Our patience for entertainment wanes as we get older, leading to plenty of frustration from the inevitable “right in the childhood” moments when we open the ol’ nostalgia box only to discover that Kingdom Hearts wasn’t the narrative masterpiece we thought it was at age thirteen. Sometimes I wonder if it’s better that I don’t find out whether Austin Powers was actually funny or the possibility that Sonic Adventure 2 doesn’t deserve the praise I gave it as a kid. This is a story about the latter.
Please select a story.
After pressing start, Crush 40’s lovably cheesy “Live and Learn” assaults my eardrums as I navigate the menu. I arrive at the story screen with a choice. The schtick of SA2 was that you get to choose between playing both the hero and villain stories. Even though my love for Robotnik as a villain has only increased as I’ve grown up, I choose the Hero story first.
Rollin’ around at the speed of sound.
The Hero storyline begins with the inexplicable use of X-Files text establishing that a helicopter is flying over “the capital city,” and then we are reminded that this is a Sonic game when the pilot mentions a “captured hedgehog.” I get that the world of the Sonic games was never exactly established, but that was only okay when it was a bunch of disconnected jungles and casinos. Thankfully we forget about the lack of world building when Sonic kicks out the door of the helicopter and goes sky boarding using a chunk of the vehicle’s plating that he rips off with his bare hands. Sonic properly greets us with a cocky smile at the camera as he spins towards the city below.
“Barely made it,” Sonic comments as I’m graded with a “C.”
I am the Eggman.
Dr. Robotnik “steps” into frame riding a personal mech suit and announces his goal of finding a secret military weapon. Military? Where were they in the previous games? Apparently they weren’t an issue considering that a fat man in an open-topped mech suit can decimate everything they have. As I destroy an enemy robot with a boxing glove on a spring that serves as the mech’s melee attack, I wonder why is this the only game where we get to play as Robotnik. Even if it isn’t what one expects from a Sonic game, blasting through the hilariously incompetent military forces of this undefined world is too much fun. The corridors don’t provide much variety, but this is even better than it was ten years ago now that I’m an adult and understand that it’s okay to love villains, too. At the end of his rampage, we see the “Eggman” find what he was looking for.
“Hmm, smaller than I expected.”
And more Sonic-shaped, too.
“I’m the coolest.”
And with that, Shadow runs off after telling Robotnik to “bring more chaos emeralds” to the ARK, a space colony orbiting . . . Earth? Mobius? It was surprising to be reminded that in this story, Robotnik wasn’t the bad guy with the master plan (This was also the case in Sonic Heroes, where Metal Sonic was running the show), but is simply following orders. Shadow is the evil mastermind even though, if memory serves, he later pulls a u-turn by simply more clearly remembering the context of his friend’s dying wish and makes things right before dying a heroic death. I came in to this experience with the expectation of being properly educated that Shadow was never a good character to begin with, but I’m surprised to find my opinion hasn’t changed. I still believe the black hedgehog would have been remembered fondly if he had stayed dead after this game.
Live and learn.
Sonic Adventure 2 starts out with the best kind of bang. Sonic is running from the military, a mysterious new character has Dr. Robotnik on a leash, and Big the cat is nowhere in sight. Things begin to fall apart after that, but moments like this give me the patience to cut SEGA a break when they decide to make Knuckles “gangsta” or have a human princess fall for Sonic’s totally sexy sneakers.