Monday, May 25, 2015

Follow Me: On The Beautiful and Tragic Weirdness of Sonic Adventure

US Sonic Adventure cover art courtesy of the Sonic Wiki
Sonic, for better of for worse, has been the face of SEGA back in the long-ago when SEGA was also in the console business. So of course there was lots and lots of hype in 1998 when Sonic Adventure was released-- it was the first Sonic the Hedgehog game for the SEGA Dreamcast. Hollywood Video had a promotion that let you rent a Dreamcast system and Sonic Adventure. Fans talked about how sales of Sonic Adventure might just save the Dreamcast's flagging sales. And in a 3-part essay, mammon machine's ZEAL looks at the hopeful hpe and the wasted potential of the series. From part one:
It is immediately apparent, from the first moments of its introduction movie to its title screen logo, what Sonic Adventure is trying to prove. It is a game suffixed with the word “Adventure” because it wants to communicate certain things about itself and its goals. “Adventure” is meant to be expansive... 
...It’s a very peculiar failure from the game, to communicate a simple idea about its setting, and a moment that’s emblematic of Sonic Adventure’s existential dilemma. As Sonic Adventure works harder to convince us that it is sprawling and expansive, it becomes increasingly insular and recursive... The first time we hear Sonic speak is the first of Sonic Adventure’s many, many, jarring moments, the points where the thing Sonic Adventure wants to be and what it unavoidably is crash into each other like a beautiful accident.

And yes, there were worse things about the game's presentation than the above, or the fact that even over 15 years later, that "Open Your Heart" song is STILL stuck in my head:

As they point out in part two of the essay, lots of the level design just doesn't make any sense. They're worse than bad, they're boring, as in the case of the Casinopolis level:

That a Casino is a place where you do a boring, laborious task of endless accumulation to gain a resource, and that the space is somehow built to coerce you into continuing that task, perhaps against your better judgement. That a Casino is a place you can stay in for a long time, but it isn’t designed to end itself, it cannot accommodate the conception of an end. It is a complex thing that would probably need a special area for people who would need to be taught how it works. And that, maybe, Casinos really are just empty, pointless, lonely places to exist in.

What do you think, readers?

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