Hey, Real Talk: Was 'Sonic Adventure' Actually Good?


#1

That killer whale chase scene was dope.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/evvzk4/hey-real-talk-was-sonic-adventure-actually-good

#2

The killer whale sequence was an amazing showcase of what the Dreamcast could do and was necessary to move units at launch. The rest of the game is middling to frustrating, and is not good. It looks even worse when you compare it to the rest of the Dreamcast’s launch lineup, which, in aggregate, is probably one of the strongest launches ever for a console.

Sonic Adventure 2, though? It actually manages to be pretty decent from what I remember.


#3

I don’t think so.
I’m sure it was impressive at the time, but having watched through Game Grump’s whole playthrough of Sonic Adventure DX (which as I understand it is pretty much identical with some small additions and graphical improvements) I don’t see how anyone would think it holds up beyond sheer nostalgia.
There sure was a lot of ‘stuff’ in it though, allowing you to more or less replay the game 6 times as 6 different characters, one of which revolving entirely around fishing for a frog… yeah.

I’m sure there are a lot of these early polygonal games that are hailed as classics but don’t hold up to modern standards, but as I’ve gone back to replay old favourites like Rayman 2, Metal Gear Solid and Medievil on the Ps1, as well as Mario 64, I can safely say there are games from that era that still do their thing very well, and I’d argue they hold up beyond their nostalgia, albeit with some jankiness (often regarding third person camera controls)


#4

I really enjoyed it at the time. It was rough to go back to it, but I remember the good times I had with it. The Chao garden was cute and fun. Chaos was an interesting villain/monster, both design-wise and story-wise. E-102 Gamma’s story was probably the best. The music was also pretty great.

It’s not the most polished game out there, and it fails to compare to Mario 64 in terms of putting a 2D character into 3D, but it’s also far from being the worst Sonic game.


#5

Wasn’t there a robot?

Yeah, and his music is dope


#6

my head says no but my heart says froggy


#7

The three “good characters” Sonic, Tails and Knuckles were all enjoyable. Big the God damn cat though…

Fishing with his stupid emotionless face! Nothing makes me as angry in retrospect as Big the Cat.


#8

yes yes yes.

I never understood the criticism that the game’s controls are clunky now when I’ve never played a 3D platformer with such precise movement since then, barring 3D Mario’s Galaxy and onward. Everytime Sonic, Tails or Knuckles jumps in the air you always have time to make major adjustments to your jump arc, like making sudden haripin turns if you think you’re going to overshoot a platform. This freedom of movement allows crazy speedruns of this game like skipping half of Windy Valley by falling past tons of “intended path” platforms and landing right on to the goal post. With the insane amount of verticality you can also get a ton of horizontal distance by spin dashing and jumping, once again skipping platforms and even certain setpieces. People might call maneuvers like this glitchy, exploitative, basically signifiers of bad game design, but I much prefer platformers with a ton of freedom to platform how you want than PlayStation style platformers with very little variation, very little straying from the main path, like Ratchet & Clank, or Crash. The game is technically “broken” but I feel like its broken in ways not dissimilar to Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Everything about Sonic Adventure screams freedom, the music and the aesthetics feed into this idea too, with song titles like “Be Cool, Be Wild, and Be Groovy” the song used for the snowboarding setpiece during Ice Cap, or the game’s main theme,“Open your Heart”

A lot of things about this game has aged, but aged in the perfect way. I can’t really say the same about Sonic Adventure 2, the movement is largely similar feeling but you can’t always pull off the insane tricks you could in the previous game because the level design wouldn’t really allow it, barring some of the last levels like Final Chase, which is a collection of grind rails suspended above the Earth, not much variation.

TL;DR, Sonic Adventure is broken in all the right ways, in the ways that allow complete freedom of movement, and the game kinda encourages that.


#9

Yes! I replayed it sometime last year, and had a lot of fun, despite some parts (Big the Cat deserves better than the Big the Cat levels). The part that aged the worst in my opinion was the cutscenes, but they’ve come back around to hilariously bad.

The story was… well it was mostly a lot of characters running back and forth for vaguely-defined reasons, but the idea of six characters with their own stories criss-crossing was really ambitious and I wish more games tried things like that. You didn’t just have the hero with the supporting characters, each of those characters (even a robot that was apparently just an enemy) had their own story the hero didn’t see, fighting their own battles without his help. Especially since the same cutscene would have different dialogue from someone else’s perspective! From Sonic’s perspective, Amy is interrupting his important world-saving and from Amy’s perspective he’s just being a jerk and blowing her off! And some of the stories on their own were pretty good - Gamma obviously being a highlight, but also Amy running from another robot and trying to find Sonic to help, until she realizes she needs (and has the ability) to defeat it on her own.

So, yeah, the fact that other games have done the specific pieces of SA much better since then (the fast platforming, the 3rd person shooting, the… fishing…) doesn’t make it retroactively bad, I had fun playing it when I was younger and I had fun playing it as an adult. And the ambition is still impressive.


#10

I feel like Sonic Adventure definitely had good elements, but I think it’s hard to judge it without judging its impact on the franchise. What jumps out to me about the killer whale season is that it would be revisited and expanded on ten years later, in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), in its first level. Sonic Adventure defined Sonic in 3D in many respects, for good and for ill. While the subsequent games ditched or iterated on its elements, the broad model was established in 1998. Many of the elements people criticise 3D Sonic for (melodramatic story, characters upon characters, multiple gameplay styles) were begun with Adventure.

I haven’t replayed this since, say, 2005, so I don’t really know if it stands strong on its own merits or not.


#11

I don’t think the entire game has aged well, (Haven’t played it in years, but off the top of my head, the cutscenes and hub world are probably pretty bad) but I think it was a good game. I’ve never been a fan of the 2D Sonic games, the fast/slow dynamic never clicked for me, I always wanted to go fast, and hated all those GOTCHA traps, like being sprung into spikes or an enemy. But 3D Sonic worked for me. The separation of the fast/slow areas is more apparent, so I don’t feel like I’m being punished for trying to go fast because I can’t go fast anyway. Plus, the soundtrack is a total guilty pleasure. The vocal tracks are simultaneously awful and amazing and I love them.


#12

Note, this is based on memories many years old, but I loved Sonic Adventure when it came out, and some parts stick with me still.

Remember when you go to the jungle and you meet the explorer who tells you about some creature hidden in the forest? The size and mystery of this environment was incredible to me. Like, yeah, it turned out to just be Big the Cat but whatever.

The egg carrier! Where you run along it but then the direction changes so you fall straight down.

After visiting the sewers you can take a shower with Sonic…

Maybe the controls, and the actual levels actually suck? I can’t remember that, but still the game blew my mind.


#13

Sonic Adventure will forever hold a special place in my heart, and is justifiably exalted, for its mood, setting, and aesthetic. Whether it set the mood of the platform or is simply a product of its time and place, Sonic Adventure is quintessential turn-of-the-millennium Japanese Video Game. It’s incredibly vibrant, bursting with joyous energy, and willfully pleasant. I didn’t particularly like the gameplay of SA (I don’t really like the momentum-driven gameplay of any Sonic game, frankly), but I loved running around the overworld town, and hunting for, breeding, and petting my Chaos. I spent many late nights in 1999, bathed in its vivid palette.

I would later find similar appeal in other Dreamcast games: Shenmue offered a sweet coziness I still see in it today, Crazy Taxi and JSR the propulsive focus I found in outdoor sports. Though I found this feeling in other games prior to the Dreamcast, the as-yet-unparalleled fidelity of 128 bits, combined with the je ne sais quoi of this era of Japanese video games, was particularly affecting and absorbing to me.


#14

Even as a child who loved Sonic at the time, I remember playing Sonic Adventure and being underwhelmed. It controls bad, the camera is awful and I always thought the hub area was pointless. Both Campster and SuperBunnyHop have made great breakdowns about Sonic and why the transition to 3D was so problematic:


#15

This is entirely personal preference, not objective value, but I’ll always rather have a hub area than a list of levels because it gives the game a sense of space and continuity. Even if it’s hard to navigate or doesn’t feel like a real city/jungle/etc, just giving me a way to navigate from one level to another and know where they are in relation to each other is a purpose in and of itself, IMO.


#16

I spend a lot of time with Sonic Adventure DX on PC back in the day. Everything about that game seemed so good–the music, the Chao Garden, the variety of characters–but revisiting it on the PS3 semi-recently was a much less savory experience.

I never played it in the context of its time, but I did play it as a kid who had watched and enjoyed Sonic X as a preteen, so I suppose I do home some rose-tinted glasses about it.


#17

I think both Sonic Adventures games hold up if you go in with certain expectations. The first one I got when I was either 8 or 9 and it was the first 3D console I had and I was just blown away. I remember thinking that it seemed life like and the plot was a masterpiece. Again I was 8 or 9 and also held the Power Rangers movie up in high regards. It was at a time when I only got maybe 3 games a year and so I played each of my single player games for a way longer time then I would ever do today. I remember getting super invested in chao racing and figuring out how to replicate a bug that let you get infinite chao from the VMU’s in SA2. I remember getting emotionally upset when the chao I had spent so much time raising to look like a cool seal hybrid died. I didn’t have the internet so getting all the emblems actually meant something.

What a lot of people who are not Sonic fans forget is that most of us were still kids or teens when the two Adventures games came out and that following Adventures 2 is when the Sonic franchise just immediately tanked itself. I remember getting really pumped for Heroes driving out with my mom and brother, buying the game at a Target with my own money, opening it up in the car and reading the instruction booklet on the way home, getting home and starting it up and then just becoming immediately disappointed in it. I do not think I have ever felt as suckered by a gaming purchase as Heroes. It was so disappointing and I felt so betrayed that I did not buy another Sonic game until Generations.


#18

Sonic Adventure had some fun parts, some good sections and ideas, as well as being perhaps the first sonic game to try and include a story. It’s difficult to recommend, though, because it’s just aged so poorly. The camera and controls may not have been that far below the norm at the time, but these days it takes a patient soul to put up with its controls - not to mention the obtuse open world sections and (for me) the Big levels, which I never managed to understand enough to complete.

The criss-crossing story that you learned more about as you played from different perspectives and the Amy Rose levels in general remain some stand-out favorite things from Adventure that I’d like to see re-used, but beyond that I don’t think I can see myself calling Adventure ‘good’.

Adventure 2, though… now that’s a game! :sweat_smile:


#19

I loved Sonic Adventure when it came out, but in retrospect it’s a big ol’ mess. Sonic Adventure 2 got closer to being a game you can unequivocally call good, by excising most of the bad parts of Sonic Adventure (they kept the Knuckles gameplay though, which wasn’t the worst part of Sonic Adventure but it sure wasn’t great!) The lack of the hub world does make the game lose some of the charm of Sonic Adventure 1, though.

It’s a good example of what the Sonic series has usually done post-Genesis, they throw out the old formula, make a new thing that is trash, iterate on that a second time and get close to being really good, then throw that out and make another new thing that is trash, etc. If they had continued to refine Sonic Adventure 2’s gameplay, they could have made an amazing 3D Sonic game, a thing that has never existed! But instead they went on to make Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic Heroes, which were the dark harbingers of the evils that would be loosed upon us in 2006.


#20

Maybe it’s in some way down to me being Good At Videogames and all that, but I stand by the Adventure games as legit great. I’ve never had any problem with the controls, not even with Shadow The Hedgehog, which I remembering being the most loathed in that regard. Hell, Shadow The Hedgehog is ACE too, screw y’all that go against the Lord of Edge.

Look, if any of y’all need literally any Sonic game defending, just call me, aye? Cheers.

Also, and I might have mentioned this elsewhere, but E-102’s story in Adventure 1 is some Proto-Nier:Automata shit. First game to make me break down in tears. Good Lord.