Chasing Nostalgia: Celebrating 20 Years of Sonic Adventure 2
For the past few months I have been reminiscing on all of my favorite childhood shows, anime and video games. One of the greatest and most influential symbols of my youth is Sonic Adventure 2, a game that I have played and loved well into my adulthood. Playing this game provided a nostalgic and enjoyable experience that prompted me to play other games in the Sonic franchise and become a diehard fan.
As Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, the enhanced port of the original Dreamcast game, turns 20 on December 20, players and fans are revisiting the game to celebrate their favorite aspects. The game is an excellent example of conflict-driven storylines coupled with slice-of-life gameplay. It’s separated into Light and Dark story modes, allowing you to play as different characters with different types of stages.
“In Adventure 2, the main characters are split into two main teams that all have interlacing stories that end with everyone coming together through specific events such as Rouge the Bat wanting the Master Emerald, coming across Knuckles, all while Eggman steals the emerald,” says Kemar C., a Sonic fan and home health aide.
This unique structure gave me a chance to not only develop an affinity for certain characters but also gave me the chance to explore racing, shooting and treasure hunting without feeling overwhelmed or bored. Additionally, taking breaks from the main stories to play with the chao was my favorite part of the game and notably my first impressionable experience with becoming a lover of simulation gaming.
“It is the best entry in the Sonic franchise,” he says. “[This game] is a perfect marriage of story, emotion, gaming and the character’s actual personalities and stakes. Although the story is dark, it is still uniquely a Sonic story that is layered yet easy to follow.”
Superior gameplay aside, Kemar C. says that “Adventure 2 is the first port to Gamecube that was a major positive for the title.” The port features several improvements and a multiplayer “Battle” component.
The experience of playing Sonic Adventure 2 goes beyond the game itself. It’s a gateway for players to feed the spirit of, and connect with, their child selves. Michael Felder, an artist and designer, became reacquainted with the game and was instantly transported back to his childhood.
“I downloaded it on Steam recently (for, like, only $5!) and was instantly taken back to those super-fun moments as a child,” he says. “It’s brought me many fun memories and was the first video game that I owned that I got my mom to play with me. It’s one of those games that I can’t wait to play with my own kids one day.”
At the core of my love for this game lies its ability to be relatable through exploring the intersections of identity, politics and time. For Brooks, the time and political components of the game remind him of the catastrophic events that were happening in real life.
“It’s one of the earliest games that I remember playing that had that kind of introduced politics and gameplay,” he says. “Sonic Adventure 2 came out in 2001, and that was significant because we were just in the aftermath of 911 and remember hearing about US military involvement. It reminds me of what happens in-game, where the military is being reckless, dangerous and violent throughout the entire game, regardless of who you’re playing as.”
One major piece of the game that helps us to understand these intersections is the music. Phenomenally composed by Jun Senoue, the music plays a vital role in how we understand the characters, their motivations and goals. For Black gamers, particularly, the music helped us to connect to characters that felt canonically Black like Rouge, Knuckles and Shadow. I felt such a connection to Rouge because of my love of jazz music and how her personal soundtrack was teeming with music of this genre. Brooks mentions that the interpolation of rap into Knuckle’s storyline helps us to understand his plight and how connecting with his ancestors affirmed his duty to protect the Master Emerald. For both Felder and Kamar C., Shadow’s storyline, and being a Black hedgehog, made him cool and relatable.
As we virtually gather to celebrate the anniversary of such an amazing game and how it’s inspired the development of the franchise as a whole, I know my seven-year-old self is somewhere, jumping for joy.