Title  : Sonic Adventure 2
Platforms  : Sega Dreamcast
Publisher  : Sega
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 8.1
Review by  : Ken Gagne

What happens when you take a hedgehog capable of breaking the sound barrier, and divide by three? You get Sonic Adventure 2, Sega's Dreamcast game that features the world's fastest mammal in a minor role. 

The evil Dr. Robotnik is back with plans for world domination. This time he's accompanied by two new partners: Shadow, an evil hedgehog who's framing Sonic for his crimes; and Rouge the Bat, a treasure hunter who will do anything for jewels. It's up to Sonic and friends to clear their names and save the day. 

Sonic Adventure 2 is a 3D platform game with six playable characters. Whether players choose to pursue the Hero or Dark storyline will determine if they control Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, or their functionally-identical counterparts: Shadow, Robotnik, and Rouge. 

Unlike the first Sonic Adventure, players have no choice over which character they control. Each level has a designated character and gameplay suited to him or her. While Sonic and Shadow's stages feature the fast action that gamers have come to expect from the series, the other levels are something else entirely. Tails and Robotnik lumber along in unwieldy mechs, blowing up everything that moves. Meanwhile, Knuckles and Rouge scavenge for missing emeralds, aided by clues as obscure as "Blue" or "Somewhere dark." 

The Sonic/Shadow levels are the most incredible, high-speed gaming experiences Sega has ever delivered. There are a few scenes that left my mouth agape. 

These gaming highs make the game's lows all the more disappointing. The Sonic/Shadow levels are rare; players spend more time being other characters than they do hedgehogs. It's "Sonic's Friends, And Sonic," only for your Sega Dreamcast. 

The hedgehog levels also feature the game's best music, with light, lyrical tunes suited for blasting through a level as fast as possible. The other characters are accompanied by duller, rapping tunes, or forgettable background music. The voice casting is perfectly matched to the characters, but the acting is more appropriate for a Saturday morning cartoon. 

I'm amazed that, five years after the first 3D platformers, developers are still struggling with the same issues. Yet Sonic 2 has issues with the camera, especially on the slower-paced levels. There are times when the character disappears entirely from the screen, or it's impossible to bring the camera to face forward, no matter how much you use the 'L' and 'R' triggers to manually control it. 

The rest of the control is fine. The heroes and villains can jump, spin, glide, and dash as suits the player. Despite this, some enemies and attacks are impossible to avoid. Taking a hit means losing hundreds of collected rings, ruining the player's chance for a high score and a passing grade on the current level. It's unnecessarily frustrating. 

Sonic Adventure 2 adds multiple modes to enjoy. Two players can engage in a Hero versus Dark challenge, or take to the track in a go-kart race. The one player will also find several trials to overcome as he reenters previous areas to find new goals waiting for him. 

This tenth anniversary title makes playing as Sonic better than ever. It's all the other characters getting in the way of these rapid moments that diminishes the experience. If I had my druthers (as I did in the original Sonic Adventure), I'd choose the characters I like and ignore the rest. Unfortunately, the sequel features more of "the rest" than Sonic. Give this game a go and speed past the slow parts, if you can.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 03-Jul-01