|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
The world's fastest hedgehog is back, and he's taking gaming to the next level. When the Sega Dreamcast game console launches today on an alliterative 9/9/99, Sega's flagship title will be Sonic Adventure, a 3D action-adventure game.
The story revolves around six characters as they try to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik from awakening Chaos, the god of, well, chaos. Each character, from old friends Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and Amy, to new figures Big the Cat and E-102 Gamma, have different objectives in each stage. Sonic, for example, must merely reach the stage goal, while Knuckles must find three emerald fragments, and Big must go fishing to catch is friend Froggy. The individual storylines are disjointed; only by playing all six characters does the story come together.
The action stages are separated by adventure stages, in which players explore, talk, and unlock. These are the game's dullest moments – misfits next to the high-speed action Sonic is known for. You'll spend as much time finding an action stage as you will tearing through it.
Fortunately, those moments of extreme velocity are bliss. Sonic is the fastest platform game ever, sprinting through loop-de-loops, outrunning avalanches, and soaring through the sky.
Only a few graphical problems keep Sonic from being perfect. The camera is severely flawed, occasionally leaving Sonic out of the picture entirely, unable to find the path or fend off any attacks. Collision errors can cause the blue hedgehog to pass through a seemingly-solid wall or floor and fall to his death. These bugs crop up irregularly, but are extremely frustrating.
Though graphical presentation is flawed, graphical quality is not. Sonic lives (and dies) in a colorful world that's looks as good upon close inspection as it does zipping by at jet speed. The frame rate is smooth, the color lush, the characters lively. Better examples are sure to come, but Sonic demonstrates well the graphic capabilities of the Sega Dreamcast.
A rocking soundtrack accompanies Sonic's escapades. During cinematic events, a unique theme song heralds each character's appearance and exit, while high-speed sequences have their own pulsing rhythm. The voice acting is fun to listen to, even if the dialogue is corny and the lip-syncing is terrible.
The challenge is variable depending on your goal. Each character can clear each stage three times with increasingly-difficult objectives. It's your choice whether to perfect the current stage or continue to the next. A Trial mode on the main menu allows access to any previously-cleared action stage, bypassing the adventure stages.
There are several mini-games, though the most highlighted one is the virtual pet. During his adventures, Sonic may come across Chao (pronounced "chow"), little smurf-like creatures he can raise and race. Chao can also be downloaded to the Virtual Memory Unit (VMU) memory card and sent on a Tamagotchi-like Chao Adventure. Competition or cooperation can arise when two VMUs are connected or when Chao are uploaded to the Internet, for the purpose of trading, battling, and mating. The purpose of it all isn't clear, but it is entertaining.
Sonic Adventure sets a new standard for fast-paced platform games. Lackadaisical adventure stages and severe graphical bugs bog down the gameplay, but the number of stages, characters, and mini-games will keep you coming back for more.
This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Sep-99