Let’s play Sonic Adventure 2

The Sonic Adventure 2 LP series is behind me at long last. Thank. Merciful. Christ. This series taught me quite a bit about how I need to approach game selections going forward, especially requests.

This game was requested for part of the Talking Time fundraiser, which came with a not-exactly-small price tag attached to it, and so part of me felt really bad for disliking the game as intensely as I did. I record my LP videos long before I start uploading them, and so with this particular series I reached a point where I knew I’d be uploading something very negative for the benefit of one of the game’s fans. The question became what to do about it. As I saw it, I had four options:

1) Do nothing, and just release the videos as-is, regardless of how bad they were.

2) Scrap the videos I had and practice the game long enough that I could beat it without trouble, then record that run of the game.

3) Change the tone of the LP to something really fake and self-depricating, to try and hide my contempt for the game. (I doubt this would have fooled anyone, I couldn’t have kept it up for 30+ videos anyway.)

4) Contact the donator, explain the situation, and reach some compromise.

In retrospect #4 would have been the mature thing to do, but at the time it felt like it would be a weird cop-out. Not only had the poor guy donated to see this game played, but he bought me enough PSN points to buy the game in the first place. I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate to go back and tell him to pick another game, or tell him I was only going to play one third of this one, considering the fundraiser was originally pitched as “Brick will play whatever you want.” I also reasoned that, as a long-time fan, he would both expect and appreciate my honest opinions of his selection, even if those opinions were disagreeable to him.

In the end I went with a mix of #1 and #2. Sonic Adventure 2 is split into three sections: Hero Story, Dark Story and Final Story. (I knew about Final Story at the time, but pretended I didn’t for comedic effect, though I doubt that fooled anyone, either.) I trashed the videos I had already recorded for the Hero Story and then played it off-camera, start to finish, venting my frustrations on Twitter along the way. That one pass of the game gave me enough experience to draw these two conclusions: 1) playing the Hero Story a second time would be a lot easier and make for much better video, and 2) I now had enough context to play Dark Story blind, as was my original intent.

It turns out the first conclusion was correct but the second one was way, way wrong. The Hero Story videos still weren’t pleasant, but they were brisk, and I was able to split my attention between playing the game and explaining coherently why I wasn’t enjoying it. The Dark Story, though, is much harder and throws a lot of really awful gameplay gimmicks at you. Partway through recording I realized I was having the same problem I had in the Hero Story: awful game is awful, and is making for some awful video.

This time, though, I didn’t have the will to junk what I had and learn the game. I just wanted it to be over and didn’t care how terrible the resulting videos were going to be. If my YouTube Analytics were to be believed this was a big mistake. During this time I was alternating between uploading really negative episodes of SA2‘s Dark Story and a really boring and unpopular playthrough of Halo 4. Viewer retention and new subscribers both took a huge hit. I don’t make a lot of money from my YouTube channel, but the loss of about 60% of my sandwich money sent a very clear message: “Wow, if I were doing this frr rllz, and I actually relied on this income, I wouldn’t be able to make my fucking rent this month.”

While these numbers were dropping I also started getting very strong and negative feedback in my comments on each new SA2 video. Inexplicably, this goddamn game is a fan favorite among the Sonic hardcore. This is something I really didn’t expect these people would be so numerous in my own viewership, but in retrospect I really should have. It’s still very, very hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that there is an entire generation of gamers behind me, who grew up during the Gamecube era rather than the NES era. I tend to think of games from that period of time as “grown-up games” because I, myself, was a grown-up when they were released. I had forgotten how strong an attachment kids can form even with bad games, and how strong that attachment remains into adulthood. A lot of their defense of the game was based on emotion, which is exactly how I defend the questionable design of Final Fantasy and Mega Man when I get into it with modern gamers.

(In particular, a lot of their ire came in the form of “Quit your bitching, the game isn’t hard or stupid if you know [some precise thing only veteran players would know]!” I catch myself using this same argument whenever people rage about grinding in Final Fantasy, or swinging mechanics in Bionic Commando, and sometimes it takes me a while to remember it’s a bullshit argument. So while I never agreed with the SA2 fans commenting on my videos, I empathized with their position quite a lot.)

So what were my final thoughts on Sonic Adventure 2? I’ll summarize for those of you who didn’t watch the videos (and I don’t blame you!). Rather than itemize my list of complaints, I’ll just focus on the really big one, since I feel all the smaller ones stem from it anyway: the game is way too ambitious for the meager resources it was designed with. There are more gameplay styles, stage gimmicks and combat options in this game than in any single Mario game I can name. The design philosophy of most Mario games (even Super Mario Sunshine, which I despise), is to take a very small list of ideas and mold them into a full-featured game. Sonic Team seems to have done the exact opposite with the Sonic Adventure games, and cram every single idea they had into the game no matter how unpolished, how inconsistent, or how little it offered in terms of fun gameplay.

To put a much finer point on it: we know Nintendo can make a fun platformer, and a fun combat system, and a fun kart racer, and a fun farming simulator, and a fun shooter, and a fun puzzler, and a fun adventure story. But they never tried to stuff all that into the same game. No design team has those kind of resources!

The result of trying to wear too many hats was that all of SA2‘s hats were unfinished, uncomfortable to wear, and run the risk of setting your hair on fire. All of the resources that should have gone towards designing and testing a working camera system instead went towads driving levels. All of the resources that should have gone to making fun, playable driving physics instead went towards shooter levels. All of the resources that should have been spent making a fun rail shooter instead went into the optional farming simulator.

And what did I learn about recording LPs? I really need to pay more attention to what I’m uploading, and when. Halo 4 finished up while SA2 was still going, and gave way to River City Ransom, which saw an immediate turnaround in my slumping numbers. That was happy news, and I really should not have been surprised. The original reason I started doing updating my LPs two at a time was so viewers who didn’t like one of them still had some reason to watch me. If you’re not into watching, say, Riven, that’s okay, because tomorrow I’ll update Kirby, or whatever. But I lost sight of that, and so for a long span of time all I was offering people was a crybaby SA2 series and a boring Halo 4 series. I really need to not do that again.

More importantly, though, I need to really work on my attitude towards games I dislike. This is something I’m really bad at, and really need to improve. It’s come up a lot during streams, too, where I get angry and frustrated at a game and just end up embarrassing myself. I know the angry, rage-a-holic gamer archetype is popular on the internet, but that’s not what I’m aiming for. It’s a really shallow form of entertainment and it’s just not what I want to do with my work. There are positive ways to react to bad or frustrating games, and I need to get better at exploring them. To that end I have another “game I hate but am playing anyway” project in the works, and it’s shaping up to be a lot more pleasant than SA2 was. I’m hoping that experiment goes well.

I’ll hedge my bets with it, though, and not upload it alongside a bland first person shooter.

Thanks for reading, and sorry for the bad LP!

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12 comments to Let’s play Sonic Adventure 2

  • MiquelFire

    I think since I started following your channel, RCR may have been the only game I couldn’t bare to watch. Something about that game made it seem like watching golf. Sure, the game may be fun, but boring as hell to watch someone else play it.

  • QuizmasterBos

    Honestly Brick, I didn’t watch any River City Ransom videos. Like MiguelFire, I didn’t particularly enjoy watching it and gave up about half-way through video 1. It’s too much of the same. Plus, almost always I don’t like listening to two people playing a game. Can’t really describe what it is that makes it so unwatchable to me 99% of the time, but it did.

    It’s pretty clear that you have insulted an entire gaming generation with your Sonic Adventure 2 Videos. I am somewhat part of that generation, but I never played SA2. I could understand your problems with the game most of the time, but sometimes it really was your fault. During the Rouge bits it felt like you weren’t paying a lot of attention and missed stuff that everyone else could see no problem. So it was a case of ‘shout at the screen and hope the person playing somehow gets your message’.

    I too consider SA2 to be an overrated awful game, especially now that I have seen it, but I fully understand the gamers who have nostalgic feelings to this game.

    Now, I am glad you’ve learned to come up with a better uploading scheme, but I think you need to make more careful decisions on WHAT to play in the future too. Considering you now have a twitch channel, my suggestion is to leave multiplayer LPs like River City Ransom or HALO 4 to that and leave the singleplayer games for your YouTube page.

    Play more action-oriented games, more 150% speed games, more games Brick knows how to play, but also more old and obscure titles that you haven’t seen (like Revengers of Vengeance). We’d love to see Mega Man 4 be done ‘for reals’ in 150% speed, we know you can do it.
    Also, could you please upload the rest of Metroid Zero Mission? If you’ve lost or scrapped it, I’d understand, but please tell us somehow! You haven’t forgotten about it, have you?

  • SpoonyBardOL

    Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. It’s really weird to think of there being a generation of gamers with fond childhood memories of the Gamecube but here we are.

    I enjoyed the LP for the most part, though it dragged in parts. Dark Side was bad, but I don’t know if anything was bad enough to match that one Ghost boss. Maybe it was just a different flavor of bad than the bad that came later. Just a lot of bad all around.

    Also what ever happened to that Zero Mission LP? Footage exploded? Or did the people whining about you spending more time being critical of Fusion reach critical mass and you just put it aside?

  • I was actually reading about Sonic Adventure 2, and I saw something that blew my goddamn mind. The Gamecube version is one of the top ten best selling games on the Gamecube. Seriously, it’s #10. It topped out Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, and it topped Twilight Princess.

    I guess what I’m getting at is… no wonder there’s a ton of people defending it. I told you on the stream I’m almost afraid to replay it now, because I’ll start seeing the flaws you pointed out. But then, I’m the massive idiot who 100%ed the game during a really dry gaming rut.

    I think you’re in your best element when you’re having fun, though! I mean, you can enjoy a bad game (I certainly have my share of those) but if you’re just hating yourself, then it’s not as fun for the viewer.

  • MetManMas

    While I’m pretty tolerant of Sonic Adventure 2 and can eke some enjoyment out of it, I’ll also flat out admit the game has aged like crap and I don’t fault anyone for hating it. And yeah, nostalgia can make us all crazy and tolerant of poor design choices.

    But yeah, Sonic Team being too ambitious for their own good without the time/restraint/better game designers onhand to make a game that’s less shit tends to be a recurring theme, as does wanting to make games that aren’t Sonic games. I’ve heard that 2006 train wreck started as a game starring a psychic ermine (Proto-Silver) before Sonic and friends were tacked on.

  • Lys

    I thoroughly enjoyed your SA2 videos, but freely admit that it’s probably because it was so, so, so very nice to find someone else who feels the same way about the game as I do. The love for this one always seemed inexplicable to me. And I *like* bad Sonic games!

  • Zooclaw

    In recent months I have admittedly slowed down on watching your videos. The Little Nemo run being the biggest Brickroad highlight recently. I’m going to do something you probably hate seeing your fans do: list games I think you should play.

    Here they are: Little Samson, Mr. Gimmick, Chip & Dale 2, Uforia, Metal Storm, Journey to Silius, Klonoa, Tomba!, more Mega Mam, Darkwing Duck, Soul Blazer, Umihara Kawase, Rocket Knight, DoReMi Fantasy, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Yoshi’s Island, Super Metroid hacks Zfactor and/or Zero Mission, blind run of a 3D Zelda, maybe some interesting MAME games.

    Thanks for playing all of these great games.

  • I actually liked that SA2 LP, though I despise 3D Sonic myself. It wasn’t just awful yelling and screaming, but balanced out with the usual analysis and fun commentary. There should be room for LPing bad games and griping about them. The biggest problem is when something drags on for too many videos. The RMN Bros LP(which I love by the way) has that problem too, when you spend 5 videos trying to find the red coins.

    Even if the good old LPs of fun games have their slow and bitter moments(Mega Man Powered Up, Shantae, Mega Man 10), I enjoy watching. It’s all about balancing it out.

    I really enjoy the Pikmin LP at the moment. Other LPs I’ve watched of that game have been near perfect runs where the LPer have OCD against losing Pikmin. Every single one of your episodes on the other hand, has a body count like an 80s action movie.

  • Adrian

    Man Brick, if you really want to know why younger Sonic fans cling to Sonic Adventure 2, all you need to do is play any Sonic Game that came after this but before Sonic Colors. I don’t mind Sonic Adventure 2 (though I much prefer Sonic Adventure 1, which my girlfriend thinks I am crazy for. For reference, I’m 29, she is 32) but I couldn’t make it an hour into Sonic Heroes. Bad camera is never resolved, and it is augmented by bad controls. Eventually this evolves into Sonic 2006 which is broken everything.

    I enjoyed the SA2 LP; even though I don’t dislike the game, that’s more me having a high tolerance threshold for things like bad camera and less that any one of your criticisms were incorrect. Really, you didn’t rage all that much and were very articulate and thorough about the criticisms. It was only really frustrating when you were blaming the game on technical issues such as invisible lasers, but this was mostly resolved by you realizing it a video or two later. Otherwise it was enjoyable, I learned a lot.

    But yeah, that Halo 4 series. I stopped somewhere around video 4. I’ll pick it up again the next time I have some crazy notion like actually playing Halo 4.

    • MetManMas

      Speaking of games before Sonic Colors, Sonic Unleashed was like a weird middle ground between the old guard and the new guard. Just note I’m referring to the HD version in the following comments.

      On the one hand, you can tell they’ve started to learn from their mistakes. The recurring character roster is greatly cut down, the game has much more of a lightness in tone, glitches are far less commonplace, there’s a general realization that some things work better in 2D than in 3D, and the obligatory alternate play mode is actually pretty good for once.

      On the other hand, the control physics are really screwy (easiest to notice when trying to precision platform with Werehog Sonic or do things in general with normal Sonic), you have to faff about collecting medals to unlock arbitrary gates leading to later stages, there’s still no camera control, some idiot added in QTEs to certain ramps and bosses, there’s some really cheap traps and sequences, the cutscenes can go on for too long and sometimes you have to faff about with pointlessly drawn out event chains, and the homing attack was moved to a separate button.

  • Badranch

    Brick, I’m a little late to the party but I appreciate this insight on a situation you have, where you’re LP’ing a game you hate but are forced to play it, and how it comes out.

    I grew up in the NES/SNES days like yourself, and my reason I subbed to your channel years back was seeing you LP games in my nostalgia. However, I do admit some of my favorite games were good games at the time, but they did not age well. I did watch the FF LP and I enjoyed it overall because of the technical aspects you gave of the game. I kind of skipped over your last few LPs as they are just not games I’m very familiar with, but I hope you don’t take that as that you’re losing “fans” like me. It’s just you’re playing games I don’t remember well or fondly, and I can’t get into them as easily.

    I love your co-LPs with Sovan so despite the Halo 4 LP not going well I hope you continue to do LPs with Sovan from time to time. Believe it or not, your mega-long Secret of Evermore LP is why I found your channel in the first place and, personally, it was an amazing distraction to me during a very difficult period of time in my life.

    In closing, keep learning from these situations and I am sure there are plenty more LPs to help bring you additional sandwich money. Keep your same personality, and I’ll keep watching.

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