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Okay, a quick disclaimer before I talk about Sonic, like I know what I’m talking about: I’ve only ever played one Sonic game. At least right. I’ve certainly tried the copies of friends’ older games, and I’ve seen the movie Sonic the Hedgehog if that counts – but the only Sonic game I’ve ever owned and played for more than 30 minutes is Sonic Adventure 2: Fight on the GameCube.
But I think that qualifies me to talk about Sonic because it’s clearly for the best.
So what I know about the wild blue hedge eater: He’s a little naughty, his friends are all either naughty or misanthropic, and he’s completely naked except for his shoes. Oh, and it goes fast. I have no doubt that I missed out on all sorts of Sonic stories by not acting the rest of his oeuvre, but I think I agree with these basic facts.
Sonic Adventure 2 is a mostly track based sonic game with a lot of running away from things and the occasional extremely tedious hide and seek levels while playing such bad rap in the background.
If real life only had a garden I could send all the kids I’ve found in the wild (Image: Game Master 24)
It may sound like I think Sonic Adventure 2 is a bad game, but I don’t. I love it. I love his strangely serious lyrical choices where the characters tell exactly what they’re doing while you play. I love that Knuckles can fly for whatever reason. I love that Sonic – known for his speed – spends a lot of time in the game just walking around because the areas aren’t big enough to get going. It’s a game of bizarre design choices and that’s why I love it so much. I’m a fan of the lovable Jank.
But you’ve read the title, you know where I’m going with it, and you’ll probably agree with me: the Chao Garden is the best the Sonic range has ever done. I can confidently say this without playing other Sonic games because it’s just THAT good. Of course, you can disagree in the comments, but I’m right. We are sorry.
Chao heaven on the left. On the right Chao Hell, where all the terribly traumatized chaos lives
The fact that someone at Sega took a look at the idea behind Sonic – platforming, but really fast – and thought, “Do you know what it takes? A Tamagotchi mini-game, “is incredible. What’s even more incredible is that they could have left it at that, but instead decided to add morality and an actual depiction of Hell to the mix. Do you know what’s more fun than raising a child’s pet? Raise a child’s pet and throw it against a wall like a deflated soccer ball until it gets angry! Fun!!
The Chao Garden was the reason I played Sonic Adventure 2 as often as I did. Fuck Dr. Eggman and his nefarious plans; I only interacted with the game to collect small animals, to improve my mayhem stats, and to make enough money to feed them well. Sonic’s “missions” became a means to an end: this was not a 3D platform adventure with a chao mini-game, but a chao game with a side-mounted 3D platform game.
I was like a proud parent on a school sports day and cheered on my little mess when they took part in the chao races. Had I had the chance, I would have loved to sabotage the other chaos to make sure my little one came out on top. I spent hours in the garden taking turns cuddling and calling chaos based on the alignment they were supposed to grow into. I’m not really interested in Sonic; all i care about is chaos
And yet, despite its clear appeal, we haven’t seen the true return of Chao Garden in 20 years. Although versions of it have appeared in Sonic Advance, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, and even the 30th Anniversary Sonic / Minecraft crossover, we haven’t had a chance to properly raise the little critters in two decades.
It’s just not quite the same, is it? (Image: Mojang)
But animal breeding simulation games are slowly but surely making a comeback, no doubt thanks to the ’90s nostalgia that is in vogue. Neopets rumors, new generations of high-tech Tamagotchi and games like Zoo Tycoon have proven that there is still a market for these games, and we certainly wouldn’t say no to a revival of the Nintendogs series on Switch either.
Let’s put it this way: the time has come for Chao Garden to make a comeback. I just hope they don’t blame me for being gone for so long.