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VIDEO GAME REVIEW

Sonic Adventure 2 Arrives

Celebrating a Tenth Anniversary In Style

By Jumaane Jeffries

Staff Writer

‘Sonic Adventure 2’

Published by Sega

Made for Dreamcast

$39.99

Very few people can forget how Sega set the world ablaze ten years ago with the furiously fast, gravity-defying game play of Sonic the Hedgehog. Set in fantastically colorful and elaborate worlds, the quest to save the world from Dr. Robotnik allowed players to either stop and explore, or run like the wind and never look back. Now Sega pays tribute to the legacy in Sonic Adventure 2, the sequel to the Dreamcast’s flagship title.

This time around, as the heroic trio of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles again faces off against Robotnik, two mysterious new villains join the fray. The nature of good and evil is embodied in Shadow, a black hedgehog whose own legacy is tied to Robotnik’s family, and is on an unknown quest for redemption and revenge. Shadow and the Doc are assisted by Rouge the Bat, a relentless female Emerald hunter and a “vamp” in every sense of the word.

In a new twist to the series, you can take on two particular quests: that of either the Hero Side or Dark Side. As such, each character has a nearly identical counterpart. As Sonic or Shadow, you play the light-speed stages that have defined Sonic for a decade. Tails grows up a bit in taking on Dr. Robotnik as they each battle in Mechwarrior-style robot walkers, similar to the “shoot-em-up” stages of E-102 in Sonic Adventure. Knuckles reprieves his role as guardian of the Emeralds, while Rouge serves as his foil in each of their own seek-and-find stages.

The Sonic/Shadow stages flow crisply and smoothly, with no hint of slowdown, and none of the weird collision-detect problems of the original Adventure remaining. The wizards at Sonic Team even attempted to alleviate the phenomena where the game seems to play itself (the up-button phenomena) by adding more suddenly appearing pitfalls and obstacles. Surely these action stages will take a lot longer to master, especially with all the hidden tricks for which you can get bonus points, but it adds to the replay value, so it’s all good. As Tails or Dr. Robotnik, you just pretty much blast everything in sight, but it’s a good little action shooter that’s fun to play once you get accustomed to your aiming mechanism.

Most of the game’s ire comes from the Knuckles/Rouge stages, which are a true test of patience. The goal is to find three objects of some kind -- usually pieces of the Master Emerald -- and there is a tracking indicator to guide you along the way. Unfortunately, the tracker only has three distinguishable degrees of proximity (green, yellow, red), which is actually less reliable than what Knuckles had in the previous Adventure. Furthermore, the camera faux pas that sometimes detracts from the 3-D Sonic experience occur most often here. The challenge can be unwelcoming when the size of the stage exceeds “freakin’ huge.” The going gets even tougher with the inclusion of time limits in later stages.

The feeling of improved overall control can be attributed to the fact that the graphics are exquisite, and is possibly this game’s biggest improvement over the original. They’re polished nearly as well as graphical Dreamcast gems like Dead or Alive 2 or Phantasy Star Online. And the characters are actually fun to watch in the cinematic scenes, much more capable of facial expression than ever before. It’s just like a 3-D version of the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons (remember those?).

The sound effects haven’t changed much from Sonic Adventure (like they’ve changed much from Sonic 1?), and still include the standard boings, screeches, and explosions. The music, while really good, sometimes drowns out the voices with its own lyrics, which is unfortunate for those who prefer the more suitable Japanese voices. That’s right, there’s a full-fledged soundtrack, where some bleepy, boingy music plays alongside Sonic’s rockin’, upbeat tunes. Others, such as Knuckles’s various themes, kick some mad flavor. (Or at least they really try.) Rouge’s sexy jazz tunes are decent as well. It makes spending 45 minutes trying to finish their respective stages almost worthwhile. Almost.

Did I try to conclude this piece without mentioning SA2’s billions of extras? At the risk of writing another article, I must say that the mini-games will make you want to relive this Adventure over and over again. Each and every stage offers rewards for missions involving ring collecting, Chao searching, and other tasks. And when you’re done with that you can grab a friend and engage in some two-player action. Sonic and Knuckles battle Shadow and Rouge, respectively, in their two player race-to-the-finish vertically split-screen stages. Or you can have a mech-war between Tails and the Eggman. There’s even competitive cart racing, though the handling on the cart is a little askew. When you tire of incessant speed, you can raise a Chao with the animals and “Chaos Drives” you collect. This time, in addition to racing and feeding, you can do such things as modify its nature and even put it in Chao World’s kindergarten, in order to prepare it for Chao Adventure 2.

All of those extras aside, Sonic Adventure 2 is an outstanding new addition to the slowly growing Dreamcast lineup, and practically a steal with a $40 price tag. It has improved graphics, stunning gameplay, and even an entertaining, if still primitive storyline. You’ll have a lot of new adventures to undertake, and a lot of treacherous rails to grind.