TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut

The game that has been praised by many Sonic fans as the better of two Sonic Adventures has been re-released on Nintendo GameCube. After SA2 Battle and Mega Collection (the only other two Sonic games on the console), this comes as no real surprise – Sonic Team is milking its mascot as much as they can by enticing Nintendo fans into the world of the blue blur.

The premise is pretty much the same as Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast: Dr ‘Eggman’ Robotnik aims to snatch all of the Chaos Emeralds from Earth in order to power his new ally, a liquid creature called Chaos. With the power of the Chaos Emeralds, Chaos can essentially destroy Station Square – upon which Eggman will build his dream city, Robotnikland. Cue Sonic and friends, who are on the way to save the day.

The good thing about Sonic Adventure DX is that, like Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, you control different characters from their unique viewpoints. Sonic Adventure DX however is differently executed, in the sense that each character has their own little adventure, which you play individually (unlike in SA2 Battle, where you played straight levels one-after-the-other, with an automatic change in character).

The adventure fields that space the levels apart seem pointless initially, but it adds variety and makes for a small breather from the action as the story progresses. The option to just roam wherever you please, Mario-style, is an aspect of Sonic we have never seen before in any of his major platforming games. The links on how to get from one level to another are quite obvious – generic ‘pick-up-stone-and-place-in-keyhole-via-blatant-clue’ scenarios and other such uninspiring attainments to levels. But they’re harmless enough; you don’t really want to spend the rest of your working days trying to figure out how to get to Ice Cap from Casinopolis, do you?

Control of your character is fluid, and so much better than with the dodgy Gamecube port of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle – it makes me weep with joy. No more dodgy sticky jumps! Having said that, the original Sonic Adventure controls on Dreamcast were superior to the 2001 sequel anyway. The levels themselves are quite tight in most places – the design is excellent, particularly on Sonic’s stages (which are the best of the lot).

It’s a little disappointing to see that the majority of the other characters levels are made to seem subordinate by basically being cut-down versions of Sonic’s, but some of them make innovative use of their abilities, such as Hot Shelter in Amy’s adventure. Despite this, the levels are still enjoyable, and in Knuckles’ case, the level size cutdown is probably for the best: this way it doesn’t take you ten years to find all of the emerald shards in a stage. There are still three missions to each stage, quashing the ‘5 Missions’ rumour that we all thought were to be carried from Sonic Adventure 2.

What has been converted from SA2 Battle however is the Chao A-Life system. Makes sense, seeings as Sonic Adventure’s original Chao system would have ended up being inferior and useless. Feeding Chao works the same – and the controls to pick up, feed and whistle are all differently accessed so that you don’t accidentally beat up your Chao. Animals, however, are saved when you leave and return instead of disappearing – which can be a godsend when you’re trying to keep animals for a particular ‘breed’.

The Black Market returns, but with no noticeable trace of SA2’s inventive “Hero-Dark” feature, it seems a little wasted unless you’re after the rare eggs or special ability food. Unfortunately, the Chao Races leave a lot to be desired – instead of adding a whole heap of extra races to match Sonic Adventure 2’s repertoire, Sonic Adventure DX’s Chao Races are the same as the original on Dreamcast. Hence, no Hero – Dark specific races etc. And if you’ve raised an ultimate Chao from SA2 Battle, you’ll breeze through the races easily, with no challenge.

What did surprise me though, was the addition of a special bonus mini-game when you send your Chao to your Game Boy Advance. Slam your GBA into controller port 4 and download the Tiny Chao Garden – Sonic Adventure DX will give you a bonus game when you access the white Game Boy Advance icon. This mini-game sees you playing as Sonic and collecting Chao for Cheese (via hints, as all the Chao look the same). It’s really quite enjoyable, and can get you lots of rings with successive collection of the right Chao.

We’ve talked about the game for those who have not experienced the original before, but what’s in store for those waiting on this review before splashing their cash? Well, aside from the problems (see next paragraph), you’ll have two new sections to the game.

Mission Mode is a list of 50-60 different activities for each character to perform, and can be accessed for a character when you complete the original Adventure mode as them. You start in the Adventure Field, looking for ‘Mission Cards’, which look like the card you use to get into Speed Highway as Sonic. Upon collecting a card, an obvious or obscure clue will appear, and that’s all you got in aid of completing the challenge.

Some challenges can be completed in the Adventure field, others require you to be in a level. Upon completion of this mode, and collection of Emblems, you can unlock many secrets, two of which include the ‘Mini Game Collection’ (which is a compilation of all the Game Gear Sonic games, emulated very well by the dudes behind Sonic Mega Collection), and secret character Metal Sonic. Metal Sonic is, unlike the crappy Archie rendition that someone faked a while back, the same Metal Sonic you find in the 2-Player mode on Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, and plays pretty much as a skin to Sonic.

Unfortunately, this port stumbles severely on some issues. First of all, the moment the game is booted, you’ll notice (if, like me, you’re used to slick frame rates from games such as Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker) that the frame rate is literally quite appalling for a Nintendo Gamecube game. It’s most noticeable the first time you play it, in cutscenes. The camera d-r-a-g-s through the scenes like a squirrel in warm tarmac.

Playing the game for the first time is a little better, but the gameplay seems disjointed: in one split-second in playing you’ll think “Wow, Sonic Team have _really_ improved this game, the framerate is really smooth!”, and then in the very next split-second you’ll think “My God, the framerate’s a bit dodgy here, couldn’t Sonic Team have sorted this out?”. And these opinions are constantly alternating every five micro seconds.

We’ve also experienced some glitches in the game that weren’t even present in the original Dreamcast game! Things like, on the classic ‘whale section’ of Emerald Coast, Sonic doesn’t run fast enough for the zipper ahead so falls and dies… or sometimes goes too fast (when you spin-dash to gain speed) and heads past the zipper, through the wooden barrier and into the drink.

The frame-rate problem slowly dissipates the more you play the game – and the framerate is generally slightly better than the Dreamcast original – but the fact is that Sonic Team should have sorted this all out. Why is there even initial frame rate problems in the first place? Is it too much to make this game run as smooth as any other high-end Gamecube game? This is Sonic Team for crying out loud. It’s not as if it’s beyond their expertise now, is it?

Final words? As a Sonic fan, you’re likely to get it. And I suggest you get it – it’s in no way Sonic’s best game yet, due to the crappy port handling by Sonic Team (slapped wrists and early to bed for Naka-san), but persevere with the frame-rate, as you’ll notice it less and less the more you play it. Once you’re past that barrier, you’ll find an enjoyable game with many extras.

It’s not the best Director’s Cut I’ve ever seen – for the price of £40 you can get two Die Hard Special Edition DVDs with more stuff in them than Sonic Adventure DX – but the amount of extras and bonuses on the game is more than adequate, and the Mission Mode must be commended. If you’ve never experienced Sonic Adventure before, you’ll be excellently pleased with your purchase, save for the frame ra- *shot by Yuji Naka’s miniature demon minions*. Not fab, but recommended.

6/10

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Dreadknux

Sexy founder of The Sonic Stadium, and creator and co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic fan convention. By day, I'm a super-fantastic games journalist, el professionale. By night, I'm the mother-loving Sonical Batman. I keep the site ticking, look after the TSS Network, and get all excited about Sonic games so that you can too. May contain nuts.