Friday, March 20, 2009

Review: Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast)

I'll go ahead and say it. I'm getting too old for some games. Right now I'm going to look at one of them.

Sonic Adventure 2 is as we all know the sequel to Sonic Adventure 1, Sonic's first foray into the world of 3D platforming. This sequel carries over everything I loved about SA1(the music, the chao-raising) and everything I hated about it(the controls, the mechanics). Over time there'd be future 3D Sonics like Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Sonic PS360. The problem with this however is that not once has Sonic Team ever bothered with fixing the issues that have plagued the 3D series since it began with SA1.

Mechanics are the biggest issue with 3D Sonics. Admittedly it wasn't so bad with the first SA because the designers didn't take any serious risks with the level design. It was rare Sonic and company would find themselves navigating difficult platforming sections and very narrow areas where a single slip-up could mean death. Even the very concept of dying by falling in a pit is rare for a Sonic game(at the time of course, things have changed quite a bit lately). SA2 unfortunately decides to have a pit to fall in in seemingly every stage, this is a serious problem since none of SA1's problems were fixed(or any other subsequent 3D Sonic release for that matter). The homing attack still requires a bit of trial and error to get used to(like when to hit the jump button again when using a homing attack against multiple enemies) and even then it's never quite 100%, making it feel like a risky endeavor even when it's supposed to be used. The levels still feel like if I touched the wrong wall I'd fall through it and be a goner. The game feels consistently incomplete and rushed and I have simply no confidence in the design of it.

I say this because with games one has to have full confidence in both their skills and the abilities of whatever it is they're controlling. SA2 never gave me this feeling of confidence so I would find myself purposely avoiding optional scenarios(like jumping from a railing to collect some items and then jumping back on the rail) simply to survive. There were times that if I hit a spring or a ramp at just the wrong spot I'd find myself flying off a cliff and into a hole a second later. It would get so bad that'd I have to stop every once in awhile to get my bearings and approach the next obstacle carefully.

This is quite a shame because the scoring system has become a great model for all subsequent 3D Sonics. For those that can tolerate the poor mechanics and/or memorize how to handle every little jump and step it can be quite rewarding. Also clever is the handling of progress throughout the game. Even after completing story mode there's more than enough content for the completionists out there. Getting every emblem could take more than fifty hours. It's also nice how the player can jump from chao-raising to choosing a different stage or a different mission for said stage with no trouble. If I could look past the terrible mechanics and sub-par design the game actually has really good presentation.

The sub-par game design comes from a number of things in SA2. Death or even the possibility of death is simply too often an occurence. This relates to the lack of confidence in the game and makes the game a chore to play since I'm too worried about falling into something to play the game properly. Most of all however I'm getting older. I'm not sure if over time my skills have atrophied or what but this game was a lot more frustrating than it was when I was younger. Maybe I'm just less patient with bad game design and mechanics. 

In the future I'll look at...well I dunno. I'll have to think of something. I may have to come back to this because I don't think I've explained my point well enough.

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