Sonic Adventure 2 HD (PS3) Review
B.C. Johnson / Oct 16th, 2012 No Comments
Sega continues to plunder your nostalgia reserve and their back catalog with Sonic Adventure 2 HD. A multi-platform remake specifically juiced up for modern televisions but sadly not modern sensibilities, Sonic Adventure 2 is available on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. Race back to 2001, when Hedgehogs were extreme, snowboarding was the height of anti-establishment rebellion, and your Dreamcast still worked. It was also the year that the first self-contained artificial heart was implanted in a human being. I know that has nothing to do with Sonic the Hedgehog, but I thought it was interesting.
I wasn’t sure at first how to approach this review – it’s hard to establish a platform for critique for remakes and HD re-releases. Is it possible to judge software made in the past to today’s standards? There’s a movie comparison – The Big Sleep is still a good movie, regardless of lack of color, more dynamic modern framing, and CGI special effects. A game, though, isn’t the same.
Sonic Adventure 2 is a bad game. Was it always a bad game? I don’t know. Trying to suffer through the vistas provided by a crippled camera is agonizing – you will die, constantly. You will pick up speed as Sonic (rarely) and then smash into a box as the camera whips around and decides that the corner of a car bumper is really the best angle for high speed dashing.
Level design is random. If you told me that the stages were procedurally generated by an AI (one that hates me) I would believe it. I’d also start a rebellion to overthrow SkyNet, because these levels are crimes against humanity by angry robot overlords. The very second you pick up any kind of speed it will end in the corner of a building. You’ll faceplant in poorly placed stairs. A grind rail will appear (remember those?) with no good angle to hit it, and the jump to the next rail will be so badly spaced it guarantees a line-breaking anti-climax.
The game breaks up the adventure with other playable characters, separated into a Hero campaign and a Dark (villain) campaign. The Sonic/Shadow levels play as three-dimensional platform racers, the Echidna/Rouge the Bat involve hunting for keys (yeah), and the Tails/Robotnik (I’ll never call him Eggman, ever never) levels have you plodding around in MagiTek armor shooting everything that moves. The constant gameplay swapping actually helps the game quite a bit – any excuse to get away from the current broken game mechanic feels a little like heaven.
There’s also a Pokemon/Tamagotchi mini-game that involves collecting little radish-head dudes called Chaos (singular: Chao). You can raise them and boost their stats, make them cockfight or race for your amusement. I honestly have no idea what they have to do with Sonic the Hedgehog, which should tell you how much time I spent on that facet of the game.
The two-player mode has some legs, and involves going head-to-head against another player to finish challenges first or sometimes just get to the end of the level before the other guy. The mode suffers from the same camera and level design problems as the rest of the game, but misery loves company so it works out okay.
In a shocking swerve, the story is probably the best part of the game. Yeah, a Sonic game. That and a feather would knock me right over. When the first nineties CornNuts commercial power chords blasted me right in the face, I expected the usual Chaos Gem-Robobunny-Dystopia nonsense. Imagine my surprise when Sega delivers a morally gray revenge tale with father issues and sacrificial gravitas.
The story jumps back and forth at your leisure between the heroes and the villains. The Hero story falls sort of flat, but the villain story does a good job of exploring the motivations behind normally-ludicrous cartoon characters.
Sega’s done a good job of upconverting the game to HD – jaggies and tearing and blurry surfaces are reduced to a minimum. Vibrant colors and memorable character designs pop through the screen at you, and the smirky, razor-headed speedball is as charming as ever.
Don’t get me wrong – the graphics don’t look great. They are simple and old-fashioned, but at least they’re clear and perfectly playable.
You’re not taking much of a hit – Sonic Adventure 2 is available for download, right now, for $10 or 800 MS Points. If you loved SA and SA2, it’s a must-buy – I will begrudge no one their nostalgia goggles. If you’re not sure, don’t get it, at all. There’s a demo – if you’re wary of being mugged while walking down Memory Lane feel free to grab it.
In the end, I have to judge the game for what it is now. The fact is, I’ve recently replayed Crash Bandicoot and that game is just as badass as it ever was. I can’t even claim that nostalgia helped – I also just played Final Fantasy III, a game I never touched back in the day, and it holds up just fine. Sonic Adventure 2 might have done a lot for the 3D adventure genre, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a relic. In the words of Henry Jones Junior: “This belongs in a museum!”
tags: ps3 , review , sonic adventure 2