I have nine Sonic games downloaded on my 360’s hard drive. Nine. Nearly every main title in Sonic’s lifetime sits comfortably a top my digital library. It’s safe to say I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with the little blue hedgehog. But no matter which game in the franchise I play, I always go back to Sonic Adventure 2. More than a decade later and I can still recite the words to City Escape by heart. The game impacted me so much that I consider it personally among my top 10 games of all time.
So when SEGA announced they’ll be re-releasing the game in HD for digital storefronts, I made the equivalent reaction to a teenage girl meeting their favorite singer. I’m happy to see that my precious game is still as great as I remember it, only now with a fresh coat of paint.
Robotnik Eggman is up to his normal tricks of world domination/destruction/building a diabolical theme park again. This time around, however, he’s enlisted the help of Shadow, a black hedgehog genetically fabricated to have similar powers to our titular hero. Shadow calls himself “the world’s ultimate life form.” When the plans begin to involve the blowing up of the moon, things get serious. This was the Sonic franchise’s first serious attempt at creating a complex story. Although it can get convoluted at times, there’s really nothing here that’s overly confusing. Just extra details that aren’t really necessary. You’ll get the gist of it.
You’ll play as both the heroes and villains here, each side split up into three styles of play. Sonic and Shadow play as every Sonic game from the past 10 years. Tails and Eggman both utilize mechs to run through shoot ‘em up levels. Rouge and Knuckles are placed into treasure hunting situations. The former of the two play styles can be quite fun, while treasure hunting is often a pain in the ass. But it’s still good to break up the game a bit with something quite a bit different.
Each play style racks up a score in different ways, aside from the universal ring collection. Speed levels are scored on how quickly you can make it to the finish. Shooter levels are scored based on enemies defeated, with bonuses awarded for racking up multiple enemies smashed in one go. Treasure hunting levels also work on a time limit, but are more open. An indicator on the bottom of the screen will change from green to yellow to red in a “warmer-colder” style of searching for Master Emerald shards.
The gameplay is left completely unaltered from the original release, but that also means a handful of odd control choices occasionally still pop up. The level Mad Space is not named as such by coincidence. The controls go on a hair trigger for turning and such, and it might be a bit tricky to get used to, but it was the way Dreamcast games played.
Scores for levels are tallied up and put online for the world to see. This is the extent of the multiplayer options. Although there’s an optional DLC that adds on the two-player competitive modes from the Battle re-release on the GameCube in 2002, none of them are online-enabled. This just seems like a missed opportunity for SEGA. Many of the modes, including the ever-popular Chao raising, would be amazing if it allowed for online interactions.
Regardless, if you get tired of the main story, you’ve got plenty of distractions here. Each level from the story mode has five total missions to complete, the first of which is the main objective, with each subsequent mission tasking the player with collecting so many rings or working within a time limit. Each successful mission earns the player an emblem, which is used to unlock things in the returning Chao World mode.
Chaos are adorable little…erm…things. They hatch from eggs and take on the abilities of whatever is given to them. Players can collect animals and chaos drives in the main game to be given to the Chaos for development. These will raise the Chao’s skills in swimming, flying, strength, etc. Animals will actually pass on features to the Chao. There are entire communities and walkthroughs of the game floating around on the internet explaining how you can get a Chao to look exactly as you want, combining animal parts and telling other Chao raisers who to have the little guy interact with as far as characters go. This mode alone is one of the most memorable and addictive parts of Sonic Adventure 2, and it’s easy to see why. Once you feel confident in your Chao, they can compete in races, as well as karate if you’ve downloaded the Battle DLC.
SEGA could probably release a game just about Chao raising and it’ll do well. Make it happen, guys.
Aside from Chao World, you also have a Boss Time Attack mode, which sees players attempt to run through just the boss battles of the story in as quick a time as possible. You also have a simple kart racing mode. And wrap the game up with the task of finding all the upgrades and trying to get an A-rating and you’ve got plenty to keep you busy.
Unlike SEGA’s other HD re-release this week, NiGHTS Into Dreams HD, Sonic Adventure 2 holds up very well. The game isn’t marred down by an outdated control scheme or bogged down by the assumption that the player has read the full back story in the manual. Many fans in the Sonic circle still consider Sonic Adventure 2 to be one of the better games in the franchise, even though it’s a modern title, and it’s great to see new fans find out why, while veterans can re-live one of their old favorites.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to play through Sonic Adventure 2 yet, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a staple in one of gaming’s oldest franchises that influenced many games of today. Sure, there are a few technical issues here and there as a result of being developed in a different time when things we a little more tolerable, but none of it gets in the way of the enjoyment of the game as a whole.
And SEGA, this means you’re gauging interest for a potential Sonic Adventure 3, right? Because I would pay through the nose for that.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided to us for review purposes.
Sonic Adventure 2 HD takes an already masterful game and improves it for today's audience. If you've not had a chance to play the game yet, you've no excuses.