Sixteen years ago on this day Sega made history with a game called Sonic Adventure 2. The sequel to the well-receive albeit polarizing Sonic Adventure killer app for the Sega Dreamcast. Sonic Adventure 2 was expected to improve on everything that the original game got wrong, but was still enjoyable. However, while the results were polarizing to say the least, SA2 proved to be a hit with the audiences and is still fondly remembered as the last Sonic title on the Dreamcast.
After all these years, who can forget the moment you started your game to that awesome riff of Live and Learn on the intro screen? Only to start the game and be blasted with another amazing song as you blast through with sonic speed in the first level aptly titled City Escape with Sonic the Hedgehog himself. Nobody will deny that Sonic Adventure 2 began with a bang and it couldn’t have been a better introduction to the free spirited nature of Sonic. But, it wouldn’t last long as soon after you finished what could be the greatest introduction level in gaming history. This is because Sonic Adventure 2 suffered from the same problems as the original. Sega tried to do too much with this game and instead of focusing on the things which make Sonic great (running freely) they wanted to add unneeded variety to the gameplay.
This completely marred the experience of the game. I wanted to be Sonic, run as the blue blur through multiple stages utilizing dexterity and quick reflexes to avoid a sudden and untimely death. Instead I was playing as Knuckles which was once again hunting for items around a free-roaming map. This mode was actually made worse than the original since in SA2 the radar works sequentially instead of simply detecting jewels as you become closer (you could literally miss an entire jewel because the radar didn’t tell you it was 5 feet away). The other 3rd of the game I was playing as Tails or Robotnik using their mechs to fire at everything in the screen. The stages with Tails were an all right change of pace, but they came too often and it just wasn’t what everyone wanted, people wanted to play as Sonic and honestly this game doesn’t provide enough time playing as him or Shadow (the dark side counterpart to our eponymous hero).
The time spent playing as Shadow and Sonic in Sonic Adventure 2 are also unusual, with difficulty spikes popping up sporadically in the middle of the game instead of progressively building up as you beat each level. There should have been more levels with difficulty growing as the player learns each mechanic through the levels, instead we learn a new mechanic about every 3 levels and have to keep up with all the changes of pace that the game provides. It’s not like in Sonic Adventure where you could focus on one character’s storyline and then proceed with another. In here you were forced to use whatever character the developers at Sega wanted you to use, and your only other choice was to play the Dark Side mode. It felt restrictive and contrived, especially since I loved the Sonic stages from the original (except the dragon snake in the ancient ruins, screw that). Not to mention this game still suffered from some of the glitches in the original which made platforming wonky at times. Still even though the pace was broken and parts of the story made absolutely no sense Sonic Adventure 2 still had some epic moments.
Who could forget the moment where both Sonic and Shadow take their super forms and battle against the Biolizard in space? Perhaps escaping on a rocket in Metal Harbor or the running as fast as possible as the exploding Jungle? But, these moments were also marred by events such as Sonic using Chaos Control to escape an exploding pod? Amy showing up in the prison where Sonic was being held, a prison which Tails had to fly in his plane to get there, and she simply appears out of nowhere? Big the Cat appearing in every stage which was done as a form of spite for all the people who disliked the character? Hell even Shadow’s appearance broke the base even more than it already divided. Sonic Adventure 2 began the slippery slow of bad Sonic titles to come in the future, but this truly came to fruition when Sonic Heroes released (that game was epically bad). Yet, throughout this entire journey one constant made Sonic Adventure 2 the best game ever. Chao were developed immensely from the previous title and they were ten times more adorable than ever.
Chao were a fun part of Sonic Adventure, but in SA2 they fleshed them out to the point where it could have been its own game. I know a few fans of the series who wouldn’t even mind a stand-alone game of the little creatures. They expanded on the list of animals that could be used to give them traits, added special ones which had unique abilities, let Chao fight and even transcend into godhood if you were skilled enough to raise one. I wasn’t though and mine constantly died for no apparent reason, as a teenager though I managed to raise some extremely good ones though. If only Sega would listen to their fans and make the Sonic game that SA2 should have been instead of the recent slough of crappy Sonic titles like Sonic Boom they wouldn’t be in the spot they are in.
Sonic Adventure 2 has an extremely fanatical fan base though, and they will defend the game tooth and nail. But, it’s still not a truly good Sonic game. There was so much potential with Sega to create a truly exciting game, and instead they made the same mistakes as they did with the original. These issues caused problems as it appears that Sega themselves don’t really know what to do with the character. The Blue Blur these days tends to be relegated to cameo appearances in other games such as Super Smash Brothers or the Olympic games. But, perhaps if Sega understood what fans truly want (more games like Generations), then maybe they can finally bring him back from the brink of death and into the Valhalla of gaming once more.