Ill readily admit that Ive never been the worlds biggest Sonic fan, but I know a good game when I see it. When it comes to Sonic Adventure 2, I dont see it. Rather than beat around the bush, Im just going to cut to the chase here.
Sonic Adventure—a game which I enjoyed quite a bit—was notorious for the extremely poor quality of its dodgy camera system. Every gamer alive, Sega fan or no, would have sworn that improving the camera would be Sonic Teams top priority for the sequel. Well, Sega proved us all wrong. The camera hasnt been improved one iota, and its debatably even worse. The camera controls dont always respond, the view jumps back and forth at times, and some of the stages (particularly the Eggman/Tails stages) seem like the architecture is too complex for the camera to navigate properly. 'Nuff said.
Something I enjoyed a great deal in the first Sonic Adventure was the fact that there were several styles of play to pick from, and while they werent all great, at least there was some variety and a choice of which character to use. Well, scratch that idea. For some odd reason, Sonic Team decided to take away the freedom of choice and force the player to skip from character to character in rotation throughout the game. It gives a very herky-jerky feel to the flow and disrupts immersion, in my opinion. Just as you start getting into the rapid-fire groove with Sonic, the pace grinds to a standstill while you futz around with Knuckles for far too long. As soon as you start getting used to Knuckles pathetic game, you switch hats again and start blasting things with Tails. The pacing here just feels wrong and doesnt come together the way a good game should.
Not only is the ability to choose gone, there arent even as many types of play as in Sonics first Dreamcast game. With six distinctly different types of action in Sonic Adventure, its sequel only provides an unsatisfactory three. There are still six characters in total, but Shadow, the evil hedgehog, plays exactly like Sonic. Rouge the Bat plays exactly like Knuckles and the evil Eggman and Tails are gameplay twins as well. Six characters, with only three types of play design. This kind of lazy character duplication is weak.
If the three types of play presented were solid and entertaining I probably wouldnt be grousing as much, but even this area got downgraded. While Sonic and Shadows stages are the best in the game, theres still too much of the marginally interactive "hold down a direction and watch the scenery whiz by" philosophy. It LOOKS great, but its more visually impressive than actually being the type of solid gameplay the series older incarnations are known for. Still, Id rather have a game full of those kind of stages than have to endure even one more level of the absolutely horrid "Find the gems" Knuckles and Rouge missions. I cant even describe how boring and frustrating these were. To have to search huge levels for tiny gem fragments was bad enough, but with the crap camera compounding the problem, it was completely unbearable.
Other low points include a complete lack of a cohesive adventure field to tie all of the stages together and embarrassing rap music complete with lyrics for the Knuckles stages. Just having the cheesy, diseased pop/lounge lizard type of warbling in the games tunes is bad enough, but do we really need to have second-rate wannabe hip-hop stylings? Please.
Oh, and before I forget to mention it, the game has great graphics. Sonic Adventure was no slouch in the visual department, and Sonic Adventure 2 edges it out. Theres some fabulous texture work, and most of the stages are pieces of art. However, graphics alone do not a good game make. Even worse, adding insult to injury is the fact that you cant ever use a "lookaround" button to fully enjoy the games strongest asset. There are some nice environments here, but the eye candy doesnt make up for the games numerous downsides.
Its amazing to me how some games seem to actually get worse with sequels. Logically, the developers should have the time, feedback and experience to turn out a better product every time a new game comes to shelves. Whatever happened to learning from your mistakes? Sonic Adventure was a great game. It certainly wasnt perfect, but it was a fine effort and a very respectable reintroduction for the character which defined Sega for years. Sonic Adventure 2 is not a great game. Its barely a good game. As I said earlier, Im not the worlds biggest Sonic fan, but even I can see that the little blue guy deserves much better than this. If you must play a Sonic game on the Dreamcast, go for the original Sonic Adventure instead.