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System: Nintendo GameCube
Developer: Sonic Team
Retail Price: $49.99
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Genre: 3-D Action Platformer
If you read this site regularly, then you're probably well aware of my ranting and my disappointment with Sega quitting the hardware business for good and going third party. It's probably best I just get this part over with quickly, or ignore all this, but being the Sega lover I am, I always have the need to vent and rant (I'm sure some of you have read this little number of mine). Anyhow, I've slowly gotten used to the idea of Sega developing games for other competing systems, and perhaps it's a good thing that Sega will now have a larger audience and get more people into their games from those who once mocked them (those hypocrites!). Besides, as much as I hate seeing Sega develop for other systems, they have good hardware to work with and frankly, there's nothing I can do about it.
If you asked anyone ten years ago, maybe even five years ago if Sonic The Hedgehog (Sega's lovable mascot, of course) if he would appear on any non-Sega console, the response you most likely would have gotten is a laugh and "Not in a million years!" But it's funny how things work out, and Lo and behold, one of Sega's first outing for the Nintendo GameCube is a game featuring Sonic himself. Sonic on Nintendo? Sounds a bit weird, right? Well, you better get used to it (like I have).
It's not an entirely new game, but rather, a slight upgrade to summer 2001's excellent Dreamcast platformer, "Sonic Adventure 2." The title this time around? "Sonic Adventure 2: Battle." If you've never played it before, it's quite a good game and you're in for a treat if you have a GameCube. So what's it like and what's new to this edition? Read on...
First things first, I suppose I should talk about the plot of the game. Yes, the game has a plot but it's stricly B-movie. Sonic is framed by an evil hedgehog named Shadow (GASP!), and must clear his name, all while helping to stop a weapon of mass destruction from destroying the world. Nothing new, but you don't play a game like Sonic for plot anyway. Of course, you have your usual Sonic friends (and enemies) here like Dr. Robotnik, Tails and Knuckles, plus new ones like Shadow and Rouge the Bat.
Gameplay-wise is where "Sonic Adventure 2: Battle" is flawed, and seems to be where a lot of complaints of the game are driven. While the game is a lot of fun, it is pretty uneven, and can get a bit tiresome and monotonous for some. The game is split up between three different kinds of levels, and two different stories: one for our heroes and one for our enemies. While the levels are different on both ends, you do get different perspectives and motives for the story and our characters.
The levels that do get a bit boring quickly are the Tails/Robotnik levels and the Knuckles/Rouge levels. Each of these are pretty repetitive after awhile. For the Tails and Robotnik levels, there are a lot like the robot levels from the first "Sonic Adventure" for Dreamcast (and coming soon to GameCube). You go around in a straight-forward manner, shooting down obstacles and whatever enemies that may come your way. For the Knuckles and Rouge levels, which are just plain obnoxious, you fly around looking for three emeralds in large areas. These get annoying - and frustrating - pretty quickly.
Still, the best levels in the game are the Sonic and Shadow levels. These sorta play like classic 2-D Sonic, but are much more extreme, intense and certainly much faster. Run around, spin dash, kill enemies, going in some crazy obstacles - you name it. Even though it's a lot of the same (as one might argue), I never get tired of them, probably because of how fresh and original these levels are, the sense of speed and their creative level designs.
The controls in the game, like the Dreamcast version, are simple and tight. Your GameCube analog stick moves your character, A performs your main action and the B or X button performs your key subactions. Top it off with good rumble effects too, and it feels strangely natural.
The graphics, of course, are top-notch. GameCube can certainly keep up with the vibrant colors and fast action the game offers with ease. The graphics seem to be slightly enhanced over the Dreamcast version, but not by much, so I don't think many of you who will make comparisons will notice the differences. It just seems a bit smoother, that's all. Everything is right on par: details, character models and the like. Everyone should be in awe here. And the camera issues seem to be fixed minorly, which was another complaint from the Dreamcast version. Frankly, I didn't see it much of a problem in the first place.
The sound is dead-on too. I must admit that I did like the music from the game in a guilty-pleasure-kinda way. Some of the songs are just so corny and campy, you can't help but get into them and then hum along after hearing them over and over. Be it the techno-ish music, the Knuckles raps or those cool Sonic songs ("Rolling around at the speed of sound...). Hate me if you want, but they are guilty pleasure fun tunes in my book. On the sound effects sides, that's all good too. The classic Sonic ring chime, explosions, spin dash... very good, fitting and pleasing sounds to the ears.
So what's new to this edition? Good question. Basically, the "Battle" in the title comes in form for the multiplayer mode. The Dreamcast version had a pretty decent multiplayer mode, but Sonic Team has run wild with it. If you're into having a few friends over and enjoy the antics of the game, you'll love this expansion. You have a whole slew of new characters to play with, new objectives and many new levels (basically every level from the actual game and then some). It also runs much smoother than the Dreamcast edition, which is a plus, so if you enjoy the levels and friend challanges, go nuts here. It does add a lot more life to the game and multiplayer modes are always fun with friends. There's also stuff to unlock too for this area.
Next up is the Chao mode. Since you don't have a Dreamcast VMU to download and raise your Chao, if you pick up the GameCube to Game Boy Advance connector (available from Nintendo for around ten dollars), you can download your Chao to your Game Boy Advance and raise them there in a much more colorful, detailed interface. You can also download them to your Sonic Advance game (sold seperatly of course) and save them there. But if you don't have the game, you can just download it to the system without a cart, and can use the nifty sleep mode if needed. This also adds some extra replay value to the game. I find it pretty fun to collect and raise the Chao characters, and then enter them in the game's events. While the Dreamcast VMU version was nice, playing it on your Game Boy Advance is a much better, fulfilling and enjoyable experience. It really has a lot more and adds more this time around (though seeing Sonic go up to a Game Boy Advance in the Chao Garden is sorta creepy!).
Oh yeah, there's a new title screen and opening for your enjoyment as well.
"Sonic Adventure 2: Battle" is a pretty fun but ultimatly flawed game. While the levels could use some balancing, it does entertain and keeps you going back for more, which is always the mark of a good game. Sega has picked a good game to introduce Sonic's stylings for it's Nintendo audience, and will certainly give Sega and Sonic a boost in their audience. Still, if you have a GameCube and are a Sonic fanatic, the game is worth picking up, as this is one of the best 3-D platformers out for the system. However, if you already own the Dreamcast version, the upgrade isn't worth it just for the multiplayer modes and the Chao feature (even if you happen to own a Game Boy Advance). Still, this is a solid offering for GameCube