Sonic Adventure 2 Review

By Dog of Thunder,
I will start this review with a bit of full disclosure: I have not played much of any Sonic game after Sure, I bought the original Sonic Adventure when it was on sale, but other than earning one achievement in it for my Bean Dive, I have not touched it. With no prior experience regarding the adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog in the 3rd dimension, Sonic Adventure 2 Achievements is an absolute joy to play. When I first started the HERO side of the story and started running through the city as Sonic, I was grinning from ear to ear. Unlike the first game, Sonic Adventure 2 gives each of the pairing of characters their own levels and their own gameplay mechanics.

SA Screen 1

Let's start off with how much fun it is to run around levels as Sonic, or well, Shadow, whom has very similar levels and gameplay mechanics on the DARK side of the story. The two hedgehogs have levels that are very linear and focused, with few exceptions, on speed. Loops, ramps, bumpers and crazy jumps that were considered par for the course when Sonic was in 2D are all back with a vengeance. Even the character upgrades for both of the hedgehogs are primarily focused on increasing their mobility, with the first one being my favorite, as it gives you access to the "Light Dash", which is a high speed dash along a line of rings.

The tradeoff for this sense of speed is that the camera can get left behind. I can't tell if my inability to react to lines of rings or obstacles while traveling through the half-pipes is a case of poor camera angles or my own, well-documented poor reaction times. It happens when you get older. At the very least, the amount of times I was frustrated with the camera while playing as Sonic or Shadow were few and far between. Also, Shadow the Hedgehog is insane. That has no bearing on anything but I felt it was worth mentioning.

Knuckles and Rouge the Bat have a totally different gameplay style which focuses on exploration rather then speed. These two have to find shards of the Master Emerald hidden in their levels. Clues are readily available as is a very helpful radar that alerts you whenever you get close to a shard. Knuckles and Rouge can both glide and climb, giving the levels a real feeling of 3D and amazingly, the camera keeps up quite well with the action during these slower-paced levels. While I wish you had free camera control to scan the environment, I'll settle for it not messing up my jumps.

20/06/2012 - Screen 4

Lastly, the Tails and Dr. Eggman (formerly known as Dr. Robotink, this version of the game refers to him as Dr. Eggman) levels which play out like a homeless man's version of Brahma Force. These levels are so bad they single-handedly stopped my story mode progress on two seperate days. Both these characters drive mechs, which may sound cool, but they have the wussiest mechs of all time. The "walk'n'gun" gameplay is maddeningly slow and plodding with very little mobility, which goes from annoying to "WHY!?" whenever you come across a jumping sequence.

I actually missed the "Hover" upgrade for Tails my first time through his second level, which meant I threw myself down a bottomless chasm five times in a row, starting the level over before I realized my mistake. I could go on about how much I detest these levels, but let's get back to the positives.

In addition to the HERO and DARK stories, there's a complete mini-game centered around the Chaos. Chao breeding in Sonic Adventure 2 is very similar to the Chocobo breeding from Final Fantasy 7, except almost painfully cute. Once you find a "Chao Key" and unlock the Chao World, it's easily accessible from the main menu. All of the robot drives and fluffy animals you stumble across during the main game are used in Chao World to enhance your Chao's stats. Once you've taken the time to pet your Chao (THEY ARE ADORABLE!), feed your Chao and watch it play with balls, it's time to go race or if you have the "Battle Mode" DLC, it's time to go fight!

20/06/2012 - Screen 7

Chaos raising is a very fun diversion but when you first are getting started with it, it can be quite hard to know what to do without consulting an outside source. The game gives you very little direction or feedback as to what you are doing, but once you discover the systems at work through trial and error, Chao breeding is quite fun. Again, it helps that the Chaos are FREAKIN' ADORABLE.

Along the lines of disgustingly cute, let's talk about the music. It’s light, upbeat, and catchy alongside lyrics about the actual level. It changes the tempo and rhythm as well, with Knuckle’s levels sounding more rhythmic and a bit heavier then say, Sonic’s levels. The music is a bit of a throwback to a time when video games were your best, primary source for Japanese pop music.

Graphically Sonic Adventure 2 is also a throwback, with some rough textures, blocky character models and a distinct lack of detail across the board. Given the game was first released back in June of 2001, it has held up remarkably well. The biggest issue is that with the lack of graphical detail it’s sometimes possible to miss what is an enemy, especially in the Knuckles/Rouge levels which tend to have the most moving parts. The speed of the Sonic/Shadow levels doesn’t interfere with the graphical quality thanks to the well-thought out level design, though again, the same problem of not recognizing what is and is not an enemy does rear its ugly head from time to time.

20/06/2012 - Screen 9

Finally, the achievements, which are from a design perspective, near-perfect. Every level of the game can be replayed 5 separate times with a different mission each time. You are ranked each time through the level on a scale of E to A. In order to earn all the achievements, guess what? You need to get an A rank on every mission, for every level. All of the achievements in fact are back-loaded, with only two accessible early in the game. Every mode has to be completed, first the story modes (both HERO and DARK), then the actual conclusion which upon completion, which unlocks the boss rush mode. The kart racing mini-game, which is rather bland and generic but at least it has catchy music, is unlocked halfway through the HERO story mode and yes, you also need to complete this mode for an achievement. Then you’re still not done, as you need to raise a HERO Chao and a DARK Chao, bring stats up to 10 and finish off Karate Fighting (if you have the DLC). If you want the full Gamerscore, you need to 100% nearly everything the game has to offer.

Sonic Adventure 2 is a great game with a few serious stumbles keeping it from perfection. The Tails/Dr. Eggman levels and minor camera issues make it a solid 4 out of 5 stars according to our scale here on TrueAchievements. I’d feel comfortable with a 4.5/5 but the Tails/Dr. Eggman levels are so bad, I just can’t go with the full monty. Now, for only 800 MSP, if you have any interest at all in a fun 3D Sonic game, by all means, pick up Sonic Adventure 2. I came into this not expecting anything spectacular, and I have a new entry in my list of “Top Games of 2012”.

The reviewer spent 15 hours playing the two story modes, raising Dixie, his Chao, and exploring the mini-games. Sadly, he didn't actually finish the main story modes because he's old and his reflexes are so not what they used to be. He ran into a brick wall (or laser grids to be more accurate) on Sonic level 16 and Dr. Eggman level 13.