Sega was once a major gaming hardware manufacturer, and in those good old days they created an extensive catalog of classic games and franchises for their consoles. Recently they’ve done the current generation a service by updating their older hits as downloadable HD titles. Some of these, like Jet Set Radio, or Nights Into Dreams are bringing cult hits to a new generation of players. With their latest HD re-vamp, Sega has put the focus on their most famous franchise, and have made a product that is laser targeted at Sonic’s existing fans, while not offering much for people who aren’t already on this furry blue bandwagon.
Sonic Adventure 2 was the game that introduced Shadow The Hedgehog, which will give it a certain appeal to fans who only know Shadow as one of the many supporting critters in the Sonicverse. Speaking of the extended family of fuzzballs, Sonic Adventure 2 lets players not only control Sonic and Shadow, but four other members of the gang. These are divided into a Hero storyline, and a Villain storyline. The heroes are Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails, and the villains are Shadow, Dr. Eggman, and Rouge the Bat.
Players can focus on one story before checking out the other perspective, or they can pursue these simultaneously by bouncing back and forth after each chapter. It’s a very clever way to form a narrative, and different players will be able to explore it in different ways, getting the various perspectives in different orders.
While the two story lines are a nifty idea, the heroic characters play pretty much the same way as their villainous counterparts. Sonic and Shadow: basically the same thing. Knuckles and Rogue the Bat? both glide and climb walls in a similar fashion.
How could the robot-building villain Doctor Eggman possibly control like the flying fox Tails? Simple, put both of them in robot walkers with machine guns (Tails does get to use his traditional flying powers in some parts of the game, though). Not only do the characters control in very similar fashions, but the levels they explore tend to be strikingly similar as well.
As was almost always the case with third person adventure games in the old days, the camera is a mess. When originally released in 2001, the game’s negative criticism was mostly based on this. Now, eleven years later, it’s still a huge frustration. The HD re-release does make use of the second analog stick to swivel the camera, but this is only of moderate aid because the camera still tries to center itself despite what the Player wants, and locks onto the enemy during boss battles.
Because Sonic Adventure 2 has players controlling six different characters, this means that each of them has their own distinct camera problems. Knuckles’ can climb walls, but when he’s near a ledge, the camera swings wildly trying to keep him in frame, and making it hard to see what’s around him.
Tails and Doctor Eggman pilot robots with guns mounted on the front, however players can’t look in one direction while moving in another, and this leads to just sweeping the levels with the lock-on button, and letting the auto-aim do the work at random.
While the game definitely has its frustrations, it does have some cool features too. As players make their way through levels, they’ll come across cute little creatures called Chao. After each level, players will be able to visit their “Chao Garden” where they can let loose the critters they found, and grow new ones in a minigame. Collecting them all justifies multiple runs through the campaign, and reminds players to slow down when they get the chance.
There are also a bunch of other minigames, including the extra material that was added in with the Gamecube version of Sonic Adventure 2. This HD edition plays in widescreen too, and does have some graphical updates. Because the characters are cartoonish anthropomorphic animals, there was never an attempt at hyper-realism anyway, so it still looks pretty good.
If you aren’t already a Sonic the Hedgehog fan, then this HD re-release of Sonic Adventure 2 is not the game that will convert you. Sonic fans, especially younger ones who weren’t around to play it when it hit the Dreamcast in 2001 will probably take a much stronger liking to this very dated game. Other gamers who don’t remember the Dreamcast days are better off grabbing one of Sega’s other recent HD re-releases.