Marking his 10th anniversary in an already distinguished career, Sonic the Hedgehog makes his triumphant return to the Dreamcast. Joining him are his faithful friends, Tails and Knuckles, for what promises to be another exciting adventure.
It seems Sonic’s wily old adversary Dr. Robotnik (AKA Eggman) has once again harnessed the power of the Chaos emeralds. Blowing half of the moon apart, he threatens the nations of the world: “Fall under my rule or be destroyed.” All seems lost since Sonic has been captured by the military because they think he’s gone bad. Unbeknownst to everyone is the appearance of the mysterious black hedgehog “Shadow.” Shadow possesses the same abilities as Sonic and, along with the she-bat “Rouge,” has allied himself with Robotnik in an all out blitz to rule the world. Can no one stop this insidious gang of hooligans? Of course someone can. It’s Team Sonic!
Of course, this being a Sonic game and moving progressively forward, you can play as the bad guys and defeat Sonic and his cohorts. How dare that rodent stop you, Eggman! With an I.Q. of 270, the world should realize it’s better off under Robotnik’s rule. Recruiting the sinister Shadow was not only a stroke of genius, but also an excellent way to frame that accursed prairie dog. Shadow can match Sonic, move for move, freeing Robotnik up to complete his weapon of mass destruction. He must not fail this time.
And so the die is cast. Play as the good guys or play as the bad guys — either way, get ready to reacquaint yourself with an old friend. Gameplay, Controls, Interface
In the timeline of videogames, few have experienced the success or staying power of_ Sonic_. Spanning 10 years and three systems (Yes, Sonic made it to the ill-fated Saturn) each game has marched forward in terms of graphics and gameplay. Sonic Adventure 2 (SA2) is no exception. Those of you (about 1.5 million) who played the first Sonic Adventure (SA1) will instantly feel right at home with the setup. SA2 is viewed from the third person perspective with the action typically coming straight at you. And with the controls geared to the more simple end of the spectrum, no one should have a problem picking up a controller and jumping into the game.
Unlike SA1, the sequel’s storyline is much more linear. But also unlike the other Sonic games, if you play the one player story mode you can select whether or not you want to be good or evil. It’s essentially different sides of the same coin with each character being matched up against their doppelganger. Both Sonic and Shadow are speedsters, so their play is on the action stages involving fast paced blistering speed. Tails and Dr. Robotnik each drive a type of mech that shoots, so their stages are more geared to destroying enemies and navigating mazes. Knuckles the Echidna and Rouge the Bat are both after the shards of the master emerald, so their stages involve climbing, digging and hunting up the pieces. Again, like I said, the game is more linear and the stage rotation is played by doing one stage as Shadow then Eggman then Rouge (assuming you selected the bad guys). I liked this type of play as it constantly made things new each time it rolled around. There’s even a stage where you drive a racecar in an attempt to catch the President’s limo — completing this stage opens the hidden racing game, which can be accessed at the title screen.
Of course what Sonic title wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t rescue cute and fuzzy animals throughout the game. This leads me to another point. This game has a ton and I do mean a TON of hidden things. Mini games, hidden icons and possibly characters from previous Sonic games. I noticed in the Jail stage that Big the Cat was locked in a cell. I couldn’t figure out how to get him out, but I’m sure there’s a way. To me, in an adventure type game of this caliber, I expect lots of goodies like this and I was not disappointed.
Additionally, it should be noted that there were upgrades of a sort in the game: shoes to make you run faster, boosters for hovering, pick nails for digging into the ground. It kinda gives a slight RPG feel to the game as you will need to find these items in order to progress. Granted, it wasn’t too terribly difficult to locate them, but I felt it gave the game a little more weight. And of course there’s the standard icon: rings, a shield bubble, TVs with free lives in them, fast feet, and the new ring magnet. Finding these items has also evolved — now items are located under the lip of cliffs, buried in the ground or in the walls and hidden darn near everywhere. One of the lasting appeals to the Sonic games is the multiple paths you can take in order to finish a stage. While the more common and obvious paths rewards you with rings, those strange off the beaten paths yield increased danger but the rewards are always worth it.
After completing each stage, you are given a letter grade based on the time taken to complete the level and how many rings have when you finish the stage. Letter grades are ultimately placed there to allow for replay ability. The best grade I could mange was a “B” and I only did that once. Did I mention there are over 150 stages and goals to complete? This game is massive.
On the negative side, while all of Sonic’s stages flow well and come off playing smoothly, Tails’ and especially Knuckles’ stages often have awkward camera angles and objects that obscure your vision. This (of course) always happens at the most inopportune times, resulting in your death. Frankly, I was disappointed in this obviously glaring defect in what I consider to be an upper echelon game. Connected to this was the fact you can pull the triggers and the camera would rotate around the character… sometimes. Typically this will only worsen the already sketchy camera angles, as it will automatically return to its original position when you let go of the trigger. This was the reason why SA2 was not scored in the 90’s.
Levels were designed to take full advantage of the Dreamcast’s power and color schematics. Each level looked vastly different, with great depth and detail. I was in awe the first time I played as Knuckles in the Halloween Nightmare level. SA2 is a game that deserves to be played on the big screen with its awesome look and phenomenal scope.
Lastly, SA2 continues in the vein of Chao breeding. Chao being little creatures you find, nurture and groom in the virtual land that is the Sega VMU. You can also play several Chao games on your VMU while on the road. I personally only played the Chao game a little, as it does not affect the overall game.
SA2 has a two-player mode that allows you to play head to head against the characters’ arch enemy. This includes a racing level that must be unlocked.
In a word: Impressive. Graphics don’t come much better then this on any system right now. And with its 60 frame per second speeds, the screen never lags while keeping all objects looking crystal clear. It’s a true testament to what the Dreamcast can do.
While the game sounds come through the surround sound beautifully, I can’t help but think the voice acting could be improved upon. I’d like to see a Sonic game with the Japanese voices left in, since they put the English translation on the screen anyway. Either way, Tail’s voice is too whiney while Shadow’s voice isn’t quite mean or sinister enough. It’s not bad in relative comparison, but again the voices could be better.
Here is another gem in the Dreamcast library. I beat up the camera angle a little bit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it past those odd situations. In all actuality, SA2 is an excellent purchase title in what will ultimately be a limited number of Dreamcast games released this year. Anyone of any age will enjoy this game if for no other reason than the rocket fast Sonic/Shadow levels and excellent graphics.