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Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (GameCube) artwork

Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (GameCube) review

"Sonic was battered and beaten, being featured in lackluster games on a dying platform known to mankind as the Sega Saturn. Although Sega hoped to make a gaming renaissance on the Sega Dreamcast, it was overlooked due to the hype machine known as the Playstation 2. Realizing the blue hedgehog could not gain any popularity on the ill-fated Dreamcast, Sega released some of his games on another tiny platform: the Nintendo GameCube. You're kidding me. The average human being back in 2001 would think ..."

Sonic was battered and beaten, being featured in lackluster games on a dying platform known to mankind as the Sega Saturn. Although Sega hoped to make a gaming renaissance on the Sega Dreamcast, it was overlooked due to the hype machine known as the Playstation 2. Realizing the blue hedgehog could not gain any popularity on the ill-fated Dreamcast, Sega released some of his games on another tiny platform: the Nintendo GameCube. You're kidding me. The average human being back in 2001 would think the rivalry between the two developers in the SNES/Genesis days would create a bitter hatred, but Sega saw otherwise. Sonic's first GameCube release was a port of Sonic Adventure 2, which featured six different playable characters including Sonic and his new rival Shadow. It's a shame that the original game wasn't a stellar sequel to begin with, or Sonic Adventure 2 Battle would have been a magnificent title for Cubers to own.

Of course, it doesn't start out that way. As soon as you select the game's story mode, you can watch Sonic grab a makeshift snowboard and slide through a bustling city full of angry drivers, ramps for Sonic to do some spectacular tricks, and the ever-abundant power up. Once you get the controls right, you can rack up ''Cool!'' and ''Awesome!'' bonus points until the cows come home. However, this is just a bonus and an introduction to the real action: Sonic will run through levels off his board just like it was 1992. Watch him perform the lightning-fast Spin Dash or the skillful Somersault, and you'll probably think he was working out for his adventure. But that's not all! Now Sonic can grind down rails better than the top skateboarders, and use a special ''Homing Attack'' to hit multiple enemies in a straight line. He'll smash robots, jump across platforms, and run from a gigantic truck, and the action never stops. Whenever you get to play as Sonic, you'll always beg for more.

Unfortunately, the keyword here is ''whenever''. Sega apparently wasn't content with only featuring their blue mascot in the game, so they also added five extra characters for you to play as. There are two groups of characters: the Hero side and the Dark side (insert Star Wars pun here). While Sonic and his buddies Knuckles and Tails will fight for good on the Hero side, Dr. Eggman and his new comrades Shadow and Rouge will do evil's bidding on the Dark side. Each character has their own abilities, and the levels are designed accordingly. While Sonic and Shadow the hedgehogs will have to race through a level much like the other Sonic games, Knuckles and Rouge are given the task of finding shards of the Master Emerald. Finally, Tails the fox and Dr. Eggman will ride special machines and will shoot, jump and hover their way through a linear level. While these levels are still pretty fun, they seem out of place in a game franchise based almost exclusively on speed and adrenaline.

Shooting robots with Tails or Eggman is a prime example of this. Instead of participating in fast-paced combat like the Mega Man games, you'll usually just meander across the stage, shooting whatever you can lock on to and occasionally jumping from platform to platform.. There's no threat in enemies attacking you: most of the time they'll just stand there and act as free points or punching bags. Boss fights are more difficult and exciting, but they are too rare and almost always consist of ''Tails vs. Eggman'' shootouts.

On the other hand, Knuckles and Rouge must search for treasure, which is as tedious as it sounds. Both characters can glide, dig and climb walls, and both have a handy radar that beeps if an emerald shard is near. Finding emeralds isn't particularly difficult, but it can get tedious when there's not enough action going on. Most of the time, there isn't. Any enemies that dare to approach you are easily dispatched with a punch or kick attack. While Sonic Team tried to spice up this gameplay mode by adding certain elements such as flying from one small planet to the next or solving puzzles, it still doesn't feel like Sonic.

Luckily, SA2B has at least one thing going for it: the sheer replay value will have you coming back time and time again if you like the game enough. Each stage, in addition to a simple mission of completing the goal found in the story mode, also contains for extra missions such as collecting rings or passing the stage in a limited time. If you complete a mission, you are rewarded with an emblem. There are 180 emblems in all, but you never need to collect any more than you want to. Tired of searching for treasure? Head down to the Radical Highway and see if you can get an A-rank. Shooting becoming a dull activity? You can always visit the friendly Chao Garden, populated with teardrop-shaped virtual pets that change their physical form depending on how you raise them.

The fun doesn't stop there, though. Sonic Team was even nice enough to include---what's this?---a boss rush mode? It's a good thing too, as the final battle between Sonic and Shadow (actually, there's more, but I won't spoil it for you) is simply spectacular and worth fighting a few machines with unoriginal names like ''Big Foot'' and ''Hot Shot''. Not only that, but you can also participate in a 2-player mode and waste hours of your life racing your friends and using special techniques such as ''Sonic Wind'' and ''Chaos Control''. Unfortunately, there are too many arguments on who gets to be Amy...

Yes, SA2B does change the Sonic formula too much. Although playing as Tails, Eggman, Knuckles or Rouge just isn't the same as playing as Sonic or Shadow, it's not an awful change. There's still some fun in destroying robots, solving puzzles and hunting for goodies.

But there's still something wrong.

Obviously, it's not in the game's graphics. While the game lacks enough detail to have truly ''great'' visuals, the character models look pretty rounded out and animate very fluidly. When Sonic jumps, for example, you can really see him doing a somersault in the air instead of a big blue ball appearing on the screen. Also, the graphics are less blocky than the Dreamcast version, which is always a good thing. There are some good explosions as well, and they are very frequent in the game.

While the sound and music are pretty bad, they really don't have that bad of a negative effect on the game either. Most of the game's soundtrack consists of awful J-pop and hip-hop tunes with lyrics like ''I'm gonna follow my rainbow!'' However, the tunes without lyrics sound great. Some good examples are the White Jungle tune, where a distorted voice seems to say ''Shadow!'' over and over, or the Green Forest tune packed with guitar riffs.

The biggest problem with Sonic Adventure 2 Battle is what plagued platform games eight years ago.

Even when game cameras are getting better and better, SA2B can be downright frustrating because of its awkward camera angles. If you don't move in the right direction, the camera will move to one side or get stuck in a wall, making your search for treasure much more aggravating. And that's a best-case scenario: if you're really unlucky you might fall to your accidental death. This is especially aggravating when you need to run at blinding speeds and make sure that you don't time a jump poorly. While you can rotate the camera around your character by pressing the shoulder buttons, it usually will snap back to the original position, or end up in a position where you can't see a damn thing.

It's really a shame, but the game's camera ruins what would otherwise be a solid title for Sonic fans. While they should probably rent (or even buy) the game, other people should look elsewhere for a GameCube platformer. Well, ''elsewhere'' doesn't mean ''Super Mario Sunshine'', but...

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Community review by eoib (September 09, 2004)

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