I want to move away from the Genesis games a bit, I’ve already talked too much about them and now here’s a game I really wanted to talk about, Sonic Adventure, the first proper 3D Sonic game, because Sonic 3D Blast is so horrible it doesn’t deserve that title.
Mario already did his jump into the 3D world, and did it beautifully, but what about Sonic? He was supposed to do the same thing, but Sonic X-Treme for the Sega Saturn was cancelled, and Sega’s mascot went missing for some time, he had some spin-off games, but nothing really impressive, some people even thought the Sonic franchise has died, but then Sega’s new console, the Dreamcast, appeared and they were announcing a new Sonic game for this console.
I remember there were lots or previews about this game on magazines and some TV programs as well, some screenshots/artwork were released and… I really didn’t like the look of this game too much, I saw Sonic’s artwork that was the same they used on the cover and I thought he looked ugly as hell, he had a creepy grin on his face and his body looked awkwardly unproportional, the screenshots also showed something different from what I would expect from a Sonic game, the environment looked more realistic, it wasn’t the best impression i’ve had from this game, but I decided to wait and play it for myself to see if it is bad or not.
Then the game got released in 1999 and I finally played it after getting a Dreamcast for myself, back then I thought this game was pretty good overall. But time passed and there were years since I played Sonic Adventure back in 1999, I played the DX and Xbox Live releases of the game, although they had better graphics, they are inferior to the Dreamcast version from a technical standpoint, since I don’t own a Dreamcast anymore, I had to borrow a Dreamcast from a friend of mine and play the game again.
Sonic Adventure’s story has six main characters: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and the new characters: E-102 Gamma and Big the Cat. All of them have their separated story arcs, but I’ll try to explain the story combining all of their arcs together in one chronology.
The game begins in a night where Knuckles is on Angel Island guarding the Master Emerald, but suddenly the emerald breaks and a creature made of water appears right out of the broken Master Emerald, Knuckles tried to fight this creature, but it just ran away as soon as it could, all of this caused the Angel Island to fall into the ocean because it just floats due to the power of the Master Emerald, so Knuckles would have to go after the pieces of the Master Emerald in order to restore it and put it back on the island. Meanwhile, not too far away from there, Big the Cat was taking a nap together with his friend, Froggy, but then Froggy swallowed a mysterious water that came right after him, suddenly a tail grew up on his back and he started to act strange as he swallowed up the chaos emerald Big kept as a lucky charm, Big decided to chase after Froggy to see what the hell just happened to him.
Still in the same night at Station Square, Sonic is running around like he always does, but then he sees a group of police cars in a hurry to some place, Sonic decides to follow them to see what’s going on, only to encounter the same water creature that was on Knuckles’ island, a monster named Chaos, the police couldn’t stand up to him, so Sonic interfered and fought Chaos, the monster ran away from a drain on the ground, everything seemed fine again, but Dr. Eggman (Yep, I’m calling the new one Eggman and the old one Robotnik) was watching everything from the top of a building and said that Chaos is the God of Destruction and Sonic knows nothing about it at all, ending this rather strange night.
On the other day, Tails was testing one of his planes using a Chaos Emerald as a power supply, but something goes wrong as he loses control of the plane and crashes into the Emerald Coast beach, Sonic was seeing everything from down there in the hotel next to the beach and decided to run to the beach and rescue Tails. After that, Tails said he was testing a plane with a Chaos Emerald as a power supply and invited Sonic to go to his workshop in the Mystic Ruins because he has something to show him. They encounter Eggman later on, and after a battle with the doctor, he manages to grab the Chaos Emerald from Tails and calls Chaos, the monster Sonic fought last night, to feed the emerald to him, transforming Chaos into a more powerful creature, and if he gives all the Chaos Emeralds to Chaos, he will be invincible and will destroy Station Square to build Eggmanland on its ruins, that said, Eggman leaves together with Chaos. Sonic and Tails decide to search for the Chaos Emeralds before Eggman gets all of them to feed Chaos.
This leads Sonic and Tails to an air battle on the Tornado against Eggman’s giant ship called the Egg Carrier, however they are defeated and the Tornado gets destroyed, both of them fell at different places and became separated. Amy was watching the battle from bellow in Station Square but one of the birds that were imprisoned in the ship managed to escape and accidentally hit Amy, she was later chased by a mad robot that appeared in the city, but managed to escape, only to encounter Sonic later and ask him to be the bird’s bodyguard, Sonic runs away because he has enough things to worry about, but she eventually finds him again, but both of them were chased by the robot from back then, resulting in Amy getting kidnapped and Sonic having to save her now… Again.
Inside the Egg Carrier, Dr. Eggman was creating a new “elite” of robots called the E-Series, and one of them is E-102 Gamma, a robot that was performing very well and following Eggman’s orders without questioning, he later found Froggy, which had both a Chaos Emerald and Chaos’ missing tail, but then he encountered Amy and the bird that escaped in a jail, and she made him tilt after asking why is he working for Eggman, this made Gamma question Eggman’s intentions and led him to allow Amy to escape, he later turns against Eggman and decides to free the other birds from the other E-Series robots.
All of this is connected to the backstory of the game that’s related to the ancient Echidna Civilization, a little echidna girl named Tikal, the little creatures called Chao, the Chaos Emeralds, the Master Emerald and more importantly, Chaos. Tikal appears as a light and guide the heroes through their journey with flashbacks about the events from the past and how it turned out like this.
The main plot of Sonic Adventure is pretty similar to the ones in the Genesis games, and I really do appreciate that, it kinda expands on Sonic 3 & Knuckles’ story for that matter, it actually shows the civilization Knuckles was once a part of, it adds new characters that could easily fit into the classic Sonic universe and the backstory is pretty interesting as well.
However there are some things that bother me in the actual storytelling, first things first, the dialogue is hilariously bad, seriously, they almost seem to have been written by a 13-year-old boy, Sonic himself is the most affected by it, he keeps talking like a 90′s rapper with loads of slangs and bad jokes like calling Eggman a “giant talking egg”, seeing Sonic with that personality was so painful to me, but at least sometimes he was actually kinda cool, but still… Ugh… The other characters have its dumb moments like Tails speaking one obvious thing after another in some cutscenes, but none of them were as bad as Sonic when it comes to dialogue, and this is made worse by the awful voice acting, none of these voice actors sound like they wanted to do this, there is no emotion or enthusiasm at all.
The storyline has some redeeming qualities however, Sonic’s story has its cool moments like when he battles Chaos 6 aboard the falling Egg Carrier and his showdown with Eggman at the end, the story itself is basically him fighting against Eggman again, but it still works, Tails is a story about being independent and not be scared of doing what you want to do alone, Amy is kinda annoying as a character, but she manages to make Gamma go to the good side and also reunites the bird with its family, and Gamma’s story is pretty touching as well. The only story that’s completely dumb is Big’s story, he literally contributes nothing to the story and is just a stereotype of a “stupid” comic relief character, and he isn’t even funny for that matter, and I think Knuckles getting deceived by Eggman AGAIN was pretty idiotic, but overall, i think the story is okay despite having its stupid moments.
I said back there that I didn’t like how the game’s art style was turning into something more realistic, but what we’ve got is kind of a mixed bag, the setting of the game is pretty much the real word, you have a realistic city, a realistic forest and other stuff, but the action stages are a bit different, stages like Twinkle Park, Red Mountain and Windy Valley are wacky and cartoony, they’re more creative than most of the other stages in this game, and others like Emerald Coast and Speed Highway are more into the realistic side, but they actually have a cartoon feeling to them, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be overall, but I still prefer the old art style as it was more creative, some places here really don’t fit much into Sonic and I can’t help but think Sonic and his furry friends are a bit out of place in a realistic city full of humans.
As much as the game still feels like a cartoon despite having a different art direction, from a technical standpoint, part of the graphics are really good, the levels have the best and most detailed textures from that time, the character models are pretty good, Sonic was a bit different than he was in that artwork, thank God, but if there is someting to complain about the graphics here are the animations.
The character animations in Sonic Adventure aren’t good for that time, there were other 3D platformers at that time that had better facial expressions for the characters and less-robotic animations, regardless of the time, Sonic Adventure’s animations are just terrible, the characters have some weird face expressions when they talk, this even makes some scenes that were supposed to be serious funny instead, and all of them have some way too robotic animations during the cutscenes, they repeat too many of their animations also, Sonic’s “fighting pose” is used three or four times in this game, this makes the cutscenes a bit awkward to watch, but I guess i can get used to it…
This game marks Sonic’s first step in the 3D gaming, as such, it left a big impression back in 1999, but it’s showing its age as we play it once again, even the Dreamcast version, which is the best judging from a technical point of view, still has its flaws.
Sonic Adventure has you playing the role of the six main characters of the game, but let’s take a look at Sonic first since it’s a game about him anyway, and his gameplay is probably the closest we’ll ever get to having the Genesis gameplay brought to 3D, you can run fast, jump on enemies and even Spindash, and the physics are not too shabby either, there are times you can roll on some slopes and just watch Sonic gain momentum, but of course, it’s not as good as it was in the Genesis games, but at least they tried to make it feel like those games as much as possible. Sonic also has a new move called the Homing Attack, which is performed by pressing the jump button while in the air, and it makes hitting enemies while running a lot easier, since it would be pretty awkward to hit your enemies at such high speeds, in a 3D Sonic game, this comes off as a much needed move.
Sonic’s controls however are a bit strange, when he runs fast, it gets a bit too sensible and this can result in you losing control of him and even bumping into stuff if you aren’t used to these controls, it’s even worse when you use the spindash on a downward path, but honestly, it didn’t take me too long to get used to these controls, I could control him without many problems after getting used to the controls of the game, and it’s not that hard actually. However what’s really bad is the camera, holy crap is this camera awful, even from old 3D platformer standards this camera is abysmal, it gets stuck way too easily and often blocks your view, sometimes it even gets stuck inside the textures of the stages, it’s like the camera can’t keep up with Sonic at all, and that can lead to some cheap deaths and make some sections of the stages harder than they should’ve been.
I heard some people complaining about glitches in this game, and I would be lying if I said the game didn’t glitch on me, I did run into some weird glitches like sometimes Sonic just went through the ground or even the walls, but I honestly didn’t run into the plethora of glitches people claim to have ran into, the game played fine most of the time.
The level design in the Sonic stages aren’t as good as the ones in Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 & Knuckles, but it’s still pretty good, the levels are more open and have a balance between speed and platforming just like the Genesis games, some levels are really fast-paced while others were slower and more platforming-oriented, but they managed to have exploration to some degree like hidden rings/life capsules, and even reward you for thinking outside the box, some of these capsules are located in parts of the stage where you’ll have to use the Spindash + Jump combo to send Sonic flying to higher places, some of them are pretty linear, but most of them are really open and you do more than just running and ocasionally using the Homing Attack in a chain of enemies in the air.
Overall, Sonic’s gameplay has some flaws, but they don’t exactly ruin the game, it’s fun to play and as I said before, it’s the closest we’ll probably ever get to a Genesis gameplay brought into 3D.
Tails’ core gameplay is basically his classic gameplay in 3D, except he doesn’t have Spindash, but he is reasonably speedy, can fly and now he can hit his enemies with his tails. It would be great to play as Tails with this gameplay in the action stages with new paths designed just for him, right?
Well, yes, but too bad this doesn’t happen, because in his campaign, you’ll be just racing against Sonic in the action stages… Yes, you have to beat Sonic in a race… Oh God, that’s so fucking stupid I can’t help but facepalm, why can’t I just explore with Tails? How can he beat Sonic in a race? Wasn’t Sonic supposed to be the FASTEST THING ALIVE?
And most of the time you’ll go through the exact same stages you went with Sonic before, except there are some few changes to them, but they’re the same routes, and you only play the linear levels that were in Sonic’s campaign because you can’t have a “race” in a level that’s slower and more focused on platforming. It’s a letdown that you can’t just play as him and get to the goal in the end of the stage the same way you play as Sonic, but I guess it’s still not that bad, and if I have to say something positive, his final stage has a different path that Sonic doesn’t take, so… Yeah, it’s disappointing, but it’s not the worst thing ever as well.
Knuckles’ gameplay is also pretty similar to his Genesis gameplay, he is reasonably fast, can clide and also punch his enemies, as well as dig the ground to find hidden stuff, however, just like Tails, playing as him isn’t like playing as Sonic where you just have to reach the goal at the end of the stages.
Knuckles’ stages are hated by many people because you have to hunt for the pieces of the Master Emerald hidden through the stages, I’ll play the Devil’s advocate here, I actually liked playing as Knuckles with this emerald hunting thing in this game only, the stages are reasonably big, but not really that large, and the radar warns you about any emerald that’s close, regardless of being the first, the second or the third one, if that’s not enough, you can have Tikal showing you what direction you have to go to get to the emerald, it’s possible to finish these stages faster, the only one I thought it was kinda long was Sky Deck, mainly because you had to deal with the ship’s control and all.
If anything, Knuckles’ gameplay is exploration to some degree and I don’t think it turned out to be too bad, and besides, you can still run and pass through some platforming sections, it’s not like you have to worry about racing against Sonic or anything like that, but the camera sometimes can screw you over by getting stuck especially when you’re in a “small” room. Of course I would prefer if Knuckles’ gameplay was about platforming and all, but this isn’t really that bad.
Gamma’s gameplay however is nothing like Sonic at all, it doesn’t even resemble Sonic like Tails and Knuckles’ core gameplays do, instead it’s a mech-shooter where you just have to hold X and lock on to everybody to release X and kill everything on your sight, this gets boring very fast, and it doesn’t help that it’s not even a bit challenging or interesting, Gamma can beat almost anything he shoots and the platforming sections are pretty uninspired, it’s boring, but wait, it gets worse.
Amy’s gameplay revolves around running away from a robot called Zero, which wouldn’t sound that bad in theory, but Amy is painfully slow and her hammer attacks are just meh, although the level design is okay, playing as her is still nowhere near as fun as it could have been, it’s not the absolute worst playstile of the game, but it surely is one of them.
THE worst playstile of this game however is Big the Cat, you have to fish… In a Sonic game… Yep. You fish for Froggy, who is on some lake around the levels, and because fishing is boring and takes way too long, I mean Froggy only gets the bait when he feels like doing it, and that can take an eternity to happen, Big’s levels can be up to 10 minutes long, what’s more infuriating about this is that he always loses Froggy at the end of every stage, which make all the time you wasted on fishing useless, and since he doesn’t add anythin to the story, I just felt like a moron playing as him, I prefer to see it as a joke by Sonic Team, because I just can’t believe somebody seriously thought this was a good idea.
Each of these characters have upgrades that add new abilities, Sonic has the Lighspeed Dash, which isn’t much fun to use here since you have to charge it, Tails had a spinning attack that’s fun to spam and kill badniks with, Knuckles has a upgrade that makes him dig and make his punches do more damage, and the other characters have upgrades that don’t make their gameplays less boring.
The bosses of the game are also ridiculously easy, the character battles take three hits to be done with and they’re not even challenging, you can end a character battle with Sonic for example just by spamming the Homing Attack right from the beginning, the other bosses don’t fare much better, Gamma’s bosses are the most pathetic ones in the whole game, you just have to keep locking into them and shooting, if you keep Gamma turned in their direction and just mash X to lock on and shoot, they will die without even doing anything. The only boss that’s fairly challenging is Egg Viper, the final boss of Sonic’s story arc, but the rest of them are just dull, and that’s counting the final boss battle as Super Sonic.
The stages themselves are connected by a hub world that’s divided into Station Square and Mystic Ruins, here you can interact to people, find upgrades, and of course, enter the action stages, sometimes by solving some failry simple puzzles. Some people hate this hub, but i didn’t mind it that much, I didn’t get lost on it because it’s relatively small and I had Tikal giving me hints on where should I go, so it wasn’t bad, I actually liked to explore some parts of it and finging landscapes such as Tails’ workshop and the Master Emerald’s shrine, I liked wandering around in the hubs, but I don’t think they’re necessary, you can just have the stages going in sequence and I would be ok with this too.
So, let’s make a quick recap here, of all the six characters in the game, the only one I can say I have fully enjoyed was Sonic. Tails and Knuckles were okay to me, but I honestly don’t feel much like replaying their stages as much as I find myself replaying Sonic’s stages, they’re not bad, but they aren’t that good either, it’s just okay, and Amy, Gamma and Big were just plain boring to play as, I don’t even think about replaying their stages. The worst thing about them is that playing as them is required to complete the story of the game, it’s not even optional, you have to fish to get to the final story with Super Sonic and all, and that is beyond stupid. Well, at least Sonic’s campaign is the longest one, the other characters’ campaigns have at least five or six stages at maximum and take just 2 hours or a few more to complete, not that it makes me forgive having to play as Amy, Big and Gamma, but at least I won’t be playing as them for too long.
The soundtrack of this game is a bit of a mixed bag to me as well, this time, Jun Senoue is the sound director of the game, and the songs themselves are more guitar/rock-oriented, some of these rock songs like Emerald Coast and Speed Highway are pretty good, but most of them are just generic and forgettable, and the non-rock tunes have some hits too like Twinkle Park and Windy Valley are pretty good. The game’s vocal tracks aren’t bad either, the main theme song, Open Your Heart by Crush 40, is a very nice 90′s style rock song with some powerful vocals singing it, Sonic’s teme, It Doesn’t Matter also follows the same structure, Tails’ theme song is also beautiful and it even has Bridge Zone’s melody, but I hardly found the other theme songs much memorable, some like Gamma and Amy’s themes are bland, Big’s theme is… Something… but Knuckles’ rap theme has to be the worst song in the entire game.
“They call me Knuckles, unlike Sonic I don’t chuckle/I rather flex my muscles.” Seriously… Whoever made this atrocity of a rap should die in a fire, it’s THAT bad…
Sonic Adventure surely isn’t as amazing as it seemed back then, but I don’t think it’s too bad, it’s decent for a first 3D Sonic game and it even did some things later Sonic games couldn’t do, the alternate gameplay holds it back, of course, I can’t say I enjoyed all of Sonic Adventure, I only liked playing as Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, but I still think it’s a good game, good but not great. I would like to see Sega trying to mimic the Genesis gameplay in 3D again like they did in this game, and I wouldn’t mind having other playable characters as long as they have their speedy core gameplays and don’t have that racing/emerald hunting/shooting bullshit, just getting to the end of the stage is good enough to me.