When the Sega Dreamcast launched on September 9th 1999 it did so with a handful of games. Some of them were excellent arcade translations like Soul Calibur and Hydro Thunder, and others were less than stellar, like TrickStyle. The one game everyone seems to remember is Sonic Adventure. Eleven years later Sonic Adventure is now available for download via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Is it a good reminder of times past?
What's It About?
Dr. Eggman (Robotnik) is up to no good again. He's found himself a malevolent pile of goo named Chaos to team up with. Eggman discovers that feeding Chaos Emeralds to Chaos will pump him up in much the same way as steroids help professional athletes. Robotnik decides to then steal all the Chaos Emeralds he can find so he can then feed them to Chaos and then destroy Station Square with the intention of building his own city, Robotnikland, in its place. One city? Really? No global domination schemes? Clearly, Dr. Robotnik has to be the most unambitious megalomaniac in recent history, at least that's what it seems like when you start out. Each of the six characters in the game have their own unique spin on the story, but it eventually all boils down to Dr. Robotnik vs everyone else.
Why Should I Care?
Sonic Adventure is the first of the modern day 3D Sonic games. It set the stage for numerous sequels and has influenced many other games since its release. Many of the 3D Action/Platformer style games coming out these days have design elements straight from Sonic Adventure.
Unlike the traditional Sonic games which played out in a side scrolling 2D field, Sonic Adventure takes the gameplay into a semi-open world style. The game is split up into various Adventure fields and Action stages. In the Adventure fields the goal is primarily to acquire items that will allow you to open the way to the next level. The Action stages are where the game tries to bring the old style fast action into 3D and does so with varying degrees of success.
What Makes Sonic Adventure Worth My Time And Money?
Sonic Adventure is by no means a perfect game. It has its flaws, but it also has its high points. The game originally came out in 1999 and it is a testament to its art design that it doesn't look too bad today. Visually the game is slightly sharper today thanks to some clever upscaling and filtering. Sonic Adventure also has a great sense of speed, which is essential in a Sonic game. The controls are also slightly more responsive than the Dreamcast original. There was a slight input lag on the Dreamcast version of the game which I didn't feel on the Xbox 360. The excellent soundtrack is also present and accounted for.
It isn't all sunshine and rainbows though. While the controls are sharper and more responsive, controlling Sonic and friends isn't as easy as it should be. The controls are twitchy, making moving precisely very difficult. Trying to navigate narrow platforms can be very frustrating if you press the analog stick too far and your character will just dash off the side. There is very little wiggle room on the analog stick between walking and running.
The game's visuals do still look good today, however nothing was done to remedy the original game's most significant flaw: the camera. When it works, the camera will give you a good view of what you're meant to do and where you're going. When it doesn't it will get stuck on corners, stutter around like a drunken monkey or simply fill your view with a foreground wall. The only real way to mitigate this problem is to memorize the levels so that you go where the camera is expecting you to. It is also disappointing that this game only supports a 4:3 aspect ratio. Having the extra screen real-estate of a 16:9 display might have made the camera's quirks easier to deal with.
When we weigh the good points against the bad points and factor in the price of the game on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, it's hard to really go wrong. The original game sells for $15 on eBay on the low end, and can go up to as high as $50. $10 for a version of the game with sharper visuals and slightly better controls is hard to pass up. If you've never played the game but want to find out what it was like, get this version. If you've played the original and want to be taken back to 9.9.99 without having to dig out your Dreamcast, then this is $10 well spent.