I think you’ll find this from IGN Dreamcast very interesting:
Remember that mysterious “Internet” option that was locked out of the Hollywood Video Limited Edition? This little menu option is the key to accessing all these new features. Clicking on the internet mode will connect your DC to Sega’s Sonic Adventure web page (sonic.dreamcast.com – the site seems to be unavailable currently, though). Let’s get one thing straight from the get go. Sonic Team has no intention of forcing you to view a standard, boring web browser screen while you’re surfing their game’s site. No, you’re going to be surfing in style, through a proprietary web browser created just for the game. The web browser has a graphical theme moderately similar to Sega’s current Sonic Adventure page (it’s similar in that you don’t see a location bar, or any of the standard windows buttons). All the primary graphics for the main page are already on the Sonic Adventure GD-ROM, meaning download times will be at a minimum, and the page uses actual music from the GD-ROM as well, completing the full Sonic package.
By accessing various options from the site’s startup page, you can gain access to a load of new features that help make the Sonic experience all the more merry. Some of the more obvious (but very, very welcome) features include:
World Ranking Mode: you can load level times from your VMU onto the site and be matched up against players throughout the world (even in Japan).
A hint section which features a guide to each characters as well as some very detailed maps
Chao Garden: a section that allows you to store your Chao characters (complete with password protection), upload the race rankings for your Chaos, and get your Chaos evaluated (details include Affection percentage and a description of the type of Chaos you have). Also available from here is a Black Market, which allows you to trade emblems online for other Chao characters. The developer from Sonic Team somehow managed to download a Chao that resembled Nights . . . I’m not sure how this was accomplished, though. The name “Chao,” by the way, is apparently pronounced as the unquestionably ugly “Chow.” This is the way the Sonic Team rep pronounced it, so I suppose it’s (unfortunately) the correct way.
The internet mode doesn’t end with these features, though. The best part of the online component is the way in which Sonic Team has managed to make the Sonic Adventure game grow through downloads. Here’s one example. One of the coolest parts of the Japanese version was the racing circuit in the Twinkle Star stage, which allowed Sonic and Amy to race around a track in little hover cars. Sadly, there was only one course to be found in the entire game. For the American release, Sonic Team has crafted new tracks for the game, and the only way for you to access them is to go through the Mercury GP section of the Sonic Adventure web page.
Sound good? Well, it gets much better. Remember how much of a surprise the little Christmas version of Nights: Into Dreams was? For those who don’t know, Sega distributed a free demo of their Saturn blockbuster, Nights: Into Dreams back during Christmas of 1996. This demo featured a few of the levels from the game proper, but everything was redone as a Christmas wonderland, complete with Christmas Trees, lights, ornaments, snow, and new Christmas clothing for all the characters. Even better was that the demo changed depending on the date; on April Fools Day, for instance, Nights’ rival, Reala, would appear at the demo’s title screen, instead of Nights himself.
So how has Sonic Team managed to incorporate a similar feature into Sonic Adventure? Through downloads, of course! By downloading game patches into the VMS, you can modify the game in certain ways. The first such download will be available on 9/9/99. By accepting a forty block download into your VMU, you can turn the game’s Station Square area into a Dreamcast launch celebration, complete with balloons and banners. Sonic Team refused to show us pictures of what the level will look like, leaving us with the unfortunate news that we’re going to have to wait until 9/9/99.
And believe it or not, there’s more! Wouldn’t it be really cool if you could add new gameplay elements to Sonic Adventure through downloads? Sonic Team apparently thinks so. The group has created a means of updating the game with new gameplay modes, accessible only once a patch has been downloaded to the VMU. In order to demonstrate the power of this new feature, we were shown the changes that occur when you download a patch for an AT&T sponsored event that’s scheduled to launch some time after the system is released. A representative made Sonic run around the new Station Square. Everything looked the same as before, except for a single AT&T sign outside of the entrance to Speed Highway Zone. Touching this sign entered Sonic into a race through Speed Highway. This wasn’t your ordinary Speed Highway, though. The new level had the same basic layout as the original, but was filled with AT&T promotional billboards and banners, as well as new AT&T-stylized platforms that allowed for Actual Interaction. The representative showed a new shortcut that became accessible because of a new platform that was inserted at a key area. It turns out that Sonic Team has created a tool that allows them to modify all the levels by adding polygon objects and texture maps here and there; how they exploit this tool is only limited to their immense imagination.
Sega has plans for various downloads throughout the coming year (they intend to support the internet mode for at least a year after the launch). Already mentioned were Halloween and Christmas downloads, as well as possible plans for other corporate sponsored races and events.