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RTTP: On Sonic Adventure, youth, bridges, and beautiful messes

Guess Who

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Oct 21, 2012
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Lately I've been replaying the original Sonic Adventure, particularly thanks to the work of some wonderful modders who have completely overhauled the PC version of the game to be dramatically better (and, not coincidentally, more like the original Dreamcast release). I've always liked the original Sonic Adventure way more than its sequel. Yes, Adventure 2 is indisputably the ”objectively" better game, whatever that means. It's tighter, more focused, with better controls and less padding and blah blah. It executes on what it sets out to do much better than the original game does.

I just don't like it as much.

If I'm totally honest here, I actually prefer Sonic Adventure to Super Mario 64, too. I suspect that, upon reaching that sentence, some people might just check out of reading any further, but bear with me here. Many people would just leave their opinions at that - beauty's in the eye of the beholder, art's subjective, and so on. Still, I'm too invested (for better or worse) in the Sonic franchise not to interrogate my feelings about this, to figure out why I feel that way. Is it just nostalgia? Console war favoritism? What on Earth do I see in this game?



For the longest time, I don't think I knew the answer either. I'd replayed the game quite a few times over the years (primarily through the unmodified PC release of Sonic Adventure DX) and thought it didn't hold up all that well, and, well, it still doesn't in many ways. During this latest replay, though, I've come to appreciate what it does right, or at the very least, the things it does that appeal to me specifically. Maybe being able to recreate that wonderful Dreamcast-y aesthetic just made it click for me in a way it didn't before.

First and foremost, Sonic Adventure is ambitious as hell. Not content to be ”just" a platformer, it was also a racing game, and a treasure hunting game, and a shooter, and a fishing game, and a snowboarding game, and a virtual pet simulator, and a Panzer Dragoon knockoff. I'm sure I don't have to tell you it wasn't actually good at being all these things, but it shot for the moon even if it often missed. There's a charm to games with ambitions this high even if they fail, something immensely human about them. Some of my favorite works of art in multiple mediums fall in this category. Persona 5 is a recent example - through all the stilted dialogue, tonal dissonance and sometimes glacial pacing, you can still tell that a team of people put every bit of themselves into making something they thought was bold, daring, and powerful. That's not to say Sonic Adventure is remotely as good a game as P5, just that for all its glaring flaws, you can tell it was a labor of love at its core.


One of the defining aspects of Adventure that its sequel completely abandoned were its proto-open-world Adventure Fields, a change most people probably consider for the better. As an adult, I can look at the Adventure Fields and see how barren and empty they are, how needlessly labryinthine that damn jungle is, how often confusing it is to figure out what you need to do or where you need to go to actually get to the next level. Here's the thing, though: Adventure wasn't made for adult me. It was made for kid me.

Sometimes I think discussion about games (especially on GAF) becomes a little too faux-objective - grounded in notions that there are provably ”good" games and ”bad" games, with Metacritic scores and armchair game theory thrown around as Indisputable Facts. These Adventure Fields serve so little gameplay purpose! They just waste your time! And that's all true, but as a kid, I genuinely didn't give a shit. My time was free to be wasted as much as the game wanted to waste it, and I enjoyed it anyway. Adventure was designed for an era when a kid didn't have endless supplies of free-to-play games on their iPad (and when adults didn't have Steam backlogs worth more than the balance of their checking account). It was made for a kid who got a Dreamcast and two games for Christmas, and one of those games was Sonic Adventure.

When you're a kid, you don't care that it's confusing to figure out where to go, because you just wander around endlessly doing every little dumb thing you can until you hit upon the next part of the story. And that's, really, the way the game was made to be played, not zipping from one level to the next. If you do that, you miss out on so many little details.


For instance - and forgive me, Sonic fans reading this, for some of this may be common knowledge to you - did you know you can unlock Big early by going to Station Square at a point in the story where you're in (and have no real reason to leave) the Mystic Ruins? In fact, because of the way the game tells six overlapping stories across its multiple characters, you'll often run into other characters during their stories if you go out of your way to find them. Did you follow the little NPC story of the train workers striking for better working conditions, and how this delays a young girl at the station from reuniting with her dad? How often did you chat up Mr. Know-it-All? Where can I buy one of those maid robots cleaning the Egg Carrier? Some of the upgrades can only be found through random exploration, too - did you ever find Knuckles's yellow gloves?

None of this stuff has any real gameplay importance, but as a dumb kid, that stuff's still super interesting to you, and you will seek it out just because it's something to do with this game you're playing... and that's a totally valid way to design a game. Not every game has to subscribe to some Unified Theory of Ideal Game Design. A game designed like this probably won't be something an adult with limited free time will find compelling, but that's okay. (On a related note, this kind of thinking is also precisely why the game tries to be so many different kinds of games - imagine how much replay value a kid gets out of having so many different game modes!)

Just as importantly, though, having an ”open world" like this gives the game a sense of scale and life, even if that sense is a bit illusory. Day and night cycles shift as you progress through the game. NPCs have small stories that unfold as you go if you care to talk to them. Other characters can go check the Master Emerald now and then to see how far along Knuckles has gotten in restoring it. This all seems so quaint and expected now, but for a 3D platformer in 1998, this was compelling and different. Mario 64 had a castle, but that castle never felt alive - it was just a hub, more or less. Sonic Adventure had a world.

I remember, when I was a kid, I was fascinated with the parking garage entrance in the hotel in Station Square.


Those cars are going in and out all the time! There's got to be a way for me to get in, right? Can I jump on top of a car and ride in? Maybe it'll open at some other point in the story? Well, spoiler alert: you never get into that garage. There's nothing there. But as a kid, I always wondered. Years later, I watched the Run Button Let's Play of Sonic Adventure, and was incredibly amused when they talked about that garage. They joked about how they wanted to go in there as a kid, too, and made a running gag of checking the garage to see if it was opened throughout the story. Completely independently, thousands of miles apart, this game created this weird little shared experience between me and a pair of guys I've never met.

Sometimes the best game design is accidental. Sometimes even the simplest shit can endear you to a game.

Sonic fans often divide the series into two fairly distinct halves, ”classic" and ”modern", with Sonic Adventure most commonly cited as the dividing line between the two. This is where all the characters underwent their ”modern" redesigns, where Sonic started walking among normal human beings, where we started hearing buttrock character themes and battling ancient evils and getting overloaded with new playable characters. That's a very one-sided way to look at the game, though. From another angle, it's the finale of the ”classic Sonic" era. The truth, though, is that it's a bridge between the two.


Adventure doesn't get enough credit for how much of it is grounded in the heritage of the Genesis/Mega Drive games, especially compared to what came after. As a kid who grew up with a Genesis and all of the original Sonic titles for it, the original Sonic Adventure truly felt like an evolution of that series. Adventure 2, on the other hand, felt nearly like a reboot, with the only notable references to past Sonic games being a few ultimately meaningless nods to the the first Adventure (and a painfully hidden Green Hill remake to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the franchise). Where Adventure 2 stuffed the vast majority of the enemies with ”Chaos Drives", every enemy in the original releases a cute animal from captivity when destroyed. Adventure 2 explored hidden military vaults, prison complexes, urban streets, and abandoned space stations; Adventure took you through spiraling pathways in the sky, into a volcano where weird hoop-folk are imprisoned, a rollercoaster theme park with a race track and bowling alley, and of course, a pinball-laden casino (this time with a sewer-y underbelly). SA2 has goal rings, SA1 has the classic capsules. SA2 jumps make a ”whooshing" noise, SA1 has a classic-style jump sound. You get the idea.

This extends to the story too. While Chaos is the first of many ”prehistoric evil" enemies Sonic would later face (like Iblis and Dark Gaia), Chaos is unique in that his backstory is based in classic Sonic lore. The entire story of the ancient echidna race and their possession of the Chaos and Master Emeralds is really just building on the Master Emerald and Floating Island lore originally established in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Tails's backstory of being an insecure and bullied kid who found strength in Sonic was established in the manual of Sonic 2, but is turned into a character arc in Adventure where he moves past his insecurities and dependence on Sonic to find his own strength. In Sonic CD, Amy fawns over Sonic and clings to him obsessively even when he's clearly uninterested; in Adventure, she realizes Sonic doesn't respect her and finds the resolve to move on. Gamma's story, indisputably the best in the game, is a weird, bittersweet tragedy centered around the premise of the whole franchise - Eggman is taking animals and putting them into robots.


I'm being very kind to the game here, so I know what you might be thinking. All this theoretically interesting story stuff is, of course, majorly kneecapped by the fact that the voice acting, script, and choreography are all totally laughable. You're right, but that's not what I'm here to talk about, dammit! If you want to hear complaints about all the dumb things Sonic Adventure does wrong (and, in fairness, there are many), there are plenty of those articles and forum posts out there. I'm here to spread good vibes about this weird and fascinating game.

Speaking of good vibes, check this music:

Be Cool, Be Wild and Be Groovy ...for Icecap

People associate Sonic Adventure with the start of the ”buttrock" era of Sonic, and it's hard to deny that there's some of that in there, particularly with the game's main theme and Sonic's character theme. Still, there's a ton of variety in the soundtrack that people have forgotten about. Crunchy guitars were key to the game's sound signature, yes, but there was so much more to it. If anything, a lot of the game's music practically borders on ska with a touch of funk, with tons of horn sections and the occasional saxophone, plus some quirky synths mixed in for good measure (especially for Eggman-themed stages like Hot Shelter and Final Egg). But the score can set a darker tone when it wants to, with moodier pieces like Gamma's piano-and-synth character theme or Lost World's foreboding string sections and tribal percussion.

Frankly, Sega's sound team in the late 90s and early 2000s was untouchable. Actually, they're still pretty good to this day, even if some of the greats like Hideki Naganuma and Fumie Kumatani are no longer with the company. At a time when competing platformers sounded like this or this or even this, Sonic Adventure's music was vibrant, fresh, and bold in a way that none of its competitors came remotely close to.

Graphically, the game has undoubtedly aged, but not as poorly as you might think. The art direction carries the game fairly well, though everything is naturally fairly low-poly and low-res by today's standards. This is actually where I'd like to talk more about those mods I've been playing with, because for the past 14 years or so, the version of Sonic Adventure most people are familiar with is the Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut rerelease originally made for the Nintendo GameCube. Versions of this port have also made their way to the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC (twice), so it's far more widespread than the original Dreamcast release.

The problem is, this version looks like shit.

The changes that version made to the original game aren't all bad - hey, characters have individual fingers now! - but on the whole, it does a serious disservice to the game. The lighting system from the original game was gutted and replaced with a new one that is flatter, duller, and sucks all the atmosphere out of places like Final Egg. Many levels and areas had their color palettes dulled, and redesigned to just look plain uglier. Only the hardcore Sonic fans ever noticed this, though, because who bought a Dreamcast? And even among those who did, who played the Dreamcast and DX versions close enough together to notice the difference? They look similar enough at a surface level.

I mentioned there's a PC version, though, and you know what that means - mods! The Sonic fandom has always been blessed with a thriving and incredibly talented mod community, and I'd like to give a well-deserved shoutout to a few of them including MainMemory, SonicFreak94/Morph, and PkR for their wonderful work on both mods and mod tools for the game. Not only can you play SADX with the original Dreamcast textures and object layouts restored, but they've even reverse engineered and reimplemented an entire lighting system used in the original Dreamcast release and cut from the DX version. The differences are pretty dramatic (left is the vanilla PC version, right is with Dreamcast-style mods):


It's a god damn crime that the version of this game Sega sells today is so dramatically worse than the one they released in 1999. If you are ever interested in revisiting Sonic Adventure, I can't recommend these mods enough. It's not just lighting and textures either. There are other graphical effects restored, like the waves caused by the dolphin in the Dreamcast release's Emerald Coast that were replaced with a simple gelatin-esque bobbing of the water in SADX:



Perhaps some of these sacrifices were made in SADX to help raise the framerate, which was 30fps with drops on the Dreamcast and 60fps with drops on the GameCube. Still, those changes have also carried over into versions running on much more powerful hardware that's more than capable of rendering all the bells and whistles at high framerates. It's a shame that the DX version of the game is how Sonic Adventure will probably be remembered, due to being more widely available on more successful platforms.

Putting aside graphical fidelity, though, the main thing the game brings to the table visually is the god damn spectacle. For 1998, Sonic Adventure was a visual tour de force, with stunning setpieces and wild level design flair. As an audio-visual experience, this game was Sega at its creative peak, firing on all cylinders to make a game no other company could. The level design loves to fling you far above the stage so you can admire how expansive the level designs were for the time, and stages twist and turn and turn to bring classic Sonic's loops and slopes forward into vertigo-inducing three dimensional rollercoasters. There was nothing else like it.




There was another aspect to Sonic Adventure that goes practically forgotten in this day and age, and that's the internet connectivity. No version of the game after the Dreamcast had this, and as you might expect, you can't really use these features on that version anymore either. I was recently delighted to find, however, that someone has kept a mirror of the original Sonic Adventure website. This is exactly what you would get if you accessed the ”Internet" option in the main menu of the original game.

I still remember hooking my Dreamcast up to the internet for the first time. With a 56k modem, it was actually faster than the 33.6k connection my old Compaq had. I have so many memories associated with the online features of this game (and the Dreamcast in general) that are nearly impossible to recreate now. I remember getting stuck on the Chaos 4 boss fight and learning how to beat it from the Guide. I remember downloading people's Chao from the Daycare, and being blown away at how much better they were than mine. To be fair, some people used a Chao Editor program developed to run on your VMU that could modify your chat's stats however you wished. Yes, even in 2000, people had made homebrew for the VMU. The official #sonic IRC channel was also my first exposure to IRC, and the birthplace of my earliest real internet handle which I shall leave unnamed out of embarassment. On a less personal note, the site was also home to DLC downloads. DLC! In a console game from 1998! There were extra Twinkle Circuit courses, holiday events taking place in Station Square, and even some promotional in-game challenges for companies like AT&T and Adidas. None of this content is fully accessible in any modern release of the game, though thankfully, that hasn't stopped modders from working to bring it back. Does anyone else remember that AT&T-sponsored Knuckles time attack competition?

It's such a bummer to me, honestly, that so many people today are so immensely dismissive of Sonic Adventure. If I think about it, it's not hard to imagine reasons why. The Sonic franchise has worked very hard over the years to burn away all its goodwill. History is written by the victors, and the Dreamcast was not a victor. The version of the game that predominantly lives on today is inferior in many ways to the original release. There's plenty of aspects of the game that haven't aged well - the controls are loose, walls and floors often only exist in a state of temporal flux, most of the voice acting and cutscenes are awful (but hell, that's true of a lot of classics people still love), and Big the Cat will always be Big the Cat.

I'm writing this because in whatever small way I can, I want to fight back against a prevailing narrative that Sonic Adventure is some irredeemable pile of shit, best relegated to the dustbins of history along with Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog. By no means it is a flawless game, but it's a game with a tremendous amount of heart and talent poured into it. It broke new ground in its time in so many ways - the soundtrack holds up to this very day, the visuals dripped with style and helped usher in the 128-bit era, it supported DLC and online save-data sharing in a world before broadband was mainstream, and the game's boundless aspirations tried to bridge platformer gameplay with an RPG-style world and dabbled in more genres than the designers could reasonably juggle.

I mentioned earlier that I like Sonic Adventure over Super Mario 64, and I stand by that. Of course SM64 is a more competent game, with tighter controls, more clever platforming, and none of the janky glitches and ridiculous cutscenes that plague Sonic Adventure. I don't blame anyone for preferring it for those reasons alone. But I'll be damned if it isn't more boring. I joked to a friend recently that Mario is Disney - it's incredibly polished and accessible, with the best titles being masterpieces and even the lesser titles being at least competent. Almost anyone can love Disney. Sonic, though, is anime. Anime can be an absolute mess, with huge variations in quality and tons of elements that are horribly off-putting to the mass market. Many people will struggle to ever see the good in it. At its best, though, it's deeply ambitious and dares to make artistic choices mass-market media never would.

Personally, I'll always prefer a beautiful mess to plain perfection.
 

Nicky Ali

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Mar 17, 2014
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I absolutely hated the DX version too. It's just offensively inferior, but everyone always goes to that one first because that's the one that was re-released.

I still love Sonic Adventure, warts and all.
 

Zafir

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May 11, 2011
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I remember being irritated how lazy the HD re-release was. Like they didn't even bother making it so it rendered the extra geometry for widescreen, which is kind of a standard for most 3D re-releases. Good job they learned that lesson with SA2.

Nice to know about the PC mods though, didn't realise those existed. Wouldn't mind replaying it at some point.
 

RRockman

Banned
May 19, 2016
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Fantastic Read OP. Thanks for taking the time to put it on page, cause I agree with everything you'very posted. Especially how adventure was the link between classic and modern.
 

Ferr986

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Oct 6, 2012
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MY MAN! My friggin man!

I too followed carefuly the NPC stories, and even that garage lol It is right, as a kid, I was fascinated about the hub world and all the "Adventure" stuff the game had. I agree with everything, including SA1 feeling like classic Sonic sequel instead of reboot.

I do still think SA1 is better than 2, not just because of these things, I do thing levels are better designed in 1.

This is a very flawed game that I can't help but have a lot of fun while playing (unlike 2).
 

ChrisG683

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Mar 12, 2012
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Holy crap, you wrote much more than I expected and it was a delightful read.

You summed up so many of my feelings on SA1 and more, and you also brought to light how bad the PC port is, I had now idea. I bought the game in a Steam sale bundle with the intent of playing again later sometime, thank you for informing me about the mods to avoid that trainwreck of a visual shitpile in the vanilla version.

One of your comments particularly resonated with me:

These Adventure Fields serve so little gameplay purpose! They just waste your time! And that’s all true, but as a kid, I genuinely didn’t give a shit. My time was free to be wasted as much as the game wanted to waste it, and I enjoyed it anyway. Adventure was designed for an era when a kid didn’t have endless supplies of free-to-play games on their iPad (and when adults didn’t have Steam backlogs worth more than the balance of their checking account). It was made for a kid who got a Dreamcast and two games for Christmas, and one of those games was Sonic Adventure.

This so much, in some ways it was a blessing not being bombarded by so many AAA titles every day, it really allowed you to sit down and appreciate the few games you did have and share memories with others, because everyone else played the same games.
 

Neff

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Feb 6, 2012
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I'd never put Sonic Adventure over Super Mario 64 in a million years, it's not even close imo.

But 'beautiful mess' describes Sonic Adventure pretty much perfectly. It's an incredible game despite its (many) issues, and I'll always love it.
 

andymcc

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Dec 17, 2007
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I too love this game in spite of its glaring flaws.

Just a tremendous amount of inseparable nostalgia.
 

NinjaCoachZ

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This is a great writeup and you managed to articulate why no matter what, as flawed as the Adventure games are, I will still always consider them extremely special, and nothing can ever take away the sheer feeling of excitement and wonder I had playing them for the first time. Reading this honestly made me smile and even nod my head as if thoughts I'd always felt subconsciously, but never really expressed, were being taken right out of me. Thank you.
 

SciencePilot

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Apr 11, 2010
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Great write-up and really articulate. Thank you.

I haven't played Sonic Adventure for a long, long time, but I loved it as a kid, and the reasons you wrote really resonated with me.

Too often we are cynical about the games we play. I find a lot of value in taking care to appreciate what is fun in a game, even if on the whole it doesn't measure up to gamers' objective metrics. There are a lot of interesting and unique experiences out there if you have the right mindset to appreciate them.
 

Sophia

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Feb 8, 2008
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Interesting, so this is what you were doing with Sonic Adventure, Guess....

I didn't know about that mod tho. I'm gonna give it a shot right now as soon as Sonic Adventure DX is done downloading off Steam.
 

SatoAilDarko

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Mar 3, 2013
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I really loved the interlocking plot. How every character would come in and out of every story.

I really wish another video game would attempt something like this. I really loved the six different characters all going through their own parallel story.

Also Chaos was Cell from Dragon Ball. I like how Knuckles was badass in this and fought Chaos 2, 4 and 6. Before Shadow came along and with all about the Hedgehogs.

This image is so true:
 

Haly

One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee.
Oct 10, 2006
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E-102's route was more emotionally charged than the entirety of SA2.
 

Guess Who

Banned
Oct 21, 2012
10,409
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E-102's route was more emotionally charged than the entirety of SA2.

It’s striking how much better E-102’s story is handled than the rest of the game, or Shadow’s somewhat similar character arc in SA2. For that story alone, the writers learned what “subtlety” and “show, don’t tell” mean.
 

NinjaCoachZ

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I really loved the interlocking plot. How every character would come in and out of every story.

I really wish another video game would attempt something like this. I really loved the six different characters all going through their own parallel story.

I always really liked how there were subtle differences in how events unfolded, and often total differences in the dialogue, based on which character's story it was. I loved as a kid having the idea that it like a story told by multiple different people and their different perspectives coloured how they told it. Just like Rashomon years before I learned what that was.
 
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Honestly, my love for Super Mario 64 is what helped me appreciate this game, when I finally played it earlier this year. I find it funny how I enjoy them for similar reasons, but they approach 3D translation of their gameplay in completely different ways. While Mario 64 takes many liberties and forms its own style of play, the Sonic stages of Adventure, in my opinion, get the closest to recreating the 2D Sonic feel out of all the 3D installments. I love how levels are large and interconnected, despite their linearity. The best stages are a playground for Sonic's physics, which is what I enjoy the most in a Sonic title. I found both good and bad during my playthrough, but by the end of it, I couldn't help but go back and thoroughly explore all of the Sonic stages. I'm also planning to revisit it sometime next year, with the Dreamcast visuals modded in. Not a perfect game, not even close, but it's still a great experience.
 

gabelsqt

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You got me OP. I'm redownloading the game now, I can't believe I played it without this mod so far.
 

Sciz

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This is basically everything I'd ever want to say about this game.

It was built to be the pride and joy of an entire company, their reintroduction to the home console market after a generation of aimlessness, and the end result oozes passion from every angle, for all its flaws.

All of the games that followed in its footsteps are so much more pedestrian by comparison.
 
Sep 11, 2011
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I'm being very kind to the game here, so I know what you might be thinking. All this theoretically interesting story stuff is, of course, majorly kneecapped by the fact that the voice acting, script, and choreography are all totally laughable. You're right, but that's not what I'm here to talk about, dammit! If you want to hear complaints about all the dumb things Sonic Adventure does wrong (and, in fairness, there are many), there are plenty of those articles and forum posts out there. I'm here to spread good vibes about this weird and fascinating game.
First off, great OP! I really enjoy this personal and detailed take on the game.

To me, right now, it seems like you're saying this game's "objectively" worse more as a shield to deter drive-by posters from derailing all this into a generic "Sonic sucks" thread. (Correct me if I'm assuming too much.) I think the most essential part of SA1—playing Sonic's levels with good pacing, variety, and multiple paths worth exploring even just for a bit—still works well, and wasn't bad or just decent in the first place. Only Sky Rail gets on my nerves these days, and that still has some appeal with its ridiculous set-pieces and puzzling. Sonic's stages in SA1 both rival and outperform what SA2 offers, and the controls match the level design just as much in the sequel (which is to say that, yes, camera placement and lack of control still hurts). And elements like the music, more colorful art-style and SEGA blue skies (I still love the Ark though), and Rashomon-style premises and details keep things interesting. SA2(B) mainly just gives me a better way to raise Chao, and I'm grateful for that in both games.

I think it's worth getting on sale just for the Sonic route, and the epilogue's really not worth suffering through Big and Amy to reach. But I also enjoy Tails, Knuckles, and Gamma partly because they're short but sweet variations on the main play-style. Gamma also has that simple, parsimonious story which delivers a compelling theme or two without overstaying its welcome. That's pretty much the one time Sonic Team told a good tale well since 1998. Just having the other characters and experiments shows how much Sonic Team wanted to make a thorough sampler of what players could experience on the Dreamcast.

For anyone seeking an improved SA1 experience, get the Steam version, hook up BetterSADX and the Dreamcast rollback mod, then (after disabling the main-characters model mod, IIRC) load the Windy Valley Beta for a really cool recreation of that stage. The 3rd part was way more fun to explore and run through before Sonic Team scrapped it for the linear showcase we already know. Now I feel like installing the game again and spin-dashing across Windy Valley Beta like a madman.

I really loved the interlocking plot. How every character would come in and out of every story.
Ys Origin does this with half as many playable characters. It's not an uncommon idea in video games, but has become less viable due to either focusing resources and dev time on one path or trying not to get accused of recycling content between routes.
 

MrCunningham

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Sonic Adventure will always be a mixed bag for me. It is not a completely awful game, as it does have some pretty cool level design and there are moments where the game is fun. But I just can't get past the jankiness of it. Graphically, it still looks all right, but the game engine itself always felt rather shaky to me. Weak fidgety analog controls, clunky camera, loads of collision problems. I find it to be a bit fundamentally broken at its core in some ways, I feel like if this game had a bit more Q&A they probably could have fixed some of the flaws. The music is alright, I preferred the soundtrack over Sonic Adventure 2's.

Overall, I don't hate the game, but it is not one of my favorites for the Dreamcast.

Also, I feel obligated to post this here...


This is Sonic Adventure: Limited Edition, which is something I purchased over a decade ago for the sticker price seen on the case. This is something I owned in my collection for a long time now, and I had no Idea was worth anything until recently (over the last few years).
 
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I remember playing this game for the first time around a friends, we got through the first two levels really easily... and then we took 57 minutes to beat casinopolis because we sucked at pinball and kept getting hit in the garbage chutes.

I know Big gets a lot of flack for his fishing gameplay, but I always found Amy's the weakest overall, in fact it feels like it's not even done, it looks like they were trying to make a stealth based gameplay around having to avoid Zero... but Zero himself doesn't really seem like an active threat most of the time with his really slow arm grab move, it feels like it should be an instant lose situation if does catch you (You got caught after all) but no, you just lose your on hand rings. Having the least amount of levels in the game as well at 3 makes me feel it was a last minute addition to the game to.

Sonic's gameplay is by far the best but I always liked Gamma's story the most. Omega is still a fun equivalent whenever he shows up in the series.

I want to say I spent ages on the Chao, but I just ported over my Chao from Sonic Adventure 2 to dominate in this game instead.
 

Village

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Jan 21, 2013
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There are some graphical and just choices in gneral in regards to dx that are upsetting.

Also Chaos was Cell from Dragon Ball. I like how Knuckles was badass in this and fought Chaos 2, 4 and 6. Before Shadow came along and with all about the Hedgehogs.

This image is so true:
Nah
Shadow is 17
The biolizard is cell...well before the alien stuff.

Before it was revealed shadow is half symbiote shadow and his whole deal being a cell ark reference was pretty obvious. Down to the dr's name

Dr. Gero
Dr. Gerald Robotnik

His personaly falls way closer to 17 than vegeta. Silver is hella trunks though. Apperently during development they referenced trunks by name when regarding silver.

Also team dark is litterally 16 17 and 18 with their dynamic.
 

Diablohead

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Jun 4, 2006
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Still own my pal launch day disc, 1999 was special and I loved every moment of my dreamcast days.
 

G0523

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Amazing OP! I absolutely love how you describe everything about the game that is good and even point out how and why the GameCube version stumbled so much. I wish Sega would let the mods who developed BetterSADX have them put out a version of this for current-gen consoles.

Funnily enough, I'm playing through the game again as well since it became backwards compatible on Xbox One last week, and after seeing your OP, I wish I was playing that instead. At the very least having a widescreen presentation for the game shouldn't have been a question when it was ported to 360/PS3 in 2011.

You definitely nailed why it was so much better to play as the first 3D Sonic game back in 1999. It definitely felt more like a big-budget, throw-everything-at-it sequel to the Genesis games and retained its roots much better than any other Sonic game that tried to go "back to their roots." They understood why the art style, music, and overall feel of the game is the way it is so well, and something just always felt off since then because they kept getting too focused on going darker and edgier.

Of course, Sonic Adventure isn't a perfect game. Far from it. But as a fellow Dreamcast kid, playing the game back in 1999 was a revolution for a Sonic fan like me.
 
Jan 7, 2009
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OP

I love you.

Beautifully written. I'd been wanting to make a RTTP recently, but you did it better than I could have possibly done. I agree with everything, but I also still consider the game legitimately fun and playable even today. GAF's cynical lens is far too harsh on this rollercoaster of a game for having "aged poorly." Well guess what? Every fucking 3D game from that era has aged poorly, if not worse, that includes Mario 64. SA seems like the only game everyone and their mother ever points to for aging poorly. It sounds more like a meme than a legitimate statement with any meaning, considering how often it's thrown around.
 

Arkanius

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Jun 14, 2010
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This thread managed to explain what SA1 was for me
Thanks OP

The game was a lightning in a bottle for me as a kid. I have no desire to replay it because I know, I will hate it

Same with SA2. I will never replay it.
 

dlauv

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That PC mod is invaluable. You can even get Steam Achievements with it.

I was really enjoying the DC aesthetic.
 
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I have an immense amount of love for Sonic Adventure. Easily my second favorite Dreamcast game behind Shenmue and probably my third all time favorite Sonic game behind 3&K and Mania.

People always like to say "Yeah this game is awful now" or "it's an unplayable mess," but I can still pick it up today and have a ton of fun with it. Excellent, excellent writeup OP.
 

Sophia

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I think a big factor that works against Sonic Adventure is the fact that we're less accepting of technical issues now. The game has all these little flaws, mainly related to the camera, that work against it. Sonic Adventure 2, for all of it's own flaws, is slightly easier to play and less prone to issues.
 

openrob

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Feb 25, 2014
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Can I just leave this here.
https://youtu.be/0DizopdPMBw

I've written this before in more detail, but the Dreamcast carried me through that transition out of childhood. I love Sonic Adventure and revisiting it is like pulling out an old children's book of mine.

Oh and I did that dumb shit like standing on the cars as well OP.
 

Village

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I think a big factor that works against Sonic Adventure is the fact that we're less accepting of technical issues now. The game has all these little flaws, mainly related to the camera, that work against it. Sonic Adventure 2, for all of it's own flaws, is slightly easier to play and less prone to issues.
Yeah as a fan of these games theres a lot of shit nowadays that wouldn't fly.

Especially the tresure hunting sections in both games. And the in level transitions in one.
 

Sophia

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Yeah as a fan of these games theres a lot of shit nowadays that wouldn't fly.

Especially the tresure hunting sections in both games. And the in level transitions in one.

It's a shame too, because as Guess notes in the opening, there's some very cool stuff in Sonic Adventure. But it's frequently overshadowed.
 

Village

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It's a shame too, because as Guess notes in the opening, there's some very cool stuff in Sonic Adventure. But it's frequently overshadowed.
Yeah in 1 and especially in two there's a lot variant routes in speed sections that cam be found with power ups and some thought. The pwer ups in those games and how they functioned and were obtained were largely unique incentivised discovery and showed how versatility in depth the level design really was. Its so dissapointing in generations where you get to play sa levels and this is gone. In favor of being completely straightforward

I also like the idea if tails being badass mech pilot.
 

Man God

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Nov 2, 2007
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This game looked so amazing when you saw the demo kiosk if your local gamestore...and then you watched someone actually attempt to play the first level, which is a mess. Then you play the entire game and realize that might be one of the better levels polish wise. What a mess.
 

Triforce141

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Apr 6, 2015
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Contender for my top 5 favorite Sonics

This game has aged, but it's still got a certain kind of character and charm that resembles the Classic games every other 3D Sonic (except maybe Generations) never got.

It's also got great controls and level design that pushes you to go forward while still managing to have sizable areas to explore and not feel like a corridor

I still wait for the day 3D Sonics full on return to this formula with the occasional twitch based Boost level for the perfect balance



Edit: Oh yeah, how could I forget to mention the fantastic soundtrack?
 

SolVanderlyn

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Holy shit, what a beautiful thread. You so concisely summarized exactly what made this game amazing for its time. The past few years have seen it in the spotlight for aging poorly, but it is very easy to forget how standards and gaming habits were very different back then. I especially love how you touch on the fact that it kept the essence of classic Sonic while serving as a bridge to modern Sonic, because this is a sentiment I have always shared and never been able to articulate quite as well as you have. It is why I have been so disappointed the series devolved into episodic, Saturday morning cartoon stories - this is still the only game to get the balance of classic Sonic camp and a touch of a more serious story down. Sonic Adventure 2 still had the mojo, but it planted the seeds that would later grow into what we saw in Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 - the hyper-serious, darker, more realistic take on Sonic, presented without moderation, that only ever belonged in the series in tandem with its lighter, cartoonier aspects.

This is my favorite part of your OP.

One of the defining aspects of Adventure that its sequel completely abandoned were its proto-open-world Adventure Fields, a change most people probably consider for the better. As an adult, I can look at the Adventure Fields and see how barren and empty they are, how needlessly labryinthine that damn jungle is, how often confusing it is to figure out what you need to do or where you need to go to actually get to the next level. Here’s the thing, though: Adventure wasn’t made for adult me. It was made for kid me.

Sometimes I think discussion about games (especially on GAF) becomes a little too faux-objective - grounded in notions that there are provably “good” games and “bad” games, with Metacritic scores and armchair game theory thrown around as Indisputable Facts. These Adventure Fields serve so little gameplay purpose! They just waste your time! And that’s all true, but as a kid, I genuinely didn’t give a shit. My time was free to be wasted as much as the game wanted to waste it, and I enjoyed it anyway. Adventure was designed for an era when a kid didn’t have endless supplies of free-to-play games on their iPad (and when adults didn’t have Steam backlogs worth more than the balance of their checking account). It was made for a kid who got a Dreamcast and two games for Christmas, and one of those games was Sonic Adventure.

When you’re a kid, you don’t care that it’s confusing to figure out where to go, because you just wander around endlessly doing every little dumb thing you can until you hit upon the next part of the story. And that’s, really, the way the game was made to be played, not zipping from one level to the next. If you do that, you miss out on so many little details.

Absolutely spot on. 100% agree with everything else you said, too. 110%, even.
 

Ultimadrago

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Jan 19, 2012
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What I'd give for a Sonic game with the SPIRIT of Sonic Adventure (2) again. I feel that Sonic Team and time is long gone at this point. Sonic Mania was very good too though and I can ultimately live with that.

Damn, I don't even know what it feels like to look forward to a 3D Sonic anymore.

I also prefer it to Super Mario 64. I said it!
 

CanUKlehead

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Though I did only play as Sonic, and whilst I don't think it has aged well, I still remember being blown away by how fast things moved at top speed, wonky camera and all. 'Wow...even the camera can't keep up...', I'd tell myself, haha

And weirdly, I've had the Emerald Coast theme doing laps in my head a few times this week, lol

Still, the last Sonic game I cared to play and enjoyed until Mania, so there's that.
 

Elfforkusu

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May 4, 2007
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The things it was best at (graphics, music, novel 3D gameplay) have not aged well... with the exception of the OST, which still owns.

The problem is that the gameplay, while novel at the time, is wonky, glitchy, and generally prototype-y. Essentially everything it tried to do has now been done much better, by a variety of games that look much better, and often sound just as good. Creativity is great, but unless you execute on it, it can't really hold up over time. That's where SA1 has ended up, IMO.

But, FWIW, I feel the same way about Mario 64 in comparison to Mario Galaxy -- I think nostalgia goggles give lots of old games a free pass, and that's ok. SA1 was an achievement when it released. If it takes a little nostalgia to remember that, it seems ok?
 

Elija2

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Aug 16, 2012
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It's hard to deny how ambitious the Sonic Adventure games were for their time. Even though they haven't aged well, there's still something endearing about them.

I remember, when I was a kid, I was fascinated with the parking garage entrance in the hotel in Station Square.

Those cars are going in and out all the time! There’s got to be a way for me to get in, right? Can I jump on top of a car and ride in? Maybe it’ll open at some other point in the story? Well, spoiler alert: you never get into that garage. There’s nothing there. But as a kid, I always wondered. Years later, I watched the Run Button Let’s Play of Sonic Adventure, and was incredibly amused when they talked about that garage. They joked about how they wanted to go in there as a kid, too, and made a running gag of checking the garage to see if it was opened throughout the story. Completely independently, thousands of miles apart, this game created this weird little shared experience between me and a pair of guys I’ve never met.

Man, I had this same experience with so many different games as a kid. After you've explored every other nook and cranny of a map, those invisible walls and out of bounds areas were the only things left unexplored. Of course there would never be anything behind them, but it was always fun to imagine. We had too much time on our hands as kids.
 
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I do agree that Sonic Adventure was "made with love" in the sense that it seems like the developers really cared about it. The music, the "Sega blue skies," the whale, some of it is pretty awesome. The problem is the game just isn't all that good.

Even back when I played it in 1999, it was a pretty big disapointment.

The game design just isn't there. Without that, it's like building a foundation on a wet paper towel.

Compare to something like Mario 64 and it was pretty easy to be disappointed in Sonic Adventure.