Retro gaming is a truly odd practice. There have been times when playing one of my favourite childhood games again has illuminated new complexities in said title that my feeble nine year old mind could not comprehend (oh Materia, how I love thee.) There are other times when the rosy hues through which I view these old friends washes away into a sea of darkness on a second play. Sonic: Adventure was one such game and, with seemingly no improvements and a half-arsed conversion job, it is a title that is best left in the past.
For those of you who missed out on Adventure way back when, lets get you up to speed. It was the first properly 3D Sonic title and saw Sonic and pals once again trying to stop Dr. Robotnik (who for some strange reason has been referred to as Dr. Eggman as of late) as he tries to raise an ancient evil being. Each character has their own story and gameplay style and you can witness them as they intertwine in this new version for the Xbox live arcade. Sonic has the fast paced platforming stages we know and love and Tails is of a similar inclination, except his stages take the form of a race. Things start to go downhill with the other characters. Knuckle’s levels see him searching for shards of the master emerald and they are painfully slow and downright frustrating. If that wasn’t bad enough, Amy Rose has her own story where you need to run away from one of Eggman’s robots. This would’ve been fine if she didn’t control like a lemon on stilts. Then we have Big the cat… The only thing this guy is big on is tomfoolery. I could just about put up with things so far but his, so called, fishing levels defy anything fun about gaming in general. I don’t think I’ve cursed so frequently since… Well since I played the Big the cat story on my Dreamcast many years ago. Finally you also control Omega, one of Eggman’s mechanical lackeys who has a change of heart and decides to help Sonic and the gang. Compared to Big the cat this guy is a real angel, even if his stages consist of mashing A until all the enemies go boom.
It must be said that some of the more creative aspects of the game still hold up well. The intertwining plots are still a nice idea, even if they are a bit repetitive and basic, and the open world adventure stages were quite a daring formula change for a Sonic game even now. These are the kind of details though that only made sense in the context of the time. Why then they decided to release a remake of this, of all games, is beyond me.
Whilst it’s nice that the more daring gameplay mechanics of Sonic Adventure still hold water, it seems that many of its glaring flaws have also retained their destructive prowess after all this time. I could just about manage the dodgy camera back in 99, as this was almost a prerequisite of 3D games at the time. That said, it’s been long enough now and yet they still couldn’t be bothered to fix that damn camera. It still hangs behind like a lame dog getting stuck in nearly every wall in sight (or is it just my dog that does that?) If this didn’t already suck enough, then just wait until you encounter the abundant and colourful colony of glitches that inhabits the very core of Adventure’s gameplay. Expect to fall through your fair share of floors and die for seemingly no reason on a regular basis. If they were going to be charging us once again for something we already have, they could’ve had the decency to actually try to fix what was wrong with it the first time around. The sound too hasn’t aged particularly well. Unsatisfying sound effects, cheesy vocal clips and lame rock music are the order of the day when it comes to the audio in Sonic: Adventure. It is a game that is more like bread than wine: It gets worse, rather than better, with old age.
So are there any improvements upon the original then? I think the only thing that really springs to mind is that the character models are a little bit sharper and more shiny looking. Aside from that the game has received no graphical touch ups. It doesn’t look too bad considering its age, but the textures are still pretty limp and some improvements would have been welcome. Ironically, this new version is actually lacking what the more recent director’s cut remake had; sort of. The DX version on PC and Gamecube added the character of metal Sonic and sixty missions to the fold, features that aren’t present on the XBLA version unless you buy them as a separate download priced at 400 MS points. Crippling the game like this seems ridiculous and, whilst the main game is slightly cheaper than the average price of 1200 points, it’s still pretty lame to charge extra for content that already exists. Adding to the frustration is that the DX version was actually capable of displaying a wide-screen image, whereas this poor excuse for a 360 port is not. Instead they just use that lame blue bar either side of the screen, much like the ones that were present in the original mega drive Sonic games that are available on the XBLA. I could put up with it in the mega drive games, but the fact that a version of Adventure already exists that can display a wide-screen picture makes me seriously question what the hell they were doing with this port. Add in the poorly optimised movement when using the 360 controller and we have what is possibly one of the worst conversion jobs I’ve ever seen.
For the 800 MS point asking price it’s tough to judge whether Sonic Adventure is worth the money. If you enjoy the one Sonic stage available in the demo it may be worth picking up, as there is a reasonable amount of content considering the low price tag. The achievements are fairly easy, but generally comprise a well rounded list. Those who want the full 250 gamer score associated with the game though will need to fork up the cash for the director’s cut content.
I always thought of Sonic Adventure as a beautiful memory from my formative years and I honestly wish it could’ve stayed that way. This uncaring and poorly realised 360 port manages to accentuate all the things that the mass populace hates about the 3D Sonic titles. If you missed out on this the first time around and enjoy the demo then you might get your money’s worth out of Sonic Adventure. If, however, you are like me and enjoyed Adventure in the past then makes sure it stays there, as it is not the same game you once enjoyed all those years ago.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Still the same as you remember, the Sonic and Tails stages are fun, multiple characters with different story arcs, improved character models
Still the same as you remember, lots of glitches, controls feel very loose on the 360 controller, textures still look shoddy, Big the cat and Amy's levels are still pure torture, no wide-screen display