Image copyright SEGA 1998
I was taking a well-earned go on my Xbox the other night. For someone whose spends as much time writing and talking about games as I do, the actual length of time playing a game these days is bare. So, I start up my Xbox, go through the motions of checking how my updates are coming along, if there are any new updates to install (there were), and then I happened to glance into the “Ready to Install” section. What should I find, but Sonic Adventure which is now playable on Xbox One via backwards compatibility. It was a good day!
Having been my childhood hero, possibly before I could even walk, Sonic has always been there for me. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was an early favourite of mine, and it singlehandedly made me a SEGA fanboy before I even knew what a fanboy was.
Yep, that little group of blue pixels made my life.
As I grew older, and the world of video games evolved to fully embrace the third dimension, the thought of playing as my childhood icon once more was enough for me to want a SEGA Dreamcast – which is still the best video game console ever made, and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me to the death.
I played Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast in the Winter of 1999 and was hooked. It played better than anything I had ever known at the moment in time, and to be able to play as Sonic as well as his perennial sidekick Miles “Tails” Prower, his on-again-off-again rival Knuckles the Echidna, his wannabe girlfriend Amy Rose and newcomers Big the Cat and E-102 ‘Gamma’ only sweetened the deal.
A lot of fans of the series have criticised SEGA for constantly introducing unwanted new characters and cited Sonic Adventure as the Genesis – pun unintended – for this trend. But I welcomed the idea, thinking it only bolstered the story to the games, something that has, traditionally, not been the best part of a Sonic game.
Whilst I’m talking about story, I would be remiss of me to ignore it when talking about Sonic Adventure.
You start the game off, naturally, as Sonic the Hedgehog and, by means of getting to specific locations and enabling set cutscenes, unlock each of the game’s six playable characters.
Each one handles differently, with Sonic’s levels focusing on speed, Knuckles’ taking the form of an egg hunt for the missing pieces of the Master Emerald, and Big’s is a set of fishing levels. You can tell that fishing games were popular in Japan at the time of production.
I realise I just started speaking about gameplay whilst introducing storyline there, and I do apologise.
The story centres around the evil Dr Robotnik (now formally known as Dr Eggman) awakening Chaos, the God of Destruction. With Chaos by his side, Robotnik looks to take over the world, and create his ultimate city; Robotnikland.
Chaos holds a special ability that enables him to grow in size and strength whenever he ‘consumes’ one of the six Chaos Emeralds, ultimately turning him into Perfect Chaos.
It’s up to Sonic and his friends to stop Robotnik and ultimately defeat Chaos.
You know, the usual stuff to contend with.
I think this game is one where nostalgia clouds your judgement for how good it is. Whilst it is still one of my favourite games (though I do admit I prefer the sequel), looking at the game now, it hasn’t aged as well as I’d have hoped.
My first thought after booting the game up was; “how many bends does Sonic have in his leg?”
In that photo, it looks like Tails is looking at Sonic’s malformed legs as well, so it sums up my thoughts perfectly.
My second lot of thoughts were, “Is that really what passed for a human being in a Dreamcast headline game?”
Now, I know that graphics do not make the game. Graphics should never make the game, it’s everything else that matters ultimately. Style over substance is a counter-productive thought process when it comes to games. But after this long, these humans do look, for want of a better word, scary.
And then the gameplay.
The first level, the very first level, which should be an easy stroll (or in Sonic’s case, run) through the park where it is borderline impossible to die. Well, I ended up dying four times. In the same spot. Not because I’m an awful gamer, but Sonic stopped running on a lead-up to a loop-de-loop and proceeded to fall through the floor and into the watery depths below. Four. Times.
I went from six lives, to two.
On the first level.
This isn’t Dark Souls or Cuphead. This is Sonic Adventure.
It’s an unfortunate trend that continues in later 3D Sonic games – and we all know which one I’m talking about specifically. But again, you could say this was the Genesis of that awful trend.
It pains me so very much to sit here and berate not only one of my favourite games but one of my favourite gaming characters. I take no pleasure in any of it.
Do I love Sonic? Yes.
Will I continue to play Sonic Adventure, download Sonic Adventure 2 (upon it’s backwards compatibility re-release), and purchase the forthcoming Sonic Forces? Yes, yes, yes.
However, sometimes, and it is only sometimes, it’s nice to be able to rant about the things you love most in the world. It clearly shows you’re passionate about it.
And so, with that in mind, I’m going to play some more.
Nerd Rating; 5/10 – it would have scored less had my love for the subject not clouded my better judgement. There’s a lot to fault in this game; the dodgy animations, the collision detection issues, Tails. But there’s just as much to love. Whether you’re a devout worshipper of all things Sonic the Hedgehog, or just need a bit of a hit before 3D Sonic games got REALLY bad (i.e. 2006), this gem still holds up as one of the better parts of Sonic’s long and…storied life. Plus, if you already purchased it on the Xbox 360, it’s free via backwards compatibility, so there’s that.
If you like this, try: Sonic Adventure 2, Jet Set Radio