Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Top 50 Games - #32

32. Sonic Adventure
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Year: 1999
Format: Dreamcast

Ah, the ravages of time.  If you go back now and play Sonic’s proper 3D debut, it’s a sloppy mess.  To be honest, it was fairly close to being a sloppy mess when it was released.  But it was also the most exciting thing that had ever happened ever.
   Sonic the Hedgehog was basically the reason I got into gaming.  The cocky cobalt rodent spoke to my youthful brain and said, “You totally want some of this.”  It was an invitation into a more vibrant, thrilling world, where spectacle and liberation were the names of the game.  And it was an invitation I’ll never regret accepting.
   Admittedly the slight problem was that a good half of Sonic’s games were pretty terrible, but the Mega Drive classics and a fondness for Sonic Chaos on the Master System kept me happy.  But I always craved a little more.  And then I found Sonic the Comic.
   Egmont Fleetway’s comic started off as a sort of official Sega magazine for younger readers, with news, reviews and features supplemented by four comic strips – one about Sonic, the other three taking various Sega licenses and making multi-issue stories of them.  So my first issue, #16, was halfway through the first Ecco the Dolphin story and the second Golden Axe one.  However, #16 also showed the future of the comic by featuring a story starring Sonic’s sidekick Tails.  As time went on, the Sonic strips gradually pushed out the other comics and features until STC was purely an anthology comic set around its own take on Sonic’s universe.  And it was brilliant.  Giving my beloved hedgehog a detailed world to inhabit, it made me crave a Sonic game that did more than the basic story-light platformers he starred in.
   Enter Sonic Adventure.  The first information I came across – issue #36 of Sega Saturn Magazine, fact fans, and I didn’t even have to check the issue number because I am a gigantic nerd – promised a deeper Sonic experience than before, with six distinct characters to control over a large gameworld.  What’s more, since it was one of the first Dreamcast games to be revealed, and thus one of the first 128-bit games, it looked amazing.  That was enough to get me excited, and as the months ticked by the little bits of information released kept anticipation levels nice and high.  It also helped that the Dreamcast was the first console I’d ever properly waited for – the Master System, Mega Drive and Saturn I’d owned had all been bought after their releases (near the end of the console’s lifespan in the case of the first two).  The Dreamcast, on the other hand, remains the only machine I’ve ever bought on launch day.  My parents, bless ‘em, let me take the day off school to play it (a thing unheard of in my house).
   So anyway.  I ran home from Woolworths with my lovely new console and my lovely new Sonic game to play on it.  I booted it up, and that gloriously overdone intro video burst across my telly, and I was in heaven.
   Here was a Sonic game that matched the scope and depth of STC!  One with a proper plot, a big cast, and the strutting chutzpah that said “I am a big deal”!  Any glitches or bugs in there – and to be honest, I never noticed that many – were pushed aside by the sheer look of the thing.  The scale.  The fact that you could wander around the Master Emerald shrine at your leisure.  The actual, proper plot.  The fact that it was actually fun to play came second.  But it was!  The six different play styles all worked nicely (although it seems I was the only human to enjoy the fishing levels), and the fact that you could dip in and out of each one was a nice touch.  The intersecting-then-diverging plots worked well, and basically it was just a good, fun game.  Not a classic.  It doesn’t really hold up compared to most of the games on this list, but it was astonishingly exciting at the time and it’s kept a place in my heart since, so here it is.
MAGIC MOMENT: the rollercoaster ride near the beginning of Sonic’s Twinkle Park level literally made my jaw drop.

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