Sonic Adventure is a no-frills re-release on Xbox Live Arcade from Sega
- This faithful port of the original Dreamcast release might please the most hardcore Sonic fans, the soundtrack is still remarkably catchy.
- The graphics look blocky and washed-out, no widescreen option or any gameplay improvements, horrible camera work, offensively awkward controls, terrible voice acting
Often regarded as one of the system's best games, Sega's Sonic Adventure led a strong library of Dreamcast launch titles back in 1999. But even with all the rave reviews, it was still marred by awkward controls and a spotty camera. Eleven years later, those nagging issues greatly hinder this bare-bones, no-frills re-release on Xbox Live Arcade from Sega. It's almost not Sonic's fault -- 3D games just don't age well -- but this lazy port makes the Blue Blur look slower than ever.
When it comes to video games, regret and hindsight are two of the most frequent feelings we have when it comes to old technology. If only we had known how hard they would be to find in 2010, most of us would have kept our Super Nintendo systems and Sega Saturns in mint condition. Given a second chance, how many of us would have held onto those yesteryear games that would later become precious, highly priced relics?
Luckily, we live in an age where nostalgia equals cash, and Sega's playing that game like a champ. Case in point: Sonic Adventure -- one of the most fondly remembered titles of the Dreamcast era -- is the first of several games that will find their way back into our living rooms by way of downloadable content. It's an all-time classic, and personally, one of my most fondly remembered gaming experiences.
But now that I've played the re-release on Xbox 360, I wish that Sonic Adventure had stayed where it belonged -- in my memories. Sure, there are several games that age well over time, but writing this review has shown me that Sonic Adventure is a sobering exception to that statement. In fact it's only now that I realise the Sonic games are still battling the same problems that they did back when Sega was playing with the big boys: bad controls, an awkward camera, terrible voice acting, frustrating level design, and way too many sidekicks.
Sonic Adventure on Xbox Live is exactly the same as the Dreamcast version, and that's a bad thing. Aside from some minor touch-ups on the graphics, absolutely nothing has been done to improve or refine the original game. Every gameplay quirk that I ignored 11 years ago sticks out hideously, which is especially sobering since I'm revisiting a video game that I once considered cutting edge. Sonic runs like his shoes are lined with butter and the entire world is made of glass; Knuckles flies like a brick on a string; Tails will occasionally pass right through solid objects and platforms; Big the Cat's levels are so plodding that they're downright tedious; and even Amy's controls are as broken as the rest, although her mission mode is still the most varied of the seven.
It's really too bad, because every character has huge and colourful levels gracing each of their individual mission modes, and even though the mechanics at hand leave a lot to be desired, they're still fun in small doses. Moreover, it's interesting to see the story of Sonic Adventure through the eyes of all the different characters, since they all play a small role in taking down Eggman and Chaos. But by the time you play through the entire game, all the rough edges on this title really cut down on the fun factor. It's particularly bad with platforming sequences, since the control and camera will always work together to ensure that you either plummet to your death or wind up not being able to see anything. When your camera gets wedged into a wall for the tenth time in one level, it becomes clear that little to nothing was done to tune up this re-release whatsoever.
In fact, there's even problems with the auto-save mechanic: during my play-through of Sonic Adventure, I unlocked a ton of achievements as I progressed through the game. But even though I let the auto-save do its thing, when I rebooted my Xbox 360, my file only showed an hour of gameplay with 20 percent completion on the Sonic missions. Hopefully this was an isolated incident and not a glitch, but given the lack of improvements on the source code, I'm not optimistic.
No matter how you look at it, Sonic Adventure feels like a rushed port. There's no widescreen option, so the game's bordered at a 4:3 ratio with an ugly blue background. The "DX" content from the director's cut is also sequestered in a separate purchase package, giving the base purchase no extra value. Sure, there's surround sound and Achievements, but that's literally every extra flourish you'll find in this repackaging. Seeing how this port turned out, it seems like a bad precedent for how the rest of the Dreamcast Returns line-up is going to fare (and Crazy Taxi is already undergoing editing due to music and product licensing).
Looking back on it, even in 1999 Sonic Adventure was criticised for its poor controls and awkward camera. But while these problems were minor and commonplace then, they're flinchingly noticeable now. Seeing Sonic Adventure repackaged and shipped out to the current console generation like this just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and no matter how I want to look at it, nostalgia goggles don't compensate for a game that's so fundamentally flawed by today's standards. Sega's asking price may be $10, but you can buy the original Dreamcast game for less via online stores like Amazon. Do that, because it'll put you in the right mindset to properly enjoy the game -- by today's standards, even Sonic's glory days aren't looking so good.
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