I’ve learned a few things so far in 2010. I don’t care for mint chocolate chip ice cream as much as I once did, I probably eat way too much peanut butter, and also, a lot of the games I enjoyed growing up still hold up surprisingly well. This has been proven with Earthworm Jim HD, Perfect Dark, Rocket Knight, and even some of the Game Room releases.
Then we have the opposite end of the spectrum. The games that hold some nostalgic value, but perhaps haven’t stood the test of time. The ones that might even make you question whether the game was ever that good to begin with.
This is where you’ll find Sonic Adventure.
I did not purchase a Dreamcast at launch. I was far too young and unemployed for that. About a year after it launched I picked one up on ebay that came with a number of games, amongst them Sonic Adventure. Although this was about a decade ago now, I remember playing the hell out of that game. I completed the stories for every character, got the majority of the emblems, and messed around in the Chao garden for a good long while.
The initial announcement that this game would be making it’s way to XBLA got me pretty excited. I never played the DX version, and now it has achievements! I was eager to revisit those 10 year old memories. I downloaded the game, played through the iconic opening level where the whale smashes the dock as you run along it, and shortly afterwards something strange dawned on me.
I wasn’t really having any fun.
Once I got beyond that famous sequence, things really fell apart. The controls felt clunky and the in-game camera and I were having an intense difference of opinion. I felt it should be giving me a good view of the action, and it clearly felt otherwise. Instead it seemed to think the logical course of action was to spin around me wildy before resting on a view of the wall clipping through the sky. The camera’s logic is faulty, and often really gets in the way of whatever fun the game may provide.
I will admit that the action stages for Sonic are occasionally enjoyable. You can often get a solid speed going and when that happens, there is some fun to be had. So long as the camera is being somewhat kind, you can get through these stages while still maintaining some semblance of enjoyment. It’s when thing slow down that it completely goes to hell.
I’m speaking primarily of the Adventure stages that occur between each of the Action stages. The term “adventure” may be misleading as usually this just means wandering aimlessly around a city until you happen to stumble upon what you’re supposed to do next. It’s not as though there is anything fun to do while this is happening either. Also I believe this is the first time they did the weird, WEIRD, move of having humans exist in the same world as Sonic. He doesn’t mate with any of them thankfully, though I’m fairly certain that changed in a later title.
While elements of the Sonic storyline are enjoyable, there are still five more stories to go through after that. Each one of them has their own hook. For Tails you are usually racing against Sonic through the levels, Knuckles has to locate hidden objects in each level, and so on. I’ll be upfront with you – none of these are particularly fun. They’re all very short too, with some of them lasting barely an hour. In most cases, you won’t mind seeing it wrap up.
Of course it wouldn’t be a complete Sonic Adventure review without making mention of the audio. The soundtrack is just, it’s just hysterical. This is when Sega decided Sonic games needed to be full of cheesy pop rock songs that contained lyrics about friendship and going for your goals. It’s just as hilariously awful as you would expect. The fact that just 11 years ago these songs were considered of high enough quality to put in a game is amazing, although I’m quite certain they were awful even back then.
This is also the first title to give the characters voices (please don’t lynch me if that isn’t actually true). I would think the decision of how a character who had remained silent for a decade should sound would not be taken lightly. Whoever made the final call either has no ears or hated Sega.
In all fairness Sonic himself isn’t awful, and has that balance of “cocky” and “wow I really don’t like this guy” that one would expect. The biggest offender is easily Tails, who is voiced by a disinterested 9-year-old. It’s terrible, but it’s also undeniably hilarious. Your life will change the moment you hear Sonic’s “You’re gonna crash AHH”. This is voice acting a team of people deemed worthy of being in the final product. I want you to never forget that.
If you have the most insanely positive nostalgia for Sonic Adventure, then it’s worth at least a look. Hopefully things turn out better for you than me. I however, did not have a great deal of fun returning to this game after so many years. There are certainly some enjoyable moments in the Sonic story, so I would recommend playing through that at least. Once you’ve done that, it might be a good idea to simply shut the game off, and pretend that’s all the content that’s there.