The game Sonic Adventure was released at an interesting time. At the time of it’s release (in the late 1990’s), computer games were being released that demonstrated the transformation of series from 2-dimensional designs into 3-dimensional environments. It also marked the period where the Sonic the Hedgehog series of games declined in popularity among both critics and audiences.Read more
Sonic Adventure was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. At this time, games like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were released. These games featured heroes, who had previously appeared in 2-dimensional adventures, exploring 3-dimensional environments. These games seemed to attempt to maintain some of the ethos of the previous games, while also incorporating new ideas. For example, Super Mario 64 used many of the same enemies and fighting techniques from previous Mario games, but used a challenge-based gameplay, instead of reaching the end of a series of levels.
Sonic Adventure seemed to incorporate a mixture of features from previous games, the development of elements that were used in older games and new ideas suitable for a 3-dimensional game. Some of the gameplay methods, such as rings functioning as the character’s health and the power-ups found in the game, were familiar elements of Sonic the Hedgehog games. The action stages that comprised Sonic’s and Tail’s stories seemed to resemble 3-dimensional versions of levels used in previous Sonic the Hedgehog games, whereby the player had to follow a path to reach the end of the level, which was designed to increase the character’s speed. The gameplay for the action stages during Knuckles’ story was similar to the gameplay for previous Sonic the Hedgehog games that used 3-dimensional environments (i.e. Sonic 3D and Sonic Labyrinth), whereby the player searched a location to find a number of objects.
Some ideas used in the game were found in previous games, but were developed further. The Chaos Emeralds appeared in most Sonic the Hedgehog games and collecting them usually allowed the player to transform Sonic into Super Sonic. The Master Emerald was first used in Sonic 3. Previous games did not explain what the Chaos Emeralds and Master Emerald were or how they caused Super Sonic to appear. The story of Sonic Adventure included a backstory that described the history of these items and explained the link between obtaining the Chaos Emeralds and Sonic transforming into Super Sonic.
In older Sonic the Hedgehog games, it was common for animals to appear after an enemy was destroyed, as if the animal had been imprisoned inside the hostile robot. These animals did not affect the game, they appeared and then ran away, although their presence implied that Sonic’s mission was to rescue the local inhabitants. In Sonic Adventure, these animals appeared after an enemy was defeated, however, the player was able to use them. The player could collect a number of animals during the action stages and, after completing the level, present them to the Chao living in the Chao Gardens. The Chao were able to absorb power from the animals, which caused the Chao to improve a specific characteristic that could be used in the Chao Races. Like in previous Sonic the Hedgehog games, the player was able to access the fight against a final boss (called Perfect Chaos) and fully complete Sonic Adventure after they had completed a set criteria (which was completing all the other stories).
Some aspects of Sonic Adventure seemed to be included to utilise the 3-dimensional design of the game and to make the game more modern. The story for the game was much more complex than previous games in the series and was told using animated sequences. Most of the characters also developed during their individual adventure, which added to the complexity of the game’s plot. Rather than using a series of unconnected levels, the action stages in this game were linked by adventure hubs, which the player could also explore. The gameplay for Amy’s story used a chase mechanic, while the action stages during Gamma’s adventure had an objective-based gameplay method and an unusual timed-based mechanic. The gameplay for Big’s adventure resembled a fishing simulator, rather than an action platformer. The Chao subgame was similar to a game from a series like Pokemon, whereby the player found a creature, trained it and helped it grow and then entered it into competitions to win prizes. The Sky Chase sublevels functioned as rail shooters, whereby the player followed a set course and were able to shoot enemies.
As well as incorporating elements to utilise the 3-dimensional environments, the Sonic Adventure game also seemed to feature ideas that were used in later games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Although my experience of later Sonic the Hedgehog games was limited to Sonic Heroes and Sonic and the Secret Rings, I recognised parts of this game in the later games. The action stages used for Sonic’s story resembled the levels used for later Sonic the Hedgehog games, with the player following a path through a 3-dimensional environment to reach the end and the levels designed to increase the character’s speed. In each action stage that the player encountered during Sonic’s story, something (such as a whale or a boulder) chased Sonic and the camera angle changed so it faced Sonic and the player had to evade the pursuer, which was a concept that was repeated in later games.
As well as using features that were repeated in later games in the series, Sonic Adventure also had a clear legacy. In 2003, Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut was released, which expanded upon the original game, including adding Cream, a character that featured in later Sonic the Hedgehog games. In 2001, a sequel (called Sonic Adventure 2) was released. Sonic X, an animated TV programme, was created later and part of the first series mirrored the story for the Sonic Adventure game.
As well as demonstrating the transformation of the design of Sonic the Hedgehog games from 2-dimensions into 3-dimensions, Sonic Adventure also marked the demise of the series. Since the release of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game in 1991, Sonic games were consistently popular. This period of computer game history was known as the Console Wars, as Sega (the company that created Sonic) competed with Nintendo (the market leader) to dominate the computer game market. Over the years, a series of Sonic the Hedgehog games were released, on consoles developed by Sega, to critical acclaim, however, later Sonic the Hedgehog games were given negative reviews by critics.
Figure 1 showed the score awarded, by the Gamespot website, to each Sonic the Hedgehog game released between 1991 and 2017. Only games released on non-handheld consoles were included and the relevant data was not found for the Sonic and Knuckles game. The results of the data were limited because a single review website was used, therefore, they did not represent the opinions of many critics.
Figure 1 showed that many of the early Sonic the Hedgehog games maintained high scores, while a lot of the Sonic the Hedgehog games released after Sonic Adventure were awarded lower scores. Interestingly, 2 games released before Sonic Adventure were given lower scores than some of the later games, these games (Sonic 3D and Sonic R) used 3-dimensional designs, although Sonic R was a racing game. It was also notable that some of the later games that achieved a higher score incorporated mechanics from the 2-dimensional Sonic the Hedgehog games (specifically Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania).
Sonic the Hedgehog games released after Sonic Adventure did not sell as many units as the earlier games, which reflected their unpopularity among the audience. Figure 2 showed the amount of units, that were sold, of each Sonic game, according to the VGChartz website, and only games released on non-handheld consoles were included. This data was limited because figures were not found for the Sonic Spinball, Sonic R and Sonic Shuffle games. Data for the Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Part 1 game was not found because it was only available by being downloaded. Sonic the Hedgehog games released before the Sonic Heroes game were released exclusively on consoles developed by Sega, but, afterwards, they were released on a variety of consoles, therefore, one console, that the game was originally available to play on, was selected as a representative sample of the amount of copies of the game that were sold, which affected the reliability of the results. A very high number of units of the Sonic the Hedgehog game were sold because copies of the game were included with the Mega Drive, which also affected the reliability of the results.
Figure 2 demonstrated that many of the Sonic the Hedgehog games released after Sonic Adventure did not sell as many units as the earlier games. Interestingly, less units of the Sonic 3D game, which presented with a lower score than the later games, were sold, while the Sonic Generations game, which was awarded with a fairly high score, was not more commercially successful than the other later Sonic the Hedgehog games.
Interestingly, the Sonic Adventure game appeared to be both praised by reviewers and commercially successful. Figure 1 showed that Sonic Adventure was awarded the highest score and figure 2 demonstrated that more copies of it were sold than most of the other Sonic the Hedgehog games. This suggested that Sonic the Hedgehog games could have been created, using 3-dimensional environments, that were popular among critics and audiences, if the correct elements from Sonic Adventure were implemented properly. Bartholomew (2000), in a review for the Gamespot website, praised the game’s fast pace, straightforward and linear design, inventive and effective boss fights, high quality graphics, large and detailed environments and clear music. It was even stated that the different gameplay mechanics were enjoyable in different ways and that raising Chao was the most interesting aspect of the game.
Sonic Adventure was originally released on the Dreamcast, which was the last console to be developed by Sega. Since the release of the first entry in the series, Sonic the Hedgehog games were played on consoles developed by Sega, including handheld consoles, however, at the time of writing, Sega had not developed a console since the Dreamcast. This seemed to represent a decline in the corporate power of Sega and meant that Sonic was no longer exclusive to consoles developed by Sega, which ended the Sonic the Hedgehog games’ role as the most prominent game of the console they were released on.
The increasing popularity of the Sonic the Hedgehog games, followed by the downfall of the series, appeared to be an interesting and thoroughly analysed aspect of gaming history. A range of articles had been written that discussed the decrease in quality of later Sonic the Hedgehog games, with a variety of opinion on the reasons why later games were unpopular and the actual game that marked the point where the series started to decline in prominence. For example, Gallagher (2016) claimed that releasing the Sega Saturn console without an accompanying Sonic game caused the decline in popularity of the Sonic the Hedgehog games, along with Sega’s weakened corporate status, while Shea (2016) stated that developing games on other consoles, changing the gameplay mechanics between games, creating spin-off games and developing the games within a short amount of time also contributed to the series’ decline.
Weirdly, the Sonic and the Secret Rings game appeared to be commercially successful and critically popular. Figure 1 suggested that the game was awarded a comparatively high score compare to other Sonic the Hedgehog games released at the time, while Figure 2 demonstrated that more copies of the game were sold than most of the other Sonic the Hedgehog games. I, personally, was not aware if Sonic and the Secret Rings was a popular game or considered to be of a high quality, however, only one review website was used and did not represent the views of other critics.
In conclusion, Sonic Adventure was an interesting game. The game represented the transformation of the Sonic the Hedgehog series from 2-dimensional games into 3-dimensional games and the game used a mixture of features found in previous Sonic the Hedgehog games, the development of ideas from the older games and new elements created to add complexity and utilise the 3-dimensional designs. The game also informed other aspects of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, such as a sequel and a story that featured in an animated series. Some of the new ideas that were developed for the game were also used in later games. As well as demonstrating the development of 3-dimensional Sonic the Hedgehog games, the release of Sonic Adventure also marked the time when the Sonic the Hedgehog series became less popular among critics and audiences.Read more
- Bartholomew, P. (2000) Sonic Adventure Review. Available at: https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/sonic-adventure-review/1900-2540626/ (Accessed: 07/05/2022);
- Gallagher, J. (2016) Sonic the Hedgehog: The Rise and Fall of Sega’s Blue Blur. Available at: https://www.denofgeek.com/games/sonic-the-hedgehog-the-rise-and-fall-of-segas-blue-blur/ (Accessed: 13/05/2022);
- Gamespot (2022) Gamespot. Available at: https://www.gamespot.com/ (Accessed 20/03/2022);
- Shea, B. (2016) Where Sonic Went Wrong. Available at: https://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2016/11/14/where-sonic-went-wrong.aspx (Accessed: 14/05/2022);
- VGChartz (2022) VGChartz. Available at: https://www.vgchartz.com/ (Accessed 04/04/2022).