Sonic Adventure packed serious wow factor when it launched back in 1998. Us Dreamcast owners were blown away by its eyepopping visuals, insane speed and six campaigns that each provided a meaty and unique gameplay experience. As a longtime fan (boy), I was delighted with the news that the bestselling Dreamcast title had finally been granted a new lease of downloadable life... but after over a decade of perspective, it's clear that we were willing to cut our beloved blue hedgehog more than a little slack. Maybe more than he deserved.
First and foremost, it's imperative to note that Sonic Adventures is a shockingly basic port of the original game. This means that we're getting an exact copy of the Dreamcast title... which cuts both ways. The original experience has been replicated in its entirety, but the ravages of age have somewhat dulled the highs and amplified the lows that we were willing to put up with in the late nineties.
Let's start with the basics. As mentioned before, Sonic Adventure spans six individual storylines that focus on a different character. Sonic's campaign is a blistering speedrun through linear levels with a genuine sense of velocity and breathtaking visual feedback (including ravening killer whales, floating fortresses and physics-defying stunts), whereas Tails has to beat Sonic through the stages by accessing shortcuts with his airborne skills. In contrast, Amy has a much slower combat-oriented adventure whilst the badass E102 Gamma robot gets to blast his way through some slick shooting sections with overwhelming firepower. Oh, and Big the Cat gets to go fishing. Each story has access to an overworld stage that contains a few puzzles and unlockable items, thus increasing the amount of content yet further. Sonic Adventure contains a refreshing mix of game mechanics that adds a significant amount of content and value to the package.
Knuckles' stages are probably the best of the bunch since they take advantage of the red Echidna's unique abilities. Rather than charging through a linear race, Knuckles gets to explore large open-world levels to locate hidden Chaos Emeralds. Climbing walls, gliding around with merry abandon and beating the seven shades out of his enemies is a real highlight, and I'd have happily enjoyed an entire game based on these sequences.
Regrettably, this is where my wide-eyed nostalgia and childhood fanboyism has to take a back seat to objective games journalism. Sonic Adventure always suffered from a grab bag of graphical problems, clipping issues and a genuinely nasty camera. Barely any effort has been taken to improve these issues, and the net result is an experience that frequently feels absolutely miserable. The graphics are laughably poor, the aspect ratio remains unchanged (requiring the game to be played in a small box in the middle of the sadly-unused widescreen), and the camera does its very best to disorient, distract and nauseate the player at every opportunity. The wonky collision detection frequently results in the characters getting stuck on objects or moving in profoundly unpredictable ways. I personally can't understand why SEGA didn't put more effort into revamping this classic title for its next-gen debut... and though I still enjoyed the experience, my rose-tinted spectacles have never been more apparent. This is a blatantly lazy cash-in rather than a labour of love.
The original soundtrack is a cheesy masterpiece that features plenty of raunchy guitar and laugh-out-loud lyrics. Unfortunately, the voice acting is a different story. In fact, it's practically a war crime. This is yet another aspect of the presentation that would have been remastered... if this latest version wasn't a transparently lazy ploy to claw a few more quid out of an ancient game.
Finally, the Director's Cut version (DX to its fans) adds an extra 60 remastered levels as well as the Metal Sonic playable character. Since a dozen years have passed since the original, you might justifiably expect that this would included in the package- but players will have to fork over yet another 400 Microsoft Points for the privilege. Don't give them the satisfaction.
- Six different campaigns provide plenty of variety and value
- Loads of great cinematic and speedy moments
- Excellent musical soundtrack
- Dodgy camera, collision detection and controls make several sections deeply unpleasant
- Graphics, aspect ratio and voice acting desperately needed more work
- Entire package reeks of pure laziness... and the paid DX expansion is insulting
The Short Version: Sonic Adventures was an important Dreamcast title that deserved a full HD revamp... but by providing a lazy port instead, SEGA have made it very difficult to overlook the flaws that we once took for granted. The years haven't been kind to Sonic and the gang, though there's still enough value and variety to warrant a tentative recommendation to fellow fans. Unfortunately, it's not suitable for anyone else.