We've been reporting on Sonic Adventure for weeks now. We've seen the premiere in Japan via the net, read interviews with Sega's president, Shouichirou Irimajiri, and Sonic's designer, Yuri Naka, and tracked down dozens of shots. Sonic Adventure keeps getting closer to its release, and yet Sonic Team keeps pumping up performance and adding more things to it. This time around, Yuji Naka and company have added people walking in the Station Square level and are adding detail such as papers that Sonic can pick up (and apparently swing at the camera). The people are a new mix to Sonic's universe, in a game that has never had any other human characters - unless you can call Dr. Robotnik "human."
Well thats all nice and dandy and yippee skippy - but just WHAT is Sonic Adventure? What separates it from "The Legend Of Zelda", "Super Mario 64", "Pokemon", "Tomb Raider", YADDA YADDA YADDA....Lets find out.
| Characters And Zones...
You begin the game as Sonic, and gameplay takes place in three main areas: Station Square - The city, The Mystic Ruins - Mountains, valleys, etc, and The Egg Carrier and Factory/Industrial Areas. The Ruin area, where a majority of the game is played, is based on South American Incan ruins; the Sonic team spent a good deal of time in South America surveying the landscape so that the game area had an authentic feel.
Stages fall into two categories: adventure field, where 3D exploration is crucial, and action field, where speed dominates. Two of the stages demonstrated at the Sega premiere were the Speed Highway Zone (an action field stage) and Red Mountain Zone (an adventure field stage). Speed Highway feels a lot like a 2D game played in a 3D environment, a simple solution to alleviate fears that Sonic would lose his Sonic-ness when he was drawn into 3D living. Now he has the best of both worlds. Sonic zips through the levels, performing familiar actions, like grabbing rings and squashing enemies along a fairly predetermined path. The camera angle was fixed (in much the same way it is in videogame Klonoa) to keep camera angles from bouncing EVERYWHERE. Red Mountain, however, provides you with a very different experience. At the demonstration, Knuckles makes his way through the stage, which was clearly not finished yet and had a few pop-up problems. But Knuckles' own movements were well done - gliding, climbing, and digging included.
Other stages we know about are Ice Cap, where snowboarding is key, the jungly Lost World, and the hot molten Lava World. You'll be tasked once again with collecting Chaos and Super Emeralds, and though we're not sure where you'll encounter them, it seems a safe bet that it will be, as it has been in the past, in the bonus levels. Sega's also thrown in a few minigames as well to enhance the flavor. The three we know of so far are a whack-a-mole type game, a shooting level with a biplane called Tornado, a fishing game with Big, and an air car-racing game.
You'll be able to play through each of the stages with any one of six characters - and the stage will be altered for each character - adding significantly to the replay value. When the game opens, you're Sonic - and you have no choice about that, by the way - but as you encounter some of the other characters, that become playable - Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose, Big The Cat, and E-102 Ganma.
Each of the characters will be voiced by a different actor to build up an identifiable personality and will obviously have its own strengths and weaknesses, which will affect how you play through a given stage. Additionally, judging by what Irimajiri said at the conference, we're guessing that some of the characters may be easier to play than others - hence his comment that the game can be enjoyed both by children and older people. Another character in the story is the newest supervillian to enter the Sonic universe and rival the deadly Doc Botnik - Perfect Chaos, the mysterious Chaos Energy based water monster that has killed an entire civilization and WONT hesitate to do it again...
Perfect Chaos is not the only Chaos creature, however. The Dreamcast's Visual Memory System (VMS) is being called into play with creatures called Chao's, who reside in the adventure field sections of the game, the "A-Life" form that first showed up in NiGHTS. As you play with them and teach them things, they'll learn them and retain whatever you've taught them. Then, using the VMS, you can bring the Chaos outside the game and trade them with friends and like or bring them BACK into the game itself to use as a weapon or one of the rumored "ultimate racers", depending on how well you train it.
Lastly, as far as the story aspect goes, the storyline in Sonic is supposed to play an important part in the game (that may be part of why the game was originally rumored as being called Sonic RPG). Each character is supposed to have his own story as well. For the moment, however, Sega's keeping all stories tightly under wraps. The game should have a number of cutscenes and CG movies, particularly as the story is reported to play such an important role in the game.