A Quick Look At Sonic Adventure 2's Green Hill Zone

I'm just going to admit this straight off the bat: I'm quite a fan of Sonic Adventure 2. It's a massive improvement over the first Sonic Adventure and the level of polish lavished upon the menus, the style and the in-game graphics is commendable. Oh, and the music is terrific. True, there are some slightly iffy aspects to Sonic Adventure 2 - the Tails and Eggman/Robotnik levels in particular have lead to many a night sweat in this household - but overall it's a decent game and a lot of fun can be had.
What a lot of people may not know though, is that Sonic Adventure 2 contains a pretty cool homage to the original Sonic game in the form of a fully 3D recreation of Green Hill Zone. You need to work pretty hard to unlock it by collecting all of the emblems from the main game, but once you do you'll notice that a previously inaccessible island on the level select map screen (see above) suddenly has a question mark hovering over it. Select this question mark, and you're whisked away to a fairly impressive rendition of the opening stage from one of gaming's most iconic titles.

Today, the Sonic franchise has taken a bit of a beating after numerous attempts by Sega to reboot and rebrand its iconic mascot, and the majority of these titles have been lambasted by the mainstream (and not so mainstream) gaming press. 2006's Sonic reboot is notorious for how misguided it was, and subsequent releases have also failed to hit the mark that Sonic fans so desperately thirst for. Personally, I thought Sonic Generations was pretty great but I have to admit that I haven't bothered with any of the other post Xbox/PS2/Gamecube era Sonic offerings. I have watched more episodes of the Sonic Boom animation than a 35 year old should probably admit to; and the upcoming Sonic Mania does look awesome, but as far as full 3D games go perhaps the rendition of Green Hill Zone found in Sonic Adventure 2 is actually the best, most faithful 3D Sonic game there is? I don't know. It is extremely cool though.
The stage itself isn't huge and is not really a full verbatim copy of the genuine Green Hill Zone, but the aesthetics are about as authentic as you could hope to get. The angular flowers and foliage; the spike pits and collapsing cliff edges; the rope bridges with robotic piranhas leaping over them like macabre salmon...it's all here and it's topped off with that superb low-res Megadrive style background filled with an endless supply of waterfalls and glistening, crystalline lakes. Even the clouds in the sky are accurate reproductions, and the stage starts off with the camera at ground level, as if you were playing the original game, just in 3D.
I have to admit that I didn't play through the game to unlock this - I cheated and used VMU Tool to put a save file onto one of my VMUs. I also discovered that the VMU Tool doesn't work with the official 4x memory card so there's another useful bit of information for nobody in particular. However, this is all academic - the point of this post is to show that yes, there is a pretty cool hidden bonus to be found in Sonic Adventure 2 and it's probably better than any of the subsequent Sonics bar Generations. That said, I can't be sure myself as I'm just going off what I've read and been told...so I'm probably wrong. I usually am. Anyway, here's a little video of my trying not to die as I negotiate the hidden Green Hill Zone bonus stage:


For even more appreciation of Sonic's opening stage, be sure to check out SEGAbits' investigation of several recreations of the iconic level here. Oh, and apologies for the the 'DCJY' logos on all the images - I've been made aware of a Tumblr site that is going through all my posts here and nicking the screenshots I take, so at least they now have to crop them if they want them...the thieving gits!

1 comment:

Tamás Illés said...

As someone who collected all the emblems to unlock this stage the 'proper' way (twice, because I'm like that), I can honestly say...I don't blame anyone who just downloads a save file with all the emblems collected. No matter how neat this bonus stage is, the time and effort it takes is just not worth it.

Also, despite the flaws of the game, I will always stick by that Sonic Adventure 2 is the only Sonic game in which they nailed the grinding ability perfectly. It requires skill and player input, it's momentum based, and feels very rewarding when you manage to pull it off properly. A bit ironic that it was the first time they implemented it and got it right, then they just constantly dumbed it down in later games.