Back in 1998, the Dreamcast enjoyed its launch across the world. Sonic Adventure – the first proper 3D title for the hit series – launched with it.
There was a lot of fuss and it was the big moment for Sega to stick it to rivals Sony and Nintendo. Decades on, how let’s reminisce on how it all went.
In the online gaming community, there’s a great deal of reverence for the Dreamcast.
Many treat it as the great unsuccessful console – a genius piece of tech ahead of its time that, tragically, suffered a commercial demise.
Well, we had one and don’t quite agree with that assessment. There were some impressive things about it, such as the innovative VMU controller, but it had plenty of issues as well.
Chief amongst them were ambitious but flawed games. Shenmue (1999) springs to mind, a wonderfully minded title with great intentions that has, unfortunately, aged poorly (in our humble opinions).
Sonic Adventure (1998) launched the Dreamcast console and was the big selling point – the first proper 3D Sonic game!
At the time, the graphics were highly impressive. Sega really went all out to deliver the most powerful games console yet seen.
That’s quite obvious, we think, in the below movie-esque clip replete with some of the most awful voice acting known to humanity. In fact, that’s something of a trope the Sonic series (which has sadly had its quality decline over the last decade) has – terrible voice acting.
Now, there are plenty things to like about Sonic Adventure despite that stomach churning noise.
There are engaging platforming elements, the soundtrack is beautiful in places, and some of the levels are clever and spectacular.
Windy Valley, for instance, shows off the Dreamcast’s tech capabilities in fine style. It’s a rollercoaster of a level, utilising impressive tornado effects before leading onto a riveting blast through a dazzling daylight sky.
And it prompted our mate Alistair, upon viewing it in late 1999, to say, “You got to admit it’s better than the Nintendo 64!” But more on that in a moment.
Despite its age, the game still looks great, too. There’s a bit of pop-up here and there, but for a 1998 title this was a big step forward in graphical capabilities.
Other great things include the controller’s innovative VMU memory card unit – it doubles up as a type of Tamagotchi for Sonic Adventure. You can train a little Chao character. Belting.
Some of the boss battles are quite engaging and well thought out, too, and Sega’s effort into creating a Super Mario 64 beater is obvious.
Despite some of its high points, the game also has some big flaws. A lot of it is style over substance, with Sega showing off their fancy new technology.
That’s great for 1998, but decades on and that’s irrelevant and what remains is a title lacking the gameplay panache of its platforming peers.
As shown in the above video from the first level, some of the platforming is enforced handholding spectacle. As the player, you’re reduced to just bouncing or running around at high speed with little input. But, ooh, check out the graphics!
And it all looks rather fancy, but as a player you’re not doing anything.
Now, we should say these flaws were addressed in many areas (except for the voice acting) in the superior Sonic Adventure 2.
Overall we have fond memories of the first outing as it introduced us to the Dreamcast, Sega’s final games console. But, since then, by cripes has the series fallen off a cliff!
Highlighting the Angry Video Game Nerd again, in 2006 The Sonic Team released the hotly anticipated Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360.
Now often reffered to as Sonic ’06, it’s gone down in legend as a total disaster. As the AVGN’s video summary above abundantly makes clear.
With horrendous controls, endless bugs, and some of the most atrocious loading times imagineable, it was panned upon release by the press and gamers.
Some suggested it would even destroy the series entirely. But, despite some dodgy Sonic games since then that have undermined the series’ legacy, things are getting a bit more on track in recent years.
Eventually Sonic’s fans grew fed up of the relentless crap titles. A bunch of them from the modding community got together and made a new title to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the series.
So Sonic Mania isn’t an official Sega title, but we can consider it a homage of sorts. Or you can flat out class it as canon. But
Released in 2017, finally to strong reviews, it harks back to the Mega Drive days when Sonic was good and a fine alternative to Nintendo’s Super Mario titles.
Looking ahead, hopefully we’ll see more stuff like that. There’s even a Sonic movie on the way, so there’s a positive future ahead it would seem for this fast blue thing.