Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 02/11/02 | Genre: Platform
Five to ten years ago, I would've bet everything I own that the sun would burn out before the situation before us today would actually be true, and so would many others. Fortunately, we were wrong. As you're well aware, Sega is making games for Nintendo systems, and the anti-Mario is finally shaking hands and making peace. Sega was off to a pretty good start with Nintendo too, with Chu Chu Rocket, Super Monkey Ball, and Sonic Advance being excellent games. So now, the previously unimagined is a reality. Sonic is on GameCube in the form of a Dreamcast port of Sonic Adventure 2.
Once again, Dr. Eggman (Robitnik) is up to his evil plans. He wants Chaos Emeralds so that he can have the power to destroy Sonic; only this time he has a team of characters to help him. Not to worry, Sonic has a team of his own. There are six initially playable characters, and a few more which can be unlocked later. They have different moves and their levels differ in gameplay. You play has both the good guys (Hero) and the bad guys (Dark). The stories, told by real-time cut scenes, of the Hero and Dark side intersect at certain points. Also, there were some improvements made for the GameCube such as a graphical upgrade and added multiplayer. All of this sounds pretty interesting, but what is good as a concept isn't always executed well.
Let's start with the less important stuff first. This is a Dreamcast port, so in terms of graphics, you shouldn't be expecting too much. The graphics aren't great, but they're not really bad either. For the GameCube, most of the texture work was upgraded so that it looks sharper and cleaner. Sega did a pretty good job there. The polygons counts aren't very high though, but there does seem to be some added background/scenery objects such as extra trees. What is nice is that the framerate is always smooth. For you HDTV owners, SA 2 supports progressive scan, making the texture work look even better. If you're not expecting too much in terms of graphics, you won't be disappointed. It's Dreamcast port, so it's acceptable.
The sound on the other hand is pretty bad. Well, most of the sound effects are good, but it's the music and voice acting that makes me cringe. There are corny rock 'n' roll songs and equally corny raps about Sonic and the other characters during gameplay. Also, I was disappointed in Sonic's voice. I wish it was more like the voice of Sonic from the cartoon. Remember that? Anyways, most of the dialogue, music and voice acting are absolutely horrible. These are not songs that you want to get stuck in your head.
So with that out of the way, we get to the gameplay. As I said, the different characters have varying styles of gameplay. The one thing common to them all however is the horrible camera. This camera is simply inexcusable. It makes it very hard to look around and explore. The camera always tries to point in the direction you're supposed to go, even if you want to stop and look at something a little closer.
Sonic Team seems to have thrown away what made the original Sonic games a success. I'm glad when developers want to try something new, but sometimes it isn't always better and they hopefully learn from it. Sonic was always about being able to zoom through levels and finding alternate paths, and secret areas on occasion. It was never about exploring and looking for items in a long, drawn-out process. Each Hero character corresponds with a Dark character that shares similar abilities and gameplay. Sonic and Shadow, Tails and Dr. Eggman, and Knuckles and Rogue each make a pair. Each pair has similar moves and level design.
The Sonic and Shadow levels are the best. With Sonic or Shadow, you mostly run fast, using timed jumps, grinding on rails and avoiding obstacles. The levels are very linear, but that is what Sonic was always like. These levels are pretty fun to play. This is what Sonic are supposed to be about. It all feels very smooth when you are good enough to whiz through the level at break-neck speed. There are a variety of moves and attacks that Sonic/Shadow can perform to get past obstacles, defeat enemies, and find certain objects. I wish more of the game were like this.
The Tails/Dr. Eggman levels are mediocre shooters. Both Tails and Dr. Eggman coincidentally ride around in mech-suit type machines. You can jump and shoot various kinds of weapons with these machines. You can use a lock-on feature to try to score multiple hits in a row to rack up more points. You progress through the levels by shooting enemies and destroying obstacles. Sometimes you will have to do some platformer-like jumping to get through the level. Mindless button-mashing gets you through much of these levels. It is all pretty easy and boring.
Lastly the Knuckles/Rogue levels feature treasure hunting. You have to find pieces of the shattered Chaos Emeralds in a variety of stages. To aid you, you have a small indicator that signals you when you are getting close to a piece of the emerald. Also, there are computers placed throughout the levels that give you clues as to where one of the pieces is. Knuckles and Rogue can both glide through the air and climb on walls, which does add an interesting part to exploring, only, all of this is hampered by the aforementioned horrible camera system. In a level such as this, where you will want to backtrack, look around, and move in all directions, the camera makes the hunting incredibly frustrating at times.
So overall the main adventure mode is a disappointment. If Sonic Team had made the whole game like the Sonic levels and improved the mechanics of the gameplay in those levels, this game would probably get a much better score. The exploring and shooting levels simply don't feel like a Sonic game and were poorly executed.
There is a side-quest that is surprisingly fun, however. It's Chao raising. Chaos are cute Tamagotchi-like pets. You can feed them and play games with them. There are different items you can give them as well. Depending on what you feed you Chaos, they will gain different strengths and abilities, even taking on the characteristics of Hero or Dark. There are several different abilities, such as flying, swimming, and stamina. There is actually quite a bit to do with these little guys. You can take them to school, and play simple little mini-games with them. You can also transfer them to the GBA where you can nurture them some more, get new items for them, and play a couple more simple, yet addictive mini-games. If you already have Chaos from your Sonic Advance game, you can transfer them to your GameCube Chao garden to see how they will do in the mini-games in the Chao Garden. The mini-games are fairly simple which involve timed button presses and the particular statistics of your Chao. It should also be noted that you can't have more than one Chao and your Chao can't evolve if you don't have SA 2 Battle, and you only have Sonic Advance. I was pretty satisfied with the Chao Garden. It's a great pet simulator.
The most significant (or possibly insignificant) addition to this GameCube port is the added multiplayer. There are six multiplayer games. Only Chao Racing is 4-player. The rest are all 2-player. Chao Racing and Chao karate both involve pitting your Chaos against one another and using timed button presses. It might not sound like fun, and it isn't unless the Chaos competing are Chaos that you have spent time and effort on raising. Then, it's kind of fun to see who has the better Chao, especially since you might be attached to your little Chao. There are four other battle games. One of them is "Action race Battle" where one of you plays as Sonic and one of you plays as Shadow. You just race through the Sonic and Shadow levels from the game and try to collect rings along the way. Collecting rings will allow you to attack your opponent with special moves. This is pretty fun, but it gets old quickly. Another game is with Tails and Dr. Eggman. You and a friend try to destroy each other using the mech-suits. This game just feels to cumbersome and clunky to be fun. There is also a Treasure Hunt battle game. You compete against a friend in the Knuckles/Rogue levels to find the pieces of the emerald first. Again, this gets old fairly quickly, and the same camera problems remain. The last battle mode is Kart Racing. While it may seem like an unlikely addition, there are actually parts of the single-player game that involve kart racing. Don't get too excited though. The controls for the kart racing are sloppy and unresponsive, and this too gets old fairly quickly.
The replayability/lasting appeal of this game is a funny issue. On the one hand, Sonic Team provided plenty to do. There are about 30 single-player levels each with multiple objectives that require you to complete the level more than once to earn all emblems. Emblems allow you to unlock multiplayer levels and other secrets. On the other hand, do you want to play the levels again? There is plenty to do and you can spend lots of time doing it, but for most people, it won't be worth it.
So what went wrong here? Sonic coming to Nintendo was supposed to be a celebrated event. Well, it was on the GBA, but not on the GCN. In most games you are excited to see the next cut scene. In this game however, you will cringe at the horrible voice acting and equally horrible script. When the script is bad for a video game, then you know it must be really bad. Also, in most games, added variety of objectives and incentives for completing them add to the value by making the game take longer to complete, but most people won't want to go back to the mediocre gameplay to unlock mediocre multiplayer stuff. Speaking of multiplayer, that too is usually a welcome addition to most games, but in this game, if you start playing multiplayer, you'll quickly start thinking about the Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Monkey Ball, and Agent Under Fire play time that you're wasting. If only Sonic Team had concentrated on the Sonic levels much more and left out the very tedious hunting and shooting levels, this game might have been better.
People who own the Dreamcast version should definitely not get this unless you're obsessed with Chaos. Anyone else who wants to play this game should rent it before they buy it. Although the Chao Garden is good, I cannot recommend this as a purchase to Sonic Advance owners who just want to raise their Chaos. It's not worth the $50 to do that and you have to play through the main game to unlock most of the Chao stuff anyways. I'll admit that some people may actually find this game pretty fun, but that's why I recommend a rental first. I just expect a lot more polish from a talented developer such as Sonic Team, but instead this game seems sloppy and second-rate. It seems like a crappy third party game based off a cartoon or movie license. Tedious exploring and searching for items is not what Sonic is about and it didn't work in this game. The camera is inexcusable. 3D games were not new when this game was made and there were plenty examples of good 3D camera systems at the time. I'm sorry to give Sonic's first big appearance on GameCube such a negative review, but it deserves it. Hopefully the next Sonic appearance will be better, with an entirely original game, custom-tailored for the GameCube, and with all of the gameplay mechanics well thought out.