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A Sonic Adventure Analysis

Badnik Mechanic

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Badnik Mechanic

So I think a few of you have probably seen... or been aware of this video doing the rounds right now... But for those who are new to the party. For the last 4 months I've been working on the following video essay/analysis.

Oh look it's my video! And before someone asks 'why is this not in creative?' I asked the mods if I could post it here, and was told 'yes' provided I give you a taster as to what's in the video and why it's worth your time. AKA "Please don't just post a drive-by link and nothing else, please give us at least something we can discuss in topic."

Which I'm more than willing to do!

I've become quite disillusioned with a lot of content on YouTube lately when it comes to gaming retrospectives and analysis, not just limited to Sonic, but everything, I feel most simply tell you the story of the game and the narrator will occasionally drop the line "This feels satisfying" or very similar surface level opinion and analysis of why something works or doesn't. 

Whilst some of these videos have their place, I don't think a lot of them do a good enough service to the game, fans of said game, or potential fans of it. So I wanted to do my analysis a little differently.

And now as per my agreement with the mod team, I need to give you guys some examples of what I talk about in the video... But please... I highly advise you watch the video, I know it's long but... trying to comment on just what I post here won't give you the full picture, this is to, basically justify why the video is worth your time... See it's actually effort on my half as well as something interesting for you to read than simply leaving my link and say 'watch that!'


So let's go over one of the most important parts of Sonic Adventure.

The First Boss.

SA1 begins with a relatively simple boss fight, whilst this isn't that strange today, in 1999 this was unusual, I think this was likely a compromise between appealing to an older more experienced gamer, and a newer audience in the form of young adults who were an increasing market at the time (there is a source to this in the video).

Here's a question for you, how do you know to jump on Chaos 1's head? The design of Chaos 1 has been done so in a way that means it can act as a tutorial,  without alienating experienced players, yet also communicating basic concepts to new gamers. How? Well here he is!

Chaos - Chao Island Wiki

There's Chaos 1, the basic wet drip. But here is how he looks in the game.


The brain is glowing! 

I would imagine most people here have played enough to not need this, but imagine this was the first game you've ever played. The decision to make the brain glow, is essentially a 'Aim here' sign, you don't need to be told where to it, you just know 'I've got to aim there'.

And as we all know, this is what happens...


Chaos does his best Wicked Witch of the West impression. 

Once again, pretend you know nothing about games, odds even without looking at the life bar, you know your actions had an effect. This simple method of teaching the player where to strike has also taught you 'enemies can be defeated by jumping on them'. Basic knowledge for members here, but remember, total newbies to gaming will play this.

And not once, did the game interrupt your session by telling you this. You learnt this yourself. But you can't instantly hit him again a 2nd time, you have to wait for him to re-form. Again, the game teaches you things, some enemies will have 'invincible states' some you'll have to wait for an opening to attack. 

This one boss fight has taught you multiple key concepts within the first 30 seconds of the fight, and that's if you don't take a hit. But the design of the boss is also done in a way that it teaches you multiple concepts if you do take a hit.


Sonic loses his rings, but he doesn't die, two possible outcomes on the player behaviour here, either they pick up more rings, or they take another hit and they die. Regardless of the choice, the player now knows what rings do, and having them is a good thing... This is a lesson learnt for the whole game...

Not once does the game ever communicate this directly to you. Chaos 1 is a tutorial, but it never telegraphs that's what it is!


But the devs also factored in what would happen once a player finishes that game and chooses to replay the boss, those inexperienced players would now have the tools and knowledge they needed to beat this boss... So the devs... do something quite brilliant.

When you choose to replay Chaos 1, the start of the fight actually changes!


These two screens were taken at the start of the fight... Spot the difference... Make a guess, then check the spoiler to see if you were right.


Look at the rings.

In the story mode, Sonic jumps from the police car and lands on the 2 rings, automatically picking them up, at the start of the fight, he has 2 rings already collected.

Whereas in the Boss rush mode, this action isn't done. 

This acts as a safety net to absolute new players, but in Boss mode, after the player has beaten the game, this safety net is removed, because now they know what rings are and don't need this additional help.

The choice here by design doesn't belittle experienced players with an obvious tutorial prompt, but it gives that protection to absolutely new gamers by giving them that aid. 

Think about modern games where you now get pop up boxes, or characters interrupting your game telling you simple information you know from previous titles, Adventure gives you the same information, but doesn't interrupt the experience, you learn from your own curiosity and experience.


This kind of 'tutorial' without it expressively telling you it's a tutorial, isn't just contained to this one fight, it continues into the very first stage the emerald coast... And now I highly encourage you to watch the video... because there's... Too many examples I can list for a thread.


Stupid Monkey Brains!

Another aspect of the video which I cover, and I highly encourage you to watch this, because there's no way I can convey this fully in a thread, is that the developers of Sonic Adventure actually took advantage of the limitations of the human brain in order to make Sonic feel like he's running faster than he actually is!

As a very brief example, and again, please watch the video! Speed Highway is full of signage and imagery which actually 'blurs' when you run past it at faster speed, they're on the side and the road itself.


What is that a stroboscopic effect occurs, the arrows blur and they also appear to reverse direction! This tricks our brains into believing we're actually moving faster than we really are. And yes in the video I cite an actual medical journal that researched this phenomenon and proved that this is effect does exist in humans and that's what's happening when your visual cortex sees this and tries to make sense of it!


This topic is too long, what else ya got?

So quickly going over some of the other things.

I look at the cast characterisation, but I don't just talk about the lines they say, I also talk about how the gameplay compliments and even strengthens their characterisation which helps us to understand what they're going through... Or fails at doing that in some cases. 

But I don't just limit it to cut-scenes or gameplay, for one character I also pull up the level design of one specific stage which give us a number of clues and insights into their mindset and how they're playing a bit of a façade with the rest of the cast.

Speaking of the level design, I take a very close look at the stage Lost World and I didn't realise this at the time, but I inadvertently disproved an old myth. That being the Japanese Strategy Guide has backstory to the game which isn't in the game itself... Well it turns out this unknown 'Echidnas survived Chaos' backstory is actually in the game, it's right there in the design of the level itself! 

I wasn't actually aware of this guide at the time having this backstory in there, after the video went live I was contacted by someone who asked if I based my conclusions on this book and I said, didn't even know there was backstory in it!

Yes, I even talk about The Curse of the Colonel and Amy's 'intentional' parody of the film "The Terminator".

And then... there's this...

You may have seen this by now on your twitter feed. But I discovered this by accident and it seems that only a handful of people knew about this. Windy Valley has this rather charming little secret involving the flowers that grow in the final stage, I only found this by complete accident due to playing around trying to get some specific shots for a cool sequence. 

So if you are interested, please do give the full video a watch, you can probably skip the intro and just go right to Part 0 if you like, or even Part 1 if you're feeling naughty and want to skip most of my.... extremely funny intro *lolz*

If you have any questions, comments or complaints, feel free to leave them either on the vid or here and I'll do my best to address them. There are some things in the vid I'm not happy with, and there are at least 2 open goals to score against me, so if you get one of those Hooray!

Anyway, hope you enjoy this.

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