Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut
Sonic Team brings the original Dreamcast Sonic to GameCube in fine form, but is it worth another purchase?
In a backwards situation, Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut finally joins its sequel, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the GameCube, bringing all the glory of the Dreamcast original along with its few moments of despair.
After the Dreamcast first hit Japanese store shelves on November 28, 1998 it came up short of that "AAA" title that would push both hardcore and casual gamers hand over heels to the stores to snap up the console. All was not lost that year though as Sonic Adventure, the first 3D follow-up of the series was laying in wait and set to be unleashed upon a highly anxious Japanese market.
While it can be easily contested that Sonic Adventure wasn't the first 3D Sonic game, because it wasn't, it was the first 3D continuation of the series. One that was supposed to have been done back on the Sega Saturn but controversial development issues contributed greatly to the rise and fall of what was supposed to be known as Sonic X-Treme, which was announced for the Saturn back in May 1996.
After Sonic X-treme never saw the light of day on the Saturn, and the later PC version remained on life support before also dying a miserable death, fans were mistreated with consolation "prizes" such as Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic R. Both were highly flawed games; while one could derive a little bit of enjoyment from them, they didn't come close to cutting it.
Sonic Adventure was born on the Dreamcast and rushed to meet its December 23, 1998 Japanese deadline so the Dreamcast would end the year with a bang as well as have its long awaited AAA title.
Sonic Adventure represented Sonic and friend's first full blown 3D invasion, they entered the next generation in excellent form. Mixing action and adventure platforming elements with exploration, Sonic Adventure expanded on the Sonic universe by bringing about many new gameplay elements to help compliment its visual evolution into the 3D realm.
Personally, Sonic Adventure was quite a special game to me as it the first Sonic title I really loved. I wasn't too fond of the original Sonic The Hedgehog games, but experiencing Sonic Adventure propelled me to seek out every other 16-bit Sonic game out there! I was converted.
The story of Sonic Adventure sees Dr. Eggman (Robotnik) stealing the precious chaos emeralds and feeding them to his Chaos creature. Emeralds that, when combined, will unlock incredible power. With this kind of power in hand, Dr. Eggman can finally realize his vision of ruling the world and conquering his nemesis, Sonic. After the mysterious Chaos creature is unleashed onto an unsuspecting city by Dr. Eggman, Sonic and his friends rush in to save the day.
The storyline isn't that straightforward though, since it contains a few storyline arcs, with each character containing their own unique side stories that all blend seamlessly together with the main story or can work as separate stories themselves.
The further you get in the game, the more fleshed out the individual character stories become and blend in with the main story by having the characters meet up for a short while to advance the story.
Sonic and Tails are busy trying to locate the Chaos Emeralds while Dr. Eggman keeps himself busy by stealing them and feeding them to Chaos. After each consumption of a Chaos Emerald, Chaos becomes more powerful, changes shape and becomes more dangerous.
Amy's side story has her trying to save a cute little birdie and herself from a psychotic robot that stalks her throughout all of the levels. Knuckles on the other hand is busy scavenger hunting the pieces of the Master Emerald, while Big the Cat is looking for his Froggy.
E-102 has an interesting side story as he was formerly the property of evil. He was built by Dr. Eggman and sent out to capture Big The Cat's froggy who happens to have Chaos' tail. It takes the touch of sweet little Amy Rose to force E-102 to do something human-like by changing his ways. Re-programming himself, E-102 sets out to free his E-series comrades.
Along with the pretty cool side stories for most of the characters (except Big the Cat), Sonic Adventure also has some cool time traveling moments where you travel back in time to learn the history behind Chaos and the Echidnas.
The controls are marvelous and perfectly suited for the GameCube controller. Each character reacts very responsively to the controller inputs. Not only did the great controls of the Dreamcast original make their way over but Sega saw fit to enhance them by adding a first person viewing mode via the camera button. A pretty nice bonus that still doesn't make up for the sometimes overly annoying camera that obstructs your view at times throughout the game.
Sonic Adventure is quite the gameplay marvel. Featuring a selection of six characters and one secret character after completing the game with all six characters, Sonic Adventure is ripe with depth and replay value galore. Sonic Adventure's gameplay is incredibly diverse with action, adventure, cart racing, bi-plane shooting action, puzzles, blowing up crap, treasure hunting, pinball, fishing, snowboarding, sandboarding and more.
During the Adventure portions of the game, the gameplay deviates from the super speedy paced norm to a slower pace that will have Sonic and the others exploring areas like Station Square and Mystic Ruins among others. They'll be able to search these areas for special items and clues, as well as talk to the people walking around the city. More importantly, these adventure/exploration sections of the game serve as portals to the action stages Sonic and his pals have to locate.
The world of Sonic Adventure feels like it's almost seamlessly linked together as you can travel back and forth between different Adventure sections almost anytime. For example, you can hop on a train from Station Square and down to Mystic Ruins and back again. You can also transfer from the train to a mine cart later in the game in order to progress further, or take a raft located at the base of the Mystic Ruins train station and float on down to one of Eggman's dangerous structures.
Each of the characters have their own type of action stages, some even overlapping each other. For example, Sonic will blast through the beach level at wicked speeds to free the captured animals while Big the Cat will find himself on that same level, Fishing.
The Action stages are pretty much the main and most exhilarating parts of the game. Each of the characters have their own types of action levels to get through and they're all different enough to provide the game with much depth and long lasting appeal.
Sonic's levels are arguably the best as they feature little boy blue doing what he does best, and that's tearing through levels at super sonic speeds. Sonic will blast through twisting and turning loops, get launched into the air and carried by powerful air streams, as well as scale up and down buildings at dizzying, motion sickness inducing speeds.
As Sonic, you'll race through each course as quickly and efficiently as possible, trying to obtain high scores and rankings by collecting golden rings located throughout the levels, power-ups such as speed shoes and invincibility powers, and also "rescue" animals from destroyed enemy characters and containers. Animals that you'll end up feeding to the Chao in the Chao Garden.
Sonic's arsenal of moves consist of his spindash attack, jumping, homing attack, and his light speed dash which is incredibly useful for following long trails of rings, especially over long drops of death.
Miles (Tails), the first character to get unlocked on the other hand has to not only clear the levels like Sonic does, but also has to race against his idol Sonic or Dr. Eggman. If either of them beats Miles to the end of the levels then he loses and has to redo the respective levels, adding a bit more pressure to the gameplay especially with the later more difficult levels inundating the characters with trickier obstacle courses.
Although slower than Sonic, Miles has the advantage of flight on his side. He can take shortcuts and attack enemies with his spinning tail whip attack which has him twirling around like crazy, taking out any approaching enemies.
Amy's levels are totally underrated in my opinion, I've always found them highly enjoyable. As Amy you'll need to get to the end of the levels and grab onto a large balloon. It's not as easy as it sounds though as you'll have ZERO, this totally psychotic robot on her tail throughout the levels. He'll burst through walls just when you think you've lost him, he's relentless but also easy to pound into a tin can. Unfortunately you can't destroy him, you can only stun him long enough to buy you some more time to escape.
E-102's levels are pretty easy, causing all sorts of carnage and destruction by locking onto and destroying every living and non-living thing in sight. His game plays like an action blast-a-thon, racing against the clock while trying to complete the levels. Fortunately more time can be earned by destroying multiple enemies at once.
At the end of the levels E-102 will face off with one of his fellow mechanical brethrens of the E-100 series. E-102's move set consists of his homing laser which can lock onto multiple targets at once as well as jumping and hovering. He can also hover over water and also has a cool wheelie mode.
Unlike the previously mentioned characters, Knuckles' levels are totally migraine inducing at times. Personally I absolutely hated his levels. They consist of scavenger hunting for three pieces of the master emerald, which is almost like searching for mines in a mine field. As you approach each piece of the hidden emerald, the radar will beep depending on how close you are to them.
Unfortunately this system isn't perfect and can make Knuckles' levels a total pain in the ass at times, especially when you're standing in front of a wall that the radar indicates has a hidden emerald but yet you dig and keep coming up empty handed.
Knuckles' attack moves consists of a cool three hit punch combo and the ability to glide during a jump, with his fists stretched forward, allowing him to fly for a short period of time like Superman or a Super Echidna. He can also scale up and down walls quickly like Spiderman, as well as dig into the non-metallic floors and walls.
Big The Cat competes against Knuckles for the worst levels in the game. Where Knuckles is busy scavenger hunting for emeralds, Big The Cat is kicking back and fishing in all of his levels. If your captured fish escapes then you lose a life. Fortunately Big The Cat's game spans only three levels. Unfortunately depending on your luck with that damn frog he has to catch, Big The Cat's levels can turn into the shortest or the longest levels in the game. I once spent almost 40 minutes on one level just trying to catch the frog.
Even after completing the game with every character there are still certain play elements that keep the replayability factor high. Things such as obtaining all 130 emblems, as well as raising your cute little Chao in the Chao Garden will keep fans coming back for more.
The Chao raising aspects of Sonic Adventure are very cool parts of the game, especially to those interested in caring for Virtual Pets. There are two Chao Eggs in three of the hidden Chao Gardens in the game. After they hatch they become full fledged Virtual Pets that have stats as well as moods. Each of them has a level for Stamina, Power, Running, Swimming, and Flying.
Each of their attributes can be increased by feeding them the respective animals you rescued throughout the levels. Depending on what you've fed them while raising them your chao will evolve. Hopefully you'll take great care of them so they don't grow up becoming psychotic chao killers or something.
Along with the slight visual enhancements, the port also contains a brand new mission mode that has 60 missions. The mission mode isn't anything special really and will probably be seen as more of a disappointment. It would have been a lot more rewarding if some real additional levels were added. However, one good thing about the Mission mode is that completing them will unlock all 12 of the Sonic Game Gear games. All of which are direct ports and none of which are really much to shout about, but hey they're all free. Some of them even offer two player split-screen action to enhance the gameplay and up the relay value.
Back during the Dreamcast era the graphics were beautiful. The textures were amazing at times, showcasing the crisp texture capabilities of the PowerVR 2 chip. The characters were also well modeled and animated just as well. The environments were very nicely designed and detailed with some nice lighting effects, billowing smoke, and cool weather effects among others.
Unfortunately there were also some visual glitches and imperfections throughout parts of the game though. The falling through walls were a bit of a pain sometimes, and the camera didn't help matters much by providing its own set of problems to.
The GameCube edition sports some nice graphical enhancements on the characters as they look more well rounded and smoother this time around. Sonic appears to have received special treatment as he shows off a little specular highlighting at the selection screen so you can see the shine on his bald head! Under the right lighting effects, all of the characters exhibit some shine.
The environments look to have received a bit of an upgrade as well, although not as immediately apparent as the enhancements made on the characters. The frame rate appears to have been bumped up to the magical 60 fps figure but unfortunately there's still surprisingly a bit of slowdown, but not enough to detract from the overall experience.
The Cut scenes look pretty good at times, some of which blend real-time graphics with CG cinematics to make for some interesting and cool cut-scenes.
One of the best aspects of Sonic Adventure has always been its sterling soundtrack. Jun Senoue and his team of great composers really did an awesome job with Sonic Adventure's soundtrack.
Covering a wide variety of musical styles that range from Jazz, Ethnic, Rock, Hard Rock, Pop, Rap, Contemporary, New Age, Lounge music, Techno, and many others, the music in Sonic Adventure kicks butt.
Who could forget the very catchy and fun music heard during the Pleasure Castle level, or the very memorable music of Lost World filled with ethnic chants, Speed Highway: At Dawn's beautiful techno track, The very jazzy Dilapidated Way and more. The entire soundtrack was very special, making the Sonic Adventure a must-have prized treasure.
The character voice overs are also well done. They sounded great in the import version and almost as equally great in the domestic version, providing all of the characters with their own unique personalities.
Overall, Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut was a very fun trip down memory lane. Unfortunately the port didn't receive the attention that it truly deserved as it would have made a totally kickass GameCube remake similar to the treatment Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid received. As it is, it's a very solid port that's 'almost' indistinguishable from its Dreamcast counterpart save for the slight character updates and bonus extras.
Sonic Adventure represents one of the best Sonic games ever created and the best 3D Sonic game on the market today.
Those of you who missed out on Dreamcast Sonic Adventure - now's your chance to repent for your sins as you've been given a second chance. For some, the original is even better than Sonic Adventure 2.