Gaming

Revisiting: Sonic Adventure (1999) – Ambitious But Flawed

Today marks 18 years since Sega launched the Dreamcast in the US. It also marks the first real chance American gamers got to experience the first full Sonic outing in 3D. Sonic Adventure marked a huge departure for the series, which up until that point had largely remained in two dimensions. With so much riding on this launch title, how did gamers take to the new game?

Sonic Adventure was the first game in the series to bring a much more unique plot than its predecessors. In Sonic 1 and 2, players were mostly tasked with saving small animals from a mad doctor who wished to use them for his evil purposes. In this Dreamcast title, however, the story is largely expanded, while at the same time retaining some previous components. As always Dr. Robotnik or Eggman is up to no good and has released an ancient water creature know as Chaos. This creature thrives off from the “chaos emeralds“, and Robotnik uses this in order to achieve his own goal of domination. That’s where the blue hedgehog steps in, once again ready to defeat his long-time rival and save the world, alongside his friends. Soon, however, Chaos loses control and turn’s against his master leading to catastrophic event’s and Sonic is tasked to not only defeat the doctor but also uncover how to stop the creature. As always he is backed-up by his sidekick Tales and his friend/rival Knuckles. On his journey, he meet’s more characters and even travels to the past and discovers the background of Chaos.

The story instead of just following Sonic is also told through the eyes of five additional characters. Every character has his own path and objective, while at one point these multiple paths merge into one. The iconic blue speedster is still considered the main protagonist and has the biggest time on the small screen. Other notable characters include Tales, Sonic’s loyal sidekick, Knuckles the Echidna, his friendly rival, Amy Rose, a crazed fan, E-102 Gamma, a robot who turned against the doctor, and Big the Cat, who is just the worst. Every character has his own abilities and they become stronger as the game progresses. These heroes all have a few common things when it comes to story, they are all aided by Tikal the Echidna and they all face Chaos at one point.

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Sonic Team, the developers, and Sega didn’t have an easy task when creating this 3D platformer since they had already failed with their first attempt with Sonic 3D Blast. However, unlike its low-quality predecessor, Sonic Team took most of its inspiration from other games and even different genres. An open-world was given for the first time, something that was taken mostly from Super Mario 64 and another popular game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As for the gameplay, it stayed mostly the same as its 2D outing, focusing on the main aspect, of course, speed and platforming. Sonic Adventure was the first in the series that was able to perfect the movement and the camera of the characters in a newly rendered environment, something that future games had a lot of trouble doing. Adding to it is the feature of upgrading abilities for all characters that became useful as the plot continues.

Additionally, players were given multiple modes after the completion of the game, most interesting the “Time Trial Mode“. This tested the fans of the series as they had to complete certain areas as fast as they could, and there was no better feeling than running at light speed while collecting rings. While all of the characters had similar game mechanics, there was only one that enraged the gaming community, Big the Cat. Instead of running and platforming, we were introduced to a fishing mini game that just played badly. However the largest reason why many hated this section is that you can’t skip it, you had to play it to the end in order to unlock the final level and boss.

The Sonic series had its fair share of bosses. The usual boss is Dr. Eggman and his animatronics, and every character would face them in their own storyline. The only boss that would appear and face every character is Chaos, though this may seem repetitive it’s not the case. With each new battle, he would evolve and change form, causing the player to change its strategy in order to beat him. The main negative here though is that all of these opponents don’t put on a good fight, instead they all take at least four hits and go down. There are occasional battle where the player must learn his opponents moves in order to uncover his weak spot, but after that, the fight turns into a cake walk.

The final boss of the game is Chaos’s final form, as he turns into a giant monster and floods the entire city, however, this battle is unlocked only when the player beats all previous stories. Gamers take the role of Sonic who empowers himself with a chaos emerald and becomes “Super Sonic“, a yellow Super Saiyan form that’s much faster and stronger. The negative aspect of this is that “Super Sonic” isn’t playable in the entire game, but only at the end. Never the less, it still provided what every fan wanted out of a good Sonic game, the ability to run like hell without any bugs, glitches and without slowing down.

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Sega Dreamcast wasn’t a critically successful console, which is a shame considering that it had a good amount of games that were exclusive only for that system. The graphics of most of the games, that were rendered in 3D are all similar and could be especially seen in Sega titles. Sonic Adventure, as we stated is set in an open-world and most of the locations were inspired by real-life locals. Yuji Naka, the producer, stated in an interview that the development crew went to Cancun, Guatemala, and Peru, in order to get an idea on how to create an environment, thus the game has one of the visuals that the entire console offers. The music was written by Jun Senoue, who alongside his band, Crush 40, released one of the best Sonic soundtracks, with its most popular from the titular game being “Open Your Heart”. The hard rock music was perfectly accompanied by the fast nature of the series protagonist and gave it a certain edge.

Even though today most games from this franchise tried to follow this formula, which ends up in a big disaster, the first one was one of the more popular outings. Today the hedgehog’s adventure is not much to brag about, but back in the 90’s fans loved it and it was a commercial success. The game was recently released on PC with better visuals and a more fluid game play. It paved a way to a sequel that improved even more on the game play and characters and it also inspired a bunch of turds that stained the franchise. This title can’t match itself against its 2D releases, but it can be considered as one of the better games in the series.

Sonic Adventure can’t be considered a bad game, but it also can’t be considered the best. It was well praised in the gaming community and fans will defiantly tell you it is fun, but nothing special. For all of those who like to get nostalgic and lost in old games, this isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, yet it is most certainly the one that while grab your attention if you come across it. If nothing else the developers did an amazing job and honored their mascot with a descend 3D title and set the standard for future installments. Like it or not, you should give this title a shot, let it be your appetizer and then grab your 2D copy and let the main course begin. Sonic Adventure is the real deal.

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