Mwahahahahahaaaaaa!!! All you Sonic fanatics prepare yourselves, because Dreadknux has played the SA2 DEMO! Right when Phantasy Star Online was released a week before official release (19th February instead of the 27th or something…) your favourite echidna has found the holy disc at the back of the box. This is the FIRST OFFICIAL UK Review (not including in the magazines, they got theirs early) of the sacred demo, and guess what? You’re all invited to see how it truly plays like!
Now you’ll all find out what the intro with the plane is at the start. You see a plane with the name ‘GUN’ at the side of it, with soldiers giving each other orders. Then, the pilot exclaims that ‘the hedgehog’ has escaped, and he’s rescued the other hostages as well! This tells us that Sonic has been captured by some sort of corporation called GUN, and coincidently, thanks to a pointing out from Roareye, the name ‘GUN’ appears also on the truck that chases Sonic at the end of the act.
You next see Sonic jumping out of the side door and onto the wing, where the blue one complains about the lack of in-flight movies and sodas. “I feel better off walking,” he jokes as he escapes his plane prison by wrenching off a part of the plane, and attaching it to his feet. Sonic then jumps into the sky and down to the first level, titled City Escape.
Much like the snowboard stage in Sonic Adventure, the start of City Escape sees you sliding down a San Francisco-inspired hill, enabling you to gain some speed and perform some cool tricks as you hit the ramps. Doing tricks get you points, as I’ll explain later. After smashing cars, and making ‘Awesome’ jumps, you get off of your ‘board’ and onto solid ground. This is where you start to realise how much better this is over the original Sonic Adventure.
You meet a robotic Chao called ‘Omochao’. He’ll tell you interesting moves such as whistling, which Sonic has to do now to retrieve fluffy animals for the Chao Gardens. Press ‘B’ and Sonic will ‘somersault’ – basically equivalent to a Sonic Spin Attack from Sonic games old and past. Hold down ‘B’ and you get the Super Spin Attack, untouched since the prequel. The ‘A’ button jumps and performs the homing attacks, and pressing ‘Y’ changes the actions of pressing the ‘B’ button. For example, press ‘B’ normally, and you’ll Somersault. Press ‘Y’ then ‘B’, and Sonic will Whistle. Quite nifty really.
The first enemies come into play, which can be destroyed using the somersault. Instead of animals that appear in their place once beaten, you get different coloured rods which you can use on Chaos too. The animals will now appear in hidden places, mostly inside pipes underneath wooden crates. As well as the normal wooden crate, you’ll find a blue coloured crate with a Chao pattern on it. destroy it, and you’ll get a ‘Chao Key’. Obviously this is meant for the Chao Gardens, but what it exactly does is beyond me, any ideas, email me or post into the Message Board.
After beating a few robots, and taking my time viewing the rather funny, ahem, ‘flyers’ on the walls (such as ‘Got Ring?’ and ‘Playing SA2 can be habit forming: Don’t turn off your DC’), I now come face to face with some steps, which I could either walk down normally, or do what I did, and GRIND down the railings, collecting rings on the way. This is yet another improvement over Sonic Adventure – the fact that it feels that now Sonic can do anything he wants because he is so fast, and rightly so, as I come across some more speed boosts and run down a steep road again. Although this time, instead of boarding tricks, Sonic does these weird and rather nifty spiral jumps that can add more points to your score.
After getting some Speed Shoes (in the air once doing a cool jump trick), Sonic hits a spring at the entrance of some stairs, and I manage to pull off a continuous grind trick by jumping on to each set of railings. Finally, a Restart Point appears. It seems quite clear now that the levels have been vastly improved upon over Sonic Adventure, and just looking around and pulling off tricks just seems to take me longer, even at the proficiently faster frame rate that has been largely talked about in this game. I am now experiencing Sonic at his finest – this is clearly the FASTEST Sonic game I have encountered. Pulling off all sorts of tricks and legging it and destroying enemies, all at high speed gives you a tremendous sense of speed, and you’re wondering whether it’s you playing the game or whether your eyes have melted and your brain’s gone into hyperdrive.
Sonic Team seems to like steep stuff in this level, as Sonic now encounters a very steep grassy hill, with which the blue blur has no hesitation in going down as fast as he possibly can. Hitting the ramp on the right hand side, I manage to get over the fence, and into a trail of rings in the air. Unfortunately, you cannot do the Light Speed Dash in this level, although whether you can gain the move later in the game is as yet unknown. More speed boosts, as Sonic races up and around the BIGGEST loop de loop I have ever seen, which then leads to a quick ‘jog’ down the side of the building, ala Speed Highway style, only much much faster.
Bouncing on some springs at the bottom of the drop, Sonic grabs onto some metal bars and starts swinging on them. AND – you guessed it – the spiky one can show off to his heart’s content by making impressive jumps on these bars. A bit of running later, some more grinding and monkey bar swinging, leads to another slope, which suspiciously you have to pass under using the somersault.
Better run once on that slope, because that Juggernaut truck people have been talking about would right now be up your ass faster than fast grass! (Wow, I was a poet, and I didn’t even know it! ^_^) Running into the screen away from the Jugger, this section has a lot in common with the boulder chasing section in Lost World in the original Sonic Adventure. After this part, a giant gold ‘Goal Ring’ stands there, waiting for you to jump through it. Your score is totalled up, and you are ranked according to what score you get at the end.
This is why there is a points scheme, like I said earlier, in the game. It’s kind of like the three Challenges in each stage in Sonic Adventure to gain Emblems – only this time getting a rank A is nigh on impossible. Post in if you have managed that glorifying rank, I’ve only managed a C rank. You get points for nearly everything; the swinging on the bars, the grinding, especially at the ramps at the sloped hills of the level, where you can perform bitchin’ moves. Hell, even a RING gains you 10 points. The only thing is, when you die, you lose your whole score, so better not die on stupid places like to bottomless sections of the level.
So, you honestly want my opinion on this demo? ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! If anybody complains otherwise, feel free to complain, so we can all slap you with a wet haddock. It is true what my buddies Kulock and my other USA pals tell me, this will blow you away. Think of Sonic Adventure. Now think of it at a speed about two or three times the speed already on SA. Then, add some cool moves you can do, such as grinding and swinging (don’t laugh, not that kind of swinging. Or Grinding either, you sick people).
Finally, add more graphics, a better frame rate and every aspect of SA basically tweaked to the extreme? NOW you may have an idea of how good this is. Like I said before, PSO came out a week early (as is the trend these days, remember Shenmue?), So get it now, and you’ll experience the fantastic things that I’ve been trying to tell you just now. Three words to end this matter about PSO, and SA2 Demo. GET. IT. IN. NOW. Damn, wait that’s four words… argh.