Sonic Adventure 2
Genre: Action-Adventure Platformer
Last week, I spoke about the first of Sega’s last great games in the Sonic franchise. If Sonic Adventure was just hitting the top of the mountain peak of a great franchise, then Sonic Adventure 2 is hitting a similar spot… on the other side of that mountain peak, going back down. While it was action packed with good gameplay, this was the game that started trying to add a little too much edge to our spiny blue speedster, trying to push a story that fell a bit flat.
Improvements happened between the first and second game in the two years span between them. The graphics were even more beautifully done than the first game, with many locations and levels based on real world places. Even the first level opening as Sonic, you start in a very hilly city, reminiscent of a certain large city on the west coast known to some as San Diego. Backgrounds are once again a gorgeous treat, with levels being populated with appropriate moving backsplash. While it could sometimes be a bit much in the first Sonic Adventure, this title pulled it off even better, and the backgrounds never feel overwhelming.
The gameplay in this one is split into three different styles, six characters, and two story arcs intertwining with one overaching plotline: Sonic, Knuckles and Tails return for the heroic storyline (with a surprise NPC cameo by Amy Rose), while the dark plotline features Eggman (who, for some reason, had a name change), Rouge the Bat and Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic and Shadow have similar traditional gameplay for the series, racing through levels to collect rings and rack up points. Knuckles and Rouge have gameplay similar to that of Knuckles in the first game, running around trying to find emerald shards. Tails and Eggman are similar to Omega in the first game, with a sort of multi-platform shooter while flying about in robots.
One improvement was cutting out the city to travel between levels. While a charming idea, its execution wasn’t terribly well done, and they focused on making the gameplay sharper, faster and more challenging. Not needing to run around and figure out where to go to get to your next level was good, but the fact that you spent most of your time between levels taking care of your mini game pets, Chaos, was even better.
Chao World is horribly addictive. Even picking the game up this time around, I immediately went back into it. You are provided with two Chaos: you can raise them however you wish. Love them, spoil them, swindle them, beat them, feed them desperate tiny animals and strange tubes filled with colors… it’s addictive. They grow and develop based on what you give them and how you treat them, growing into pretty (or ugly) little monstrous chimeras, sprouting random animal parts including wings, tusks, horns, hooves and tails. Once you’ve built up their stats, you can make them compete against other Chaos, either from other players or from computer generated ones.
Sonic Adventure 2 has so much going for it. The gameplay is tighter than the first one, the music is both more diverse and, for the most part, more fitting and enjoyable, building on an already great soundtrack. Graphically, the game has improved. Where did things go wrong?
One thing they didn’t fix: the freaking camera angles. While the camera will zoom along really well as Shadow or Sonic, when you are running around as any other character, it can be a huge hindrance. What’s worse, when they re-released the game on the Gamecube a year later (which is the port version used in all versions since), they didn’t even bother to fix it. More deaths are caused by the camera angle in this platformer than anything else.
Another glaring problem is the storyline. It’s basic – the heroes and villains eventually work together to stop the earth from being destroyed after some wacky misunderstandings and crazy adventures. With the dark team, they tried to make it cool and edgy, introducing the brooding Shadow the Hedgehog and the awkwardly hourglassed Rouge the Bat. Shadow is kind of like if Sonic had been written by an angsty high schooler trying to make a game appealing to the masses. As my wife noted upon seeing Rouge…. how can she fly like that? She’s a bit more curvaceous than would be tasteful, an unfortunate side effect of the graphics of the time combined with wanting to show that she is evil and sexy.
So there it is. A game with great gameplay and a subpar story, which allowed them to make some poor follow up concepts, with games like Shadow the Hedgehog. Part 1 showed us a promising future for an old franchise… and Part 2 shows us the beginning of the end. It’s easy to pick up these days – if you can’t find a copy on Dreamcast or Gamecube, it’s available on the Playstation Network, XBox Live and Steam. It’s cheap (I grabbed a copy on steam for $1, since my Dreamcast is still out on loan), and it’s worth a playthrough. Just try not to worry too much about what’s going on.