Toffee breaks ’em down, whether they’re solid or frail

sonic adventure

Sonic Adventure (1999)

I’ve done it. I survived my recent set of trips to the dentist, the first in about 8 years. Nothing short of a medical emergency brings a man back to the dentist after 8 years, but things got desperate. Not to disgust you too much, but one of my fillings popped out of my mouth, with the telltale ping of an M1 Garand. Well, it wasn’t so dramatic as that, but it’s a bloody weird feeling when it happens.

I wasn’t too bothered with that, though. I’m a hard man, of course, so any sort of discomfort from my teeth was just something to be treated like a pitiful challenge to my godlike body. A computer not doing what it’s told, an email that I wouldn’t answer, a teeny electric shock from an appliance. Something that a man needs to be bigger than.

Needs must though, the bugger was keeping me awake at night and my machismo was starting to waver. It was time for me to toughen up and mosey on down to the dentist. See, you can try to go in there with a brave face all you like, but that same brave face will collapse on one side after they’ve spun up one of those oversized, novelty needles and plunged it straight into your gums.

It’s torture you can participate in as well, because they leave it to you to swill that stuff around in your jaw for a bit (really top level dentists will give you a jaw massage along with this). And then suddenly, always before you’re prepared, the work begins. You’re so tense at this stage that you’re not actually laying down on the dentist’s chair anymore, but actually floating in midair.

You should fall to the ground of course, but you don’t dare move a muscle because this, in your mind, could result in a tooth getting torn right out – or worse, a slightly stern admonishment from the dentist. It’s funny when they try to calm your nerves as well. For them, this procedure is all routine stuff but for you, it’s a nasty brush with death. So there they’ll be, going on about the weather and the football and prompting you for a response. “Graarrghh,” you reply, trying to sound affirmative and cheerful. It’s like someone talking to you while eating, except ten times worse.

I’d love to go even more in-depth for you at this point, to give you a nice, flowery and descriptive runthrough of my last set of visits (because the trauma can never just be one day, oh no), something that would put you right off your lunch. But I might as well come out and tell you that I chickened out entirely, and I had my eyes closed for almost the entire torture show. I’d have made a good prisoner of war, I reckon.

What you really don’t want is for your teeth to be cleaned. A teeth cleaning was thrown in at the end of one of my visits, and I thought it’d be a nice handy number. You know, get looked after by one of the wee dental nurses, give her a bit of chat (at appropriate times, when my mouth wouldn’t be awash with foam), sweep her off her feet, all that. Christ, if anything in that place hurts, it’s getting your teeth cleaned – we’re talking proper gum scrapage here, blood everywhere.

Can that really be a healthy procedure? When I pick at my skin scabs (attractive guy me) until they bleed, it’s apparently a disaster. When I’m spitting mouthfuls of blood into that weird latrine beside the dentist’s chair, it’s normal. Can these dentists really be trusted? You know, these people all part of a union, and it was a terrible thing when they went on strike – it was one out, all out.

I’m convinced that even boys like Dolph Lundgren, Arnie, and… oh, let’s say, Lenny McLean, I bet even they start rattling when they go into the dentist and get that familar sterile smell, and hear the paralysing screams of someone who didn’t quite have the money to go private. Well, you don’t think the talented dentists (those whose patients’ smile have a healthy beam-to-botch ratio) are working on council house mouths, do you?

But that’s the price you pay. And for the tax I pay, I think I’m entitled to one free dentist checkup a year, and potentially one necessary procedure per year. Nice and vague, that, they’ll do anything to tell you that your gangrenous molar that’s turned your gums to liquid isn’t necessary work – come back when your gammy tooth threatens to decaptitate you.

And you tells me how a new tooth can cost thousands. It needs a crown, they say. Mate, I don’t need bling on it, just make it a nice big tombstone again. You know, my real problem is that my teeth are too small. I wouldn’t hack it out there in the wild if I was a shark or a lion, put it that way.

I’d almost prefer to have wild, gappy teeth. But then, what if you look like Sonic and pals in the Sonic Adventure cutscenes? And I’m not talking about the newer, shinier (though not necessarily more polished) DX editions, I’m on about the Dreamcast original now, where it’s laughable cutscenes with delph everywhere.

Whatever about the gameplay, you could definitely hang your hat on this game’s soundtrack, although there’s obviously nothing stopping you from downloading it separately. It’s full of what I call Saved by the Bell guitars wailing away, giving it such a 90s sound that it’s almost symbolic of Sonic’s desperate attempts to stay in the warm embrace of the 1990s, and to not go gently into the 2000s night.

If you don’t like the sound of Bayside, then you won’t resist the cheesiest rap you ever heard, courtesy of Knuckles’ theme. There’s also a bit of feminist rock from Amy Rose’s theme. I’m not sure why the lyrics talk about having to shave her sphinx, and you can bloody well go and look that one up before you put me down as a paedo. Anyway, Rosy the Rascal is back, chasing Sonic to the ends of the earth, and we’ve all been trying to get rid of her ever since.

I’ll tell you this, she does a better job at following Sonic than this camera. Look, a lot of games around this era got it wrong. Super Mario 64 hasn’t shown itself to be particularly infallible – that Lakitu cameraman wants shooting these days. Mario Sunshine didn’t fare much better there either, so if that whole Mario vs Sonic debate was still roaring into the 2000s, then I’d say that when it came to cameras they were as bad as each other.

I’m always loath to say that a game has aged. People say GoldenEye 007 has aged terribly, and I have to give them a load of welly back. But pick up Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut on a modern system and you’ll find that all of its bragging points aren’t much to flap your gums about anymore.

The game did look the biz when it was shown off – that footage of Sonic running at full pelt towards the camera with a whale going ham in the background is iconic. Try it ingame though, and you’ll fall victim to the usual old 3D Sonic shtick of falling off the level, or the camera giving you a spinning piledriver, and suddenly you’re plunging into the abyss through no fault of your own.

Sounds great to have six playable characters as well but let’s face it, there’s hardly a reason to bother beyond that beautifully coloured trio of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Amy’s only got 3 levels in her campaign. You can pick one of Eggman’s robots, in a shooting-oriented set of missions, and would you believe me if I said that this character, Gamma, has the most emotional depth of any of the characters?

If none of that suits you, you can pick Big the Cat, a big cat as it happens, whose stages entail fishing. Don’t assume it’s easy either, you’ll definitely be losing lives, and that’s before you decide to drown the moggy to get a bit of fun out of this. When Sonic Adventure is good, it’s very good. When it starts going crazy with the gameplay, it’s worse than pulling teeth.

30 November 2021

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