Sonic Adventure 2

Sonic Adventure 2 has finally been released, and as a true Sonic fan, of course I'm bound to write a little review about it too. ;)

The Game The Levels
Characters and Features Good and Bad Points

The Game:

The first thing to note is that the whole Adventure segment is gone, so you can't chose the characters, just the Light or Dark side. And it's not a separate story for each of the characters, but one after another, so you'll go through the story playing each character as their skills are needed.

The gameplay also got more difficult than it was in the original, and the levels sometimes get pretty long (and occasionally even frustrating). More than once you fight more against the controls than against the in-game enemies, and way too often a wrong move is immediately punished by falling to your death instead of giving the player the chance to try again. Also, you have to EARN your way to the Chao World (the sequel's version of Chao Garden) now. Tikal's not there, but little OmoChao (robotic Chao) are your guides. Power-Ups and stuff are also hidden throughout the levels.

Sonic Team has obviously tried to make this game more similar to the original games for the Genesis, especially "Sonic & Knuckles". The one that comes to mind most is in the Crazy Gadget level where you can hit switches to shift the gravity like in the Death Egg Zone from "Sonic & Knuckles".

When it comes to enemies, there are tons of new robots from G.U.N, but Robotnik/Eggman uses many of the same one's we've seen before. Most notably is the E-102 look-alikes (called E-1000's). There's also Kiki the Monkey and those Orbinaut ones that have either spikes or flames circling them. In the G.U.N Headquarters and the Space Colony ARK you'll also find some robots that look remarkably similar to Chaos from the first game...

The Levels:

When the game starts, you can choose between two storylines: Hero Side and Dark Side . Once you have finished both, the Last storyline will be unlocked, in which both sides have to work together in order to win the game.

Hero Side

The Beginning
Enter Knuckles
Rescuing Sonic
Prison Island Escape
Face off with Shadow
Ghost Mountain
World Domination
Aquatic Mine
Where's Eggman?
Eggman's Hidden Base
Shuttle Blast-off
Space Colony ARK
Last Pieces of Master Emerald
Sonic in Trouble
Last Chance
Dark Side

The Beginning
Enter Rouge
Hidden Base Again
Shadow's Past
Infiltrate Hidden Base
Gathering of the Dark
Get Chaos Emerald
Face off with Sonic
The Eggman Empire
Last Chaos Emerald
Hidden Base Intercept
Face off with Knuckles
Eggman's Plan
Mystery of Shadow
The Last Battle

The Beginning
The last Mission
The Ultimate Battle
Remaining Hope

When you complete a stage, it is added in the "Stage Select" screen, and you can then re-select it to play it again and improve your scores. It also shows which emblems you got and which rank you received for each mission.

This screen also allows you to enter Chao World after you have successfully unlocked it by finding the key to it in the action stages, which is more convenient than it was in the first "Sonic Adventure" game.

Characters and Features:

Sonic and Shadow both have a "somersault" attack used to get under stuff. When you walk up to a line of rings as Sonic, you can press B and do the "Light Dash". Other extra items that you can collect also allow you to use "Bounce Attack" (to bounce like a ball), "Fire Somersault" (to destroy metal boxes), "Magic Hand" (to transform an enemy into a crystal ball) and "Light Attack" (to destroy ennemies at Light Speed). Shadow plays mostly like Sonic, but when he gets enough speed, he seems to "hover-skate".

Tails and Dr. Eggman both control a mech with guided missiles and basically play like E-102 from the first game. So the only place where you will see Tails flying by 'tail-rotor' is in Chao World this time.

Rouge plays just like Knuckles . They both have an "uppercut" style attack if you attack three times in a row. This time, their stages are not as easy as before. Where in Knuckles' stages in SA1 you were in a big room looking for the emeralds, here you go through secret passageways around a temple and stuff. What's even cooler is that you can dig through walls and come out the other side.

For cameos, Amy Rose is in the game too and participates in the story, although you can't play her. Big also makes cameo appearances in almost all of the levels as an 'in-joke', but he isn't really part of the plot like Amy.

All the characters' controls have been modified. A is Jump, B is variable. If you press Y, you can change what B does, which will be shown in the upper right corner of the screen, like for example 'Whistle' to call animals from pipes and such.

2 player mode is pretty cool, whether it's racing with Sonic and Shadow , blasting at each other with Tails and Eggman , or finding stuff with Knuckles and Rouge . And there's 1 Player Kart Racing too!

Emblems:  The Sonic Emblems are back, and if you manage to get all 180 emblems, you will also unlock a 3d version of the original Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1 (all you not-so-skilled gamers who want to see this cool zone too can download a ready-to-use Main Save File with all 180 emblems here).

Goal:  Instead of having certain goals, Sonic, Shadow, Tails, and Eggman just have "get to the Goal Ring" instead of "Save Tails" or "Beat Eggman in 2 minutes" goals; sometimes with time limits, sometimes not. Rouge and Knuckles both have "Get 3 Chaos Emeralds/Master Emerald Pieces/Keys" for 1st mission.

The other missions are:

Language:  You can have the text in 5 languages, and the voices in either English or Japanese.

Good and Bad Points:

In general, the graphics have improved a lot since the first game, and are now brighter, more colorful and with higher detail than in SA1. The character animation has also improved. No-one just stands there anymore, they all gesture and move naturally. Sonic taps his foot when you leave him, or he does leg stretches to keep limber.

The Chao got a lot of new features too. Now they can learn extra abilities in the Chao Kindergarten, win additional toys in the Chao Races, plant trees in the Chao Garden, and several things more. Their personalitiy also got extra development. For example, they now react to the whistling of a character they like, and will run over to him. In addition to that, there are now Hero and Dark versions available of all Chao types, adding greater variety to Chao breeding.

On the downside, even though there are 6 characters in the game, the heroes and villains are so close to their counterparts that it's really like playing different levels with 3 characters. I found the Tails / Eggman levels exceptionally dull, a chore to get through, and not very enjoyable, because you don't do much else but shooting. If I wanted that sort of game, I'd go buy some shoot'em up. What happened to Tails... the cute flying / tail slashing / fun foxie is gone.

I also miss the Adventure Stages, since they created variety in the pacing of the game. Without them, it all seems terribly liniar and monotonous. The player is catapulted from level to level without a break, and because the game types are so different it's inevitably jarring. In SA1, you were able to randomly select characters and unfold the plot in your own space and time, which was much more interesting.

The story isn't as captivating as the one in SA1 either, because there isn't any significant character development, and the pacing is just dreadful. We start in mid-action with Sonic escaping from the G.U.N. helicopter, but by the end of the level we really haven't learnt anything surprising. The start of the Knuckles / Rouge section is the most arbitrary of the lot with Rouge just chucked in there as if she had already been there. Everything seems rushed to me, while SA1 managed to mix character development, a blossoming plot, and variety in gameplay with the trademark Sonic speed and badnik-bashing action.

Of course Sonic on the Dreamcast is 3d and looks fabulous, but alas most of the levels feel like you are on rails, just going forward, where the Genesis levels feel like they have more depth and allow you more freedom. In the old games, there were multiple platforms and levels to jump around on, and there also was more emphesis on destroying enemies, where on "Sonic Adventure 2 it's just hit the zippers and keep forward.

Generally speaking, I think that the original Sonic games on the Genesis were better than the actual ones. The old games had much better control, many more different paths in the levels, and especially the beautiful concept of a super-fast hero fighting technology with nothing except his natural skills. In the old games, Sonic and Tails won against Robotnik's meanest and most hi-tech creations without needing extra gadgets like Soap Shoes, Battle-Mechs, or whatever, and that was what gave the game it's special charm.

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