Sonic Adventure 2likePEGI3 Developer SEGA Publisher SEGA Genre Action Platform OTHER Release 11th July 2001 2011 marks the 20th Anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. And to celebrate, Retro Recall and Over-Reaction Command bring you the last 10 years of Sonic games, or as many as I can endure before Sonic's official birthday on the 23rd June 2011. See all reviews in this series.

Retro-Recall - In the 90's Sonic was a huge success. After just two games, Sonic became SEGA's figure-head and mascot. He appeared on everything, in SEGA logos, advertising, TV shows, clothing, mugs, the SEGA Mega CD boot screen to name a few. It is surprising then that for a lot of the 90's, Sonic went missing. During the SEGA Saturn era, Sonic disappeared. With only Sonic 3D, a port of the SEGA Megadrive game, Sonic R and Sonic Jam, Jam being a collection of Megadrive Sonic games on the Saturn being the only notable Sonic-related games on the console. So what happened? Well, politics.

The name "Sonic Team" can sometimes be rather misleading. Sonic Team back in the 90's was actually just an alias given to one of the many Research and Development teams within SEGA who just so happened to work on Sonic games. Series producer; Yuji Naka and several notable individuals oversaw a lot of Sonic games, however, 2 out of the 3 (Sonic & Knuckles is counted as Sonic 3) Sonic games on the Megadrive weren't made by the original "Sonic Team", a Research and Development department within SEGA which made the first Sonic the Hedgehog game. Instead, an American development branch of SEGA called SEGA Technical Institute or "STI" for short handled the development of fan favourites Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. An unknown team made Knuckles Chaotix for the ill-fated SEGA 32X and yet another unknown development team in Japan made Sonic CD. As the Saturn's life-span went on, STI wanted to create a new, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog and development began under the name "Sonic Xtreme". The project never saw the light of day, with internal politics between SEGA Japan and SEGA America one of the primary reasons for it's demise. This left Travellers Tails, a 3rd party developer to pick up the pieces with Sonic 3D and Sonic R. Meanwhile, Sonic and the brand along with it started slipping into obscurity.

Do I need to point out the innuendo here?
Until in 1998, SEGA released the Dreamcast. A revolutionary device which brought with it cutting-edge technology and online interaction unlike anything seen before it. Along for the ride was SEGA's mascot, now in 3D and complete with a voice. The game was a triumphant return to form from a fallen pop-culture icon. The game was easily on par with the last instalment of SEGA's bitter rival's own mascot; Mario, even if Mario 64 came out 2 years prior. Sadly, the Dreamcast was in it's dying throws when SEGA launched what was to be, arguably, the last great home console Sonic game to date: Sonic Adventure 2.

The game followed in the footsteps of it's predecessor quite lightly. Many lambasted Sonic Adventure for it's diverse, less Sonic-like gameplay and boring Adventure Field mechanic which players would have to traverse to find new stages or trigger events for stages to open. In Sonic Adventure 2, these creases were ironed out and the game now opted for a more action-orientated experience combined with linear stage progression. Game types such as 'flee from an enraged sentient dustbin', 'do the same stage as Sonic but it's now a race with a dopey AI which waits for you to catch up' and 'what the hell is fishing doing in a Sonic game?' were removed and only Sonic's action-packed stages, Knuckle's Master-Emerald-hunt and E102's Shoot-everything-in-sight game types were retained and split over two story modes. Even the game's visuals were nothing alike, pushing the Dreamcast to what seemed it's limit. The visuals also took a more stylised approach, rather than aiming for the realism which Sonic Adventure tried to portray.

Sure beats Sonic sitting on a deck chair at the start of Sonic Adventure...
For the heroes, the game starts off with Sonic being accused of robbing a museum of a Chaos Emerald, the same one which Tails was given for saving Station Square in Sonic Adventure. Upon jumping out of a helicopter, Sonic snowboards down sloped streets oddly reminiscent of similar roads found in California, where the developers spent some time gaining... 'Inspiration'. Frankly, the idea of Sonic snowboarding down a street was what sold this game to me, hell, inspired me to buy a Dreamcast when it was long-but-dead at retail. Anyway, Sonic soon meets a mysterious black hedgehog who mysteriously looks an awful lot like Sonic called Shadow who, you guessed it, stole the Emerald and everyone thought Sonic did it. After this scene, Sonic gets caught again. Meanwhile, Knuckles has had the Master Emerald stolen from him again and so he decides to once-again break the Emerald into shards, although, in fairness it wasn't his fault the first time that happened. And Tails, being the model young superhero, goes in force with his transforming plane-come-mechanic-death-walker to go break his accused friend out of jail. Blah, blah, blah, prison island gets blown up, blah, blah, big hole in moon, blah blah big space colony in orbit which was built before Eggman (or "Robotnik", as we knew him before this game) yet is in the shape of his face and oddly reminiscent of the Death Egg from Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, blah, bl-- Wait, what?

Oh god, game. Why have you done this to me? Landing on these rails are a nightmare...
From the "dark" side of the story, you start off as Eggman going in and doing what any good evil scientist does. He science's down the door to a top secret military base with his bi-pedal walker of doom and frees a 'feared' experiment, the Ultimate Life form sealed away 50 years ago becua-- Oh, it's just Shadow. Well, okay. At the time, this was Shadow's first game and he was a total bad-ass. He wanted to blow up the earth as revenge for him, his creator and the tragic death of his 'sister', Maria as "the military" stormed the aforementioned space colony; "Ark" and started firing indiscriminately at women, children and soft, fuzzy ultimate life forms. Thankfully, though, evil mad scientists who build giant space lasers weren't on their high-priority target list and so Eggman's grandfather, Gerald Robotnik (uhh... Robotnik? So now Robotnik's Eggman, but his grandfather is Robotnik so... Oh hell with it.) is captured and then summatively executed, for some reason. In the end, a giant lizard thing attaches itself to the front of the space colony, tries to somehow use itself to bring the colony down to earth (despite the lack of gravity to have that make sense) and kill all life on the surface but ultimately fails and the game ends on some cheesy dialogue being drowned out by the music. The end.

Hey is that second moon no-one noticed that just appeared one day cracking?
Yes, the dialogue was crappy and the voice work left a lot to be desired but it got the atmosphere perfect. It wasn't too serious and it wasn't too jokey. Where as Sonic Adventure was so overwhelmingly on the 'serious'-side of the spectrum so much it bogged down the narrative, Sonic Adventure embraces the fact that it's a game about giant anthropomorphic mammals and marsupials in various colours collecting diamond-shaped emeralds twice the size of the human hand, trying to stop a giant space laser which no-one knew about that was hidden inside a second moon which suddenly appeared out of no-where 50 years ago from wiping out all civilisation as we know it. Oh sure, the "Final" story arc of the game was a sudden change to this rule, with a large chunk of narrative shoved in your face with scrolling text and narration handed to the dullest sounding character in the game but hey, it's all worth it for that huge slice of cheese at the end of it all, the game's main theme song, "Live and Learn" performed by Crush 40. Go look it up if you haven't heard it. It's pure awesome.

Gameplay wise, the game is very similar to Sonic Adventure. If you've never played that, then here's a quick brief. As Sonic, you have a few basic moves which everyone should know about. Jump and Spindash, Spindash being the move where Sonic rolls up into a ball and shoots off depending how much you charged the move. When mid-air from a jump, Sonic can perform the homing jump, a move which sends Sonic darting towards an enemy and destroying it. Very useful in the 3D-space where landing on enemies can be rather tricky, it also acts as a means to propel Sonic forward when there are no enemies about, this is called the Jump Dash. Sonic can also perform a small roll to destroy enemies and crates and squeeze through small gaps. Sonic also has his "Light-ring dash" move from Sonic Adventure, only this time the move's more streamlined and no longer requires charging, just stand by a line of rings and press the B button. Shadow also shares these moves, however lacks the "Bounce Ring" ability, which does as it sounds, makes Sonic bounce up-and-down in a ball to reach higher places (used only once in the whole game, if I recall). This game also saw the start of rails in Sonic games, the game had in-game advertisements for "Soap" shoes, a company now long but dead which made footware with special grooves so particularly crazy individuals could 'grind' along metal rails. A mechanic which would later be abused to the point of insanity itself in games to come.

Sonic and Shadow share moves because, basically, the "Hero" and "Dark" stories are just the same 3 game types but with different characters. And as such, there's 'twins' to each character in the game. Sonic to Shadow, Knuckles to Rouge and Tails to Eggman. It should be noted that in the "Dark" side of the story Shadow has a sum total of 4 stages. That's it. The rest of the game is Rouge and Eggman, which there were already too much of in the Hero-side story. But, I digress. Knuckles and Rouge's game type is to run around a vast area looking for pieces of the Master Emerald which have conveniently lodged themselves in enemies, the ground or hidden by boxes. Knuckles and Rouge can climb up walls and when jumping, can glide around. Knuckles can get a very handy upgrade which gives him infinite air underwater (which becomes near-essential by the end of the game) and Rouge gets a "Treasure Scope", which sounds awesome, right? You could possibly see where all the Emerald pieces are at a glance? No. Of course not. Instead, it just makes otherwise invisible (and as we know, if something's invisible, it has no physical presence, thus items which you can't see can't be collected by chance) items visible. It also tints the whole screen green and is very annoying.

And this is all Tails ever does. Sits around and lets the auto-aim take care of everything.
Tails and Eggman walk around in their METAL... GEAR? machines and you basically hold down the B Button and rotate the control stick as fast as you can to lock onto multiple enemies and let go. That's essentially the whole game right there. These segments are quite slow and full of tricky platforming segments not at all helped by the stiff controls and massive turning circle their Wrong Trousers are stuck with. In all fairness, these stages are quite exciting. There's always something flying at you and enemies which corner you down narrow pathways causing you to think fast. The game is also not as unforgiving as traditional Sonic in that getting hit with no rings is not the end of everything. Instead, Tails and Eggman have life bars which can be replenished, after getting hit, by collecting rings. However, collecting rings takes forever to get your health back to full. Both Tails and Eggman can get power ups to help boost said life bar, however for Eggman, that life-bar is nearly essential to getting through later stages. Both also have a "Vulcan Cannon" on the front of their ships which a quick tap of the B Button will fire off. This can also be upgraded to take out steel containers. And finally, both have a 'hover' power up which enables them to glide downwards, or in one particularly awesome stage, hover upwards in low gravity.

Both story modes have an Arcade-style Cart driving mission. This is by far the worst point in the game. The steering is too stiff and you can barely make it around any corner without hitting a wall, but if you try and slow down to make it around a corner, don't lift off the A button for a moment and then return, because chances are you'll enter this odd jelly-like steering mode which the back-end of the car escapes the laws of physics. This mode is good for getting around tight corners but slows you down, even worse, trying to get back into stiff-steering mode is a huge pain as well, basically you just try and do the same thing you did to get into jelly-car mode with limited success. Collecting 30 rings gives you a short speed boost. All around the course you have to drive there are crazy cars and crazy taxis and-- No, not those crazy taxis. These cars purposefully get in your way to slow you down and worse yet, there's a mission in the game in which you must go through the whole mission without hitting walls and cars, the two biggest enemies in these stages AND you're given a rating on how quickly you complete the level.

Worth 180 emblems and 2 whole lifespans? You decide.
So why's rank, the thing which is given to you from E to A at the end of the stage, based off your performance (ultimately, your score) so important? Well, the game doles out "Emblems" for completing stages, there's 180 of them in total. You get some for completing mission for a stage, which each stage has 5 of, you get some for competing in Cart Races which you unlock after beating either Hero or Dark-side story, some for raising Chao to win races and you get emblems for completing all of a character's missions with an A-Rank. What do you get for all that hard work, toil and frustration? A 3D remake of Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog. Well, that's kind of cool I guess. I'm willing to bet that not a great number of people who've played Sonic Adventure 2 have ever played Green Hill Zone, though.

Those unfamiliar to Sonic Adventure may wonder what the above-mentioned "Chao" are. Well, they're little blue creatures which were introduced to the Sonic series in Sonic Adventure, where other than serving a role in the game's story, were also animals which were like an extremely simplified Tamagotchi mini-game. On the Dreamcast, you could transfer your Chao to the VMU or "Visual Display Unit", basically a memory card with a screen, and take the Chao with you. Much like the Pokéwalker that came with Pokémon Heart Gold/Soul Silver, the Chao would grow as it travelled around with you, sometimes finding items that it would take back with it into the "Chao Garden". Ultimately, it comes down to a numbers game. You pet your Chao, feed it, give it toys and stick it in water and watch it struggle back to dry land... What? That's how you teach it to swim. You could also give it Chaos Drives dropped by robotic enemies or animals found around various stages or inside Eggman robots to increase it's attributes. Once your Chao was of good enough stats, you pitted one Chao against another, usually in races. Winning these races bagged you an Emblem. Outside of this, the Chao Garden was pretty much useless.

The homing jump in action
If you're playing the Gamecube version of the game, there are a few small problems with the European release of the game. The game has the option to move into a "50Hz Mode", which was the only mode which could be shown on a fair bit of older television sets in Europe for lots of complicated and ultimately boring reasons. Needless to say, it's doubtful that a lot of testing occurred when this mode was added as there's some pretty fatal flaws. One being that you have the possibility of getting phantom button presses occur if you hold down buttons in the game. This becomes a large problem with Sonic, as sometimes, when jumping; you'll jump-dash unexpectedly and usually into the nearest bottomless pit. Your best bet with the game is to simply stick with the 60Hz option, which, if you have a nice new HDTV or even most CRT TVs made in the 90's-onwards should work no problems at all.

The game was also the first game I really noticed the annoying tendency for SEGA to constantly put conflicting actions on the same button. I touched upon this in my Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) review. See, while most modern controllers have an array of buttons, with the Dreamcast having 4 standard buttons, but only 2 of them really used, with the Y button used to select B-Button commands and X left to do bugger all. So essentially, the whole control scheme boiled down to the Jump button and a generic Action button. Simplistic and workable, until it stops working. See, Sonic has the bounce ability by jumping and pressing B, Sonic also has the ability to jump along a line of rings by pressing B. Do you see where this is going? While you may want to zip across a line of rings infront of you, because you were one pixel away from the area required for the Light Ring Dash, Sonic actually decides to do exactly the opposite of what you wanted and starts plummeting, usually down a bottomless pit. With Tails and Eggman, you can't fire the vulcan cannon while locking on to multiple targets, sometimes leaving you rather exposed, but this is a minor complaint since it does balance out the game with a reward-to-risk factor. This problem of an "Action button" was not resolved until Sonic Unleashed, but even then that game has so many other problems I don't think I should really mention it.

?aedi doog a saw siht thguoht ohW
And while we're still tearing away at the game's flaws, I just want to say that whoever designed, conceptualised and developed the two Knuckles/Rouge space levels; Meteor Heard and Mad Space, I hate you. These are the two levels in the game, right near the end which bring the whole game to a grinding halt. The area to cover is so vast, with many areas looking the same and the clues you can opt for are so vague you may as well just throw a dart at the TV screen, hope the TV breaks and you can stop playing. In-fact, in Rouge's stage, they purposefully try to mess you up by reversing the hint messages, so for instance, if the game says "In a high place" it actually means "find a low place", sometimes even having messages with letters back-to-front. This may otherwise confuse someone playing for the first time, as the only time they mention that the hints are misleading is a single hint character called "Omochao" who annoys the living hell out of you through-out the game. The developers knew everyone hated that little blighter that they would want to avoid him like the plague and for your crime of hating the worst character ever introduced to the Sonic franchise, they pull this bollocks on you. How thoughtful.

Oh hey, Earth's second moon that appeared one day and no-one noticed it that was cracking has now unvield itself to be a space colony which resembles the face of an evil scientist who wasn't even born by the time the colony was built. Wait, what?
In terms of presentation, the game is very impressive. While Sonic Adventure mastered the art of Uncanny Valley, Sonic Adventure 2 really raised the bar. Lip syncing and lip movement was greatly improved and didn't look completely ridiculous in this game, however lip syncing is quite an oddity since the flapping of the mouths fit neither the Japanese or English voice tracks the game provides, but it's not just random lip flapping, it seems like they actually tried to imitate something, most likely dialogue which was later replaced. Either way, point is; the game looks great. Audio is also pretty magnificent, with a soundtrack full of catchy tunes. Few problems with it, though. For one, the soundtrack and the voice tracks in the game weren't normalised at all. So constantly, the audio track completely over-laps the voice track making it somewhat hard to hear what's said, the developers knew this problem and have subtitles on all the time. Another problem is that some of the voice actors do really sub-par work. Knuckles' voice actor for instance sounds like he is filling in a crossword while doing his lines for the most part. Ryan Drummand, who voiced Sonic at the time, however, did an outstanding job and SEGA made a bad, bad decision when they dropped him, even worse when they hired the latest Sonic voice actor in Sonic Colours.

At the end of it all, then. Sonic Adventure 2 was most definitely a fantastic game. Not without it's flaws and with all the warning signs of under-development and budget constraint but it was still a memorable game full of amazing set-pieces, quirky level design and well, fun. Something later Sonic games would neglect and try to cover up the lack of 'fun' with silly gimmicks. But looking back, Sonic Adventure 2 is a game which has aged surprisingly well. It's definitely one of the Dreamcast's greatest games and still a game anyone with a Wii should consider picking up. It's the last best 3D Sonic, that much I can say with certainty.
Doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't have some convoluted storyline involving time travel, so that's a plus.
Apart from some flaws with the "Action" button, the game plays wonderfully. Dull parts aside, obviously.
This game was made 10 years ago. Remember that when looking at it. Yes, it was amazing for it's time.
Amazing. 'Nuff said.
8 Hours
A game of fair length, the game is padded by Knuckles and Rouge's annoying space stages, though. Definitely worth a look-in.