Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sonic Adventure 2 Review

This is my review of Sonic Adventure 2. I was kind of sleep deprived while I was writing it, so excuse me if at any point I showed a complete disregard for proper grammar or sentence structure. I don't expect my grammar to be that bad (not sure about sentence structure), but, still...

Before you start reading the review, you should read my rating system.

5 out of 5 - Fantastic. Loved it. Get it. Now. Good example: Super Mario Galaxy 2

4 out of 5 - Great. A lot of fun, but a few significant flaws may keep it from the godly power of a 5 game. Still, in general, it's a good purchase. Good example: Battlefield: Bad Company 2

3 out of 5 - Ehh. A decent game, but its flaws keep it from greatness. Perhaps it's too short to warrant a purchase for full price (does not apply to downloadable games) or perhaps there are multiple significant negative points to the gameplay, but there will be fun to be had. A good purchase if you find it in the $10-$25 range. Good example: Mega Man X6
2 out of 5 - Mediocre. Several problems keep it from being a good game. It has its good points, but in general they're overshadowed by the flaws of the rest of the game. Might be worth renting (especially since GameFly let's you keep games for as long as you want), but I wouldn't recommend buying it for much more than $10. Good example: Sonic and the Black Knight

1 out of 5 - Garbage. Don't buy it, don't rent it, don't borrow it, don't play it -- I feel sorry for you if you even have to look at it. If you received it as a gift, burn it, break it in half, or smash it with a hammer. If possible, stay far away. Good example: Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22


As I have said many times before, the original Sonic Adventure (a demo of the first stage, to be more precise) for the SEGA Dreamcast was the first game I ever played, at age 3. I absolutely loved it, and for the next few years of my life, Sonic would become an obsession. That said, when I first figured out that Sonic Adventure 2 was coming out I probably (figuratively, of course) crapped my pants. Before I knew it, Sonic's 10th Anniversary was here, and I was at the mall ready to buy Sonic Adventure 2.

Of course, when I was 5, I absolutely loved it. I had to adjust to the changes from the original game, but once I did, I had a lot of fun. Not only considering my good memories of SA2, but also the fact that I still have fun with it today, I would be telling a humungous lie if I said I didn't love Sonic Adventure 2. But alas, as I continue to discover, many people hate SA2. This is what I think about the game.


Before we get right down to business, let's talk visuals. By 2001, the Dreamcast wasn't the biggest graphical powerhouse out there, but there's no denying that Sonic Adventure 2 is a dang fine looking game for when it was released. There are problems, of course. Although it's not quite as odd-looking as the original Sonic Adventure, there are brief moments when a character's facial animation will look strange in cutscenes. There is almost no lip-matching, but besides that occasionally Sonic's or Shadow's eye will go inside his head, which is strange-looking and almost kind of disturbing. Also, their mouths will sometimes move to the side of their faces when not talking. Besides that, Tails's mouth just looks odd when he talks. In addition to that, the backgrounds to all of the levels are 2-D images, but aside from that, the graphics look great.


The music in this game is very good, too. In particular, the game's main theme, Live and Learn is very memorable, and is really just awesome. The only music in the game I absolutely hated was the songs that played in Knuckles's stages. Okay, I'm going to be honest, I don't care for rap music...but this is the cheesiest rapping I've heard in my life. And seriously, why is rap the genre most often associated with Knuckles? I mean, really, why?


Sonic Adventure 2's storyline definitely has a darker tone than any Sonic game before it, and puts a lot of attention on new character Shadow, who vows revenge on the human race for killing his best friend, Maria. Although there's a lot more to it than that, I don't feel like I should have to explain it. I will say, though, that it is the one dark plot in the series that is actually good. Even with that said, the voice acting is pretty bad sometimes. Don't get me wrong, most of them sound okay, and even the bad ones are far better than the 4Kids voice actors. Still, Tails not only sounds like a little kid as in the first game, but his acting is kind of wooden. The same goes for Shadow.

Getting down to where it really matters now, let's talk gameplay. In Sonic Adventure 2, there are six playable characters just like in the original, although Sonic Adventure 2 does things differently. Instead of there being six different character storylines, there are two storylines, each spanning three characters and constantly alternating between them. These storylines are Hero and Dark, and as you can probably tell by the name, the Hero storyline has you playing as the good guys, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, and the Dark storyline has you playing as the bad guys, including two new characters, Shadow and Rouge. Eggman also makes his first playable appearance in a non-spinoff game.

Like Sonic Adventure, the game makes use of multiple play styles. Don't worry, you won't be running from a killer robot at an incredibly slow pace or...*ughhhh* In fact, in SA2's story mode, Amy is a supporting character like she should have been in the first place and Big only makes for a few funny cameos now and then. Actually, Sonic Adventure 2 only has three play styles, each belonging to one character from each storyline. These play styles are series-famous speedy platforming with Sonic and Shadow, E-102 Gamma-style mech shooting with Eggman and Tails and treasure hunting with Knuckles and Rouge. There are 30 stages in the game and these three pairs of characters each get 10 stages. This means that you'll spend 1/3 of the game doing what Sonic and Shadow do best, 1/3 shooting enemy robots down, and 1/3 hunting for pieces of the Master Emerald. This is probably the most controversial aspect of the game, and for reasons I can understand.

When people play a Sonic game, they expect to run at the speed of sound for the entire game. Needless to say, a lot of people didn't really appreciate the alternate play styles of Sonic Adventure, not only because they were out of place in a Sonic game, but also because many thought that they weren't very good to begin with. I personally didn't mind the alternate play styles (save Big, gosh I hate him), most likely because where SA1 was the first game I ever played, I had obviously had no experience with the franchise, and besides that, I was very young. Thus, multiple playable characters probably became kind of what I expected from Sonic.

So, are the alternate play styles any better in Sonic Adventure 2? I personally don't mind them at all, but if you hated them in the first game, you'll hate them in here -- in fact, you'll probably hate them even more. In addition to what I'll point out as I review the mech shooting and treasure hunting gameplay, as I said before, this game doesn't have a separate storyline for each character. This means that you can't just play all of Sonic's and Shadow's stages at once and then move on to the next character. The two storylines constantly alternate between characters, which will definitely be an annoyance if you don't like the other play styles.

--Sonic and Shadow: Speeding--

The basic gameplay of Sonic in the original Sonic Adventure is mostly the same, but at the same time it feels better. This is partly because the light dash move has actually been made convenient to use. You don't have to charge it up any more. Instead, just tap the B Button once while you're near a trail of rings and watch Sonic and Shadow fly. It may seem like a minor point, but it is a very welcome change. The stages are smaller and have fewer diverging pathways than the original Sonic Adventure, giving Sonic Adventure 2 more of a focus on speed than exploration. Regardless, Sonic and Shadow's stages are just as much fun as ever. There are only two real problems: the camera and the controls. The camera will occasionally get stuck on walls, and when Sonic and Shadow start going very fast, pushing the control stick to the left or right will make them fly that way. These are minor issues, however, and don't detract much from the experience.

--Knuckles and Rouge: Treasure Hunting--

Knuckles's emerald-hunting gameplay is pretty much the same as the original, with some notable differences. The most noticeable is that the stages are much larger now. Though I personally appreciate this, I know that this makes it more frustrating for a lot of people. Another change is that instead of Tikal's pink light balls leading you to the emerald pieces, you get hints from hint monitors. You can have three hints for a single emerald piece, with the hints getting less cryptic each time. The hints you get can be viewed again when you pause the game. The fewer hints you use, the more points you get when you find the emerald. The main problem that I have with the treasure hunting levels is the camera. The camera is mainly a problem when it won't move and you need to look at an emerald piece to make sure you're going in the right direction to get it. Aside from that, I can see why a lot of people hate the treasure hunting levels, but I really enjoy them, personally.

--Tails and Eggman: Mech Shooting--

As Tails and Eggman you control a mechanical walker with lock-on missiles and a vulcan cannon and shoot down enemies and obstacles as you make your way to the end of the level. They're similar to E-102 Gamma in Sonic Adventure 1, but without a time limit and the stages are longer. The main thing I really like about the mech levels is that you can lock-on to several enemies at once and annihilate an entire group in one sweep. That wouldn't be very special by itself, but when you do that, you get a crapload of bonus points. I'm not one to obsess over scores, but there is honestly just something very satisfying about seeing a word like "Cool!" or "Radical!" go across the screen before you get a bunch of points after obliterating a group of enemy robots. The mechs do control more stiffly than the other characters, and the concept really is odd. Still, I thoroughly enjoy the levels if only for the fact that I can kill a bunch of enemies at once AND get a bunch of points for it.
----------Playtime/Replay Value/Multiplayer------

Let's be honest: Sonic Adventure 2 is very short. It can be easily beaten in two days without much effort. Thankfully, after you complete the game, there's still a ton left to do. There are a total of 180 emblems to collect, and you get most of them by doing extra missions in the stages, such as collecting rings, finding a lost chao, completing a stage in a certain amount of time or completing a stage at a higher difficulty. The ultimate reward for getting all 180 emblems is a 3-D remake of Green Hill Zone, the first level in the original Sonic the Hedgehog game.

In addition to that, the Chao Garden returns from the original Sonic Adventure. If you don't know what a Chao is, it's an odd (but cute) virtual pet. You can give it animals to and "Chaos Drives" change its appearance and stats, and in accordance with the game's storylines, a Chao's appearance will also change depending on whether you raise it with a hero character or a dark character. The Chao can be put into "kindergarten" to learn new tricks, and can be entered into races to unlock rewards. I find the Chao Garden highly addicting, but if you don't like it, it's completely optional.

The game does feature multiplayer modes, although in the Dreamcast version, it's kind of weak. The most interesting multiplayer mode is probably the kart racing mode, based on two semi-decent kart stages in the story mode. In it, you pick a character and race against your friend or the AI and...that's it, really. There's not much to it. There are only three courses that all look the same, and none of the characters even have any special abilities. In fact, about the only extra ability you have is a small boost every time you get 20 rings.

The main multiplayer mode has you pick one of the three play styles and play against your friend in one of three stages. Racing mode is pretty self explanatory: you just race your friend. In shooting mode, you both play as one of the mech characters and try to deplete each others health. In hunting mode, whoever finds more emerald pieces wins. Probably the best thing about the multiplayer is that you can unlock other characters for it, but other than that, it's nothing special, really.


And here we are at the end of the review. As a summary for those of you who are too lazy to read the whole thing, the graphics are good for the most part and the music is great too aside from the themes of Knuckles's levels. As for the story, it's the one time a dark plot has been pulled off well in the Sonic series, despite some of the voice acting being a bit wooden. Sonic and Shadow are just as fast and fun as the gameplay of the Sonic series has ever been, I enjoy treasure hunting even though I can see why a lot of people hate it, and the mech levels are a lot of fun if only because it's satisfying to get a bunch of bonus points for locking on to an entire group of enemies and then annihilating them all in one sweep. I give Sonic Adventure 2 a 4 out of 5. It's not a perfect game by any means, and I can really understand why many people hate it, but it will always be one of my favorite Sonic games.

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