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INFO FILE
Title:
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
Format:
Gamecube
Production:
SEGA
Sonic Team
Comments:
Sonic finally makes his first major appearance on Nintendo's next generation system... before Mario does.
Overall Rating:
75%

Animefringe Reviews:
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
By Patrick King

Just a warning before we begin: there's a lot to this game, and to cover all the bases, this is going to be a looooong review. You might want to grab a delicious and refreshing frosty beverage before jumping into this...

Wow. Sonic the Hedgehog is on a Nintendo system. And it's not merely the Game Boy Advance, but the Gamecube! I never thought I'd see the day when an opening screen faded from "Licensed by Nintendo" to the familiar white and blue Sega logo. Even after Super Monkey Ball, it didn't hit me too hard. But this is Sonic! If only that great Japanese advertisement with Sonic hugging Mario was shown worldwide. The rivalry between Sega and Nintendo is officially over, and fans of both camps can now band together and take one step closer to inner peace.

SA2B allows the player to take control of a good variety of characters--including Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the Echidna, Tails the Fox, Dr. Robotnik (almost exclusively referred to as Dr. Eggman), Rouge the Bat, and Shadow the Hedgehog. You're allowed to choose from either the "Hero" or the "Dark" story arc. This interesting design choice allows the players to see one core story from two different perspectives. There are three major types of stages--one for each "Hero" and his "Dark" counterpart. Sonic and Shadow both get stages packed with Sonic's trademark speediness. Tails and Robotnik, on the other hand, are confined to mechs that don't move quickly, but are armed with a nifty cannon and a useful hover jet to slow their descent. Knuckles and the voluptuous Rouge the Bat participate in treasure hunt stages where they must find pieces of the powerful chaos emeralds (or keys) as quickly as possible to advance the plot.

As the title of the game suggests, this version of SA2 features an expanded 2 player versus mode. In battle mode, players may choose any of the main characters of the game as well as Amy Rose, Metal Sonic, Tikal, Chaos Zero, and two cute Chao mechs-one with a Heroic Chao and one piloted by a Dark Chao--and compete against each other in a myriad of mini-games. The games include Action Race Battle--a split screen race through a selected level of the game, Treasure Hunt Race--another split screen race to find objects hidden in a stage, Shooting Battle--a showdown between two player-operated mechs on one screen, Chao Race and Chao Karate--a party version of the Chao competitions between two people, and the fairly self-explanatory Kart Racing. Variables such as round duration and handicaps can be set for each event, and this aspect of the game can be a great way to mess around with a buddy, but it isn't that great of a leap beyond the Dreamcast's two player mode. Still, a bonus is a bonus, and this is certainly a nice addition to an already solid single player game.

So how does it look? Sega's always able to squeeze an incredible amount of style into their games, and SA2B is no exception. As can be expected, every character radiates his or her personality with plenty of attitude--something that has always separated Sonic from Mario. The game moves at a rock steady 60 frames per second, textures contain a large amount of detail (you can read words on signs posted on the walls), and Sonic's world is painted in a variety of attractive colors. Not only is the game smooth; it can be incredibly fast, as well. The story is told using both real-time and FMV cut scenes that are equally impressive. The real-time graphics look great, and the video quality is beautiful--silky smooth and running at a much higher resolution than pre-PS2 systems could handle due to its lesser degree of compression. The draw-in is clearly improved over the DC version, and the overall image is much sharper, especially when using a progressive scan television and component video cables. Progressive scan is God's gift to videophiles. It's certainly acceptable for a first-generation title on the Gamecube.

Another strong point the game possesses is the music. I'm a big fan of game music and j-pop, so I might be a bit biased, but love SA2B's soundtrack. The designers were kind enough to include a sound test that unlocks all of the background music as it's encountered in the game--a feature that will hold me over until I can buy the game's OST. The only problem I had with the songs was their tendency to be much louder than the dialogue, making a large portion of it hard to understand. Unfortunately, I didn't mind missing out on the spoken dialogue--the English voice acting is terrible. I played the game all the way through in English, once, just to make sure the actors maintain the same level of mediocrity throughout the game.

They do. It's not Shenmue bad, but that's not saying much. Especially if you've recently played Halo...

Points of the story that were supposed to be dramatic, tense, or sad usually had me laughing, instead. Luckily, the game still includes the Japanese dialogue track and subtitles. For those of you who don't speak Japanese, yet, at least you can't TELL when the voice acting is bad. The plot really isn't that bad; I found myself enjoying the pro-nature aspects of the story along with the mix of science fiction and fantasy elements. But the voice acting ruins it.

For the most part, this game is very entertaining. However, the camera system sucks a large portion of the fun out of an otherwise great experience. Ninety percent of the time, deaths in the game can be blamed on the camera. In a game with quick, sensitive controls, a player's field of vision is pivotal to success. After Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, one would expect Sonic Team to iron out the game's kinks. Contrary to that expectation, however, there are a ton of glitches and technical problems even without the camera woes. For example, shadows cast by characters frequently appear ABOVE as well as below the characters in a light source. They also appear below ledges or platforms characters are standing on. In the kart-racing mini game, if you bash the kart into the wall too much at a high speed, the kart sometimes slips through the wall (not over, THROUGH) and sends you flying off to an annoying death. Later in the game, during the Egg Golem fight, there's quicksand in the bottom of a pit. Every time I fell into the quicksand, I'd try to fight my way out by jumping and dashing repeatedly. It never worked; I'd always end up falling...but not to my death. Instead, Sonic just kept... falling. I let the poor little blue guy plummet for 10 minutes, and the game never gave up on him. Each time, I had to choose to restart the level from the pause menu. It's a REALLY good thing they put that option in the game, for if they hadn't, I'd have been forced to completely reset the game each time the glitch occurred. Every time I fell into the quicksand, I got the glitch to occur. For a port of a game that is a sequel to a very similar game, it seems inexcusable to have such obvious and easily reproduced glitches.

Back onto the positive side of things, though, I have to mention SA2B's impressive replay value. Even though the game can be beaten within a few days, it takes far longer to complete. There are 180 emblems to collect, and the core storyline represents only around 25 emblems. Each stage can later be replayed with 4 new goals, with each goal resulting in a new emblem. There are emblems awarded for getting all A's (a challenge worthy of the hardest of the hardcore!), for performing well in the mini-games, for beating the bosses quickly and skillfully, and, of course, for talented Chao-raising.

I usually ignore instruction books, but SA2B's manual is so good I can't resist mentioning it. It's in full color with profiles of each of the characters in the game, and it does a great job of describing every nook and cranny of the title. There is a lot of depth to this game, and with so many sub-quests and mini-games, it's really nice having a capable guide in written form to guide a player on his or her journey.

Another huge plus the game has going for it is the Chao side game. Some people will get their money's worth out of this game by exclusively playing the Chao Adventure. Now that Sonic's on the GC, players can link their Game Boy Advance to the Gamecube and happily transport their little Chao buddies back and forth from between the console world and the portable world. There are two Chao events--Chao racing and Chao karate--each with quite a bit of variety for a game within a game. I know people who have spent HUNDREDS of hours playing with their Chao, and truthfully, the only things keeping me from dedicating my life to the little blue dudes are silly obstacles like "College" and "Work."

Sonic Adventure 2: Battle is a game with quite a few flaws--a horrendous camera system, laughable voice acting, and enough bugs that I want to send some complementary coffee to Sega's Quality Assurance team--but with a significant number of positive traits, as well. Overall, the game has a greater sense of speed than its predecessor, Sonic Adventure, and subtle but noticeable improvements in the graphics department over its Dreamcast brother. It's a load of fun despite its flaws, and newcomers to the Sonic Adventure franchise will find plenty of bang for the buck. Still, it's hard to recommend for people who have already played the Dreamcast version. Most veterans of the DC version will probably be content to wait until this game drops below $30. That is, unless you're a Chao maniac...

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