Sonic Adventure 2 Battle has arrived on GameCube at last. Max spent all night running around with Sega’s infamous hedgehog (& friends); see what he thinks so far.
Although I’ve never owned a Sega system up until Dreamcast, I’ve long been a Sonic fan, having played his adventures on Genesis and Sega-CD over at friends’ places. I did pick up Sonic Adventure 1 on Dreamcast and although I enjoyed it thoroughly, I felt the adventure parts detracted heavily from the action parts of the game. Fortunately, Sonic Adventure 2 has abandoned the adventure sections and is all action. Unfortunately, the action is divided into three forms of gameplay with 3 pairs of good and evil characters (with more to unlock). On the “good” side there is Sonic, Tails and Knuckles; on the bad: Shadow, Dr. Eggman (no longer Robotnik I guess) and Rouge. Depending on which side you choose, the stories and levels are different, though the gameplay is the same for each corresponding character.
I’ve heard from many accounts that this game sucks. One particular is the Penny Arcade strip where Gabe tries to return SA2 to EB, angrily proclaiming it’s about less about Sonic and more about his stupid friends. It’s true; you don’t play as Sonic through the majority of the game and other characters have totally different styles of play.
I knew going in about the forced mix of characters and gameplay, yet I’m a Sonic fan at heart who’s overjoyed about seeing him on GameCube. After playing all night, how does it measure up to my expectations?
First off, it’s clear to see that Sonic Team have gone all out in this game. For someone who didn’t play the game on Dreamcast, it’s a real treat. From the various types of gameplay, the numerous modes of Chao collection and the decent two player modes—there’s a lot here to keep you entertained.
After selecting whether you’ll play for good or evil, the game rotates characters through a series of levels arbitrarily. A couple Sonic levels, a Knuckles level, a Tails level, repeat. I’d rather play a game with the ability to select which character I’m playing, though the levels are specifically designed for each character’s ability.
The Sonic (& Shadow) levels are great, and feature new tricks like grinding rails. My only complaint is that sometimes Sonic sports a snowboard. Trendy maybe, but it slows the hedgehog down. Tails rides around in a mech (which is actually his airplane transformed). These levels involve a lot of shooting...quite different than him flying and running behind Sonic. It’s a change to be sure, but not all bad. This is Dr. Eggman’s style of gameplay as well. Knuckles can both climb walls and fly, just like Spider-Man & Superman, or Christopher Walken in that Fat Boy Slim video. Rogue’s levels feature the exact same gameplay. These levels are treasure hunts, which are alright, but I really do enjoy the climbing/flying.
The graphics are fantastic. Everything is vibrant and rendered well. Levels are lovely and the GameCube handles Sonic’s speed without a hitch. I have an S-Video cable, so the picture looks pretty spectacular.
Audio on the other hand is a mixed bag. Although pretty good instrumentation-wise, it’s a little awkward on the vocal end. Some tracks are decent while others are just horrendous. The “Knuckles Rap” about Wild Canyon had me rolling… The English voice dialogue seems almost worse than SA1, mostly because of an annoying sucker called “Omochao” (more on him soon). Fortunately you can switch to Japanese, which is much better.
The camera is god-awful and leaves a lot to be desired. Controlled by the L and R buttons, it often comes up short in providing a good angle. Moreover, there is also an almost forced progression in most levels. There are animals hidden in each stage, but it’s not always easy to go back and explore a level. The camera just doesn’t want to cooperate. Of course, Sonic games have never encouraged much backtracking but the camera is still inadequate for a 3D platfomer of this nature.
Another problem is that it is quite linear and there is almost an abundance of hints. Many of these come from Omochao, a robotic-hint giver who is scattered throughout each level. Forget trying to figure much of anything out yourself; the more you die the more advice the game offers. I’m sure younger players will appreciate it but it started to seem excessive to me after awhile.
One of the highlights for me has been the Chaos. I didn’t get too involved with Chaos in the first Sonic Adventure, but this time around I seem to be devoting a lot of time to the lil’ critters. In each level of the action stages, there’s a hidden Chao key. If you find it, you can access the Chao garden at the end of the level and use robot parts and animals you’ve collected to power up Chao.
Although the Chao garden is simple and a very optional part of the game, it’s highly enjoyable. From feeding ‘em to playing mini-games, there’s a lot do. I mean there’s even a Chao Kindergarten… Some of the Chao mini-games seem to involve having well-trained Chao and pushing buttons frantically but it’s still kinda cool. I do enjoy raising these guys, but I’m not sure how much I enjoy their mini-games. I am looking forward to playing the GBA version and importing Chaos to it but the link cable isn’t out yet in my area.
I also got to play quite a bit of 2 player with a friend. There are various modes; from racing along a track, seeing who can find an emerald first, or racing through a level. Some of these are quite fun, though none of them offer an addictive multiplayer experience that you want to keep playing.
Sonic Adventure 2 Battle is certainly different than your average Sonic game, and the parts that don’t involve Sonic are certainly less spectacular. They are still somewhat fun, albeit hindered by the camera. Certainly, if you’ve played the Dreamcast version, there’s not much incentive to check this out. If you haven’t experienced SA2 before, you’ll find a game full of variety...if not Sonic.