As a front-runner in Sega’s Dreamcast launch lineup, it’s only reasonable that Sonic Adventure would be the first Dreamcast game that Sega would port to Xbox Live Arcade. Serving as something of a tech demo for the fledgling console, the visuals stood above any game on competing consoles at the time. There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia that comes with running frantically down a pier while a killer whale gives chase in the Emerald Coast, or playing a game of NiGHTS Into Dreams pinball in the Casinopolis stage. However, it’s difficult to recommend an XBLA game with more technical flaws than the decade-old title it attempts to replicate.
Sonic Adventure is fragmented into six stories/adventures which span a number of generally themed, repeating level variants. The predominant storyline follows the titular Hedgehog through a series of action stages, which are true to the spirit of 2D games in the franchise. Your objective is, with few exceptions, to reach the end of a pre-determined linear path, scoring rings, or rescuing occasional woodland creatures for your Chao Garden, if you’re into that kind of thing. Between these stages, you’re dropped into an unfortunately designed hub-world with confusing connections to action stages separated by loading screens and confusing bits in-between levels where the game fails to clearly explain what you’re supposed to do. There are a number of boss battles which sprout up through the story mode, most of which wind up relying on Sonic’s homing-dash attack to auto-target the enemy and then pound Sonic against them a few times until they get bored and admit defeat.
It’s all a bit of a mess, and the five ancillary characters’ – Tails, Knuckles, Amy, E102, and Big the Cat – stories have even less going for them. Each of the hedgehog’s included friends are tasked with derivative interpretations of the Sonic levels you’ve already plowed through, none of which are any more fun or interesting to play with the different characters.
This port is also caught up in technical issues ranging from a nauseating camera with inverted controls mapped to the R/L triggers, to the display being stuck in the 4:3 aspect ratio with plain, striped borders, throughout the entirety of the game. It’s heartbreaking watching Sonic fall through the floor of the level at random during the Emerald Coast chase sequence, or to realize how poorly some of the characters (namely Big the Cat) were designed to fit into their environments. Adding to the pile of complaints, there’s the separated DX Upgrade DLC, which adds a number of half-baked missions and a Metal Sonic skin from the GameCube port, without taking advantage of the visual upgrade that the last-gen port offered.
Sonic Adventure was a great game, over a decade ago, but too much time has passed since then, and we’ve seen Sega’s ineffable mascot exploited to the point where many Sega fans are wondering what they ever saw in the franchise to begin with. Rather than begging the question of whether or not the Dreamcast title is still relevant, this port clearly indicates that it isn’t.