Sonic Adventure Game Review: Does It Still Hold Up Today?


Image courtesy of GLITCHED.

Nicholas Paragano, Co-editor, Arts & Entertainment

This June, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. To celebrate, let’s take a look at Sonic’s 3D debut, Sonic Adventure, originally released in 1998 for the Sega Dreamcast console. Does it still hold up? Let’s find out. For this review, I’ll be playing the PC version with the Dreamcast Conversion mod, which fixes a lot of bugs introduced in the GameCube and PC ports of the game- as well as restoring Dreamcast models, textures, and effects. This is by far the ultimate way to play the game.

Emerald Coast. Image courtesy of Cubed3.

The story of Sonic Adventure, while not amazing, is serviceable.  Sonic and his friends must stop Dr. Eggman, who seeks to destroy the city of Station Square with Chaos, an ancient water monster who grows more powerful with each Chaos Emerald it consumes. Sonic must retrieve the Chaos Emeralds before it’s too late. I won’t spoil anything beyond that. There are six playable characters in the game, each of which have their own individual campaign. All six campaigns intertwine with each other for one interconnected story. The first and only playable campaign upon creating a new save file is, of course, Sonic the Hedgehog. As you encounter the other characters in his story, you unlock their campaigns. Sonic’s story and gameplay are the best of the entire game. In fact, I think Sonic’s gameplay in Sonic Adventure is the best of any 3D Sonic game. His levels are open, mostly non-linear, and are rich for exploration and secret hunting. His speed and acceleration are not too fast, but not too slow either. Overall, Sonic Team nailed it on their first try. I don’t have any complaints regarding Sonic’s levels and campaign. Emerald Coast, Windy Valley, Speed Highway, and Red Mountain are highlights of Sonic’s gameplay and are among the best levels in the game. Sonic is the most well-rounded of the playable characters, but that doesn’t mean that the others are bad by any means.

Speed Highway. Image courtesy of Sonic News Network.

Tails’ campaign is pretty decent, and tells an uplifting story of facing your fears and becoming your own hero. His gameplay, however, isn’t the greatest. Most of his levels are just racing Sonic to the end of the level. You can use his flying abilities to your advantage, however, to skip over large amounts of the level. Knuckles’ gameplay involves him finding three shards of the Master Emerald in each level. He can glide, climb walls, and dig into the ground and certain walls. He has a radar indicating which emerald shards are nearby, and a hint bubble will always guide you in the right direction. These levels are mostly pretty fun to explore. My favorite Knuckles level is Casinopolis. His campaign is my second favorite behind Sonic’s. Amy’s gameplay is most similar to that of a traditional 3D-platformer. She has a hammer she can use to smash enemies and activate switches with. Her levels can be fun at times, but overall her campaign is quite average. E-102 Gamma has perhaps the saddest story campaign-wise. He is a robot created by Dr. Eggman. His gameplay is timed, and by shooting enemies and targets, he will be granted more time. At the end of most of his levels is a short boss fight against one of his fellow E-series robots. His levels are equal parts fun and frustrating, but are by no means bad. Lastly, there’s the most infamous character in the game, Big the Cat. His levels are the most unique and the most hated. He has to fish for his frog, who always escapes from his grasp after completing a level, making it feel even more pointless. The fishing gameplay is frustrating, and you’ll likely find yourself spending several minutes on a level. His campaign is by far the weakest of the entire game. What’s worse is that you have to complete Big’s story to unlock the final story. It’s not the end of the world, but don’t expect a pleasant experience. Regardless of the character you choose to play, each will have to traverse through three hub worlds to get to their level of choice. For example, there’s Station Square, where you can speak to the various citizens of the city, many of which have their own unique stories that evolve over the course of the game. These add an extra layer of personality and immersion to the game.

Knuckles in Casinopolis. Image courtesy of Chao Island.

Outside of the gameplay, an element of Sonic Adventure that is ridiculed is the cutscenes, which have not aged particularly well. Personally, that’s what gives them their charm to me, but I totally understand how it could be jarring to a new player. Fortunately, in every version (minus the original Dreamcast release) you can skip them. One thing that most people agree is great about Sonic Adventure is its soundtrack. It’s simply fantastic, and is one of the best soundtracks of the entire series. Finally, there’s the Chao Garden, where you can raise virtual creatures called Chao. You can upgrade their stats and race them. It’s a game within a game, and there’s dedicated communities to Chao alone. I never got into it, but it’s a great bonus. Bottom line, Sonic Adventure is still an amazing game that transitioned the Sonic series to 3D nearly perfectly, and my personal favorite of the series. Like any game of the era, it has its flaws and quirks that haven’t aged particularly well, but they do little to weigh down the entire experience for me. It’s a game worth playing and is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of Sonic the Hedgehog. I rate Sonic Adventure an 8.5/10.

Image courtesy of DeviantArt.