There are plenty of ambitious mods at this year’s Sonic Hacking Contest, but Dash Adventure 2 is definitely among the more unique ones. This mod seeks to alter all of Sonic Adventure 2, turning it into a hypothetical evolution of what might have happened had SEGA gone with the rabbit character instead of Sonic back when they were searching for a mascot. While the most striking changes may initially appear to be superficial, Dash Adventure 2 has plenty of character and level tweaks that make it a rather unique way of experiencing this twenty-year-old game.
DA2’s most obvious change is, of course, its cast of characters. Instead of Sonic, Knuckles and Tails, we’ve got Dash the Rabbit, Jabs the Kangaroo, and Bolt the Maned Wolf. On the villain side of things, Eggman is a professor instead of a doctor, and Dusk the Rabbit and Pikara the Owl replace Shadow and Rouge. All of their designs seek to mimic Yuji Uekawa’s art style, and they not only accomplish this effectively, but they all look great and fit in well as early 2000s mascot characters.
Don’t mistake these characters for mere reskins, though, because they each introduce brand new mechanics that, in some cases, significantly impact how the game is played. Dash can jump much higher then Sonic, has a drop dash in place of a bounce attack, and can double jump with the Y button, giving him a lot of aerial maneuverability. This allows for Dash to move through a level very differently, letting him pull off feats Sonic never could. Dusk, likewise, can also jump higher than Shadow, has an air blast that lets him shoot forward, and even has a unique spindash move that lets him move forward while its charging. Other characters have similar improvements in their jump height and aerial maneuverability, especially Pikara, who can outright fly. As cool as these new abilities are, however, they also give rise to…issues. For one, Pikara’s aforementioned flight ability isn’t really practical to use, since it requires holding both the Y and A buttons, which forces me to contort my hand. The abilities can also kind of…break the level design a little?
Perhaps the most obvious of these issues is the simple fact that Sonic Adventure 2’s levels were not designed with these abilities in mind. This means some levels are easy to break and cheat through, while others (primarily the speed levels) have certain design bits that don’t work as well. For instance, in City Escape, after running down the side of the building and hitting the springs, instead of reliably bouncing into the swing bar, it is now very easy to overshoot. It’s possible to maneuver into it of course, and none of these moments typically result in death or otherwise break the level, but it does interrupt the level’s flow in a way I don’t like.
DA2 is at its best in its handful of fully customized levels. While most of the levels have been significantly altered aesthetically, a few boast some notable design alterations. Metal Harbor (changed into Chemical Plant here) features some pretty major changes, including an opening bit of platforming that encourages heavy use of Dash’s double jump. That, combined with some new paths through areas, make this level among the best experiences currently available in the mod.
Speaking of the levels, the new looks they sport are also pretty nice…for the most part. I’m just not a huge fan of the look of Weapons Bed, which employs a lot of purple for the floor texturing. I also find the usage of classic Sonic level aesthetics in this game to be a bit odd. Why is Marble Zone being used for the Chao Garden? Why has Aquatic Mine been turned into Hydro City? It still looks nice, but given that SA2 was an even bigger visual departure from classic Sonic then SA1 was, I’m not sure why a hypothetical DA2 would utilize retro aesthetics outside of Green Hill Zone (which has been turned into Marble Zone here). This is something that would probably only bug a video game history buff like me, as when I sweep all that aside…I do rather like seeing these classic Sonic level aesthetics in SA2’s visuals!
Dash Adventure 2 was one of the mods I checked out last year, and while I found it curious I ultimately decided not to write about it. It has come a long way since then, and while it still has some issues, the sheer ambition on display here is wild. There’s a brand new soundtrack and new, well done voice work for each character. While it does currently have some issues, the mod as it is is still well worth checking out. I do hope the final mod features more level alterations, and maybe figures out a better way to map Pikara’s flight. But even if it doesn’t, I definitely intend to play the mod’s final release. Anyone who owns SA2 should at least give this a shot!