After getting all misty-eyed about my young fresh days of scampering away to have a bash at the first Sonic the Hedgehog game recently and writing some stuff about it, I decided to look at the other milestone game along its 20-year history.

Sonic Adventure (henceforth known as SA to preserve my weary typing fingers) is a landmark game- not only as being a must-have for all the new Sega Dreamcast owners when it first came out in the late 1990s, but also the first to properly make the series’ transition into 3D. It’s also seen as one of the last ‘good’ Sonic games, even though arguably all of them have flaws (Sonic 1 and 2 are pretty easy, 3 and Knuckles aren’t much fun until the last quarter, fundamental design faults in every game since Sonic Adventure).

As usual, I joined the party late on this. I was aware of the Dreamcast’s short-lived success (ie some good games were released for it, overall the console was the final nail in the coffin for Sega on the hardware front), so decided to buy one without delay. In 2005. In Gamestation. For £20. Add a £5 second-hand copy of SA and I was on my way.

So, armed with a copy of Fraps to allow me to take some lovely screenshots, I decided to plug away at an emulated SA. How does it fare? Let’s find out…

Structure

SA involves six playable characters, each with a different sort of gameplay. There’s a tedious plot about chaos emeralds and how traditional villain Dr Robotnik – irritatingly called ‘Eggman’ from this game onwards – using them to feed a water-based monster that gains strength each time it absorbs the power of one of them, but I’m not going to waste any more time on that. I wasted enough time going through the (unskippable, unforgivingly) cut scenes, all with tremendously dreadful dialogue (apart from one character, but more on him later).

What lifts this game above most other Sonic games is the soundtrack. Forget the terrible ‘theme songs’ for each character, the in-game level music is unusually funky, from the serene Windy Valley to the electronic jazz of Red Mountain, the soundtrack is notably different to any other version in the series.

The main boss in the game, featuring at least seven times in different forms. Ee, he's a right pest.

Stalybridge Celtic 3.

Sonic and Tails

Easily the strongest sections of the game, Sonic goes around a selection of mostly brilliant zones, each containing at least one fun set-piece. In the opening level, Sonic gets pursued by a giant whale thing that smashes up platforms directly behind him, while in the penultimate level he’s pursued by a giant boulder Indiana Jones style, as well as slipping through a water slide at break-neck speed. In fact, speed is the essence of this part of the game, and it holds up pretty well even now. The pinball tables in the casino world are long and boring though, and demand Sonic earn four extra lives before continuing, ironically making much of the rest of Sonic’s game easier.

Tails, meanwhile, can fly for short periods, and his levels are nice and short. Good thing too, because his voice-acting and script are especially abysmal in the English version. Shut up, you whiny unlikeable mutant fox. I also don’t like the way the external camera tries to anticipate your next move in the stage, so you pirouette out of control and fall off the bottom of the level. Endlessly.

Sonic's games are frenetic ardrenalin rushes. So, naturally, I've decided to show him nonchantly sauntering away from a boss's missile-deploying beast like he doesn't care.

I'm reliably informed this does not work in real life.

Tails, previously known in the Sonic games for flying around and getting himself killed ad infinitum, is an enjoyable playable character. The wafer-thin storyline for his plot involves him proving himself as being just as much a hero as Sonic. Yeuch.

To be fair, Dr Robotnik has every right to be cheesed off that a bomb that big somehow fails to detonate.

Altogether now - "Get a load of this! Get a load of this! Get a load of this!" Repeat for several minutes.

E-102 Gamma

The most under-rated character in the game, and the best voice-acting, because for once it’s supposed to be deliberately monotonous and soulless. Adds a pleasant shoot-em-up dimension to the game, adding more time for destroying enemies and targets. Plus, his storyline is oddly tragic, and all the better for it.

E-102 Gamma. Not always this shiny.

"Excuse me, may I have this dance?"

Amy

Sorry, what? Sonic has a girlfriend? She’s a pick hedgehog? And likes shopping? And she has a weapon? Of a massive love mallet? Erm?

This happy fellow is called Zero. It's trying to kill Amy. *Really* can't blame it.


Needless to say, I did not enjoy this part of the game.

Knuckles

Oh yes, Knuckles. Yes, he’s in the game. Some kinda treasure hunting for bits of emerald. Not hugely exciting enough for me to load the game now and try and take any pictures of him in action, just because I accidentally omitted him from my original playaround. So instead we move on to last and most definitely least:

Big

Big is a cat. And he has a frog for a friend. One day the frog becomes possessed by Chaos and keeps leaping off into pools of water. So Big uses his main skill of fishing to keep reeling him in and saving the frog from…er…

No. I’m sorry. FISHING? In a Sonic the Hedgehog game?! Are you nuts?

These fishing levels can take anything up to 15 minutes each to catch the sodding frog, too. It's almost as tedious as writing a 1,000-word appreciation of Sonic Adventure (it seemed like a good idea when I was taking these pics!)

Boy, that is one SLOW news day.

It’s a shame the fishing bit is in SA, as it really drags the game down with its slow, tedious, pointless fun-free segments. Half the game is excellent, one third is a bit dull, and it’s just the final sixth character where you wonder what the hell you’re doing fishing with crappy controls on a decade-old console machine as minutes drip away from your time on this planet, leaving you a quivering wreck on the floor, curled up in a foetal position while quietly sobbing.

That’s Sonic Adventure, everybody!