Launch titles on new consoles need to do two distinct jobs:
- Look utterly amazing – they must look better than any game on the market
- Be fun while simultaneously giving gamers a taste of what the new console is all about
For my money ‘Sonic Adventure’ is the ultimate launch title! So it is fitting that my Dreamcast retrospective series would visit this little diamond.Believe it or not; there was a time that Sonic the Hedgehog was not a running joke in the gaming community – there was a time (God it was a long time ago now) that he was a bonafide system seller.
Maybe it was the attitude he exuded that reflected the feeling of the time (the 90s were a strange time), maybe it was the fact that the games were all absolutely gorgeous or maybe, just maybe it was because he was a genuine contender to Mario’s platforming crown (some would say he was the ONLY legitimate contender). After the massive success of the mainline Sonic titles in the 90s (and the relative disappointment of the ‘Sonic 3D’ games) SEGA once again turned to Yuji Naka and his Sonic Team to provide the flagship title on their new console.
And boy did they deliver! Sonic adventure was stunning looking – my first exposure to it was in issue 0 of ODCMUK (was that really the acronym?) in screenshot form and even in stills it was stunning! I had never seen character models with the level of fidelity or detail as Sonic and Tails had in those screenshots. I was mesmerised by what Sonic Team had achieved and I was dying to see it in action, I needed to see the Dreamcast running this game.
It was a while before I would witness the next generation; but my God it was worth the wait. I walked into my local GAME store and they had the Dreamcast Demo Pod running ‘Sonic Adventure’ I walked in at the intro and just stood there, watching. It was better than I could have even imagined…
Everything about this intro was perfect for a launch title, instantly you saw the larger scope of the title(no longer was it self-contained stages, there was a story!) the graphics were unparalleled by anything I’d ever seen – it even made Mario 64 look terrible! The thing that struck me the most however was the soundtrack – it sounded amazing! Not the terrible J-Pop song you understand but the clarity of it; the larger capacity of the GD-Rom disc gave the music a fuller sound that was instantly apparent – even in a busy shop – the title screen drove home this with a driving guitar riff that gave the game a sense of urgency (apt seeing as it is the fastest hedgehog in the world). I was ready to push that start button. Stood in the shop, my body was ready…
Unfortunately my gaming skills were not! The Dreamcast controller; while ugly, was a million miles better than the Dual Shock controller of the Playstation and the analogue stick was far more sensitive and responsive than the one found on the N64 controller. I couldn’t get my hands around the level of nuance the controller required to make Sonic do my bidding within the first few minutes I found myself running into walls and finally into the sea – Emerald Coast was a cruel mistress it would seem! I was a bit down-trodden, I was about to put the controller down when a member of staff approached and gave me the following advice;
“Mate! You don’t want to make the analogue stick hit its edges, do it gently and it’s much easier”
I took this advice and it worked! Soon I had Sonic sprinting through the level, bumper pads were underneath jumping dolphins spring edges on walk ways, jumping on badniks was easy as pie thanks to the lock on feature. The game was silky smooth and it moved with a pace I’d not seen before, the Dreamcast was throwing polygons like no-ones business and it wasn’t flinching and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I came to a wooden bridge…
…OH MY GOD! I was being chased by an Orca, the Dreamcast was truly something different, the Dreamcast was something new, I needed this game in my life.
I needed the Dreamcast.
It was August, the perfect Christmas gift.
I did the honourable thing and asked for the Dreamcast for Christmas, Mum and Dad said that they’d try but the console was selling out everywhere, quickly (remember that SEGA promoted it hard) my Christmas was in peril. I’ll never forget going to sleep on 24/12/99 hoping that Mum and Dad had somehow procured the Dreamcast. The nerves were real, and the hope was dying; I was worried about it #firstworldproblems.
When we woke up (as was the tradition) we entered the living room where our presents were laid out. I saw no Dreamcast. I saw a copy of ‘Sonic Adventure’ but that was for my older brother who’d luckily gotten his Dreamcast on launch day (damn him going to that midnight opening) – to say I was gutted was an understatement. Although I got loads of gifts (including ‘Tekken 3’ and ‘Tony Hawk Pro Skater’) I was disappointed with no Dreamcast. Dad obviously saw my disappointment and called me into the kitchen; there he explained that everywhere was sold out but they had put an order for one as soon as they came back in stock. Silly as it sounds now – it was little solace!
Dad also presented us with a shared family PC! It was for studying he said. I went upstairs to help set it up, but of course we forgot the keyboard and mouse! Dad said it was behind the unit in the living room; he put it there weeks ago and didn’t want them found. I ran down to retrieve them and what did I find behind that unit?
He’d done it again! Turned out that copy of ‘Sonic Adventure’ wasn’t for my brother at all, it was mine. I ran upstairs and set it up popped in Sonic and called my dad in – he was blown away by the graphics. We then tested the DC against the PC with ‘Trickstyle’ and it looked Identical, truly impressive!
I put tons of time into ‘Sonic Adventure’ with every character (yes even Big the Cat) and enjoyed every single moment of it; for my money it is the last great Sonic the Hedgehog game…
…I still don’t know to this day who retrieved the mouse and keyboard! I should really ask Dad!