Why I Can’t Stop Playing Sonic Adventure 2, and How We Almost Lost It
Sonic the Hedgehog has been an icon of the gaming world for decades. From side scrollers all the way through to the modern gaming era, the blue blur persists. Modern 3D Sonic games seem to be losing touch, (as our own Mike Solseth would surely tell you). However, those early side-scrollers set the stage for a remarkable transition into the 3D universe. Early 3D Sonic games marked the peak of the franchise, and some of these games dominated the market during their release. Chief among these titles was no doubt Sonic Adventure 2. Let’s delve into the components that drove this game to greatness, and how this beautiful gem was almost lost from the mainstream entirely.
What Made the Game So Great
SA2 had 3 main styles of levels. Sonic and Shadow had speed oriented levels, long straightaways with plenty of room to run. Knuckles and Rouge were hunters, with large open space levels. Perfect for hunting pieces of the master emerald. Lastly, Tails and Eggman smashed and blasted through piles of enemies in their mechs. While the hunting and mech levels were a welcomed change of pace, the Sonic and Shadow levels made this game unmissable.
These massive high-speed levels with zany twists and loops finally gave players an overhead perspective. Unlike the classic side scrollers, You see what Sonic sees. You’re right there as he tears through spiraling jungles or zips through zany city streets. While the original Sonic Adventure first grasped at something like this, SA2 perfected it. The immersive camera angle brought the player into the experience, and the high speed levels were designed immaculately. You never get lost or stuck, you just fly. These intuitive high speed trails keep players enveloped in the level, and definitely contribute immensely to the game overall.
This game’s story was a major contributor to the game’s success. Players can start with either the Hero or Dark Story, and will play through three Character’s subplots for each side. From level to level you bounce from character to character. You watch each of them develop in pieces as the plot brings them all closer and closer together. Once you’ve completed both the Hero and Dark chapters, You unlock the Final Chapter, where the characters you’ve watched develop must put aside their differences, and unite to face a greater evil. The masterful weaving together of these different character perspectives tell the story in a interesting and exciting way. As well, it makes the ending where everyone is brought together feel incredibly satisfying. The story feels truly complete, and the player feels satisfied.
Never before and not once since has a soundtrack been so perfectly paired with a game. From the very first level, every track seems to align with the setting. With the grand scope of this game, that’s quite a feat. This games goes from the city, to the jungle, to the desert, and all the way to outer space. Despite these location changes, everything feels appropriately scored throughout the game.
The theme tracks clearly represent each character, and some lyrics even give us crucial plot information. You can feel Sonic’s happy go lucky attitude in the upbeat lyrics on, City Escape and Metal Harbor. Knuckles hardened exterior and focus pair perfectly with the rap verses in Unknown from M.E. , and the lyrics actually go further in depth into knuckles backstory as guardian of the Master Emerald than any other aspect of gameplay.
While this game has incredible replay value with its exciting levels, It’s mini-game is equally captivating. When not speeding through the main game, players could partake in raising Chao. Chao are silly little creatures that characters can raise to be good or evil. Chao compete in contests like racing and karate, and grow differently depending on how they’re raised. While all Chao start out looking fairly similar, different techniques and power ups can lead to remarkable differences in appearance.
The Chao also gave purpose to the countless hours some more committed gamers drained into perfecting every level. Players find small animals and “Chaos Drives” which could be used to level up their Chao’s different skills. The more you play, the more Chao power ups you can collect. Not only was this side game captivating in its own right, but it provided incentive for players to continue playing the main game as well.
A Few Downsides
Dialgoue and Voice Acting
Nobody’s perfect, and chief among SA2’s imperfections is its dialogue. The game was originally produced in Japanese, and you can certainly tell in the English version. The poor mapping of dialogue to mouth movements in the cut-scenes can take players out of the story. Aside from not fitting in character’s mouths, the lines themselves don’t feel all that thought out. There’s a few major grammatical errors that never should have made it to the final cut, and a lot of the dialogue feels awkward or forced.
While the poorly written dialogue may be partially to blame for this, the voice acting is equally disappointing. It’s understandable that there may be some issues working with a poorly translated script, but some of the scenes feel like the voice actors are conveying the entirely wrong emotion for the situation, and conveying it poorly at that.
Battle Mode/Kart Racing
Battle mode was the GameCube variant’s attempt to distinguish itself from its nearly identical Dreamcast counterpart. The not so cleverly renamed Sonic Adventure 2: Battle included this as an afterthought, and playing the game it definitely feels that way. All characters are in personalized Mech’s for battle mode, but all the movesets are essentially identical. Battles quickly get repetitive, and unfortunately, It’s the same story for Kart Racing. If Sega had taken some hints from the ever popular Mario and included attack items and varying stages it might be a different story. However, a limited number of tracks and nothing but straightforward driving made this side game get old fast.
Don’t let this light berating fool you. Sonic Adventure 2 falls among the best games of all time for some, and many still treasure this classic 3D Sonic adventure. However, while most of us probably remember it as a Gamecube title. It didn’t start out that way, and Sonic Adventure 2 certainly didn’t begin in the best of places.
How We Almost Missed It
Let’s take a nostalgic walk back to 2001. With poor advertising campaigns and dwindling sales, Sega kills production of the Dreamcast in March. However, Sonic Adventure 2 isn’t scheduled to release until September of that year. By then, the next generation of consoles had arrived. With PS2’s, Xboxes, and Gamecubes all lining shelves just before the Christmas season, SA2’s was releasing on a dated console, and it was the Sega Dreamcast no less. You could say its chances for success were slim.
However, this generation brought remarkable advancements to 3D rendering technology. There was a massive jump in rendering capabilities. While the previous generation may have brought 3D gaming to the mainstream, it was the 2000-2001 generation that first created a truly immersive 3D experience. Such an advancement gave birth to a trend of revamping and reskinning. Games from previous generations were re-released with a more modern shine. Of course, this was mainly an attempt to capitalize on old content. While there were and still are some clear downsides to this revamping strategy, there was a bright side. Potentially bright enough to be worth every countless retexture of an old game to since: A port of Sonic Adventure 2, released for Nintendo Gamecube in 2002, with a competitive expansion.
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle would go on the be one of the top selling Gamecube titles of all time. However, without this Gamecube Port, SA2 may well have been left alongside the Sega Dreamcast and the rest of its titles, drowning in a pool of marketing failure and cumbersome controllers.
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