amos
Much like how the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 alienated the
shit out of the Sega Saturn itself.

     Sonic Adventure became a success! That is until the Dreamcast ceased production some three years later, prompting SEGA to port their brainchild over to the Nintendo GameCube and PC in 2003, and to the Xbox Live Arcade and Play Station Network in 2010. I had the pleasure of playing the Play Station Network version, a carbon copy of the Game Cube iteration, complete with the the updated character models and additional mini-game content. To keep this history lesson brief I will tell you that the Sega Dreamcast version is the one that you want. Perhaps testament to the console's technical prowess for the time, Sonic Adventure pulls off more impressive visuals on the decade old console than on it's HD brethren. Don't believe me? See for yourself.


     For those of you who are unable to watch the video above, I've gone through and pulled some screen captures. The Dreamcast version is on the left while the Gamecube and HD ports are on the right.

Diniz Games

Diniz Games

     Of course if you do not own a Dreamcast, the ported versions of Sonic Adventure will more than suffice. Considering that you can nab a Sega Dreamcast for less money than you can a plate of ribs with two sides and complementary rolls from Chilli's right now, though, you'll get a lot for your money.

Good Game
 
     Here is why Sonic Adventure is worth purchasing an entire console for: this is a legitimate, balls-to-the-wall, AAA title. Don't let the fact that this game is available on PSN fool you, Sonic Adventure is much more than a one trick pony. In fact, it is quite the slutty pony, with a total of six different characters to play as through the game's story, a mission select mode, a boss mode, and a Tamagotchi like mode named the Chao Garden. Some of that AAA flair has worn off over the decade since the game's release, but you won't feel cheated once you're playing as Sonic the Hedgehog, an anthropomorphic hedgehog who must traverse terrain comprising of fast loops and spikes across well designed platforms to save his friends, and the world, from the evil Dr. Eggman.

SEGA


     Sonic's levels play with the least amount of hiccups in the smoothness department, as they should, and are the most exciting. Running around at breakneck speed across a skyscrapers and flying airships is legitimate fun that, admittedly, I did not expect to find my second time around playing this game. As mentioned, there are other characters to play as like Knuckles the Echidna who participates in treasure hunting missions and Amy, who wields a giant hammer to protect herself from Creep the Creepbot in a series of cat and mouse missions. Or if that's too much fun for you, you can play as Big the Cat in poorly thought out fishing missions that are seemingly included for variety's sake only, but I will touch more on that later.

    Whilst you're enjoying running around at the speed of sound, you will notice that Sonic Adventure's storytelling is pretty bad by today's standards. The story itself is surprisingly compelling and revolves around an angry water god aptly named Chaos seeking vengeance for a war raged eons ago. Unfortunately, the title's E rating severely sabotages the impact this lore rich and grim story should have, through gratuitous use of 90s kid spunk and badly edited scenes taking its place. Oh well, at least there's not-so-subtle hints that this Chaos monster drowns the entire population of a populous city in it's warpath. That's pretty neat.

SEGA
That'll be this guy seen here cleverly disguised as a building.

     I understand that the intended audience for this video game were children, and when I was a kid I loved every part of it. Alas, now that I am an adult (I know that I am an adult because the last time I was in a ball-pit I donned a black mask and a spiked collar), I see a wealth of potentially awesome story telling to be had that just never happens in Sonic's twenty hour adventure. Really, though, these unintentionally hilarious cut scenes lends the game a nice helping of charm, but this does brings me onto Sonic Adventure's downsides and, unfortunately, there are quite a few.

Bad Concept (And A Bunch of Other Bad Stuff)

     One problem that never stops rearing it's ugly head are the horrible camera controls. In an interview with Edge Magazine, Yuji Naka stated that they designed the camera to point in the direction they wanted the player to go. Sounds innocent enough, but in execution this design direction backfires. The camera's position will automatically change on a whim and there is nothing you can do about it. When you want to backtrack to look for hidden gems, too bad buddy, you're walking blind. You can use the shoulder buttons all you want in hopes to wrestle camera control from the game's engine, but the moment pressure is relieved from those shoulder buttons, the camera snaps back to where it was programmed to look. Be prepared to call your TV names you wouldn't even use on children on Xbox Live.

     Even in the normal story missions, this antagonistic camera has the ability to absolutely ruin the fast paced gameplay that one wants in their Sonic games. On top of this. you will have to contend with your playable characters suffering from either everything is ice syndrome, overwhelming oversteer that occurs when trying to maneuver your playable character in the world resulting in twitchy movements, or molasses syndrome, the exact opposite of the former. I do not need to explain to you how not having reliable to control can completely murders gameplay.

     And the negatives don't stop there. Yes, there is a welcomed variety of gameplay to be had in Sonic Adventure, but even children will notice that each level is reused for every character. Sure, if you play the Speed Highway level as Sonic and later as Tails, you'll notice some slight changes but the feeling that you are replaying the same levels with each character never leaves as that is exactly what you will be doing.

Let's Not Forget Big the Cat

     Oh boy.

     To this day I cannot think of a single legitimate reason as to why Big the Cat was included in Sonic Adventure as a playable character. His fishing missions are not fun and lack anything resembling a tutorial, leaving you prodding in the proverbial dark with your fishing rod, if you will, and his entire existence feels like an afterthought. One could argue that his inclusion provides comic relief but just who is meant to find anything about this guy funny?


SEGA
"HA HAAA! He's fat and talks slowly." - No one. 

     With some of the most difficult missions in the game, the worst part is that once you do figure out the bad fishing controls through the internet, you have to play through each excruciatingly slow mission to complete the game and reach the final boss. I am a real person, by the way, I cannot imagine children trying to figure his shit out and proceeding to think this is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

And Then This Happens...

     Remember the badass Chaos from the intro movie? Great. Well let me save you from crushing disappointment that you'll face after twenty hours of gameplay and reaching the final boss. Dearest reader, meet Chaos from the boss level.

SEGA
This sock puppet was just as disappointing when I was 12.

     What the bloody hell happened, Sonic Team?

Worth Buying?

     And you see, that's the funny thing about Sonic Adventure. While it has numerous issues, never mind two major control faults that present themselves throughout the gameplay, it can be overlooked due to the fast paced, platforming fun and AAA presentation (circa 1999). The concept is weird as all hell and reaches so bad it's good status very quickly. Combined with the decidedly dark story, not to mention the over-zealous voice acting through poorly animated, colorful characters, these faults become delicate icing on this charming cake of a video game that make you place your hands on your hips, sighing "Oh that crazy Sonic Adventure and it's zany and unpredictable ways!"

     If you're a Sonic fan, go and buy this game and have a good time. If you are new to the franchise, try not to let the poor controls put you off, but I highly recommend starting with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on the Sega Genesis first. That way, you can try Sonic the Hedgehog at it's best before you give this polarizing game a go. For some, Sonic Adventure will never be more than a poop sandwich, but for me and others that are complete suckers for nostalgia, its a mighty fine poop sandwich.

Disclaimer:

     Critics and fans have been questioning whether or not the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has staying power since over a decade ago, the conversation is far from dead. In fact, rumors of Sonic's end flourish even today. With that in mind, let this be the first and last time I dare to add my two cents into the sticky internet pot of whether or not Sonic the Hedgehog needs to go away for good.

     Listen, The Internet, can I call you The Internet? Remember the whole Y2K debacle where sentient machines were meant to rise up and entrap humanity in an alternate, virtual world simulating what once was as we lie as batteries in a true, wasted world? Remember when it did not happen? Fantastic! Now let's accept that bad video games happen and move on with our lives.

Comments

  1. Good Job Man! I can tell you put a lot of time into this and I think you have a very high potential!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why thank you very much, any and all feedback is appreciated! Also, tell your friends! :D

      Delete
  2. I do agree with some things you have said but the game is old and they didn't have good pixels yet but was still a fun game but then again I am just another sonic fan so which is why I like it but I do recommend others to start with sonic the hedgehog 3 as well before this so you are right on the money with your skill in what you do here, and also keep in mind in doing older game reviews try not to point out graphics for that came in a later period of time than when the game was made but other than that you sir have one very unique skill and don’t stop using it keep up the great reviews they are great.

    Sincerely: WTF__MATE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, well I am quite glad that you've enjoyed this review. Picky is sort of my style, though :P

      Delete
  3. scratch the graphic part I couldn't find where I though I saw it or use it as more references

    Sincerely WTF__MATE

    ReplyDelete

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