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Sonic Adventure review

Sonic the Hedgehog set such a high standard with his Sega Genesis adventures that gamers were highly anticipating his debut on the Dreamcast, almost on the same level that Nintendo fans wanted their 3-D Mario fix on the Nintendo 64. After a little bit of a wait, they finally received it in the form Sonic Adventure, and while it wasn't without its flaws (why was Big the Cat included?), it was a decent entry in the series, and a moderately entertaining next-gen debut for Sonic. Now, 11 years later, the Adventure lives on, this time as a downloadable title for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Does it still hold together after all these years?

Starting out as none other than Sonic, players battle a strange Chaos emerald-eating creature while attempting to keep the nefarious Dr. Robotnik -- and his dozens of evil robotic creations -- at bay. As you proceed through your journey, you'll unlock several side characters with their own separate games, including Tails, Knuckles the Echidna, and the aforementioned Big. Each one brings something different to the table, but they don't perform as admirably as Sonic. Tails and Big don't provide the best gameplay options. Proceeding through a stage with each of the supporting characters, it was often a rush to get back to the basics: playing as the blue hedgehog.

A lot of the flaws in the original Sonic Adventure remain intact. There are times when the camera is absolutely hideous, to the point you can't even tell what's going on. In the Casino's shower room, for instance, it gets stuck behind a wall, forcing you to "feel around" to locate rings in the stalls. And in the second stage, Wind Valley, the action moves so fast that it can barely keep up, eventually catching up with you when you land. So much for blast processing, right?

Also, the gameplay is quirky in sections of the game, and not in an appealing way. Your jumping isn't always done with the utmost precision, forcing you to miss platforms or fall into an empty abyss when you had no intention to. Furthermore, some of the revamps, such as numbered pads, make it too easy to get through a section. It's nothing like going through the old Sonic games and discovering every secret. You simply warp ahead to the next section, without any strategy involved.

That said, the controls work well otherwise. When Sonic is running at high speeds down a ramp (either in the sky, underground or through a city of night), it's a dazzling sight. Plus, there are times when the excitement ramps up, such as when Sonic sprints down the side of a building and avoids obstacles that come speeding his way, such as columns or hazard signs. Fans should also appreciate the pinball mini-games in the casino, namely the Nights table. It's nice to see Sonic Team hasn't forgotten about its other cult favorite (even though it hasn't fared that well since).

Sega touched up the graphics a little bit to make the game look more high-definition, and while it's not a complete success (it still displays in 4:3) it does look better than the original. The constant speediness of the game is a nice touch, and it only slows down during the more frantic parts. The level design is hit and miss, with some areas not so easily painted out for Sonic to follow compared with others -- the open world hubs, for instance, take some time to explore, while the action stages are point A to point B, like older Sonic titles.

For an 11-year-old game, however, Sega treated it well. They wisely left the game's soundtrack be, instead of revamping it since Sonic Adventure's best feature is its soundtrack. From the charming groove of Wind Valley to the hard-hitting rock as you run through downtown. On the flip side, the game's awful voice acting was also left in place. "Hey, I'll play with you some other time!" Really, Sonic? That's the best taunt you can come up with?

Sonic Adventure isn't the beaming example of Dreamcast development excellence, with its annoying camera issues, unnecessary side character missions and on-and-off gameplay enhancements. But it still nails down the Sonic essence just enough to be worth a $10 purchase, especially if you're a Dreamcast fanatic. Just make sure you have room on your hard drive, though. As "ancient" as this game may be, it takes up a walloping 1.5 GB in hard drive space plus an extra 175 MB for the DX content, if you opt to purchase it.

Good

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Robert Workman
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