This section lists differences and problems with the port(s) that don’t fit into other categories.
Title screen, menus and branding
Let’s talk about the title screen and branding. The Dreamcast version had an animated Sonic Team logo with an ocean background that looked pretty cool (click the image to get an animated gif). In SADX it was replaced with a static Sonic Team logo. How is this better than the original?
The title screen is also different between versions. The Japanese and original US releases of Sonic Adventure had a static image with a stylized “Sonic Adventure” logo. The “PressStartButton” text was static in the Japanese version, but the US version added a fade animation. The International release added an animated ripple effect to the background and changed the logo slightly:
SADX replaced the ripple effect with a scrolling background, added a render of Sonic and made the logo more generic (You can still see the original title screen in nextgen console ports if you don’t buy the “DX” DLC):
Whether the original or the DX title screen is better is a matter of opinion, but it’s pretty obvious that the DX logo looks a lot cheaper and more basic. A bit too cheap for a “director’s cut”.
The Pause menu received a slight redesign in SADX. Now it tells you which mode you’re playing (Adventure, Trial or Mission), a useless feature if you ask me, though not a downgrade if you don’t mind missing shadows and the awkward look with a smaller font. SADX also adds Adventure Field maps and an option to switch between automatic and manual camera, both of which are nice additions. However, the visual changes are somewhat less impressive. The rounded corners of the background rectangle were removed, and gradients everywhere except the buttons were disabled. The buttons were also made blue instead of teal. Both versions look kind of generic, but is the SADX one really better? I don’t think so.
Intro movie and FMV cutscenes
Let’s talk about the intro movie and FMVs. This is a bit unusual because out of all versions of the game the Gamecube version has the best quality intro movie. The Dreamcast version’s intro resolution is 320×448, and the video gets stretched horizontally to 640 with black borders on top and bottom to make it 640×480. The FMVs are even lower quality – 320×256 stretched to 640×480. The Gamecube version has the same FMVs as the original game, but the intro video’s quality is noticeably higher, with better bitrate and it’s already 640×448 so it doesn’t need horizontal stretching. I have to say that the SADX logo transition is kind of lame. Click each image to get an animated gif:
Interestingly the 2004 PC port is a bit special. Its intro and FMVs are in true 640×480 without black borders, which means the PC version’s intro has more visible details than the Dreamcast and Gamecube intros. The Steam and nextgen console versions use the same FMVs as the Dreamcast/Gamecube (the intro is different though, but let’s discuss that later). So as a result, the 2004 PC port has the best looking FMVs (left: Dreamcast/Gamecube/nextgen/Steam, right: PC 2004):
The 2004 PC port has the best quality FMVs, but the same can’t be said about the intro. Although the intro itself is in 640×480 without black borders, its encoding is pretty awful. The Steam and nextgen console ports have intros based on the PC one, so their quality is even worse. Here are a few clickable comparisons of the same frames extracted from each version’s intro movie:
2004 PC port
Playstation 3/Xbox 360
The winner here is the Gamecube version, while the Dreamcast version usually looks worse or close enough depending on the scene. The 2004 PC version looks worse than Gamecube, sometimes even worse than Dreamcast, and the Steam/nextgen console ports have the worst quality intro movie out of all ported versions of the game. Let’s not forget that the Steam/nextgen console ports also have the lower quality FMV cutscenes from the Dreamcast version. Why couldn’t they use the higher quality ones from the 2004 PC port? Who knows…
The nextgen console ports have an intro movie featuring the “original” SA1 logo. This is cool, but the animation for the logo transition lacks some effects and isn’t very faithful to the original. Although the logo itself looks clearer in the new intro, the original intro has a better animation. In addition, the nextgen console intro is slightly messed up – when the letters zoom out, the image is cut off on the right (clickable, left: Dreamcast, right: Playstation 3/Xbox 360):
A closer look at the intro movie (props to Speeps and McAleeCh for discovering this) reveals some interesting details. It appears that, despite the higher quality, the intro movie in all ports is based on an earlier (unfinished) version of the video similar to the intro used in a beta version of Sonic Adventure (known as the “Autodemo” prototype). The SADX intro has more in common with the Autodemo than the final Dreamcast intro, which has different details and appears more complete overall. This post by McAleeCh documents the process of recreating the SA1 intro in higher quality from several sources, and is great read if you’re interested in detailed differences between various versions of the intro. For now, however, let’s focus on the most noticeable parts.
The majority of Station Square shots in the SADX intro look like the Autodemo intro, while the final Dreamcast version uses shots from Super Sonic’s story. For example, in the following shot the Gamecube version is missing some fog/lighting details like the Autodemo:
Like the Autodemo, the intro on the Gamecube is missing some pedestrians, and the cars in this scene are arranged differently:
The following shot crossfades with different timing in the SADX intro. Although it doesn’t look too bad, it’s clearly more like the Autodemo rather than the final version:
Another difference is Tails’ expression in the intro. It’s also clearly from the Autodemo:
Finally, here’s one more hilarious detail about the SADX intro. The numbers on Gamma’s body are simply slapped on (the Autodemo intro doesn’t have them at all), while in the Dreamcast version they have lighting and are consistent with the shape of Gamma’s body:
With all the above examples there’s little doubt that the SADX intro is based on an unfinished version of the final game’s intro. Thankfully it isn’t an exact copy of the Autodemo’s intro. The Autodemo’s intro is 320×240 stretched to 576×480 with black bars on each side to make it 640×480, so at least they had the courtesy to use a higher quality source for the SADX intro.
Another thing about SADX that feels unfinished is the FMV skip feature. On the Dreamcast you could only skip the Sonic Team logo and the intro movie. In SADX you can skip all videos by pressing Start or A, which is good, but unlike the original game the skipped videos don’t fade out to black smoothly, instead they just cut immediately. Interestingly SADX does have a system for fading out videos, which is used on all videos except the intro movie (where it’s intentionally broken as the fades are built into the video itself). This system could’ve been easily used to fade out videos when they’re skipped, but for some reason the developers didn’t bother to implement it properly. Minor point, but it’s just another example of where the original game did better than the poorly implemented SADX “improvements”.
Aspect ratio on the Gamecube
Speaking of video stuff, did you know that the Gamecube version of the game is rendered at an incorrect aspect ratio? While this was usually corrected automatically by older TVs, it’s difficult to get the game to scale properly on modern TVs and video capture hardware. Even on an emulator the aspect ratio is wrong, and the picture appears slightly squished horizontally. Here’s an image from Sonic Retro that uses footage captured from real hardware. Even though the zoom is different, you can still clearly see that Sonic is noticeably taller in the Gamecube screenshot in comparison to the PC version that uses the same Sonic model. You can also tell the aspect ratio is incorrect by the shape of the letter A in Amy’s name:
Subtitle font downgrades
I think one of the more known differences between SA1/SADX and the PC version is that the PC port no longer uses the original subtitle font (supposedly “Impress”), but the difference is a bit deeper than just that. Here’s a comparison of how the subtitle font looks in different versions of the game at the original resolution (top: Dreamcast, middle: SADX Gamecube, bottom: SADX PC):
Note: There’ve been claims that the subtitle font color is inaccurate on Dreamcast emulators, and that the font is supposed to be white on real hardware. This has been proven false – the font is not white on the Dreamcast, it’s darker and has slight transparency.
Note how the Gamecube version’s text looks a bit more washed out even though it’s supposedly the same font. It appears to have some kind of smoothing or texture filtering applied. It’s either an aspect ratio artifact, or it’s using some kind of font smoothing like in the PC version. More on that below.
SA1 and SADX Gamecube use the “Impress” font for English and the “Comic Sans” font for other European languages. There’s also a separate font for Japanese kanji. In the PC port, the font system was reworked, and a single font is now used at all times. The updated font is smaller, and some people say it looks worse than Impress or Comic Sans. I can agree that it certainly looks more washed out than the Dreamcast version. Let’s have a closer look:
When restoring the original “Impress” font in the PC version I ran into this issue because even the original SA1 font data didn’t look quite right:
It appears that the PC version (and quite likely the Gamecube version too) applies a slightly transparent outline around the letters, which makes the font thicker and a bit harder on the eyes:
Disabling this “feature” made the subtitles look a lot better, even with the original SADX PC font!
Control downgrades and myths about SA1 Dreamcast controls
Let’s talk about the controls too, since there seem to be a lot of myths and confusion about them. The original game’s controls were optimized for the Dreamcast controller. You could tilt the analog stick slightly to make Sonic walk slowly, and he would walk faster the farther you pushed the analog stick. While this is still present in the ports, the analog sensitivity is a bit screwed (in the PC port at least), and depending on the controller the range between slow walking and running at full speed can be very short. In the PC version it’s fixable with SonicFreak94’s Input Mod. While this isn’t a major issue, it might affect people’s opinion on controls in this game because it messes up the already floaty controls of the original.
Some people say it’s impossible to run in a straight line in the Dreamcast game because it constantly tilts the analog controls to the left or right. This is a common myth caused by emulation inaccuracies – it doesn’t happen on actual hardware (but see the notes below regarding third-party controllers). The reason this happens on emulators is that the Dreamcast controller has a non-standard deadzone that the Dreamcast version of the game compensates for. More information here. A less common complaint about the Dreamcast version is that you can move at insane speeds by steering the analog stick diagonally while jumping – this is also caused by the emulation issue mentioned above or by using third-party controllers.
Let me just finally clear up the analog sensitivity issue and hopefully dispel the “impossible to run in a straight line on DC” myth for good. Here is what the original Dreamcast controller’s deadzone looks like (I’m using an adapter to connect Dreamcast controllers to PC via USB):
Notice how it’s very easy to slip to the side slightly while holding up or down. The Dreamcast controller’s analog stick is very sensitive to allow precise movement. Another characteristic trait of the Dreamcast controller is the limit to diagonal movement – so when you rotate the stick, the shape the cursor follows is a circle rather than a square. Both of the above things are taken into account in Dreamcast versions of SA1 and SA2. These games expect some analog “noise” that comes from the player holding the stick in a straight direction, and compensate for it so that you can run in a straight line when holding the stick all the way up/down while still having the benefits of more precise movement at slower speeds.
Now here’s what a third-party controller’s deadzone is like:
The above video demonstrates input from another Dreamcast controller that looks identical to the original, but this one was made by a third party. This is also how most controllers behave on PC. The deadzone in this controller is more stiff, which removes the “noise” while holding the stick in a straight direction, and there is no “rounded” limit to diagonal axes like in the original controller. The first deadzone difference makes Sonic unable to run in a straight line in SA1 and SA2, and the second difference makes it possible to travel at much higher speed in SA1 when holding down the analog stick diagonally.
Now let me reiterate. The reason people are getting all those control issues in the Dreamcast version of the game is because they have either of the following:
1. An emulated version of the game on PC, which is still optimized for the original Dreamcast controller rather than third-party controllers or the keyboard. The emulators don’t remove the game’s compensation for analog “noise” of the original controller, and they don’t add a limit for diagonal axes in SA1 and SA2, which the original controller had. If you connect the original Dreamcast controller to the PC, the problems go away.
2. A third-party Dreamcast controller that has a less sensitive deadzone and/or no diagonal axis limit, which causes problems in the Dreamcast game similar to those experienced on an emulator with a keyboard/non-Dreamcast controller.
To sum it up, these problems do NOT happen when original hardware is used. However, they MAY happen on emulators or on a real Dreamcast when using third-party Dreamcast controllers.
Other minor differences
This section will be updated in the future with more miscellaneous differences. Stay tuned!