Sonic Adventure

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Sonic Adventure
Cover art of Sonic Adventure, showcasing Yuji Uekawa's redesign of the titular character. Sonic is shown atop the game's logo, and the Sega logo is shown in the upper left hand corner.
Developer(s) Sonic Team
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Takashi Iizuka
Producer(s) Yuji Naka
Programmer(s) Tetsu Katano
Writer(s) Akinori Nishiyama
Series Sonic the Hedgehog
Platform(s) Dreamcast, GameCube, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre(s) Platform, action, role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Sonic Adventure[a] is a 1998 action-platform game published by Sega for their Dreamcast console. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Big the Cat, and E-102 Gamma in their respective quests to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds and stop Doctor Robotnik from unleashing an ancient evil. Controlling one of the six playable characters—each with their own special abilities—players must explore a series of themed levels to advance the story. Players can also interact with Chao, a virtual pet.

Following the cancellation of the Sega Saturn game Sonic X-treme, Sonic Team began developing Sonic Adventure in 1997 as the first main game in the series to feature full 3D gameplay. A 60-member development team created the game in ten months, using real-world locations such as Peru and Guatemala as inspiration. Yuji Uekawa also redesigned the characters to better suit the series' transition to 3D. The game was largely kept a secret until Sega announced it in August 1998, releasing it in Japan that December.

The game received critical acclaim and was the Dreamcast's best-seller, with over 2.5 million units sold by 2006. Critics lauded the game's impressive visuals, unique gameplay, and felt it successfully transitioned the Sonic franchise to 3D. Despite this, some reviewers were frustrated by its camera controls and reactions to the game's audio were mixed. Speculation arose that Sonic Adventure could propel the Dreamcast's sales and re-establish Sega as the dominant console manufacturer after the relatively unsuccessful Saturn. The game is considered one of the most important games of the sixth generation of video game consoles, and among the best of the Sonic series.

After Sega's shift to third-party software development, ports of Sonic Adventure were made for the GameCube, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Reviews for these versions saw the game in a less positive light, feeling it did not age well and making note of its inconsistent frame rate. One of the characters introduced in the game—Big the Cat—has been considered one of the worst characters to feature in a video game. Many of the changes made in Sonic Adventure later became staples of the Sonic series. A direct sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, was released in 2001.


Gameplay screenshot showing Sonic in Emerald Coast, the first level of Sonic Adventure. In this particular scene, Sonic is chased by a large orca. A graphic at the top of the screen shows the time and the number of rings collected, while another shows the player's character portrait and the number of lives remaining.
Gameplay screenshot showing Sonic in one of the game's levels

Sonic Adventure is an 3D platformer action game with role-playing elements.[1] Players control one of the game's six anthropomorphic protagonists, as they venture to defeat Doctor Robotnik, who seeks the seven magical Chaos Emeralds and the evil entity Chaos, and his robot army. At the game's start, players select one of the characters, who are unlocked as the game progresses and have their own story and attributes. Sonic the Hedgehog can perform a spin dash, homing attack, and light-speed dash; Miles "Tails" Prower can fly, swim, and attack robots using his tails; Knuckles the Echidna can glide, climb walls, and punch; Amy Rose can defeat enemies using her hammer; Big the Cat is slow and carries a fishing rod; and E-102 Gamma can shoot laser beams.[2] As they start, players are placed in an Adventure Field—an open-ended hub world where players can freely explore and converse with townspeople. As they explore the Adventure Field, the player will find entrances to normal levels called Action Stages, where they will be tasked with a specific objective.[3]

The goal of an Action Stage differs between characters. Sonic and Amy must reach the level's end; Tails must reach the end before Sonic; Knuckles must find the shards of the Master Emerald; Big must fish for his pet frog; and Gamma must fight his way through stages using projectiles as means of defense.[4] Like previous games, players collect rings as a form of health, and power-ups such as speed shoes, invincibility, and elemental shields. Every several stages, players engage in a boss fight with Robotnik or Chaos, and must deplete the boss's health meter to proceed.[5][6] Each character starts the game with a limited number of lives; if the player drowns, gets crushed, or is hit with no rings, they will lose a life. Losing all lives results in a game over. Lives can be replenished by collecting 100 rings or a 1-up.[4]

Players may also find hidden Chao Gardens, a protective environment inhabited by Chao, a virtual pet. The player can hatch, raise and interact with a Chao.[5] Chao can be taken with the player by downloading the minigame Chao Adventure to their VMU, or in the GameCube version, a Game Boy Advance with Sonic Advance and its sequels.[7] The player can also raise their Chao's stats by giving them small animals that are found by defeating robots, which improves their performance in competitions called Chao Races. There are also eggs hidden throughout the Adventure Fields which can produce special types of Chao. By playing through Action Stages, searching through the Adventure Fields or winning Chao Races, players can earn emblems.[2][7] In the case of Action Stages, each one has three emblems, which can be earned by replaying the stages and fulfilling certain objectives, such as beating the level within a time limit.[4]


As a part of his scheme to obtain the seven Chaos Emeralds, Doctor Robotnik shatters the Master Emerald and releases Chaos, an ancient entity. Knuckles sets out to find the shards of the broken Master Emerald, while Sonic and Tails attempt to stop Robotnik from retrieving the Chaos Emeralds. Meanwhile, Robotnik activates Gamma to find Froggy, who has eaten a Chaos Emerald and is being pursued by his owner, Big. Amy discovers a Flicky in possession of a Chaos Emerald, naming it Birdie. They are captured by Robotnik's forces, but Amy convinces Gamma not to work for Robotnik and helps her escape.

Eventually, Robotnik feeds the Chaos Emeralds to Chaos, who uses their negative energy to transform into Perfect Chaos and destroys Station Square so the scientist can build Robotnikland atop its ruins. Sonic, however, uses the positive energy of the Chaos Emeralds to transform into his super form and fight Chaos, defeating him. After Chaos is quelled, Sonic chases a fleeing Robotnik.



After the completion of Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, Sega began development on Sonic X-treme, which would have been released in 1996 and the first Sonic game to feature fully 3D graphics. The game transitioned several times; in its earliest form, it was designed for release on the Sega Genesis, before moving to the 32X and eventually the Sega Saturn. The game, however, became stuck in development hell after a series of setbacks, resulting in its cancellation in 1997.[8][9] The cancellation of Sonic X-treme is considered an important factor in the Saturn's commercial failure; without it, the system had no original Sonic platformer, and the series was attributed to the success of the Genesis.[10]

Instead, Sega began to concentrate on Sonic Team's Nights into Dreams, and porting the Genesis game Sonic 3D Blast to the Saturn.[11] After the completion of Nights into Dreams, designer Takashi Iizuka proposed to producer Yuji Naka that Sega develop a role-playing style Sonic game, with a larger emphasis on storytelling.[12] To experiment how well Sonic would transition to 3D, Sonic Team created a prototype using the Nights game engine, which later became the "Sonic World" seen in the compilation Sonic Jam. This experiment would serve as the basis for Sonic Adventure.[13]


Sonic Adventure was conceptualized in August 1996, and development commenced in July 1997. The development team of began with around 20 members, but it eventually expanded to have 60 individuals.[14] The game began development on the Saturn,[15][16][17] but Sega soon announced the Dreamcast, and the team decided to transition development to take advantage of the system's larger RAM size, stronger CPU, and the VMU. Not wanting to waste their completed work, they placed it in Sonic Jam and began re-developing Sonic Adventure from scratch on the Dreamcast.[14] The 3D graphics were created using a Voodoo2 graphics chip.[14] In order to achieve a more natural, realistic feel for the exotic levels like ruins and jungles, the core members of Sonic Team traveled to Central America and South America. The team visited Cancun, Guatemala, and Peru, and used pictures taken from their journey as textures in the game. For Tails' sandboarding, the development team used a group of people boarding on sand dunes in Ica, Peru as a reference.[12] Levels were designed to take the player at least five minutes to complete, and retain similar gameplay to the original Genesis games.[17] Some of the game's levels, such as the Lost World, were rebuilt dozens of times.[12][18]

Yuji Uekawa's concept art, showcasing his redesign of Sonic. The notes in Japanese on the lest show how his torso works.
Yuji Uekawa's redesign of Sonic, with notes on how his torso works

As development progressed, Iizuka recalled, the team wanted to challenge themselves "with in this undertaking of recreating Sonic, the character, and his world brand new." The team began development using the character's original designs from the Genesis games, but the characters' bodies were too short and heads too big, making them hard to see with the camera. Thus, Yuji Uekawa was tasked with redesigning each character, to help better suit the characters' transition to 3D and give them "new, edgy, more Western character design work". Looking to the animation of Walt Disney and Looney Tunes for inspiration, Uekawa began to redesign Sonic. The hedgehog was made more "mature", being taller, slimmer, and given longer quills; he was also given green irises (in reference to Green Hill Zone) and made a darker hue of blue. Uekawa tried to make Sonic look like he came from a comic book, later comparing his design to graffiti. The designer submitted several concepts before one was ultimately accepted. After Sonic, Uekawa redesigned every other character to fit this art style.[19] Sonic was also given new homing and light speed attacks, to make the 3D controls feel more comfortable.[12]

When the level designs were completed, Naka decided to use them for other characters and playstyles.[17] Sonic Team had already implemented a fishing rod in the game with no context or use, so they created Big[20] as a direct contrast to the other action-based characters.[12] Gamma and his playstyle were created in response to fans who wanted elements of a shoot 'em up game in Sonic.[17][12] Neither Big nor Gamma were intended to play a large role in the game, and in turn, both their campaigns were short.[21] Iizuka also wanted to create a villain who would serve alongside Doctor Robotnik, and something that would have been impossible to make on older hardware. He decided to settle on something liquid and transparent and created Chaos. He presented the concept to Naka, who was impressed and accepted the character.[12] Chaos was originally supposed to have realistic blue scales in his perfect form; this idea was abandoned due to the technological restraints of the Dreamcast.[22] The Chao raising system was implemented because of the positive reception to the A-Life system in Nights,[12] to appeal to casual gamers not familiar with games like Sonic,[12] and add replay value.[23]

Sonic Adventure was one of the largest video games ever created at the time.[14][17][1] It was developed amid heavy secrecy during its ten-month production period.[14][17] Though screenshots were leaked in mid-1998 and plans for a 3D Sonic game had long been rumored,[24] the game was not officially announced until August 22, 1998.[17] The North American localization includes Japanese and English-language audio tracks, as well as Japanese, English, Spanish, French and German subtitles.[25] Online features such as leaderboards, online Chao daycare, and downloadable content were also added to the localization.[26] The localized version was later given a Japanese release, titled Sonic Adventure International.[27]


While some Sonic games, such as 1993's Sonic CD, had some voice work, the developers embraced voice acting while developing Sonic Adventure, because of its role-playing elements.[1] Ryan Drummond was cast as Sonic,[28] while Corey Bringas, Michael McGaharn, Jennifer Douillard, Jon St. John, and Deem Bristow were cast as Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Big, and Robotnik, respectively.[29]

The musical score of Sonic Adventure was composed primarily by Jun Senoue, with additional music by Fumie Kumatani, Kenichi Tokoi, and Masaru Setsumaru.[30][31] The band created the game's main theme, "Open Your Heart", while singer Tony Harnell sang Sonic's theme, "It Doesn't Matter".[32] The development team preferred the use of "hot, funky, and rock 'n' roll" music over the traditional electropop-based music present in earlier Sonic games.[17][33]

A two-disc soundtrack, Sonic Adventure "Digi-LOG Conversation" Original Sound Track, was released in Japan in January 1999.[34] In May 2011, Sega re-released the soundtrack to celebrate the Sonic franchise's twentieth anniversary.[32] Digital versions were also released on iTunes and Spotify in September 2014 and January 2017, respectively.[35][36][37] The soundtrack is also slated for release as a vinyl LP in late 2017, and will include interviews with Senoue and Iizuka.[38]


Sonic Adventure was first released for the Dreamcast in 1998

Sonic Adventure was first released in Japan on December 21, 1998.[39] The North American version of the game was released on September 9, 1999,[40] and it was released in Europe on September 23, 1999.[41] Prior to the official launch of the Dreamcast in the United States, Sega formed an exclusive deal with Hollywood Video to allow customers to rent the Dreamcast console along with Sonic Adventure. This promotion began on July 15, 1999 and took place at 1,055 Hollywood Video stores across the country.[42] This non-retail version of the game that was included, titled Sonic Adventure: Limited Edition, featured improvements to Japanese version's controls and camera.[43][44]

In 2001, Sega announced it would shift from first to third-party software publishing.[45][46] In June 2003, the company released Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut, an enhanced port of Sonic Adventure for Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft Windows. While mostly identical to the original release, Sonic Adventure DX features updated graphics, such as higher-resolution textures and more detailed character models,[7] and has its frame rate locked at 60 frames per second.[2] It also features additional missions, and the option to unlock all twelve Sonic games released for the Game Gear.[7] In this version, if all 180 emblems are collected, Metal Sonic can also be unlocked as a playable character for use in Sonic's levels.[47]

In the early 2010s, Sega re-released Sonic Adventure as a downloadable game on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows via Steam.[48][49][50] This version is based on Sonic Adventure DX, but most additional features were removed and can be reimplemented by purchasing downloadable content.[48][51] The game was also included as part of the Dreamcast Collection compilation in 2011,[52] and is backwards-compatible with the Xbox One.[53]


Reception (Dreamcast)
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87%[54]
Review scores
Publication Score
CVG 5/5 stars[41]
Game Revolution 3.5/5 stars[3]
GameSpot 9.2/10[6]
IGN 8.6/10[5]

Upon its release, Sonic Adventure received critical acclaim from reviewers.[54] It was the Dreamcast's best-selling game; by 2006, it sold 2.5 million copies.[55]

The game's visuals and presentation attracted wide acclaim. It was described by the Arcade magazine as a "quantum leap forward" in aesthetics and visual detail in video games,[56] estimated by Hyper to exceed that which was possible on high-end PCs.[57] IGN called it the most graphically impressive platform game released up to that date, praising its cinematic sequences and describing it as "engrossing, demanding, and utterly awe-inspiring".[5] GameSpot agreed, and felt that only Soulcalibur's graphical quality surpassed Sonic Adventure's. The website also praised the rock-style music and full motion video cutscenes, calling them top-notch.[6] Edge stated that the game's graphical features showed off the Dreamcast's potential to the fullest, comparing it to Super Mario 64's role for the Nintendo 64, and exclaimed that the game was "perfect" as a showcase of what the system can do.[17] The gameplay was also praised. GameSpot admired the game's straightforward, linear approach to the 3D platform genre. They particularly praised it for keeping the same basic gameplay of the original Genesis games, but in 3D.[6] IGN said the game would keep players busy even after completion, noting its internet functions and the Chao raising minigame.[5] 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die called its environments vast and twisted, stating it "brilliantly" captured traditional Sonic elements.[18]

Certain elements received some criticism. IGN voiced strong disapproval of the voice acting, calling it "downright awful" and had a particular distaste for Tails' voice, declaring it among the most annoying to feature in a video game.[5][58] In contrast, Game Revolution praised the voice acting, but felt the game did not advance the series' design and called its music "absolutely horrible".[3] The camera also frustrated many reviewers.[18][5][6] Regarding the game as a whole, GameSpot thought Sonic Adventure redefined the possibilities of the platform genre,[6] and Computer and Video Games called Sonic Adventure one of the greatest games ever made, and marveled that "many things you thought were impossible to see and experience in computer games are now here".[41] 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die described it as Sonic Team's "flawed masterpiece".[18] Speculation arose that the game could save the Dreamcast,[56][59] which had not sold well by the end of 1998,[56] or even re-establish Sega as the dominant console manufacturer after the relatively unsuccessful Saturn.[59]


Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut was received less positively than the original.[60] GameSpot was disappointed that the re-release did not address the problems of the initial release, and was irritated that the graphics were only marginally different and made note of its shoddy collision detection. While they offered some praise for the extra features, such as the missions, they concluded that players were better off playing the Dreamcast version.[2] IGN agreed, calling it "a sloppy port of a game that has long been undeserving of its high praise" and noted its frequent frame rate drops and calling its camera one of the worst they had ever seen. They felt the connectivity to the Game Boy Advance Sonic games added depth, but concluded that this did not make up for the problems in the port.[7] Nintendo World Report, on the other hand, praised the Game Gear games for retaining their multiplayer support, and found Sonic and Tails’ gameplay enjoyable.[61]

Reviews for the 2010 re-release were generally unfavorable,[62] with primary criticism directed at the perceived lack of effort put into the port. IGN called it "so fundamentally flawed that it borders on unplayable", observing that the sections that worked best required the least input from the player. They also noted the lack of widescreen support, though offering minor praise for its steady frame rate.[63] lambasted the port for what they perceived to be its slapdash quality, criticizing its display, controls, and dated design, feeling it "wasn't even tuned" for the Xbox 360's controller.[48] Destructoid was less harsh, feeling that fans of the franchise would be able to enjoy the game, but warned casual players that "all you'll find is a relic that was once considered greatness", and that it pained them to say that.[64]


Prior to the release of Sonic Adventure, most 3D platform games focused on exploration and item-collecting. Sonic Adventure changed this with its linear gameplay.[6] Writers at GamesRadar have stated that, as it was one of the first sixth generation console games, "the gaming world was changed forever" despite the presence of some glitches.[65] Joystiq wrote that the original Sonic the Hedgehog and Adventure both succeeded and innovated in gaming—among 2D and 3D games, respectively—by feeling "good to play" and making effective use of linear level design.[66] In 2009, GamePro listed the game as the seventh-best platformer of all time, asserting that while it had not aged well in certain respects, its core gameplay remained among the best of the series.[67]

Many of Sonic Adventure's designs and concepts were reused in later games in the Sonic franchise. Yuji Uekawa's modernized character designs became a staple of the series,[19] as did its basic gameplay and direction.[68] One of the levels in the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog reboot, the coastal Wave Ocean,[69] heavily references Sonic Adventure's Emerald Coast stage.[70] To celebrate the Sonic series' twentieth anniversary in 2011, Sega released Sonic Generations, which remade various aspects from past games in the franchise. The version of the game released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows contains reimagined versions of the Speed Highway level and the Perfect Chaos boss fight,[71][72] and the Nintendo 3DS version contains a remake of Emerald Coast.[73]

Big the Cat[edit]

One of the characters who first appeared in Sonic Adventure, Big the Cat, became infamous after his introduction for his negative reception. Video game journalist Angelo D'Argenio criticized Big's lack of purpose in the game and listed his only defining characteristics as "fat" and "likes frog",[74] while Destructoid decried his portrayal as a "mentally handicapped imbecile" and his incoherent voice acting.[64] Big has been ranked on numerous lists of the worst video game characters of all time and within the Sonic series. He reached the top eight in a tournament voted on by the readership of of the worst video game characters ever.[75] He also appeared on an unranked list by D'Argenio of the 10 lamest game characters, which singled him out as the most "stupid and useless" character in the series.[74] Within the Sonic series, he has been ranked as the worst character by Jim Sterling[76] and the Official Nintendo Magazine.[77]

Big's poor reception and lack of perceived use to the franchise caused Sonic Team in 2012 to decide not to place him in any more games.[78] D'Argenio praised this decision, calling it "good sense" among a slew of Sonic games of declining quality.[74] Nintendo Power had stated years earlier, in the magazine's preview of Sonic and the Secret Rings, that Big was not in the game and commended this move.[79] In contrast, Takashi Iizuka stated in 2013 that Sonic Team had gotten numerous questions about creating new games starring characters other than Sonic, like Shadow, and felt that a fishing game starring Big was "a possibility" and "a nice idea."[80] Sega later mocked the character's negative response in a 2016 April Fools' Day browser game titled Big's Big Fishing Adventure 3.[81]

Sequel and adaptations[edit]

On October 4, 1999, Sega announced that a sequel to Sonic Adventure was in development.[82] Sonic Adventure 2 made its debut at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2000,[83] and was released on June 20, 2001.[84] The sequel was designed to be more action-oriented than the slower-paced, more story-based Adventure, and give all characters equal playtime.[21] Like its predecessor, Sonic Adventure 2 received very positive reviews from critics.[85] A second sequel, Sonic Adventure 3, was planned, but was reworked into the 2008 entry Sonic Unleashed.[86] In 2017, Iizuka stated there were no plans for a third Sonic Adventure game, feeling it would not advance the series' design. However, he did not rule out the idea entirely, saying “If we can get the gameplay to evolve and get to a place where Adventure 3 makes sense, then you might see an Adventure 3 come out".[87]

The plot of Sonic Adventure would later be adapted as a story arc in the second season of the 2003 Sonic the Hedgehog anime series Sonic X.[88] The game also received a comic book adaptation in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog comic book series. The comic offered an explanation for the altered character designs and the history of Station Square hidden beneath Sonic's planet, Mobius.[89]


  1. ^ Sonic Adventure (ソニックアドベンチャー, Sonikku Adobenchā)


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