Reviewed on Steam
When I was young, we never had a Sega console. We had a Super Nintendo, and from there onwards it was mostly Playstation. My at the time best friend however, had a Sega Dreamcast with Sonic Adventure. I had no other experiences with Sonic back then other than Flash games and the Gameboy Advance games. I remember really liking the game, to the point where I constantly came over to play it even though my best friend wanted to do something else. Years later I finally got it on my Xbox 360 through the Xbox Arcade, and it was great being reunited with the game I played so much but never owned. Sonic’s popularity on the internet is.. pretty bad to say the least, let’s not beat around the bush. So today, I want to revisit my memories of Sonic Adventure and see if I just have nostalgia goggles on or that I truly enjoy playing the game.
Sonic Adventure was Sonic’s first main 3D adventure released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1998, or 1999 depending on where you’re from. Of course there are games like Sonic Jam and Sonic 3D Blast but I left them out for the sake of it. Sonic was late to the party—as many of his rivals already moved on successfully to the 3D realm—but that didn’t stop him from making an impactful entrance. It managed to become the bestselling Dreamcast game and received generally positive reviews, leading to a sequel. Unfortunately the Sega Dreamcast had a rough future ahead of itself despite being a console ahead of its time, and ultimately led to Sega having to withdraw from the console market. Many of the Dreamcast’s original titles were ported to other consoles, including Nintendo consoles which at the time were Sega’s biggest rival. Sonic Adventure was one of the game that got ported with extra content, rebranded as Sonic Adventure DX.
The game starts off with an opening movie, introducing a small part of the game’s plot and a total of six playable characters. The story revolves around the first of many ‘’Gods of destruction’’ in the Sonic franchise, Chaos. Dr. Robotnik learned about his existence and decided to harness its power to destroy Station Square and build Robotnikland upon its ruins. Why Robotnik didn’t just nuke the city and instead resorted to an ancient god who can or cannot be controlled to begin with is beyond me, but let’s put that aside from now. The story is told through all of the 6 campaigns—and yes, that does include Big the Cat. They all take place at the same time, and come together to form one complete story. Highlights include the history about the Echidna clan, and the lore behind the Master and Chaos Emeralds. For a platformer game, this is a good enough story. Also, the lip-syncing in cutscenes is horrible but in a good way. I have no idea if it was intentional or not, but I kept laughing every time the characters were talking and their mouths moved all over the place.
The theme of this game is, as the name implies, adventure. There are three different connected hub worlds to explore, each with stages to go to or goodies to collect in like upgrades or emblems in the DX version. I personally enjoy to explore them very much, except for the jungle in Mystic Ruins since that’s a literal maze and 9 out of 10 times I have no idea where I am, though there is a map for that in the DX version. Fortunately, there is a red ball of light everywhere throughout the hub worlds functioning as a hint system on where to go next in case you’re lost or just don’t want to explore. The stages themselves follow most general platformer designs like a volcano, an icy mountain and all that, but almost every stage has something unique to them that prevents them from being generic. Ice Cap Zone for example has you snowboarding down the mountain, and in Windy Hill you’re platforming inside of a tornado. Some characters go through the same stages as others, but for the most part they have different obstacles or play a certain section of the stage to avoid the feeling of redundancy. After all, you can’t put Big the Cat in an entire Sonic stage since he doesn’t go fast. Oh no he definitely doesn’t go fast.. Obvious foreshadowing is obvious.
The main part we’re here for is gameplay, since—especially in Sonic’s case—it can make or break the game. Like I’ve said before, the game is split-up in six different campaigns:
- Sonic the Hedgehog: The main character with the most stages to go through. Sonic runs fast, can do his famous spindash to gain more speed, do the homing attack to lock onto enemies or just move forward, and has the lightspeed dash to go through a trail of rings. His stages revolve around going from point A to point B as fast as possible.
- Tails ‘Miles’ Prower: Sonic’s best buddy, also likes to go fast. He needs to be fast especially since he is racing against someone or something in his stages. Tails cannot spindash, but he can fly for a short amount of time and attack with his tails. Though flying is kind of broken since you can skip a lot of the stage, it is very fun to do.
- Knuckles the Echidna: The first of the majorly different gameplay styles, Knuckles explores stages for missing parts of the shattered Master Emerald. He can glide through the sky and climb walls in search for three shards, which are scattered all over the place or even inside of enemies. Fortunately there’s a radar at the bottom of the screen letting you know if you are close, and the red ball of light also returns to show you da wae. Sorry I’m not sorry.
- Amy Rose: A slower, more combat-oriented version of Sonic. Amy carries her trusty Piko Piko hammer around to either combat enemies or do some mad platforming tricks. While running she can use her hammer to reach heights Sonic wouldn’t be able to, and in the air she can spin her hammer around as a replacement homing attack. Like Sonic, revolves around going from point A to point B while avoiding a robot that’s following her through the entire stage, Zero.
- E-102 Gamma: An original character specifically for this game (and Sonic Battle for whatever reason), Gamma is more of a platforming character with lock-on shooting mechanics. He can hover with an upgrade, and lock onto enemies to shoot them down. Unlike the rest of the characters, Gamma has a time limit in which he has to finish the stage, but this can be extended by shooting enemies. At the end of almost every stage a boss awaits Gamma, though they’re pathetic and not noteworthy.
- Big the Fat: I wish I could say this character doesn’t exist, at least not in this game, but that would be lying. Yes, there is a gameplay style where all you do is.. fishing. You have to fish for Froggy who has ran away from Big, and it’s boring as all hell. When you cast the lure the frog may ignore it, another fish might bite and it can also get completely stuck. Not to mention that the line can break while trying to reel it in, or the fish/froggy keeps swimming away making it only more difficult. Overall for the main campaign it isn’t too bad and if you figure out how it works, you should be done in less than half an hour, but for completion you have to capture 2000g fishes before Froggy and believe me, it’s absolutely horrible.
Every character does control really fluid, especially in the air so you almost never have to worry about not landing on a platform. As such, I had fun playing as every character except for Big. However, problems do arise that I have to mention otherwise I’d just be biased: camera issues and occasional weird collision detection. Camera issues happened a lot when 3D games were just starting, and Sonic Adventure has them as well. Not as bad as many games—and there is the free camera option—but you can get stuck with it real bad. The other slight problem is collision detection. When running at full speed and even move closely to a wall BAM! No more speed for you. Both of these issues are minimal, and can easily be worked around with as well, but I still felt the need to address them. Boss battles are fun for the most part, especially the latter ones, but battles against other playable characters are downright pathetic.
The DX port of Sonic Adventure brought some extras with it along with updated framerate and graphics. In the original game, you could get Emblems for finishing stages with a specific requirement, finding them in the hub worlds, the minigames or the chao garden. In the original game they also gave you nothing as a reward for them. The DX version on the Gamecube and PC compensated for that by giving you the actual Game Gear Sonic the Hedgehog titles for every certain amount of emblems and a final secret reward for all emblems! Isn’t that neat? But for whatever reason they took the Game Gear titles out of the PS3/Xbox 360/Steam port, a huge disappointment to an already lackluster port. Not only does it have missing content, the game does not support widescreen and is instead at a fixed resolution with blue bars to cover the leftover space. Yes, the 7th generation console ports, while playable, are not the ideal way to play the game—except for Steam, which I’ll come back to in the aftermath of this review. Both DX versions also have a mission system mode added, which is a fun distraction. I mean, it’s extra content, I have nothing to complain about here. Missions are scattered all over the hub worlds, and there’s also a clear mission screen to see which one you have done and what ones you haven’t unlocked yet and so forth. Oh, and cutscenes can be skipped. This might not sound like something impressive but believe me, it is.
I think I’ve covered everything so far.. oh wait, the Chao Garden exists. Yeah, you’ve probably got it from my reaction, but I couldn’t care less about the Chao Garden. It’s a nice distraction, especially for the people who like Tamagotchi since that’s technically what it is, but I just went there for completion sake. And of course, more content that functions well is always welcome. I’m probably going to get crucified for making this statement but I’m sorry, I don’t see the appeal. So many Sonic games get flagged for having distractions that have nothing to do with the speedy platforming gameplay, yet the Chao Garden always gets a free pass. Am I missing something?
The graphics look nice for an early Dreamcast title, and the updated graphics from the DX version looks good enough as well. I personally haven’t had any issues with FPS drops either, though I have heard complaints about it so keep that in mind. The voice acting and the lip-synching I mentioned earlier aren’t exactly spectacular but they make me laugh so I appreciate them regardless. And the soundtrack.. man, the soundtrack is just so awesome. Every character has their own theme song, and the stage music sounds good as well. And I of course can’t forget the awesome track ‘’Open your Heart’’ by Crush 40!
Sonic Adventure.. I just can’t help but love this game despite having the flaws I’ve mentioned earlier. A game filled with content and diverse gameplay, a story that works well and an amazing soundtrack. There are a few noteworthy bugs that can’t be overlooked, the port to the 7th generation consoles is lackluster and Big the Cat exists, but aside from that we have a Sonic game that every fan of the franchise must as least play. I won’t recommend personally to 100% the game, but beating it? Absolutely!
There are multiple consoles to play this game on, though I will only recommend a few. The original Dreamcast version is fine, as are the Nintendo Gamecube and PC DX ports. Avoid the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 version. Logically I would also say avoid the Steam version, but there is one reason why it might actually be the best version of the game: mod support. We’re talking specifically about a mod called BetterSADX , which removes all the flaws the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 ports have and adds several neat additions like Super Sonic in normal stages and even Discord Rich Presence of all things. The forum post itself already says it, but this is the definitive way to play Sonic Adventure DX.