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Flashback Attack: Sonic Adventure 2
Title: Sonic Adventure 2
Version Played: “Battle” for the Gamecube (2002)
If you’ve been following this column at all, you will already know my relationship with the Sonic Adventure games. For those of you unaware, Sonic Adventure 2 was basically the first Sonic game I ever played. So bear in mind that there’s going to be quite a bit of nostalgia here, but I will do my best take an objective look back at Sonic Adventure 2.
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle holds a special place in my heart, but it also holds a special place in video game history as being the first Sonic game ported over to a Nintendo console. By the time 2002 rolled around, Sega had already announced they were no longer producing Dreamcast consoles, and so in a very real way the "console wars" days were over. But I’m sure that for some, seeing Sega’s trademark blue hedgehog on a Nintendo console really signified the end of an era.
What a game to use to mark that end, too. Sonic Adventure 2 is good. In my opinion, probably one of the best 3D Sonic games. So in a sense, seeing this title come to Nintendo’s purple little lunchbox probably got a lot of people wondering what they had been missing out on. And while the good times were not to last, it’s still nice to think that for a scant moment in history, Nintendo fans were earnestly enjoying a Sega game on their own consoles.
No, this doesn't count.
What makes the game good, you ask? Well, probably the most important part is that it actually manages to maintain the franchise’s sense of speed really well. The game brings back the whole “playing as a variety of different characters” gimmick, but with none of the wandering-around-the-city-in-between-missions stuff that the first Adventure had.
While the game has six playable characters, it helps cut down on the schizophrenic and disjointed feel of this by splitting the characters into “good” and “bad” sides, giving you only 3 different gameplay styles. The game is still at its best when it just lets you play as Sonic (or his evil counterpart, Shadow), but the other characters still have a sense of urgency about them that was missing in the first game.
There is nothing urgent about fishing for frogs, Sonic Adventure.
The plot is a bit more coherent than Adventure, although it’s still rather silly (the final final boss [spoiler]is a giant space lizard[/spoiler]). Mostly it feels unnecessarily epic – the game ends with an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog literally saving a realistic world. It’s impossible to pull that off with a straight face and yet the game tries. The game never sacrifices gameplay for plot, though, and for that it excels.
There’s also a two-player mode that lets you race, battle or hunt for treasure with/against a friend. It’s an okay timewaster, but it doesn’t really add anything to the overall package, so I’m not going to discuss it any further than to simply say that it’s there.
Yup, it exists.
How does this version differ?
Well, Wikipedia has a fairly in-depth explanation of what gets added and what goes missing (including a very detailed exploration of Big the Cat’s cameos) in the Gamecube version. What it really boils down to, though, is that the game is more or less identical to the Dreamcast version.
Well, your Chao can participate in karate matches now. There's that.
But, does it stand the test of time?
Going back and playing this game again, one of the strangest things I found was that it was quite a bit harder than I remember it being. I really didn’t expect it to give me as much of a challenge as it did. So from a difficulty standpoint, yes it totally does stand the test of time.
As for replayability, Sonic Adventure 2 has that in spades. From the level select screen, you can choose to replay any level you’ve already beaten, with each level having five different missions. The first one is always simply to beat the level, while the other four offer some other strange constraint. You also get a rank on each mission, inspiring you to be faster and do better each time you try it.
Add on to that the fan favorite Chao garden – a surprisingly addictive game mode that lets you raise little creatures called Chao – and you’ve definitely got a package that will keep you entertained for a long time.
It's more fun than it looks, I promise.
I started this column off by warning that my opinion was probably going to be skewed by nostalgia. So, yes, I found it very hard to differentiate between the parts of this game that are genuinely fun and the parts that bring back pleasant memories.
That being said, I think there’s plenty here to be enjoyed, even for newcomers. As long as you have an open mind and play the game for what it is. The mechanics are a little clunky and the game isn’t polished to perfection, but if someone asked me to take them back to 2002, to show them a by-gone moment in video game history, I would simply hand them Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.
Or, you know, tell them to go download it for like 10 bucks on Steam. No way I’m lending them my own copy – too much sentimental value.
Flashback Attack is a weekly column that goes up every Friday. In this column, Matt Overstreet takes a look at some older games and tries to figure out if they've stood the test of time. Do you have a game you'd like to recommend? Leave a suggestion in the comments or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.