Yesterday, I started playing Sonic Adventure again, the first time since roughly 2016. The last time I played the game, I came to the conclusion that it was bad, stacked with the evidence pointed out by various peers and Youtube critics. Playing it again now, it is still pretty bad. Why is this important? Because I still had the urge to play it. Knowing full well the experience is overall unremarkable, my desire to revisit the story of Sonic Adventure burned until I finally satiated it with yet another playthrough.
Most recently, I completed Gamma’s part, one that most fans of the game label as the character with the most impactful and immersive story of the six playable characters. It made me think back to my younger years with this game, and how I felt the exact same way. I had a residual fondness with the character of Gamma and the empathetic plight he faced with his robotic nature. Even now, playing through it reminds me of the very formulaic, but altogether spirited effort in trying to convey a bittersweet message of goodness. One could call it a cute little sci-fi story of finding one’s humanity in the cold body of apathy.
Unfortunately, where the story succeeds, the gameplay aspect fails almost spectacularly, something I don’t see a lot of people mention when they go over his role in the game. It’s irrelevant to Sonic, it’s too straightforward—these I’ve heard, but there’s a surprising lack of ambiguity as to what makes his role in Sonic Adventure so underwhelming. My take is simple, and it’s divided into two parts: It’s too short and it’s disgustingly easy.
The only stage of Gamma’s I enjoy playing is the last one, out of five stages provided for him. This stage, dubbed “Hot Shelter,” is about twice as long as any other stage Gamma has to his story, offers more variety in platforming and puzzles, and doesn’t feel like a straight shot from beginning to end. I even intentionally tried to play in a fashion bereft of care to see if the stage would become any less interesting, and yet I found myself doing all that I could to get to the final boss. It was a spark that fizzled quickly, as all that burns brightest does, so the saying goes. Otherwise, Gamma’s story is generally inept.
The cutscenes to Gamma’s story or the high note for not just his part of the game, but the game as a whole. There’s a lot more focus towards a certain theme and Gamma is easy to sympathize with, emphasized by Eggman’s cruelty and how he refers to Gamma’s robotic counterparts as his “brothers.” Just this notation alone gives the robotic family a reason to look out for one another, and the part of Gamma’s playthrough where he “saves” his “brothers,” which made little sense to me as a kid, makes perfect sense to me as an adult. Voice acting and dialogue are completely atrocious, like with the rest of the game, however it helps when the visual aspect of the cutscenes, which show more variation than with other characters, helps to build the core story of revenge.
But it’s just too short. Gamma’s story, perhaps if not for Big’s story (I can’t recall whose is longer), is the shortest in the game, taking me just under an hour to go through it. Most of this story is comprised of cutscenes, so I would argue that one is actually playing as Gamma for less than thirty minutes, depending on how quickly one gets through his stages and gets to those stages. If one wanted to actually play as Gamma, they’re sure to be underwhelmed—I shit you not, it took me just over a minute to get through his starting two stages combined. That’s pathetically short.
This lack of time also goes into just how easy Gamma’s stages are. If I can get through the first two stages in just over a minute, imagine how easy it was to simply bypass everything and fly directly to the end of a stage. The third stage isn’t much better, and it isn’t until the fourth stage that one actually has to jump as much as they shoot. One aspect of this is the effectiveness of Gamma’s ranged weapon, which puts Sonic’s homing attack to shame. All Gamma has to do is lock-on to a target and shoot, killing them instantly. Bullets are homing and most enemies outside bosses aren’t going to do much to fight back. Gamma could cosplay as the Terminator and one likely couldn’t tell the difference. If not for the last, and perhaps the fourth, stage in Gamma’s story, there would be so little fun that it almost paints a picture as bad as Big and Amy’s stories.
Combined with the poor qualities of the time with the animated cutscenes, such as poor dialogue, voice acting, and animation in general, Gamma’s story isn’t so much good on its own as it is good in comparison to everything else, which does the bare minimum. Gamma’s story is, in my mind, indisputably the best one—strictly from a narrative standpoint—that Sonic Adventure has, and it gave me some regret that it couldn’t have been more fleshed out in the end. The scene where Gamma goes into the isolated room by mistake and sees his “brother,” Beta, being reconstructed is something that I think could be incredibly chilling with today’s technological advances in visual storytelling. The way it comes across in the original game is adequate, but it could be done so much better that it hurts.
Sonic Adventure has its moments. Gamma’s story is an indication of something bigger that, in my mind, could even work in a setting outside the Sonic universe. The cheesiness factor of the Sonic games in general give it an added boost when compared directly, and I believe that’s what makes it so memorable in this case. With the hindrances attributed to the lack of overall content and how benign the gameplay is, though, it leaves a dry spot in an otherwise fruitful display of effort by the developers. For this, I will always remember Gamma fondly, though what his story manages to accomplish only makes his playstyle all the more disappointing.
What do you think of Gamma’s story?
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(All screenshots taken from gameplay videos via Sonicblade147’s Youtube channel.)
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