The Dreamcast version of Sonic Adventure was the first Sonic game allowing you to raise Chao. The Chao breeding system in SADX has many differences 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. There are dedicated 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. The SADX Chao Gardens have some advantages over the gardens in the original game as well as some graphical improvements that don’t look too bad. For example, the water in the Station Square garden looks 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.
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. Either way, the Gamecube version has a better looking fountain.
The VMU Transporter was redesigned with the top looking like a Gameboy Advance in the Gamecube version, and like a more generic Chao transporter in the PC version (unfortunately both redesigns bear an uncanny resemblance to a squat toilet). 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 strange bluish tint (a similar issue to SA2B):
The Transporter has a rough-looking menu in the Dreamcast version, while SADX uses a much cleaner looking SA2B menu. The PC version looks similar to the Gamecube version except that it no longer has the “Drop off” and “Pick up” options.
The garden teleporters have received some redesign, but their effects have been removed. The transporter looks odd now without the colorful animation of the original:
Interestingly the transporter on the Egg Carrier still has the effect, although it looks slightly 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. The Dreamcast original (which is a two-tone black Chao egg rather than monotone black in SADX) looks a bit more interesting.
The palm trees have been redesigned and the basic fruit’s texture looks a bit more “cartoony” in SADX:
The palm tree redesign and the added flowers are nice, but they made the transparency issues more obvious than they would’ve been:
In the Dreamcast version, 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:
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 broken 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:
The terrain and objects are lit the same way regardless of the time of day in the Dreamcast version. The original game doesn’t make use of evening and night lighting for the Mystic Ruins garden, and only changes the sky texture. 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 have been 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 Lantern Engine and Dreamcast Conversion. 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. Arguably 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 has a strange looking water texture that doesn’t look like water, especially during the day and in the evening:
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 water texture looks strange during the day:
The waterfall in the Mystic Ruins garden is different and looks a bit broken in SADX due to alpha rejection:
The Egg Carrier garden was the most buggy and strange looking garden in the original game, 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. 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. It looks better (except the color banding in the sky and the alpha rejection issue that makes the water splashes look worse – DC vs GC), but in the PC version there is 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. For a final version of the product that was re-released and shipped on several different platforms, this is quite an embarrassing oversight, particularly because it affects one of the few areas in the game that received a substantial redesign in the supposedly “enhanced” port(s).
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:
Finally, let’s discuss the part of the game which has suffered quite a lot in SADX – the Chao Race. Let’s compare different versions of it using the videos below:
There are many minor differences, but let’s focus on the following list:
- 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 arguably much better in the original, too. There is some flickering in the SADX version of the level, and the letters making up the word “Chao Race” look awkward because of transparency errors.
- The menu to select the course and the Chao has a rougher appearance in the original game in comparison to 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.
- The Party Race (Multi-Entry) menu was removed in the PC version. It is now impossible to race the player’s Chao against each other.
- 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.
- 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.
- The “Start” and “Goal” graphics from the original are missing.
- 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.
- On the Dreamcast, the Chao react to obstacles and the environment around them, displaying a range of different emoticons. When they struggle in the water or fall asleep, their eye texture changes. None of the above happens in SADX.
- 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 doesn’t look as lively as the original game. The Dreamcast version had cheering Omochao standing alongside the track – those 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.
- In the Dreamcast version the Chao sometimes stop in a specific area to pick up toys and play with them. This never happens in SADX.
- The sea in the background is not animated in SADX. The parts in the foreground that do have animation look odd because the texture itself scrolls instead of a proper texture animation like in other parts of the game using that water texture.
- The sky texture in SADX and has severe color banding. Although the Dreamcast version also has a much lower quality version of the sky in the level’s texture archive, it uses a higher quality version in the level.
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 noticeable. While overall the Chao system from a newer game resulted in improvements, unfortunately the SADX Chao system conversion seems to have been implemented poorly. The gardens, however, do feature some improvements.
There are mods for the PC version to improve the experience that restore some things removed in SADX. For example, Dreamcast Conversion fixes several Chao Race downgrades, ports the original Dreamcast Chao Gardens, replaced the models for fruits, eggs, etc. More Chao restorations may become possible in the future. See this page to learn more about mods for SADX PC.