Sega‘s first attempt to make a fully 3D Sonic game was first published on the Dreamcast on December 23rd 1998, and while it’s not a bad game – it’s not a great one either.
Gameplay in Sonic Adventure is similar in some respects to a classic 2D Sonic game, with the fast-moving hedgehog running down set pathways and zooming through loop-the-loops, collecting rings, jumping on (and therefore killing) enemies, and trying not to collide with the many hazards put in front of him. You can play the game as one of six different characters although four must be unlocked before you can choose them.
Action levels take the form of twisting courses and platforming sections, where the aim is to make it to the end as quickly as possible. You get bonuses for enemies killed, time taken, and number of rings collected. There are pinball bumpers that boost you around; booster plates that give you bursts of speed, and gates that act as a continue point, should you come a cropper. In-between stages there are connecting levels that you can wander around freely and sometimes the occasional boss fight.
Although Sonic Adventure is generally rated quite highly among Sonic fans, I have to say that it’s not the kind of game that floats my boat. It’s too easy to bypass huge swathes of a level as you pinball around and survival is given priority over exploration. It’s also all too easy to lose momentum and drop off the course (sometimes to your doom), or hit a hazard and lose all your rings. The poor camera controls don’t help either, nor does the sluggish nature of Sonic when he tries to run slowly.
Compared to something like Super Mario 64 it’s a pale imitator, and feels less like an “adventure” and more like a school field trip. Sonic Adventure is a kid’s game, with dodgy controls, annoying levels, a poor camera, terrible voice acting, weak boss battles, and the kind of horrible ‘muzak’ that you’d expect from a Saturday morning kid’s cartoon. Graphically, it’s pretty good in places (the clouds in Windy Valley, the second action stage, are excellent), but gameplay-wise it falls way short of satisfactory on a number of levels. Of course there will be people out there who love Sonic Adventure, but I’m not one of them.
The game spawned an inevitable (and much better) sequel in 2001.