A Look Back at Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
By: Mary Rakas
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle was released for the Nintendo GameCube fifteen years ago this past February. The SEGA Dreamcast port became one of my favorite games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
I remember the day I became a fan of SEGA’s Blue Blur. The Nintendo Entertainment System my siblings and I shared was on its way out after years of faithful service. Does anyone else remember blowing air into the cartridge slot for twenty minutes to get it to work? Well, our NES was at the point where this no longer worked. We were debating if we should get a Super NES or a SEGA Genesis as our next system. One day, our cousin brought over his Genesis, and with it Sonic the Hedgehog 2. When I played through Chemical Plant Zone for the first time, I was hooked. Sonic 2 is the reason we ended up getting a Genesis, and the reason I love Sonic games to this day.
I didn’t think the series could get much better until I saw it in 3-D. I bought Sonic Adventure 2 the year the GameCube port was released. Levels are split into the Hero Story and Dark Story, offering players the unique ability to play as the villains. This feature gave players insight into the motives driving the heroes and villains alike. Watching the story unfold from both perspectives showed the world wasn’t simply black and white.
The plot begins with Doctor Robotnik breaking into a G.U.N. military facility, seeking a weapon his grandfather, Gerald Robotnik, developed. He discovers Shadow, a black hedgehog claiming to be the ‘ultimate life form.’
Seeking revenge against humans for the murder of Gerald’s granddaughter, Maria, Shadow agrees to help Robotnik in his scheme to take over the world. Along with Rouge the Bat, a self-proclaimed expert treasure hunter, Robotnik and Shadow steal the Chaos Emeralds and use them to power a space ARK containing a deadly weapon. In their zeal to recapture Shadow, the G.U.N. soldiers mistakenly take Sonic. That’s where the Hero Story begins.
It’s one of the best introductions to a Sonic game I’ve ever seen. Sonic breaks out of a G.U.N. helicopter, rips off a slab of metal, and uses it to snowboard down the San Francisco-like streets below. It was thrilling. It was like the first time I played Chemical Plant Zone. Snowboarding was seen in Sonic Adventure, but glitches and sub-par graphics left much to be desired. A snowboarding section was also included in Sonic 3’s IceCap Zone. It was brief and less exciting in a 2-D environment.
The GameCube port raised the bar. Improved graphics made the snowboarding much more realistic. Players could use ramps and rails to perform extreme tricks while making a smooth transition to platforming areas. Including classic gameplay features in the action-adventure level designs meshed brilliantly.
Sonic Adventure 2 also utilized gravitational force, something we hadn’t seen since Sonic 3 & Knuckles on the Genesis. Crazy Gadget boasted the most unique level design in Sonic Adventure 2 by far. It used gravity to create puzzle solving and platforming environments without sacrificing action, speed, or flow. Being able to run along ceilings and walls, and even float through outer space, was fun and challenging, and created a memorable experience.
Another highlight of the game was the music. Jun Senoue served as lead composer and sound director, and primarily used rock and pop arrangements for the soundtrack. The music style as well as the lyrics to in-game themes such as ‘Live and Learn’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ blended well with Sonic’s sarcastic, defiant persona.
Senoue and Johnny Gioeli debuted as the band Crush 40 for ‘Live and Learn.’ The song intensified the final battle. Shadow has a change of heart and helps the heroes shut down the ARK weapon. However, the Biolizard, a backup weapon Gerald created, attaches itself to the ARK and pulls it on a collision course toward Earth. Players fly through a 3-D, Doomsday-like stage as the super forms of both Sonic and Shadow in hopes of stopping the ARK from destroying Earth.
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle had its flaws. The camera controls were terrible. The camera was supposed to rotate 360 degrees to give players views from all directions. Oftentimes it would glitch and get stuck in a wall; sometimes it simply wouldn’t rotate at all.
Special moves also glitched. For example, the ‘Light Shoes’ and ‘Air’ shoes allowed Sonic and Shadow, respectively, to travel along lines of rings. Sometimes they would just stop halfway through the line and plunge through a gap in the stage for a lost life, ruining that ‘A’ rank you were about to get right at the end of a level.
Ultimately, the pros outweighed the cons. Any time I go back to play Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, I still feel the excitement when I start City Escape. Crush 40 also remains on my playlist. Most people may not consider Sonic Adventure 2 an important title in the Sonic series. But for me, it will always emanate a sense of nostalgia and remind me of the day I was introduced to the franchise.