Sonic Rush sent Sonic back to the realm of 2D, and received a lot of praise for it. The sequel, Sonic Rush Adventure, brings us more of the same and adds a lot more to the mix. Gone is the automatic progression to the next level and in is an explorable sea with islands containing the levels, complete with four different vehicles to choose from.
If you’re worried that Sonic Rush Adventure has lost its Sonic roots like the first two Sonic Adventure games, think again. The levels themselves play in a very similar way to Sonic Rush. There are a few improvements – the jump and spin tricks are now more useful as Sonic and gain you more distance, there are fewer bottomless pits, more alternate paths and a larger variation in enemies – but it’s mostly the same. Going by just the main levels, Sonic Rush Adventure is a bit shorter than the original Rush, but there are also plenty of mini-levels to discover on the sea to make up for the length of the 2D sections.
For those who never played Sonic Rush, it follows the traditional gameplay elements of the Mega Drive Sonic games – get from the left side of the map to the right. Rings are the source of your health, if you get hit once all your rings will fly out of Sonic allowing you to pick them up again if you are quick enough. Get hit when you have no rings and you’re dead. The Tension Gauge is pivotal for high scores and fast times – performing tricks using the A and B buttons when launched in the air (i.e. from a spring) or tapping R when grinding will fill your Tension Gauge. This enables you to perform speed boosts with X or Y. Tapping R and Left or Right does a homing attack and R and Up lets you do an extra jump, both of these are vital for finding shortcuts.
At the end of a level you are awarded a grade based on how fast you complete the level, how many rings you have at the end of the level and how many tricks you perform. The levels themselves are nicely detailed, and are all very enjoyable to play again, something that you will be forced to do to earn materials to build watercraft.
This brings us to the water section of the game. You are given a fairly large sea chart, which you explore by drawing a line with the stylus. When this is done you automatically follow this course on one of 4 different vehicles, each with its own style of play using mainly the touch screen. These require you to dodge/shoot enemies as you follow the path the Jet Ski, for example, allows movement from left to right, boosting (boost it earned by collecting rings, and kills enemies) and hitting ramps (you can do tricks by following the arrows on the touch screen, which also kills enemies). By contrast, the ship follows the course entirely on its own and gives you a view out of the port side of the ship and lets you control the weapons (bullets, bombs and a flamethrower) using the touch screen to fire them.
For most of the main quest, the game tells you where to go, which helps speed along the main adventure. To fully complete the game you’ll not have to find all the islands, but seek out the Jet Ski-racer Johnny and challenge him to races to win chaos emeralds. You can also select and island or stage that you have already visited to be sent there in an instant, useful for collecting the previously-mentioned materials.
Tying all this together is the rather lame plot. Sonic and Tails are investigating some “big energy reaction” when they encounter a storm. They wake up on Southern Island and are found by a new annoying sidekick, an Australian racoon called Marine. Soon enough they encounter the robot pirate Captain Whisker and Blaze the Cat (who then becomes a selectable character on any level). The new sidekick is only there for plot reasons and you can skip any cutscene if you don’t care much for it, so you can generally avoid this sidekick if you wanted to.
The 2D levels and 3D water sections are paced out quite well, and the difficulty curve is perfect. However, don’t think that’s all the game has to offer.
Like Sonic Rush, this has a Time Attack and a Battle mode. These now have online aspects, the Time Attack has online leaderboards and the Battle mode allows for racing (or coin grabbing) online against a friend or random opponent on any level in the game. There are 100 missions similar in style to – Collect x amount of rings in time limit, defeat a boss with 1 ring, perform x amount of tricks, find a hidden medal, defeat x amount of enemies, etc – some of which you have to beat to see the hidden level. Also, there are 2 set levels for each vehicle, complete with high score leaderboards. You can also earn decorations for southern island, upgrades for your craft and music for the sound test.
Speaking of the music, it follows the techno/rock style of Rush. This time, the music for the main levels don’t have many lyrics in them, which some may see as a vast improvement. The tunes are fast and suit the game well. The graphics are also lovely. The 2D/3D mix in the normal levels looks great – the levels and backgrounds have a lot of detail and great animation and little touches. The 3D water sections look great for a handheld, only slightly behind the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass in terms of quality.
Overall, Sonic Rush Adventure takes everything from Sonic Rush, fixes some stuff then adds a ton of extra stuff, increasing the lifespan and replayability by quite a large amount. The new features are fun, and the missions are enjoyable and challenging. This is easily the best Sonic game since the Mega Drive days.