I never owned a SEGA Dreamcast, so I get to come into this review with no nostalgia whatsoever for what Sonic Adventure 2 was originally like over a decade ago on the Dreamcast. Nor, prior to this, have I ever played a 3D Sonic game that I actually enjoyed (and I loved the first three Sonic games on the Genesis, with Sonic 2 being my favorite one). So when I sat down to play Sonic Adventure 2 HD I had no idea what to expect and my expectations weren’t too high given my feelings towards 3D Sonic games. On one hand, my expectations were exceeded. On the other, they were disappointingly met.
My biggest problem with Sonic Adventure 2 is the controls and the camera. Where Mario was able to make the transition from 2D to 3D in epic style delivering classic games, Sonic clumsily stumbled into 3D with games that, to me, have been mostly unplayable. Sonic Adventure 2 HD is playable, thank goodness, but it’s definitely load with frustration. The game is simply too fast for its own good, particularly during parts of the Sonic and Shadow levels. High speed, bad controls, some platforming, and a dreadful camera do not make a good combination. It certainly doesn’t help when the camera decides it wants to suddenly spin for absolutely no reason.
Camera issues and frustrations aside, it’s a mostly fun experience. The game is made up of two stores, the hero side and the dark side. These play the same; Sonic/Shadow, Tails/Eggman, and Knuckles/Rogue. The Sonic and Shadow levels are fun speed through levels with some platforming. They’re not really difficult, but can sometimes be frustrating when it gets to going really fast and combined with the horrible camera. Sometimes you’ll find yourself need to make a jump down, and it’ll end up basically be a leap of faith as you have no idea what you’re doing since you can look down to see what you need to land on.
My favorite levels though were actually Tails and Eggman. You’re in mech suits/vehicles working your way through levels, with some platforming, blowing stuff up. These are just good fun and the levels I think the camera works best with since they’re a little bit slower and fairly straight forward (camera can be a bit wonky during parts of these though). Not surprising that I’d end up enjoying the Tails levels more though, as I always preferred playing as Tails in Sonic 2 (and 3) in co-op.
The Knuckles and Rogue levels though are absolutely horrendous. You’re tasked with finding three shards of the grand chaos emerald that has shattered. There are computers scattered around the levels that give hints and a radar system that will let you know when you’re relatively close to right on top of it, but overall these levels are tedious and begin sucking the fun right out of the game. I do enjoy flying around as Knuckles and climbing up walls and digging through stuff, but it’s everything else about the levels that are just excruciating to playthrough. It doesn’t help that it is in these levels that the camera is at its absolute most frustrating.
Outside (and within) the two stories, there’s a few other things to do. There’s a two-player offline battle mode, a barebones kart racer, and the Chao Garden. This is like an RPG pet simulator. Within the levels there are animals and Chaos Drives that you can give to your chao’s in the Chao Garden. These can increase their stats and even their appearance. You can send your chao to kindergarten, there’s a black market, fighting, etc. It’s a neat idea that actually holds up pretty well and does add some depth to the otherwise okay 3D platformer.
Sonic Adventure 2 features horrible voice work (and the writing is bad too) and a laughably bad soundtrack (Why mess with Sonic’s soundtrack? I love the classic Sonic scores not this bad rap featured in portions of this game.).
The game itself looks fairly good in HD. I’d say the team did a good job with it, although some of the cutscenes look bad in comparison (4:3 SD). Other than the cutscenes though, it’s a good HD remastering. There’s maybe a few texture issues here and there, but overall it’s a crisp looking HD game (you can certainly tell it’s a remastering of a decade old game though).
I bashed the camera throughout the review, and it really is a horrible frustrating camera a lot of the times, but all things considered Sonic Adventure 2 is worth playing and it’s priced right at $9.99. If you played it and loved it back on the Dreamcast, or even the GameCube, then I really don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy it in HD. Once you get past the games many flaws, again most notably the frustrating camera, and the boring boss battles, you’re left with a game that still has a lot of fun to offer. Sonic fans shouldn’t miss it.
* A copy of this game was provided for review.