Sonic Adventure 2 review for PSN, XBLA

Platform: PlayStation Network
Also On: XBLA
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: DLC
ESRB: E10+

Like most avid Sonic the Hedgehog fans, I had grown tired of the direction that Sega took with their iconic character. From weird storybook adventures, to the virtually unplayable mess that was 2007’s “Sonic The Hedgehog” on PS3 and Xbox 360, I, like many others, lost interest in Sonic and moved on. Sega aimed to rectify this with HD remakes of the classic Sonic Adventure games, and now we have Sonic Adventure 2 HD!

Sonic Adventure 2 was originally released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2001, and was the direct sequel to Sonic Adventure. This time, players can play through 2 parallel story lines called “Hero” and “Dark”. In Hero, players control Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles in 3 different play styles. Sonic handles the high speed platforming, much like the original. Tails’ levels are based around shooting in his robotic walker, and Knuckles is all about hunting for 3 items hidden throughout the area, usually pieces of the Master Emerald.

The Dark storyline features the same styles as the Hero side, except with newcomer Shadow the Hedgehog taking the place of Sonic. Dr. Eggman in place of Tails, and another newcomer, Rouge the Bat taking the place of Knuckles. Some stages end with a Boss fight where, depending on the character you are using at the time, can take a few tries to complete. Sometimes they are easy 30 second fights, but some have objectives or weak points that are not presented clearly and can take longer. At the end of each stage, players are given a letter rank that is either A, B, C, D, or E, with A being the best you can get.

Playing both sides of the story to completion unlocks the “final” story mode, where players must use all six characters back to back to reach the true ending.

Aside from the story mode, and two player competition modes, you also have access to Chao Garden. This is a sort of Tamagotchi style game where players can find and raise Chao creatures. They start out in eggs and once they hatch, can be adopted by the player, who can feed and take care of them. In action stages, players can collect “Chao Drives” from enemies and find hidden animals that can be used in the Garden to increase the stats of their Chao. Depending how you treat your Chao in its infancy will determine its transformation when it enters its cocoon. It can be a good or “Hero” Chao or an evil “Dark” Chao. Depending on which one emerges, a corresponding Hero or Dark Chao Garden will unlock for the player?s Chao. Raising Chao and entering them into races or battles with other Chao is great fun, and really adds to the reply value of the game.

As a bonus, DLC is offered in the form of “Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.” This version of the game was originally released on the GameCube and adds more options to the 2 player modes, plus changes minor things in the action stages. It does not add to the original story or give you more characters to use in the single player. It’s more of a director?s cut version you can get after you’ve completed the game.

The HD upgrade in Sonic Adventure 2 HD looks nice and clean, but being a decade old game, they are not perfect as some weird textures and popup are noticeable. Also, there was occasional slowdown with too much going on, but this seemed to happen at random. The cut scenes in story mode are in 4:3 and look rather odd in the new 16:9 HD transfer. The camera controls are from a time when 3D games like this were in their infancy, and thus are really horrible. Sometimes you spend more time fighting the camera than you should, and often this leads to a cheap death. Other times, for no reason, it can freak out or get stuck in a wall, leaving the player blind.  The terrible camera does distract from an otherwise fun experience, and it’s strange that Sega did not take the time to improve it for this release. Add in the sometimes stiff control, and you may be in for some slight frustration.

Sound wise we have a mixed bag of good and bad. In cut scenes and action stages, the music is often louder than the spoken dialog so it?s hard to hear what the characters are saying. Fortunately there are subtitles so you won’t miss anything. On the plus side, the soundtrack is amazing. The songs fit well with the stages and really get you pumped while playing.

Sonic Adventure 2 is for true Sonic fans that want to relive a time when the series was still fun to play. Despite the terrible camera and some audio hiccups, it’s a great experience for old and new players alike. The Chao Garden and great price only add to the overall package making this one a sure fire bet!

Grade: A-