Game Corner: Sonic Adventure 2 (Xbox 360)

GameCorner
SA2Logo

Released: October 2012
Originally Released: June 2001
Developer: Sonic Team USA
Also Available For: Dreamcast, GameCube, PC, PlayStation 3

The Background:
After Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998) finally brought Sonic into the third dimension and proved to be a rousing success, despite a few flaws, Sonic Team passed development of the sequel over to their US branch. Drawing inspiration from their surroundings, the team infused the sequel with a much greater focus on action, speed, and realism than before, making the game feel decidedly more “Western” than its predecessor. Ironically, Sonic Adventure 2 actually dialled down on the “adventure” aspects of its predecessor but featured, perhaps, the darkest and most science-fiction-orientated story in the series thus far, a decision that would impact the franchise, for better or for worse, for years to come. I’ve talked about Sonic Adventure more than once in the past but, despite it being one of my favourites in the Sonic the Hedgehog (1991 to present) franchise, I actually played its sequel first. I never owned a Dreamcast as a kid as I hedged my bets on the Nintendo 64 so, when I decided to get a GameCube, one of the first two games I got was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (Sonic Team USA, 2002) and it actually took me a while to acclimatise to Sonic Adventure’s radically different gameplay and presentation when I bought Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut (Sonic Team, 2003). However, while Sonic fans (notoriously one of the worst fanbases in all of fandom) have recently turned on this game in favour of, of all things, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (ibid, 2006), it’s always been a favourite of mine, to the point where I’ve bought it on GameCube, PlayStation 3, and, now, the Xbox 360 version for Xbox One.

The Plot:
Sonic the Hedgehog finds himself a fugitive on the run from the Guardian Units of Nations (G.U.N.) after security footage appears to show him stealing a Chaos Emerald from a G.U.N. facility. In actuality, the culprit is the mysterious Shadow the Hedgehog, the self-proclaimed “ultimate lifeform” who has been released by Sonic’s long-term nemesis, Doctor Eggman, to help the mad scientist harness the power of the long-defunct Space Colony ARK and hold the world the ransom.

Gameplay:
Sonic Adventure 2 is a 3D action platformer first and foremost that, like its predecessor, divides its core gameplay into a series of distinct gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, while Sonic Adventure offered six unique playable characters, each with their own distinct style of play, Sonic Adventure 2 features six playable characters who share gameplay styles with their counterparts.

SA2Characters
Each story has three characters that play almost exactly like their counterparts.

As soon as you begin the game, you’re given the option not to select a character but to select a story; if you pick the “Hero” story, you’ll play through the game’s story from the perspective of Sonic, Miles “Tails” Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and Amy Rose but, when you pick the “Dark” story, you’ll witness the events from the perspective of newcomers Shadow and Rouge the Bat and, for the first time in the series, Dr. Eggman! Whichever story you pick, you’ll play through the narrative, switching back and forth between the hero- and dark-side characters as the narrative directs.

SA2Variety
The game’s three playstyles are spread between the six characters.

If you’ve played Sonic Adventure, you’ll be immediately familiar with the three playstyles of this sequel: Sonic and Shadow play at high speeds, racing through stages that are designed like fast-paced rollercoasters, Knuckles and Rouge glide, climb, and dig as they explore for shards of the Master Emerald, and Tails and Eggman stomp around in massive mechs, blasting robots with their weaponry. The developers lost the slower pace of Amy and Big’s gameplay and the races that Tails had to complete in the original and focused on these three distinct playstyles, which was good for those who disliked the slower, less exciting gameplay of the last game, but not so good when it comes to character variety.

SA2Gameplay
The Hero and Dark characters are functionally identical to control.

Essentially, there’s very little difference between Sonic and Shadow, Knuckles and Rouge, or Tails and Eggman; they get to explore different stages (or, at least, different versions of stages) and obviously look and sound different, with different objectives, but they share the same basic move set. Both Sonic and Shadow can fly along rows of Golden Rings using the Light Speed Dash (which, thankfully, no longer needs to be charged) and use the Homing Attack to smash robots, Knuckles and Rouge explore their stages in the same way and attack enemies with either punches or kicks, and Tails and Eggman can both hover and lock on to multiple enemies at once. It’s fun experiencing the story from the bad guys’ perspective for a change but it’s a bit of a shame that the characters don’t have more to distinguish them from their counterparts.

SA2ShadowEggman
Shadow was a dark, edgy character in a dark, edgy story.

The game’s narrative is perhaps the most elaborate yet; after releasing Shadow, Eggman teams up with him and Rouge to gather the Chaos Emeralds and power up the long-abandoned Space Colony ARK. Eggman’s grandfather, Professor Gerald Robotnik, created the ARK fifty years ago and designed Shadow to be the ultimate lifeform; using a Chaos Emerald, Shadow can instantly teleport great distances at high speeds, making him more than a match for Sonic, and Eggman uses his abilities to threaten the entire world with the ARK’s Eclipse Cannon. Shadow, in his debut appearance, would go on to become one of the series’ most recognisable characters, for better or for worse, and has, arguably, never been characterised better than he was here: haunted by fractured memories of his time on the ARK, Shadow has his own agenda for revenge against the world but ultimately his story becomes one of redemption.

SA2ShadowIdentity
How anyone mistakes Shadow for Sonic I’ll never know…

At the same time, the story is as ridiculous as ever; to stop Eggman from stealing the Master Emerald, Knuckles willingly smashes it into pieces, which is probably the most arbitrary reason to recreate his gameplay from the last game that I could think of. I would have much preferred Knuckles and Rouge’s stages to involve searching for different items or treasures each time rather than search for the pieces of the Master Emerald yet again. Similarly, for some reason I’ll never understand, everyone in the game mistakes Shadow for Sonic and vice versa; even characters like Amy Rose and Eggman think Shadow is Sonic despite the fact that they couldn’t look more different if they tried.

SA2Map
Rather than using hub worlds, you navigate a map screen outside of the story mode.

Rather than expanding and refining the hub world concept of Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2’s story plays out one scene and stage after another. If you lose all your lives or choose to quit, you can access a stage from a simple map screen; from here, you can replay stages under different criteria in an extension of Sonic Adventure’s “Mission” mode. Completing each mission and successfully obtaining an A-rank on each nets you both an Achievements and a pretty cool unlockable stage…but considering how hard it is to even get an A-rank in the game, it’s going to take a lot of your skill and patience to achieve this goal.

SA2Rankings
It takes a lot to get an A-rank in this game!

Unlike other Sonic videogames, rankings in Sonic Adventure 2 aren’t just based on how fast you clear a stage; you also need to be holding a certain number of Golden Rings and have accumulated a high enough score to earn the best rank. You can build your score by destroying enemies, jumping through hoops, racking up combination bonuses in the shooter stages, not using hints in the treasure hunting stages, and pulling off tricks in the running stages using the game’s new grinding mechanic.

SA2ShadowGrinding
Sonic Adventure 2 introducing grinding to the series and it’s stuck around ever since.

For the first time in Sonic’s long history, SEGA actually incorporated some prominent product placement into Sonic Adventure 2; billboards for Soap shoes were everywhere in the original and Sonic’s iconic shoes were redesigned in conjunction with this brand to allow him to grind on rails. Shadow can also grind and, while this mechanic is more prevalent in some stages than others, it’s not as obtrusive as you might think. It’s pretty simple to pull off, to; you leap onto a rail, ideally with some momentum behind you, and hold down B to crouch and gain speed; in later stages, you’ll have to pull off jumps to other rails but it’s a very fun, fast-paced experience.

SA2Stages
Stage gimmicks can be frustrating at times.

Each stage is filled with multiple paths, some of them only accessible using some of the game’s hidden power-ups. If you want to get the best time, score, and rank when playing, you’ll have to take advantage of these alternate routes, which can be difficult. While the game’s controls are decent and improved for the better over its predecessor, the camera can still be jerky at the worst of times, characters have a tendency to slip off platforms and ledges to their deaths down the game’s many (many!) bottomless pits, annoying stage hazards (floors that fall or crumble beneath you, weights that squash you, and even airlocks that flush you out into space!) crop up in every stage, and enemies just love leaping out in your face at a moment’s notice. While Knuckles and Rouge are limited to finding one Emerald shard at a time (unless you’ve played enough to take an educated guess about where to look) and their later space stages can be frustrating, Eggman and Tails don’t have to worry about racing against a time limit like E-102γ “Gamma” did (though it is odd to see Tails stuck inside a mech). Also, when playing as Sonic and Shadow, you’ll often perform a somersault, usually to your death, when you mean to perform the Light Dash since they’re both mapped to the same button, which can be frustrating at times.

Graphics and Sound:
While it looks, feels, and sounds very similar to Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2 is quite a step up in terms of graphics. While Sonic and Shadow’s stages aren’t as large or as varied as before, they’re tight, focused, and full of impressive set pieces. In City Escape, for example, you end up being chased by a huge truck that is determined to run you down which is a thrill later surpassed by the excitement of grinding at high speeds through space as you make your way down and through the Space Colony ARK.

SA2Graphics
Each stage has its own gimmicks and is packed with little details and cameos.

You’ll also swing, race, and grind through high-speed jungles, explored flooded mines, haunted mountain tops, and even traverse what is basically a 3D recreation of the Death Egg Zone when racing through Crazy Gadget. Each stage is like a short burst of action-orientated fun, featuring different gameplay gimmicks and little details that make them fun to playthrough regardless of which story you’re playing. While Sonic and Shadow’s stages are all about high-octane speed, Knuckles and Rouge’s emphasise exploration and Tails and Eggman’s are also far slower , allowing you to really take in the little details of your surroundings and encouraging exploration.

SA2Music
The game’s soundtrack is top notch.

Sonic Adventure 2 also has one of the best soundtracks in the entire franchise; while Sonic Adventure remixed, borrowed, or leaned heavily into traditional Sonic themes alongside incorporating punk rock, rap, and other genres for character’s themes, Sonic Adventure 2 doubles down on the rocking tunes and is all the better for it. Featuring three of Crush 40’s best tracks (“Live and Learn”, “Escape from the City”, and a remix of Sonic’s theme song, “It Doesn’t Matter”), each character’s stages is accompanied by a theme befitting that character (Sonic is mostly rock, Rouge is jazz-inspired, Knuckles is rap, Shadow’s is techno-inspired, for example) and helps infuse the stages and the otherwise-similar-playing characters with a real life, energy, and distinctive personality.

SA2Dialogue
Lip synching has been vastly improved, though the script and delivery is still a bit janky at times.

Once again, the game features an abundance of voice acting; luckily, the lip synching is vastly improved here, meaning that the cutscenes are far less ridiculous to sit through. Unfortunately, the script and delivery still flounders somewhat and the game’s music tends to drown out the character’s words or the characters often talk over each other due to the translated dialogue taking longer to say than the original Japanese. Despite that, though, many of the voice actors from the last game return here and put in some of their best performances; Ryan Drummond will always be my favourite voice for Sonic and both the late, great Deem Bristow and David Humphrey set the standard for Dr. Eggman and Shadow, respectively, that have continued to be emulated to this day.

Enemies and Bosses:
Sonic Adventure featured some of the most unique designs, and redesigns, of the entire series. Eggman’s Badniks were recreated in all their 3D glory and full of character and quirky personality and Chaos was a breath of fresh air in a series that mostly relied on robotic creatures. Sonic Adventure 2, however, drops the ball quite significantly in this arena; every character battles the same, generic G.U.N. robots throughout every stage.

SA2ArtificialChaos
Words cannot express how much I hate these damn things!

Some stages do feature a few of Eggman’s Badniks but they don’t crop up often enough. Instead, you’re faced with these dull, lifeless cookie-cutter robots that aren’t really much to write home about. That is, of course, until you make it into outer space and on to the Space Colony ARK. Here, you’ll encounter the most annoying enemies in the game: the Artificial Chaos. These watery monstrosities resemble Chaos and have robotic enhancements and, while they’re easily dispatched with a solid shot to their metallic “head”, they can deal serious damage with their elongated limbs and laser blasts, making them extremely irritating enemies to come up against regardless of which character you’re playing as.

SA2Boss1
Bosses that aren’t generic G.U.N. mechs are few and far between.

For the most part, Sonic Adventure 2’s boss battles are as lacklustre as the enemies you’ll fight thanks, largely, to them being comprised of G.U.N. mechs. Yet, while none of G.U.N.s creations can match up to the quirkiness of Eggman’s mechs from he previous games or the likes of the gigantic golem that defends his pyramid base, they’re just different enough to show that G.U.N. is capable of putting some effort into their creations.

SA2Boss2
You’ll have to face your rival in a couple of battles as well.

The rest of the time, you’ll be battling against your rival in fights somewhat similar to the battle between Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles in the last game; the mechanics have been expanded upon somewhat here, though, in that your enemy puts up a bit more of a fight, taking (and dishing out) decidedly more damage as you battle but the real threat in most of these battles will come from the size of the stage you battle on (or in) and how easy it is for you to fall to your death.

SA2Biolizard
The Biolizard is easily the game’s most frustrating boss.

Once you defeat Sonic and Shadow for good at the end of both stories, you’ll play through the “Last Story” and battle the game’s most frustrating and annoying boss, the Biolizard. This Shadow-exclusive battle pits you against a massive lizard-like creature that chases you with its gaping mouth or tries to smack you with its tail. When it stops its attack, you can grind up a rail to attack its sole weak point (the life support system on its back) and, as you deal damage, it starts to spit energy blasts at you that you must either try to jump over or somersault under to avoid losing Rings. To make matters worse, you can instantly be sucked to your death if you land in the water between the stage platform and it spawns these really infuriating homing orbs that you must try to avoiding while using the Homing Attack to hit the life support system. Its final attack is easily the worst; this sees you flung helplessly into the air and all you can do is encircle the creature, hope and try to avoid the projectiles, and slowly edge your way closer to deliver the final blow.

SA2Boss3
You’ll battle the final boss as both Super Sonic and Super Shadow.

Once defeated, the creature uses Chaos Control to attach itself to the ARK and force it towards the Earth, becoming the game’s final boss, the “Finalhazard”. Sonic and Shadow power-up to their Super forms and battle the creature in space in a fight that, fundamentally, resembles that finale against Perfect Chaos. Super Sonic and Super Shadow have to dash into the pulsating boils that act as the creature’s sole weak point but are constantly swatted away by projectiles and erratic laser blasts. Also, like Perfect Chaos, this final boss is more annoying than challenging as you not only have to try and weave through its defences and hope your attack does damage, you’ll also be fighting against two time limits: linger too long and the Finalhazard will successfully drag the ARK to Earth and you also have to land your attack before you run out of Rings. Your allies often shout at you to “switch characters” when your Rings are running low but, even after all these years, the only way I could switch characters was to hit the creature’s weak spot so that advice is basically useless. As before, you don’t get to play as the Super forms in the main game but this finale does culminate in Shadow giving his life to save the planet, completing his character arc of redemption. Of course, Shadow was too popular to stay dead and SEGA brought him back in the very next game and have bungled fleshing out his character and backstory ever since. But, in this one defining moment, this angst-ridden, haunted little black hedgehog won over a significant portion of the fanbase and still remains a popular character to this day.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
While Sonic Adventure 2 doesn’t feature as many “adventure” elements as its predecessor, you can still acquire power-ups and additional bonuses in each stage: Sonic and Shadow can grab shoes that allow them to Light Speed Dash, rings that let them perform a flaming somersault, bounce, and/or turn enemies into toys that you can throw at other enemies. Knuckles and Rouge grab upgrades that let them dig to find goodies or breathe underwater without fear of drowning, and Tails and Eggman can upgrade their mechs to dish out more damage to enemies and hover across gaps and hazards.

SA2SPowerUps
Find power-ups to obtain new moves, beat stages faster, and earn more Emblems!

As is standard for Sonic titles, you can also acquire additional Golden Rings, health packs (for Tails and Eggman), extra lives, invincibility, and two types of shields (a regular shield and a Ring-attracting electric variant) by breaking or running into item capsules or passing checkpoints in a fast enough time. Additionally, like in Sonic Adventure, every time you beat a stage, boss, or mini game earns you a Sonic Emblem and collecting all of these and will earn you an Achievement and unlock a bonus stage.

Additional Features:
From the game’s “Options” menu, you can choose different character-based themes and backgrounds for the game’s menu screens and even change the spoken dialogue to Japanese if you’re one “those” fans that simply must have the original Japanese dialogue playing during a game. As you might expect, you can also earn a few Achievements when playing the game; unfortunately, there’s not very many on offer here and they’re disappointingly simple to get…for the most part.

SA2SChao1
Raise, breed, and care for Chao to unlock new Chao Gardens and Chao items.

As you destroy robots and explore the stages, you’ll find “Chaos Drives” and small animals; when you find a Chao box and smash it open, you’ll obtain a key and, after clearing the stage, will be warped to the Chao World where you can use the Chaos Drives and animals to raise and breed Chao to use in other mini games. The Chao Garden has been expanded somewhat; when you visit from the stage select screen, you can take your Chao to the Chao Kindergarten to purchase new items from the Black Market, leave them in the school to learn songs and tricks, rename them, or get review stats and health. Feeding them Chaos Drives, animals, and different fruits will raise their stats and, eventually, allow them to evolve into a stronger, more adult form. If you primarily used Hero characters when caring for your Chao, you’ll get an Angel Chao, while Dark characters birth a Devil Chao; both unlock an additional Chao Garden themed after Heaven or Hell, respectively.

SA2SChao2
Cheer your Chao on as they race or battle each other!

As your Chao’s stats increase, you can have them take part in the Chao Games, a series of races, fights, and mini games to earn you more Sonic Emblems and Achievements. However, as these mini games can be largely luck-based and involve you putting a lot of time and energy into grinding and search for more Chaos Drives, animals, and collecting Golden Rings to buy new items, it can be a very time-consuming process but it’s a nice break from the game’s fast-paced action. Just don’t expect a lot of depth from this mode.

SA2Racing
Complete the story mode’s racing section to unlock a subpar kart racer mini game.

Unlike Sonic Adventure, which featured numerous mini games to break up each character’s story and provide a distraction from the main game, Sonic Adventure 2 only features two other playstyles: a boss rush and a janky little kart racer. In the Hero story, you (as Tails) have to race towards the President’s limo to track Eggman’s broadcast and, in the Dark story, you (as Rouge) chase after Tails to intercept him instead. Once you beat one of these stages, you’ll unlock the Kart Race mini game, where you can play as any of the six main characters in short races made incredibly difficult by the game’s stiff, unresponsive controls. After clearing both stories, you’ll unlock the “Last Story” mode when you play as each of the six playable characters and race to stop the ARK from destroying the world. This culminates in a space battle where you switch between Super Sonic and Super Shadow and take it in turns to ram head-first into the gigantic lizard-like creature known as the Biohazard. Defeating it earns you the game’s true earning, and an Achievement, but not much else; however, if you manage to complete each of the game’s stages with an A-rank, you’ll unlock one of the coolest rewards in the series: a fully 3D recreation of Green Hill Zone!

SA2GreenHill
Collect every Emblem to unlock Green Hill Zone!

Unfortunately, you can only play this stage as Sonic and I’ve never actually experienced this as it is way too hard to earn those A-ranks and I just couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried. Also new to the game is the multiplayer mode where you and one friend can pick between the game’s playable characters and race or battle against them in a series of stages from the main story. If you purchase the game’s downloadable content, you’ll unlock extra stages and characters for use in this mode; these were all available by default in the GameCube port but it’s still fun to play as Metal Sonic, Tikal, and Chaos in the game’s multiplayer. It’s just a shame that, like in the Sonic Adventure ports, Sonic Team decided to leave out certain playable characters and features from the original Dreamcast version (meaning Big the Cat is relegated to mere blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos in each stage and certain cutscenes, which is a real shame and a massive downgrade from his last appearance).

SA2Banner

The Summary:
Sonic Adventure 2 takes everything that worked in Sonic Adventure and improves upon it; it trims out a lot of the fat and extraneous elements and focuses on the three, distinct, most enjoyable playstyles of the last game, expanding upon them and improving them to make for a much tighter, more responsive and action-orientated experience. While I do miss some of the things this game dropped (the hub worlds and the diverse characters), I do enjoy the many improvements and innovations that debuted in this game. Making the Light Speed Dash a one-button action was a must, expanding Sonic’s world and lore to include more sci-fi elements helped take the series in a different direction and allowed SEGA to actually tell pretty complex and mature stories in their videogames.

SA2Conclusion
Sonic Adventure 2 refined, and introduced, many mechanics still seen in modern Sonic titles.

While I like the simplicity of the early Sonic titles, I expect a bit more bang for my buck with Sonic’s 3D adventures and Sonic Adventure 2 definitely delivers in that regard, introducing one of the more multifaceted and edgy characters to the series and allowing us to experience events from the bad guys’ perspective for the first time. For many years, Sonic Adventure 2 was the gold standard for the series for many; as SEGA experimenting with different genres and tossed more and more characters and roadblocks into their most popular franchise, fans were clamouring for a return to the Adventure-style formula and the type of gameplay and story of Sonic Adventure 2. While Sonic fans may have lost their mind and turned against this game in recent years, it still holds a special place in my heart; it’s not perfect, obviously, but it’s still fast-paced, high-octane fun and I never fail to have a good time every time I fire it up.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think about Sonic Adventure 2? Which of the two Adventure games is your favourite? Which console did you first play Sonic Adventure 2 on? What did you think about the game’s Light and Dark story options, and playing as the villains for the first time? What are your thoughts on Shadow the Hedgehog, his debut, characterisation, and legacy? Does Sonic Adventure 2 still hold up in your view or do you prefer a different Sonic title? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic Adventure 2, and the Sonic series and characters in general, drop your thoughts below and share them with me.

Interplay: Sonic Adventure

Interplay

One of the great things about adaptations, and adaptation studies, is that they both:

“[continue] to expand and become more inclusive […] it is increasingly difficult to determine a cohesive theory that accounts for the division between adaptation and other intertextual modes: allusions, plagiarisms, remakes, sequels, homages, mash-ups, appropriations, and the list goes on” (Dicecco, 2015: 161)

This quote sums up perfectly what makes adaptation studies so interesting; adaptations can be anything and are restricted only by the scope of your imagination and your commitment to researching the links between media.

While researching the theories of Nico Dicecco (and his contemporaries) during my PhD, I chose to focus on the adaptation of videogames into movies, television shows, cartoons, and comic books. This was primarily because it’s a lot easier to talk about media that is adapted into film and there hadn’t really been any serious research into videogame adaptations at that time.

InterplaySAMerch
Sonic has always been a merchandise whore.

I’ve previously talked about how my studies into the Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) franchise revealed that Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Polygames/SEGA Technical Institute, 1993) heavily influenced multiple Sonic adaptations over the years but there has been another Sonic videogame that has made multiple jumps to other media.

SonicAdventureLogo

Today, I’m once again returning to one of my favourite Sonic videogames, Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998), Sonic’s first real foray into 3D gameplay and a title that focused on multiple characters and gameplay mechanics, a far deeper narrative than the franchise had experienced in a videogame before, and functioned as both a consolidation of Sonic’s competing iterations and a “soft reboot” for the franchise, due its use of  “slight changes to be made without having to completely scrap the franchise and start over” (Bancroft, 2015).

SonicAdventureVariety
I can’t praise this game’s variety enough!

Coming after a long absence from a main series Sonic title (and at a time when SEGA were almost haemorrhaging money thanks to failures like the Mega-CD and SEGA 32X), Sonic Adventure became “the best-selling Dreamcast game of all time, with almost two and a half million copies sold”. (Pétronille and Audureau, 2012: 70). It reinvigorated the Sonic franchise in a way that I think has been forgotten over time; while the game may have had its flaws, it successfully revitalised Sonic and led to a string of successful sequels and follow-ups.

InterplaySALegacy
Sonic Adventure‘s speed-orientated gameplay definitely influenced later Sonic titles.

While these weren’t enough to curb SEGA’s financial woes, the success and impact of Sonic Adventure led to a shift in Sonic’s gameplay, narrative, and aesthetic direction; rather than racing along a 2D plane, players now ran along at break-neck speeds in fully 3D environments that were designed more like rollercoasters. Sonic was now “Taller, slimmer and somehow spikier”, his friendliness replaced with “an anime-style cool” (Jones, et al, 2011: 31), and his narrative was far darker and more mature than his bright, psychedelic 2D titles. Perhaps the most significant impact of Sonic Adventure came through Sonic Team eventually stripping away all other playstyles to focus purely on Sonic’s speed, an aspect that largely led to the development of the Boost-orientated gameplay of modern Sonic titles.

InterplaySAOVAAdv
Surely this can’t be a coincidence?

One thing to note before I delve into the main focus of this article is how the adaptation process appears to have worked both ways with Sonic Adventure. Many elements from Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (Ikegami, 1996) are recognisable in Sonic Adventure, such as Tails’ workshop on South Island, the appearance of cities and structures that mirror those of our world, and a lot of Doctor Robotnik’s (Edwin Neal) personality and technology. For me, the Sonic OVA is clearly a precursor to Sonic Adventure’s attempt to leave behind Mobius and show him as an adventure-seeking teenager in a world not too dissimilar to our own (though I still pray for the day when his characterisation matches the snarky attitude of his OVA counterpart).

InterplaySAArchieComics
Archie Comics had included game adaptations for a while now.

Sonic Adventure didn’t just impact Sonic’s videogames, however; by 1999, Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog comic books had developed into a continuation of the fan favourite Sonic the Hedgehog (1993 to 1995, more commonly referred to as “SatAM”) cartoon, infusing characters and events from the videogames into its narrative. With this in mind (and, possibly, in keeping with SEGA’s desire to create a homogeneous version of Sonic), it was inevitable that Sonic Adventure would feature in these comics before long.

InterplaySASonicDesign
Emerald energy alters Sonic’s look…and gives his shoes buckles…

Sonic Adventures’ influence began slowly but, in keeping with the increasingly-convoluted narrative of the comics at the time, was complex to the nth degree. First, the Archie team crafted an elaborate story to explain why Sonic now looked like his Sonic Adventure counterpart: ‘Retro Activity’ (Bollers, et al, 1999) not only showed how Sonic transformed from his pudgy, classic look to this edgier aesthetic by racing against a destructive energy beam so fast that he cycled through his various Super forms, but it told this story backwards! If you thought that was bad, though, the lengths they went to to explain Robotnik’s transformation into his Sonic Adventure counterpart, Doctor Eggman, were even worse! So, in ‘Endgame, Part 4: For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (ibid, 1998), Sonic finally destroyed Robotnik forever in a fight to the death involving his latest doomsday weapon, the Ultimate Annihilator.

InterplaySARoboEggman
Robo-Robotnik soon replaced his organic counterpart as “the Eggman”.

However, it is dramatically revealed in ‘I Am the Eggman!’ (ibid, 1999) that Robotnik has returned…in the form of his fully-robotic, alternate-universe counterpart, Robo-Robotnik. Though seemingly destroyed in that story, the issue ends with Robo-Robotnik downloading his consciousness into a body that is identical to his Sonic Adventure design; “Eggman” (for a long time “The Eggman”) would quickly become a derogatory nickname used to describe Robotnik until the madness was smoothed over by massive continuity changes much later down the line. The Sonic Adventure tie-in officially began with ‘The Discovery: A Sonic Adventure Tie-In’ (ibid), in which Sonic and the Knothole Freedom Fighters first learn about the “hidden city of the ancients”. Robotnik also learns of an ancient beast known as “Perfect Chaos” hidden within not the Master Emerald (…as that was where Mammoth Mogul was imprisoned) but the “Black Emerald”. Unearthing the Black Emerald in the Mysterious Cat Country, Robotnik discovers that it is severely depowered and promptly leads and assault on Floating Island to smash the Master Emerald in order to repower the Black Emerald.

InterplaySAAdventureBegins
Two issues in and I’ve already lost the plot!

After being denied the chance to accompany the Freedom Fighters, Amy Rose uses the magical “Ring of Acorns” wish herself into a more mature body in the follow-up story, ‘If Wishes Were Acorns’ (ibid), one that (you guessed it) is identical to her Sonic Adventure appearance. The Freedom Fighters then travel to the hidden city, which is located beneath an island (that is an almost exact replica of the OVA’s South Island) and accessed via a Mystic Ruins mine cart. A back-up story, ‘Swallowing Trouble’ (Penders, et al, 1999), introduces Archie’s readers to Big the Cat; his peaceful existence is disrupted when Froggy (who articulates through thought bubbles) swallows a piece of Chaos, grows a tail, and is promptly kidnapped by E-102γ (also known simply as “Gamma”). In the next issue, ‘City of Dreams’ (Bollers, et al, 1999) shows Sonic and friends exploring the hidden city, which is Station Square from the videogame and populated entirely by humans (who are different from “Overlanders”, the mostly-extinct human-like species that once waged war on Mobius), and sustained by an “artificial environment” (…that includes a sky, apparently).

InterplaySAVsChaos0
Things pick up with this Sonic’s battle against Chaos 0.

While they end the story making good progress in establishing diplomatic relations with the humans, the two back-up stories show Robotnik sending his E-series robots out to find more Master Emerald fragments to empower Chaos and Amy rescuing an injured bird from ZERO. Interestingly, while Archie bent over backwards to explain the characters new look, they simply have Amy’s Piko-Piko Hammer appear out of thin air with no explanation; even she is shocked to see it! Things finally pick up in the next issue’s ‘Night of Chaos!’ (ibid), which recreates (with amazing fidelity) the first encounter and battle between Sonic and Chaos 0. The back-up stories introduce Tikal to the story, as she relates to Knuckles her history (meeting and befriending Chaos and the destruction of her tribe when her father, Pachamac, tried to forcibly take the seven Chaos Emeralds from its shrine), how Robotnik finalised Chaos’ 0 form by infusing it with Froggy, and recreates the beginning of Gamma’s story by showing it pass a training drill and release Amy and her bird friend (here clearly identified as a Flicky) after overcoming its programming and gaining a modicum of sentience.

InterplaySASuperSpecial
The Sonic Super Special flew through the bulk of the game’s story.

Archie followed this up with a 48-page ‘Super Sonic Special’ that rapidly told Sonic Adventure’s familiar story beats: Sonic, Miles “Tails” Prower, and Knuckles battle Chaos 2 and 4 after Robotnik feeds it shards of the Master Emerald; Big, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles end up on the Egg Carrier; there’s a tussle with Gamma (where Amy spares it from destruction) and they fight Chaos 6, destroying the Egg Carrier in the process.

InterplaySAArchiePC
Archie recreated Perfect Chaos’ birth in stunning detail.

The adaptation continues in the next regular issue; in here, Knuckles discovers “the Eggman” unconscious in the Mystic Ruins and Chaos, still alive, blasts through the land as a tornado, absorbing the six Super Emeralds, and transforms into Perfect Chaos, flooding Station Square (and attaching itself to the Power Siphon that control’s the city’s environment) exactly as it does in the opening and Super Sonic story of Sonic Adventure.

InterplaySADialogue
Archie just pulled lines directly from the game, for better or worse.

Perfect Chaos destroys the Egg Carrier then, after learning a bit more from Tikal, Sonic uses the Emerald’s to transform into Super Sonic and engage Perfect Chaos. It’s around about at this point that the story stops creating its own dialogue and starts lifting lines directly from Sonic Adventure but, considering the quality of Archie’s writing back then, I would necessarily say that this is a bad thing. The story finally comes to a conclusion in issue 84’s ‘Perfect Chaos’ (Penders, et al, 1999), in which Super Sonic struggles to subdue Perfect Chaos while Knuckles overcomes his fear of water and uses his immense strength to restart the city’s power generator (tapping into his latent Emerald powers for the first time, which would later significantly change his appearance and powers). This, coupled with Super Sonic’s attack, is enough to revert Perfect Chaos back to Chaos 0. At peace once more, Chaos and Tikal return “to the Zone [where they] belong” and the threat is finally ended (…once again glossing over the untold death and destruction in Station Square).

InterplaySAArchieLore
Archie lore was dense enough before they wedged in Sonic Adventure.

Archie’s Sonic Adventure adaptation is one of the few times they actually crafted a long-running narrative out of a videogame story; normally, they just produced one-shots or sort stories that briefly (and very loosely and awkwardly) spliced the game’s story into their own convoluted narrative. The incorporation of Sonic Adventure’s narrative was especially difficult given that several key elements had to be changed due to them clashing with Archie’s lore; Chaos’ origin and imprisonment, for one, and the weird way they introduced Station Square for another, to say nothing of how the entire Echidna backstory struggled to fit in with the messed up narrative crafted by the notorious Ken Penders. Nevertheless, this was, perhaps, the closest Archie Comics got to a straight-up, beat-by-beat adaptation of a videogame; they made it easier on themselves in the future by generally just adapting the opening portions of a game and leaving a dialogue box that said something like “Play the game to find out the rest” and then vaguely referring to the game’s events in subsequent stories. Here, though, we got lines from the game, locations, notable boss battles, and hit almost every story beat from the game no matter how at odds it was with the world Archie had created for their version of Sonic.

InterplaySASTCSonic
Sonic was a bit of a jerk in StC.

Over here in the United Kingdom, Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic (1993 to 2002, referred to as “StC”) was a little late to the party with their Sonic Adventure adaptation; like Archie, Fleetway had established their own, separate lore for Sonic and his friends, one that “felt” closer to the videogames but was still distinctly separate from it. Previously, their adaptations of Sonic videogames had tended to be multi-part stories that took the game’s characters and the vague outline of its plot and applied them to their unique narrative and Sonic Adventure was no different.

InterplaySASTCFearChange
Chaos cripples with its fear aura and alters Sonic’s look.

The arc began in issue 175’s ‘The Coming of Chaos!’ (Kitching , et al, 2000), in which Sonic and his friends race out to confront StC’s version of Chaos 0 in Metropolis City Zone. This battle, which is a truncated version of the first boss fight with Chaos 0, showcases that StC’s Chaos exudes an aura that cripples its foes with feelings of utter dread. Headstrong and arrogant as always, Sonic attacks Chaos head-on regardless and manages to fend it off but is left with glowing green eyes and jagged spikes. In the following issue, it is revealed that Robotnik’s assistant, Grimer, unleashed Chaos in the hopes of destroying Sonic and his friends and shaking Robotnik out of the slump he had found himself in after multiple defeats. However, Robotnik reveals that Chaos is truly uncontrollable and that, by setting it free, Grimer has “doomed the entire planet”.

InterplaySASTCJohnny
Defeating Chaos extracts a heavy price.

Meanwhile, Sonic’s tech buddy Porker Lewis arrives; he’s (somehow) discovered that it’s made up of Chaos energy and has whipped up a device to defeat it but Sonic, already weakened from his earlier tussle with the creature, is unable to fight through its fear-inducing aura to complete the process. Luckily, Johnny Lightfoot steps in to lend a hand but, while he succeeds and Chaos is seemingly defeated, he dies in the process! Yep, a kids comic actually killed off a beloved, long-time character and not just any kids comic, a Sonic comic! Up until this point, death had largely been a stranger to StC’s stories; characters were used as batteries for Robotnik’s Badniks or turned to stone, or trapped for all eternity (…for a while), but they had never died before!

InterplaySASTCChaos
Chaos was an intelligent creature in StC.

StC hammered home that Johnny was actually, really, 100% dead in the following issue, where the guilt and shame of having recklessly led his friends into danger causes Sonic to quit the entire thing. However, Chaos reappears the Floating Island’s Emerald Chamber, now able to talk and state its intentions: it claims ownership of the Chaos Emeralds and desires to absorb their power. Knuckles is left with no choice but the jettison the Emeralds in the following story, ‘Splash-Down!’ (ibid), which causes the Floating Island to crash and sink into the sea. There’s an interesting wrinkle here where Knuckles, despondent at his actions, resigns himself to facing the same fate as his ancestral home and has to be coerced by Amy (and a good knock on the head) to avoid killing himself.

InterplaySASTCNewEgg
Robotnik’s new look is a much simpler affair this time around…

Also in this story, rather than going through a whole complicated mess involving robotic counterparts and body swapping, Robotnik simply…puts on a jacket so he resembles his Sonic Adventure design. I find this doubly amusing and ironic considering the lengths StC went to to show Robotnik transforming from his classic design to his Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993) look.

Oh, and Sonic just…comes back at the end of the story, ready to jump into the fray once more.

In the next issue’s story, ‘Out of Time!’ (Kitching, et al, 2000), Porker continues to obsess over Sonic’s green eyes and the Chaos energy he apparently absorbed from battling Chaos. This turns out to be a pretty big deal as Sonic is the only one who can see Tikal when she suddenly appears and promptly zaps him 8,000 years into the past.

InterplaySASTCTikal
Tikal raised new questions about StC-Knuckles…

This (and the subsequent issue) is also where StC loops Sonic Adventure’s lore into their own narrative regarding Knuckles’ past; we learn not only that Knuckles existed in the distant past (a plot thread that wouldn’t be resolved until StC was continued online) but also that the extra-dimensional Drakon Empire (who had previously attempted to invade Mobius) were involved in Chaos’ origin. After defeating a Drakon Prosecutor, revealing the heavily-armoured warriors to be mutated fish in armoured shells, Sonic chats with Tikal’s father, “Pochacamac”, who reveals that the Echidnas stole the seven Chaos Emeralds (and the Master Emerald) from the Drakon Empire after they invaded the Echidna’s sacred Emerald Mines and infused the gems with their patented Chaos energy.

InterplaySASTCChaosOrigin
StC gave Chaos a completely new origin.

During a battle with Drakon Prosecutors in which a stray energy blasts hits the Emeralds and causes their powers to surge out of control, the Drakon Sonic had previously defeated is released from its prison and fuses with the Emeralds to transform into Chaos. Sonic attempts to get revenge for Johnny in the following issue but is transported back to the future in order to weaken Chaos enough for past Knuckles to do…something to imprison Chaos. Sonic returns to the present just as Chaos arrives at Robotnik’s mountaintop fortress, where Robotnik gathered the Chaos Emeralds in order to lure it in…though he does this merely to have a front row seat to the end of not only Sonic and his friends, but the entire world. All hope seems lost in ‘Perfect Chaos!’ (ibid) when Chaos absorbs the power of the Chaos Emeralds and transforms into Perfect Chaos (which actually more closely resembles Chaos 6) until a severely weakened and dying Super Sonic arrives.

InterplaySASTCSuperSonic
StC‘s Super Sonic was a demonic entity that lived to destroy.

How, I gave Archie flack for how complicated some of their stories were so I guess it’s only fair to deviate here to explain this a bit. In StC, Sonic absorbed a huge amount of Chaos energy a long time ago; this lay dormant in him for years and, whenever under extreme stress or driven to severe rage, he would transform into Super Sonic. StC Super Sonic was an uncontrollable, rage-filled, super-powered demon with maniacal eyes who could shoot energy blasts, fly at incredible speeds, and was all-but-invulnerable. However, Sonic’s friends eventually found a way to separate Super Sonic from him and imprisoned the demon within a time dilation of sorts. Super Sonic did eventually escape but the effort drained his power so much that he eventually lost his memory and became a confused, but harmless, individual.

InterplaySASTCFinale
Chaos, and Super Sonic, are both defeated, ending both the story and StC.

Sonic’s fears regarding his demonic counterpart are realised in the finale of the Sonic Adventure arc, ‘Point of no Return!’ (ibid), in which Super successfully drains Perfect Chaos of all its energy and regresses it back to a harmless Drakon fish. The Chaos energy returns Super’s memories and powers and he attacks everyone, intending to kill them all, and begins to drain the life energy out of Sonic. However, Super’s friend, Ebony, uses her magical powers to fuse Super and Sonic back into one being again. Grimer quits Robotnik’s employ, disgusted at his lackadaisical attitude to what looked to be the end of the world, and the story ends with Sonic and his friends triumphant. Sadly, the Sonic Adventure arc would be the last time StC ran original Sonic stories in their comics; for a while, the comics had consistently largely of reprints of old stories, even though the writers could have done what Archie did and used the extra pages to tell back-up tales to expand the story rather than rushing through everything in the main Sonic strips.

InterplaySASTCRushed
StC didn’t really give these guys anything to do in this arc…

Compared to the Archie adaptation, StC’s interpretation of Sonic Adventure is not only rushed but has some pretty weak connections to its source material. The characters never visit any of the locations from the game, Chaos is significantly different (though, in some ways, better; its “fear aura” was a nice inclusion with a lot of potential), Big is reduced to a throwaway, one panel cameo, Gamma doesn’t appear at all, and neither Tails or Amy have anything near the significance of the roles they played in the game. While Knuckles plays a vital part, he’s far more hands-off than in Archie (and the videogame), and Robotnik barely features at all (though this does make sense considering where the character was, mentally, at the time). If Fleetway had been able to use every page of their issues to tell this story, it probably would have landed much better; while I don’t doubt that they still would have sought to slot Sonic Adventure’s canon into their own as best as they could, at least e could have seen a five page back-up story featuring Knuckles, or Big, or anyone. Instead, it’s a very poor effort; StC did a pretty good job of telling stories heavily influenced by the videogames in the past but, by the point, the comic was on its last legs so I guess we were lucky to get anything.

InterplaySAUnderground
A similar storyline featured in Sonic Underground.

Chaos would go on to sporadically appear in Archie Comics as it continued on, even when the license switched over to IDW Publishing, but it also notably appeared in Sonic X (2003 to 2006) when the anime did its own six-part adaptation of Sonic Adventure. Before I get into that, though, I just want to briefly mention Sonic Underground (1999), the oft-lambasted follow-up to SatAM that, for all its faults, at least featured Knuckles (Brian Drummond). There’s a couple of points in the series where characters refer to “Chaos” as being the destructor of Mobius and, in ‘New Echidna in Town’ (Boreal, et al, 1999) Chaos Energy transforms Dingo (Peter Wilds) into a mindless beast, Chaos Dingo, who takes on a malleable form. While this link to Sonic Adventure is tenuous at best (made all the more so by Sonic Underground’s dramatic departure from all Sonic lore), it’s still an interesting connection to make.

InterplaySASXChaos0
Sonic X weaved the game’s story into its lore and mixed it up a bit.

Despite looking fantastic due to its anime aesthetic, Sonic X was a bit of a disappointment when it first started for a variety of reasons: Sonic (Jason Griffith) is largely lethargic, preferring to spend his days taking naps or smelling flowers, and all of his iconic friends are pushed to the side to make way for Chris Thorndyke (Michael Sinterniklaas) and a host of other human characters forced into the show when Sonic and the others are transported from their world to Earth. However, for me at least, things started to pick up near the end of the first season and with the episode ‘Pure Chaos’ (Kamegaki, 2004), which kick-started the Sonic Adventure saga with Froggy swallowing a Chaos Emerald, Dr. Eggman (Mike Pollock) launching the Egg Carrier, and Sonic and Knuckles (Dan Green) battling Chaos 1 and 2. Straight away, Sonic X is ahead of the curve simply by including Big in a role more suited to his videogame story and, like Archie, the series sticks quite close to the source material.

InterplaySASXBosses
Sonic X featured almost all of Sonic Adventure‘s bosses.

The adaptation continued in the following episode, ‘A Chaotic Day’ (Kamegaki, 2004), which focuses a bit more on Knuckles’ side of the story, detailing how Chaos broke out of the Master Emerald and his search for its shards, which also brings him into contact with Tikal (Rebecca Honig). Sonic and Tails (Amy Palant) then battle both Chaos 4 at Eggman (in the Egg Hornet) at the Mystic Ruins (in what is a pretty faithful adaptation of the same boss battles from Sonic Adventure) before pursing Eggman to his Egg Carrier. They crash, as in the game, and Amy (Lisa Ortiz) and Cheese the Rabbit (Rebecca Honig) are attacked by ZERO, who kidnaps Amy and the birdie, Lily (Sayaka Aoki). Amy and Gamma’s (Andrew Rannells) stories are the primary focus for the next episode, ‘A Robot Rebels’ (Kamegaki, 2004), in which Gamma kidnaps Froggy right after Chris helps Big to rescue him and he subsequently frees Amy after suffering a bit of a short circuit at the sight of Lily just like in the videogame. Similarly, Amy convinces Sonic to spare Gamma and Knuckles recovers the last piece of the Master Emerald in the following episode, and, though Eggman successfully uses Froggy’s tail and Chaos Emerald to transform Chaos into Chaos 6, Sonic and Knuckles (randomly sporting his Shovel Claws) defeat it. The episode ends with the finale of Tails’ story, in which Eggman launches a missile at Station Square and he must gather his courage and self-sufficiency in order to disarm it (though he doesn’t battle the Egg Walker).

InterplaySASXGamma
Gamma’s tear-jerking story is told from start to finish.

‘Revenge of the Robot’ (ibid) primarily wraps up Sonic and Gamma’s stories from the game: Gamma travels through the locations of Sonic Adventure deactivating its robotic brethren and freeing the Flicky’s trapped within (which is considerably easier than in the videogame) and eventually destroys  itself and its older “brother”, E-101β “Kai” (Andrew Rannells) to reunite with its Flicky family.

InterplaySASXPC
Sonic actually battles Dr. Eggman before Perfect Chaos wrecks Station Square.

While Sonic does go on to defeat Eggman and his Egg Viper, Chaos obtains all seven Chaos Emeralds, transforms into Perfect Chaos, and floods Station Square in the final episode of the saga, ‘Flood Fight’ (Kamegaki, 2004). Up until this point, Chris’s involvement (and the involvement of his extended family and friends) was largely painless and unobtrusive. The changes this, however, as the destruction brought upon Station Square has a significant impact on the lives of Sonic’s new human friends and, wouldn’t you know it, it is Chris who supplies with the last Chaos Emerald he needs to transform into Super Sonic. Unlike in the videogame and the Archie Comics adaptation, Super Sonic defeats Perfect Chaos with hardly any issue at all in Sonic X; while Perfect Chaos had never looked bigger or badder, resembling more a water-based version of Biollante, and packs some serious firepower, it is defeated and reverted back in Chaos 0 with very little effort. To be fair, though, Sonic X’s Super Sonic was always far more powerful than his other incarnations, being more of a God-mode than a power-up. Still, Chaos is defeated and returns to the Master Emerald with Tikal, at peace once more. Station Square is left in ruins and, while the anime also glosses over the death and destruction the flood must have caused, subsequent episodes dealt with (or, at least, referenced) the restoration process.

InterplaySASXFaithful
Sonic X told the entire game’s story, giving everyone their due.

Like the other adaptations of Sonic Adventure discussed here, Sonic X incorporates the game’s narrative into its own unique lore but, in a twist, includes characters like Cream and Rouge the Bat (Kathleen Delaney) who debuted after Sonic Adventure. However, even these videogame characters have smaller roles than Chris and his cohorts; given that Chris was obsessed with following Sonic everywhere and putting himself in danger, this isn’t too surprising but, honestly, their inclusion and involvement is no more or less, better or worse, than those of the Archie and StC extended cast. However, Sonic X’s Sonic Adventure saga is easily the closest, most faithful adaptation of the source material of these three; Archie Comics came close bit their impenetrable lore meant that too many compromises had to be made. Both comic adaptations focused more on Chaos than other bosses and events, but Sonic X includes almost everything from the videogame, giving plenty of time to each of the game’s six characters and adapting their stories with a high degree of fidelity. It even streamlined and improved the story in many ways, such as having characters team up against Chaos’s various forms and improving the appearance of Perfect Chaos.

InterplaySASAStory
Sonic Adventure told a complex, interweaving Sonic story for the first time.

Sonic Adventure has been a rich source of adaptation, second only to Sonic Spinball; aside from the more direct adaptations I’ve talked about here, stages, bosses, and narrative themes from the game cropped up in many subsequent Sonic titles. Unlike Sonic Spinball, I feel like this is probably because of the game’s story; this was the first time Sonic and his friends and enemies had a real voice in the videogames and the first time Sonic Team tried to tell a deep, overarching story. Add to that the influence that Sonic Adventure’s gameplay and aesthetic choices had on Sonic’s canon and future release and it’s not hard to see why. The only thing that hampered each of these adaptations was their attempts to shoe-horn the videogame narrative into their existing lore, rather than using the general story and themes of the game and threading it through in a more natural way. While Archie Comics and StC had good reasons for this, Sonic X had every opportunity right from the beginning of its run to properly prepare and lay the groundwork for its eventual videogame adaptations and, instead, it was happy to waste time focusing on Chris, his idiotic behaviour, and having Sonic be this bland, lethargic goody-too-shoes rather than a snarky, hyperactive adventurer.

InterplaySAConclusion

Which of these three Sonic Adventure adaptations was your favourite? How did you find Archie’s writing at the time? Do you remember Sonic the Comic? What were your thoughts on Sonic X and Chris? Drop a line below and stick around for more articles in the future.

Game Corner: Sonic Adventure (Xbox 360)

GameCorner
SonicAdventureLogo

The year was 1998 and the videogame industry was deep into the newest phase in the Console Wars. Nintendo and SEGA had left behind two-dimensional gameplay and were focusing entirely on polygons and 3D, while Sony provided some surprising competition in the arena with its PlayStation console. In 1996, Super Mario 64 (Nintendo EAD) was released, marking the 3D debut of Nintendo’s portly plumber. With its tight, responsive controls, bright, vivid colours, exciting soundtrack and simple, yet increasingly challenging, gameplay, Super Mario 64 was largely regarded as a successful evolution from 2D to 3D gameplay for Nintendo’s mascot. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s once-high-and-mighty rival, SEGA, was…struggling a bit. Their ill-fated 32X and SEGA Saturn hadn’t exactly set the world on fire and their superspeedy mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, while still a popular cultural icon, hadn’t been featured in a main series videogame for a long time, finding himself relegated to spin-offs, cancelled titles, cameos, and odd-ball experimental titles.

Super Mario 64 was Mario’s successful foray into 3D.

Determined to reignite Sonic’s success, SEGA set to work crafting a title that would not only compete with Super Mario 64 but also draw gamers away from their competition and firmly towards their powerful new Dreamcast console. In order to facilitate this, Sonic Team decided to craft a title that would mix multiple gameplay styles, completely redesign Sonic and his friends and enemies, and unite Sonic’s formally-competing continuity to softly reboot their once-blockbuster franchise. Given that I wasn’t afforded the luxury of owning every games console back in the day, I opted to jump ship from SEGA to the Nintendo 64 and, as a result, I first played Sonic Adventure when Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut was released for the GameCube in 2003. This means that I didn’t play the game until after playing Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (Sonic Team USA, 2002), an upgraded expansion of Sonic Adventure’s sequel, also on the GameCube. Picking a favourite between the two is difficult as the controls, graphics, voice acting and lip-synching, and gameplay mechanics were vastly improved in Sonic Adventure 2 (ibid, 2001), which also introduced Shadow the Hedgehog to the series, but Sonic Adventure had a lot more gameplay variety, a slightly more interesting story, and had a lot more additional content in its updated ports. Eventually, these GameCube ports were further ported to the PC and these versions then came to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. As this latter version was recently on sale on Xbox Arcade, I once again bought Sonic Adventure (though I was too cheap to buy the DX: Director’s Cut add-on) and blasted through it so let’s see if it’s still as good as I remember it.

Sonic’s speed and Homing Attack allowed him to easily traverse and target enemies in his new 3D environment.

Sonic Adventure (Sonic Team, 1998) saw players take on the role of Sonic the Hedgehog in his first fully 3D adventure. Arriving in Station Square after a long absence, Sonic encounters the mysterious aquatic lifeform Chaos causing…well, chaos…and soon uncovers a plot by his old nemesis, Dr. Eggman, to gather the legendary Chaos Emeralds and use them to empower Chaos to destroy Station Square. Teaming up with friends old and new, Sonic races to keep the Chaos Emeralds out of Eggman’s hands and stop his plans before it’s too late. Right away, Sonic Adventure wipes the slate clean for the Sonic series. Not only is Sonic a fully-realised 3D character, he’s now taller, edgier, portrayed by Ryan Drummond as a heroic thrill-seeker, and living alongside humans in a vaguely-Earth-like setting rather than hailing from an alien world populated entirely by anthropomorphic characters. Rather than speeding through 2D environments, Sonic navigates 3D stages with the camera placed behind him but, to make traversing these new stages easier, Sonic Team implemented what has now become one of the most contentious additions to Sonic’s arsenal, the Homing Attack. Nowadays, gamers take the Homing Attack for granted as it has been tweaked to hold our hands through its auto-lock-on and targeting reticule but, back in the day, it was an innovative gameplay mechanic that boosted Sonic towards the nearest enemy, spring, power-up pod, or simply blindly in the direction he is facing. It wasn’t a vastly over-powered move but, like Z-Targeting in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo EAD, 1998), was an essential mechanic to blasting Sonic through his sprawling, engaging zones. As in his previous 2D outings, Sonic also has the iconic Spin Dash, which can boost him along with an almost-game-breaking speed or be held down and charged up for one big boost. He can also acquire a few upgrades that allow him to perform the Light Speed Dash; like the Homing Attack, this is now an iconic staple of Sonic’s 3D arsenal but, here, it’s a bit clunky as Sonic must charge up a Spin Dash and then release the button to speed along a set of Golden Rings. This was vastly improved in Sonic Adventure 2 to the format we are now used to, where the Light Speed Dash is assigned to a single button.

SonicAdventureVariety.PNG
Running, flying, hunting, stealth, shooting, fishing…Sonic Adventure has it all!

For gamers more used to Sonic’s most recent titles, Sonic Adventure may seem a bit of a shock as it also includes a whole host of additional characters to play as. Miles “Tails” Prower must race, usually against Sonic, to reach a goal first, using his twin tails to fly and attack enemies; Knuckles the Echidna must glide, climb, and dig through stages to find fragments of the Master Emerald; and Amy Rose has to use her Piko-Piko Hammer to evade the invincible ZERO. Sonic Adventure also introduced gunplay to the Sonic series for the first time by allowing players to blast through stages as the tragic robot E-102γ (or simply “Gamma”) and one of the most divisive characters of the entire franchise, Big the Cat, a massive, slow-witted cat who has to fish for his elusive friend, Froggy.

Waste hours of your life raising the perfect Chao but don’t forget to take on Perfect Chaos!

Once players have cleared each character’s story from start to finish, they unlock once final chapter where everone comes together to power Sonic up into Super Sonic so that he can end the threat of Chaos’ ultimate form, Perfect Chaos. This started a trend in the 3D Sonic games where players would unlock one final story where they play as Super Sonic, something that is still often seen in modern Sonic titles, which have only recently begun allowing players to play as Super Sonic outside of the Last Story. In addition to these story modes, Sonic Adventure also features the Chao Garden. As Sonic and his friends destroy enemies, they can rescue a variety of little animals that can be taken to three Chao Gardens found in the game’s three Adventure Fields. In here, players can hatch and raise Chao, tiny little versions of Chaos, and power them up with these small animals, buy them food and accessories in the Black Market, and then race and battle against other Chao in the Chao Games. Chao’s stats (run, fly, swim, power, and stamina) will increase (or decrease) with each animal they interact with and the Chao will take on different characteristics and colours as they level-up, eventually evolving into stronger bipedal forms. The Chao Garden is a nice little distraction and an extra incentive to play but I can’t say that I really miss it from modern Sonic games; it’d work as a mobile app, or something like that, though. Story and narrative are a massive part of Sonic Adventure; previously, there was a massive divide between the Sonic narrative in Japan to that seen in the United States and Europe. While Sonic always lived on Earth in Japan and fought against Dr. Eggman, in the U.S. and Europe, he lived on Mobius and battled Dr. Ivo Robotnik; Knuckles lived alone on Angel Island in Japan but was isolated on the Floating Island elsewhere, and there were a few inconsistencies regarding the amount and appearance of the Chaos Emeralds as well.

SonicAdventureEggman.PNG
This was the first time many gamers became aware of the “Eggman” name.

With Sonic Adventure, though, Sonic Team sought to consolidate all these inconsistencies into one brand image for their super-fast mascot. “Eggman” is used by Sonic and his friends as an insult to their egg-shaped adversary, who refers to himself numerous times as Dr. Robotnik; Sonic and his anthropomorphic counterparts are right at home alongside humans, and the previous games are used as a vague basis for the character’s back stories (Amy specifically remembers the events of Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), for example) but, at its core, Sonic Adventure, with its anime-inspired aesthetic, serves as a soft reboot for the franchise that would act as a clean slate for the series going forwards. Unfortunately, this didn’t last very long. All-too-soon, Sonic’s narrative began to get more and more convoluted and the idea of one unified worldwide version of Sonic was tainted by further drastic changes to Sonic’s aesthetic, the addition of Classic Sonic and the production of Sonic Boom (Various, 2014 to 2018). Long-time fans of the series struggled a bit with Sonic’s dramatic redesign; fans literally argued themselves into a frenzy over the fact that Sonic now has green eyes, for God’s sake, and debates continue to rage to this very day regarding what is the best design for Sonic.

SonicAdventureBig.PNG
I actually really like Big and found his gameplay simple fun…

While I actually really enjoy each of the character’s stories and gameplay styles, fans also reacted badly to many of Sonic Adventure’s gameplay mechanics. The speed and excitement of Sonic’s gameplay continued into Sonic Adventure 2 and eventually evolved into the sole gameplay style we see in modern Sonic titles, but Tails’ and Amy’s formulas were abandoned entirely by the sequel, with only the shooting and treasure hunting mechanics lasting to Sonic Adventure 2. But it was Big the Cat who suffered the most, with fans seemingly unified in their hatred of his slow movement and fishing gameplay. I, however, really like Big; his stages are short and simple, his gameplay inoffensive and easy to master, and it’s a breeze to cheese his additional missions. Honestly, if I had to pick a character I disliked out of all of those on offer here, it would be Amy, as she’s a bit awkward to control at times (thanks in no small part to Sonic Adventure’s dodgy, jerky camera) but, having said that, her stages are still pretty short and easy to get through and I would much rather than three great characters and stories and three average ones than one single gameplay style. Sonic Adventure was also hampered a bit by its camera, as mentioned, and control schemes; these would be refined in Sonic Adventure 2 but, here, everything is lacking a little bit of polish. It isn’t the glitch-filled, game-breaking end of the world a lot of Sonic fans will scream at you that it is but it can cause some unnecessary deaths at times. The game’s voice acting and lip-synching are also still a source of derision but, honestly, I really don’t care; all the characters sound great, and very appropriate, and, while the lines aren’t always great and their delivery can be hit and miss, that was just how voice acting was back in those days and, for me, it just adds to the quirky charm of the videogame.

SonicAdventureTails.PNG
To say that Tails has regressed in recent years is a bit of an understatement…

Sonic Adventure is also packing quite a bit of content. Alongside the Chao Garden, there’s also the option to replay each character’s stage a couple more times to earn additional Sonic Emblems (which can be found hidden in the Adventure Fields or are awarded after finishing stages and story modes); players can earn further Emblems in the Trial Mode, by finishing sub-games, and by winning Chao events. In the DX: Director’s Cut expansion, there’s also a Mission Mode that tasks players with fulfilling certain objectives for even more Emblems; once you earn all 180, you’ll unlock the ability to play as Metal Sonic in Sonic’s stages. While a simple reskin, this is a fantastic addition to the game and I would honestly love to see Sonic Team do more reskins like this in Sonic titles as it’s so easy to do and just helps add a bit more incentive to play and a little variety. That is what I love the most about Sonic Adventure: the variety; each character experiences events from a different perspective, meaning you might watch the same cutscene two or more times but the dialogue and camera angles will be different depending on who you are playing as. Also, if you get tired of blasting through stages at break-neck speed with Sonic, you can take in the gorgeous visuals at a slower pace with Knuckles or Big or just go in all guns blazing with Gamma. There’s a lot to do, lots of little hidden secrets and Easter Eggs to find, and I always want to play a little more, do a little more, and explore areas with each of the six characters.

Sonic Adventure certainly wasn’t lacking in gameplay variety.

It is honestly very disappointing to me that SEGA slowly began to shift away from Sonic’s extended cast and focus solely on Sonic’s gameplay. In Sonic Adventure, Tails and Amy both learn to be independent characters who aren’t simply one-dimensional bit players in need of rescue. Now, though, you’re lucky to even see Amy in a cutscene in a Sonic game and it seems to take a massive, concentrated effort of willpower for Sonic Team to allow players to play as Tails, to say nothing of poor old Knuckles! Sonic Adventure isn’t entirely to blame for that but the game is a bittersweet experience to play as it’s so much fun and has so much potential but some of its best parts (character variety, the semi-open world, and the level-up system) were omitted entirely in Sonic Adventure 2 and SEGA have never really been able to make a Sonic title that feels as immersive as Sonic Adventure. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 2006) tried to emulate the same feel and expansive nature of Sonic Adventure, but it lacked the gameplay variety and was littered with bugs and issues that made it more of a poor imitation; Sonic Unleashed (ibid, 2008) was perhaps the closest to succeed at emulating Sonic Adventure’s style but, rather than try to expand and refine upon this to reintroduce more of the concepts and mechanics of Sonic Adventure, SEGA and Sonic Team chose to release wildly inconsistent Sonic titles and bog their franchise down with multiple competing iterations of their mascot rather than continue with one unified version of their most popular brand.

SonicAdventureEnd
It has its flaws but Sonic Adventure is still great fun to play.

This is a real shame but, for me, does not diminish the impact or enjoyment of Sonic Adventure. Sonic Adventure 2 might be technically better in a lot of ways, but there’s something about racing through Station Square, exploring the Mystic Ruins, taking down the Egg Carrier, exploring the history of Sonic’s world, and battling Chaos’s various forms that I find extremely enjoyable. I like that the redesigns of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, and Eggman all look cool and that the playable characters have distinct gameplay styles; I like the aesthetics of the game and its world and the new characters, who are both fun to play as and surprisingly complex; I like that the game is simple but also challenging at times, that the bosses are big and have a lot of variety, that the soundtrack is a mixture of styles (from cool skater rock to nostalgic tunes to mechanical synthesis), and that Eggman is a competent threat and not just some bumbling buffoon. For me, Sonic Adventure was a fantastic way to reintroduce Sonic to a new generation of gamers and a great starting point for a whole new series of Sonic titles; SEGA and Sonic Team may have fumbled the ball at capitalising on some of the game’s great ideas but it doesn’t change the fact that Sonic Adventure is a fun title to invest a few hours on and that it succeeds far more that it fails, no matter what the toxic Sonic fan community might have you believe.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic