In SA2 you can choose to play as either the Dark Side to take over the world, or the Heroes trying to save it, in different perspectives of the same story. You can play as Eggman (YES!) to help the fat one and newcomers Rouge the Bat and Shadow the Hedgehog (who you can also play as) to destroy the world (yet again, Eggman never gives up).
The basis this time is around Eggman's grandfathers military creation, Shadow. Eggman needs this 'Ultimate Lifeform' and the 'Bat Girl' to help. Shadow talks of the abandoned Space Colony ARK, and needing Chaos Emeralds to power up a very destructive weapon. Meanwhile, the military have mistaken Sonic for Shadow, and once the blue one susses this he sets to seek Shadow out, with the help of Knuckles and Tails.
Cliche aside, Sonic Adventure 2 is a game of two halves. You can play and take sides with either the Hero Side - Sonic, Knuckles and Tails, or the Dark Side - Eggman, Shadow and Rouge. Two of the six characters are rivals with each other, and you will encounter several boss battles with your rival. You will find out who your character's rival is throughout the story, if you hadn't figured it out already. Sonic and Shadow are rivals, as are Knuckles and Rouge, and Tails and Eggman.
Sonic's levels are much like Shadow's - usually you just race to the finish in pure Sonic speed, collecting rings etc on the way. In all of your levels, you come across a robotic Chao called Omochao. He will tell you helpful hints to get across certain perils in your level. If he doesn't help, he just waffles on about things you know already. The fun thing is, you can pick him up and throw him about, hearing his whiny complaints. Hell, you can even blow him up for a while. He gets up and stresses out at you, "Ow, why did you hit me for? Why are you being such a bully? I didn't do anything wrong!" Yes you did, Omochao, you were created! Haha! Endless fun, who needs to complete the level?
Shadow plays his levels like Sonic, only unlike the first Sonic Adventure, no two levels are the same, thank goodness. Shadow starts off released by Eggman, so he will grant Robotnik a wish. Obviously, Eggman wishes for world domination, and initially Shadows intents are for evil. He remembers his past with Maria Robotnik, who wants Shadow to do one thing for her as he is sent to Earth. With Shadow not remembering the whole request, Shadow believes that her wish is for Revenge on the world.
Like Sonic's levels, you can find many things to perform tricks on as Shadow, using the very cool SOAP Shoes you can grind on almost any rail or pipe you can reach. This bumps up your score, and therefore increases your Rank at the end of the level. You can double jump and use your homing attack and grinding skills to gain point-based rewards. For example, if you home in on two enemies without touching the floor, you get a 'Great', which awards you 100 points. The better the combo, the higher your award. Try getting a 'Perfect', which grabs you 2000 points.
Unlike the original Sonic Adventure, you don't choose your individual character, traipse around Adventure Island looking for your level and play it. The levels are set out the traditional Sonic way, level by level, with you alternating characters between each level, so gameplay is never dull. For instance, the first level you play on the Hero Side as Sonic and in City Escape. The second level you play as Knuckles, in Wild Canyon and then Tails in Prison Lane etc.
The only break you get between levels is Chao World - if you find the Chao Key in your level that is. Chao World is explained later on.
Knuckles' levels are similar to Rouge's: find the Master Emerald pieces. Thanks to the piss-easy-ness of grabbing them in Sonic Adventure, in the 2nd outing collecting the shards is a lot harder. Your Emerald radar works on a Hot/Cold basis, going green to yellow to red when you're near the piece. Instead of Tikal blatantly showing you where it is, you get hint monitors, that can be very vague sometimes, but think about the riddles you get, and you'll succeed.
Rouge has the same goal in her levels, but she has completely different levels to Knuckles. Rouge is a thief that is very interested in Jewels, and recently she has been chasing Knuckles, claiming the Master Emerald is her own. She hears about Eggman, and follows Shadow and Robotnik to ARK, where she intends to join their side in powering up the Eclipse Cannon. Although her intents seem loyal, she really is there to learn more about Shadow.
The Hot/Cold radar is a lot less of a giveaway - the radar can turn red and be either below you, above you, or on the same floor. Also, not all the three Emerald Radars work at once - the first Emerald radar from the left will be the only one that detects your Emerald piece - until you collect that, the others won't respond.
You can increase your Rank in Knuckles/Rouge's levels by collecting the Emerald shards in record-breaking time, and performing other combos that affect your score, such as rings and enemies. You can grab point rewards if you are quick in getting the Emerald piece you are currently after - get a 'Perfect' by getting the Emerald shard in under a minute or so.
There are five missions in each level, the first being the original 'reach the goal' mission. The second will ask you to collect 100 rings. Thirdly, you have to find the hidden Chao in the level. In order to do this, you have to find that certain character's Mystic Melody, one of the many other power ups you can find for your character. The fourth mission will give you a Time Limit to complete your level, and the last mission will challenge you to complete 'Hard mode' on that level. Whatever you do, don't underestimate the Hard mode. It is much different to the level you would be used to.
Tails and Eggman's levels involve them getting in their machines and blasting through enemies galore and god knows what else in order to reach the exit. Like the other characters, the many power ups you can get for Tails and Eggman include Hover power ups, Volkan cannon power ups and Life power ups.
Eggman, he loves his grandpappy he does, bless him. Trying to follow his grandfather's legacy, Eggman goes on another bender to destroy the world when he hears of the Eclipse Cannon, explained by Shadow. Without giving too much away of the ending, a certain incident forces Eggman to re-think his plans on destroying Sonic and the rest of the Hero Side. The amount of time you take and combos you get account for your overall Rank in your level. To increase your Point award, target more than one enemy at a time and release the B Button.
Unlike Sonic Adventure, you encounter many bosses - some that are true Sonic style bosses, accompanied by a cool soundtrack (Egg Golem Soundtrack is so cool! Oh, and Metal Harbour, and Cosmic Wall...), many times you encounter your rivals (as Sonic you battle Shadow twice, Tails you fight Eggman twice and Knuckles faces off with Rouge once). But that's not all the bosses. Others include GUN troops such as Hot Shot, Big Foot and Flying Dog, and the music to that is cool too.
The soundtrack to each level is perfect for the mood of the level. You get a cool rap rhythm while playing as Knuckles; Sonic starts off with a band song in City Escape (All together now... "I'll make it through from me to you... Follow me!" ^__^). That's not to say the old style Sonic music is gone - all those nostalgic fans (i.e. me) can take a trip back memory lane as levels such as Cosmic Wall, Mission Street and Green Forest have instrumental Sonic-style music. Let's not forget the Radical Highway or the cute Chao race music...
Grab a Chao key in your level to get into Chao World (or choose it from the Stage Select). From there you can enter the normal Chao Garden, the Chao Stadium (where you can race your Chao in ability specific matches) and Chao Kindergarten (where you can teach your Chao many abilities - how to play drums for example). This isn't just your normal Sonic Adventure Chao garden though - things have gone up a step.
Chao are much more responsive than in SA1. When they sleep, they refuse all foods etc, and if you watch them while they're asleep, they even twist and turn to get comfortable. Cute!!! You can feed your Chao nuts to increase its stamina in races and to feed it. It's even believable when they're eating - your Chao eats for a while, then they smile with a pleasing "mmmmMMMMMMmmmm", carry on eating, and sometimes stop, look at you, then carry on munching. Sometimes they throw their food away if they are not hungry or being spoilt. You can hit them if they are being spoilt, and reward them with petting if they stay good.
If you win all three races in a certain Chao league in the Chao Stadium, they win toys that they can play with, such as TVs, cars etc. The genius thing about this feature now is the Hero/Dark Chao. Yes, if you have a Hero/Dark side, you gotta have the Chao. Chao do not die now, even if you hit them, although to get your Chao to become either Hero or Dark takes reverse psychology - if you are playing as Sonic and raise your Chao well, they will turn into Hero Chao. If you constantly hit them (it's OK if they are being spoilt), your Chao will more likely turn into a Dark Chao.
The same the other way round - If you're Shadow and you hit your Chao repeatedly, they'll turn Hero. If you're good to it, it'll turn Dark. As I've recently discovered, when your Chao grows up into Hero or Dark, they will learn to hate the opposite Side. If you are playing as Knuckles and you pick up and cuddle a Dark Chao, they will hate it and cry, and vice versa.
In the VMU outing Chao Adventure 2, a lot of things have been improved such as the graphics - your Chao walks towards you instead of from right to left etc. You can access a lot more menus in Chao Adventure 2, and there are two different endings, a good and a bad one. If you get the good ending you win a seed. Place this seed in your garden to grow into a different fruit tree. How to plant it though? Ah, the very idea...
As well as your ordinary Chao garden, you get the Chao Kindergarten, where you teach your Chao certain cool abilities such as Spin Dancing etc. You can also take your Chao to the Doctor and he will give you tips on how to raise your Chao. Most times though it's just a load of tripe. You can speak to the Principal for Chao Raising tips and you can visit the Bulletin Board for updates and such.
On top of this, you can find a Hero and a Dark Chao Garden, although where to find it is up to you. Unless you wait a while until the Tips section appears for this game of course.
And, that was SA2. Pure Sonic gameplay. The story is the best yet, the characters stories also lock into each others very nicely, there's even a two player mode for crying out loud. Yes, you can either play as Sonic v. Shadow, in three different speedy areas, Knuckles v. Rouge, to find the Emerald shards first, and Tails v. Eggman, in a battle to the death.
Many people are finding out secrets already, and theories are rife about other Sonic Adventure characters being playable. Without a doubt, this is the DEFINITIVE Sonic game to date, everything everyone dreamed possible will happen during the surprise ending, which I can't go on about now, I'll spoil it.
Go, buy SA2, migrate and play it to the death! Right I'm off to touch up on those Rank A's....
NOTE: This was given a score of 9/10 at time of original publication. We have converted its score to the below 5-star rating based on this score, and adjusted to best represent the original intent and sentiment of the overall article. This is not a re-scoring of this review.