I just downloaded the SADX Mod Installer, which seeks to convert the pretty bad DX port of Sonic Adventure into a better more faithful port of Sonic Adventure, and to try it out I decided to play through Sonic Adventure yet again. This game is most likely my second most replayed game, only behind Fire Emblem: Awakening, but I've never played through the game as it was intended by the developers, as has most people who first played this game after it first came out, as I had. Because I always ignore the Chao Garden and blaze through the game as fast as possible.
So I'm doing a play through of it where I am constantly engaging with the Chao Garden alongside playing through the game regularly. Alongside this, I've also decided to move an effort to return to previous stages and beat all three of their levels whenever I can, and like honestly that taught me something very interesting thus far about the game I never knew. I've just finished Sky Deck as Sonic and so far, besides Emerald Coast, every level is inaccessible until after you advance the game state. Always until after you've beaten the previous stage, from my experiences thus far, minus obvious exceptions.
So how has my perception of this game changed? A lot, actually. I mean I have always been ignoring a large part of this game ever since I first played it when I was like 5, and playing the game while constantly going into the Chao Garden and raising the Chao there really changes how the game feels. Now instead of trying to beat each level as fast as possible, I'm going a lot slower, combing the stage for hidden rings and animals to grab, which in doing so, has shown me so far at least ten different secrets in this game I never knew about until now. Also now when I lose 462 rings right before the end of the level instead of not caring and completing the level without thinking I am utterly devastated. I've played nearly four hours of this game and I still don't have enough rings saved up to buy my Chao a cardboard box. (Which is 2000 rings, but still. I only have about 1400 thus far.)
And how the Chao work is really really cool too. I always brushed this game's Chao Garden as simply a more primitive version of SA2's, which is why once I was old enough to understand how it works, if I wanted to do some Chao nurturing, I'd just go play SA2 instead. But getting more into it, I'm starting to prefer it over SA2's Chao Garden. Even if it's missing a lot of the features I love about SA2's Garden.
First off, and most obviously, it's better integrated to the story. As funny as it will be to see the tiny little baby genocide scene when that happens, the fact that I've been raising my own tiny little babies will definitely give the scene more power. It's also a lot more interesting than SA2 is. There's no fuses so animals are your only means of growing your Chao, meaning you can't just pick a cute combination of animal parts to give to your Chao and then proceed to feed them nothing but fuses, you're Chao's appearance will always be changing. Plus most animals remove experience in a certain stat along with raising them in others, which does mean you have to pay a lot more attention to the actual act of raising your Chao.
The fact that the Chao Garden's are actually connected to the world helps a lot too in making it feel like a real important part of the game and not just an optional side mode. The three Gardens in SA1 look like the areas that they are a part of. In SA2 it's literally just some weird alternate dimension or like incubator island off the coast of Station Square maybe?
I already noticed a lot of variety in Chao's behavior. I don't really know how it actually works, so my mind has interpreted every little thing they do as part of their own unique personality. How fast some of them eat, their reactions to petting, so on and so on. It's a lot of fun after naming them and giving them elephant arms to have my brain fill in the rest of their personalities. It's a lot like how I feel playing earlier Fire Emblem games, it's the video game equivalent to not closing your lines when you draw, or when you cut out a few inbetweens while animating that your brain fill in anyway.
So let's get into my Chao, because I love all of them so much. First, neither of the two Chao you get from Station Square's Garden wanted to hatch when I went there, so after the Eggman Boss fight at Tails' Workshop I grabbed the Silver Egg and headed for the Mystic Ruins Garden. There the Silver egg I brought and the Silver egg I started with there both hatched pretty quickly. I named them Titania and Astrid because they're silver. I've been giving Titania animals like Elephants and Moles thus far, and it seems to be giving them fairly even stats with a strong swimming stat. Astrid has mostly been getting birds which unsurprisingly has given her a good flying stat thus far. After them the next Chao to hatch was one of my two starting Chao in Station Square, then shortly after the Golden Egg from the Antique shop hatched there as well. They got named Clyde and Ezekiel respectively, Ezekiel, once again, because he's golden, and I'm embarrassing. Clyde's been getting a lot of Peacocks and Parrots, giving him a good flying stat, and Zeke's been getting a good helping of every animal, which surprisingly hasn't resulted in balanced stats, has he has bad running, but good swim. Then after two more trips to the Station Square Garden, the second of the starting eggs in it hatched. I named it Cherry, and have decided to only give it parrots and koalas. Then, at the Mystic Ruins, the second free egg there hatched too, birthing Othin into this world. Othin hasn't gotten any animals yet, and the last thing I did in the game was go to the Egg Carrier's Garden. There it took some time, but one of the egg's hatched, and I named them Nonni for some reason, and right after naming Nonni, the other egg hatched. I named that Chao Oliver. I distributed the animals I had gotten from Red Mountain and Sky Deck to them and quit the game.
Honestly, doing this was so much fun for me, it completely shocked me how much more fun I was having with what is already one of my favorite games ever after taking the Chao Garden seriously. I will report back with the continuing saga for this playthrough whenever I get the time to play it again.