Sonic Adventure 2 Review: Nostalgia goggles required 3

The Dreamcast classic has finally come to the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Arcade, but what was once so revered 11 years ago doesn’t particularly hold up as well as one might hope. While sharing the name of the very last Sonic game to appear a Sega console, the inclusion of the GameCube version’s updated features makes this iteration actually have more in common with Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

Developed by: Sonic Team USA
Published by: Sega
Genre: Platformer
Platform: PlayStation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA)
What works: The classic soundtrack and racing modes recapture the final glorious days of the Sega Dreamcast
What doesn’t work: The dated mechanics and horrific camera control make instant death a frustratingly common occurrence
★★½☆☆

Like the original, the game offers two parallel campaign storylines (Hero and Dark) which you can advance through at any time from the main menu. As you can imagine, Hero mode puts you in the role of Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, while the Dark mode puts you in the role of Eggman, Shadow, or Rogue the Bat. The variations between storylines are essentially cosmetic however, as both have you performing pretty much the exact same activities at the same time throughout each campaign. The Sonic and Shadow levels are typical races; the Knuckles and Rogue the Bat levels require you to hunt treasure by scouring a level; and the Eggman and Tails levels force you to operate a missile-shooting mech. After completing both campaigns, a final campaign mode is unlocked that requires you to use all characters, back to back, to complete the game.

Many who played Sonic Adventure 2 on the Dreamcast have fond memories of its multiplayer modes, which consist of the same modes found throughout the campaign. Also like the campaign, the racing is extremely fun and captures the feeling of moving at a Sonic-level speed through crazy, immense, 3D levels. Unfortunately, the treasure hunting and shooting levels are downright tedious. Furthermore, regrettably maintaining the original’s local, 2-player limitation, aside from leaderboards, the game completely forgoes any online competition at all. This is quite unfortunate as 4-player online racing would make for a lot of fun.

Not a good time to stop and admire the upgraded visuals.

In contrast to the action of the single and multiplayer modes, you are also still able to raise digital pets known as Chao. In the Chao Gardens, you hatch these adorable critters from eggs, provide them with items collected during the campaign, level up their stats with certain activities, and raise them how you see fit. How you treat them before their metamorphosis into adulthood, determines if they will be light or dark Chaos.

While the visuals have undergone a minor face lift since the original, what dates this title most is the controls, namely the camera.  Criticized both in the Dreamcast and GameCube versions, the horrific camera control in this game is a testament to how far developers have come over the past 11 years in understanding how to make a camera work in 3D space. In Sonic Adventure 2, the bi-polar camera almost seems to work against you, tucking itself behind walls and shooting from odd angles, making all activities intensely aggravating, especially when moving at high speed. At any given time, the camera can whip around on a dime to some nonsensical location, causing a carefully placed jump to send you careening to your imminent death.

Much to the joy of Dreamcast lovers, the amazing original soundtrack has returned in all its cheesy, pop song glory. Strangely, the music is not toned down during cut scenes and often drowns out character conversations. This didn’t pose any sort of problem for me however, as understanding the vital plot points when Sonic and company save the world pales in comparison to the guilty pleasure I derive from the campy songs that continually reference game levels and characters by name.

Tired of racing around at high speed? Why not take a break from the fun and drive around a slow-moving mech?

While it’s trite to say, I must admit that Sonic Adventure 2 will appeal to those who have a soft spot in their heart for the Dreamcast. However, nostalgia alone is not enough to recommend this title for everyone as its dated and frustrating controls are enough to turn off anyone new to the series.  If you’re not looking for any new additions to the game and you pine for the days when the last of the Sega consoles roamed the earth, Sega Adventure 2 is worth $10.00.  It’s available now on PSN and will arrive on XBLA on October 5th.