In a way, Sega actually listened to the complaints of reviewers and gamers after the first Sonic Adventure. Basically every campaign after Knuckles wasn’t fun, and it was easy to get lost in the overworld. Here, the only three characters in the “Hero Story” are Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, the same crew that’s been kicking around since the Sega Genesis. Also, there is no overworld. You jump from mission to mission like a level or stage, not part of a larger map. At the same time, this game sends a signal that 3D Sonic is going off the deep end. It was never as revolutionary as Super Mario 64, and Sonic Adventure 2 doubles down on a dated and broken formula, even though it’s better than the first game.
Perhaps rather famously, the game starts with Sonic “snowboarding” (maybe “streetboarding”?) down the streets of San Francisco. You can pick up a lot of speed, and the second half of the act, you’re running from a runaway 18-wheeler. It’s an action-packed way to start things off, but don’t get too excited. It gets formulaic fast. The Sonic acts are about speed, Tails runs around in a mech firing homing missiles like “E-102” in Sonic Adventure, and Knuckles is still seeking three master emerald shards. Bosses are easy on top of that–it’s generally three hits and they’re down. Bosses almost never have a weak point. You just do the homing attack. If you played the first game, you know exactly what you’re in for.
All the while, there’s now a “Dark Story,” led by Dr. Eggman, and accompanied by newcomers “Shadow the Hedgehog,” and “Rouge the Bat.” Shadow has the Vivi from Final Fantasy IX complex, asking himself “Why was I created?” while Rouge is to Amy what Waluigi is to Luigi, though Rouge has Knuckles’ skillset. The Dark Story is all about Eggman taking over the world, and he does. It’s strange you’re encouraged (by placement on the select screen) to see the Hero Story first and then the Dark Story, leaving you feeling like the bad guys had the final say.
Unfortunately both stories share identical cutscenes. The story ends up in outer space, and Eggman’s space base (or whatever it is) looks a bit like the Death Star in Star Wars. Sega continues its undying love for hip-hop with Knuckles music, and Sonic’s music occasionally feels like what one former Electronic Gaming Monthly editor calls “butt-rock.” It’s strange in both games (Adventure 1 & 2) that it seems like Eggman is in control of the Chaos Emeralds most of the time, but Sonic’s team manages to pull through.
There was later a Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for Gamecube, which supposedly had higher resolution textures, and improved geometry. Hard to complain about that. And somehow Sega listened to fans and still rested on their laurels with regard to adding original ideas to the game. The “Chao Garden” is still here, and I still don’t see what’s fun about it. It’s a Tomagachi clone on top of an action platform game. This game was an early third-party Sega game, being released on multiple platforms after the failure of the Dreamcast, but it was a stopping point in Sonic games for me, seeing that the series wasn’t fun anymore. Sonic Adventure 2 is for the most dedicated of fans.