Emulating Sonic Adventure – is this a good or a bad idea?

As discussed on this blog, SADX Gamecube, SADX PC 2004 and the Steam/nextgen console versions of the game suffer from an alarming number of downgrades in almost every area imaginable, up to the point of completely misrepresenting the original Dreamcast version. In this situation one might wonder how to get the “definitive” version of Sonic Adventure. The most obvious option is playing the game on a real Dreamcast, which is perhaps the closest to the “definitive” way to play the game. However, using real hardware has its disadvantages:

  • Obviously you need to own a functional Dreamcast and a copy of the game to be able to play it. The Dreamcast is prone to hardware problems (laser degradation, PSU) that eventually make it unable to read discs or boot at all, and the more reliable replacements (such as the GDEMU or USB-GDROM) are expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain. Unless you are a big fan of the Dreamcast and play other games on it, or use it for other purposes such as homebrew, getting a Dreamcast just to play SA1 isn’t a good investment.
  • If you play the game on anything other than a CRT or something with the native resolution of 640×480, it’s going to look terrible. Don’t be mislead by people claiming that the Dreamcast looks “amazingly clean” when upscaled to 1080p/4K* – this is not the case at all, and even with the most expensive upscalers picture clarity is nowhere near as good as playing the game in actual 1080p or 4K, which you can do using an emulator or a modded PC version.
    *When people say that, they usually compare the Dreamcast’s video output to the likes of Playstation 2, which is indeed a lot worse. The Dreamcast is capable of outputting a native 480p VGA signal, which is the “cleanest” looking signal for that generation of consoles. There is even a hardware mod to make the Dreamcast output a “pure” digital signal through HDMI. However, no matter what you do, it’s still going to be 480p, and no amount of cleaning up is going to make it look as good as native 1080p that you can get with an emulator or the PC version.
    Want to see how SA1 would approximately look on your monitor/TV? Take a 640×480 screenshot from the game and blow it up to your screen’s native resolution with with bilinear scaling like this.
  • You’ll have to deal with all of the criticized aspects of the original version – 30 FPS, unskippable cutscenes, the old Chao system etc. Although there are 60 FPS codes for the Dreamcast version, real hardware can’t handle it most of the time and the game will go into slow motion. When the game does run at 60 FPS, several of the problems described here will return because some aspects of the game’s logic aren’t optimized for 60 FPS. Unlike the PC version, fixing these on the Dreamcast is unrealistic.
  • If you want to play in widescreen, there are hacks for SA1 that work on real hardware. While these hacks provide some benefits (such as the increased field of view), what they ultimately do is squeeze a widescreen image into a 640×480 frame, which is then stretched by your display to the applicable widescreen size. Needless to say, combined with upscaling to 1080p/4K this degrades picture quality even further, but it still remains a viable solution to play games in widescreen on real hardware – not only for the Dreamcast, but for other consoles too, such as the Wii.

Using an emulator can mitigate some of the above issues. For example, you’ll be able to multiply the internal resolution of the Dreamcast and play the game at 1440p. Note: the point about widescreen still applies*.

*Using a widescreen hack can also cause pop-in to be more visible near the sides of the screen. Some cutscenes will also show things that you aren’t supposed to see, such as two Chaoses in Sonic’s intro.

There are only two real advantages of using an emulator as opposed to a modded PC version:

  • Some emulators (reicast, possibly redream in the future) have Android builds, which means you can play SA1 on your phone (but would you really want to? See below for an explanation).
  • Playing the game on an emulator delivers the closest experience possible to a real Dreamcast version on PC, whereas SADXPC mods may not always be accurate to the original Dreamcast game.

On the other hand, all emulators have issues with SA1 that make the experience sub-optimal.

  • The biggest problem is that you won’t be able to control the character properly unless you have a very sensitive controller with no deadzone. Some controllers, such as the X360 one, work relatively well, though they are not exactly the same as the original Dreamcast controller. Even third-party controllers for the Dreamcast will cause issues in SA1 and SA2. This nuance is described in more detail on the Miscellaneous page. For an optimal experience you would have to buy an authentic Dreamcast controller and an adapter to use it on PC, in which case you might as well buy a real Dreamcast instead.
    If your controller behaves similar to this (jittering when pressing all the way up/down, “round” shape of diagonal limits), you may be able to use it with a Dreamcast emulator to play SA1:
  • Emulating the Dreamcast’s order-independent transparency is going to be a major issue. Some games look acceptable without it or with less accurate transparency sorting methods, but in the case of SA1 you’re going to need the most accurate per-pixel sorting. You need at least 16 layers (ideally 32 or more) to be able to play the game without noticeable visual glitches.
    Per-pixel transparency sorting is extremely taxing on the GPU, so to be able to play the game at any decent resolution without glitches you’re going to need a powerful PC. For example, a mid-range gaming laptop from 2013-2014 is barely able to handle 1440p/32 layers on Demul, and the game is relatively comfortable to play only at 1280×960. Emulating OIT on Android is also out of the question.
    In addition, not all emulators support order-independent transparency. As of August 2018, only Demul, redream and reicast have support for it. Here are some typical glitches you will see if you play the game on an emulator without OIT (some of these may look better or worse depending on the emulator, but the general issue remains the same):



    And here’s the kind of glitches you will see if the layer count for per-pixel sorting is not enough. This usually happens to particles, such as fire or smoke:
  • The above general issues are applicable to all Dreamcast emulators. There are also issues or nuances with each specific emulator. Let’s go through the most common emulators currently available for PC.

    NullDC was an open-source emulator for Windows that was discontinued in 2013. It is the only emulator that has a built-in widescreen hack that doesn’t rely on stretching the picture (“Extra geom”), which is why you can find videos demonstrating Sonic Adventure in “real” widescreen/1080p using footage from this emulator. It’s also one of the less demanding emulators, so you can run it on a weaker PC. However, the emulator itself has two issues that make it sub-optimal for SA1:
    1) Lack of support for per-pixel order-independent transparency, which means the game will always have visual glitches.
    2) Emulation inaccuracies causing issues with collision, particularly the issue with Sonic hopping in place and being unable to jump.
    In 2013 NullDC was discontinued in favor of another emulator, reicast.

    Demul is a closed-source emulator for Windows that has the best compatibility and emulation accuracy to date. It also has the best sound emulation. This is your best bet when trying to emulate SA1 as close as possible to the original Dreamcast. However, Demul’s system requirements are quite high, and there are several nuances that are worth mentioning:
    1) Demul has two GPU plugins: the “new” plugin, which is recommended for maximum accuracy, and the “old” one, which, according to the author, is very hacky and has many issues. However, the “new” plugin does not allow to increase the Dreamcast’s internal resolution, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. That makes the “new” plugin useless for those who want to play the game in anything other than 640×480. The “old” plugin allows to use a higher internal resolution and works quite well with SA1.
    2) Demul needs to compile shaders to emulate specific features of the Dreamcast’s GPU, so it is prone to momentary stuttering whenever a shader is compiled*. This means the game will have noticeable hiccups several times a minute unless you’ve completed the game multiple times, exploring every corner and trying every move until all possible combinations of shaders are compiled and cached. The shaders to compile are different depending on your GPU, and changing settings (such as the layer count for transparency) will require a different set of shaders. If you play the game a lot on the same PC without changing graphical settings, eventually this will become less of an issue because Demul will build shader cache that it will reuse the next time a specific effect is used.
    * This isn’t a problem with Demul specifically, many other emulators rely on shader compilation and have to deal with this problem somehow. Dolphin, for example, has a feature called “Ubershaders”, which is meant to address the stutter during shader compilation.

    reicast is an open-source emulator targeting primarily Android phones and tablets, but builds for Windows, Linux, iOS, RetroArch, openPANDORA and Ouya are also available. Visual glitches aside, the latest release version works fine with SA1 on Android, but getting it to run on Windows seems quite difficult. The automatic builds for Windows, for example, require a set of debug DLL libraries, which are difficult to obtain without installing Visual Studio 2013. This means that for an average user the Windows version of the emulator won’t even launch. In addition, the Windows version has no GUI to configure settings, so you have to set up BIOS, paths etc. manually in the config file. I’ve never been able to get a single game running in the Windows version – it just keeps throwing error messages and crashing – so I can’t comment much on this emulator, but it’s definitely the most user-unfriendly Dreamcast emulator out there if you use Windows.
    The RetroArch version is supposedly better, but you have to download the monstrous RetroArch frontend (174MB archive, 500+MB installed) even if you want just the Dreamcast, and RetroArch’s UI is atrocious and a nightmare to configure on PC. Your mileage may vary, so if you decide to try it out yourself, follow this guide to set it up.

    redream is a closed-source emulator for Windows, Linux, Mac OS and (eventually) Android. Out of all Dreamcast emulators it’s the easiest to set up, and has the nicest GUI. Unlike all other emulators it doesn’t require BIOS files because it has its own implementation of the Dreamcast’s BIOS. Like Demul, the emulator was originally open-source, but in early 2018 it went closed source, which sparked some (overly dramatic) discussion. redream is a promising emulator, but there are a few concerns when it comes to using it in general and specifically for emulating SA1:
    1) You need to register on the website before you can download the emulator.
    2) The free version of the emulator only supports 1x internal resolution, which means you can’t play Dreamcast games in anything other than 640×480 (scaled or not), like with Demul’s “new” GPU plugin. The paid version costs $5 and removes the limitation.
    3) The same point about shader compilation on Demul applies to redream, although it happens less often (this may change in the future when more features are emulated properly).
    4) As of August 2018, redream has several issues with SA1 stemming from emulation inaccuracy:

    • Fog is not yet emulated, which means you won’t see any fog at all. In SA1 fog is used not only for performance reasons and to hide pop-in, but also to enhance the game’s atmosphere. Some levels, such as Emerald Coast, will look fine, but others, like Windy Valley 3 or Final Egg, will have issues because of this.
    • Audio emulation is still not quite accurate. This manifests in many sound effects having the wrong pitch, being cut off, too loud/quiet, delayed, not played at all, missing effects/transitions etc. I’ve outlined some of the sound issues with SA1 here, but there are many more.

    With the above things taken into account I can’t recommend redream over Demul for emulating SA1, but it certainly has the potential to become the best Dreamcast emulator for this purpose. Like reicast, it’s updated almost daily, and has a nice community on Discord, where you can talk with the developer directly to receive support, report bugs and suggest new features. You can also do that on the issue tracker.

    To sum up, if you want to emulate SA1 comfortably on PC, you will need:

    • A modern PC with a powerful GPU
    • The latest version of Demul configured for 16 or 32 transparent layers. Use the old GPU plugin if you want to play in higher resolutions.
    • A GDI rip of the game. Note: don’t use CDI rips with emulators – in most cases CDI rips have downsampled video and audio, and older SA1 rips had a glitch that made it difficult to get out of the sewers after obtaining the Light Speed Dash upgrade. GDI rips don’t have this problem.
    • A Dreamcast controller with a USB adapter for PC, or something like the X360 controller. Note: depending on the controller you may be unable to make Sonic run in a straight line, or use Amy’s spinning hammer attack.
    • Be ready for minor stuttering as the emulator builds shader cache.

    Before you try the above, you might want to give the modded PC version a chance. Using the PC version has a lot of advantages:

    • System requirements are going to be much lower. Although the Lantern Engine (Dreamcast lighting) mod is quite taxing on the CPU, the game is still much less demanding than a Dreamcast emulator.
    • You can run the game at 60 FPS and in any resolution you want without any complicated hacks. The Mod Loader allows the game to run in true widescreen without stretching.
    • While the PC version doesn’t use order-independent transparency (although that might change someday), the majority of transparency issues with Dreamcast assets have been fixed, up to the point that the game is visually indistinguishable from the Dreamcast version most of the time. There are still some things missing, but for the majority of people who aren’t obsessed with 100% accuracy this isn’t a problem.
    • You can run in a straight line using the keyboard, and with the input mod you don’t have to worry about your controller not being sensitive enough for SA1.
    • You can install HD textures for the majority of menus instead of having to deal with stretched 640×480 assets from the original game.
    • The debatably superior SA2B Chao system is still in the game, and you can keep using it with or without Dreamcast gardens.
    • Most importanly, you can customize the game in any way you want! The mods are highly configurable: you can toggle between SA1/SADX looks for any stage, and enable or disable various extras (such as the Casinopolis Cowgirl from the Japanese 1998 release of SA1). Of course, you can also make your own mods that change levels, lighting, models etc.

SA1 vs SADX water

One of the more noticeable changes introduced in SADX is new water textures in some stages and the distortion effect exclusive to the Gamecube version. The Gamecube’s TEV (Texture Environment) system allows for various kinds of texture manipulation, which could be used for many things including shadows, bump mapping or, in the case of SADX, underwater effects. In a sense, the water effects SADX had on the Gamecube were quite good for their time – not rare, because some PC games already had similar effects, but certainly remarkable for the hardware level. This page is going to focus on water textures and effects in different versions of the game.

Part of the reason the seashore textures were made less vibrant in SADX Emerald Coast is the way the water is implemented. It uses additive blending in SADX, and having green seashore textures together with it would make the water look like neon lights or acid. In fact, it already looks like acid sometimes, especially in the PC version:

The biggest problem with SADX water is lack of consistency. The water was updated to use additive blending only in Adventure Fields, Emerald Coast and the Chao Gardens (and not everywhere in the gardens – for example, in the Mystic Ruins garden the water in the background uses a “normal” blending mode, while the water in the garden itself is “acidic”). The rest of the game uses Dreamcast water textures and it looks jarring. For example, in the following area the Dreamcast version uses the same water texture as Twinkle Park, Lost World and Hot Shelter. In SADX it was updated to use an “acid green” texture, but none of the other SADX Action Stages have those water textures or use that blending mode. It makes Emerald Coast stand out among the rest of the stages. It feels as if the game was being reworked, but the developers stopped halfway. The Dreamcast version was consistent with water blending modes at least.

Dreamcast
Gamecube
PC

The distortion effects in the Gamecube version look strange and out of place in a game that hasn’t had its graphics updated otherwise. One might say the water looks more “realistic” in comparison with the more modest effect in the Dreamcast version, but the Gamecube screenshot below doesn’t look too realistic with excessive distortion. Some people may also consider it distracting because it makes it harder to navigate underwater. It gets worse when you’re moving around because the distortions are constantly moving as well. It also doesn’t work well with shadow animations on the pool sides and bottom. It could have ended up looking better if the effect was toned down a little. The Dreamcast version didn’t have distortion effects, but it still managed to convey the feeling of being underwater using a slight blue tint on the screen. The PC version has neither the distortion nor the tint effect, which makes it the worst of all three.

Dreamcast
Gamecube
PC

Some people prefer the strong distortions of the Gamecube version, others may prefer the more straightforward effect of the Dreamcast version. It’s hard to say which version is superior because in all honesty neither of the two is particularly impressive. There is a major flaw in the Gamecube version’s effect that ruins the whole “realism” part, however. The distortion occurs not only on things below the water surface, but also on things that are above it. Here’s a screenshot from Station Square to illustrate it more clearly. Look at Sonic’s head and the lamp post, which are obviously not underwater:

To be fair, this issue is difficult to work around even in modern games. The problem appears whenever there is a non-displaced object bordering a displaced one. When a pixel is displaced, there needs to be something put in the old pixel’s place. However, if what is there shouldn’t be “warped”, you have to fill it in with something, which is usually “wrong” (special thanks to Dude for explaining the technicalities behind this). Here are screenshots from a 2017 PC/PS4 game NieR: Automata and another screenshot from Sonic Forces* with the same issue:

* The Sonic Forces screenshot was taken in an area that is not accessible normally and with a free camera mod (thanks to RobowilOFFICIAL for providing the screenshot). The artifacts are harder to see during regular gameplay.
In general it’s quite difficult to notice these artifacts in other games because level and camera design accommodates for it. However, when SADX was being ported to the Gamecube, no adjustment was done to minimize the artifacts. As a result, this common problem is more obvious in this game compared to other games.

Another problem with the distortion effect is that it makes the underwater texture animations look worse. This goes back to the argument that such effects are generally incompatible with this game’s design. The developers tried to adjust the animations by making them less visible, but that didn’t help much. The PC version doesn’t have the distortion effect, but retains the washed-out animations, which now look heavily downgraded when compared against the Dreamcast original.

Dreamcast
Gamecube
PC

Interestingly the Steam and nextgen console ports of SADX have leftover shader code for water distortion, which suggests that the Gamecube-like water effects were being considered for the updated ports at some point. Unfortunately these effects were not implemented in these ports, so the Gamecube version remains the only version of the game with underwater distortion. Dreamcast and Gamecube underwater effects are currently being researched in this GitHub issue, and eventually you might see them in the PC version with the Lantern Engine mod. Check this section for more information on mods for the PC version.

SADX vs SA1 extra content

Perhaps the biggest part that makes up the “Deluxe” or “Director’s Cut” branding of SADX is the “new” content that wasn’t available in the original Dreamcast version. Extra content adds to the game’s replay value and gives the player another chance to visit Action Stages and Adventure Fields with side quests that aren’t part of the main story. This concept works well in 3D adventure games, so it’s no wonder something like that was attempted in SADX too. However, much like everything else in the port, most of the new content is not exactly original, and often comes off as boring and uninspired. Before discussing it in detail, let’s summarize what the “DX” content offers in the following list:

  • Mission Mode: 60 mini-quests are available by starting the game in Mission Mode and picking up Mission Cards
  • Mini Game Collection (Gamecube/PC 2004 only): getting emblems and completing missions unlocks several 8-bit Sonic games that are playable via a built-in SEGA Game Gear emulator
  • Achievements and online leaderboards (Steam/nextgen consoles only)
  • Collecting all emblems unlocks Metal Sonic as a playable Trial Mode character, whereas in the original game emblems didn’t unlock anything
  • Adventure Fields have maps, which can be accessed from the Pause menu
  • There’s a Manual Camera mode that you can select in the Pause menu
  • During the story, you can see Cream flying around several times

To be fair, that’s quite a lot of extra content for just a port of an older game. It wouldn’t be a problem if it was well implemented; however, as you probably know by now, it’s never the case with SADX. Let’s start with the least problematic aspects of the new content and discuss some of its relatively minor design flaws:

  • The honeycomb transition used in the Mini Game Collection menus is never used elsewhere in the game, which looks jarring. The only other time the honeycomb pattern can be seen in a menu is some Adventure Field maps, but those are not animated and use a different background, and not even all maps have it. It’s quite obvious that the menu was carelessly slapped on top of the original game without much care for the style of the original menus. One could argue that the original menus were crap anyway, which is true, but this lazy and inconsistent attempt to add a new menu doesn’t improve the overall picture.

  • The rest of the menus for extra content don’t have any transitions at all, which makes it even more jarring. For example, the tutorial for Mission Mode doesn’t have background fade animations unlike its Adventure Mode counterpart. It also clashes in style with Adventure Mode tutorials because it uses a different font and has screenshots featuring SADX Sonic and environments, whereas the tutorials weren’t updated in the port and are still featuring SA1 characters and environments. Adventure Field maps and Mission Mode stats also just pop up without any fade or zoom animation, which makes them look rough and unfinished. In the original game all menus except the pause box have animations, so it’s quite easy to tell what was in the game originally and what was slapped on later.
  • The pause menu in the Game Gear emulator is inconsistent with the rest of the game. Instead of a violet rectangle it’s a rounded rectangle like the pause menu in the Dreamcast version, but its background color doesn’t match either version of the game. The buttons are also inconsistent with other menus in either game.
  • The Game Gear emulator doesn’t scale with the resolution in the PC version, which means the game will be in a small window in the center of the screen at any resolution higher than 640×480. This makes the Game Gear games nearly unplayable at higher resolutions such as 1080p or 4K.
  • The Mission Mode stat screen tries to imitate the style of the Character Select screen, but fails because its fonts are visibly different and because it’s missing a fade transition.

The issues described above can be annoying to some people, but they aren’t dealbreakers and can be considered nitpicking for the most part. However, these are also good indicators of the lack of effort put into the ports, including the extra content. Let’s move on to something more substantial to see how it manifests in the extra content’s quality.

The Mission system is the largest scale addition to SADX, and probably the most valuable too because it gives you a reason to revisit the stages and fields. However, the problem with SADX missions is that most of them are incredibly lame. This Sonic Wikia page lists all 60 SADX missions and what you need to do to complete them. There’s also a video walkthrough of all missions. Here are some of our favorites:

Bring the man who is standing in front of the burger shop! – this gets a pass as a tutorial to get the player used to the way Mission Mode works, but the objective doesn’t make much sense. Bring the man where? And why?

He is going to drown! Help the man in the water! – “He” is just a reskin of the burger shop statue, with no movement, dialog or animations. So you’re “rescuing” a statue from drowning? Why? In essense, this is just a copy of Sonic’s first mission in a different location.

Lonely Metal Sonic needs a friend. Look carefully. – One of the stupidest missions in the entire game. Sure Metal Sonic will feel better if he has a burger shop statue staring back at him. Again this is just a copy of Sonic’s first mission.

Who is Chao a good friend with? And what is hidden underneath it? – Apart from sounding like an awkward translation from Japanese, this mission doesn’t make much sense. What’s hidden underneath what? Oh, you have to dig next to the billboard with a picture of Cream.

I hate this dark and filthy pace!’ Can you find it? – Continuing the tradition of bad translation/spelling and treating Cream’s billboard as Cream herself. If it’s Cream saying that, why not just have her standing in that place instead of the billboard? That sure makes more sense than her broken cameos in Station Square that force rotate the camera against your will so that you could see her at all, but we’ll get to those later.

Perhaps the developers wanted to make the missions sound ironic or humorous, although that would probably be giving them too much credit because the rest of the game didn’t receive much love or polish either, so it’s safe to assume they just lazied out on those missions. There’s an opinion that part of the fun is figuring out what you have to do from vague mission instructions. However, compared to the main game the missions are extremely low quality.

There are many more examples of bad/stupid SADX missions, but I think even with the above it’s possible to notice some patterns. In general, all SADX missions fall into one of the following categories:

1. Take the burger shop statue (or a reskin of it) and carry it from one place to another.

2. Find a preset object (billboard, flag, balloon, Sonic token) and touch it.

3. Destroy X badniks and optionally go somewhere.

4. A variation of 2/3: press a button to activate a timer and destroy or collect X objects before the time runs out.

5. Collect X rings and optionally go somewhere or touch an object from 2.

6. (Big’s missions) Catch a pre-determined fish in a specific place.

On the surface these don’t sound too bad, and it was entirely possible to create, say, 20 fun and unique missions, but the developers went for quantity over quality. As a result, the missions are dumb and uninspired. One could argue that the missions are simplistic on purpose, to appeal to younger audiences. My counter-argument to that is, the missions are still extremely low quality, and simplicity wise they don’t fit the main game at all.

Apart from stupid missions SADX also has missions that abuse the game’s buggy physics system and are incredibly frustrating as a result. For example, in Mission 53 you have to perform a series of very specific jumps, which is quite difficult – not because it’s challenging, but because the physics are kind of broken. Mission 54 is only slightly less frustrating.

Some missions are frustrating because they make you fight both the physics and the camera. In Mission 58 you have to collect all flags in Lost World Act 2 while the falling rock chases after you. It’s impossible to complete from the first time because you can’t even see the flags from that camera angle, so the entire mission is just trial and error. It’s not fun at all because the best way to beat it is to let the rock roll down all the way and then climb back up to the path where you came from while fighting the camera.

The lack of effort put into Mission Mode is also illustrated by miscellaneous issues. We’ve already established that mission descriptions suffer from poor translation. In addition, they break the game’s general rule of using only two lines of text at a time. Mission Mode is the only area in the game where this rule gets broken:

The objects used in Mission Mode aren’t particularly unique: only the billboards and flags are new objects. SADX recycles models from the main game for mission objects: overused Spinner enemies, the balloon is Amy’s escape balloon, Sonic tokens use the same model as the spinning Sonic coins in Casino, and the Mission Card is the employee ID card used in the original game for getting passage to Speed Highway.

So, SADX missions are dumb, frustrating, samey and unoriginal, but perhaps they’re better than nothing at all? Maybe, but the Dreamcast version also had extra content, and in some ways it was quite a bit richer than the lackluster Mission Mode. So let’s talk about Sonic Adventure DLCs and compare them against SADX missions.

Before discussing the DLCs, let me just get one thing out of the way. Some people claim that Sonic Adventure’s extra content requires the Dreamcast to be connected to the Internet and, because the official SA1 website went down, this content is no longer accessible, so SA1’s extra content is “a moot point”. This is not the case at all. First of all, the SA1 website has been brought back online by dedicated fans, and you can access it the same way you could in 1999 – complete with monthly events you can participate in! Secondly, you can get the DLCs without connecting the Dreamcast to the Internet – by using one of the VMU backup CDs. SADX still has the advantage of having all the extra content bundled directly with the game, of course.

If you do access the SA1 website, however, it gets pretty close to SADX in terms of features. There are maps for Adventure Fields, gameplay tips for each character, and the Chao Daycare system where you can upload your Chao. The site also has the Chao Black Market where you can buy rare Chao for emblems (this was the purpose of SA1 emblems all along, but the feature never worked in the US when the Dreamcast was still officially supported). But most importantly, the event DLCs.

Sonic Adventure was one of the first console games to have DLCs, which were all free. After downloading a small file onto the VMU, new content was unlocked in the game. Even though the DLCs were simple in nature, it was pretty fascinating for a 1998 game. I’ve recreated Dreamcast DLCs as a mod for SADX, so you can experience them in the PC version. In this post we aren’t going to talk about every DLC, but here’s a post that describes all of them, and in the playlist below you can watch all of the DLCs in action.

Yes, SA1 had only a few DLCs, and many of them were simple decorations rather than new challenges. However, the DLCs were more unique than SADX missions. Every DLC added some unique objects, be it Reebok shoes, Christmas trees or gold rings to celebrate the year 2000. The DLCs are also superior to SADX missions in several ways:

1) The DLC system allows to add new assets without touching the base game. In theory, even today it’s still possible to create custom SA1 decorations and challenges that add completely new models, textures, sounds and music without hacking the main game. By contrast, SADX uses a set of hardcoded “mission objects” discussed earlier, though it can also load any object from a specific level’s object list (such as the “fugitive” in Red Mountain). That apart, the SA1 system is more versatile and “futureproof” than the hardcoded SADX system.

2) The timers and counters used in SA1 DLCs can work across different stages, which makes it possible to create challenges spanning across several locations (for example, the QUO DLC takes place in both Station Square and the Mystic Ruins). SADX counters and timers reset as soon as you leave the area, so all SADX missions are restricted to one act in one level.

3) Despite being simplistic overall, SA1 DLCs provide more content than SADX missions. For example, there are no SADX missions that change music (Christmas 98 and 99, Y2K, Samba GP) or add new Twinkle Circuit courses (Samba GP) – even though there are five unused Twinkle Circuit courses still in the game, SADX makes zero use of them. SA1 DLCs also change the stages a lot more – apart from decorations (that are also not found in SADX missions), SA1 DLCs sometimes add new platforms or obstacles (AT&T challenges). As basic as the DLCs are, they still seem more creative than SADX missions.

4) Even though the Steam and nextgen console versions of SADX have online leaderboards (which SA1 also had), there’s no competitive element to the missions. By contrast, SA1 events offer time challenges where you can compete with other players. Back in the day there were even real life prizes! But even today you can still compete against other players in those challenges if you connect your Dreamcast to the Internet (AT&T, Reebok, Samba GP etc.).

With all of the above taken into consideration, I think it’s safe to say that SADX Mission Mode wins quantity and challenge wise, while SA1 DLCs win quality, variety and creativity wise. So in some ways, downloadable events in a 1998 game (the biggest being <50KB in size) are more varied and creative than missions in a 2003 game that had the advantage of using more powerful hardware and being able to store more extra content on the disc.

Now let’s talk about the most useless and gimmicky part of SADX extra content: Metal Sonic. It’s just a crappy skin for Sonic with one extra running animation, and it’s also broken in multiple ways:

1) In all versions of SADX except the Gamecube version his voice clips are missing. Amusing, but not particularly suprising given the overall quality of the ports.

2) When not moving, Metal Sonic’s is always leaning on a side, even when he is standing on a flat surface. It almost looks like some kind of bug, but according to MainMemory it is clearly intentional, judging by the game’s disassembled code. Which only begs the question – what were they even thinking when they came up with this?

3) Metal Sonic’s afterimage effect has transparency problems with almost everything. It’s supposed to look similar to Sonic’s fake “motion blur” in SA1, but it renders behind everything and ends up looking awful. Here’s a typical example seen when jumping on a background that has any sort of transparency:

4) Similar to the updated Sonic model, Metal Sonic has weird looking eyes in his “climbing” animation, though at least the pupils are visible:

5) Minor point, but since Metal Sonic is a robot, why doesn’t water damage him, and why the hell can he drown? Answer: because it’s just a Sonic skin with zero thought and no gameplay changes whatsoever. They could’ve implemented Super Sonic in stages instead of this, especially since leftover data in SA1 indicates that Super Sonic was meant to be playable in Action Stages at some point. Thankfully the fans did what SEGA didn’t – there’s a Super Sonic mod for the PC version.

6) The Metal Sonic model is inconsistent with his other appearances in the game. SADX Metal Sonic looks nothing like the one seen in the tube at the Mystic Ruins base, or the one from Amy’s flashback. This is what Metal Sonic is supposed to look like (alternative screens from vanilla SADX PC: 1 and 2):

Instead, this is what he looks like in SADX:

It’s because the developers used the model from SA2B without much care for the original game’s assets and design. Thankfully the fans outdid SEGA again, and the Dreamcast Characters mod has an option to use the correct Metal Sonic model.

7) When you go to the character select screen after beating a level in Trial Mode as Metal Sonic, vertex welding on all other characters breaks, and you can see the seams between characters’ joints. This is hilarious but also sad because Metal Sonic doesn’t even use vertex welding. It’s even sadder that fixing it was simply a matter of resetting the Metal Sonic flag when loading the character select screen.

To unlock Metal Sonic in SADX, you need to collect all emblems. In the original game the emblems didn’t serve much purpose (other than buying rare Chao via the Black Market website in Japan), so you didn’t have to beat all Chao races or clear all Trial missions as Big, which are commonly known as frustrating. In SADX, however, the game forces you to beat all Big missions and Chao Races to unlock Metal Sonic and get the achievements. While this does make emblem collection more rewarding for some, it makes the game more frustrating to complete for others. But the most pathetic part is that Mission Mode and Metal Sonic are locked behind a paid DLC in the nextgen console ports. So essentially you can’t even 100% the game on the PS3 and Xbox 360 if you don’t buy the “DX” DLC. You also have achievements in the base game that you can’t unlock without buying the DLC.

Finally, let’s talk about Cream. I’ve already mentioned weird missions featuring her billboards, but Cream herself does show up ingame. You can see her flying around Station Square after a cutscene in each character’s story:

From the above video you may have noticed that something’s off about Cream’s overall appearance. This is what she is supposed to look like:

Yes, Cream is broken in all versions of the game except the Gamecube. Her model is missing several textures and looks strangely lit up on PC and in the nextgen console ports.

So, this is about all I can say about extra content in SA1 and SADX. Much like everything else in the ports, a lot of extra content in SADX appears to be poorly thought out, with lazy, sometimes outright broken implementation. Instead of extending the main game with extra content, SADX introduces new content that clashes with original designs and is overall inconsistent with the rest of the game. It’s hard to believe, but in several cases a Dreamcast game that came out in 1998 can pull off more impressive tricks than a supposedly “enhanced” port that came out on a more powerful system 5 years later.

Issues with SADX “enhancements”

Whenever the SA1 vs SADX topic emerges in discussion, the additional features of the port are often mentioned among the supposed advantages SADX offers in comparison to the original game. Along with added content and updated character models, these extra features are also the main reason SADX is called an “enhanced” port. Extra content aside, ultimately it comes down to the following two things:

  • The original Dreamcast game runs at 30 FPS, while SADX runs at 60 or 50 FPS depending on the region
  • In the original game you can’t skip cutscenes, while in SADX you can

Some people say they prefer SADX to SA1 because SADX runs at 60 FPS and everything else doesn’t matter. Some might argue that in a game about fast and precise movement 30 FPS is a dealbreaker. Ultimately it comes down to preferring better visuals with lower framerate in SA1 over better framerate with poor visuals in the supposedly “enhanced” port, or the other way around. However, the increased framerate is a purely technical advantage that scales with the hardware the game is played on. All the developers did in SADX was untick the Dreamcast version’s framerate limiter in other areas of the game. This involved almost no programming effort because this functionality was already there in the original game and, while it’s indeed an advantage, saying SADX is better just because it runs at 60 FPS is like saying the awful PC port is the best version because you can run it at higher resolutions. Technically speaking it’s true to some extent – if there wasn’t a PC version, we wouldn’t have all these mods, for example. It’s fine to prefer whichever version for different reasons, but such technical advantages cannot be used as excuses to defend downgrades to the game’s visual quality and general lack of effort put into the ports. Technical stuff aside, design issues, removed effects and things like poor texture compression still stand. In addition, these technical enhancements are poorly implemented in SADX.

On the surface both 60 FPS and skippable cutscenes are unquestionable improvements. It’s certainly better to have the game running at a higher framerate, and it’s nice to be able to skip cutscenes. However, in SADX these features are inconsistent with the main game, poorly implemented or downright broken.

Let’s start with the framerate “improvement”. First of all, let’s remember that unlocking 60 FPS in this game isn’t a major technological feat per se – the Dreamcast version was originally targeting 60 FPS, but sometime during development it switched to 30 FPS. You can still see the original version running at 60 FPS in some older Sonic Adventure promotional footage. Also, the Dreamcast version runs at 60/50 FPS in Twinkle Circuit and in the menus. SADX merely enables the already built-in functionality for the rest of the game. There are even codes to unlock 60 FPS in the Dreamcast version, although the game certainly struggles with maintaining it on the Dreamcast. It makes sense that it was disabled because even at 30 FPS the Dreamcast struggles in graphically heavy areas like Final Egg 2. Thankfully there are only a few areas in the game where that happens.

From a player’s perspective it shouldn’t matter whether the Dreamcast version had 60 FPS at some point, because the final version doesn’t and SADX clearly improves over the original, but it’s necessary to point out that unlocking 60 FPS didn’t take much time or effort on the developers’ part. Also, don’t forget that the Gamecube, where SADX originally came out, can’t maintain 60 FPS a lot of times in this game, which is arguably more jarring than the more consistent 30 FPS of the Dreamcast version, so the benefit of it on the Gamecube is questionable. It’s quite possible that the incredible amount of removed effects discussed on this blog was the result of trying to hit 60 FPS on the Gamecube. It depends on personal taste, but having to choose between lower framerate but all effects intact and a butchered version of the game at 60 FPS (that aren’t even consistent 60 FPS) is certainly a regrettable state of affairs. Also, although the gameplay can run at 60 FPS in SADX, the cutscenes are locked to 30 FPS in SADX, which may look fine in a “cinematic” way, but now it’s jarring because the rest of the game is running at twice that framerate, and the jump is quite noticeable.

Even though the port switched to 60 FPS, the game’s internal logic was not adjusted properly for the increased framerate, which made it run at double the original speed in many cases. Nearly everything that has any sort of movement or animation is twice as fast in SADX, which results in changing the game’s difficulty (for better or worse), or making certain effects less visible. There are also cases when the increased framerate causes errors in the game’s programming because the internal timers were not adjusted for 60 FPS, and as a result some things don’t behave as intended.

The most recognizable example of the game’s logic not being adjusted properly for 60 FPS is the behavior of the Leon badnik. In the original game it appears, performs a tongue lash attack and becomes invisible, only to appear again in a few seconds if the player is within its sight range. In SADX, however, Leons almost never attack the player, and prefer to disappear almost immediately, making it difficult to attack them, let alone get hit by them. In Knuckles’ Lost World it’s much more difficult to get a piece of the Master Emerald when it’s inside one of these badniks because they keep disappearing.

Here’s another example of this behavior from Windy Valley. Notice how Leon attacks the player on the Dreamcast, but tends to avoid the player on the Gamecube. This happens because the timers used in the badnik’s programming add up too fast at 60 FPS, so it doesn’t get a chance to attack before its time being visible runs out.

Dreamcast
Gamecube

This isn’t the only case when the increased framerate interferes with the game’s programming. Another example is the looping engine noise you hear during the Egg Hornet boss fight. In SADX it loops too early, which makes it sound choppy. However, if you configure the PC version to run at 30 FPS, the problem magically disappears, much like the Leon issue discussed above*.

*Note that the Leon badnik is broken in three ways in the PC port: apart from the framerate issue mentioned above it’s also using hardcoded dimensions of 640×480 to determine whether it should be visible on screen. As a result, the higher the resolution the less likely the Leons will show up at all. Another issue is related to collision, which makes some badniks, including Leons, not spawn at all (this also happens on the Gamecube). The good news is that SonicFreak94 and I fixed all of these issues, and Leons now work properly in the PC version if you’re playing it with SADXFE and/or Dreamcast Conversion.

Here’s a somewhat less serious issue involving the increased framerate. Although character animations were slowed down to work properly at 60 FPS, the function that animates Tails’ tails was not adjusted. As a result, whenever Tails is standing still his tails move too fast. Interestingly the “flying” tail animation is adjusted with the framerate in SADX, but the “standing”, “walking” and “running” animations are not*.

Dreamcast
Gamecube

*This would also make the fake “motion blur” effect on Tails’ tails harder to see, but the effect was removed in SADX altogether. More on that in this section.

Here’s another purely visual issue. When Sonic is inside the tornado in Windy Valley, it’s possible to see that the tornado consists of multiple layers that move at different speeds. However, in SADX the speed of each of those layers at 60 FPS is double the original speed (because the speed multiplier wasn’t adjusted for 60 FPS), so it’s virtually impossible to see the effect. There is a similar problem with Perfect Chaos’ tornadoes, which is discussed in the Bosses post.

Dreamcast
PC

Now let’s talk about the cutscene skip feature. It often comes up as a counter-argument in the SA1 vs SADX debate because supposedly it makes the game more tolerable when replaying the story multiple times or when trying to speedrun it. I think everyone will agree that being able to skip cutscenes is a nice feature, however there are at least three things wrong with skippable cutscenes in SADX:

1) If you’ve tried to skip cutscenes in SADX before, you may have noticed that sometimes you have to press Start multiple times before the cutscene can be skipped. This happens because the game listens for user input during brief periods between things that happen in the cutscene. All of these “wait for cutscene skip” moments are hardcoded, so you can skip cutscenes only at specific moments during each of them. This feature works against speedrunners because it makes the timing imprecise. Unless you keep mashing the Start button well in advance (and even then still), your result is going to be different depending on which frame of the cutscene was playing when the game received your input to skip it.

2) Depending on the cutscene and when exactly you skip it, it’s often possible to get the camera stuck in a strange angle. Skipping cutscenes can also break some animations or cause nonsensical things to happen. For example, you can enter the temple in the Mystic Ruins before it finishes rising from the ground:

Or check out landing on the Egg Carrier, which has some weird stuff happening between cutscenes when you skip them:

3) The cutscene skip feature breaks camera transitions that are supposed to take place after the cutscene has finished, and they break even if you don’t skip any cutscenes.

In the original game the camera often moves back to the player after the cutscene finishes playing. Not all cutscenes do that, and not all of these transitions are smooth, but at least the game tries to make it less jarring. In SADX, however, the camera simply cuts to the player immediately after the cutscene ends. One example of that is the Light Speed Shoes cutscene in the sewers. In the original game the camera zooms out near the end of the cutscene, so the transition is smoother. In SADX, apart from different angles that don’t necessarily work better, the camera abruptly cuts to the view behind Sonic at the end of the cutscene. Unfortunately all cutscenes are affected by this in SADX, even those where the camera transition would make sense.

Dreamcast
PC

In conclusion, it certainly seems that there was little effort invested in the ports, which affected all aspects of it, including the new content and extra features, which are poorly implemented and come off as an afterthought rather than a legitimate attempt to improve the game. Would you prefer to have skippable cutscenes or would you rather have smooth camera transitions? Would you play the game at (non-consistent) 60 FPS with horribly downgraded graphics and broken game mechanics, or would you settle for 30 FPS of the original? Perhaps the most important question is, why do we have to make such choices if this is an “enhanced” port? These added features aren’t worth much considering the enormous amount of downgrades in almost every other aspect of the game. As IndigoRush put it, imagine calling Sonic Genesis on the GBA the definitive version of Sonic 1 just because it added spindash and a save feature.
Thankfully you can play the PC version of SADX with mods that fix the majority of issues discussed on this page. SADXFE fixes Leon behavior, and Dreamcast Conversion introduces tweaks to the game’s logic to accommodate for the increased framerate. In addition, Dreamcast Conversion has an experimental option to restore camera transitions after cutscenes. Learn more about mods in the “Fixing the PC version of SADX” section.

Chao Garden downgrades

Oh yes, I know what you’re thinking. How could the Chao Gardens in SADX be worse than in the original game? For the most part, at least as far as the gardens themselves are concerned, they aren’t. However, much like everywhere else in the game, the improvements made in SADX are far outweighed by the incredible amount of downgrades not only to the gardens, but the Chao system itself. Let’s see what’s wrong with SADX Chao, but first let’s get the positive and neutral differences out of the way.

The Dreamcast version of Sonic Adventure was the first game allowing you to raise Chao. The Chao breeding system in SADX is very different from the one used in the original game. There is a lot of evidence (leftover animation data, Chao Karate textures, data structure similarity and model format seldom used elsewhere in the game etc.) suggesting that the SADX Chao system is the SA2B system slapped on top of SADX engine. I’m no Chao expert and there are much better resources like the Chao Island where you can learn about Chao differences between different games, including SA1, SADX and SA2B. This blog post isn’t going to focus on smaller details like behaviors learned from different animals or new stats. Instead, here’s a list of basic differences between SA1 and SADX Chao:

  1. Chao Adventure vs Tiny Chao Garden. The original game used the Dreamcast’s VMU for a minigame called Chao Adventure. You could put your Chao on the VMU using the VMU Transporter to “take it out for a walk” in Chao Adventure, where you could increase the Chao’s stats and find different fruits. The minigame was also the only way to name the Chao and see its stats in the Dreamcast version, while in SADX you can see the stats when you pick up the Chao, and there’s a name machine in each Chao Garden. The Gamecube version has a different minigame called Tiny Chao Garden (which requires a Game Boy Advance) that has music, colored graphics and more interaction than Chao Adventure. There are different versions of Tiny Chao Garden that come with SADX, Sonic Advance and Sonic Advance 2. The PC and nextgen console versions don’t have any of the minigames.
  2. Chao Daycare vs Black Market. SADX has SA2B’s Black Market, where you can buy Chao eggs, fruits and other items with the rings you’ve collected in Action Stages. You can also get fruits from the Tiny Chao Garden. The original Dreamcast game had an online feature called Chao Daycare, which let you download other people’s Chao and upload your own Chao, and the fruits you could get from Chao Adventure. Although the Dreamcast system had a few cool features (like mating the Chao on the VMU by connecting the VMUs together, or purchasing rare Chao on the online Black Market for emblems – a Japan-only feature), a lot of people prefer the SADX system because you are no longer forced to play the minigames to get fruits that increase specific stats of the Chao, and new Chao eggs can be obtained easily through the Black Market. There are also hats for the Chao to wear.
  3. Chao variety. The original game has fewer Chao breeds. The SADX system has more variety allowing you to raise Chao of different colors and shiny/jewel combinations, as well as Hero and Dark Chao. There are also Tails, Knuckles and Amy Chao that are no longer easy to obtain legitimately. On the whole the SADX system has more genetic combinations, which makes it more fun.

Now that we’ve outlined the main differences between the Chao systems, let’s move on to the gardens themselves. Many people prefer the SADX Chao Gardens, and for a good reason – they have some advantages over the gardens in the original game. Although this is rarely the case for the rest of the game, the Chao Gardens in SADX also have some graphical improvements that don’t look too terrible. For example, look at the water in the Station Square garden, which is pretty good on the Gamecube and kind of okay (just a bit “acidic”) in the PC version. Also note how the columns have more detaled lighting in SADX. Hard to believe, I know!

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The fountain on the Dreamcast looks empty and lifeless, while in SADX it has a Chao statue and running water. Interestingly the Dreamcast version’s SET file has a fountain object defined for this area, but it never shows up ingame. I restored that object’s model (with a different texture) in the Dreamcast Chao Gardens mod, so you can check it out if you’re interested.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The VMU Transporter was redesigned to look like a Gameboy Advance in the Gamecube version, and like a more generic Chao transporter in the PC version. It also has less collision issues than the original. However, the VMU-related status screen was lost, and the PC version’s unnecessary material colors give half of the machine a weird bluish tint:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The Transporter has a rough-looking menu in the Dreamcast version, while SADX uses a cleaner SA2B menu. The PC version looks similar to the Gamecube version except that it no longer has the “Drop off” and “Pick up” options.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

The garden teleporters have received some redesign, but what happened to their effect? It looks odd now without the colorful animation of the original:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

Interestingly the transporter on the Egg Carrier still has the effect, although it looks less vibrant in SADX because of transparency issues and different lighting.

Speaking of the Egg Carrier, the egg found in the prison cell has lost its texture and is now completely black in SADX. This is related to the change in the Chao system, where all black eggs have a solid color instead of a texture. Why not give them a texture, though? The Dreamcast original looks pretty good.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

The palm trees have been redesigned and the basic fruit’s texture is more “cartoony” in SADX:

The palm tree redesign and the added flowers made the transparency issues more obvious than they would’ve been:

Minor quirk, but on the Dreamcast the fruit had a differently colored texture depending on how big it had grown on the tree, but in SADX the fruit’s color is always the same:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

Let’s move on to the Mystic Ruins garden. From a quick look the SADX version of the garden doesn’t seem bad at all (except the sky, which looks somewhat terrible in the evening and night versions). This is one of the locations where SADX uses vertex colors to really enhance the look of the scene:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The terrain and objects are lit the same way regardless of the time of day in the Dreamcast version. This is because the Dreamcast Mystic Ruins garden always loads the day palette file even though there are evening and night lighting files for this stage. It appears to be a planned feature that was disabled due to some issue, or just never completed. You can still see what the stage looks like with those palettes if you play the PC version with Dreamcast mods. Anyway, the original game doesn’t make use of evening and night lighting for the Mystic Ruins garden, and only changes the sky texture. In SADX the developers have split the Mystic Ruins garden’s geometry into three separate versions for every time of day, which allowed to make use of much better lighting unique to each version. This also would’ve helped a lot in Station Square or the Mystic Ruins, but unfortunately the Mystic Ruins Chao Garden is the only area in the game that has different level geometry for different times of day. It’s still less efficient than palettizing a single version of level geometry, but given that the Dreamcast version doesn’t even do that in this stage SADX is the winner here.

The water could’ve been handled better, though. The Dreamcast version uses a water texture that is consistent with the pool in the Mystic Ruins main area. The SADX texture is too transparent to be visible, although the Gamecube’s distortion effect makes up for it somewhat. The PC version’s texture is a mess that looks especially awful during the day and in the evening:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The Dreamcast version has a non-animated background water texture that doesn’t fit well with the sky, SADX attempts to fix that but it still looks a bit awkward. At night it looks almost as if there is no sea at all. In addition, the PC version’s blending mode makes it look pretty awful during the day:
Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The waterfall in the Mystic Ruins garden looks pretty awful in SADX:
Dreamcast

Gamecube

The Egg Carrier garden’s redesign is a lot less problematic. In the original game it was the most buggy and strange looking garden, creating an impression that it was unfinished. Some level geometry around the seashore didn’t stick together, parts of the sea weren’t animated, the bottom of the sea had strange textures and the collision was a bit wonky. Here’s a video demonstrating some of those issues:

In the Gamecube version the seashore received a much cleaner look, with green vertex colors instead of sea wave textures, some decorations in the background and a cool tide effect with distortion:

This looks great (except the ugly color banding in the sky and the alpha rejection issue that makes the water splashes look awful – DC vs GC), but in the PC version there’s a problem. As expected, it lacks the distortion effect of the Gamecube version, but what makes it even worse is that the ocean is completely static. This bug was never fixed in any later ports of the game. How could this even get past quality assurance tests?

The original version of the garden had a few problems – for example, it was possible to drown in the ocean, and sometimes it was difficult to pick up the Chao because they could swim too far. The SADX redesign of the garden fixed the above issues by making the island flatter and the ocean more shallow, which unfortunately also means the variety of terrain features is less impressive in the ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

Finally, let’s discuss the part of the game which is undeniably worse in SADX – the Chao Race. There are many Chao Race downgrades in SADX, so first let’s have a look at a typical Chao Race in all three versions of the game. Watch the three videos while also checking the list below:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

There are many things going on, so here’s a list of problems with the SADX Chao Race:

    1. The Chao Race lobby (Chao Staduim) was playable in the original game. It didn’t serve much purpose, but it was fun to walk around the room and interact with the bowing Omochao. In SADX the interactive lobby was replaced with a non-playable room with a simple menu. The lighting was much better in the original, too.
    2. The menu to select the course and the Chao has a rougher appearance in the original game in comparison with the cleaner menu from SA2B, but there are things it did better. For example, each of the courses had a spinning 3D model of the corresponding jewel (pearl, amethyst, ruby, emerald). The Chao made sounds in the selection screen and reacted with emotions and animations when you selected them. This doesn’t happen in SADX.
    3. The Party Race (Multi-Entry) menu was removed in the PC version. Why?!
    4. Before the final prompt to start the race, the Chao do a little dance animation in the Dreamcast version, while in SADX they do nothing.
    5. The Chao no longer have their name badges floating above them during the Chao Race. They also have two shadows that overlap each other and cause Z fighting.
    6. The “Start” and “Goal” graphics from the original are missing.
    7. Some background sounds are missing, such as the water gushing sound near the waterfall. Some sounds were replaced, for example the jingle at the start of the race is now a barely audible clap/shot.
    8. On the Dreamcast, the Chao react to obstacles and the environment around them, displaying a range of different animations and emotion icons. This doesn’t happen in SADX.
    9. A lot of decorations are missing, such as butterflies and white flowers. SADX attemps to compensate for it by adding a dome with spinning stars and different flowers, but it looks nowhere near as lively as the original game. The Dreamcast version had cheering Omochao standing alongside the track, they are also gone in SADX. Interestingly the code for all these objects is still in the game, but they are never loaded because the game ignores the Chao Race SET file.
    10. In the Dreamcast version the Chao sometimes stop in one area to pick up toys and play with them. This never happens in SADX.
    11. The sky texture is worse in SADX and has atrocious color banding:
      Dreamcast

      Gamecube

      PC
    12. The sea in the background is not animated in SADX. The parts in the foreground that do have animation look awful because the texture itself scrolls instead of a proper water animation like in other parts of the game using that water texture.

There are even more Chao downgrades (for example, the Chao generally make less sounds in SADX despite having a bigger soundbank), but the above are the most obvious. You’d think that porting over the Chao system from a newer game would result in improvements, but unfortunately the SADX Chao system was handled just as poorly as the rest of the game.

 

Boss downgrades

It’s unfortunate, but almost every single area in the game received downgrades in SADX, and the bosses are no exception. In many cases the problems you see in boss battles are related to stage downgrades, but there are also several boss-specific effects broken or removed, and certain issues are specific to the PC port. This post is an all-in-one boss marathon so it’s going to be a little long, but that’s only because all bosses in the game have issues that weren’t there in the original game.

Chaos 0

This is the area you see first when you start the story, and one of the most memorable scenes in the game. Most of the downgrades to this area are the same as Station Square downgrades – for example, window reflections had the environment mapping effect disabled and are now a simple texture. Here’s an overview of the area as seen in the first cutscene:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

You can see that the variety of textures is a bit less impressive in SADX, for example the windows on the police car use the same texture as window reflections. In addition, none of the glass surfaces have the distortion effect that was there in the Dreamcast version. The back lights on the police cars are no longer lit up for some reason.

During the cutscene you can notice that the lights cast on the ground by the police cars are no longer there in SADX:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

When Sonic jumps on top of the police car, you can see that the flashers no longer have a reflective surface, and the rotating pieces inside them are missing:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Those rotating pieces are actually still there, but you never see them because the parts of the police car model are rendered in an incorrect order.

Finally, let’s have a closer look at the police car. Which one do you think looks better – the Dreamcast one with all those reflections going on, or the SADX one, where the reflections were replaced with static low-resolution textures? Even the windshield has lost its textures for some reason.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Some people say the SADX one “looks more like a real car”. That is a pretty dumb argument because 1) this is the wrong kind of realism to be looking for in a game about a cartoon hedgehog, where the environments are supposed to be bright and colorful, and 2) the SADX car isn’t more realistic because it removes the shiny surfaces, which are characteristic of real cars. It’s pretty obvious what the designers of the original game were going for: a visually impressive, cinematic look similar to this. Now look back at the comparisons above and see which one does a better job at recreating that: the one from a 1998 game with metallic reflections, or the one from a 2003 game with plastic surfaces and low-resolution textures?

I’m inclined to believe the only reason they redesigned the car was that it had rendering or performance issues in its original design (which is ironic considering the redesigned model also has rendering issues). The remodeling is also extremely lazy. Here’s what you can see underneath the SADX car if you look at it in a model editor:

The circled areas are leftovers from the Dreamcast model. The developers were so lazy they didn’t even bother to remove them. They just moved those pieces deeper inside the car so that they are no longer visible. “Enhanced port”, yeah.

Right before the battle with Chaos begins, you can see that he looks slightly different in each version of the game:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The greenish glow around Chaos’ chest and torso in the Dreamcast version is added by the palette lighting system, which is missing in the ports. But the most noticeable difference is the blue coloring of Chaos in the PC version. This is not a design change. It’s an oversight in the PC port, which makes the game process material colors even when it’s not needed. The console versions of the game don’t do that (but the nextgen console ports do).

When fighting Chaos, you can see the overall blandness of lighting in the ports, as well as reduced vibrancy of the environment:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Chaos 2

The removal of palette lighting causes Chaos to lose detail on his torso:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

As you play this battle, you notice that the lighting is different, but the most noticeable change is the windows. Now you can barely see the city background through them, and even when you do, it’s missing one layer so the cool “parallax” effect is no longer there. It would still look kind of acceptable, but the added fog makes sure the background is washed out in both ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The columns in this fight are supposed to become transparent when they are close to the camera. This only happens on the Dreamcast, however:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

Chaos 4

The pond has lost the murky green texture and is now more transparent. The reflection effect was also toned down slightly:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Chaos has lost the green specular lighting specific to this area and looks more generic now, although the Gamecube’s distortion effect compensates for it somewhat:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

When fighting Chaos, you can also notice the green glow on rings and characters as they also use a green specular palette in the original game. It’s missing in SADX for obvious reasons:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Did you know that in the Dreamcast version the pond has a green texture while Chaos is swimming in it, but changes to a different texture when you beat him? You can see it briefly before Chaos falls into the pond and after you defeat him. This doesn’t happen in SADX. Not a big deal, but why not?

Chaos 6

This boss has suffered mostly from lighting downgrades. In the Dreamcast version Chaos’ model used a special palette that gave it a dark, intimidating look. The Gamecube version’s attempt to recreate that is only somewhat successful, and the PC version looks like garbage as always:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

During the fight you’ll notice that the green glow on the Eggmobile and some objects is now gone and is given to Sonic instead, and something is wrong with the skybox in the ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The skybox is split into two pieces, and one of them is animated. This is the same as in the Dreamcast version, however in the ports the animated piece has an incorrect Y position (it’s supposed to be below the ship so that you can see it only near the edge of the battle area), which places it right into the sky, creating visible seams between the animated and non-animated layers of clouds:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Perfect Chaos

This boss fight has a lot of downgrades stemming from code bugs in the game’s transparency sorting system, as well as some really bad lighting downgrades. Let’s discuss lighting first, since it’s the first noticeable difference you see right away.

Like Chaos 6, Perfect Chaos also uses a special palette in the Dreamcast version. The ports don’t compensate for it in this case, and Chaos’ model just has no lighting as a result:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The Egg Carrier 2 model has strange white specular lighting in SADX that makes it look ridiculous:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

It’s especially bad when the camera zooms in during the cutscene. The Gamecube version looks bad but passable, but the PC version is complete garbage. Lower texture quality is also quite noticeable if you look at the background:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Now let’s discuss broken or missing effects. This level has several issues, but all of them can be compared in a video. Have a look at what happens when you attack Chaos:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

You can see several problems with the scene compared above:

  1. When Perfect Chaos is hurt, he explodes into water splashes that fly all over the place. The animation for these splashes is stuck on the last several frames in the Gamecube and PC ports, which makes the whole scene a lot less impressive.
  2. The waterfalls have a particle effect at the bottom, which is missing in the ports. Well, it’s not missing, but it shows up only a few times depending on the camera angle. This is caused by a bug in the alpha rejection system, which makes them invisible.
  3. There is some faint mist around Chaos’ location, which also randomly appears and disappears in the ports due to a bug with alpha rejection. More on why that happens in the Transparency section. Most of the time you just don’t see it.
  4. When Chaos emerges from the water, the tornadoes around his body fade in slowly in the Dreamcast and Gamecube versions. In the PC version they just pop in.
  5. On the Dreamcast the tornadoes around Chaos’ body have a cool UV animation that makes them look like they’re spinning in opposite directions. The animation is still there in SADX, but it’s harder to see which direction the tornadoes are spinning because the animation is choppy. This might be the result of increased framerate in the ports.

Let me also briefly mention the Super Sonic model. His body has lost the environment mapping effect and is now using a static yellow texture:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The distortions created by the environment mapping effect react to camera changes, but the yellow texture always looks the same:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Egg Hornet

Apart from losing palettized lighting like the Mystic Ruins, the Egg Hornet battle has some other downgrades. For example, the Egg Hornet model’s reflections are a lot less vibrant in the ports for some reason:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

When Egg Hornet attacks Sonic, it rotates as if it’s digging the ground. This works fine in the original game and the Gamecube port, but the rotations are missing in the PC port:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Egg Walker

This boss fight was updated to reflect the changes made to Station Square, but the cars in this area are still using their shiny Dreamcast models as opposed to the updated SADX models you can see in the Adventure Field. However, the most noticeable problems with this boss are 1) lighting on the Egg Walker model and the rest of the stage, and 2) missing skybox in the PC version:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

If you look closely, you can notice that the sky is slightly more purple in the Gamecube version, which is the same color as the missing skybox in the PC version. This is caused by added fog on the Gamecube, which didn’t translate well in the PC port. The Gamecube version has several fog modes that allow the fog to disperse in different ways, while the PC version only has linear fog, which is why the sky is obscured completely by it. The only thing the developers had to do to fix this in the PC version is to reduce or disable fog, which isn’t even needed in this area.

Egg Viper

This area is suffering from major lighting downgrades and loss of detail, which are noticeable even in the cutscene leading to the boss fight, although the very beginning of it doesn’t look too terrible on the Gamecube (why ruin color variety though?). As always, the PC version is the worst of all:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

This low-resolution wall texture behind Sonic looks like a good area the “enhanced port” could improve upon, but nope. This goes back to my argument that the developers only updated the areas that had rendering issues in their original designs, and the “upgrades” came out of necessity rather than a legitimate attempt to improve the experience. The lighting on Sonic isn’t bad here though:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The area where you see the Egg Viper for the first time suffers from pretty terrible lighting downgrades, with the green shading missing entirely and the Egg Viper model being lit up for no reason on the Gamecube. The PC version is even worse than that:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The walls in the area where you fight the Egg Viper were changed to look more “rusty”, and the spinning dot effect behind the walls was removed. The lighting was also simplified, although the Gamecube version doesn’t look too terrible. But it can’t be called an improvement over the original by any means:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The lighting on the platforms is also simpler in the ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The Egg Viper fight had a few unique lighting effects that barely survived the Gamecube transition (surprisingly), and are completely missing in the PC port. But first, let’s look at the start of the fight to see the spinning dots effect in motion. You can also notice that the Egg Viper model has lost its specular glow in the ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

One of Egg Viper’s attacks is a huge explosion. This explosion also colors the walls red in the Dreamcast version, which looks pretty cool. The effect is still there on the Gamecube, but it isn’t as bright, and the PC port is so broken the effect is missing entirely:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

A similar effect can be seen when Sonic hits the Egg Viper. This time it’s a bright red flash, which is also less bright on the Gamecube and missing completely on PC:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Another effect is seen when the Egg Viper charges a ball of plasma to attack Sonic. On the Dreamcast the walls flash blue with an increasing amplitude. This effect is broken in all ports. On the Gamecube the walls just lose all lighting, and the PC version does nothing at all:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

E-101 Beta

The boss area was redesigned to reflect the changes to the Adventure Field. Other than the dumbed-down character lighting it doesn’t look too bad, maybe even better than the original level. It’s certainly one of the few areas in the game that don’t look terrible:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Zero/E-101R

Apart from the downgrades specific to the Adventure Field where this fight takes place, there are some problems with the E-101R boss. The model loses the subtle pink specular light for generic white gloss in the ports, but the main problem with it is the issue with the glass floor, which is specific to the PC version. You can see that the particle effect has transparency sorting problems with the glass floor on PC:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

When Beta does the ramming attack, the effect around his body is less vibrant in the ports. For some reason it’s blue on the Gamecube and dark grey in the PC port:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Here’s a closer look at the ramming attack, where you can see the simplified lighting and the less vibrant “motion blur” effect:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

As you can see, all bosses have downgrades in SADX, and the boss fights that were the most impressive on the Dreamcast (Chaos 0, Egg Viper, Perfect Chaos) have suffered the most. It’s really sad that a lot of people play the massively downgraded ports of Sonic Adventure on the Gamecube, PC and nextgen consoles without realizing how much inferior they are to the original Dreamcast game.

Sky Chase downgrades

It’s hard to believe, but even the minigames (subgames) received a bunch of downgrades in SADX. Much like the rest of the game, they suffer from bad lighting, poor texture quality, transparency problems and model issues. Sand Hill also has some sound problems, such as certain sounds playing too quietly or missing altogether. However, this time I’m going to focus on Sky Chase since this minigame has received the most noticeable downgrades.

In the PC version, Sky Chase is broken at resolutions higher than 640×480. It becomes very obvious at 1080p or 4K. It’s very difficult to control the Tornado because of increased acceleration that gets multiplied together with the resolution. Some enemies don’t fire at higher resolutions (because their programming uses hardcoded dimensions of 640×480), so it’s much more difficult to get emblems that require a high score.

Before going into visual downgrades I should mention that the Sky Chase models were updated in the ports. During gameplay the original game uses low-poly models that look like something out of Sonic R, even though higher-poly models are used in cutscenes. SADX updates all Sky Chase models with Sonic and Tails onboard the Tornado. Although some people (like me) may not like the SADX models from an aesthetic point of view, this change is not bad.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

There’s a problem with the updated models, however. The lighting on the Tornado is a lot more basic than in the original game (Left – Dreamcast, Middle – Gamecube, Right – PC):

One of the first things noticeable in the ports is that the Egg Carrier is not visible immediately in Act 1. Instead, it gradually pops in as you progress through the stage. This is most likely caused by reduced skybox scale in the ports, which makes the skybox obscure the Egg Carrier model. If skybox scale for Act 1 is set to the same value as in Act 2, the Egg Carrier is visible from the start, like in Act 2.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Another noticeable problem that you can see in the screenshots above is the layering of the sky. The Dreamcast version had smooth transitions between the static clouds and the animated bottom of the skybox, but in the ports the transition is sharper with noticeable color banding. This is caused by two things: transparency order problems and lower texture quality in the ports. In addition, the PC version’s unnecessary processing of material colors gives the bottom of the skybox a dirty look, a problem similar to what happened to the clouds in Red Mountain Act 1. In this case it doesn’t look too terrible, but this isn’t the way it was supposed to look. The Gamecube version doesn’t have this problem.

The transition issue also affects the second act, although it’s less noticeable on screenshots (but still very visible in motion). The sky fades to black smoothly on the Dreamcast, while the Gamecube and PC versions have a clear border separating skybox pieces:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Another issue is with the Tornado’s reticle. On the Dreamcast it has a smooth appearance, while in the ports it looks pixelated. Let’s compare them at 640×480 since the vanilla PC version doesn’t support scaling, and to demonstrate that it’s clearly visible even at low resolutions:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

The Egg Carrier model used in this level is suffering from transparency or material color issues that give the green glass floor a washed-out look:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

It’s especially noticeable in the second act, which uses the same Egg Carrier model:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

What’s interesting is that the Dreamcast model of the Egg Carrier works fine as-is when imported into SADX. It doesn’t have the problem the updated model has. So the developers either tried to fix something that wasn’t broken (and broke it as a result) or deliberately made it look less colorful. To be fair, the updated model of the glass floor has a more rounded look due to a higher polygon count, but that’s no excuse for not sorting the model properly.

The sun flare textures look pretty bad in all versions of the game, but compression artifacts are more noticeable in the ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

In all versions of the game the effect for the giant laser beam goes behind the clouds at the bottom, but the ports make it look worse, especially the PC version:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The texture used for this effect has noticeable quality degradation, especially in the PC version. It’s also mirrored, however here it’s also one of the few cases where the developers at least had the courtesy to compensate for it by increasing the resolution:

In Act 2 the lighting on the Egg Carrier no longer has a yellowish tint in the Gamecube version. In the PC version the lighting is almost completely gone and the background looks noticeably worse because of poor texture quality:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

As you can see, the only good change SADX introduces in Sky Chase is the updated character models. Everything else is plagued by various issues, much like the rest of the game. The minigame is completely broken in the PC port when it’s played at higher resolutions.

Fixing the PC version of SADX

The best way to experience Sonic Adventure without the downgrades described on this blog is to play the Dreamcast version. But if you don’t own a Dreamcast, there are ways to make the PC version a little better. This page will tell you how to improve your SADX experience on PC.

First of all, let’s have a look at some mods that fix issues in SADX, make it more like the Dreamcast version or just improve it in general:

  • SADX Fixed Edition (SADXFE) by SonicFreak94 – fixes a bunch of bugs in the 2004 PC port and adds some minor features. Does not restore Dreamcast assets.
  • Dreamcast Conversion by PkR – restores Dreamcast levels, textures, object models, special effects, menus, branding, etc.
  • Lantern Engine (Dreamcast lighting) by SonicFreak94 – recreates the LANTERN lighting engine from the Dreamcast version in the PC port.
  • Input Mod by SonicFreak94 – fixes issues with XInput controllers (spinning camera bug etc.) and some DInput controllers. A recent update made it compatible with all kinds of DInput controllers, so it’s a must have for anyone using controllers to play the game.
  • Dreamcast Characters Pack by ItsEasyActually – restores Dreamcast character models, includes a different Metal Sonic model and the stretchy feet effect.
  • SADX Onion Skin Blur by SonicFreak94 – restores Sonic’s running “motion blur” effect like in the Japanese version of SA1. Looks best with Dreamcast Characters’ stretchy feet effect!
  • HD GUI 2 by PkR & others – adds high-resolution textures for menus, HUD, tutorials etc.
  • Sound Overhaul 2 by PkR – fixes a lot of sound bugs described in the Sound and Music section and replaces most sound effects with higher-quality sounds ripped from the Dreamcast version.
  • Super Sonic by x-hax – allows to transform into Super Sonic during regular gameplay after beating the Final story.
  • Time of Day by PkR – if you’ve beaten the story, you can change the time of day by taking the train between Station Square and the Mystic Ruins.
  • Dreamcast DLCs by PkR – this mod recreates Dreamcast-exclusive SA1 DLC content in the PC port.
  • Enhanced Emerald Coast by PkR – this mod restores the ocean wave effect in Emerald Coast and fixes a few problems with the SADX version of the level without reverting it to the Dreamcast version.

Now let’s see how to install these mods. Thanks to MainMemory‘s SADX Mod Loader it’s possible to mod the 2004 PC port without altering the game’s executable or resources. With the Mod Loader you can enable or disable various mods and codes, and you can always just turn off the Mod Loader to revert to the original version of the game. Installing SADX mods is relatively easy, but there are also mod installers that can set up everything for you in one go. If you want to download all mods yourself and install them manually, check out this guide. But if you’re only getting started with SADX mods, it might be easier to use a mod installer.

There are two mod installers: BetterSADX and my installer. BetterSADX is meant for the Steam version, while my installer is universal. Both installers replace the Steam version’s executable with the 2004 version to enable Mod Loader support, and install the Mod Loader and some of the popular mods. Let me emphasize that the installers are compilations of mods and tools made by different people. In other words, BetterSADX is not a mod, and my mod installer is not a mod. The authors of BetterSADX didn’t make the majority of mods included with it. About the same for my installer, which does include several mods made by me, but it also has many other people’s mods available for install. In my installer you can see the full list of credits on one of the first pages, and BetterSADX has a credits list on its download page.

Note: as of June 2018, the lead maker of the BetterSADX installer has left the project and recommends to use my installer instead, although BetterSADX is still being maintained. More here.

The installers have a slightly different selection of mods and use fundamentally different approaches to patching the PC version and installing mods. I’m going to recommend using my installer because I designed it to be more flexible than BetterSADX, but here’s a comparison:

BetterSADX SADX Mod Installer
Steam Steam, 2004, DC Collection/Remastered, can also be installed over BetterSADX
~0.97 GB (4.3.2) From <3MB to 1.3GB depending on selected mods
Replaces SADX Steam sounds and FMVs with SADX 2004 sounds and movies Converts SADX Steam sounds and FMVs into formats compatible with SADX 2004
Has 3 fixed configurations:
1) Dreamcast
2) Standard
3) Minimal/Speedrun
Has 3 fixed configurations:
1) Dreamcast mods
2) SADX + enhancements
3) Minimal/Vanilla
Also has a Custom mode that allows to select individual mods to install, and a Guide mode that shows comparison screenshots to help you decide which mods to install
No config customization, overwrites SADXModLoader.ini with one of the preset configurations, but auto-detects fullscreen resolution (new feature in 4.3.1) Allows to set resolution, framerate settings, HUD scaling etc. before installation (in Custom mode), auto-detects desktop resolution
Generates a config file for the Mod Loader with all selected mods sorted for compatibility, preserves individual mod settings
Requires to redownload the whole package when new mods are added or old mods are updated You only need to update the installer executable (<3MB, it can update on its own too) to be able to install new mods
You can also update the Mod Loader and the mods included with the installer via a built-in update check
Works offline Works online and offline, can download new/missing mods automatically
Installs sonic.exe and CHRMODELS.DLL from the 2004 port, adds a custom sonic.exe icon from my installer Installs CHRMODELS.DLL and/or sonic.exe only if needed, can also add a custom icon for sonic.exe (3 icons available)
Updates Visual C++ 2013, 2015 and 2017 runtimes and .NET Framework Updates DirectX, .NET Framework and Visual C++ runtimes from 2010 to 2017
Adds an “Improved Voice Clips” mod with higher quality ADX voices from DC/GC that include Metal Sonic clips For Steam/DC Collection port: replaces some ADX voice clips in the system folder with higher quality ADX voices from DC/GC, adds missing Metal Sonic clips
For 2004 port: adds a separate mod with ADX voices and music for the whole game

Previous versions of this page had a section on BetterSADX problems. Prior to version 4.2 BetterSADX came with old, incompatible and/or redundant mods that tended to break Dreamcast mods if the player wasn’t careful enough. There was a potential issue with the “MimicDCTextures” mod used together with the Dreamcast Characters mod, but as of 4.3.4 BetterSADX no longer includes Dreamcast Characters, which resolves the issue but makes Dreamcast character models unavailable. Prompted by the issues people were having with BetterSADX’s bundling of my mods, I reworked Dreamcast Conversion and HD GUI to use hardcoded PVM and BIN filenames, which should hopefully eliminate almost all mod incompatibilities for good.
Another issue with BetterSADX is that it perpetuates the ineffective update system – instead of just updating the mods through the Mod Loader, people are advised to download a new version of BetterSADX each time, which wastes space and bandwidth and doesn’t always contain the latest versions of mods anyway. Version 4.3.3 in particular shipped with a bug in Dreamcast Conversion that crashes the game. I fixed the bug as soon as it was reported to me, and it doesn’t exist in the “official” Update 10 version of the mod.

For people using lots of different mods together here’s a list of known mod compatibility/redundancy issues:

  • Old/Beta/Autodemo Windy Valley by x-hax – turn off Windy Valley in Dreamcast Conversion config to make this mod work with other Dreamcast levels.
  • Autodemo Levels by x-hax – turn off the Dreamcast counterparts of the levels in Dreamcast Conversion config
  • MimicDreamcastTextures by CheatFreak & TheArcadeStriker – incompatible with Dreamcast Characters Pack if loaded after it – the version bundled in BetterSADX 4.3.1 will crash the game.
  • WaterFixes by IndyTheGreat – only works with SADX Mystic Ruins and Chao Gardens. You can disable or remove it if you use Dreamcast levels, though it should no longer cause any issues.
  • Enhanced Emerald Coast by PkR – incompatible with Dreamcast Emerald Coast. Use the SADX Style Water setting in Dreamcast Conversion to get similar looking water, or disable Emerald Coast in the config.
  • XInput Button Prompts by CheatFreak (original version included with BetterSADX prior to 4.2) – the assets in this mod are not in HD, which was previously causing problems with HD GUI. It should no longer cause any issues, although the assets from this mod won’t be loaded if HD GUI is enabled. There’s a newer version of this mod compatible with HD GUI.
  • DLC Circuits by CheatFreak – technically compatible, but somewhat redundant because the Dreamcast DLCs mod has similar functionality but with more options. You can keep it if you want to access the extra courses from the Trial menu.

In addition, here’s a list of mods that are deprecated and should no longer be used:

  • Mystic Ruins Final Egg Base Fix by PkR – this mod has been deprecated and the fix is now part of both SADXFE and Dreamcast Conversion. Please remove it.
  • Egg Carrier Garden Ocean Fix by PkR – this mod has been deprecated and the fix is now part of SADXFE (not needed with Dreamcast levels). Please remove it.
  • SET Layout Fixes by supercoolsonic – this mod is now integrated into Dreamcast Conversion and no longer does anything when loaded separately. Please remove it.
  • Casinopolis Cowgirl by PkR – deprecated mod that no longer does anything. Please remove it.
  • Disable SA1 Title Screen by PkR – deprecated mod that no longer does anything. Please remove it.

Although the hardcoded textures in my mods have helped the situation, the following problems may still happen if incompatible mods are enabled at the same time or not ordered properly:

  • Depending on the mod order, incompatible mods can overwrite each other’s textures and cause visual glitches or crash the game. Usually it’s possible to keep both incompatible mods enabled if you order them correctly, but not always: for example, the “Old Windy Valley” mod isn’t compatible with Dreamcast Windy Valley regardless of mod order – you have to disable the Dreamcast level.
  • If two mods replace the same level, object layout or start coordinates may get messed up, and the level will be unplayable.
  • Having more mods enabled (especially those that load texture packs) makes the game start up slower.

Assuming you’ve installed and arranged the mods let’s discuss their configuration. Some mods come with configurable settings, which can be customized in the Mod Loader’s config editor – just select the mod and press “Configure…”. The options are self-explanatory for the most part. Here are some options you can change in Dreamcast Conversion:

  • Title screen customization (logo size, ripple effect etc.), enable or disable Cream cameos
  • Enable or disable individual levels/bosses, as well as Dreamcast-related branding
  • Enable or disable alternative water textures that look more like SADX water
  • Enable or disable the Cowgirl from the Japanese version of SA1
  • Dreamcast Chao Gardens: enable or disable individual Chao Garden replacements and the Chao Race lobby
  • Enable or disable the ingame water ripple effect from the Dreamcast version
  • Enable or disable the original subtitle fonts, as well as their colorization
  • Enable or disable FMV colorization and smoother FMV skip transition

Here are some options for other mods:

  • Dreamcast DLCs – “vanilla SADX mode” to make the DLC content work without Dreamcast levels, run different DLCs during different months, select which extra Twinkle Circuit each character goes to etc.
  • Input Mod: this mod has a lot of configuration options that are listed on the mod’s page
  • Dreamcast Characters Pack: toggle between the low-poly Sky Chase models and higher quality models that the original game used only in cutscenes, enable or disable the stretchy feet effect completely or after the Light Speed Shoes are obtained, enable or disable the alternative Metal Sonic model

Here are some comparison shots (Left – Dreamcast, Middle – PC without mods, Right – PC with mods):

In addition, my installer has the following comparison for Dreamcast Conversion and Lantern Engine (warning: large image).

Keep in mind: while the mods restore a lot of Dreamcast assets, they aren’t identical to the Dreamcast version, and some things are still missing. For a list of issues and things that haven’t been restored, you can check out GitHub issue trackers for Dreamcast Conversion, Dreamcast Characters Pack and Lantern Engine, as well as the “What’s still missing” page on ModDB.

Final words

Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut is commonly referred to as an “enhanced port” of the original game. However, every single area in the ports has downgrades worth a 1000-2500 word essay. As this blog demonstrates, SADX is a massive letdown that not only fails to convey the atmosphere of the original game, but is also riddled with technical issues and design problems. The broken ports are still being advertised and sold on Steam, the Playstation Network and the Xbox Marketplace as the supposed “definitive” version of the game. These ports are such an incredible mess that people who play them first get a negative impression of Sonic Adventure, thinking it has always been a terrible game.

Some even attempt to argue that everyone who likes SA1 is “blinded by nostalgia” and that the game was received poorly even when it came out, which is not the case at all. In reality, while the original game has some flaws and some aspects of the game may not have aged well (reminder: we’re talking about a game that came out in 1998/1999), the ports have done such a massive disservice to the original that a lot of people find it hard to believe the game was ever good to begin with.

It also doesn’t help that SEGA have been deliberately misleading people and fooling them into thinking that the terrible nextgen console ports are the same as the Dreamcast version, using SADX screenshots alongside mentions of the Dreamcast version, or flat out lying. For example, check out this comment on the SEGA blog that was made by a SEGA employee on the day of the X360 release and 5 days before the PSN release of “Sonic Adventure”:

There is enough evidence on this blog to demonstrate that the “enhanced port” and “return of the Dreamcast” PR speak is nothing but blatant false advertising. The situation with SA1 ports can be compared to games like Aliens: Colonial Marines or No Man’s Sky, which are notable for their initial release versions being vastly different (for the worse) from pre-release footage. But with those games, the developers at least attempted to address some of the complaints. All we ever got with SADX was an even more broken Steam port that was patched once with some of the vaguest patch notes possible. None of the glaring issues plaguing the port were fixed in the update. Even the Game Gear games (a feature from the 2004 PC port that technically exists but isn’t accessible via normal means in the Steam version) were not added back, and they also managed to introduce new problems… I think it’s safe to say that SEGA have given Sonic Adventure the worst treatment imaginable.

It only took several months for dedicated fans to fix the majority of SADX downgrades in mods by reverse engineering the game with no access to the source code. Imagine what the fans could do if they had the source code of SADX? We would fix everything and make the definitive version of the game on PC, perhaps even port it to other platforms! Of course it’s very unlikely that SEGA will ever give us the source code, even though the original game is over 18 years old. But if there’s a lot of buzz about the quality of the ports, maybe SEGA will do something and try to make them a little better. Who knows!

Your feedback

Feel free to comment on this post to share your opinion on SADX downgrades.

Upset that the version of the game you grew up with is complete trash? You can vent out your frustrations here. Want to defend some of the changes in SADX or point out an error in the comparisons? Suggest something we missed perhaps? This is also the right place to do it.

If you haven’t yet, please take a look around to familiarize yourself with the things discussed on this blog. We welcome informed opinions rather than baseless claims!

This is also sort of a guestbook for this blog, so you can share your impressions, report technical problems with different pages or request new sections.

There are no specific rules and I won’t delete comments offering a different perspective (after all, this section is all about it), but I will delete offensive and toxic comments, so at least make an attempt to be nice if you want yourself to be heard. If you write something really stupid or make a completely unsubstantiated claim, I won’t delete it, but don’t expect a response either.

The comments are moderated for spam. All non-spam comments will be approved.