Reviewing Sonic’s History Part 2: Speeding Into the Third Dimension
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Sonic Adventure (1998)
To say that Sonic Adventure is a perfect game would be a ludicrous statement, on account of its multitude of technical shortcomings, including glitches and an unreliable camera. However, what Sonic Adventure may lack in polish, it makes up for overwhelmingly in an abundance of childish delight. Offering a plethora of content in the form of multiple storylines and collectible emblems, as well as an upbeat open world, Sonic’s first fully 3D outing is proof that the latest shiny graphics and most polished gameplay sometimes can never win over pure guilty pleasure fun. The same reason that certain people adore the technically flawed Super Mario 64 is the same reason that certain people adore Sonic Adventure, and it is proof that charm can go an enormously long way. Whilst it may show its age today, for its time it is a very impressive achievement in 3D gaming and should be remembered as such.
Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)
Sonic Adventure 2 provides a more polished experience than its predecessor, losing the poorly received gameplay of characters such as Amy and Big, and instead expanding upon the more enjoyable facets of Sonic Adventure’s gameplay. Unfortunately, by losing the open world, and by grounding itself a little further, in reality, it sacrifices some of its predecessor’s subtle but important qualities. Despite this, Sonic Adventure 2 still provides enjoyable gameplay, with a memorable cast of characters and a relatively fun (if at times cringeworthy) story.
Aside from this, however, the standout feature of Sonic Adventure 2 is its surprisingly addictive Chao garden. The act of raising your own adorable Chao from a hatchling to an undefeated competition winner is wonderfully pleasant. Something that was dull and repetitive within Sonic Adventure is fully realised to be engaging and worthwhile in its sequel, and it is by far the most enjoyable aspect of Sonic Adventure 2. Much like its predecessor, the swan song for SEGA’s woefully underappreciated Dreamcast features many very positive qualities which stand high and mighty above its shortcomings.
Sonic Heroes (2004)
Following the Sonic franchise excelling in stellar 2D gameplay, and showing strong potential in its 3D gameplay, Sonic Heroes rears its ugly, misshapen head to change everything for the worse. Full to the brim with gameplay relying on tedious team based gimmicks, and featuring a stylistic direction specifically marketed towards a younger audience, Sonic Heroes signaled the beginning of Sonic’s harsh dip in quality. Whilst making franchises appealing to a new generation of fans is understandable from a business and marketing perspective, this must be done with intelligent care and consideration for current fans. By seeing what made Sonic great, to begin with decimated in order to satisfy a new generation of fans, long time supporters of the hedgehog felt alienated, and Sonic’s overall quality reduced. Sonic Heroes deviates from its 3D predecessor’s mostly solid gameplay and results in a product that is nothing more than a jumbled mess of poor to mediocre ideas (the worst offender of which being a story decision that resurrects a fallen character following their beautifully fitting send off in Sonic Adventure 2).
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)
Sonic 06 (as it will from hereon be refereed to) is not the unplayable atrocity that many fans claim it to be, and it is far from the worst game ever made. However, it is still pretty terrible, in part due to its rushed development time in order to allow for the release of the game to coincide with Sonic’s 15th anniversary. Aside from suffering from a multitude of glitches and overall lack of polish as a result of the aforementioned rushed development time, Sonic 06 flaunts a slow and sluggish Sonic, who’s physics and movements handle poorly. Gimmick riddled side character gameplay (with the worst offender being Silver the Hedgehog), and an infamously uncomfortable human and hedgehog romance sub-plot certainly do the game no favours either. By trying to emulate the success of Sonic Adventure by featuring similar elements to it (such as multiple character storylines and an open world), it results in a game that feels overwhelmingly inferior to its influencer.
Sonic Unleashed (2008)
Featuring brand new speed focused gameplay, Sonic Unleashed was poised to be a return to form for the franchise. With fast paced action and platforming, Sonic Unleashed featured genuine potential at the time of its release. However, the addition of a fur covered iteration of Sonic known as ‘Sonic the Werehog’ presents the player with uncomfortably clunky combat and platforming. This feels to be at a snail’s pace in comparison to the white-knuckle gameplay of Sonic’s hedgehog iteration, and as a result, the entire quality of Sonic Unleashed becomes compromised by yet another terribly designed gimmick (something that can be easily seen within many poor quality Sonic games). Perhaps Sonic Unleashed would still be remembered fondly if its non-Werehog gameplay was stellar. Sadly, whilst it offers a definite improvement over Sonic Heroes and Sonic 06, it still fails to escape the trappings of a lack of balancing in its level design and challenge, with difficulty spikes and poorly placed hazards making appearances all too frequently. Sonic Unleashed has very little going in its favour, with the only truly great gameplay being the enjoyably challenging Egg Beetle, Egg Devil Ray, and Egg Lancer boss battles.
PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE