Seriously Ambitious, Seriously Messy – Sonic Adventure (DC/GC)

It’s odd to reflect on and hard to believe,
but it was March 25th 2015 when I uploaded my first video on this channel. Going back to it, I can tolerate it and the
cringe doesn’t deeply trouble my soul — something I ironically can’t say for much of my other
content from that year — but it’s evident I was still inexperienced. Viewers have obviously noticed the quality
difference compared to my most recent videos and so I’ve been asked to redo some of my
older reviews. Normally, I prefer moving forward and covering
other games instead, but it makes sense for Sonic Adventure and I’ve had the idea for
a while now. I think this is neat as a 5-year channel anniversary
and there also seems to be revitalized interest in Sonic Adventure lately. Sure, YouTube has absolutely no shortage of
polarizing discussion about it, but let’s be honest: it’s Sonic and people are going
to click regardless. You did, didn’t you? Having said that, I do feel I have interesting
points of critique and can provide a nuanced, balanced take on why — spoiler alert — I
am not a big fan of the game despite having a nostalgic fondness for it. So, let’s dive in. I started getting antsy to revisit Sonic Adventure
last summer. For a marketing job I was working at the time,
we went on a four-day trip to Gamescom 2019 in Germany. It was a pleasant and memorable week: the
hotel was top notch, we had delicious wiener schnitzels and it was all paid for. What more can you ask? Fast forward to the last day and as a keepsake
I bought these two vinyl albums. When I returned home that night, you bet I
listened to those bad boys and man is Sonic Adventure’s soundtrack still fantastic. Since his inception, Sonic’s had a reputation
for awesome music, and now that Sega’s sound team wasn’t held back anymore by the limitations
of the Mega Drive, they were free to go all out and the end result shines. The production is steps above most other video
game soundtracks from the ‘90s and early 2000s — as marvelous as some of them are,
too — and the mixing is excellent with rich, diversified instrumentation; there is a sense
of cohesion to the sound and that with so many different pieces and genres to boot. Almost every area you can think of has a unique
and distinct track accompanying it, as do many of the bosses and mini games, yet the
length of the loops and quality of the compositions weren’t sacrificed in the slightest. I don’t love everything, but given how broad
the selection is it’s brilliant I love as much as I do. Even the character themes are enjoyable and
reflective of their personalities, with special shoutouts going to the banging vocals and
instrumentals in Amy’s despite the lyrics inferring she… shaves her pussy to entice
Sonic? It’s kinda creepy — just try to block that
out of your mind. A
disappointing weak spot is definitely the cutscene music — there’s not nearly enough
original material written for them and the character themes are recycled ad nauseum to
compensate — but ignoring that, the soundtrack is A-class and one of my favorites in the
series. Something else I’ve always appreciated about
Sonic Adventure is its world and the aesthetic. The locals are full of defined landmarks and
the stage theming is very diverse: you’ve got the sunny beaches and islands of Emerald
Coast; the lounge hall, pinball tables and underground dump in Casinopolis; the tall
cliffs, ziplines and erupting volcanoes and then the inside of a crater in Red Mountain
— many of the levels feel like physical places in a way that many of the later instalments
don’t quite pull off, in my opinion. Of course, one of the contributing factors
to that is the three hub worlds you’ll be roaming around in between action stages. These help to contextualize and connect the
placement of all the action stages within the game’s setting at large, and while some
suspension of disbelief is required — such as how the inside of Lost World is like a
thousand times larger than it appears from the outside — you can chalk much of that
up to technical restraints and the developers got the idea across. The hubs themselves are also charming. I find the Mystic Ruins kinda bland, but it’s
novel to explore Eggman’s floating masterpiece, the Egg Carrier, and see, like, the gang of
clean-up robots doing their jobs or that the doctor has a large swimming pool all to himself,
and the citizens and tourists of the bustling Station Square have their miniature stories
you can follow across the duration of a character’s campaign. There’s this girl who’s nervous about
talking to the guy in the burger shop and ultimately ends up working there, the mother
who keeps making up excuses for her gambling addiction and neglecting her son in the process,
a player who seems to be dating more than one person and there’s some drama over it,
and yeah it’s all superficial, but totally optional and gives the city a smidge of life. In terms of gameplay, though, the hubs don’t
serve all that much purpose. Where Super Mario 64 has Peach’s castle
to facilitate the open-ended collectathon structure, and where Spyro the Dragon’s
hubs are functionally full stages on top of that, progression in Sonic Adventure is strictly
linear and what you do here rarely extends further than triggering cutscenes and putting
keys in holes to unlock stages — it’s pretty much filler. There is some optional stuff to find, mainly
character upgrades and Emblems, and that’s cool. Many of these upgrades have minimal utility,
though, like Knuckles’ Fighting Gloves, which I use to deal double damage to Chaos
6 and… yeah, tha-that’s it. Admittedly, Big’s lure power-ups are needed
to finish his extra missions, but trust me — we’ll get to those. Thankfully, finding the way forward in the
hubs shouldn’t take anybody too long for the most part; the fields are of a digestible
size, the game usually nudges you toward your next destination and Tikal can provide directions
for lost players. Notice I did say for the most part, because
there are a couple of potential speed bumps. At one point in Tails’ campaign, for instance,
you have to locate the Jet Anklet in this Echidna tribe flashback area. If you don’t know where it is you can be
searching for it for quite a while — this thing isn’t even required anywhere in the
game, so it should’ve just been optional — and in a similar flashback as Amy, the
camera points towards the same area you scoured as Tails and then the cutscene ends. This is terribly misleading; you’re actually
supposed to just turn around and leave immediately, which stings more than you’d think because
Amy is slow and so you could be wasting a significant amount of time here. And now that I mention Amy’s speed or lack
thereof, that makes the hubs in general more of a slog to traverse as her and also Big;
you cross the maze-like jungle section of the Mystic Ruins twice with Amy and it’s
just a chore. To be fair, she and Big should have been faster
characters period, and in the grand scheme the hubs don’t offend me. I see their appeal, but I also understand
why they were axed in the sequel. Personally, I don’t really mind either way. Moving on to the real meat of the game, Sonic
Adventure is primarily made up of six different character campaigns. Outside of the shared hubs, each of them have
their own gameplay style and story to tell, and the idea is that you finish them all to
gain the full picture. Self-explanatory, we begin with Sonic and
right off the bat I wanna say he plays beautifully: he’s responsive to button inputs, his acceleration
feels natural and even at top speeds he never becomes unwieldy, thanks to the fine-tuned
sensitivity of the analog stick. The jumps allow for a lot of mid-air maneuverability,
making more precise platforming very doable and comfortable, and the homing attack was
an ingenious addition that alleviates the need for pinpoint accuracy in this 3D space. It also helps with flow and keeping your momentum
going, which I think is important in a Sonic game. It’s honestly outstanding how the developers
practically nailed the controls on their first attempt and it baffles me that so many subsequent
titles feel inferior in some way or another. Why fix what wasn’t broken? The spin dash is somewhat of a point of contention
for fans — rather than needing to stop and charge it, you can spam it in Sonic Adventure
as some kind of infinite boost — and I guess I agree it could be toned a bit. By the same token, it’s a rush to spin dash
around like a maniac, and once you start experimenting with and pushing these mechanics to their
limits, it becomes apparent how satisfying the level design itself can also be. In true Sonic fashion, there are so many possibilities
for shortcuts here that I can show off only a fraction of them. Immediately in the first stage, Emerald Coast,
there are at least four shortcuts that, when chained together in one perfect run, can shave
off tons of time, and while not every level is as fancy with this — Windy Valley and
Casinopolis are two that come to mind — things can get even crazier in others, full on allowing
you to bypass major chunks. The section I feel best demonstrates this
is act 3 of Sky Deck: a first time player is not gonna think to make this jump in order
to skip the dash panels and swinging hooks; a first time player is not gonna think to
spin dash here to make it to the top, before the gravity tilts and forces Sonic into climbing
monkey bars; and a first time player is not gonna think — or have the skills — to break
the capsule using this small ramp and skip almost the entire act. Are these shortcuts you can perform all intended? Probably not, but if you ask me that only
adds to the fun rather than detract. Sadly, the snake part in Lost World and the
platforming segment in Final Egg do stick out like sore thumbs; both are slow and tedious
and I wish you could do something to speed up or circumvent them. You can in the DX version, but the methods
have more to do with botched collision detection, so it doesn’t really count as exploiting
the layout. I’ll take it regardless, but yeah. Another aspect that’s been brought over
from the classic titles is the secrets. The stages in Sonic Adventure are without
a doubt more straight shots — you’re not gonna see as many multiple and intertwining
pathways here — but there are countless little side areas where you can find goodies. There isn’t much incentive, as like in Sonic
3, extra lives hold significantly less value than in Sonic 1 and 2, and Sonic 1 and 2 have
the Special Stages that require Rings to enter. Nevertheless, it can feel intrinsically rewarding
to explore for this stuff, and the number of clips you’re seeing really doesn’t
do justice to how much there is of it. Now that I think about it, perhaps even more
so than the 16-bit games; seriously, I just keep discovering and discovering bits and
pieces of level design here that I’ve never seen before, and I can guarantee you that
I’m still not aware of everything. The cherry on top is that no two stages are
alike; in fact, of the ten main ones Sonic goes through, all of them are divided into
multiple acts, as well. In Speed Highway, for example, you start on
the city rooftops at night, then run down a tall skyscraper and end up in the streets
at ground level with the morning sun rising. It gives the levels a great sense of scale
and progression, and it’s clear Sonic Team put effort into keeping the player engaged
with fresh gimmicks and setpieces: from the iconic whale chase in Emerald Coast to the
tornado in Windy Valley, and from the roller coaster ride and bowling alleys in Twinkle
Park to the black out segment with the mirrors and the gravity panels in Lost World — the
stages are highly energetic and ever-changing thrill rides, which is impressive given their
length and the sheer amount of modelling work. Combine that with the speedrun and exploration
appeal and there should be something for many types of players to enjoy as Sonic. That’s not to say everything in this campaign
is a home run. I’ve always found Windy Valley unremarkable
with too much automation — the third act is comprised almost entirely of linear walkways
and scripted loops — and Sky Deck, while a technically impressive stage and very creative,
is marred severely by buggy mechanics, a wonky gravity gimmick that must be a disaster to
put up with as a newcomer, and this obnoxious cannon that keeps rotating while you’re
trying to shoot a rocket into it. Damn, I hate that thing. The designers also attempted to add even more
variety by shaking up the core mechanics here and there, to varying degrees of success,
let’s just say. The pinball tables in Casinopolis, for example,
are absolutely awful with butchered physics that do not behave in the way you’d expect
them to, and then there’s the snowboarding in IceCap. This part is alright, but the feel of it is
a bit off with rough terrain, and it’s mostly a visual spectacle; exciting the first time,
yes, but there’s a complete absence of hazards and pits to avoid, and acing the stunt ramps
is only for flair. These mini games, if you will, could’ve
used more time in the oven. They don’t only show up in the action stages,
though, as some even get their own so-called sub stages. There’s Twinkle Circuit, which is piss easy
but also not forced upon the player, so whatever… The notorious ones are really Sky Chase 1
and 2; mandatory on-rails shooters you can survive by sitting in the center and mashing
the fire button, or placing the Tornado in a corner and dropping the controller altogether
— I’m not joking. There is a targeting system for points, and
if you score high enough you can obtain Emblems, but let’s be honest: many people won’t
give a rat’s ass about that. I feel both of these acts either should’ve
been more interesting on a base level or made optional somehow; I don’t need to play out
how Sonic and Tails chase the Egg Carrier, unless it isn’t boring and doesn’t bog
down the pacing of the campaign. As is fairly typical for platformers, the
boss battles are also little to write home about. There isn’t much complexity to them and
the Ring system negates most of the challenge there may have been; the only encounter I’ve
ever died in is Egg Viper on account of the fact it’s suspended over a giant bottomless
pit. I’ll never agree with the Ring system not
being re-imagined for Sonic Adventure; it was basically invented as a crutch for the
visibility issues stemming from a low resolution, side-scrolling play field, so the jump to
3D makes it obsolete. They’re adhering too closely to tradition
here, because it’s holding back progression and improvement of the series. At least Egg Hornet and Chaos 6 can be defeated
very swiftly with the right techniques, which reminds me of the classic titles where how
fast you could take out many of the bosses sorta makes up for their simplicity… But then, of course, there are the bosses
that drag on; Egg Viper does with a lot of waiting around for Eggman to do his thing
and open himself up, and Chaos 4 is the worst. His attacks are not dangerous at all and you’ll
just be jumping around until the guy finally peaks above the surface and becomes damageable. Rinse and repeat for five cycles — it sucks. Still, the good definitely outweighs the bad
when it comes to Sonic’s gameplay. The mini games and bosses may be average,
but most of the action stages themselves remain a ton of fun today and are endlessly replayable. They are what I first think of when I think
of Sonic Adventure and for good reason. With the capable specs of the Dreamcast, however,
the developers also wanted to expand on their storytelling. This starts with the characters themselves,
who now verbally interact with each other and have their own thoughts and feelings,
and I think they handled Sonic’s character well. He’s the same old hedgehog who’s always
looking for an adventure, and despite being cocky and having little patience for bullshit,
he’ll go out of his way to help whoever and however he can. Some of the nuances of his personality from
the later instalments are missing — I dunno, he feels a bit less… lively here — but
the game takes what was previously established and displays it faithfully in more detail. The same applies to Eggman; he was always
that menacing, evil scientist who’s obsessed with his own intelligence, plastering his
face all over his machinery and creations, yet kind of a goofball by design all the same. That’s captured here, as well, but the dialog
gives the doctor extra flavor that’s made him such a beloved villain. This dynamic between Sonic and Eggman is at
the center of the campaign, and in some sense Sonic’s story is by the numbers — foil
the bad guy’s plans, basically — but it’s spruced up somewhat with a new bully in town. You see, Eggman reads up on this liquid-based
creature, Chaos, that is rumored to evolve with every Chaos Emerald he’s fed. Wanting to harness this power in order to
devour Station Square, Eggman predictably frees Chaos and sets out to find all seven
Emeralds. I’ve always found Chaos a wicked character,
since he’s actually able to utilize individual Emeralds — that’s something the heroes
could take a few pages from — his ever-evolving nature has you anticipating what his next
form might be, and being a mute lends him some mysterious and unnerving vibes. He makes for a good plot device, though the
writing for everything pertaining to the Emeralds is pretty weak, if I’m honest. For the first third or so of the campaign,
Sonic and Tails’ mission is to find as many Emeralds as they can; unfortunately, every
time they get one, Eggman manages to steal it right after in the most embarrassing ways. If this happened once then that’d be totally
fine, but it happens three times in a row, which not only makes this portion of the campaign
feel repetitive, it also makes Sonic and Tails look extremely incompetent. Then, much later, when the duo lands on the
Egg Carrier, they leave behind and flat out forget about the Emerald that was powering
the Tornado. That seems like a critical security risk,
guys, but of course Eggman and Chaos — who were always conveniently in the right place
at the right time before — do not catch onto this whatsoever, because we can’t have Perfect
Chaos before the final story segment, now can we? And also, Big wouldn’t be able to escape
the Egg Carrier at the end of his campaign without an operational Tornado. What I’m trying to get at here is that,
while I find the concept of Chaos very cool, the events that lead up to his growth are
contrived to keep the plot on track. I should stress that the general story in
Sonic’s campaign does the job of providing motivation and contextualizing your purpose
in the stages — it’s totally serviceable — but I wish they got more creative with
how they, y’know, showed off the various evolutions of Chaos. There are six character campaigns, for crying
out loud, and yet five of the Emeralds are collected — and lost — by Sonic and Tails. I feel the distribution there could’ve been
more even for the believability of the story, and also to incentivize players to go through
the rest of the campaigns. This is done with Chaos 2 in Knuckles’ campaign,
but imagine if Chaos 1, Chaos 3 and Chaos 5, for example, were bosses you didn’t fight
as Sonic, whereas you did as other characters — that would have been sick. It wasn’t meant to be, sadly, and I think
that’s all I have to say about Sonic’s campaign, really, so let’s move on to the
second playable character: Tails. Bluntly put, this is a nose dive in quality. Now, in terms of overall control and movement
Tails is just as fast, fluid and responsive as Sonic — no complaints there. I mean, he can’t Spin Dash or perform the
Homing Attack, but his flight ability returns and flows well with a nice, organic descent
as he tires out — he handles great. That being said, this flight is also one of
the core reasons the gameplay falls flat. In Sonic 3, playing as Tails is often considered
the easy mode already with easier access to secrets and alternate routes, but since you’re
on a side-scrolling plane it was still very possible and manageable for the developers
to design levels where flying isn’t game breaking. When you’re working with a 3D space, this
is obviously much harder to do and it feels as if they tried as much here as Capcom did
with the 3D sections of Mega Man X7. Fuck, did I really just say that? Of the ten stages Sonic goes through, Tails
goes through five of those stages and only small parts of them, as he races against Sonic
in friendly competition. The problem is that much of the level design
is catered toward Sonic, and because Tails can fly freely you can skip over the vast
majority of obstacles and take massive shortcuts. It’s nothing like the shortcuts in Sonic’s
campaign, either, which reward route knowledge of stage layouts and mechanical mastery, and
whenever Tails isn’t flying, either due to tight passages in Casinopolis or snowboarding
in IceCap, I’m just replaying stuff from Sonic’s campaign almost verbatim. The only stage that works to some extent is
Speed Highway, since the open nature of it allows Tails to take a wide variety of different
paths and explore areas of the city rooftops that Sonic cannot. It can be pretty fun, but not even Eggman,
soaring in one of his flying egg mobiles, proves to be any challenge to beat to the
finish Moreover, Tails’ campaign has a noticeable
pacing issue, as between action stages three and four you fight Chaos 4, go through both
acts of Sky Chase and play a sandboarding mini game. It’s bad enough that you have to deal with
the yawn-inducing Chaos 4 and on-rails Sky Chase shit again — seriously, nothing changes
here, and what I could give a pass before as mildly irritating now feels like obtrusive
padding — but it’s even worse all clumped together with no spread. At least Sand Hill is exclusive to Tails’
campaign, as is the Egg Walker boss battle at the end, but mini games and bosses aren’t
Sonic Adventure’s forte, anyway, so by and large you can forget about unique and worthwhile
content for Tails. The story actually suffers from a very similar
issue. Since Tails tags along with Sonic for the
majority of his campaign, and considering it is half the length, roughly two-thirds
or so of the cutscenes are repeated from Sonic’s. It’s true that the dialog, voice acting
and… *cough* cinematography have slight alterations — for instance, Eggman sounds
more sinister and intimidating from Tails’ perspective than from Sonic’s — and while
these are nifty touches, it’s not sufficient to watch otherwise identical events play out
all over again. As for the 33% where Tails is separated from
Sonic, there is a bit of an arc of him gaining confidence in his own abilities; to get shit
done without the friend who’s always inspired him. It’s quite a natural extension of Tails’
character — y’know, always running after Sonic and looking up to him — though most
of this actual development here only happens at the end when Tails overcomes his fears,
and stops Eggman from blowing up Station Square wholesale with a giant missile. It doesn’t really land for me, because it’s
a pay-off with little setup. If the implication is that Tails is scared
of Eggman then why does he fight the Egg Hornet and Chaos 4? You can argue Sonic is by his side in these
moments, but in this campaign the player and by extension Tails is the one doing the actual
work. The pay-off would’ve been more satisfying
and deserved had Sonic stepped in to do those fights, or if Tails in general had spent more
time by himself with more focus on this aspect of his character. Since doing so also would’ve cut down on
the repetition from Sonic’s campaign, it’d be killing two birds with one stone. So, given that neither the gameplay nor the
story are well executed, Tails’ campaign is, regrettably, pretty lousy. The good news is that Knuckles’ campaign
holds its own better. As the Echidna, your job in each of his five
action stages is to find three pieces of the Master Emerald randomly located out in the
open, underground or inside enemies or objects. This shifts the focus from high-speed platforming
to exploration, and whether it is your cup of tea or not, from a design standpoint it
was probably the right call to make. Carried over from Sonic 3, Knuckles can glide
and climb walls, which, again, would present a big challenge to integrate properly into
the same linear levels as Sonic with the same goal of simply reaching the end; treasure
hunting in sandbox maps, by contrast, makes sense for 3D Knuckles gameplay. Furthermore, the man is as free-flowing and
quick as you’d hope, the stages are all confined and laid out in such a fashion that
you can efficiently travel from one end to the other, and despite the fact these are
all sections Sonic goes through, too, they work competently for both him and Knuckles. As more open-ended Sonic level design, it
works due to the mix of intended paths and then the shortcuts I’ve talked about before,
whereas as Knuckles the openness and the nooks and crannies to scrub make the level design
functional for treasure hunting. Special mention goes to Red Mountain for this,
which has a boatload of diversions for Sonic while still sporting a linear progression,
and then as Knuckles there are so many mountains to scale and potential places to hide Emerald
pieces — it’s admirable. Still, the level design is only adequate for
Knuckles. I like the scale and size of Red Mountain,
but with the exception of Sky Deck, which has specific hatches that are opened by tilting
gravity accordingly, none of the stages have interesting intricacies to work out. For gameplay like this, I want stages to have
a central gimmick or other types of mini puzzles and obstacles that affect how I get around
or where I can and cannot get to at a given time; without that, the levels are just samey
playgrounds where I wanker about for collectibles. I also feel Tikal’s guidance is excessive,
since she can literally show you where to go; I mean, you already have a radar that
is pretty generous and strong — sometimes I enter a level and it immediately alarms
me for multiple Emerald pieces nearby — so when you combine the two it kinda interferes
with the point of the gameplay. As such, it’s also not uncommon I finish
stages in two minutes or even under a minute if I really want to. There isn’t as much depth here as I’d
like, but perhaps I’m only saying this because I’ve been playing Sonic Adventure since
I was a little shitnugget. For newcomers, y’know, there is probably
sufficient challenge, and the foundation is solid. As for Knuckles’ story… Eh… Well, frankly, you can sum up a good chunk
of it as him… going places to hunt for Emerald pieces, and I’ve always found part of his
character here silly. You see, early on, Knuckles runs into Eggman,
who claims Sonic is after the Master Emerald, too; as a result, Knuckles attacks Sonic in
Mystic Ruins. Now, I know Knuckles is kind of a naive, gullible
guy, but not only was this exact trick already pulled on him in Sonic 3, not only did Eggman
tell him this after trying to kill him with Chaos, he instantly, without being like ‘’yo
Sonic, long time no see, what ya holdin’ there’’, mistakes the Chaos Emerald for
a piece of the Master Emerald and assaults Sonic. There are so many red flags there and the
fact Knuckles is blind to all of them is something I just cannot buy. Again, it feels like contriving some kind
of reason to grow Chaos, but to be fair there are also elements of this story I do enjoy. For one, I like the continuity of Knuckles
being the protector of the Master Emerald to keep Angel Island afloat, and seeing him
reflect on that job and wondering why he was given that purpose in the opening and epilogue
gives us some insight into his mind — you discover he’s actually quite the loner. They are endearing moments and good examples
of these characters now representing more than sprites on the screen. His campaign also contains the starting point
for the overarching plot at large, as on one peaceful night Eggman breaks the Master Emerald
in order to free Chaos and as such also Tikal, which is a nice bit of foreshadowing about
their origins and also the game’s conclusion. It fills in some of the blanks for Chaos in
Sonic’s campaign, and for what it’s worth this is a more original story and campaign
as a whole than Tails’, with the only overlap between Knuckles and Sonic occuring during
the Chaos 4 and Chaos 6 encounters. That does, however, mean that you have to
fight both of them, as well, marking the third time for that stupid Chaos 4 encounter. I’m left wondering why Knuckles couldn’t
just leave the job to Sonic and further pursue his own mission. Like with Tails’ campaign, this screws with
the continuity of the story and all you get for it in return is mindless repetition and
padding. Not keen on that, no I am not. Alright, well, with the classic trio done,
we’re finally getting into new character territory. Amy isn’t a new character, but this is her
playable debut in a main series game. This means the developers had the freedom
to shape her abilities and gameplay from scratch, and what they came up with is quite lame-y,
indeed. For starters, this girl is slow as ass. She climbs ladders as if she’s hurling through
mud and her acceleration is remarkably sluggish, especially on any sort of incline that aren’t
stairs, causing me to constantly hop around to keep a pace going. She can’t even jump on enemies; instead,
she has to use her Pico Pico Hammer that halts all of her momentum, unless it’s used at
top speed, in which case she performs this super jump that admittedly does give her some
good distance and height. Even after getting the hang of her, however,
Amy doesn’t feel fun or smooth to play as by any platforming standards, let alone by
Sonic standards. This is exacerbated by her overall gameplay. I guess it’s supposed to be more reminiscent
of your typical, methodical platformer, and to give credit where it’s due at least Amy’s
received a lot of exclusive level design to her, like this castle of terror attraction
in Twinkle Park. Nevertheless, it’s uninspired and basic;
I mean, there are jumps to make, hazards to avoid and enemies to defeat… yaaaay? It’s hardly ever arranged in a way that
provides ingenuity or challenge. With proper use of her hammer jump, there
are opportunities to take shortcuts here and there and bypass slow sections, but I’m
really stretching for something to praise here. Additionally, there are ‘’puzzles,’’
but they just waste your time: playing a guessing game of opening the correct door, hitting
switches to open doors, inserting colored blocks into colored holes to open doors — I’m
sorry, what is this? Preschool? Hell, I haven’t even mentioned ZERO, an
invincible robot who chases Amy through stages, because he’s such an inconsequential threat. I do dig some of the scares and setpieces,
like ZERO busting through walls Mr. X style or chasing you through a hallway with an impressive
reflection technique for 1998; it’s just a shame they have minimal impact, considering
he’ll never catch you as long as you keep moving. Now, Amy does only have three action stages,
but that’s three too many for me; Hot Shelter, in particular, is long and always bores me
to tears. If I have anything positive to say it’s
that none of the previous mini games or boss fights are repeated here, and her whack-a-mole
mini game that you play aboard the Egg Carrier is less of a pace breaker than Sky Chase. Her ZERO boss fight is also inoffensive — it
doesn’t overstay its welcome in the slightest — and her story on its own ain’t half-bad,
either. The premise is that Amy butts head with a
Flicky carrying one of the Chaos Emeralds in its pendant. Eggman is of course after this Emerald to
power up Chaos, so he sends out ZERO to give chase. Amy decides to protect the birdie and later
down the line to help it reunite with its lost family. I think it’s a wholesome little adventure
with a happy ending for the animal — I’ve always found it somewhat touching — and you
get to see that, even though Amy’s that annoying brat who stalks her hero, she also
has a very good heart with a strong will to help those in need. She doesn’t get much if any development
— she starts and ends self-dependent and obsessed over Sonic — but the story does
set a nice template for the character beyond being the stock damsel in distress she was
in Sonic CD. Unlike the classic trio, however, Amy doesn’t
even seem to be aware of Chaos’ existence, making her journey feel rather isolated from
the core thread, and since Sonic is the one guarding and trying to rescue Amy, you will
again be watching a handful of cutscenes you’ve already watched before. It’s also weird how Sonic and Tails’ campaigns
show why Eggman kidnapped Amy in the first place; that’s spoiling a part of her story
and her only tie-in to Chaos. Why? A similar mistake is made with the prison
cell scene that involves E-102 Gamma, but more on that in a bit, because… E-102 Gamma is our next playable character. Apparently Sonic Team had been requested to
add shooting components to a Sonic game, and since that would be an ill fit for the main
characters it was envisioned via one of Eggman’s robots. A compelling concept that puts a unique spin
on things — I have nothing against it — but the implementation contains such little substance
that even the fucking Game Grumps were smooth sailing with Gamma. The shooting itself is as deep as a puddle;
you’re a walking tank that can effortlessly truck along while obliterating anything in
your path by being a brain dead button spammer. Due to the Ring system, getting damaged also
doesn’t matter and enemies don’t stand a chance, anyway, since they’re largely
the same simplistic ones you’ve dealt with as the other characters, where that simplicity
is harmless because combat was never a driving factor. There is a combo system, where the more targets
you manage to lock onto simultaneously the more seconds are added to your timer, and
this could have elevated the gameplay. Gamma, for some unexplained reason, is on
a countdown timer and you lose a life should it drop to 0; unfortunately, this timer is
so incredibly forgiving that, outside a couple of the optional missions for Emblems, you
can safely ignore the combo system. It may provide some surface level satisfaction,
but the developers failed to actually capitalize on it. Gamma controls well and is decently fast,
so this could’ve been an interesting blend of racing against the clock and shooting mechanics,
doubly so if the enemies were more aggressive, too. His last stage, Hot Shelter, reveals glimmers
of that buried potential with a large chunk of tailor-made level design and a platforming
set piece that compliments Gamma’s hover ability, but it’s the most you’re gonna
get. The four stages before Hot Shelter, which
are all truncated versions of Sonic levels, are too brief and platforming is either virtually
absent, or neutered by the hover in the case of Windy Valley. To top it off, three of the five stages come
to a head with a face-off against one of the other E-series robots, and you can win all
of them by standing still and shooting. Ooooh, what were they doing? I should mention that the last boss on the
Egg Carrier is more fleshed out with an arsenal of attacks to dodge, and I actually think
it’s one of the more engaging bosses in Sonic Adventure, but why couldn’t all the
E-series fights be more like this? Gamma’s gameplay overall isn’t bad — I’ll
take it over Tails, I suppose, and especially Amy — it’s just too shallow, which is a
bummer because his story is the best one. Gamma: ”Beta?” Through this campaign, you learn that Eggman
isn’t just out to build Robotnikland, but also a ruthless maniac who treats his own
robots as disposable scrap metal when he deems them useless. As a result, Gamma, who used to carry out
orders unconditionally, begins questioning his own master, and after a confrontation
with Amy and the bird shows him what real compassion is, he turns against Eggman. Wanting to relieve his brothers and save the
imprisoned animals inside, Gamma sets out to destroy the other E-series robots and of
course it dawns on him what that entails for himself, too. Shortly after he perishes from a fatal combat
wound and… darn, somehow they got me kinda sad and emotional for the death of a robot. There is natural character development you
follow every step of the way — Gamma is born and needs to prove himself to Eggman, but
despite living up to expectations he carves his own tragic path — and as fate would have
it the flicky inside him is none other than one of the birdie’s siblings, so completion
of the campaign is extra rewarding for explaining the ending of Amy’s campaign. The first half of Gamma’s campaign is a
bit too cutscene-heavy, and akin to Amy the story is far removed from the whole Chaos
shebang, yet I’m willing to let these complaints slide because what’s presented is captivating. Not merely for the arc, but also because the
awkward and limited cutscene animation is less distracting for Gamma as a mechanical
being than the other characters, and other grievances I do have, have more to do with
the game’s general storytelling decisions. The prison cell scene I mentioned earlier
for Amy is when the most significant change within Gamma happens, but it plays out identically
in both campaigns. This should’ve been cleverly edited out
of Amy’s campaign, seeing how it’s lengthy and spoils half the reason why Gamma undergoes
his transformation. The moment is crucial to Gamma’s arc; not
to Amy’s, and Gamma is forgotten about in her story mere minutes later. Worse yet, right after comes a scene where
Sonic and Tails, Amy and Gamma all bump into one another on the bridge of the Egg Carrier
and you guessed it: you watch it in full four fucking times. There is no excuse for this; it’s mostly
a setup for a character battle and character battles are so worthless that I’m not even
gonna waste my breath on them, so little of value would be lost if they cut the scene
short to everybody splitting up. Sure, Amy protects Gamma, but wasn’t everything
else already enough for him to ditch Eggman? Was this… worth this? It perfectly highlights why I don’t like
the multiple character perspectives. It was daring and promising on paper, and
while sometimes the game takes advantage of it, other times there are missed opportunities
and way too often it leads to cutscenes and bits of gameplay repeating without shame. The pieces don’t always click into place,
either. In Knuckles’ campaign you follow Gamma from
Red Mountain to the Egg Carrier that’s about to take off from Eggman’s base, but then
in Gamma’s campaign the Egg Carrier has already crashed by the time you visit Red
Mountain. Similarly, Froggy has a yellow Chaos Emerald
swallowed throughout Big’s campaign; meanwhile in Tails’ campaign he swallows a red Emerald
in the jungle. Can the frog fit two jewels his size in his
mouth? Why would Tails only pull out the red one? Ugh, nevermind. Speaking of Froggy, it’s our meme king Big
the Cat, and his gameplay sucks fat nuts. Firstly, fishing has no business being in
a Sonic game unless it’s some kind of optional content, alright. Secondly, it doesn’t have merits of its
own; it’s mind numbing and the mechanics themselves are unintuitive. What you do here is cast out your lure, let
it sink, juke it left and right to get close enough to your target and catch its attention,
hook your target once it takes the bait and then reel it in without breaking the line. To begin with, the camera is atrocious; it’s
too zoomed in on the lure and you can’t manually rotate or tilt it to get a better
view. The camera automatically tracks the lure so
you can kind of manipulate it that way, but controlling the lure is fiddly, because the
movement direction reverses at random and sometimes it doesn’t respond to inputs at
all. Then you have to hope you don’t catch the
attention of the wrong fish — chances are you’ll have to re-cast if that happens — but
once you’re in the reeling phase the real fuckfest begins. The stress on the line isn’t the problem
— you have a meter for it and you can reel in fast, slow or not at all — it’s getting
the fish under control. Big’s Game Instruction tells you to watch
the movement of the fish and tug your rod accordingly, yet to this day I still don’t
know how I’m supposed to react and in the end the fish seem to have a mind of their
own, anyway. Sometimes they’re bloody persistent and
fiercely swim off into whatever direction they feel like with nothing you can do about
it — seriously, look at this, look at this, he keeps going, stop it dude, stop it — other
times they put up almost no fight and are practically begging to get onto your lap. It’s a total crapshoot and you also want
to make sure Big’s actually sitting at the edge of the pool; if not, there’s a chance
the fish gets stuck or glitches off the hook and obviously you don’t want that. Mercifully, Froggy himself, which is your
only concern in the main story, isn’t difficult or time-consuming to catch once you understand
the mechanics, though it seems this could still be a nightmare if you don’t. Even then, you go through the same exact routine
on all four of Big’s stages — only the scenery and the selection of fish is altered
— so for as short as the campaign is it’s also the most monotonous. Don’t get me wrong, I think the character
himself is amusing — his goofy-ass dancing, his simple and care-free nature and his utter
obliviousness to everything around him — but he’s just a random cat on a wild goose chase
and every time he reunites with his friend in a level, Froggy is either snatched or appears
to have escaped your hands off-camera right after. The only relevance to the overarching plot
is that Chaos’ tail possesses Froggy or something, causing Froggy to swallow a Chaos Emerald
and so Eggman’s searching for him. Uhm… OK? Why didn’t Chaos simply snag the Emerald while
Big was asleep? What, did Froggy get in the way? If so, the gods of Angel Island should hire
Froggy to protect the Master Emerald instead; he puts up more of a fight than Knuckles. On a serious note, Big’s story is just completely
arbitrary and even more arbitrary is that this dope gets a flashback from Tikal. Tikal, what are you trying to achieve here,
girl? You’re talking to the brickest of brick
walls. Now, I’ve neglected to talk about these
flashbacks so far, because they frankly exist on a different piece of graph paper. Basically, at completely random intervals,
Tikal will show up and interrupt whatever your character is currently doing to exposite
backstory that goes as such. In the distant past, Chaos used to be a benign,
loving being that protected little tamagotchis known as Chao at this altar, supported by
the Master Emerald and seven Chaos Emeralds. During that time, an ancient Echidna tribe
lusted the power of the Emeralds and raided the altar, harming the Chao and causing Chaos
to turn into an angry, monstrous beast. In order to save the world from total destruction,
Tikal, daughter of the Echidna tribe leader, sees no other option than to lock herself
and Chaos up inside the Master Emerald. See, the backstory itself is kinda fascinating
— it makes Chaos more than the God of Destruction for God of Destruction’s sake; he became
that because the incident made him perceive humans as greedy and savage, and he wants
to avenge the Chao — but could the writers really not weave this in more organically? I get handing out information bit by bit to
intrigue the player, but there are more of these flashbacks than necessary with many
things being shown or told twice and ultimately they come off as disjointed; it’s harder
to care when they’re abruptly shoved in your face. I already roll my eyes with Sonic, Tails and
Knuckles, but at least they are actively dealing with Chaos; it’s a nuisance, however, when
this bitch pops up for Amy, Gamma and Big, because they have no reason to be brought
into it. And this leads me into another point: why
isn’t the Super Sonic segment, unlocked after beating the game as all six characters,
just part of Sonic’s campaign? I mean, I understand why: because the developers
wanted to extend play time — there were growing expectations for games to be longer in the
late ‘90s, so I can’t entirely hold that against them — and you could argue that it
creates build-up and suspense for the ultimate climax. My counterargument to that is that an effort
should have been made, then, to make everybody playable and integral to the final story;
as is, the other characters stand at the sidelines while Sonic saves the day. Regardless of whether you enjoy the other
campaigns, they are not important to the showdown between Super Sonic and Perfect Chaos. With some tweaks to how Chaos’ backstory
is conveyed — which wouldn’t hurt to begin with — all these other character scenarios
could have perfectly existed alongside Sonic’s campaign, as alternate perspectives and side
stories for those who want to play them and piece together the missing details. And with that kind of structure, all the recycled
content where characters intersect, while still not ideal, also would’ve been more
acceptable. As for the Super Sonic segment, it’s the
conclusion to the story at large and in some ways it’s a good finale, in others not so
much. The main disappointment for me is that it
contains no action stages. This is a very short affair and all the gameplay
in the first half consists of triggering cutscenes in Mystic Ruins. It feels half baked, which is not helped by
the series of events that take place. So it turns out that, after the crash of the
Egg Carrier, Chaos is still alive and roaming around. What follows is that he beats the crap out
of Eggman and Knuckles, and obtains the six Chaos Emeralds that were brought back to Angel
Island. What I like about this is that it all but
confirms that Chaos’ intention, from the beginning, was to use Eggman as a puppet to
acquire all the Emeralds. It makes Chaos an even more curious and formidable
antagonist than he already was, but… how in the hell did he, in his 0 form, manage
all this? Never mind that it happens off-screen, making
it an even tougher pill to swallow, that’s non-sense; even if we’re assuming that he
somehow stole the Emeralds behind Knuckles’ back — which would be idiotic in itself — Knuckles
has consistently defeated various incarnations of Chaos before, including number six. Then, as Sonic and Tails investigate Angel
Island and are informed of the crisis at hand, they set out to search for the last Chaos
Emerald, only to be interrupted yet again by Tikal. Soon after they do find that seventh Emerald,
but it gets scooped by Chaos at the very last second. Smart move there, Tikal; if you didn’t butt
in it’s safe to assume Sonic and Tails would’ve secured that last Emerald. This whole setup struck me as slapped on and
rushed and lazily presented for such a pivotal part of the story. Thankfully, the second half of this campaign
is probably the most iconic part of the entire game: Station Square gets flooded in a visually
spectacular CG scene for the time. It was definitely an ‘’oh shit!’’
moment that Sonic Team straight up showed how the city you’ve been trying to protect
is wiped to utter shambles, and then there he is: Perfect Chaos himself. It’s finally happening; the destructive
climax that the opening movie before the title screen gave tastes of and motivated you towards. Now, Chaos absorbing only the negative energy
of the Emeralds, enabling Sonic to go Super by harnessing the positive energy, is a concept
that I’ve always found has little precedent set for it, but it’s worth it to see and
play as Super Sonic in 3D, and the showdown with Perfect Chaos is the best boss in the
game. As you blast through Station Square, you have
to manoeuvre around projectiles and beefy laser beams to maintain your speed and damage
Chaos, and this style of battle is more in line with what you’d expect out of a Sonic
title. You’re in full control of the pace — you
don’t have to wait for attacks and weak spots to reveal — and since Rings now act
as a countdown timer you can extend, this is probably the most challenging boss fight,
as well. Upon defeating him, Sonic neutralizes Chaos’
anger with the positive energy of the Emeralds, and as Chaos sees a group of cheerful Chao
singing in harmony, he and Tikal together ascend to the heavenly realm of the Master
Emerald; to carry out their protective duties in peace again after thousands of years. It’s a heartfelt moment; it was at the sacrifice
of Station Square and many of its citizens, but the cycle of Chaos being trapped inside
the Master Emerald is broken, and we come full circle with the game’s main vocal theme. The message is that, if you let go of negative
emotions and open your heart to others, life will turn out for the better, and I think
it makes for a pretty sweet ending to go out on. For as memorable as this home stretch is,
however, when I observe the narrative and structuring as a whole it leaves something
to be desired. There are aspects I appreciate that I’ve
underlined and props to Sonic Adventure for being one of the first platformers to attempt
a more elaborate story — the only other example from the ‘90s that springs to my mind is
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile from the year before — but the execution is simply too flawed
for me to be properly invested. I’m sure a certain subset of people will
think: bro, it’s just a fucking Sonic story, chill — but I wanna remind you of the fact
the game features almost two and a half hours of cutscenes. I feel I have all the right to be demanding
when there isn’t close to that much meaningful content and when I’m not really entertained
for a lot of it. It’s a sincere problem, as far as I’m
concerned, although I’d be lying if I said the presentation doesn’t carry much of the
blame, as well. To start lightly, the direction and voice
acting; it sorta hits that dry, dull middle ground where it was passable for the time,
maybe, but it’s far from gripping today. This was their first stab at having the cast
speak and the end result is strange, is the best way I can put it: Sonic’s rad attitude
is laid on too thick and pretty forced… Sonic: ”Hey there, bolt brain!” ”You better give Amy to me or I’ll squash ya!” I don’t know what happened with Tails period… Tails: ”I’m outta control! Mayday! Mayday!” ”Going down!” ”Aaaaaaaaaahhhh!” And Knuckles’ actor sounds as bored as I did in my original Sonic Advenger review. Knuckles: ”Is this a dream?” ”It’s more like a nightmare!” The only two performances I can get behind
are Amy’s and Eggman’s. Amy is done well and I think her high-pitched
squeaky voice sounds natural and befitting for the most part… Amy: ”Hey, Mr. Robot. I know you’re not an evil sort.” ”Wait! Remember me?” And Deem Bristow’s Eggman — come on, it’s just fabulous. Not all his delivery hits the mark, mind you,
but he rocks that mad scientist aspect of Eggman and often steals the show. Eggman: ”And on its ruins, I’ll build Robotnikland, the ultimate city!” ”Where I will rule it all!” ”Come on, Chaos! Let’s find another Emerald, shall we?” Unfortunately, Eggman’s ugly model and utter
lack of mouth movement also makes his on-screen appearance the absolute worst out of all the
characters. Look, I’m sorry, I know it’s a dead fucking
meme how miserable the cutscene animations and lip-sync are, but at the same time it
became a meme for a reason. I should cut it some slack; it was 1998 and
many games then had stiff in-engine cutscenes, but this niggle in the back of my head remains
that the Dreamcast is a vastly more powerful console than the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation,
thus allowing for higher production values. As the killer-app for Sega’s new generation
of hardware, why couldn’t Sonic Team be the one to push the envelope and set a new
standard for developers to aspire to? Besides, it’s not just the animation, either:
it’s also the awkward and long pauses during interactions, bogging down the pacing significantly… Tails: ”Hey, we can’t let him get away!” ”Let’s get to my workshop and we’ll take the tornado!” Sonic: ”Yeah!” Knuckles: ”You guys go!” ”I have some unfinished business to take care of.” the audio isn’t mixed that well, making
some lines difficult to make out… Eggman: ”Now you must be destroyed at all costs!” And as I’ve touched on before, the cutscenes didn’t
receive specially composed music. Taking into account how short and abundant
events can be, this leads to a lot of jarring cut-offs and you’ll be hearing the same
beginning parts of many tracks over and over. This reaches its peak with Gamma’s campaign
as a whole, and I facepalm at the end of Tails’ campaign specifically where his song starts
over upon every scene change. Tails: ”I did it all by myself!” Of course, I added the cross fades for pacing
of the video, but why wasn’t this fixed? Overall, these cutscenes are just hideous
now and more resources should’ve been put into them, which I feel is about the only
critical statement I can make of this game without getting anybody’s panties in a twist. Buuuuut enough of that. Sonic Adventure doesn’t just have a main
story on offer, as there’s also a lot to sink your teeth into if you’re a completionist
and want to collect all 130 Emblems. The bulk of this is made up of extra objectives
that I’m going to get into right now. B missions for Sonic, Tails, Amy and Gamma
require you to finish the level with 50 Rings, which is as simple as it sounds. With the overabundance of Rings in every stage,
these all basically boil down to not getting hit near the goal. I think it would’ve been way more interesting
if each of these missions had their own, much higher Ring requirements. This would encourage more exploration of the
stages and also careful play to hold onto shield power-ups and not take damage. B missions for Knuckles ask that you find
all the Emerald pieces without using Tikal’s assistance. These are OK, but with how breezey the treasure
hunting is for me I would’ve preferred them to be Ring based, too. Then there’s the A missions for Sonic, Knuckles,
Amy and Gamma where you have to beat the stage under a specific time limit, or with a certain
amount of time left in Gamma’s case, and I like these. The ones for Sonic are pretty challenging
if you haven’t played his stages to death, and while it’s sorta random for Knuckles,
it does test your knowledge of the maps and how quickly you can get around. As Gamma, though, these missions are wildly
inconsistent; in Emerald Coast, for example, you need to be fast and really work on your
combo game, which demonstrates how there could have been depth to this gameplay I was talking
about before, but then the times for Final Egg and Windy Valley are so lax that I question
if they were even playtested. And sadly, all of these time-based missions,
for every character, can be cheesed easily by dying or returning to your last checkpoint,
since the timer resets along with it — whoops. The A missions for Tails are also completely
fruitless. Beat an even faster Sonic? Riiiight, riiight. Big, however, is the polar opposite. His extra missions come from the darkest depths
of hell, dude; the A missions, the god-forsaken A missions… Catching a 2000g fish… This is where you’ll really feel the wank
of the inept and luck based fishing mechanics, as you can get into tug-o-war battles with
these super heavy fish for minutes and minutes on end, and it’s the most frustrating and
patience tempering thing ever. Not to mention, the size of the fish is not
a reliable indicator at all for its weight, neither are you informed of it when you hook
the fish, so oftentimes I went through all that suffering just to be flipped off with
1940g or whatever. Looord, have mercy on me. Hell, Twinkle Park doesn’t even spawn 2000g
fish until you find all four of the lure upgrades, because everybody knows that. By the way, one of these upgrades is located
in IceCap. I repeat: IceCap! That’s an action stage! All the other upgrades for every character,
including Big, are found in the hub worlds, so the game’s breaking its own rules here. What the fuck… All in all, while I respect the addition of
extra objectives for those who are thirsty for more content, it mostly ranges from insufferable
to shallow or easy to exploit. You also won’t get the Emblem for a mission
unless you are on said mission. This means that, even if you meet the requirements
for both the B and A missions during the main story campaigns, you still have to finish
that stage at least two additional times. I hate when games do shit like this, I really
do. Another activity you’ll have to occupy yourself
with if you’re going for 100% is one that Sonic Adventure and its sequel are also well
remembered for: the Chao Garden, accessed through the hub worlds. These are like the Chao from the story and
you raise them by feeding fruit and letting them inherit properties from the animals you
save from badniks — nice bit of classic contextualization there. By doing this, you can change their appearance
to your liking, and not only are there many variations of Chao you can create between
a wide range of colors and physical features, you can also teach ‘em all kinds of stuff:
playing an instrument, drawing, martial arts — you name it. Even jackhammering is part of the repertoire. OK, jackhammering may be overselling it. If you’re into virtual pet simulators, the
Chao Garden can be a very addictive and adorable pastime, and the demand for it to return to
the franchise is a clear testament to that. It saddens me to say, though, after putting
a good number of hours into it for this video, that the appeal has very much diminished as
I’ve grown older. I found the process itself of raising Chao
very mundane and time-consuming and if I need a dose of cuteness I’ll go to my dogs instead. But y’know, some Emblems are acquired here
and that’s where the Chao Races come in. Next to altering its looks, those animals
you give to your Chao will also increase its stats; the higher the stats, the better your
baby will perform in competition. Unless you make it a point to frequently pit
stop at the Chao Garden over the course of a 130 Emblem playthrough, be prepared to go
back to stages over and over and over and over and over to farm animals. With some luck you can get by with a Chao
at moderately low levels, but the races themselves are practically automated — which I’ve
always found a bit of a shame, I wish there was a bit more interactivity — and for some
reason you cannot quit and restart a race in Sonic Adventure DX specifically, which
is just gruelling if you see far in advance you won’t win. Luckily, as a happy accident if you will,
DX does contain an exclusive exploit where you can indefinitely use the same animal,
which gets your Chao up to speed exponentially faster. It’s truly a gift. Beyond that, since DX lifted much of the code
and many of the assets from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle’s Chao Garden, which is easily
the smoothest and most in-depth in the series, there are more types of Chao thanks to the
Hero and Dark alliances, and a Black Market where you can purchase food and other jazz
with the Rings you amass in the main adventure. By comparison, the Chao Garden on Dreamcast
feels like a buggy prototype: animals have a habit of wandering off to sections that
are impossible to reach, commands for picking stuff up tend to act up, Gamma often thinks
he’s on water when he’s not and I could swear one of my Chao would sometimes fail
to spawn — I’m dead serious. You’re also required to transfer your Chao
to the Visual Memory Unit in order to view its stats and that’s such an inconvenience,
so all around the Chao Garden is undoubtedly more fun in the DX edition of the game. When it comes to SADX as a whole, on the other
hand, it is not among the best of ports. I hear the 2004 PC release and subsequent
HD ports that are built off of it are the real dumpster fires, but I’d be here forever
if I also recorded and covered those at extensive lengths, so I’m basing the following on
the GameCube version, which is the one I grew up with. By far the biggest problem lies in the visuals. Various effects were either toned down or
removed in the transition, particularly when it comes to transparencies due to fundamental
differences in the graphics chips, and almost consistently throughout the game the lighting
is inferior. Environments tend to look more flat with less
shadow definition and the characters themselves often don’t blend in well or look completely
overexposed in certain scenes. I think some stages were brought over perfectly
OK, like Emerald Coast where the simplified lighting system doesn’t hamper the bright
vibes at all, but then you lay eyes upon something like Final Egg and part of the atmosphere
and presence was clearly lost in translation. Textures have also suffered a bit with some
being noticeably lower quality on the GameCube than the Dreamcast, but I personally don’t
mind the textures that were entirely replaced; it just leads to a different aesthetic that
I may or may not prefer depending on the area. Another peculiar issue is that the image on
GameCube is blurrier, since Sega didn’t disable the console’s deflicker filter,
meant to reduce interlace flickering on old tube TVs, in progressive scan mode. This was arguably deliberate as some kind
of low performance cost anti-aliasing solution, but it’s ugly and since none of the other
Sonic titles on GameCube exhibit this same quirk, I have a hunch it was more of an oversight. DX isn’t all bad across the board, however,
as some of the changed graphics, I think, are welcome and there are a handful of technical
fixes. For instance: water in many places of the
game appears less chunky and choppy; the character models for the heroes are more rounded with
individually modelled fingers thanks to higher polygon counts; texture rendering itself has
seen some clean up with removal of jittering artifacts and better filtering that smooths
out the various steps of mipmap sizes; and perhaps most importantly, the target frame
rate has been bumped from 30 to 60 frames per second. Granted, the GameCube version isn’t consistent
with it and frequently dips back to 30fps, but the Dreamcast original also has plenty
of instances where the performance either stumbles or completely shits the bed and the
console outright chugs. If you thought Sky Deck was one busted-ass
of a level already in any of the re-releases, then oh boy you’re in for a treat here. Plus: loading takes longer on Dreamcast… The music resets upon screen transitions within the hub worlds and a few very glaring cutscene
animation and sound effect anomalies somehow slipped through the cracks. Tails: ”Hey, Knuckles! What’s up?” ”What are ya doin’, Knuckles?!” Knuckles: ”Don’t mess with me, now.” Additionally in DX: they added the ability
to skip cutscenes, which is invaluable and a huge bonus for repeat playthroughs of the
game; you get a map in the hub worlds which may aid in navigation, especially in the jungle
area of the Mystic Ruins; and there is a Free Camera mode that can help remedy some of the
camera snafus, particularly when trying to backtrack in a stage or when pulling off some
tricky dicky stunts the devs perhaps didn’t intend. Now, there seems to be a common belief that
DX is more glitchy with the collision detection being the largest offender and, your mileage
may vary, but unless I am intentionally seeking it out for speedrunning such as here, I ain’t
seein’ it. For this review, I’ve played the Dreamcast
original and the GameCube release of DX to 130 Emblems completion — that’s around
25 hours each — and I’ve experienced moments of clipping through geometry about equally
in both. Sonic Adventure, from the beginning, has been
rough around the edges with: funky collision; aforementioned stage gimmicks that lack polish;
scripted segments that can break by no fault of the player, such as the whale chase or
boulder chase if you do… something incorrectly in them; a camera that can be uncooperative
or on occasion get trapped or spazz out completely; and other random shenanigans that can lead
to unfair deaths. Overall, this jank factor isn’t severe or
constant enough that it becomes game breaking — at least not for me — but it is definitely
present, and by whichever amount DX may have added to it is small potatoes. Still, none of the above negates that DX is
a half-assed porting job. Bearing in mind it came out four to five years
later than the Dreamcast original, there’s little justification for all the graphical
downgrades, and the more significant benefits the GameCube version has were either very
easy and quick to implement or are a natural byproduct of the hardware being more advanced. Most of the things that would’ve taken substantial
effort like overhauling the cutscene animations and pacing or tightening up the gameplay and
reducing that jank factor — to update and refine the total package — simply weren’t
bothered with. Consequently, SADX was dated compared to actual
GameCube games before it even hit store shelves. And for the record, that’s not me saying
this port is why the game has gone on to be received less favorably ever since 1998. It’s still the same Sonic Adventure underneath
the surface and I believe that Sonic Adventure was always deeply flawed, which became increasingly
apparent as the wow factor wore off. I came to a similar conclusion in my 2015
review, but it’s more obvious than ever now that the experience doesn’t hold up for
me: the cutscenes burn to the ground what may have been a fine story to follow, there’s
a striking amount of repetition of content where I can’t help but get bored and distracted,
and too much of the gameplay is mediocre and underdeveloped — I come out feeling empty
and unfulfilled. Multiple playable characters and variety was
all the rage in platformers back then, but studios like Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games
and Rare all started by establishing a core foundation before they proceeded to introduce
all the extra shit they could come up with. And even then, how they implemented these
elements was still far from perfect. I genuinely do have admiration for Sonic Adventure
for how big and visually stunning it was when it came out, and I can understand and see
what’s beloved about it. There was undeniably passion put into this
game — fuck, Sonic Team even travelled to Central and South America to do up inspiration
for the environments — but to have: an intertwining story setup across six campaigns, six playable
characters with different play styles, mini games, boss battles, hub worlds, a Chao Garden
— all that crammed into your first 3D outing with roughly a year and a half of development
and for a console that was still in the midst of being engineered — I feel the project
crumbled under the weight of its own ambition and turned out a mess. Now, I wanna reiterate that I still get great
kicks out of Sonic’s action stages and consider them to be the best conceptual way to handle
the blue fuzzball in 3D; they translate many of the Classic Sonic design principles so
well and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of them. When viewed from this prism; yeah, I’ll always
love this game. However, even Sonic’s gameplay is held together
by the popsicle sticks and glue that is the programming, and I can only wonder if Sonic
Adventure as a whole would have been more timeless had the scope been toned down, and
if more care and focus went into bringing Sonic himself — perhaps Tails and Knuckles,
as well — into the 3D world as best as they possibly could first and foremost. The rest could’ve come later. And there we have it, folks: a fucking RZ
review after a year and a half of radio silence. Thanks for watching, I hope this one was a
worthy return and that you enjoyed it, and may this mark a new era for the channel with
more consistent uploads to come. Peace out.

76 thoughts on “Seriously Ambitious, Seriously Messy – Sonic Adventure (DC/GC)”

  • Great work, RZ. Loved the editing and the script was very concise, and presented a common take I've heard a lot with a different style so it feels fresh.

  • I'm so grateful you're back, you are my favorite game reviewer!

    I watch game reviews on my breaks during work, at home when I'm working on stuff, or cleaning my room, anything really. I would listen to all your reviews multiple times throughout the years and now I'm sick of them, haha! Finally watching and hearing a new analysis is like… some of the strongest euphoria I've experienced in a while.

    This was a great video RZ! I love your work and I'll be sure to always support it!

  • So happy you’re back. I didn’t catch the link on Twitter but I got the notification on my phone and watched this. Was looking forward to it since you mentioned it on Twitter and the MMX streams a lot. This was awesome! I still really like your writing and analysis and I think you gave SA1 a very fair look, like you did with Sonic 1, 2 and 3D Blast.
    Loved the X7 and GG jabs btw

  • Woah
    It's…Retropolis Zone? Alive? What dimension are we in?
    But in all seriousness happy to have you back! I follow on Twitter and love your videos and even your streams! So happy to see a review come up!

  • It’s pretty messy but not bad by any means. I mean it did come out in the 90s. Also it’s ambition is what made it great. This game alone is better than anything that’s come out for 3d sonic in the last decade in my opinion. Some elements of this game are better than others, but I think as a whole it all makes for a very fun experience

  • Game is a hell of a lot of fun. I dont need games to be as clean and polished as Mario titles, SAs flaws add to my enjoyment of it.

  • Honestly the ring system as it is is mostly fine Imo, just that the game does a poor job of scattering them and making them losable to clifs or rough terrain

  • I like the shift in your writing style, it's especially noticeable in comparision to the X7 or the Jak and Daxter video.

  • Knuckles seeing Gamma at Red Mountain isn't an inconsistency since this takes place after his Emerald Coast, as Big follows him into the Egg Carrier. We aren't shown this because Gamma is having a vision in the meantime.

  • Yeah, even though I love this game I can't deny it's very flawed, and the critiques here I can't exactly defend. Also, welcome back king.

  • This must be living in dark times if rz is uploading a video on his channel.

    In any case, I'm glad to hear you come back with a game that really defined my childhood. Love your retrospects my dude.

  • I’m halfway into the video….. and this video has opened my eyes to some of the game’s major flaws and i’m a bit sad Tails (my favorite sonic character) didn’t get better treatment in the stage design department, as much as i enjoy plainly playing and flying as Tails, but at least I have more to think about in relation to Sonic’s potential in this game.

  • I played this For The First Time In 2016, I Really Enjoyed It ( No Nostalgia Involved ), My Only Problem Was Big's Campaign, The Fishing Worked Fine But It's Just So Much Different From The Rest Of The Game, It Feels Like a Minigame

  • How do you usually record your game footage? Maybe you could do a tutorial on how you record your games from each platform and how to scale each of them properly for perfect pixels (like ExoParadigmGamer) because I guarantee you that you'll help a lot of gamers on YouTube and RetroArch isn't doing it for me unless you know how to properly set it up. (3-25-2020)

  • 20:35 It's not technically exclusive to Tails…Sonic is also capable of getting into Sand Hill with an extremely well-timed and precise spindash from the minigame's cave entrance in Mystic Ruins. And while Knuckles is capable of reaching the ledge, the button that opens the minigame is not present for him or any other character – it's only there for Tails and also Sonic for some reason. I know this is completely beside the point though.

  • Also I don’t think you can excuse the lip syncing, it came out the same year as metal gear solid
    Edit: turns out it came after mgs by 3 months
    Edit 2: by lip syncing I meant cutscene presentation

  • Glad to see you back and still doing in depth looks. As you old title said, "Quickies Don't Cut It".

    Rhythm Badge. You already have the Jet Anklet by that point.

  • 45:55
    Do you consider Megaman X a platformer ?
    I'd say Megaman X4 was pretty ambitious with it's story too, not that it was done well but it also came during the 90s

  • I love Sonic Adventure. I play the Dreamcast version, Gamecube version, Xbox version, and Steam version (with mods). This game isn't even among my favorite Sonic games, but I have a lot of respect for this game, and it's a lot of fun.

  • dude welcome back!!, hope your leave refreshed you and looking forward to anything you have planned in the future. by the way are you going to tackle
    sonic 3 and knuckles as you've covered all the other megadrive sonic games and i think your followers and subscribers would definitely dig that.

  • It's funny, I just watched your Sonic Adventure review for the first time yesterday. Watching this one will be a great way to see how far you've come! Lol.

  • Hey, man! Glad to see you have made a return, and with such an awesome video. I actually went through and re-watched all of your QDCI videos, finishing them all very recently. In my opinion, you have always put out high-quality content. In fact, I feel that even your earliest videos could be released today and stand among your more recent content. I will say, though, you significantly improved upon your original video with this one! Keep up the good work, and congrats on your channel's 5-Year Anniversary!

  • I'm pretty much in the same boat as you to an extent. Sonic's gameplay is excellent and some of the best gameplay in all of Sonic. Everything else though? I don't mind the other playstyles (aside from Big who was poor to begin with) but they don't reach their full potential. I would probably say this is my favourite review of the game since Ruby of Blue's video. I still hold Sonic Adventure as a good game, but Sonic Adventure 2 is far superior.

    By the way, the game started development on the Dreamcast 10 months before it was released. It wasn't a year and a half (unless you count polishing up some issues for the western release).

  • 58:19 Why does DC tails look he’s about to cry. Look at those eyes!
    “Stop tails,stop Crying!
    Also best quotes of the game
    “Oh yeah, this is happenin”
    “Hey knuckles, what’s up”
    And of course how could I forget the legendary “Oh No!”

  • The main story interested me because I wanted to play through their stories to see how they got there or why they are there in the first place. I was satisfied with it back then and while it's age has shown I'm still okay with it. It's not great but I can still enjoy it. Plus I mainly come back for the Sonic stages and maybe some Knuckles stages. I almost feel like making a list of the things they could improve for a possible remake of the game… but sadly I'm away from my Dreamcast and Gamecube versions of the game for the time being.

  • Hey, Retropolis Zone! Glad that you're back, you are my favorite game reviewer!

    Keep up the awesome work, much thanks and respect from Brazil!

  • I just wanted to post and say wow, I am amazed that your look at Sonic Adventure is this long. This is amazing and I know this must have taken you a long time and a lot of work. Enjoying it! Thanks so much and wish you the best.

  • Just got done recording SADX a few days ago actually. I really used to hate this game…. but now I'll say that I've softened up to it a bit. Glad you're back RZ.


  • I have to agree and disagree with your assessment. Your retrospective definitely brings back memories of frustrations and jankiness that had me envisioning what a more fixed version of Adventure would look like. However, this game is greater than the sum of its parts. It was something truly special back in the time of its release, flaws and all. I say that as someone who is a harsh critic, even in the face of some of the harsh criticisms I saw Adventure get when it was originally released.

    And while it's absolutely a testament to a game's greatness if it holds up decades after its release, I don't think every game must meet that same criteria. Adventure merits its place in history and is important enough for what it did at that time not to need proving itself against 2020 standards.

  • Your review style and scripting was already excellent, but this certainly felt like another leap forward in quality. Looking forward to seeing what else you've got in store for us.

  • 7:26 this is why I greatly appreciate when people who are actually COMPETENT at video games…review video games. I'm sick of ppl complaining about Sonic's gameplay when their deaths and fumblings are their own fault. Everything about Sonic's core physics/control & mechanics etc as you display is beautifully solid and I wanna pull my eyes out when I hear trolling "reviewers" and commenters crucify it nowadays. Sadly the rest of the game/story isn't structured well at all…but most importantly Sega nailed Sonic's gameplay on the 1st attempt (the same way Nintendo nailed Mario's 3D gameplay on the 1st attempt) and that alone deserves respect, his action stages are timeless fun.

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