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Game Development:Sonic Adventure 2

From Sonic Retro

Sonic Adventure 2 went through many ideas and changes during the development process. What follows is a collection of items related to the game's development.

Game Development

The members of Sonic Team USA, including Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Naka.

After the release of the first Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast in Japan, it was assumed by many that, as such great lengths had gone about in relaunching the franchise, that a sequel was more than likely to happen. Before the first thoughts about what this follow-up could be, however, a portion of Sonic Team led by the director of Sonic Adventure, Takashi Iizuka, flew to the United States and set up shop in San Francisco, California. Not only the home town of Sega of America, it was also the city where the Sega Technical Institute once thrived, and some of the greatest Sonic games of the 16-bit era were produced. Dubbing themselves "Sonic Team USA," the team got to work on their first assignment - the localization for the western release of Sonic Adventure. Cleaning up the major bugs which had gone unsolved in the Japanese release, as well as polishing up some other areas of the game, the team worked diligently to create a product that would succeed under the scrutinizing eye of the western gamer.

What many people didn't realize at the time, however, was that this split in the ranks of Sonic Team was done with a purpose - while Yuji Naka and the Japanese team could focus on new projects such as Phantasy Star Online, the American-based staff could focus on the namesake of the production team. And indeed, after the launch of the Dreamcast in the west and Sonic Adventure International was made available to Japanese gamers, Sonic Team USA got to work on their next project, the much anticipated Sonic Adventure 2.

The logo to Sonic's tenth anniversary celebration.

Right off the bat, one of the main objectives the team had when conceiving the game was to take what had made the first successful and strengthen them, focusing on those aspects and ignoring others. One of the main bullet points on this list was the story. Wanting to expand on the narrative powers the first game had employed, the seeds of the sometimes-complicated Sonic Adventure 2 plot were planted. In order to tell this story, it was decided that yet again new characters in the franchise would have to be sketched and then fleshed out. One of the ideas that Iizuka came up with was the idea of having a "Dark Sonic" in the game. Quickly, a variety of concept sketches were produced, each featuring a dark hedgehog. While some toyed with the idea of having the character missing an eye, it was decided that the character should remain visually similar to Sonic the Hedgehog but look more like his "shadow" than anything else. Originally given the name Terios, which means "Reflection" and "To Shine Brightly" in Japanese, it was later decided to go with the much simpler Shadow the Hedgehog, the name perfectly encapsulating the character. The other new main character in the game, who would eventually be named Rouge the Bat, was also thought up at this point, though early development called her "Nails," most likely to tie in with the naming scheme of the other main characters of the series such as Miles "Tails" Prower and Knuckles the Echidna. Though it is unknown how different her concept art may have looked, it was established early on that she would be a spy, her true intentions ambiguous through most of the game.

Dropping such elements as the Adventure Field and and the playstyles of Amy Rose and Big the Cat, the development team decided to focus on three main styles of play: the Sonic stages from the first game, the shooting stages of E-102 Gamma, and the treasure hunting quests of Knuckles the Echidna. With Gamma unusable from a story perspective, Sonic Team USA decided to follow up on another fan request, the ability to control Dr. Eggman within the game. Once deciding to give Eggman the shooting segments, work began on perfecting the three modes of gameplay.

Takashi Iizuka, shortly before being handed the reigns of the franchise.

Taking inspiration from their new homebase, much of Sonic Adventure 2 was designed as an homage to San Francisco, the most obvious being the steep hills of City Escape taken straight from the city streets. However, later levels such as Mission Street and Radical Highway also take cues from the landmarks of the bay, most notably the Golden Gate Bridge. Finally, the two Kart Racing levels in the game (Route 101 and Route 280) share their names with actual highways that run through San Francisco, making the game a love letter to the city by the bay.

One idea the team wanted to introduce in the game, but in the end was unable to implement, was the ability of having branching pathways story-wise in the narrative, each run a different experience. In early magazine previews, an example was used as to what Sonic Team intended. The scenario they presented was of Sonic being on a submarine that would begin to sink, the player either trying to bring the sub to safety or having Sonic escape and try and make it back to shore. Though unknown if this example was part of an early version of the story or if simply used in an interview to not spoil the team's true intentions, the branching paths were dropped from the final product.

It was May 11th, 2000 when the bubbling rumors of the sequel were finally confirmed by Sega, with Sonic Team releasing a handful of screenshots featuring Sonic the Hedgehog in what would become City Escape, as well as shots showing off Knuckles, Dr. Eggman and the return of the Chao Garden. Tied together with a trailer also featuring the three, the community went abuzz with excitement. That began to damper, though, with many discussing the fate of "Tails." Initial interviews with Yuji Naka were met with questionable answers, sometimes giving a "wait and see" approach, other times outright denying "Tails" being in the game.

A closer look at the Soap-brand shoes used by Sonic the Hedgehog in the game.

Further word as to what the game held in store wouldn't occur until September 22nd, when the "Sonic Team Fall Festival" began on the new SonicTeam.com. For ten days, two new screenshots were revealed to the world about the game, showcasing Sonic's new ability to grind and Dr. Eggman's introduction as a playable character. The final day of the online festival did nothing but drop cryptic hints as to the nature of the story, posting images of the dark, Sonic-esque hedgehog with little context. Further information to the public over the game went quiet until, in an unexpected move, the release of Phantasy Star Online gave Dreamcast players an added bonus for Sonic the Hedgehog fans. Released in Japan on November 21st, the game was packaged with Sonic Adventure 2: The Trial, a demo of City Escape that also included an extended trailer further teasing the true nature of Shadow the Hedgehog, only referring to him as the "Ultimate Hedgehog."

It is unknown just how long Sega was willing to keep players in the dark about the name of the "Mysterious Black Hedgehog" or when they were planning on revealing Rouge the Bat as a character in the game, however, as the two were accidentally leaked by the toy company ReSaurus. Having previously made figures of the principle cast of Sonic Adventure, a press release came out announcing a third wave of Sonic Adventure figures featuring the two new cast members of the sequel. Ironically, the figures would never see the light of day as the company went out of business shortly afterwards. It was only after this leak only a scant few months before the release of the game that Shadow was named through official channels, a media push beginning in April of 2001 also introducing Rouge the Bat as a playable character, and finally showing that, indeed, "Tails" would be in the final game, albeit with a heavily modified control scheme.

Sometime after the first playable demo, it was announced that Sega had made a deal with Soap Shoes to use a modified version of one of their shoes as the official footware of Sonic the Hedgehog in the game. As the shoes were created for the sole purpose of grinding, and the move was one the creators of the game wanted to fully advertise, it made perfect sense to have the partnership, also being the first time Sonic's shoes could actually be purchased. Though the grind ability would continue to be used in future installments, the agreement between the two companies only lasted for the one game.

The Birthday Pack in its full glory.

Though originally meant to be released in early spring, the game was delayed to June 23rd, 2001, the extra months of development time allowing Adventure 2 to be released on Sonic's tenth anniversary. In celebration of the event, a limited-edition version of the game was also released. Dubbed the Sonic Adventure 2 Birthday Pack, the collection came with a special fold-out packaging that held a music CD, a history book, and a golden coin with the image of Sonic etched on.

Funnily enough, the next project of Sonic Team USA would echo their first project, taking previously completed work and polishing it up for a subsequent release. Once it was announced that Sega would stop production of the Sega Dreamcast and step out of the home console market, the team worked on porting the game to the Nintendo GameCube, in the process making it the first Sonic title released on a non-Sega system.

Promotional Screenshots

Title Screen

City Escape

Wild Canyon

Prison Lane

Metal Harbor

Green Forest

Pumpkin Hill

Mission Street

Aquatic Mine

Iron Gate

Dry Lagoon

Sand Ocean

Radical Highway

Egg Quarters

Sky Rail

Boss Encounters

Chao Garden

GameCube Chao Garden

Cutscenes

External Links

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Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2

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