Sunday, November 20, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Review

It's pretty interesting to see just how far Naughty Dog has come. They made their big break with Crash Bandicoot in 1996, which was the first of the PlayStation's signature platformers. It was a big hit and was followed up by two superior sequels that actually still hold up pretty well. Then the PS2 came along and with it came the Jak series. Though I don't have as much personal experience with that series as I do their other main franchises, I can tell you that it did show a really big progression from Crash; both of the ones I played were far bigger and more ambitious than any games in their former series.

And then we have Uncharted, Naughty Dog's big series for the PS3. Unlike its previous series it doesn't take on a cartoonish tone, focusing on a more realistic adventure movie feel and featuring gameplay that could be most accurately described as "Gears of Tomb Raider". The first one, subtitled "Drake's Fortune", was certainly a very good game, but it suffered from its share of problems - namely, a massive focus on constant shootouts that, while fun, would get repetitive when there wasn't any platforming or puzzles to break the pace as well as an unrefined melee system. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, however, got rid of these problems and became arguably the best game for PS3...that is, until now. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is out now, and good Lord, is it amazing! Let's take a look at what joys it has in store for us.


I'll start with what makes Uncharted 3 so awesome with its visuals. Yes, I fully understand that visuals aren't what makes a game good or bad, but I believe special mention has to be given here: the graphics are amazing. The environments are all absolutely beautiful and detailed and the setpieces are fantastic, and credit needs to be given for the fact that Uncharted 3 is one of the few games that features very realistic-looking human characters without ever setting one foot into the uncanny valley. And you can't talk about the visuals without talking about the score, and Uncharted 3 does a fantastic job here as well. Everything fits and sounds awesome; not much else to say, really.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the story. Story was one of the main strengths of the first two games, and Uncharted 3 is by no means an exception. Just like in past games, all of the main characters are great, and you love to hate the villains. The story itself is really intriguing as well, and, much like games such as Alan Wake or the Metal Gear Solid series, Uncharted attempts to create the feeling of watching a movie in its cutscenes; in particular, a really fun adventure movie, and it does so really well. Of course, the movie feeling extends beyond the story. Uncharted captures the feeling of not only watching, but PLAYING a movie better than any other series I've ever played.

Which brings me to the gameplay, and if you've played an Uncharted game before, you should already know what to expect. In case you haven't, though, I'll explain it. There are four main elements to Uncharted's gameplay: third-person shooting, hand-to-hand combat, platforming and puzzle solving. Third-person shooting could best be compared to Gears of War...except without massive amounts of gory Locust chunks flying everywhere. You've got a variety of guns and weapons at your disposal, and you will always be carrying a side arm as well as a main gun. And if you want to avoid getting destroyed, you'll have to make heavy use of cover as well. It's everything you would expect from this type of gameplay and it's a lot of fun.

Then there's the hand-to-hand combat. Now, admittedly, I don't remember much about Uncharted 2's hand-to-hand combat system; it could have been exactly the same or it could have been a bit different. Regardless, the hand-to-hand system in Uncharted 3 works really well. It's almost baffling how the developers were able to make a combat system focused on mashing the square button with the occasional quick time event so much fun and often even exciting. Basically, your attacks are - as I just said - done with the square button, although you can push an enemy in any direction using the circle button. During battle, you will occasionally have to press the triangle button to counterattack or repeatedly press circle to break out of an opponent's grip. I suppose what makes it so great is how intense it is. You'll often be using melee to pick off a single opponent in the middle of a massive gunfight, and you can push them up against the wall or other objects to trap them or even use the environment and the objects around you to your advantage. It's also worth mentioning that you can pull off stealth kills when hiding in cover or by simply sneaking up on unsuspecting enemies. It's pretty dang satisfying.

Now, as for the platforming, maybe my memory of Uncharted 1 and 2 is a bit fuzzy, but I noticed that this element is given a lot more emphasis than in the other two games. Even in Uncharted 2, while it didn't suffer at all for it, combat was what mostly stole the show, and I appreciate the effort taken to balance things out more in 3. Basically, platforming in Uncharted has a similar focus to that of the Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider series: climbing and acrobatics, or parkour if you prefer. You'll be doing quite a bit of climbing to get around in this game as well as stuff like swinging off of poles. It's pretty simple; all you'll be using for it are the control stick and jump button. Of course, you will occasionally have to take timing and not falling to your death into account. It's simple, but it's fun and it works. And it looks really cool. Finally, we have the puzzle solving. Straight-up puzzle solving has always been the least-emphasized element of the series, but regardless, the puzzles in this game are probably the most intelligent and interesting in the series thus far. They're fun to solve and they further help to keep things from getting tiring.

The biggest thing that Uncharted 3 does better than 2 is the action. The other Uncharted games featured a lot of action, of course, but in Uncharted 3, there is a ridiculous amount of it all the time, especially in the second half of the game, and it's pretty over the top. It's a game that, in addition to its fantastic graphics, storyline and gameplay, always feels incredibly exciting. This brings me back to the whole "playing a movie" thing; honestly, I can't tell you if this really helps that feeling or if it's the other way around, but I can tell you it's freaking awesome.

There's one other aspect of Uncharted 3 that deserves to be covered: the multiplayer. Now, Uncharted 2 featured multiplayer, but I never actually played it, so I can't compare. Regardless, to access the multiplayer of Uncharted 3, you will have to use a pass code. If you buy it new, the code will come on the back of the manual, but unfortunately, if you bought it secondhand, you'll have to pay a little extra. Of course, since you're getting the game for a lower price anyway in that case, I suppose that it matters little. Naughty Dog said it was because they didn't have enough money to do otherwise, so eh, I can live with it.

And honestly, I'd say it's worth paying an extra ten bucks for anyway. Online multiplayer is pretty much what you'd expect from the game, and it's a lot more fun than you would think. In fact, the multiplayer of Uncharted 3 is pretty darn great and will probably keep you playing for quite a while after you beat the campaign. It's mostly based around gunning down other players' avatars, and the Uncharted gameplay translates very well to a multiplayer experience. You have your usual team deathmatches and battle royales, but if you ever get tired of that, you have games in which both teams compete to see which can collect the most idols (it's better than it sounds) as well as "Team Objective", where the objective constantly switches between rounds. One interesting thing about the multiplayer is that unlike games like Battlefield and CoD that give you preset loadouts to choose from, you get to customize your own loadouts. This includes buyable upgrades for your weapons as well as some extra abilities. Overall, Uncharted 3's multiplayer is tons of fun, addictive and will keep you coming back for more.

When it comes to flaws, well...Uncharted 3 is a game that I can seriously say doesn't have anything legitimately wrong with it. I don't believe that a game can be truly perfect, but I honestly can't think of anything I had a problem with in Uncharted 3. It's polished, the graphics are amazing, it runs smoothly, the gameplay is fantastic...I really just can't think of any flaws here!


Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is a unequivicolly amazing game. It's easily the best game in the series and probably the best game you could be playing on PS3. Just about every aspect of it is borderline perfect, and no other games offer quite the same experience that Uncharted 3 does. If you're a PS3 owner or planning on getting a PS3, then this game is an absolute must-have.

Score: 10/10

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sonic Generations Review

Kind of hard to believe it's already been twenty years since the original Sonic the Hedgehog graced the SEGA Genesis. I won't trouble you with a history lesson since I'm sure we all have at least some sort of vague idea as to who he is. Sonic's his name, speed's his game. He's the fastest thing alive, the cool blue dude with attitude, and whatever other cheesy nickname you could come up with. Yep, we have a lot of memories, Sonic and I. Since I first came along for the ride, we've ran down a building at a 90 degree angle in Speed Highway, plowed through cars in City Escape, taken a joyride through Green Hill, admired the chemical waterfalls in Chemical Plant, narrowly avoided falling to our certain deaths in Sky Sanctuary, defeated Eggman numerous times as well as a few god monsters... (sigh) And who could forget the time that Sonic started sucking?

Yes, it's a tale told in the introduction of ma
ny a Sonic review and I'm sure it's one we'd all like to forget, but Sonic's dark ages have only ended recently and I believe that they may have influenced the development of the game that we're discussing today. In 2001 the Dreamcast died, and from there, Sonic devolved into either a depressing tragedy or a hilarious joke depending on who you ask. 2003's Sonic Heroes was the picture of mediocrity and 2005's Shadow the Hedgehog was an abomination to game design. And following that, we have 2006's "Sonic the Hedgehog", which had potential, but was rushed to the point that it was completely unfinished and Sonic and friends ran slow as molasses. It completely destroyed Sonic's reputation for good, and 2008's Sonic Unleashed, though a massive improvement, was still too flawed to do anything to restore it. Not all was awful during this time, however. It was around this time that DIMPS made the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush series for Nintendo's handhelds (and they would later go on to make Sonic 4: Episode I), but they were unfortunately forgotten under the torrent of crappy 3-D console titles.

But then one day at Sonic Team, someone had an epiphany: "Hey! Maybe people would like Sonic again if we mad
e a game that was awesome!" And that's just what they did. 2008's Sonic Unleashed, while bogged down by a stretchy-armed abomination known as the Werehog, actually did reinvent the 3-D Sonic gameplay in its other half, and it was pretty well received. Taking that framework and making it so that it focused more on platforming and exploration, Sonic Team created 2010's Sonic Colors, a brilliant game that combined clever level design with a fun power-up gimmick, and with that, things started looking up.

The next year (which happens to be this year! Gasp!) would be Sonic's 20th anniversary, and with it came, as expected, a new Sonic game. This game is known as Sonic Generations, and it is themed on Sonic's twenty-year-long history. As such, you not only get to play as the taller, leaner, green-eyed Sonic we see today, but also the pudgier, cuter Sonic from the Genesis days and both of them have their own styles of play. Also, in keeping with the theme, you will be visiting locales based on those from Sonic's previous adventures with level designs made to fit both play styles. Well, I've finally gotten to play it, and while the title of "first good console Sonic game since the Dreamcast days" has already been taken, Sonic Generations is the first Sonic game since Sonic 3 & Knuckles that I can legitimately say is a masterpiece. Let's find out why.


Well, where to begin? I suppose I'll start with aesthetics, since, you know, that's the first thing you're going to notice when you start up the game, and well...dang. The graphics of Sonic Generations look fantastic. The setpieces are amazing and the environments look absolutely fantastic. Sonic Generations does an amazing job of breathing new life into levels from games past. Of course, the visual highlight of the game is Planet Wisp, just as it was in the game it comes from. No exaggeration - it looks like it came straight out of James Cameron's Avatar. (And before you tell me that movie is incredibly overrated, well, I agree with you, but it certainly did look awesome.) The graphics aren't perfect, however. There are some noticeable framerate drops here and there, most unfortunately in the Goin' Down section of Speed Highway. I can't help but be just a bit disappointed that the game doesn't run smoothly during one of Sonic Adventure's most iconic moments.

Of course, that's not even getting into the soundtrack. In keeping with the theme, the music for all of the levels and bosses are remixes of their previous themes, and the styles are different for both Sonics. The music for Classic Sonic's levels are usually more techno inspired, while the music for Modern Sonic's levels is based moreso around rock. Regardless, I love all of the remixes present in the game. Some of my personal favorites are Modern Crisis City, Classic Speed Highway and Modern City Escape. One thing I also thought was really cool was that you can actually unlock tons of other music tracks from the series and play them over any level or boss you want. This is a series that's full of awesome music, so a feature like this is very nice to have.

The story of Sonic Generations is emphasized much less than most other modern Sonic games, but eh, I don't think it suffers because of it. While enjoying his birthday party, a giant vortex opens up in the sky and sucks in all of his friends and leaves Sonic in a white void with an entrance to a familiar location: Green Hill Zone. Sonic rescues Tails and discovers that a monster called the Time Eater is tearing holes in time and space, and must team up with his pudgy past self to restore the world and defeat the Time Eater. It's...quite a bit more enjoyable than it sounds. The writing style is different from how it was in Colors, focusing less on jokes, but the script is still good and has its funny moments. We also get to hear more of the new voice cast this time around since this game has more characters, and most of them are pretty great. In short, good stuff.

But with all that said, the most important aspect of any game is its gameplay, and boy, does Generations deliver here. As I mentioned before, in Sonic Generations you will be controlling the tall, green-eyed Modern Sonic and the pudgy, black-eyed Classic Sonic, and they both have different styles of play. However, rather than one of them being a crappy God of War ripoff, both are familiar styles of Sonic gameplay. But before we talk about the main gameplay, I think I should talk about the level list. As a celebration of twenty years of Sonic, the levels are all based off of the most iconic levels from Sonic games past and they are separated into three eras. From the classic era, we have Green Hill Zone (from Sonic 1), Chemical Plant Zone (from Sonic 2) and Sky Sanctuary Zone (from Sonic 3 & Knuckles). From the Adventure era, we have Speed Highway (from Sonic Adventure), City Escape (from Sonic Adventure 2), and Seaside Hill (from Sonic Heroes). Finally, from the modern era, we have Crisis City (from Sonic 06), Rooftop Run a.k.a. Spagonia (from Sonic Unleashed) and Planet Wisp (from Sonic Colors). It kind of amazes me how accurately they captured the feel of the original incarnations of these levels. Rather than being content just copying aesthetics, Sonic Team looked at everything: gimmicks, the enemies you faced in the level, and other elements that made these stages awesome.

Better yet is that, in regards to the level gimmicks, they've put a lot of creative and fun twists on them and even added new ones that make sense in the context of the levels. Modern Sonic's "road-boarding" section from the original City Escape returns, while the more early 90's-oriented Classic Sonic receives a skateboard that serves a similar purpose. Also, remember the giant truck at the end of the level that was just there for the Rule of Cool's sake in SA2? Well, now it's a legitimate hazard. In Modern Sonic's level, it pulls out sawblades that you will have to avoid, while in Classic Sonic's level, you will have to move fast as it tries to destroy paths you can take through the level. Crisis City is special if only for the fact that it's fun to play this time around, but now it makes use of Modern Sonic's stomp move by having you use it to push down rocks carried by lava geysers. It also recreates the infamous tornado sequence in both the Modern and Classic levels; in Modern Sonic's level, it's much the same except for the fact that you're running towards it rather than away from it as it throws things at you (and thus it's not as horrendously cheap), and in Classic Sonic's level it makes platforming more difficult by trying to pull you in. For Planet Wisp, they actually brought the color powers back from Sonic Colors; Modern Sonic gets the Orange Rocket power and Classic Sonic gets Pink Spikes, and they're both put to the same uses that they were before. The Spikes power is also used to operate and ride some of the machinery, and Modern Sonic can now hitch a ride on some of Planet Wisp's minecarts. It's things like this alongside the new level designs that help the levels feel new at the same time that they feel familiar, as well as adding more of a feeling of diversity to the levels.

With all that out of the way, I can talk about how both Sonics play, starting with Classic. Yes, Classic Sonic is back in Generations, and he plays much like you remember him. True to the color of his eyes, as Classic Sonic you will run through 2.5D environments propelled by momentum physics. Sonic Team got the classic physics down pretty well; movement feels great and Sonic's jumps carry momentum just as they did in the classics, and it's actually necessary to make use of this to reach some paths in the levels. Rebound height when jumping off of enemies is now fixed, but it's used as sort of a double jump to reach different areas, which actually works really well. In terms of physics, the only thing I think they could really have done a lot better is the rolling. Unfortunately, it hasn't improved much since the first demo. It still slows you down more than anything. This isn't a big flaw by any means; rolling really isn't necessary for anything, and it would be hard to care anyway considering how powerful the spin-dash is in this game. It's just something I think they could have worked on to make the game feel know...classic.

While Classic Sonic is slower than his modern self, don't think that there won't be enough speed. However, just like in the classics, you will have to play skillfully to maintain this sense of speed. Of course, there were two more aspects to the Genesis games aside from momentum physics and speed as a reward for skill: platforming and multi-teired level design that encourages exploration, and Classic Sonic's gameplay excels here as well. There's a lot of platforming here, and the levels are multi-layered with tons of different paths to take. One interesting thing is that the game makes use of the 2.5D perspective by making it so that the levels are not only layered from top to bottom, but also from left to right. Depending on where you are, there will be paths in the foreground or background, and often you will have to find a spring to take you to them. The game also makes use of the 2.5D perspective to provide more dynamic camera angles at certain points. On the whole, Classic Sonic's levels are very well-designed and a ton of fun to play.

But while the Classic Sonic levels are fantastic, it's Modern Sonic who really steals the show here. For those of you unfamilar with this gameplay style, the fundamental elements are that Sonic is given a boost move to help him go faster and perspectives constantly switch between 2.5D and 3D. Modern Sonic's levels borrow elements from both Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors. From Unleashed it borrows the amazing sense of speed and reflex-testing segments while from Colors it borrows the platforming and exploration. While Unleashed focused mostly on the speed and Colors focused mostly on the platforming and exploration, Modern Sonic's levels in Generations play pretty much like the perfect mix of all three elements. In addition to the awesome sense of speed, there's a lot of platforming to speak of and plenty of ways to get through each level. However, that's not the only thing that the Modern Sonic levels have improved on.

Easily the best thing about Modern Sonic's levels in Generations is how much Sonic Team has improved on the 3D gameplay since Unleashed and Colors. Some fans did actually complain that the 3D sections of Unleashed were confined and too focused around testing reflexes rather than platforming, whereas Colors severely downplayed 3D sections and what 3D there was was somewhat underwhelming and still lacked good platforming. Now, personally, I thought this worked for Unleashed, and while I didn't necessarily find anything wrong with the 3D in Sonic Colors, I will admit that it could have benefitted from better 3D sections and heavier use of them. Sonic Generations completely obliterates this flaw. Following Chemical Plant, most levels give much more emphasis to 3D gameplay. Sky Sanctuary, Seaside Hill and Crisis City are probably the best examples of how much the 3-D has improved since the last games. All three of these levels are completely filled with 3-D platforming, and Sky Sanctuary and Seaside Hill - Seaside Hill especially - have more paths to take and exploration than in any other 3-D Sonic level. Overall, Modern Sonic's gameplay is incredibly fun and the level design is amazing.

Of course, like Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic has only one thing that I think, while not a huge problem, is something that could have been worked on a bit more: 3-D controls. Don't get me wrong, play control in 3-D has improved a lot since the last games. I literally couldn't go back to Unleashed after playing Generations, and I'd probably screw up similarly if I were to go back and play Colors. However, it's still just a bit stiff and floaty, not to the point of causing any serious problems but just to the point that it's noticeable. The jump also sometimes feels like it carries a little bit more inertia than it should, and while it's just a nitpick, I think the game could have benefitted from always allowing you to turn all the way around while jumping. 3-D control is far from "bad"; it's just something they could have done a bit of a better job on in my opinion.

The next thing that I would like to talk about is bosses, and I don't know about anyone else, but I've always felt like boss design in 3-D Sonic games was somewhat lacking. I criticised the bosses in Sonic Adventure for being too easy, but that's not really the only flaw with bosses in 3-D Sonic games. For the most part, they're just sort of lackluster. Even the bosses of Sonic Colors, though an improvement, were for the most part just okay, and it didn't help that they were rehashed for the game's latter three worlds. In Sonic Generations, though...the bosses are actually pretty awesome! They're all based on bosses from previous games in the franchise, but they're all fought very differently. There are two kinds of boss battles in Sonic Generations: you have the rival battles in which you face off against one of Sonic's many rivals (such as Metal Sonic or Shadow) and you have the main bosses, which are, well...main bosses from the Sonic series. All of them are really fun to battle. The ways of defeating them are usually interesting, and while they're not quite "hard", I wouldn't describe them as "easy" either beyond the first two. (Of course, if you still think they're too easy, you can challenge them again in Hard Mode.) Easily my favorite boss in the game is the fight against Perfect Chaos, which takes place partially as its own mini-level and makes the fight from Sonic Adventure look completely obsolete.

On its own, Sonic Generations is not going to last you very long - about 5-6 hours at best. However, Sonic Team knew this wouldn't be enough, so they made sure that there was plenty of replay value. First of all, for each stage there are five Challenge Acts for both Sonics, sort of like the extra missions of Sonic Adventure 2 except, well, quite frankly better. While you will have to complete one of these from every level to beat the game, most of them are completely optional. It is also by beating the Challenge Acts that you will unlock a lot of the extra concept art and music. Some of these Challenge Acts will have you racing a doppelganger to the end of the level, some revolve around a specific mechanic or gimmick, some introduce a new upgrade (more on those later), and some actually have Sonic going up against or enlisting the aid of a member of the franchise's periphery cast, which is something I actually liked since I felt like it made them do more than just be in the game. While some of these Challenge Acts take place within areas of the main level, with the exception of the doppelganger races most feature completely different designs. There's a lot of variety as well, which keeps things from getting repetitive or boring. There were a few of these that I thought were tedious, but not enough to complain about and overall I had a lot of fun completing the Challenge Acts.

The other form of replay value in Generations is the Red Rings, which return from Sonic Colors. In Colors, these unlocked Sonic Simulator stages, and by beating those, you would get Chaos Emeralds. By getting all seven Chaos Emeralds, you would be able to go Super Sonic. In Generations, you actually unlock Super Sonic as an upgrade by simply defeating the final boss. So instead, collecting Red Rings in Generations gets you more concept art and music, and collecting all of them from a single Classic or Modern level will get you a secret upgrade. I suppose it's about time I started talking about those, isn't it?

Well, in Sonic Generations, there's a skill shop where you can buy and and equip skills using money you get from playing levels. Each upgrade has a different point cost to equip, and there are only five slots and 100 points you can use, preventing you from overpowering either Sonic. This is how you will use Super Sonic, as well as how you will be able to use the awesome elemental shields from Sonic 3 & Knuckles. If you're not interested in the skill shop, you don't have to use it, but it's a nice feature.

Back on the subject of replay value, like any good Sonic game, Sonic Generations is not an experience you'll get the most out of playing it just once. You'll likely find yourself playing playing at least the Modern Sonic stages over and over again, whether it's to take paths you haven't before, challenge your time or rank, or just enjoy yourself. Further encouraging this are leaderboards, which allow you to compare your time with other players. With this on top of Red Rings and Challenge Acts, Sonic Generations has plenty of replay value to keep its short length from dragging it down.

The Good:

+ Amazing environments and setpieces
+ Awesome soundtrack
+ Good story
+ New voice actors are great
+ Both Sonics are a crapload of fun to play as (but Modern Sonic moreso)
+ 3-D sections have improved immensely since Colors
+ Outstanding levels
+ Great boss fights
+ Great replay value

The Bad:

- Occasional framerate drops
- Classic Sonic's rolling is mostly useless
- 3-D controls could be a bit better, though are not at all bad


Sonic Generations was an absolutely fantastic experience for me and it's easily one of the best Sonic games of all time. Fans will, of course, get the most out of seeing some of the series' most memorable levels reimagined, but you don't have to be a fan to appreciate a genuinely great game. If you're not a fan, I'd say this is a great place to start. The few faults it has are minor, and it does everything else amazingly well. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone. Happy 20th anniversary, Sonic. We love ya.

Score: 9.5/10

My Scoring System:
10 - Amazing game. Flaws are minor at best. If you don't own it, you should be ashamed of yourself. (Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

9(.5) - Fantastic game. Perhaps a couple of notable annoyances, but still a must-have. (Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep)

8(.5) - Very good game. Has a few flaws, but you won't be disappointed with your purchase. (Klonoa)

7(.5) - Pretty good game that either has several problems or is just too short for its price. Enjoyable to play, but you may want to wait for the price to drop a bit before picking it up. (Rayman 3D)

6(.5) - Passable game. Has its strengths, but unless you're a fan of the series or genre, you're probably better off not bothering. (Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2)

5(.5) - Mediocre game. Not a bad experience, but it's too flawed to be much fun. A bargain bin purchase at best, and only if you're a fan of the series. (Sonic Heroes)

3 or 4(.5) - Bad game. A mostly negative experience, and whatever it does right fails to save it overall. Even if you're a fan, you're probably better off not playing it. (Sonic and the Secret Rings)

1 or 2(.5) - Utter garbage. An unholy abomination that we should do all in our power to avoid playing. In other words, STAY THE HECK AWAY! (Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sonic Adventure (Re)Review

Surprise! Bet you didn't see this coming, did you? Sonic Generations was officially released PS3 and 360 today, so I'm sure you were expecting, if anything, a review of that. But alas, though Generations is out, I've preordered it off, meaning I will have to wait a few days before finally getting to immerse myself in its awesomeness. But I do have to celebrate the day somehow, so I'm giving you all something (not so) special: a redone review of Sonic Adventure! Why am I actually doing this? It's mainly because I feel like my old review of this game, written back in April of last year, is a bit...well, let's just say I feel like I've improved a lot since then and I'm a bit ashamed of some of my older work. I barely went in-depth on anything, and it just seems poorly written to me now. Besides that, there are a couple of things I didn't really bring up and my opinions on a few things have changed a bit since then. So now, INTRODUCTION!

Sonic Adventure was initially released in 1999 for SEGA's then new, now long dead Dreamcast console as a launch title. It was meant to be Sonic's big leap into the third dimension, which was a cool new thing to do way back when after Mario started the trend. It was a really ambitious, huge, even revolutionary game for its time, and as such it received widespread critical acclaim. Unfortunately, general opinion on the game has significantly cooled down as years have passed; while it's still generally considered one of the better 3-D entries in the series, opinions are split on many elements that it introduced to the series, and you will get varying answers as to how well it has aged. Bearing in mind that this is the first game I ever played - EVER - Sonic Adventure is a really important game for me, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't sugarcoated in nostalgia. I will be as unbiased as I can in writing this review, but keep in mind that I may not be able to help myself.


The storyline of Sonic Adventure is emphasized a great deal more than it was in Sonic games before it. Dr. Eggman, or Dr. Robotnik if you prefer, has released an ancient water monster called Chaos from his prison in the Master Emerald, a powerful gem that Knuckles the Echidna has been given the duty of guarding in its home on the floating Angel Island. Releasing Chaos causes the Emerald to shatter into several pieces, which in turn causes Angel Island to crash into the ocean. This also releases Tikal, an echidna girl who knows about Chaos' past and shows bits and pieces of it to Sonic and friends in the form of cryptic flashbacks throughout the story. Sonic has his own run-in with Chaos one rainy night as he watches several cops unload on it but to no effect. Because homing attacks are more effective than bullets on a water monster, Sonic defeats it without a problem. However, he and his good friend Tails soon learn that Eggman is planning on using the seven Chaos Emeralds to make Chaos more powerful, at which point he will use Chaos to destroy Station Square (a local city) and build his own city, Robotnikland, on top of it. Being the only ones capable of stopping him, Sonic and Tails set out on a quest to get the Chaos Emeralds before Eggman does. Meanwhile, Knuckles searches for the pieces of the Master Emerald, Amy tries to help a lost bird find its family while on the run from one of Eggman's robots, new character Big the Cat - inventive name, I know - searches for his lost pet frog, and new character E-102 Gamma (a robot built by Eggman) decides he must destroy the rest of the E-Series robots to release the animals trapped inside their metal frames (for those unfamiliar with the series, Eggman powers his robots using animals).

What's most interesting about Sonic Adventure's storyline isn't as much the story itself as it is the way it's told. You will see Sonic Adventure's story through the perspectives of six different playable characters, each with their own experiences and takes on the storyline. What this pretty much means is, after you play through Sonic's storyline, you can play through Tails' storyline to see what happened during the points that the two got separated or you can play through Knuckles' storyline to see what he was doing the whole time. In addition, oftentimes characters' storylines will cross paths and some events in one storyline can connect to events in another. Also, it's worth mentioning here that you will actually have to play through all six characters' storylines to unlock the final story, where you will fight the true final boss and see the real ending to the game. There are a couple of plot holes here and there, but the story is pretty entertaining overall.

So, the story is pretty good, but how does the gameplay fare? Well, as I mentioned before, Sonic Adventure features six different characters that you will control - the titular Sonic the Hedgehog, his buddy Tails, former rival Knuckles the Echidna, fangirl Amy Rose, the moronic Big the Cat, and robot E-102 Gamma. In addition to having their own perspectives on the storyline, they all have different gameplay styles that vary in how far away they shy from the core gameplay of the series. This has garnered mixed reactions, to say the least. While from one perspective this offers some nice variety, at the same time there are definitely going to be some characters you will like more than others depending on your tastes, and some you might even outright hate. Besides that, the gameplay style of one character unarguably shouldn't be in a Sonic game at all, but we'll get to that when we get to it. Fortunately, Sonic Adventure averts the problem that Unleashed and, while I consider it a better game for a few reasons, Sonic Adventure 2 had by separating the characters' play styles into their own storylines rather than forcing you to switch between them as the plot demands. Though you do have to play all characters' storylines to completion in order to see the true ending, if that doesn't matter to you then you only have to play as the characters you like. Anyway, since all of the characters play so differently, I'm going to discuss each one separately.

We'll start with Sonic, the blue blur himself, and as anyone who's played this game will tell you, Sonic's storyline is the highlight of the game. While the other characters have three to five stages, Sonic has ten to his name and they're all a lot of fun to play. I suppose Sonic's gameplay can best be described as what happens when you take the classic Genesis games and put them into 3-D. Sonic gets a few new moves this time around such as the homing attack, which allows you to blast to an enemy and destroy it if you press the "A" button in mid-air, and the Light Dash, which allows Sonic to dash along a trail of Rings. Of course, Sonic is just as fast as he ever was and Sonic Adventure features many (unequivocally satisfying, I might add) sections where you just get to watch Sonic blast ahead at high speeds during chase sequences that pretty much abuse the Rule of Cool.

Later 3-D Sonic games would take the gameplay in different directions with varying degrees of success, but Sonic Adventure's physics and level design philosophy reflect the classics by a lot. Some longtime fans complain that recent 3-D Sonic games don't have enough straight-up platforming or exploration like in the classics. This is simply not a criticism that can be leveled against Sonic Adventure. There's a lot of platforming here and levels feature a fair amount of exploration as well; there are plenty of areas where paths branch out and some areas even have hidden extra lives or other such power-ups. It's impossible not to appreciate the diversity present in Sonic's stages either; one stage will feature Sonic riding on wind currents through the sky, another will partially take place as a pinball mini-game, and yet another will have you using Sonic as a sentient bowling ball right after a section in which you take a bumper car down a racetrack. On the whole, Sonic's levels are really fast and extremely well designed, and you'll probably find yourself playing them again and again.

The next character on our list is Tails. His gameplay style isn't really that different from Sonic's except for the fact that he actually has to race another character to the end of the stage. It's...actually not as hard as it sounds. In fact, it's really easy because Tails is able to fly, giving him access to many shortcuts that Sonic can't take. Most of Tails' levels can basically thought of as shorter, easier versions of Sonic's, the exception being Speed Highway in which Tails takes a completely different path. Tails also gets his own snowboarding (or sandboarding, as it would be) mini-game - more on those later - which is pretty nice, but though it's still fast and enjoyable, Tails' storyline feels mostly like an easier, shorter retread of Sonic's.

Instead, we can rely on Knuckles to deliver a different experience from Sonic's story. Knuckles' play style is very different from Sonic's or Tails'; rather than going from point A to point B, Knuckles' stages play out somewhat like a simpler, more Sonicy take on the gameplay of games like Banjo-Kazooie. In these stages, you are meant to find three pieces of the Master Emerald in an open environment using Knuckles' abilities to glide, climb and dig. As an aid, you are given a hot-cold radar that will start beeping whenever you get close to an Emerald shard. If you need more help or get lost, you can find one of Tikal's hint balls, which will fly in the direction of the nearest Emerald shard. Opinions seem to vary on this gameplay style quite a bit. Now, I actually really enjoyed these stages. I'm a fan of the "collect-the-items" style of gameplay and I liked that it gave you a good chance to really explore some of the game's more open levels. Besides, I think that giving Knuckles this gameplay style was at least somewhat justified by the fact that they were using the same eleven levels for all of the characters; Knuckles' moveset could have been a huge game breaker in point-A-to-point-B style stages. I do, however, wish that he had been given point-A-to-point-B stages in Sonic Adventure 2.

Next up is Amy Rose, Sonic's pink-haired fangirl, and this time she has a stalker of her own. Eggman's robot called ZERO is after the bird she's helping and Amy has to protect said bird. This is incorporated into the gameplay by having ZERO appear at some points during the levels and try to chase you down and attack. You'd literally have to stand still for him to be able to do anything, though; his lock-on punch attack won't follow you if he manages to get a lock, and you can attack him a few times to slow him down. Because of this, he's less of a threat and more of an almost irrelevant annoyance. Aside from that, though, Amy's gameplay is pretty interesting albeit flawed. Amy can't curl up into a ball like Sonic, Tails and Knuckles; instead, her preferred method of attack is a giant hammer. In addition to bashing enemies' skulls in, this hammer is also useful for making long jumps; pick up enough speed and Amy will hold her hammer out, at which point you can do something of a pole-vault move by pressing the "B" button. Of course, Amy is slower than most of the other cast, so her stages focus more on slower-paced platforming, finding switches or turning cranks to activate things, and some mild puzzle solving. Aside from two needlessly annoying color block "puzzles" in Hot Shelter (the word is in quotes because a two-year-old could solve them), her levels are for the most part well-designed. However, the slow pace of her gameplay may turn some off. For me, it's not so much that as it is her sluggish, floaty controls. I don't have a problem with her being slower than the other characters, but she should at least control well. However, Amy only has three levels, so you don't have to spend enough time with her to really complain about it.

And then we have Big the Cat, who...fishes for his pet frog named Froggy. No, I'm not even joking; there are fishing levels in this game. Well, okay, I'll admit in spite everything I've said about them in the past that Big's stages really aren't that bad for what they are. You just find Froggy, cast the rod, wiggle the lure around until he notices it, and then reel him in without letting the tension gauge get too high or else the rod will break and you'll lose a life. It's easy and takes no longer than two minutes if you know what you're doing, and Big only has four levels. Besides that, his storyline is entertaining because of how much of a stereotypical cartoon moron he is and because he can't seem to keep hold of Froggy until his storyline finally ends. (Also, fun fact: he's voiced by the same guy who does the voice of Duke Nukem.) The problem here is that this gameplay style does not by any stretch of the imagination belong in a Sonic game. I don't find this style of gameplay particularly enjoyable, and I shouldn't have to play it in a Sonic game. What's most baffling about this is that this is a character created specifically for the game so it could have fishing levels. I'm sorry, but who thought this was a good idea? Big's stages aren't that bad, but they really shouldn't be in this game.

Not only that, but his soulless stare kills you from the inside out as he eats your babies.

Fortunately, E-102 Gamma fares quite a bit better than Amy or Big. Being a robot with a gun arm, he gets faster-paced levels focused more on shooting. By holding "B", you will be able to lock on to enemies and objects and you'll fire lasers at them upon releasing "B". Gamma actually has a time limit to his levels and you will be able to get more time by killing enemies. The more enemies you lock onto at once, the more time you will get. It's also worth noting that Gamma's last three levels each end with bosses. These stages are actually pretty fun and due to their fast pace don't even feel as out of place in the game as Knuckles' or Amy's stages. Gamma also probably has the most interesting storyline out of all the characters. Gamma isn't as much fun to control as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles, but his gameplay style is still pretty good.

Of course, the action stages aren't the only side to Sonic Adventure's gameplay. Like many platformers of its time, Sonic Adventure features hub worlds, or "Adventure Fields" as they are known here. These hub worlds are where most cutscenes and boss fights take place, as well as where you'll find the entrances to the action stages, some of which are opened by solving minor puzzles, and upgrades for the six playable characters. You'll also find NPC's to talk to here. Nothing they say really has anything to do with anything, but some of their dialogue is pretty amusing and there are a couple of funny subplots involving some of them. If you're ever unsure of where to go, you can always go to Tikal's hint ball and she will tell you where you need to go. The best thing about these hub worlds is that they don't feel like they're just there as a bridge between stages; their presence, execution and use really do help to make the game feel more like a big adventure, which I appreciate.

One interesting thing about Sonic Adventure is that it features several mini-games that you will get to play throughout the story. These include Sky Chase, two rail shooting missions on a plane; Twinkle Circuit, a mini-game version of the bumper car racetrack from Twinkle Park; Sand Hill, a desert variation of Ice Cap's snowboarding sequence; and my personal favorite, Hedgehog Hammer, a whack-a-mole-esque game played with Amy. Sonic Adventure also features a Chao Garden, in which you can raise virtual pets called Chao. You can give these Chao animals that you find in the action stages to boost their stats and then enter them in races. Personally, I don't care for the Chao Garden in this game, preferring the one in Adventure 2, but if you like it, you can put hours into it. These are really nice features that do actually add more depth and replay value to the game if you care about them.

One last thing that I would like to give praise to is Sonic Adventure's soundtrack. Sonic games generally have awesome soundtracks, and Sonic Adventure is no exception. Pretty much every BGM in the game is fantastic. Unfortunately, I can't exactly say the same thing for most of the vocal tracks aside from Open Your Heart, which is the main theme, but I suppose that's mostly subject to personal taste.

Of course, many will argue that Sonic Adventure is showing its age, and, well, in the grand scheme of things it has aged...okay. Sonic's levels are still a crapload of fun to play, the level design is still great, the soundtrack is awesome, and - in personal opinion, of course - the other characters are fun to play as save for a certain purple cat. There's plenty of replay value here, and the story, while nothing to write home about, is pretty solid and interesting. I've played plenty of games from its era that have aged far worse.

I will admit, though, that Sonic Adventure is starting to look pretty dated in a few areas. In particular, boss design really leaves a lot to be desired. Some of them are pretty fun, but they're all just way too easy. I understand that the Sonic series was never exactly known for its great boss fights, but in Sonic Adventure, it almost seems a little ridiculous at times. Special mention goes to four out of E-102 Gamma's six boss fights, which can literally be won by standing in one place and mashing the "B" button continually. The camera system of Sonic Adventure was considered flawed even at the time of its release, and while it's not game breaking, the problem is there. Finally, Sonic Adventure is a pretty unpolished game. Glitches aren't frequent if you don't seek them out, but the occasional clipping glitch or collision detection flaw will happen. Sonic Adventure is not a broken game by any means, and the frustrations caused by its camera and lack of polish are generally minor, but these flaws are worth mentioning.

There is one other thing that falls outside the realm of gameplay that is pretty dated as well: the writing and voice acting. The voice acting is...hit or miss. Some fans would say that Ryan Drummond is the best voice actor for Sonic, and while I prefer Roger Craig Smith, I have to give credit where credit is due: he's one of the better ones here. He's not great, but his tone fits Sonic well and there's some emotion behind his acting. Amy's voice is okay, too, and I suppose Big's and Gamma's voices work for the types of characters they are. Easily the best one is for Dr. Eggman, who does a great job both during his more menacing moments and when Eggman is being the slightly goofy, egotistical villain we all know him to be inside. Unfortunately, rest of the voice cast doesn't fare quite as well, to say the least. Knuckles' voice actor seems to waver constantly between "kind of okay" and "completely wooden", and the actors for Tails and the supporting cast are so fake it's almost laughable. Fortunately, this can be remedied by setting the voices to Japanese while keeping the subtitles in English. Unfortunately, that's only getting rid of half the problem. The writing of Sonic Adventure is pretty cheesy to say the least - and I mean that in the bad way. But hey, at least some lines are so bad that they're almost good.

Now, there is one last thing I feel like I should mention. Due to Sonic Adventure's popularity on the Dreamcast, SEGA rereleased it several times on different consoles following the DC's death. The most well known ports are Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut for the GameCube, released in 2003, and the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network port, which was released just last year. I've never played the GameCube version, but I have played the XBLA version, and it's...a pretty shoddy port to say the least. The fun gameplay and level design are still there, but the controls have somehow become ridiculously slippery, the camera has gotten far worse, and there are glitches everywhere. It's almost as broken as - dare I say it? - Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. The game also receives a graphical "upgrade", but in my opinion it does more harm than good; in the XBLA version, the character's look like they're made of metal and a lot of the textures they've changed or replaced just don't look as good to me, especially the rocky textures that literally look like vomit. About the only thing it has improved over the Dreamcast version is the Chao Garden, which features more of Sonic Adventure 2's innovations.

I've researched the GameCube version, and it does have a lot more extra content than either of the other ports. It includes a mission mode and, like the XBLA version, a Chao Garden more like Sonic Adventure 2's. It also includes each of Sonic's Game Gear titles as unlockables, which are completely amazing - well, not really "amazing" - okay, I guess most of them range from mediocre to utterly terrible, but Sonic 2, Chaos and Triple Trouble are fun. However, it supposedly has some of the same problems as the XBLA version albeit to a lesser extent. Most people don't own Dreamcasts these days, so I suppose that this is probably the best version you can get if you haven't played the game before. Of course, you probably shouldn't just take my word for it, since, as I mentioned before, I've never played this version.

The Good:

+ Fantastic Sonic levels
+ Six playable characters with their own perspectives on the story
+ Most of the said six characters are fun to play as
+ Great soundtrack
+ Mini-games and Chao Garden are nice
+ Solid storyline
+ Hub worlds are nice

The Bad:

- What are fishing levels doing in a Sonic game?
- Bosses are too easy
- Camera is flawed
- Occasional glitches
- English voice acting is hit or miss and the script is subpar

In the end, Sonic Adventure is still a very good game. Like I said, I do have a lot of nostalgia for this game, but I fully admit that it has some flaws and a few aspects haven't exactly aged wonderfully. However, I feel like I really don't need nostalgia goggles to enjoy Sonic Adventure. I still have a lot of fun with it when I play it - well, when I'm not playing as Big, anyway - and if you haven't played it already, I suggest you do so. The Sonic levels alone make this game at least worth a look, and its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. It's not an amazing masterpiece anymore, but it's still a solid game. Just avoid the XBLA/PSN version. T-Man, out.

Score (DC): 8/10
Score (XBLA/PSN): 4.5/10

My Scoring System:
10 - Amazing game. Flaws are minor at best. If you don't own it, you should be ashamed of yourself. (Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

9(.5) - Fantastic game. Perhaps a couple of notable annoyances, but still a must-have. (Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep)

8(.5) - Very good game. Has a few flaws, but you won't be disappointed with your purchase. (Klonoa)

7(.5) - Pretty good game that either has several problems or is just too short for its price. Enjoyable to play, but you may want to wait for the price to drop a bit before picking it up. (Rayman 3D)

6(.5) - Passable game. Has its strengths, but unless you're a fan of the series or genre, you're probably better off not bothering. (Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2)

5(.5) - Mediocre game. Not a bad experience, but it's too flawed to be much fun. A bargain bin purchase at best, and only if you're a fan of the series. (Sonic Heroes)

3 or 4(.5) - Bad game. A mostly negative experience, and whatever it does right fails to save it overall. Even if you're a fan, you're probably better off not playing it. (Sonic and the Secret Rings)

1 or 2(.5) - Utter garbage. An unholy abomination that we should do all in our power to avoid playing. In other words, STAY THE HECK AWAY! (Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22)