Eleven years ago, Sonic Adventure 2 was a divisive game. It was a turning point in the series, when a lot of fans started to write the series off. It’s often considered the beginning of the end for the Sonic series, and is remembered as the game where Sonic’s ensemble cast started to overshadow the Blue Blur – but unlike the underwhelming Sonic Adventure before it, or the slew of 3D let-downs that came after, at it’s Sonic Adventure 2 was not a bad game. It was arguably the only 3D Sonic game with tight controls, solid physics, fun level design and exciting set pieces. Yes, you had to go on Knuckles’ scavenger hunts, and yes Tails’ and Robotnick’s robo-walker segments were a little goofy, but none of it was broken which, considering the company it keeps, is an impressive feat.
I actually enjoyed Sonic Adventure 2 quite a bit when it came out. Sure, a decade later I can appreciate that the story is trash, the cutscenes are terrible and the character models have aged horribly, but the core gameplay is still really fun, even when you aren’t playing as Sonic or Shadow. The levels are large enough to warrant exploration, but the main course is usually short enough to illicit a “one more level before bed” response, and can quickly turn into a beginning-to-end playthrough in one sitting. A lot of the complaints leveraged against the original Sonic Adventure were addressed in Sonic Adventure 2: the facial animations are better, the levels are less linear, the physics and controls are tighter, and there is no compulsory 4 hour fishing game. Truly, if there is a game that we can point to and say “see? Sonic games could be good in 3D,” it’s Sonic Adventure 2.
The HD port for XBLA and PSN doesn’t change too much, but also doesn’t break anything, which is nice. Aside from the pre-rendered cutscenes, which remain in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, the game makes a smooth transition to wide-screen. The textures are given a nice update, but some of the models, particularly the main characters, act as an ugly reminder of the intermediate step between the 32-bit and 128-bit eras. Sonic Adventure 2 HD includes all of the multiplayer content that was released with the GameCube version, so for those of us that missed out on Nintendo’s console, there is a little added value in getting to run through stages with a friend at home. Unfortunately, online multiplayer is not an option.
Chao raising was left more-or-less untouched. You’ll still be able to raise Chaos and force them to raise and battle for your amusement, but a bug in the PS3 version keeps you from taking your water-spawn into the Kindergarten. Also, there is no analog to the VMU or GBA portable Chao garden, which seems like a pretty big oversight if you’re feeling nostalgic for Tamagotchi. Still, the Chao Garden was never a really central feature, and it doesn’t take away from the rest of the game.
It’s hard to give an across-the-board recommendation to Sonic Adventure 2 HD – For better or worse, it’s still Sonic Adventure 2. If you enjoyed the original, then this is definitely the definitive version. If you didn’t love it on the Dreamcast, then wide-screen isn’t going to change your mind. I personally was pretty thrilled to play through it again, if for nothing else, than to know that my memories of the game weren’t completely kid-goggled. It’s still a fun game, and for $15, it’s worth going back to, if for nothing else, than for Crush 40’s so-genuinely-corny-it’s-fantastic soundtrack.