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Dreamcast Retrospective Day 9: Sonic Adventure

Not every memorable moment in Dreamcast history is a positive one.  This cursed title was the warning sign that signaled Sonic’s descent into madness.  This should have been the clue that the poor blue mascot was destined to star in countless odes to suckitude in the years to come, one relentless dose of terrible after the next, until there was nearly nothing left of the hedgehog we knew and loved.

All of that doesn’t mean Sonic Adventure wasn’t totally badass at the time, though.

 Personally I was too excited by its spectacular jump into 3D-O-Vision at first to really notice its flaws.  They took a while to sink in, but sink in they eventually did.

I’ll never forgive it for those damn Knuckles levels.

Curse the repetition.  CURSE IT!!!

Before the truth reached my young brain, however, this little clunker managed to worm its way into my fond memories before I knew any better.

The moment I knew that this game was going to be the most awesome thing ever created was when I first saw the trailer, and later the demo, that featured Sonic running down a dock as a whale chased after him, destroying everything in its path.

A freakin’ whale!  Sweet!

I felt more sheer anticipation for this game than it deserved by a long shot, waited for it more anxiously and with more innocent excitement than just about anything else I can remember that didn’t have Zelda in the title, but until the horrible truth finally sunk in, it delivered.  

The graphics were truly better than anything I had seen before.  The sense of speed in Sonic’s levels was truly addicting.  The worlds I got to race through and explore were new and exciting.  Finally conquering the rest of the game and reaching that glorious point where the cheesy 80s metal that I love so very much for some reason blared and I got to transform into fucking Super Sonic and beat the crap out of the boss put an embarrassingly large smile on my face.

And those little Chaos were just so damn cute.

For a short, wonderful time, Sonic Adventure was glorious.

It’s possible that Sonic Adventure’s failings helped transform me into the jaded creature that now types these nostalgic words.  My childhood excitement for the Dreamcast, what it represented, and the unique games I could play with it was eventually betrayed by poor business decisions and a Sega that was losing its grip.

It sure was one hell of a ride, though.

The Dreamcast gave me some of the most radical, unique, and memorable gaming experiences I’ve played to this day.  My innocent excitement over Sonic Adventure; my sheer addiction to Crazy Taxi and the love of The Offspring that it spawned; my long-awaited conquering of Grandia II and the ever elusive JRPG genre it represented; my fascination with the enveloping yet insidiously boring world of Shenmue; my time spent playing Jet Grind Radio by myself and with friends and loving the sheer creative spark that radiated from it, not matched by many other games even to this day; all of these are memories I truly cherish.

But the short-lived system soon began to falter.  Its popularity wasn’t enough to save Sega from its troubled past.  Its utterly unique games didn’t draw the audience necessary to dig it out of the hole it had dug for itself. 

The creative spark that had once defined Sega, that had once enthralled a generation of gamers, that had once captured so many hearts and imaginations and developed a strong rivalry with boring old Nintendo, would quickly fade with the Dreamcast’s passing.

The great saga of Shenmue remains unfinished.  Sonic Adventure II, along with every Sonic game that followed, was utterly forgettable at best.  Crazy Taxi 2 and 3 both sucked.  Sega soon devolved into just another publisher of mediocre action games and forgettable sequels, with that oh-so-rare diamond in the rough coming out of nowhere and reminding of what once was.

Without its own console, its own piece of hardware to call home, Sega just couldn’t take the risks it used to.  It couldn’t afford to be the company we once loved.  The safety net had been taken away and its built-in audience had disappeared, forcing the accountants to take over and move it into that dreadful hell of “play it safe” game development.

Sonic Adventure may have been the death knell of a great company, but I yearn for those troubled days.  They were the last of the great ones for Sega, and some of the last for my youthful enthusiasm.

It is true enough that my jaded nature may have come more from age than from any betrayal by Sega, but it is hard for me not to want to pin the blame.

The PlayStation 2 just wasn’t the same; the GameCube not as magical; the Xbox, by comparison, a faceless computer.

The Dreamcast was special.  

It was a once-in-a-lifetime culmination of circumstances that could never be recreated, but that offered one of the greatest concentrations of unique titles ever to be seen.  It is all too true that some of them, like many things in our memories, do not hold up well when revisited today.  

But back then they were magical.  

Scratch that.  The Dreamcast is special.

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    Zestful Contemplation - Blog - Dreamcast Retrospective Day 9: Sonic Adventure

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