Lighting mod for Sonic Adventure DX restores Dreamcast lighting effects

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Sonic Retro user Morph and several others have gone through Sonic Adventure DX and created a mod that restores the lighting effects that were previously seen in the original Sonic Adventure into the PC version. The difference gives off more vibrant colors in the environment that also reacts to objects and characters. You can download the mod from the discussion thread in Sonic Retro’s forums.

Lighting can be used to set a specific tone or mood in an environment. But why is it such a difficult thing to remain consistent when converting this to other game platforms? The game featured an artistic shift that occurred when the game was converted to other platforms. A combination of technical hurdles and creative liberties can dampen the original artistic intent, and Sonic Adventure is no exception. The original Dreamcast version featured a “Lantern” engine which provided impressive looking lighting effects using palettes on SEGA’s then cutting edge game console. However the dozens of ports of the game left out these lighting effects in favor of using drop shadows instead, until now. Check out additional videos, comparison screenshots and an interview with Morph on the mod after the jump!

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After the original Dreamcast version, the lighting effect was replaced with drop shadows on the GameCube. The GameCube port ran at 60 frames per second, but with some random bursts of slowdown and frame stuttering. The developers also chose to remodel characters and change the textures that feature muted colors and shinier characters. Later PC ports retained the same graphical changes at the expense of changing the nuance throughout the scenery. In this screenshot you can see in the rock alcove above and you’ll notice the lantern lighting effects in the Dreamcast version give more definition to the structure. With the palette mod, it’s now possible to combine both drop shadows and lantern light sources at the same time.

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The lantern engine also affected how characters are rendered. Aside from the texture and model changes, without it, characters give off a more rubbery, shiny look to them while other colors appear more flat. With the lantern lighting system, the vaseline effect appears reduced as seen in the character select screen. Notice the lantern light source across Sonic’s eyes on both Dreamcast and in the mod.

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A more obvious example comes in Red Mountain Part 2. Here the lantern light sources give a lighting ambiance with the flames inside the skulls decorated in the caverns. In comparison the DX version doesn’t really bother with any kind of ambient lighting effects hiding the detail of the skull due to the texture used and looks rather primitive as a result. The palette mod comes pretty close to the Dreamcast version with the ability to render at a higher video resolution.

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Finally lets take a look at Final Egg Part 2. Aside from the texture changes, the DX version faces a change of tone in the environment and on Sonic (and Tails!) as light seems to not exist on the GameCube version, and just pumps up the shine in the Steam version having light pointed at Sonic coming from seemingly nowhere. In the palette mod, the restored lantern engine matches and in some cases even surpasses the detail seen in the Dreamcast version thanks to Sonic’s higher polygonal count showing light bouncing off of his quills and hands.

If you’re tempted to try the mod out yourself, you can obtain it from the discussion thread on Sonic Retro. This will work on the PC version released in 2004 or by installing the Better SADX mod designed for the Steam release. You can also check out the dedicated Dreamcast hacking and conversion thread for Sonic Adventure DX which allows you to restore the Dreamcast experience even further by restoring the original textures and UI, or you can go hog wild in the general hacking thread and go for the even crazier changes including the addition of Super Sonic to normal gameplay among other features made possible by the talented hacking community. I also fired off some technical questions over at Morph to give a more detailed look on the conversion process of the lighting mod which you can read over in the Sonic Retro version of the article.

If you want more help installing the mods or want to look at more comparisons, BlazeHedgehog has also created a handy video that also provides a tutorial on his YouTube channel. If you want to see levels compared in further detail, check out YouTube user ZoядkдяoZ’s channel, who I totally didn’t just copy and paste into this article, in his dedicated playlist.

From the Retro Forums

Screenshots

Videos

Interview

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11 responses to “Lighting mod for Sonic Adventure DX restores Dreamcast lighting effects

  1. Smokesy says:

    I always thought Sonic Adv. DX seemed like a rushed port, they probably should have put more effort into getting the lighting ported successfully than adding the somewhat unremarkable extra features, still, understandable considering it was probably just done for easy money.

    • Robbie says:

      They consciously removed the Dreamcast lighting system, as early GC SADX prototypes had it. Don’t ask me why.

    • Smokesy says:

      Wow, ok that’s weird.
      Maybe they were having issues getting the pallet-ed system to port correctly to the new hardware or something :/

      It’d be interesting to see how this mod actually works at a code level.

  2. Robbie says:

    Now this is a SADX mod that is worth one’s time. Unlike the mods by Dreamcast purists that revert the levels and fields to the inferior looking DC versions, or the pointless DC model port that the Retro people are currently trying to make.

    • Smokesy says:

      I dunno to be honest, there are several areas where I feel the texture choice in the Dreamcast version’s environments was artistically stronger, especially in the adventure field areas.
      Station Square noticeably so, although I’m guessing they were designed with the idea of the lighting engine actually being there in mind.

    • Onso says:

      Wow you need to get your head out of your ass some ppl enjoy the DC version and whether it’s supperior or not is a matter of opinion no one is forcing you to use the mods and if you prefer the other stuff then make your own damn mod.

  3. itsstillthinking1999 says:

    Dreamcast version is still the superior version to me because of it controlling much better, collision detection being much better and being much less glitchy. and of course the best version if all the exclusive content like dlc and the recently revived world rankings and chao daycare

    • Robbie says:

      Wow. Someone clearly needs to take off the nostalgia goggles. SADX controls much better due to the increased framerate, is no less glitchy and has the same collision detection. And most of the DLC content was just decoration items in the fields that didn’t expand the gameplay in any way. Well, there were a few DLC challenges consisting in item hunting, but mission mode in DX has plenty of these. Not to mention that it provides 50 missions that are actually challenges themselves, so they provided actual gameplay instead of being just pointless decoration. Now, I’ve seen DX haters diss the mission mode, but you can’t diss it and praise the DLC challenges when they had the same kind of gameplay. So any unbiased person will take the 50 missions from DX over the 3-5 DLC challenges from the DC version any day of the week.

    • Robbie says:

      Argh, meant to say “SADX controls much better due to the increased framerate, and SA1 is no less glitchy and has the same collision detection.”

    • itsstillthinking1999 says:

      As someone who has playing both versions for 17 years now and who has more nostalgia towards sadx i can say for certain that sadx has glitches and has collision detection issues. Take Windy Vally in “the air” section, when ever sonic hits a wall he stops in sadx but in the dc version he he keeps right on going. And mission mode does have a lot of extra game time but we have to remember that sa1 had free dlc in 1998, one of if not the first console game to have dlc so its hard to criticize something that was the fist to do it. also there where some cool extras outside of themes like an exclusive course for the kart racing. Not trying to start a war or anything but make sure to try it before criticizing it, more info here http://www.dreamcastlive.net/blogs/

    • Redd says:

      This is VERY wrong. DX has smoother and more responsive controls as a result of the higher FPS, and fixed a number of glitches from the Dreamcast version. And the point about the online features in the Dreamcast is moot now, given that they no longer work.

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