Sonic Adventure 2 Hands-On

Sega had a playable demo of Sonic's newest adventure running at its Executive Gamer's Summit in San Francisco last month. We played the demo and spoke with a member of Sonic Team regarding the game's development, but we couldn't talk about the project until now.

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The sequel to the blue-skinned Sega mascot's first adventure on the Dreamcast, Sonic Adventure 2 promises to deliver more of the top-notch platforming action that made the last game so appealing. Though Sega has been very secretive concerning the game, we were recently given a chance to discuss the game's development with a member of Sonic Team and get our hands on a playable demo.

Sega first showed us a brand-new trailer for the game that showcased Sonic Adventure 2's enhanced graphics and hinted at the storyline. From what we could tell, Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are the primary heroes in this game, and their quest involves both Dr. Robotnik and a brand-new character. Though the trailer wouldn't show the character in full view, it did show several close-ups of his face, enough to allow us to make an educated guess about his identity. He appeared to be an evil version of Sonic himself - similar in appearance, but with darker skin, more angled eyes, and a fearsome snarl instead of Sonic's trademark grin. Neither Sonic Team nor Sega would comment on exactly who this character was, but it's obvious that he's the new villain behind Sonic Adventure 2.

However, Sega did have some comments concerning the scope of the game. Sonic Adventure 2 will stray from the adventure-game feel of last year's Sonic Adventure and will instead focus on the classic fast-paced level-based gameplay that made the Sonic series. Sonic Adventure 2 won't feature the real-world level layout featured in Sonic Adventure, and the gameplay will instead progress in a linear fashion. Sonic Team implied that they were doing away with the adventure fields of Sonic Adventure completely, and that they're instead populating Sonic Adventure 2 with self-contained action stages. You will presumably spend less time talking with people and more time running fast in this sequel. Sonic Team did reveal that chao breeding will return in Sonic Adventure 2, and the new game should feature plenty of new things to do with your saved chao from Sonic Adventure.

The demo that was being showcased at the event featured only one action stage introduced by a quick in-game cutscene. The demo was in Japanese, and it featured English subtitles for the dialogue. The demo opened with Sonic escaping from a highly armed helicopter by jumping out an open door while strapped to a snowboard. The crew of the helicopter seems pretty upset as Sonic acrobatically floats to the large metropolis below. Once Sonic hits the ground, the gameplay begins. As the level opens, Sonic is still on the snowboard, and he's sliding down a huge asphalt hill at incredible speeds. You have to collect rings, maneuver your way around quick corners, and avoid the cars that litter the road. You also have plenty of opportunities to catch air, as the road is peppered with boost pads and jumps.

You eventually slide your way to the bottom of the hill and ditch your snowboard in favor of your supersonic legs. Once on your feet, the level was quick to demonstrate one of Sonic's new moves for his new adventure - the railslide. It seems that Sonic has taken up the new trend of freestyle walking - he slides on rails with his shoes. This move allows you to slide up and down the rails that navigate tight corners and sometimes lead to secret areas. After you slide down a few rails and pick up speed, you take out a few robot bad guys, bounce off a few bumpers, and move on to the next area of the level. Apparently, there's some sort of huge runaway semi on your tail, and you have to outrun it as it barrels its way down a huge hill. During this part of the level, the camera is actually looking back at Sonic, focusing on the truck that's trying to run you down. Because of this, you're essentially running blind, and you have to follow long trails of rings to navigate your way to the boost pads and jumps that will lead to the end of the level. You eventually outrun the truck and jump your way to a giant switch that signifies the end of the demo.

Judging from the trailer and the demo, it's obvious that Sonic Adventure 2 has received a complete graphical overhaul. Sonic Adventure 2 looks much better than the first game - with plenty of action onscreen and large detailed environments that never seem to slow down, even when the action gets hectic. Sonic, Knuckles, and the gang all look better than they ever have, and the other characters in the game look great. If the demo was any indication, Sonic Adventure 2 should be much faster, slicker, and better-looking than the last game. The audio also seems to have gotten some attention, as the demo featured brand-new voice work and sound effects.

Sega's mascot is in the hands of Sega of Japan's most renowned development team, and the project is being overseen by Yuji Naka, one of the founding fathers of the Sonic series. Given Sonic Team's track record and the generous amount of development time given to the game, you can expect Sonic Adventure 2 to be a blockbuster. Sonic Adventure 2 is scheduled for a February 2001 release.

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