When Sega first announced that classic Dreamcast titles would be hitting XBLA and PSN at this year’s E3, they advertised them with a headline that went something like “exactly how you remember them.” Unfortunately, this is quite the double edged sword as fans should be pleased to be able to play this classic Sonic game on a different console but will be heart broken when they find out that it has not held up against the test of time.
Let’s make this very clear from the start; Sonic Adventure on XBLA is merely a port of the Dreamcast title. The only different between this downloadable version and the version on Sega’s last home console is that the menus have been altered to fit on Microsoft’s platform and Achievements have been added. With this said, the game has not received any sort of graphical or gameplay updates whatsoever.
And this is where the problems begin. Sonic Adventure has a spastic camera system, the graphics are of early Dreamcast quality, the voiceovers are terrible, and level design is iffy at best. Sure, this game might have been a blast back in 1999, but comes off as nearly unplayable in 2010; in contrast to the E3 slogan, this is not what I remember.
Sure, nostalgia will set in when you are being chased by a killer whale but you will start to become frustrated when you are forced to perform tedious tasks like finding an ice “key,” which you have to literally carry across the entire hub world, just to precisely drop it in the right spot to gain access to a new area. Also, no one probably noticed too much at the time of its initial release, but there are actually quite a few bugs too; falling through the stage at random times and dropping keys through windows and doors happen way more often than they should.
It doesn’t take long to realize how awkward this game is. Sonic is this strange blue creature in a realistic type world. The game never really tells you where you are supposed to go other than a one sentence hint from a floating red orb. In order to gain access to new levels, you must navigate the confusing and map-less hub world. Why does Sonic clumsily drop each chaos emerald as soon as it is collected so EggMan can just walk up and take it? Do we really need to play casino games to earn a chaos emerald? And what the hell is Big the Cat?
Even if you can look passed the flaws in the game design, there is no excuse for not giving this game a proper port. The game is still in 4:3 aspect ratio with no option to stretch to 16:9 so expect to be looking at blue bars the entire time. The Chao Garden is still playable but of course lacks any VMU support. The Gamecube’s DX edition is also available as additional DLC but will set you back an additional 400 MS Points. Besides the Avatar Awards (which are time based – playing this game for 10 hours to unlock a pair of Sonic shoes will take serious dedication) and Achievements, this game has not been upgraded in anyway.
Sonic Adventure is a difficult game to recommend for 800 MS Points ($10) when you have games like Bionic Commando Rearmed and Perfect Dark; games that were given a complete overhaul when they were created on the XBLA and sell for the same price. Another example is Doom; selling for only 400 MS Points, this game was ported to XBLA but with Live enable multiplayer. Rez, Puzzle Quest, Ikaruga…these are more examples of ports that received some type of gameplay update(s). But if you are a fan of DC or never had the chance to experience this console, be sure to at least check out the demo just to get your whiff of nostalgia.
Am I glad to see this Dreamcast title on XBLA? Yes. It is just too bad a little more work didn’t go into the porting process. However, having Sonic Adventure on XBLA opens the door for numerous other Dreamcast possibilities. Currently, Crazy Taxi is the only other game that has been announced for the XBLA. The original Soul Calibur is already available for download but this could mean there is additional hope for other classic Dreamcast titles like Chu Chu Rocket and the Power Stone series. However, for these games to be successful, they would require full Xbox Live support for multiplayer gaming. Let’s hope future DC ports to XBLA receive more TLC before they become DLC.
Better Than: lugging out your Dreamcast from your closet
Also Try: God of War Collection (HD support)
Wait For It: Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection (HD support)
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