Sonic Adventure DX

Sonic Adventure DX is a 3D platformer by Sonic Team. The original Sonic Adventure came out on the Sega Dreamcast, but since then has had its DX version ported to mutliple systems. I’m basing this off of the Steam port in particular. Because this game is split up into six different main campaigns, I’ll try to explain the interconnected story parts and their basic gameplay ideas as I go through each one. Also, I’d like to point out up front that I have not gone for full completion of the game, but I have sampled all of the modes and gone through the main story. Oh, and I’m assuming you’re aware of some of the basics of the Sonic series like Sonic himself and series antagonist Dr. Eggman. If you’re still on board then that is way past cool.

In Sonic’s campaign you’re mainly trying to collect these chaos emeralds before Eggman does. He is after them to feed to a mysterious water creature called Chaos. Throughout the campaign you’ll boss encounters with Chaos in various different forms of its evolution. The game in general is split into two sections. There are action stages which act like typical Sonic levels where you run and jump your way through. In Sonic’s stages you’ll be running fast, platforming, collecting rings, and a few other stage-specific tasks as you try to reach the end. You can be as fast or slow as you’d like. Sonic is the fastest of the characters and has the ability to do a homing attack that can automatically propel you towards enemies after you jump. The other part of the game consists of what are called adventure fields. These act as hub worlds to the action stages. There are some sidequests and encounters that happen as well as some upgrades, both optional and requires, scattered throughout. More of these areas open up the more you play and you must find certain characters in these adventures fields before unlocking their campaigns in the menu.

Tails has a similar goal to Sonic but spends most of his time trying to keep up. To reflect this, his stages are mostly races against Sonic on the same stages you played through as Sonic. Tails is slower than Sonic, but he has the ability to fly in the air for short periods of time. This time around the stages also have floating booster rings in the air that can shoot you towards shortcuts to compensate for your lack of speed on foot. Other than that, most of this campaign is the same type of deal with the added racing element in the action stages and Tails coming to realize that he needs to believe in himself more.

Next on the wheel of character campaigns is Knuckles. He doesn’t run particularly fast or jump all that high, but he does have the ability to glide through the air and climb on almost any surface. His story is a little different. Knuckles guards the master emerald which sits atop a floating island. However, the emerald gets fractured and the island falls. It’s his duty to track down the shards of the master emerald and make it whole again. You do this by playing through many of the same stages that Sonic and Tails played through, but this time you’re not trying to get to the end. Instead you have a detector that beeps when you are close to a shard of the master emerald. You must explore the level with your gliding and climbing abilities. The shards can be out in plain sight, hidden beneath the ground to be dug up, or even inside of enemies. And their locations are randomized each time. Yet again, you will have the adventure fields to roam around in from time to time as well.

Amy Rose has perhaps the shortest campaign of all. Her story is also more of a personal one where she is trying to become more independent and not rely on Sonic so much. She comes across a bird at one point that is, for reasons unknown at the time, being chased by one of Eggman’s robots. So she takes it upon herself to protect the bird. As such, her action stages are centered around running away from the robot. The robot can be stunned and will not show up in certain sections, but will give chase (and fight) relentlessly until you reach the end of the stage. Amy is somewhat slow but she wields a big hammer and can even use it to do some platforming as well. As with the others, her stages are repeats of ones you’ve already seen and can explore the adventures fields as well.

The next campaign is Big the Cat. This character is just looking to have some fun fishing with his buddy Froggy. Unfortunately, not only has Froggy grown a strange tail out of nowhere, he also keeps running off. So Big chases after his friend with much concern. Big’s stages are the most unique of them all. He can collect rings and has to avoid enemies and hazards, but in order to clear the stages he must fish. You cast the line into a body of water and wait for a fish, or Froggy, to come near. Once they take the bait you must sink the line and start reeling them in. The fish are just there for points and if anything breaks your line you’ll lose a life. Catching Froggy is how you clear the stage. These also take place in previous stages with bodies of water present. Oh, and he can waddle around the adventure fields as well, though he is the slowest of all the characters without any means of combat to speak of.

Lastly there’s Gamma, one of Dr. Eggman’s robots. His role starts out merely serving under Eggman’s orders but he grows to question his loyalties and frame of existence as his story plays out. His gameplay revolves around similar mechanics to the others like collecting rings, killing enemies, platforming, and getting to the end of the stage. However, his method of attack is to hold down the attack button to lock on to whatever enemies you then move his laser pointer over. Once you let go, assuming you didn’t hold it too long, you’ll shoot out projectiles that home to their targets. Defeating targets gives you extra time, which is limited and falls rapidly. Getting larger combos of hits will grant even more bonus time. This mechanic, much like the robot chases and Sonic races, is not present in the adventures fields he can explore.

All of these campaigns do converge at one point or another. They also all have strange time travel elements to some ancient place regarding the small creatures known as Chao, which are somehow related to the master emerald and chaos emeralds. After beating all six campaigns you’ll unlock one final campaign which consists mainly of the final boss fight of the game. There’s a mission mode which allows you to go through the adventure fields and action stages activating and completing more specific quests set up by the game. These can be collecting so many flags in a level, defeating so many enemies, finding a hidden item, and a variety of other things. Some of them are in the adventure fields too. There’s also a trial mode which lets you replay action stages as the different characters with new requirements to get certain ranks. Typically you need to collect a certain amount of rings before completing the stage for one and win within a certain time a limit for another.

The one other bit here is Chao raising. There are a few Chao gardens throughout the game that will produce eggs that eventually hatch into Chao. You can pet them, feed them, throw them, and give them animals you’ve saved from the action stages. Doing these different things can influence their stats, which is what they’ll need for their primary function. They are used in races. In these races you merely watch and cheer on your Chao as it tries to beat the others to the finish line. Improving its stats gives you a better chance at winning. You may even breed Chao in order to create a new one with innate stat advantages it gets from the parents. In this version of the game, the only place you can do these activities is in the game’s Chao gardens.

This game is pretty appealing to me, even though it was the first Sonic game I really sunk my teeth into after never being a Sonic fan and never owning a Dreamcast. It just comes from that era of gaming that I find very interesting, and it has that certain charm to it. Plus, I like 3D platformers and it does a good job of not just being a cheap Super Mario 64 knockoff. Instead it focuses more on story with some decent voice acting at times and a more cinematic approach. The variety of characters is welcome and I especially liked playing as Sonic and Knuckles. Sonic feels great to control and his freedom to go through stages slow or fast is great. I also like that he gets the most levels, which is only fitting for the title character. Knuckles may be rehashing the same levels again, but I loved going around and really exploring the levels. It let me appreciate their design all the more rather than speeding through them at the speed of sound. I also liked playing as Amy but… for more personal reasons I probably shouldn’t bring up to incriminate myself with right now. Also, it has some pretty good music in it. The main theme kicks ass, man! Plus, I liked the mission mode because of how it gives you more to do in the world that doesn’t just follow each character’s main campaign mechanics. There’s a lot of good fun here to go along with the charm.

There are plenty of issues here as well, though. I’m not going to harp on the animations or awkward camera too much as neither were game-breaking. Some of the voice acting leaves something to be desired and the script is pretty rough, but as a framework to get you to do the action stages they work well enough. The problem with the multiple campaigns is that the stages get repeated so much. The new mechanics usually aren’t enough to make a stage feel significantly different, so you’ll just be playing the same levels a bunch of times and possibly get a bit bored of them. Big’s campaign is the most out of place with it being based around fishing, and Gamma’s is the most tedious as you basically just run forward holding and periodically releasing the fire button. Amy’s campaign is so short it barely qualifies. The adventures fields, at least in the main game, are giant empty hubs that seem like there should be more in them to do. It makes the whole adventure part of the game seem like false advertising. I feel like the trial mode is a little bit of padding, but I suppose it has appeal to some looking for a challenge. The thing I can’t stand is the Chao raising. Not only does it have no effect on the story, despite their being a whole poorly implemented time travel element about their history, but it’s so random, tedious, and out of place gameplay-wise that it’s a wonder it even exists here! The races are just you watching and hoping for the best. You don’t actively participate so all you can do is influence stats, breed more Chao, and hope for better results the next time. Raising them is also a big pain because, unlike in other versions, there’s no way to take them out of the game to raise them and then put them back in. You have to do it all on the game itself, which is so boring and so different from playing the rest of it that it makes Big the Cat’s gameplay look hardcore. It should’ve just been in some other game, but at least it’s optional outside of getting 100% completion.

So is Sonic Adventure overrated? Yes, definitely. People who loved it back in the day will still love it now. People who are into 3D Sonic games will probably love it too. And honestly, if you’re into 3D platformers of the era, then you might find this one charming and fun enough to be worth 20 to 25 bucks to play. I just don’t think I can call it a great game. It’s good. It’s fun. It’s appealing. You should definitely give it a try if you’re interested. There are worse 3D Sonic games, to be sure. But just don’t go into it expecting some amazing masterpiece of gaming history. This is no Super Mario 64, but it’s certainly no Superman 64 either. GOTTA GO FAST!

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