Thursday, August 22, 2013

This Knuckles characta'... he ain't so bad afta all

at 6:51 PM
Yes, Sonic Adventure. A lifetime to journey, a nighttime to master. We've never covered this one before, so I thought it was time to broach the subject. Actually, my frustration with the game finally abated enough that I could play it again, so that's it was time to broach the subject. Most of what I had left to complete was the 'other' characters' campaigns, so I've been rotating through them. Quick update:

E-102 is like a thrill-a-minute roller-coaster of twists and turns - and that's just the story! You won't know what hit him when the shooting starts!

Big I gave up after like

Amy gives the best feel for the geometry of the levels since she's so landlocked, though the sorry excuses for puzzles make her levels feel pretty fluffy. The Nemesis-character is comically un-threatening - I kinda like that. Hammer-jump is fun, but I never feel like I get a chance to use it.

Tails feels like a cheap half-excuse for an expansion - his shortcuts are used once or twice to provide a decent idea of challenge (I like them in High Speed Highway), but mostly just skip chunks of levels (Flying Sky Deck). He's also the second (and lesser) flying character. 

Hey check out this secret message hidden in the names of all of the characters in Sonic Adventure:
Big E-102 Amy Sonic Tails (...and fuckin' Knuckles)

Knuckles though - that's a controversial subject. My original exposure to the 3D Sonic series (and in fact the first Sonic game I ever knowned) was Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (how'd they come up with that amazing subtitle?), in which Knuckles/Rouge comprise a full third of the game, and also, Knuckles raps. 
Like I was gonna do a post about Knuckles without including "Pumpkin Hill", Roger Ebert's song of the year 2013*

So these let's-call-them-epic scavenger hunts pretty severely turned me off to Knuckles forever. I'll admit that I haven't played Adventure 2 for almost a decade, so my objectivity is likely out of tune, but these "adventure" stages were flagrantly unwelcome - especially because I really liked the Sonic/Shadow levels and just wanted to get back to them. Knuckles' portions of the game dragged on interminably, featuring way too many giant pits, endless cliff-climbs, and collectibles obnoxiously hidden in nooks specifically chosen to confuse your radar. Plus Knuckles (and the camera) was a chore to control, never clinging to the right places, never seeming to want to climb around corners or straight up walls, and just overall weirdly calibrated to the environments. There was some horrifyingly ill-conceived drill mechanic too, wasn't there?

As such, I swore off Knuckles forever as "stupid. just stupid.", and never really intended to play his stages again. While I've yet to return to 2, here I am with Sonic Adventure on XBLA, and, having completed most of the other content, I finally decided to give him another shot. I'm wielding a positive attitude (as I have to, to be playing a Sonic game) - I want to at least enjoy, even if I don't immensely appreciate, these levels. And I have to say - so far, so good. Well, so far, mostly so good.

I like that the (ca)Knuck' actually has some sense of speed - it keeps him from feeling like a total stranger in environments designed for Sonic and, on a simpler level, is satisfyingly in keeping with his Genesis presentation. He has to make the most of gliding and that sadly still-godawful climbing, but the broader stage traversal can have nearly the same pace as the rest of the game. Knuckles seems to serve as an example that it can be fun just to wander around in this particular world with this particular engine, that there is some actual architecture going on in the stages. By comparison he makes the other characters (well, and his own) Adventure Fields look pretty pointless and terrible.

Though largely illogical, the shard-hunting has been easy thus far, which is at odds with my worst memories of SA2 - I wonder if it's truly much different, or if I just know how to play video games now. On one hand, I want to complain that the shards are scattered pretty randomly, leaving little choice but to comb the level and wait for the radar to ding. Conversely, I can theoretically appreciate this design decision - Knuckles is, in fact, methodically combing the surface world for arbitrarily dispersed shards of the Master Emerald. Clues and clever puzzles might make for better fun, but they would disengage us from the reality of that setup. On the third or fourth hand, I find that to be an extremely optimistic point of view, because there is plenty else at hand to diminish the story context of the missions, even if the game was attempting verisimilitude (which I must declare I haven't felt - but Sonic Adventure is one of those games where you kinda have to go looking for intention - it rarely comes out and grabs you). Like, how did the shards get inside a casino? Why are they in groups of three?

But as far as echidnas go, something something fine by me!

*according to his final words before passing

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