RETRO REBOOT!! Sonic Adventure (Sega Dreamcast)

The battle between gaming’s two biggest icons was at its zenith near the end of the 16 bit era, and with new consoles on the horizon, I was looking forward to see how the Sega Saturn would put together a worthy adversary to opposite the wildly successful Super Mario 64. Time passed…and passed…and passed. The Sega Saturn died without a true Sonic game, one of the many death knells of the maligned console, and Sonic fans would have to wait until the Dreamcast before being able to play as the Blue Bomber. And this was the first time I’ve seen a complete overhaul of a video game character to the point that I found myself feeling ambiguous about stepping into this next generation.

His body is also sleeker and built more for agility and speed. This new Sonic looked primed and ready for action! Just a side note in regards to examining gaming from the perspective of a reboot or update (take Barry Burton’s dialogue from the Gamecube remake of Resident Evil compared to his goofy script from the original that made him n internet meme), have you ever noticed that more often than you make fun of what you once cherished when it is brought to attention?

As Sonic Adventure was the first attempt to bring the speedy hedgehog into a free running, 3D atmosphere, there’s a checklist of materials that need to be implemented in order to have a successful playthrough of a fast-paced Sonic game while avoiding certain programming hiccups. To get the easy stuff out of the way, the character models look pretty good for the time period. Sure the timing of the lip flaps and the dialogue are off by about a week, but characters are pretty expressive and try to be more than just lifeless wireframes with texture. Time hasn't been very kind to this period of gaming. I don't like to play the "you had to be there" card, but the spectacle was something to witness when your childhood was used to not thinking it couldn't get any better than pixels.

 for missions (mainly Sonic’s) where the emphasis is on speed, the camera is not your friend most of the time. It can often swivel out of the playing field and staring into the emptiness of the abyss or a creepy inside-out view of Sonic’s innards can be pretty common when it shouldn’t be. If it were possible to adjust the camera so that it isn’t so close this could mitigate some of these problems. Some leniency was made to keep the action as fast as possible, and while it could be more disastrous (Sonic 06), time and effort was put into making sure the camera stayed within the boundaries of the playing field…most of the time.

There's 5 different paths to play through to spice up some flavor, with varying results. Sonic's is speed-based, Tails' is slower, but kinda similar. Knuckles hunts around for Chaos Emerald shards in a game of hot and cold (the closer you get to a piece, the louder it beeps, it gets aggravating), and Amy is in constant pursuit by a robot and you have to avoid getting caught. Big the Cat has fishing segments where you have to catch his friend Froggy, and they're about as fun as having hooks dug under your fingernails and lifted three feet off the ground. The idea is certainly ambitious and offers some replay value, I feel the execution is clunky, but playable. Big the Cat's missions are just nightmare fuel.

Sonic Adventure has a pretty rockin soundtrack with tunes that have been stuck in my head for more than a decade. A great blend of alternative rock anthems with some cheery pop themes, along with some classic Sonic sound effects straight from the Genesis games is always a treat to hear. Again, Crush 40 is excellent in capturing the new spirit and attitude of the series. Each character’s individual themes are pretty catchy, though Amy’s theme sounds a little out-of-place. I don’t think Puffy AmiYumi were big at the time this game came out, but they would have been perfect!

The voice acting is surprisingly decent. While Jaleel White will always be Sonic to me, Ryan Drummond brings a great combination of edge and playful wit to the character, and honestly should still be voicing him today. My only complaint is why does every big, lumbering giant with a slow brain and an innocent heart has to sound like Lenny from Of Mice and Men?

Sonic Adventure may not be a perfect game, and it doesn’t seem to get the praise Super Mario 64 did for converting a popular and successful side scrolling platformer into a real-time 3D game in a time where people were still trying to figure out how to make these kinds of titles, but I found it to be a more memorable experience


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