Review: Sonic Adventure DX (Sony PS3)


Sonic Adventure DX
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Genre: 3D Platformer
Release Date: 09/21/2010

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I didn’t really get to play too many Dreamcast games back in the day. I did have a friend with both a Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure, but his infant brother found the latter and decided to use it as a hammer, causing irreparable damage to this disc. More to the point, the game was in pieces. Having already beaten the game, he didn’t feel the need to replace it any time soon, so I never really got to try it.

Still, I remember the words of praise this game received when it came out, and when this game became available to review, I couldn’t contain my eagerness to finally give it a try. So, here we are, somebody who grew up playing Nintendo and Playstation finally gets to try one of the big Sega classics. I think this could prove interesting.

Story/Modes

It seems Dr. Robotnik is at it again. Somehow he’s come in contact with a supernatural beast by the name of Chaos. By feeding Chaos the seven chaos emeralds, he grows stronger, and when all seven emeralds have been consumed, the beast will be truly unstoppable, thus allowing the evil doctor to destroy Station Square and rebuild it in his image.

Naturally, Sonic rushes in to put a stop to this. The story quickly becomes about beating Robotnik to the emeralds all while receiving the odd clue as to what Chaos really is. In this regard, the plot is simple, straight forward, and not very interesting.

However, you end up being able to play as six different characters, each with their own story. These all intersect, giving you a piece of the puzzle and revealing a lot more depth than Sonic’s story by itself presented. Most of these suck on their own, but combine to be greater than the sum of their parts. It isn’t particularly compelling stuff, but it ends up being interesting enough to keep you playing to the game’s final chapter.

As far as other modes go, you can play around in either Trial or Mission mode. Trial Mode allows you to replay stages in order to improve your score and collect emblems. There are functional online leaderboards to compare you time with the rest of the world. Mission Mode takes you out of the action and is all about exploration and navigation. You need to explore the various locations for cards that give you a clue. If you follow the clue, you’ll likely complete some action that you need to complete in order to clear the mission. There are sixty challenges spread out over all of the characters, which offers a good amount of playtime if you’re willing to explore.

Overall, the story is passable and the extra modes are more than most games today even offer, so on that front, the game still holds up well. That isn’t going to be the case for the rest of the game.

Graphics

Right off the bat, I’ll say that this game does manage to hold up under the extreme speeds you travel at for most of the game. That is a pretty good accomplishment right there, but unfortunately, one of the few nice things I can say about the graphics.

For one, what crazed individual decided to mix the cartoonish style of Sonic with a more city scape complete with realistic human models? More to the point, why are there so few of these animals in the city. The only ones you see are the Sonic characters themselves, making them stick out even more. Seriously, it’s like a freak show whenever they’re on screen. The two art styles just don’t mix and the game is often jarring because of that fact. Even more damning is the fact that less effort was put into the human characters, making them bland, undetailed messes next to the polished Sonic characters.

There’s also a ton of pop in present in the game. I remember one point playing as Knuckles. I was gliding around looking for where I needed to go. Instead, I was lost in a maze of pop in like I’ve never seen. I couldn’t tell where I was in relation to where I had been. It was a problem. Don’t even get me started on the fact that lips don’t match words, Sonic’s freaky facial animations, or how Tails’ tails work.

At the time, the game was definitely on a higher technical level than games on Playstation and N64. The models were cleaner and the textures superior. However, by today’s standards, there are better looking PS3 games. This is just a port. Don’t expect and visual upgrade whatsoever.

Audio

I seem to remember this game getting a lot of praise for its audio. Perhaps I’m wrong, but if not, I worry about people’s taste a little.

I will say that any of the instrumental themes are pretty nice. It is just that so many of the songs have singing. The problem is that the lyrics are god awful and most of the vocals are even worse. In particular, I’ll die happy if I never have to hear the themes for Tails, Knuckles, or Big the Cat ever again. The funny thing was that I got to hear a wordless version of Sonic’s theme during a racing event, and found it quite enjoyable.

The voice acting is almost universally bad. I nearly cried when I found out that Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem, also played Big the Cat. Big is without a doubt the worst of the bunch, and is perhaps the only truly terrible voice in the bunch. The rest are bad, but they aren’t on that level. I found Knuckles to have the best voice and one that I could actually stand. It was a sign of the times. Voice acting in console games was still relatively new back then, and there weren’t very many examples of quality work. It goes to show you how far we’ve come.

The sound effects are mostly classic Sonic the Hedgehog sounds. From collecting the rings to the sound of jumps, everything is authentic and fits the game perfectly. It is the one part of the audio experience that I actually enjoyed.

Gameplay

Sonic Adventure is a 3D action platformer from the late nineties. You should know just from that fact that the game has some issues. Still, there are several games that manage to stand the test of time. Why doesn’t this game?

For starters, the camera is atrocious. The Dreamcast didn’t have a second analog stick, so camera control was relegated to the shoulder buttons. When the camera is directly behind you, this can work. However, in most situations, you’ll find the camera controls either too sluggish or nonexistent. This is particularly damning in a boss fight, where I ran right into an electrified fence because I couldn’t see it. The camera also has a tendency to get caught on random objects, or put itself on the other side of the wall. There were other occasions where the camera jerked to a new angle mid jump and caused me to fall to an early death. Things like that happen, but in this game, they are the rule rather than the exception.

The controls leave much to be desired as well. Moving and jumping is easy enough thankfully. Moving the stick in any direction moves the character, and you’ll jump higher the longer you hold the button. The problem comes in the attack button. For some asinine reason, they assigned the same function to two different buttons. That wouldn’t be a problem so much if they didn’t have attack, pick up object, and talk to NPC all on the same button! With Sonic, who dashes with a normal press, it becomes way too easy to zoom away instead of talking to another character. Other times, you’ll be trying pick up an object and end up running off of a cliff. You have to get your angle perfectly and make sure you’re not moving at all in order to perform the correct action. Why couldn’t they have made a single attack button and set the other one for such secondary functions? I don’t know, but it makes for a frustrating gameplay experience.

You get to play as six different characters in the game, which is pretty sweet. Each has their own twists. Sonic has straight up action stages, Tails races either Sonic or Eggman to the end, Knuckles searches for emerald shards, E-102 has a timer that you must add time to by killing enemies, Amy runs from a killer robot, and Big fishes. Even more diverse are their move sets. Sonic dashes, Tails flies, Knuckles punches his way up walls and glides, Amy wields a giant hammer, E-102 fires homing missiles, and Big….fishes. I enjoy the diversity, but it creates a clear pecking order in terms of quality. Sonic, being the main character, has a story that lasts as long as the other five combined. He gets more stages, boss fights, and cut scenes. Amy, however, is a side story at best, making her levels a chore to play and extremely frustrating. Big….fishes. Seriously, why did Sega decide that there needed to be a fishing mini-game in the middle of a Sonic game? More to the point, the fishing sucks thanks to an awful camera that makes it impossible to tell what direction the damn fish is going. Anyway, enough about fishing.

Each character’s story is presented through two different phases. You have the adventure field and action stages. When you’re in the adventure field, there are no enemies to worry about, and the name of the game is explorations. Floating red orbs give you hits about where you need to go, and you’ll often have to find items or bring a key to a door. New areas open up as your progress, and there are secrets to find in the way of extra lives and hidden emblems that the game keeps track of. The goal is to find the next action stage, where you need to complete the level type associated with your selected character. Sonic needs to reach the end of the level, Knuckles must find three emerald shards, etc. The adventure field is a bit of a miss because of vague hints and the occasional moments where you’ll be lost as to what to do, but as an overworld to connect the stages, it works well enough. I personally don’t prefer this method for a Sonic game, but it does what it’s trying to.

The game works best when you’re zipping through a level, or during some of the larger scale boss fights. For several characters, the sense of speed is an absolute thrill. It’s when the game slows down due to camera issues or an ill timed puzzle requiring you to pick up and move objects that you realize how poor the overall experience is. If these issues don’t bother you too much, you’ll find the game enjoyable. Otherwise, lower your expectations before playing.

Replayability

With six characters and the sixty missions included with the DX content, you’d think there would be a ton of replay value to this game. In practice, the amount of time you get will depend on how much you want to hunt for emblems and replay action stages.

The problem arises in how short the game is. Completing the story mode from start to finish took about ten hours, and that is counting a good half an hour spent looking around for the next stage. Levels themselves often take a couple of minutes. Like I said before, Sonic’s adventure was as long as the others combined, meaning most of them can be completed in less than an hour.

The missions had some ups and downs. Some require you to grind for rings or work out vague clues. Others involve fun obstacle course like objectives. Either way, they don’t take long to complete either. From there, you have the option to replay stages in the Trial mode to try and increase your score or earn emblems.

Overall, the game isn’t likely to last you more than fifteen hours, which given the amount of content the game has on paper, is kind of disappointing. However, it certainly has more staying power than a lot of similar games out there, and the fact that you have some variety in terms of character use goes a long way from making this a one and done game all together.

Balance

On one hand, the game is frustrating, thus perhaps making some think the game is hard. However, the game’s most frustrating moment’s come from shoddy controls rather than a good difficulty curve.

To be blunt, the game is easy. You can avoid most enemies by jumping over them at top speed. Most bosses can be defeated long before they ever get an attack off. I had problems with only one boss in the entire game, and the only reason I found him hard was because of some odd choices in terms of layout and attack patterns. Basically, you had to know exactly how to fight him or you’d fall to your death. Levels are short and linear, making it hard to get lost or stuck. Since enemies are killed in one shot and there are plenty of rings to keep you alive lying around, you won’t die very often except for camera issues.

I will say that the game does throw more at you as you go. The number of enemies in a section increase dramatically from one level to the next, and annoying obstacles hide at every corner. If the developers were trying to kill you off, they didn’t succeed. If, however, they wanted to make sure you took plenty of hits and thus had very few rings, they pulled it off.

Originality

This is a port of a twelve year old game. Apart from online leaderboards, it offers no new content, nor does it attempt to improve upon the game with something like shinier visuals. There is no originality here, though there may have been some when the game first came out.

Addictiveness

Were it not for my strong desire to get through the game for review purposes, I sincerely doubt I would have bothered playing this game for more than a couple of hours. I know I sound like a broken record, but the camera issues often make the game a chore to play. When I got stuck trying to figure out what to do in adventure mode, the game was all too happy to let me stay that way, making this an easy game to put down.

Without compelling story elements or gameplay mechanics, the game isn’t one that will keep you hooked. The game also doesn’t evolve as you play, so there is a sameness to everything you do for a character. Sure, you get new moves on occasion, but they aren’t useful in most situations. You’ll rely on the same tactics for the last level as you did the first. Run fast, avoid enemies, and collect rings. It gets old quite honestly.

Appeal Factor

For the casual fan, this game doesn’t hold much interest. We’ve been hearing for years how 3D Sonic games suck and this game isn’t likely to change minds on that regard. A ten dollar price point doesn’t help matters here either.

I take that back. Ten dollars only gets you Sonic Adventure. If you want the Missions and the ability to play as Metal Sonic, you need to spend another five dollars for the DX upgrade. It pretty much seems like a dick move designed to bleed money out of gamers who want the full content.

For people who played the original game and want to relive the experience, this might do if you can live with the price. As I said before, if the gameplay issues didn’t bother you the first time, they aren’t likely to do so now.

Basically, only diehard Sonic and Dreamcast fans need apply.

Miscellaneous

One of the “bonuses” the game includes is trophies. Getting the DX content adds some more, but they end up being identical to some of the trophies in the original, basically bribing players into buying the DX content with double trophies. The only gold trophy the game offers is also only for players who purchased the option. It’s another dick move, really.

While it is nice that they are starting to offer Dreamcast classics as downloadable games, I wish they would either offer some improvements or lower the price a bit. Ten to fifteen dollars might not seem too much, but when you consider the age of the game you’re getting, it feels like nothing more than a lame attempt to rob you of your money. At the very least, some control redesigns and/or updated visuals would soften the blow.

Basically put, no matter how curious I was about this title, there is no way I would have paid for it outright, especially since they could have just offered Sonic Adventure DX as one title instead of splitting the content up like they did.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Poor
Audio: Below Average
Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Below Average
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary

Calling Sonic Adventure DX a bad game would be a disservice. For the time, the game did a lot of things right in terms of finding a way to capture Sonic’s speed in 3D and offering a variety of characters to play as. However, the game doesn’t hold up well like a true classic. The controls are odd, the camera is abysmal, and the voice acting is offensive. If you like the game despite these flaws, you’ll find plenty to love, just don’t let nostalgia cloud your eyes too much. This is a game for fans only.

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One Comment
  1. Steven Kess

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