Developer: Sonic Team
This eagerly anticipated sequel to "Sonic Adventure" (1999) pushes the limits of the Dreamcast hardware even further, with large levels, beautiful graphics, and a blindingly fast rate of play. A long and convoluted back story evolves in which we are introduced to Dr. Robotnik's grandfather who is busy trying to create the ultimate lifeform. He works aboard a giant space laboratory called ARK and the fruits of his labors result in the creation of a supersonic hedgehog named Shadow, as well as the tragic death of his granddaughter, Maria. (this seems all too similar to "Keio Flying Squadron" (1993) which also featured a biological lab in space called ARK that contained the secrets of life) Now, fifty years later, Shadow wants revenge for Maria and starts stealing Chaos emeralds. The military blames Sonic for the crimes and arrests him, so the quest is to escape the military, catch up with Shadow, and clear Sonic's name!
Sadly, apart from the visual and technical splendor of the game, it's a bit of a disappointment. The biggest problem is that the game isn't very fun to play. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is because you can't look around like you could in the original "Sonic Adventure." The game offers a series of camera views that you can cycle through, but they're all on the XZ plane which is completely useless unless you want to see what's behind you. In an exploration game like this, not being able to look around is a serious hindrance and a real annoyance. It's even worse that you can't look up and down because the only way to determine if you're at the edge of an abyss is to actually fall into it, which costs a lot of lives. This also robs the player of actually being able to experience the full beauty that the game has to offer. Another problem is that you switch characters after every level, so it's very hard to get comfortable with any of the players. Additionally, the friendly glowing hint orbs from "Sonic Adventure" have been replaced with the extremely irritating Omochao, which is a mechanical Chao of sorts. In the music department, the traditional bouncy Sonic music has been replaced with annoying rap and uninspired guitar rock, which is made worse by having to listen to endless vocal track loops. And finally, the game seems to be geared more towards hardcore gamers because you end up getting rated at the end of each level, and the "you suck" negative feedback doesn't inspire you to continue your quest.
The Chao are still around, but since the game doesn't feature any adventure stages, you can only visit the Chao gardens in between levels if you've found the appropriate items. I personally miss the adventure stages because they were a lot of fun to explore in. Of course it's disappointing that the adorable Amy Rose doesn't show up as a playable character, but it's also disappointing that Tails drives a giant mech throughout the game instead of being able to run around freely. (it's also a very sensitive mech that likes to plunge into bottomless pits whenever it hits an obstacle) An excellent game on its own terms, but after playing the much more friendly "Sonic Adventure", this game just leaves a bad taste.