First, let me begin by saying that I have been a fan of Sonic since he first appeared on the Genesis. I was tired of a certain Italian plumber, and Sonic's character design appealed to me. Also, the speed and sheer inventiveness of the levels kept me coming back for more. Keeping that in mind, I present this review of the latest in the Sonic series, Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, Sega's uber-machine. Also, let me state that I did not make it all the way through the game, so this is based on the limited amount of the game I DID play, which was almost to the end of Sonic's quest.
The Dreamcast is simply an amazing piece of hardware, and Sonic shows it off very well. The textures have to be seen to be believed, and the colors are amazing. There is an incredible amount of detail in both the characters and in the background/scenery detail. Windy Valley and Emerald Coast are amazing examples of this; the movies floating on the Internet do not do it justice. And the game moves at an incredible 60fps. Mind you, that's really overkill, considering that most TVs don't display much higher than 30fps. And Sonic moves at a blistering rate as well. If you thought he moved fast in previous games, well, at the risk of being horribly cliched, you ain't seen nothin' yet. At some points, I actually lost track of where Sonic was going or what direction he was headed in. However, I did see a tiny bit of pop-in on some levels, which dropped the graphics score down slightly. Mostly on the Lost World level and Emerald Coast.
The sound on this game is excellent. The sound effects are straight old-school Sonic, which is as it should be. The voices are well done, (although sometimes they don't QUITE match the mouth movements) and are far better than the ones on the American Sonic show. Each characters' theme is also well done; I'm not ordinarily a fan of J-Pop, but I'll make an exception for this game. Amy's theme is cute, as is Tails', Knuckles' makes him sound like a real tough guy, and Sonic's is fast-paced. Once again, Yuji Naka and Sonic Team have outdone themselves with the "bubbly, fun" type music--which is exactly what a Sonic game SHOULD have.
This is where I really feel the game is weakest. I can understand why the camera rotates around automatically in some spots, but in others, it makes no sense--and can get you killed easily if you're not paying attention. This is close to the problem with the camera in Mario 64, only far less so--usually, if you move the camera, it will stay where you put it, or only move slightly. Also, sometimes, when you're in a tight space, the camera would get stuck "outside" that space (Mystic Ruins, Tails' house is a horrible offender). However, these are minor quirks in an otherwise excellent camera system.
Once you get the hang of moving, the game is not overly difficult. I would assume that it just requires a level or two to get the hang of different characters' play styles. However, as I said earlier, I did not get the chance to play other characters. However, Sonic's levels could be difficult at points. Also, without understanding Japanese, I had a hard time figuring out where to go/what to do next. Fortunately, the ring system, as it has been in every Sonic, is relatively forgiving. Also, there still exists the "100 rings=extra man" idea, which means you can build up extra lives fairly quickly. For someone familiar with Sonic, not too difficult, but enough to give a decent challenge. Add the other five characters, and the game could have a decent length to it, giving it a fair amount of replayability.
This is the area where Sonic has really shone traditionally, and Sonic Adventure does not disappoint. As I mentioned before, the speed Sonic runs at is incredible--if you experience motion sickness easily, do not watch or play this game, and I am very serious about that. Never before has a game given me a real sense of "flying" (or falling) as the Windy Valley level did. For those who have played this level, you know of what I speak. There are a couple minor glitches, such as collision detection (at one point, I fell through the bottom of a pit), but it usually didn't bother me too much, as I would've been dead at that point anyway (the pit was full of water and too tall to jump out of). Also, they've given Sonic an in-air dash (press jump while in the air) which auto-targets item boxes and enemies. However, it can also be used to fly right off the edge of a high platform, causing death, if you're not careful.
However, it wouldn't matter what these numbers say if the game wasn't fun. But it was. Yuji Naka and Sonic Team have proven once again that they have the magic and talent to make a game that is just plain FUN--and that's what most people play games for, unless I miss my guess. Everything comes together very well, and blends to make a whole much more than the sum of the parts. When I get my American Dreamcast, this will be one of the games running on it. Quite frankly, it frightens me that this is just a first generation game. The Dreamcast has some impressive hardware, and if Sonic can keep bringing us software of this caliber, the Dreamcast will be a very real contender in the next generation system wars.
Review By: Gregory O. Young (firstname.lastname@example.org)