Rose tinted glasses may be required.
Nostalgia is a mixed bag. Sometimes you go back to things and are reminded how great they are, while other times you feel like your childhood’s taken a battering. The original Sonic Adventure definitely fits squarely into the second category. Now Sonic Adventure 2 has arrived on PSN, and while it hasn’t aged quite as badly as the original, it’s definitely not the good time I remember it being 11 years ago.
Sonic Adventure 2 gets rid of the ‘hub’ areas of the original game in favour of a more simple ‘clear stage, go to next stage’ approach, which is welcome, as it wasn’t always clear where you had to go in the first game. There are two main single player stories to follow, the ‘Hero’ and ‘Dark’ paths, but there isn’t really any difference between them other than cosmetic differences. The levels on each side take place in different bits of the same zone and intertwine with each other at certain points.
The levels themselves fall into three types. There’s the Sonic & Shadow levels, which are just the simple speed platforming levels and are the most fun levels in the game. Then there’s the Tails & Dr Eggman levels, which involve you moving a slow mech machine around, shooting enemies and navigating obstacles. Finally, and probably most irritating, are Knuckles and Rouge’s emerald shard hunting levels, which involve a ‘hot/cold’ system of tracking them, and when combined with the horrible camera work, are about as fun as having your fingers broken one by one.
The camera really does a lot to ruin the fun of the game, switching to strange angles at the worst possible time, where attempting a precise jump will result in you suddenly plummeting to your doom. It also tends to go to an extreme close up in boss battles, preventing you from seeing where the boss is and whether they’re attacking you. It really makes you appreciate how much better cameras in 3D games are these days. The somewhat loose and imprecise controls really don’t help matters much either, and can be slow to respond.
The boss battles are a strange mix. Some are over very quickly, and others require you to attack a weak point that seems to be just be arbitrarily thrown onto the boss rather than looking like they could actually be a weak point. The battles aren’t particularly interesting, though, as they consist of mostly repeating the same action four or five times. Any difficulty in these boss battles is usually brought on by the camera and controls rather than the boss itself being hard to defeat.
The soundtrack is equal parts good an horribly cheesy. The music also drowns out the character voices in some cutscenes, although considering how ridiculous the story is, you’re not missing much. The voices of Sonic and Tails are as irritating as they’ve ever been since they were given voices, and the standard of voice acting is generally poor.
Perhaps the most fun aspect of the game for me is the Chao Garden, which involves you raising pets and giving them abilities by giving them the various animals and vials you collect along the way, and you can enter them in a variety of races. There’s also a school you can leave them in to have them learn things like how to play instruments, or you can change their name or get them a health check up.
Should you have a friend and a couple of controllers, there’s a 2 player local multiplayer mode as well, featuring things like karting and snowboard races. The karting is pretty abysmal, but the other modes are fun enough. It’s more of a distraction than anything, really.
Sonic Adventure 2 is really the sort of game you need to approach with a nostalgic attitude to get the most enjoyment out of it. The Sonic and Shadow levels and the Chao Garden are fun, but everything else just feels dull and slow, and the atrocious camera really does seem like it’s actively working against you half the time. If you really enjoyed Sonic Adventure 2 back in the day, then it’s certainly worth a look for the nostalgia factor. But if you missed the boat first time around, you should probably just steer clear.