This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Western release of the Sega Dreamcast and flagship launch title Sonic Adventure (its European anniversary was actually yesterday)! But, while everyone can talk about the game’s original release until the cows come home, a lot less remembered is its Gamecube/PC port, Sonic Adventure DX. Let’s take a Look Back at it!
Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut
Developer: Sonic Team / Now Pro (Mission Mode)
Release Date: June 18, 2003 (NA) / June 19, 2003 (JP) / June 27, 2003 (EU)
When Sega went third-party in the early 2000s, the first thing they did with Sonic was go all-in on Gamecube and Game Boy Advance. Sonic being on Nintendo hardware was unheard of at the time, so it must have been absolutely nuts that Sega chose Nintendo’s consoles to be Sonic’s first home as a third party character, as opposed to Sony’s PlayStation 2 or Microsoft’s Xbox. Skipping over the Xbox is especially ironic considering SEGA worked with Microsoft to bring Windows CE to the Dreamcast.
After releasing Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on Gamecube in 2002 along with Sonic Mega Collection the same year, Sega did the next logical thing and brought over the original Sonic Adventure to Nintendo’s purple box in 2003. While Sonic Adventure 2: Battle had some slight graphical improvements over the Dreamcast original – smoother character models in White Jungle, for example – Sega instead opted to almost fully remake Sonic Adventure from the ground-up.
Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut brought us fully remade character models (fitting, since the Dreamcast original’s were fairly low-poly), overhauled textures, and a framerate targeting a full 60fps (which it managed to hit more often than not… it just wasn’t locked). It also got enhancements in the Chao Garden area, many of which were carried over from Sonic Adventure 2: Battle – including Hero and Dark Chao!
Best of all, Sonic Adventure‘s Chao Gardens also supported cross-compatibility with the Tiny Chao Gardens found on the Game Boy Advance Sonic games. This meant that you could transfer your Chao across both Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 on Gamecube using your GBA! Not everything carried over from one game to another – animals parts did, but race medals worn by Chao did not – but it was a cool cross-functionality nonetheless.
The most substantial addition to the Gamecube version was the new Mission Mode, developed by Now Pro (who would go on to develop the original Sonic Riders and the party mode in Sonic and the Secret Rings). This is unlocked for each character once you beat their Story mode. There are 10 missions per character, for a total of 60, and each one challenges you to accomplish some feat in the world map or a particular stage. One has you picking up an item in one location in Station Square, and taking it to another, others have you pop hard-to-reach balloons (I’m looking at you, Ice Cap). One even has you digging up signs as Knuckles where you fight the Egg Hornet that advertises Sonic X… that was pretty awesome at the time!
Of course, the Gamecube version still has its faults. It’s fairly glitchy – you still have a good chance of falling through the curved path in Emerald Coast (just before the whale). But, we’re not talking about a totally broken game or anything. Frankly, the physics are an absolute blast to go nuts with. Taking advantage of any glitches with them is actually quite a lot of fun.
Sonic Adventure DX also allows you to unlock Metal Sonic in the game’s Trial mode, once you collect all 130 emblems. In practice, Metal Sonic plays no differently to Sonic – he’s literally just a model swap – so you’re playing in all of his stages unchanged, but it’s still pretty cool. Sadly, you can’t go into the Chao Garden with Metal Sonic unless you hack the game.
That’s about it for the changes in the Gamecube version over the Dreamcast original… how about talking about the actual game then? The game has six playable characters: Sonic, Tails, the Knucklehead, Amy, the fat cat, and E-102 Gamma. Sonic’s levels contain your traditional high-speed gameplay that’s very familiar to anyone who’s played Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. Tails is somewhat like Sonic, but with his ability to fly for a short period of time he is able to take shortcuts. His job is to beat Sonic (and Eggman in one instance) to the goal in a race. Knuckles has his treasure hunting levels from the sequel, but this time his radar now works for all three emerald shards at once.
Amy is quite a bit different from the others since she’s focused more on fleeing from Zero, a robot that is chasing after her and her Flicky companion. She often has to solve puzzles, like putting colored blocks into holes or pushing a ladder to reach a higher path. If you can reach the balloon at the end of the level you can escape Zero’s clutches! Big the Cat has fishing levels where you must fish for your best buddy Froggy! Gamma has shooting levels very similar to Tails and Eggman in Sonic Adventure 2, only instead of points you’re building up time because if your clock reaches zero, you lose a life. Gamma always fights one of his siblings at the end of each level (one even has Dreamcasts on its body, no joke).
The Chao Gardens again pretty much carries over from the sequel. You have three gardens, one in each adventure field, and you get two normal eggs to hatch in each. Only the Station Square garden has the Black Market shop (complete with that Half Fish animal who isn’t even properly in the game) where you can buy special fruit, including Hero and Dark fruit which is now the only way to evolve Chao as such now. As well as accessories and even colored Chao eggs! The Station Square garden is also the only one with access to the Chao Race mode. Races are a bit different than in the sequel. For reasons unknown, each Chao in the race will sometimes be highlighted and you can mash the A button to speed them up… even your opponents’. It might be a way for you to keep paying attention and to not accidentally give your opponents a boost…
The music is literally some of my favourite in any game ever. You have the veterans such as Jun Senoue (who has been on the franchise since Sonic 3), Fumie Kumatani (she did the Chao themes and also all of Shadow’s music in the sequel), modern-era veteran Tomoya Ohtani (who did all of Knuckles rap songs in the sequel), Kenichi Tokoi, and numerous others. You also get vocal theme songs for each character, and all are varied and super fun to listen to and sing-along with the rest of them, the best of them, tougher than… *AHEM*…
Visually it actually holds up in my opinion. The models look really nice and smooth. And the animations are super iconic to me (yeah yeah I have a huge soft spot for Sonic’s “Naruto” run…). One aspect I adored is how the adventure fields change over the day as you progress in the story. My absolute favourite is when Mystic Ruins is in the sunset right after Tails wakes up after Sky Chase Act 1. Yeah, it’s super primitive by today’s standards, but ya HAD to be there at the time man, it was mondo cool!
Voice-acting, while a bit rough compared to Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and even more to Sonic Heroes (though not as bad as what I’ve seen of Sonic Shuffle, wow) but I still love it all. Most of the cast is the same as the following games, aside from Tails being voiced by Corey Bringas. Corey came back in Sonic Shuffle, but then was recast by his younger brother Conner Bringas in the sequel, and then by William Corkery in Sonic Heroes to the end of the era. Knuckes is actually voiced by Michael McGaham for this game only and would be recast by Scott Drier afterward (aside from Ryan Drummond himself briefly in Sonic Shuffle who sounds virtually identical to Michael in my opinion). All-in-all I still love the voice actors from the Adventure-era and would be over the moon if any of them reprise their roles even today.
Overall, Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut is one of my all-time favourite games ever and I do wish we had more like it. I will always prefer the Adventure games over any of the later games any day. They have such freedom of exploration and outstanding and varied music that holds up to this very day. Maybe some day Sonic Adventure 3 will exist. Maybe someday…
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