What makes a classic game?
Certainly there are those that are watersheds in the industry, games that break new ground and create new experiences.
Then there are those that don't innovate in any meaningful way but are good games all the same, ones that simply play well or perhaps evoke fond memories. Neither is assured to stand the test of time. The case in point is the recent release of Sonic Adventure on Xbox LIVE Arcade.
First released in 1998 on the Dreamcast, the game wowed players with its 3D engine and solid gameplay. In itself the game was pretty much on par with similar titles around at that time, but the 3D environment set it apart and also overshadowed some of the glitches and flaws. Jump forward 12 years and 3D enivornments par for the course. Worse still, the game’s faults now shine like a beacon.
This is a classic game in the sense that it was an important milestone in the Sonic franchise for SEGA. Breaking the game down into differing stages and play styles (adventure, running the rails and power ring, for example) added a lot of variety to the game and the platform genre. This was also the case with the introduction of additional player characters. Sonic, the unlikely heroic blue supersonic hedgehog (did we buy into this in 1998?) is supported by Tails, a two tailed fox; Amy, the pink hedgehog, and Knuckles an echidna (a beaked hedgehog); with the total list looking like the rejects from some mad, biological experiment.
Basically the plot revolves around you trying to chase down Robotnik (a.k.a. Dr Eggman) who once again wants to conquer the world. Visualise running around collecting rings, and jumping about on increasingly difficult platform levels.
Glitch-wise there are some glaring problems which illustrate quite clearly that this is a direct port with no other reason than making a quick, nostalgic buck from the punters. The camera jerks about in the speed stages to such an extent that there should be a motion sickness warning on the box. Worse still, it collides with game objects that leaves you blind to the action. Not to worry though, as in these stages of the game there’s the feeling that little intervention is required from the player, the game is so ‘railed’ that it would complete itself.
Is it fun to play? On purely nostalgic grounds, a resounding perhaps. Unfortunately, you'll very quickly realise that you have moved on from that era and so has gaming. Eventually, the unresolved flaws become irritating and overwhelm the earlier sense of anticipation and fun.
Graphically, the game is also showing its age. Yes, it was innovative in its day, but today’s technology deserves to be utilised to its fullest; with Sonic Adventure your console hardly leaves its idle state. Remember, this game was produced in the days when wide screens were a dream, so two large colour bands fill the unused space on your TV.
One aspect of the game that we did find has stood the test of time was the music. A departure from some of the earlier games, it embraced the era of rock and roll, pop and funk styles, and paired these with each individual character. They are just as good today as they were then.
The game is downloadable from Xbox LIVE at what we should be considered a hefty 800 points. Only the most ardent Sonic fans need apply. For the rest of us, some good gaming memories should just remain that: memories.