While the quality and stature of a game series is defined by the quality of the games that that comprise it, its individual levels or often just one level from one game that embody its ideals and goals. One would think that a level’s impact wouldn’t extend outside its own game, but not necessarily. Consider, games in a consistent series can vary greatly in terms of characters, stories, and settings, but what ties them all together is their gameplay; gameplay that is more than just partly defined by consistent level design. Therefore, we can have levels that act as paradigms of a series, stages that capture the essence of a series so well that they can become synonymous with the series as a whole. There are many levels that have been elevated to this status over the years, but today we’ll focus on “City Escape” from Sonic Adventure 2, which best characterizes what Sonic the Hedgehog was supposed to be after its transition into 3D.
“City Escape” was made to be the face of Sonic Adventure 2; its purpose being to convince gamers that Sonic was still fast and outrageous in his latest game, a purpose it filled quite well. Starting with “snowboarding” down paved hills, it not only proceeds to show off Sonic’s speed and homing abilities, but also features Sonic running down the side of a building and no-holds-barred chase with a giant truck bent on running the blue blur down to top the level off. All of these elements come together and result in the fast-paced urgency we’d come to expect from Sonic games, and told us that we could indeed continue to expect that same feel in the future.
“City Escape” stands out not because it was the first of the 3D Sonic levels to give players a good sense of speed (in my opinion, Sonic Adventure’s “Emerald Coast” holds that honor), but because of how well it embodied the Sonic experience, that and the promise of the future it carried by virtue of improving upon the formula established by Sonic Adventure. It didn’t define the immediate future of the series (see Sonic Heroes), but with entries like Sonic 4 and Sonic Generations and their renewed focus on speed and urgency, it and the response stages like it received may still define the long-term future of our favorite supersonic hedgehog.
What were your impressions of City Escape? Is there a stage that more aptly fits the bill?