SEGA Sequels: Risky SEGA Sequels Vol 2

Apologies in advance for adding yet another Sonic story to our collection. I always cringe when I see Sonic dominating our weekly stories just because I know that there are so many other great IP from SEGA to focus on, and I know that, to a lot of people, Sonic is all that makes up SEGA, and that’s unfortunate. It just so happens though that there has been a lot more Sonic news this week to report on than usual, thanks in large part to his big focus at E3 and of course Sonic Boom, but in truth, I’d planned on writing this as far back as a couple weeks ago, so I guess it can’t be helped.

This week’s SEGA Sequel Saturdays will be taking a look at another risky SEGA sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, which, like Jet Set Radio Future of last week, made bold changes to what many thought was a successful formula and, as a result, delivered an experience that was entirely different from what people expected.

One thing I have to give SonicTeam credit for is that they have no problem re-inventing Sonic. There’s never been much of a consistent world, with Sonic ending up everywhere from the floating Angel Island to San Francisco, and SonicTeam’s never shied away from adding to the list of characters and gameplay styles. It’s for that reason that even when SonicTeam fails (and they have, pretty miserably at times) I always find myself thinking “well…at least they tried.” I think it’s for this reason that people always eagerly turn their heads whenever they hear that SonicTeam’s planning on announcing another Sonic game, if only for the reason that we never know exactly what we’ll see next.

Sonic Adventure 2 was one of the most highly anticipated games of the early 2000s. It was following hot on the heels of Sonic Adventure, a game both critically acclaimed and loved by many fans, and a game that brought Sonic back into the spotlight and proved that he was still relevent despite a long absence (for the most part) during the Saturn years. Sonic Adventure was very much a platformer of the “Super Mario 64” and “Banjo Kazooie” era, when more was automatically viewed as better. If you look back on a game like Super Mario 64, Nintendo threw in everything but the kitchen sink. There was racing, platforming, coin collecting, flying, swimming, and a whole ton of other types of gameplay in there, a lot of it not having existed in Mario before. The game was highly praised, even though you probably can’t find a single person who liked the red coin collecting, for example, or some of the game’s other tedious missions. Super Mario 64 was praised for its gameplay variety, and Sonic Adventure, along with many of Rareware’s platformers of that era, was designed from the same philosophy: That adding in as much gameplay variety as possible was the way to go, even if some of it wasn’t necessarily as fun as the rest of it.

It’s for this reason that the Sonic Adventure series, like many platformers from this era, hasn’t aged all that well, but Sonic Adventure was given much love by fans and the industry at the time of its release, which made the changes performed to Sonic Adventure 2 all the more surprising.

Whether SonicTeam was sensing the growing resistance in the gaming industry to this “more is better” type of platforming, or whether Sonic Adventure 2 was the way it was due to time constraints or a desire to create a more fast-paced experience, I don’t know, but the game was a lot smaller in scope than the original. The Adventure Fields were gone, removing all exploration from a series from which, with Sonic Adventure, it had become a key part. Chao gardens remained, but you had to access them either by picking up a key in the levels themselves or by selecting them from a manu; there was no more exploring to find them. Though the cast of playable characters was still made up of 6, there were only 3 types of gameplay; Running, shooting, and emerald hunting, with the occasional racing mission thrown in for good measure. There were only 2 different stories to choose from, versus the 6 from Sonic Adventure.

This streamlined approach actually brought Sonic Adventure 2 more in line with the structure of the SEGA Genesis originals, which also went from level to level and contained no exploring in between, but for people who got into the series with Sonic Adventure, it must have been a pretty big surprise. From a visual and audio perspective, Sonic Adventure 2 was unlike any Sonic game before it, taking place in our world and featuring a completely different style of soundtrack. Granted, Sonic Adventure introduced humans into the Sonic universe, yet the world of Station Square and the Mystic Ruins were just “fictional” enough to still keep its distance from our own. Sonic Adventure 2 was a big change in that it set itself deliberately in the San Francisco area, including landmarks like the cable cars and the Golden Gate bridge, and even featuring Robotnik negotiating at one point with the president of the United States, presumably. The story followed suit, with a plot dealing with space colonies, scientific experiments, the military, superweapons, and all sorts of stuff not seen before in the series.

Music-wise, too, we saw changes, with SonicTeam moving on from the traditional “Sonic” music featured up to that point and replacing it with a much more comtemporary rock soundtrack in the Sonic levels and full-on rap songs playing when you got to control Knuckles in his stages. Though Knuckles continued his emerald hunting gameplay from Sonic Adventure, it was made much more challenging, forcing you to rely on hints, with its radar only helping you to seek out one emerald at a time. Tails was placed into a mech and forced to shoot at enemies, a huge change for his gameplay as well.

One of the cool things Sonic Adventure 2 did was create the whole “good and evil” theme that’s become so common in video games since. The game advertised that you could choose to either save the world or conquer it, letting you play as Sonic/Tails/Knuckles (the good guys) or Robotnik/Rouge/Shadow (the bad guys) and watch their stories play out. While you ultimately had to complete both stories to see the game’s real ending and final boss, it was a cool idea, and playing as Robotnik was certainly something new, not counting spinoffs like Sonic R. The changes to the Chao gardens and Chao raising were also welcomed, as was the addition of competitive multiplayer, something not seen in the original Sonic Adventure.

Did the risk pay off?

For the most part, the risk did pay off. Though you’ll find a lot of people who prefer the original Sonic Adventure, you’ll also find a lot of people who prefer Sonic Adventure 2, and generally, fans look highly upon both of them, which is the key to a successful sequel. Though I’ll always have a bit of nostalgia for the original Sonic Adventure, which was really the game (along with the Dreamcast’s other launch titles) that introduced the world to “128-bit gaming” and was also the game that re-invented Sonic for an entire new generation.

When I re-play both of them in this day and age, Sonic Adventure 2 is the more polished experience, and the Chao gardens added so much replay value to the proceedings. Both games are interesting to think about, as they represented, really, the tail end of Super Mario 64-era platforming, which was on its way out as the Sonic Adventure series released. Looking at the ever-increasing trimming away and slimming down of that type of platforming now, (going as far as returning to the 2nd dimension in many cases) it’s obvious that it won’t be coming back anytime soon.

Comments? Thoughts? Opinions on the Sonic Adventure series? Leave ’em below.

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11 responses to “SEGA Sequels: Risky SEGA Sequels Vol 2

  1. Trippled says:

    I agree with Adventure 1 being pretty revolutionary when it came out,and not having aged well.

    However I don't think Adventure 2 was all that great to begin with, it just felt like a downgrade to me, the Sonic stages became alot more Linear and Speed-based and lost the variation and lenght of the Original game, and the Shooting and Hunting stages were alot worse than the counterparts in the first game. The Shooting became clunkier and way more drawn out for it's own good and were hallways of shooter galleries, and that by itself is just weak game design to me. The Hunting may have been more competently designed but the Radar was horribly gimped and the shards hidden way more specific,and with the combination of huge stages, it just wasn't any fun.

    It felt more polished but that was only due to alot simpler and less ambitionsLevel Design compared to the First game.All in all I don't think it was much better than recent games like Heroes or Unleashed.

  2. Great write up! In my opinion, SA2 plays much more like a straight up game, which I much prefer. SA1 did a fantastic job showing off what the Dreamcast could do, and it was great fun at the time, but nowadays I find myself getting annoyed by the "get the key" quests and all the things that have to happen in order to get to the next stage. Also, SA2's chao gardens were indeed a blast. I remember making a skull head ghost chao.

  3. cube_b3 says:

    Sonic Adventure 2 is my favorite game in the series!

    The thing is Sonic Adventure was more experimental, and Sonic Adventure 2 was more realised. They took the best of Adventure and made Adventure 2.

    People didn't like Adventure Fields, and people wanted more speed.

    The music in Adventure was very diverse, featuring several genre's trying them out where as Adventure 2 was J-Pop/Rock all the way.

    P.S. If Robotnik & Rouge refers to him as Mr. President then it is not presumably. He also returned in Shadow.

  4. -nSega54- says:

    I just meant that he was never identified specifically as president "Of the United States."

  5. cube_b3 says:

    True.

    N I'm not really seeing the major risk here given that it didn't do anything radical… it just took the best and amped it up. Things that were challenging to the devers were simply eliminated like making fun adventure fields, or doing anything more than speed for Sonic (stages like Ice Cap and Lost World tried to give more then speed to the hedgehog; it wasn't fun).

    Sonic Stages were much more simple, sure they had branching path ways but they were relatively linear, fast paced and allowed the players to retain momentum longer.

    Knuckles stages were brought back with more of the same, they didn't bother to make any radical changes to his format.

    Tails worked in Sonic Adventure but for a sequel he demanded more work as he was fundamentally on rails similar to how Sonic does in Unleashed (though Aerially), his Tail attack was kind of useless and the dynamo tails attack was simply too powerful. While he could freely fly, you had to go through the air boosts that essentially kept him on rails fixing the formula would've required effort. They side stepped it altogether and placed him in a slowed down (for precise shooting) Mech very similar to E-102.

    Lastly the Music as mentioned was much less in variety than in the original.

    So in conclusion they just took 5 things from Adventure Sonic Speed, Knuckles Hunting, Gamma Shooting, Chao Garden, Rock Music and just gave more of this, nothing more.

    SONIC 06 was bold enough to revisit everything that didn't work in Sonic Adventure while making it 10 times more in scope and we all know how that turned out.

    Sonic Adventure 2 in my opinion was a very safe sequel as nothing truly radical was done to the gameplay or music, the story on the other hand was dramatically different i'll give you that.

  6. CosmicCastaway says:

    I was just playing Sonic Adventure 2 today and it is every bit as fun as when I played it for the very first time. It is truly one of my favorites in the series.

  7. -nSega54- says:

    "SONIC 06 was bold enough to revisit everything that didn’t work in Sonic Adventure while making it 10 times more in scope and we all know how that turned out."

    I always thought of Sonic '06 not as something bold but as a pretty half-hearted attempt to re-capture what made Sonic Adventure so loved, while forgetting what made Sonic Adventure so good to start with.

    I also have to slightly disagree with you on Knuckles' gameplay in SA2 vs SA1…it was totally different. Play a Knuckles level in SA1 then play one in SA2 and you'd see why.

  8. CosmicCastaway says:

    Yeah, in Sonic Adventure you could search for all three Master Emerald pieces at once while in Sonic Adventure 2 you are restricted to looking for piece one at a time.

  9. cube_b3 says:

    It wasn't half hearted if you see the TGS 05 trailer it was intended to be something that was never delivered. It was almost as vast as Shenmue meets Sonic Adventure but 11 members from Sonic Team left mid way, then the Wii Team which was supposed to port the game started working on a new game altogether.

    SEGA SAMMY and Simon Jeffery weren't quality or brand conscious at the time and tinstead of finishing the game they released the Alpha Build.

  10. -nSega54- says:

    Even if the game was completed it had some of the worst level design of the series, irritating and pointless "town missions" and a love story that should never, ever happen.

    I wouldn't say Sonic '06 was nearly as ambitious as Sonic Adventure 2, it made no effort to fix the mistakes from the past 2 games (Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog) and instead set the game in a world similar to Sonic Adventure and hoped for the best.

  11. Samor says:

    I think Sonic 06 was ambitious, but somewhere it was just put together and released, without properly finishing up or testing what was there. It had lots of ideas, but pretty much nothing of it was working, because it was obviously very unfinished. clipping issues, ai problems, speed problems, cutscenes timing, it was all wrong. I'm quite a Sonic fan, and IMO Sonic Unleashed deserved better reviews (Sonic Team definately addressed all the problems of the previous game there), but Sonic 06… I was never able to like it, but purely because technically it was a complete mess (I don't care about the story issues it might have had, that was nothing compared to how poorly it played).

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