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Sonic Adventure 2 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Sonic Adventure 2 (PlayStation 3) review

"Seems like Sonic Team really did "Live And Learn" m i rite?"

If you ask around, you might find that a lot of people hold the opinion that Sonic Team wasn’t able to get 3D Sonic right until Sonic Unleashed or Sonic Colors, but I’m not sure that’s fair.

Sure, the character made a pretty poor first impression with the first Sonic Adventure, and the 2006 reboot of the series was so bad it was eventually removed from the Xbox 360’s Games on Demand service out of embarrassment, but they did get at least one game right. Sonic Adventure 2 is a solid reimagining of the Sonic Adventure formula.

Whereas the first game featured six characters with six distinct play styles, the second entry in the Adventure series features six characters with only three distinct play styles. Gone are the broken Tails stages, slow Amy stages, and baffling fishing stages. Instead, Sonic Team decided to focus on doing three styles right.

The game is separated into two main campaigns: one following Sonic and friends, and one following Eggman and his cohorts. Each side has one character that represents one type of play. Sonic and his doppelganger Shadow are the stars of the show. Their stages are fast-paced, full of boost pads, grind rails, and loop-de-loops. These speed levels flow a lot better than they did in the first Adventure game (and better than they would in certain later games), though they’re still a bit rough around the edges sometimes. There aren’t that many shoehorned-in gimmicks this time around, and what few there are (hourglasses that open doors, the occasional key that needs to be picked up and carried to a locked door) work as they should. The camera still doesn’t cooperate 100% of the time, but when it’s pointing the wrong way, it feels incompetent, rather than belligerent as it has in other games. Rail grinding is usually fun, though not always smooth when jumping from rail to rail or taking sharp turns.

Tails’ and Eggman’s stages are about shooting. They play similarly to E-102 γ’s campaign from the prequel, but they’re much more polished. These two, coincidentally, had the same idea to build robotic “ride armor” equipped with various weapons, with the most important equipment being the laser-guided missile system. The trick to these stages is to lock onto as many enemies as possible before firing. The more enemies you fire upon, the higher your resulting score. Tails and Eggman are the only characters that possess proper life meters instead of ring collections that negate damage, meaning there’s a risk-vs.-reward factor in letting enemies live long enough to string together combos.

Finally, Knuckles and newcomer Rouge are treasure hunters. Their stages are open and non-linear, encouraging exploration. Their goal is always to find three objects (be they gems, keys, or something else) hidden in the stage. They have radar that will beep when the object they’re looking for is close, and hint monitors will provide advice to point you in the right direction, at a detriment to your final score. Your radar and hints will only point you towards one goal at a time, and the necessary items can be in any number of places within the levels (they’re placed randomly at the start of the stage) meaning these stages are seemingly infinitely replayable. This also means that a stage’s difficulty is basically random. Some spots are harder to find than others, and if you are having trouble with one, restarting the level will move everything around and potentially make the whole ordeal much easier. This means high scores are basically a matter of luck, rather than skill. The treasure hunting stages are the most flawed, with a slower pace and more disagreeable camera (camera control has been mapped to the second stick, but only so far as mapping the L and R buttons to it; there’s still no way to point the camera up or down). When these stages work properly, they can be enjoyable, though they might not always feel welcome in the story mode when you’re in the mood to run or shoot.

With all of this variety, Sonic Adventure 2 dares to throw in even more styles of play, to varying degrees of success. The Chao garden mechanic is loads of fun, though tragically gimped in this release. You can still raise your virtual pets, increasing their stats with items you find in levels, buying eggs and other items from the Chao Black Market. In previous releases, this was supplemented with the ability to transfer your Chao to the Dreamcast’s VMU or a Game Boy Advance (with or without a Sonic Advance game) to raise their stats more quickly and to find new types of Chao eggs. This functionality is, understandably, absent from the HD release, but this means raising Chao is slower than it has been, and certain colours of Chao are simply unavailable. Despite these weaknesses, the Chao raising metagame remains rewarding and fun.

There’s one kart racing stage in each of the two main campaigns, and while they’re certainly no All-Stars Racing, they’re solid enough to not be frustrating. Boss battles range from enjoyable to maddening. Notably, the second battle between Tails and Eggman is an exercise in frustration. The game seems to expect you to be more nimble than you possibly can be in a massive walking tank. The predictable Super Sonic final boss is, as always, more annoying than fun.

Each stage has five different goals, ranging from simply finishing the stage, to finding a secret place within the stage, to finishing a more difficult version of the level. Each of those five goals per stage will earn you a rank upon completion, from E to A, meaning there’s lots of replay value.

The soundtrack is perhaps the game’s biggest strength. Each character has its own style of background music and most of it is the catchy, guilty pleasure buttrock the 3D series is famous for. You will be humming it in the shower for days after you’ve finished playing, though you’ll never admit it.

As for the quality of the port, I’m happy to report that this one’s a winner. Unlike Jet Set Radio’s unfortunate stuttering habit, Sonic Adventure 2 runs smooth as butter. The framerate is high and stable, the character models remain dated but manage to look presentable, and widescreen is properly supported. Chao garden deficiencies aside, this is the new best way to play Sonic Adventure 2. The “Battle” DLC even adds the extras from the GameCube version, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, including the Chao Karate minigame and a local head-to-head multiplayer mode with six new playable characters.

With all of the middling-to-bad 3D Sonic games out there, it can be easy to forget that they’re not all stinkers. If you’ve ever liked 3D Sonic games before Sonic Colors, Sonic Adventure 2 is the one to revisit. It’s a solidly fun experience, occasionally rough around the edges, but mostly enjoyable if you can forgive the awkward flow of switching among playstyles from level to level. It’s ok to be nostalgic for this one.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (October 09, 2012)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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pickhut posted October 11, 2012:

Good to know this port doesn't share the same issue that bothered Jet Set Radio, and it's a shame they didn't find a way to incorporate the "on the go" Chao raising. Having them grow at a slower rate does sound like a nuisance, though, it's the one aspect I never really latched to on the Dreamcast, since my VMU batteries would run out so quickly...

Pretty good, informative review you got here, too! Sonic Adventure 2 was one of my fonder memories of playing on the Dreamcast, and it helped soothe the pain of knowing the system was going to be dead a few months after its release.
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Roto13 posted October 11, 2012:

I didn't spend a lot of time raising Chao on a VMU either. Those batteries died in like a day if you it a lot. The GBA compatibility in the GameCube version was pretty sweet, though, since you were basically transferring Chao to a whole other Sonic game.
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zippdementia posted October 12, 2012:

I really got a lot of this game on the gamecube, clocking something ridiculous for the title, like 100 hours of gameplay or some such nonsense You've done a really good job of summarizing the fun and fails of the game, especially with the Rogue and Knuckles levels. Those would actually have been my favorite levels (they had the most variety, the best music, and the replayability always led to me discovering new little nooks and crannies) except for the two issues you point out which make them my most HATED levels:

You can't point the camera up
Score is a matter of luck

While trying to unlock the Green Hill Zone, the second issue just becomes maddeningly frustrating, and not being able to point the camera up ws a huge problem when most of the items are hidden ABOVE OR BELOW you. I think there was one level in space where this was especially maddening because everything was above or below you and you just had to memorize where it all was.

I do think the Chao would kill this port for me. I spent so many hours raising those damn things that I don't think I could stomache doing it again, slower.

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