This game has been getting quite a reputation for itself in the States. Sure, it may only be an upped version of Sonic Adventure 2 on Dreamcast, but what really excited everyone was the fact that Sonic was appearing on a Nintendo home console… for the first time! Practically every Sonic fan in the universe has been desperate to play this title since then – even though it is just a DC port. Amazing, huh? But despite this, all the US video games mags (and even some UK Import mags), are ripping on it.
‘Come again?’, you may think. “Isn’t this the one title that got everyone excited about GameCube in the first place?” You’d be right about that. So what gives? Why all the hate?
The fact of the matter is, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle is no different to the Dreamcast original (save for a few added features – it is a port after all). So if you liked Sonic Adventure 2, you’ll absolutely ADORE SA2:Battle, because unlike some other Gamecube launch games, Sonic Team actually made an effort to put extras into the tiny disc. Sure, the graphics are pretty much exactly the same as the Dreamcast, but SA2 is less than a year old and that game still looks awesome today anyway.
Gameplay is second to none – just like the original. It’s about fast-paced, ready-set-go action stages in which you whizz through and bounce on baddies, reaching the goal in record time. There are many hazards to navigate in each stage (including keys for doors and bottomless pits), as well as other features like grind rails, digging and gliding, and arcade-style shooting action. You get to play two sides of an excellent and ever-twisting storyline, with each character having a rival. Sonic’s is newcomer Shadow, a nemesis created by Gerald Robotnik (Eggman’s grandfather), Eggman’s is Tails and Knuckles’ is Rouge, a bat girl who seems to like shiny jewels a lot.
Sonic and Shadow’s stages are all about fast-paced action stages, where you run, bounce, grind and home attack your way across perilous pits and through massive bosses. It may not sound like much to play when you read this out loud, but trust me these’ll be the stages you’ll come back to most of all. Perform tricks to gain a decent score. Tails and Eggman are in mechs and stomp through levels in a more conservative style to Sonic and Shadow’s: shooting and blasting their way through doors and enemies (and each other, eventually). Locking-on to more than one enemy and shooting them gives you bonus points.
Finally, Knuckles and Rouge hunt for the Master Emerald pieces, Chaos Emeralds, and Door Keys, hidden throughout massive complex levels that will truly tax you with simple-to-tragically-difficult hints at hand. Collect your items in record time to catch bonus points with it. The vast variety of levels has to be admired at the very least, although the pace can sometimes jar a bit – one moment you’re zipping along as Sonic, the next you’re slowing down a tad as Knuckles looking for treasure. Another issue that was carried along with the conversion, is that Knuckles and Rouge’s levels are still a bit too complex… but then again you can’t have a totally easy game can you?
Even when you finish the game, there are a ton of extras, such as various missions (‘Collect 100 Rings’) to get more Sonic Emblems – the sign of achievement. There are also special items that you can collect within the stages too – grab a Chao Key (found in a light blue box somewhere in the stage) to get taken to Chao World, the resident virtual pet breeding place.
This part of the game is abso-bloody-lutely genius. You start off with an egg in a standard Chao Garden to hatch – when it does, you’re left with a hungry baby blob. That’s your new friend. You can train it by supplying Chaos Drives taken from enemies, or animals found within the levels. Giving your Chao certain colour-coded items increases their abilities in a certain area – Power, Run, Fly, Swim. Your Chao also has two new bars – Mood and Belly. So you now have a way to keep a closer eye their hunger levels. Giving your pet nuts from the garden will increase their stamina bar as well.
So, why do you need these Chao creatures again, you ask? To race with of course! You train, you nurture, you race. Winning certain tournaments rewards you with a toy for your Chao to play with in the garden. BUT! There’s more! A feature exclusive to the Gamecube version is Chao Karate, where you get to battle your Chao in combat! This is the absolute nuts (erm… Chao nuts)!
Pit your Chao against others in three tournaments open to you, and then sit in the sidelines while your Chao battles for a prize. At one point, your Chao may not even want to fight anymore and sit down, leaving itself open to a kick in the head. You’ve got to encourage it by repeatedly tapping A, or else your Chao’s gonna suffer. Annoying sometimes, perhaps, but oh-so ingenious.
You can also teach your Chao abilities at the Kindergarten. There, you can check it in with the doctor, talk to the principal, take it to a classroom to make it learn a new pointless-but-novel ability (like playing the trumpet), or head for the Black Market, where you can purchase special items with your rings. When your Chao grows up, depending on which character you use, it will grow to become a Hero or Dark Chao. Choice!
But what really makes this feature so special is the added bonus of Sonic Advance connectivity. Using the Game Boy Advance-to-Gamecube linkup cable, you can move your critter from Sonic Advance’s Tiny Chao Garden right into Sonic Adventure 2 Battle – in gorgeous 3D. Or, you can download your SA2 Battle Chao to Advance to look after it if you happen to be going away for the weekend.
This next major change is where the game earns its ‘Battle’ name – a revamped two player mode has been included! Unfortunately, not a four-player mode as people were hoping for, but there’s still a lot of new multiplayer content to enjoy here, which alone is worth getting the game for! You can now choose characters from the same Hero or Dark side – for example, P1 and P2 can choose Shadow and Metallix (both on the Dark side).
Some of the added levels for play are included in shots above, and many of them are very nice, although some of the extra Sonic and Shadow races are merely grind racing (or the boarding bit at the start of City Escape). But many other fantastic levels have been added on top of these. The 2-Player mode menu looks much nicer too, very warp-y and polygon-y.
The final word? Oh. My. God. If you thought Sonic Adventure 2 was good, wait till you get into this baby! The mechanics and style of play is exactly the same as the original, so you’re not buying an unfamiliar game here. The added features make this game pure bliss to play, even if it isn’t perfect with all the glitches that were carried over. To be quite honest, you’d think that Sonic Team would try to iron them out, but that would be the only minor negative point I’d say about this game.
I do have one major gripe with this game though. Two words. Sticky Jumps. For some reason, pressing the A button once will have the effect of a double-jump on-screen. I’ve tried this with multiple controllers, and it’s definitely an issue with the game’s code itself. It is most noticeable when trying to beat bosses as Sonic – trying to jump onto the back of the Egg Golem with enough height was a nightmare! So you just need to be careful about how sensitive the jumps can be here, as it can massively detract from your enjoyment of the game.
But all in all, it’s generally good. Ditch anyone bashing this game, head down to your local game shop and snap this game up now! If you’ve never played Sonic Adventure 2 before, you can bump up this score a point or two… hey, the sticky jumps REALLY count, people!