Retro Review : Sonic Adventure (Sega Dreamcast)

Every new console needs a game, the killer app, to wow the audience and convince them to part with their hard earned cash. The Sega Dreamcast was no different and this task fell to Sega’s favoured child, Sonic the Hedgehog.

In the Media

It’s Sonic Adventure and it’s the launch title that everyone’s been waiting for, so you’d expect a plethora of top ratings from the Dreamcast specific magazines, perhaps even a top mark? Well Sonic Adventure didn’t quite manage to achieve the glory of being the Dreamcasts first 10/10 game but it came close. Official Dreamcast Magazine, DC-UK and Dreamcast Magazine universally agreed that Sonic Adventure was a quality title and all three awarded exactly the same mark of 90%. They were all impressed with the graphics and the amount of game available - mainly because of the 6 different playable characters. However all commented on issues with the camera being a frustration and other glitching and pop-up issues are also mentioned.

Gameplay Video

Playing the Game

Sonic’s nemesis, Dr Robotnik is up to no good again. He has plans for world domination and has allied himself with a strange water based monster named Chaos. To achieve his goals he must collect all 7 Chaos Emeralds and it’s up to Sonic and friends to stop him. This simple summary does not really do the storyline much justice. Surprisingly we are treated to quite an in-depth storyline, played from several characters points of view (more on that later) along with a few explanatory (although confusing) flashbacks.

Sonic Adventure was to mark a number of firsts in the Sonic franchise - the most obvious being that this game marks the blue spinney ones first outing in three dimensions. To take full advantage of this Sonic Adventure introduced a limited free roaming aspect to the game play and split the stages into three types – the Adventure Field, Action Stages, Sub-games.

The free roaming areas are named Adventure Fields. It’s in these locations where, via a little bit of exploration and puzzle solving, the plot is advanced. Occasionally you might find a useful power-up or other secret to aid your continuing adventures. The Adventure Fields are small in number, quite limited in size and you’ll be passing through them quite a lot. The puzzles seldom get any harder than carrying a key from one area to another and should you find yourself lost hints a plenty are available if you know who to ask.

The Action Stages are the main meat of the game and it’s here we are treated to a surprising range of game play styles thanks to the introduction of Sonic and his five allies, all of whom are fully voiced (another first, although not altogether one to be pleased about). First though is Sonic himself. Sonics levels are excellent renditions of his 2d adventures. They are impressive and they do retain the feeling of speed but not without problems, too often it is possible to glitch through barriers to an unfair death or bear witness to some truly disappointing pop-up.

As you proceed through the story you link up with the other five characters and unlock them as playable characters. The five are Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Big and E102 Gamma and all of them have their own game play styles. Tails levels require you to race to the end of the level before another character, Knuckles is using his treasure hunting skills to search for the pieces of the broken master emerald, Amy is trying to escape the relentless pursuit of one of Dr Robotnik’s hench robots, Big is trying to catch his friend froggy Sega Bass fishing style and E102 Gamma levels have a distinct shoot-em up bent. None of these differing styles manage to eclipse Sonics own levels (it is his game after all!) but Tails and Knuckles levels are a particular highlight. In addition to all this you can return to any completed level a further two times to attempt to complete them with different goals.

Lastly there are the various sub-games. You will find yourself snowboarding, piloting a plane, kart racing and even indulging in a spot of Sonic pinball. All are nicely done and provide a welcome distraction to the main adventure. The most substantial sub game involves the delightful Chao. Best described as a virtual pet these can be hatched and raised in secret Chao gardens and then transferred over to the VMU for some portable shenanigans. It wouldn’t be a Sonic Adventure without the occasional boss battle and these are present in spades. In fact you end up fighting the same boss battle at certain points with differing characters which smells of padding. The boss battles themselves highlight one of the major issues with the game, it is just too easy and presents very little challenge. It’s not until the final levels that the challenge level increases a little and the game becomes massively more enjoyable as a result.

It is easy to see why Sonic Adventure was declared as the killer app at the Dreamcast launch. It looks pretty good, it’s fun to play and there’s plenty to do but the camera issues, repetitive free roaming and relative ease of the whole affair are a massive disappointment. Bearing all this in mind revisiting Sonic Adventure has been a pleasure and it’s worth a few hours of anyone’s time for a slice of Sega history.

Last Updated ( 30 January 2011 )  


(Link to this comment) Cauterize 2011-01-30 22:21
I think seeing the huge whale crashing into the scenery of the first level was the point where I had realised how far both Sonic and gaming in general had advanced. I actually reset the game and played up to that point just to let my jaw drop once more. Good times!

Great review too :)
(Link to this comment) JoeMD 2011-01-31 06:54
I HATE the casino level in this game. All the others are fun but i find that one tedious and annoying. Big is also a painful character to get through the various stages with, fishing is now what I want in a Sonic game. Don't get me wrong, I do love Sonic and Sonic Adventure is one of the better titles, it's just not without it's faults.
(Link to this comment) nakamura 2011-02-01 10:20
While the game had some fun moments, it was never a 90% game and shows the idiocy of the reviewers fawning over the graphics. Gameplay was sorely lacking and it was far too automatic. That said, there was fun to be had with this. Pity it was all destroyed by the pointless roaming areas and crap characters.
(Link to this comment) JenGamer 2012-06-13 11:25
I loved Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 and still do. I remember CVG gave it 5/5 stars and I think Gamesmaster gave it 91 I think.
(Link to this comment) RetroSkate81 2012-07-30 16:56
Sonic Adventure is a great game. But I feel like I'm the only one around here who like the casino levels.. :sad:
(Link to this comment) Segatarian 2015-11-20 23:24
great game, i prefer 2.

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