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North America

Sonic Adventure DX Director's Cut

by Michael Cole - June 28, 2003, 5:25 pm EDT


Can an old hedgehog learn new tricks? The answer is no.

Sonic Adventure made its North American debut alongside the Sega’s Dreamcast on 9/9/99. The first fully 3D Sonic title reinvented everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog and his friends, promising new gameplay twists while still retaining Sonic’s ferocious velocity. The final product was entertaining, but its numerous flaws left many Sonic fans disappointed. While Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut is slightly better than its Dreamcast sibling, the GameCube port neglects to amend most of Sonic Adventure’s unappealing imperfections.

Those familiar with Sonic Adventure 2 will have no trouble grasping Sonic Adventure DX. Starting as the blazing fast Sonic, players face off against a mysterious water creature, Chaos, whom Eggman (Dr. Robotnik) has taken a mischievous interest in. What ensues is an adventure told from six converging perspectives as players control Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose, a rogue hench-robot designated E-102 Gamma, and a laid-back feline fisherman named Big. As players proceed through the plot, new playable characters are unlocked.

Sonic Adventure DX is divided into two vastly different stages. Action stages are similar to those found in Sonic Adventure 2, with different gameplay and level layouts for each character. Sonic naturally focuses on his speed and mid-air homing attack. Knuckles is tasked with the same emerald shard-hunting quest found in Sonic Adventure 2. Gamma storms through levels, using his laser targeting system to lock on and shoot down multiple enemies. Meanwhile, Tails takes on a more traditional role of racing against Sonic to show his skill, making full use of his flying ability. Amy Rose relies on her oversized hammer to waltz her way through levels, evading one of Robotnik’s ever-persistent metallic minions, and Big…well…Big just likes fishing. Adventure stages are connected hubs that bring the different action stages together while providing a backdrop for the dubious story elements and cut-scenes (which are discussed further down). Adventure stages also contain most of the characters’ power-ups, special Chao eggs and mini-games.

Many will appreciate Sonic Adventure’s well-distributed gameplay. Whereas Sonic Adventure 2 contained equal parts shooting, platforming and hunting, Sonic Adventure keeps Sonic in the spotlight with levels longer and more plentiful than those of the supporting cast. Most will become frustrated by Amy and Big’s slow pace at times, but their stories are relatively short and players are never forced to suffer through one of their levels just to unlock a new Sonic stage.

SA:DX’s replay value comes in the form of additional challenges and rewards. Players earn emblems by clearing action stages or mini-games and revisiting them to complete subsequent goals. These established tasks are supplemented by SA:DX’s all-new Mission mode, which was designed to encourage exploration in both the Action and Adventure stages. After discovering a mission card in one of the adventure fields, players may embark on that card’s mission, which is revealed in a sometimes-cryptic two line hint. Missions usually involve locating and touching balloons or flags, though Sonic Team has included a few, more inspired goals as well. Mission mode is sometimes monotonous or tedious, but overall it is a pleasant extra, providing old gameplay in new clothes.

Collecting emblems did very little in the Dreamcast version, but Sonic Adventure DX addresses this quibble with twelve perfectly emulated Game Gear games unlocked through SA:DX’s emblems and missions. The emulated handheld library is (supposedly) a complete collection of Sonic’s 8-bit handheld outings. Unlocking everything isn't worth the effort though, as many of the GG games are unimaginably horrible and only included for comprehensiveness and marketability. Some of the games fare better: Sonic Triple Trouble and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine are entertaining if you ever acquire them. One unexpected bonus is the inclusion of two-player support for GG titles. Pushing start on the second controller will cause another Game Gear screen running the same ROM to appear, reducing each screen to half size. While this was designed for multiplayer games, the emulator is just as capable of maintaining two independent instances without a performance hit.

Not all is well with Sonic Adventure; the game is largely a failure. While well-conceived, Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast was swamped with inexcusable bugs, pitfalls, and annoyances. Since Sonic Adventure DX reuses most of the original game’s code, the GameCube port inherited every single one of these nasty “features”. The game is most infamous for its clumsy graphics. While the models themselves have been somewhat upgraded, almost everything else has remained untouched. Blurry textures and pop-up are found throughout the environments. The camera system is among the most stubborn ever used -- even with its newly-added Free Camera mode for the C-stick. The framerate, while improved over the original in most areas, is even worse in more complex environments, dropping under 10 frames per second at times. Sonic Adventure DX also struggles with horrible collision detection and many subtle control issues usually invoked by the camera. The pet Chao are also a disappointment in Sonic Adventure DX. Although fully compatible with the GBA games and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, the gardens themselves are much less engaging. What’s more, after presenting a very polished Chao racing engine in Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Team returned to the original’s disorienting content for Sonic Adventure DX. Including some elements that are clearly borrowed from Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, Sonic Team obviously wasn't attempting to preserve the original Chao system. They just didn’t bother to commit to the task.

The gameplay has serious setbacks, but possibly the worst part of Sonic Adventure DX is its cut-scenes. Featuring an atrocious English translation and mind-numbingly horrible voice acting, Sonic Adventure will, at best, leave many players embarrassed for Sega, and at worst, leave them disgusted with the game. In an attempt to be more cartoonish, the poor voice acting is combined with some of the worst cut-scene animation seen in a video game. Inexplicable facial twitches, ridiculous mouth movement, and characters walking in place are always present in Sonic Adventure’s real-time movies. Musical transitions are non-existent during these scenes as well, often abusing the first ten seconds of the same poor songs repeatedly in a shamelessly choppy manner. Also, while the use of parallel storylines is an interesting approach, the overall plot is thin and inadequately pretends that Sonic Adventure’s world is actually larger than Disneyland.

One aspect of Sonic Adventure does stand out: its music. Presented in Pro Logic II, Jun Senoue and his co-creators have produced a soundtrack greater than the game deserves. Sure, some of the lyrics are cheesy, and not every song is a hit, but whether relaxing with Big, exploring the casino with Knuckles, or blazing through the highway with Sonic, the game’s music is fitting and fun. The brass section, East 4th Horns, makes a praiseworthy performance. The guitar work is similarly enjoyable, be it a rendition of a classic Sonic 3D Blast tune or something entirely new.

Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut is a kind gesture for GameCube owners, but not one worth honoring. Sonic Team did a decent job of adding new content to an old game, but neglected to clean up the original’s very rough edges. Sonic fans only familiar with Sonic Adventure 2 will enjoy SA:DX as a prequel of sorts, but $40 is just too much for a game this sloppy.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
5 8 6 6.5 7 6.5

Sonic Adventure DX isn’t ugly, but Sonic Team did very little to spruce up this aging game. An improved, but still unstable framerate will distract gamers as they fight with uncompromising, unnatural camera angles designed for total linearity and no compensation for SA:DX’s missions. What’s more, the GameCube version is actually much blurrier than the Dreamcast’s! Sonic Team’s stiff and bizarre cut-scene animations further spoil the presentation.


Sonic Adventure’s script is horrendous with voice acting that’s no better, and two sound effects in particular are ear-piercing. But Sonic Adventure makes up for these with its remarkable soundtrack, which will have players humming its songs long after they’ve returned their rental disc.


Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles handle decently, while Amy and E-102 fare only slightly worse, but Big’s controls are thicker than his head. The shoddy camera is the true culprit here, and no hack “Free Camera” mode will save you from its horrors when you’re blazing through a level at full Sonic speed, cutting every corner for a new best time. As Big you’d often be just as well off fishing blind. Collision issues will also result in frustrating deaths or time delays in certain stages.


Sonic Adventure has a more appealing layout than its sequel, letting players choose their character and providing more of what they want. Most of Sonic’s levels are excellent, and the other characters have their moments as well. Knuckles’ levels are smaller and therefore much more reasonable than in the sequel, and E-102’s stages hold some interesting twists. On the other hand, Amy provides only so-so platforming action, slower than Nintendo news in March, while Big’s fishing mechanics feel utterly rushed. The game’s technical issues are what really ruin this score.


The gameplay styles may be balanced, but that apparently comes at the price of length. While Sonic has ten action stages, no other character has more than five, and many of those are merely variants on portions of Sonic’s stages. However, if you don’t grow tired of the gameplay or frustrated by the game’s plethora of problems, there are plenty of challenges to conquer, especially for those completely unfamiliar with the game. The mostly-bad Game Gear bonus games are quite fitting for Sonic Adventure DX, though unfortunately most gamers will never unlock them all.


A whole slew of old problems remain in this GameCube port, and it is clear Sonic Team fought a losing battle with the Dreamcast code. But for all the intricate, unfixable details, there are certainly some Sonic Team simply ignored. The added missions and Game Gear games are appreciated, and the main game is great for a rental, but only the very hardcore should bother purchasing this entry in the PortCube’s repertoire.


  • 2-player support for Game Gear games
  • Cut-scenes can be skipped.
  • Excellent music
  • Intelligently-distributed stages
  • Plenty of challenges, old and new
  • Sonic and Tails’ gameplay very enjoyable
  • Awful script, animation, and editing in cut-scenes
  • Dated graphics, blurrier than the original’s
  • Evil camera and collision bugs
  • Gameplay with supporting characters sometimes frustrating
  • Maddeningly abysmal voice acting
  • Some ridiculously short levels.
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer Sonic Team
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Sonic Adventure DX Director's Cut
Release Jun 18, 2003
jpn: Sonic Adventure DX
Release Jun 19, 2003
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