Also available on: PSN
Developer: Sega Studios Shanghai
It's been over a decade since the Dreamcast launched with Sonic's first true 3D outing Sonic Adventure. In the 12 years that have followed we've seen some awful 3D Sonic games hit the shelves, such as Shadow The Hedgehog and Sonic Unleashed. Despite these abominations, Sonic-fever is at an all time high thanks to the news that the sprightly blue hedgehog will return to his 2D roots in upcoming episodic platform title Sonic The Hedgehog 4.
In order to whet our collective appetites for Sonic's next outing, Sega has decided to re-release Sonic Adventure on Xbox Live and the PSN. But can this aged platformer keep up with modern greats such as Mario Galaxy and Ratchet And Clank? Or has this old Dreamcast relic finally lost its legs?
There's no denying that despite a minor graphical upgrade Sonic Adventure is starting to show its age. First of all, the game features no widescreen support, which means that there are borders around the edge of the screen or Sonic is stretched to breaking point. The graphics do look slightly smoother, but the main overworld area (the Adventure Field) of Station Square in particular is extremely bland, as are some of the game's interiors.
However, while the aforementioned faults are fairly minor, Sonic Adventure's biggest sin is its awful camera system. It is only fair to warn potential buyers that the camera will cause Sonic to lose a few lives and may even result in a broken controller or two. There are times in the flying fortress level later on in the game when it was literally impossible to know what was going on after Sonic fell off a platform and eventually - after blindly running around for a bit - plummeted to his doom. The camera is just as bad in the plodding overworld sections too, especially when Sonic enters a building and the player is confronted by a wall or box blocking their view.
Speaking of the overworld area, the game's hub where action stages are accessed can also be quite irritating, especially for those unfamiliar with the original release. The game tends to give players visual clues for the next destination, but even so, it's not always clear where to go. Moving around the drab overworld areas, which contain very little to do, is an extremely dreary affair devoid of any life and activity and really sucks the pace out of the title. It's also during these parts of the game when Sonic will meet many of the title's supporting cast, which leads to cut-scene after cut-scene of horribly voice acted dialogue. Whoever decided to give Sonic his 'attitude' deserves to be escorted from the Sega premises immediately. At times, listening to Sonic's snotty, degenerate remarks actually made me want to punch him in the face - maybe now we can understand why Robotnik hates him so much.
Fortunately, once players reach the action stages of Sonic Adventure, the game springs into life and the rose tinted specs can be dusted off. The action stages are generally much longer than 2D Sonic levels and there's always plenty of routes to take and hidden goodies to find. The developers constantly throw something different at you during every stage which leads to diverse levels full of variety. One level has Sonic and Tails shooting down enemies in a transformable plane, while another sees our hero snowboarding away from a devastating avalanche. There are times when the action is so fast that players will feel like spectators, but the combination of speedy set-pieces and intricate platforming makes the experience enormous fun - assuming the camera doesn't ruin things. Also, unlike the Gamecube port, the Xbox Live version runs at 60FPS, so the action remains fast and frantic at all times.
There are a generous number of action stages to complete in Sonic Adventure and players will genuinely want to play through each stage again in order to find all of the secrets and obtain a better grade for finishing a level. Replayability is furthered by the fact that there are five other characters to unlock, each with their own abilities and challenges to complete - although the fishing sections with Big The Cat were admittedly a bit of a drag. Finally, players can also look after and breed Chao - virtual pets akin to Tamagotchi. Taking care of Chao is surprisingly addictive, but this aspect of the game does lose some of its appeal due to the lack of the Dreamcast's Visual Memory Unit. Considering the game is a reasonably priced 800 Microsoft Points, there is an awful lot of content on offer. Ignoring the overworld, the actual levels themselves are in plentiful supply and are of a high quality.
Sonic Adventure is not the classic it used to be largely due to the terrible camera, poor voice acting and dull and pointless adventure field. The game's faults are all highly visible and make it seem dated compared to modern platform games which have advanced in leaps and bounds. However, the action stages themselves are worth the reasonable price of 800 Microsoft Points, provided of course you get lucky with the camera. If you loved Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast and fancy revisiting then it's worth a second look, but first time buyers might want to download a demo first to see if it’s up to speed.
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