FFWF

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  1. My impression of the marketing for both games is that they're trying to be secretive, revealing as little as possible. I don't have any problem with that approach in theory - but in practice, it's true that what they do reveal and how has tended to be a bit questionable. I think the initial reveal for both games was okay in theory; the streaming problems harmed them, but they didn't anticipate those issues and so in effect I think we should leave them out of the calculation. They were announced to a theoretically captive audience of Sonic fans both in physical space and online; Mania was given an extremely accomplished trailer which set out well what the game was about and why we should be excited, while the farther-off Forces was merely given a teaser to point towards its main ideas, and specifically those ideas they thought would most appeal to Sonic fans in particular, which were a darker tone and the inclusion of Classic Sonic. There's nothing really wrong with what they did there, though they might have wanted to be more explicit in advance about the prospect of game reveals (and to have made sure that the stream was going to work). Since then, for both games, there has been something of a tendency to release new material out of the blue, and with no prior hype; this is what they did with Mirage Saloon Zone for Mania, and both sets of recent Green Hill footage for Forces. Any one of these could have been turned into events, teased days in advance, but instead they just pop up without fanfare and are in danger of being missed by casual fans, flying under the radar. Additionally, in both cases there's been an emphasis on showing direct gameplay rather than cutting things into trailers. Again, I can appreciate that they're trying to sell us on the unfiltered gameplay with no chance we're being misled, but at the same time this means there's often a curious lack of hype and excitement to the way this material is being sold to us. Is it really that interesting to just watch somebody else play a game? That's exactly what happened with Mirage Saloon, where the reveal was through commentated playthroughs by YouTubers, and how they've handled keeping the other revealed zones in the public eye through Aaron Webber et al.'s streams. One feels that Sega is trying to court the streaming audience, which is understandable, but they're not making things into a big enough event to catch the eye of fans or the gaming media. Then there's the practice of showing new footage privately to game journalists, and then letting said journalists immediately relate this material to the fans second-hand. Examples of this are the Forces Modern footage with side-scrolling platforming and Sonic's friends radioing in, and, even earlier, Mania's Green Hill Zone Act 2 and its boss, the latter of which is still being kept secret (even though they've permitted it to be described to us). That seems odd. I can see that there might be a case for this if the material was not yet in a state that was ready for public consumption, something which gaming journalists would understand better than the public, and I suspect that that's probably the case - but then why not hold back those journalistic impressions through embargo until the same material was ready for public release? If they're not ready to show it, why are they ready for us to be told about it by a third party? This also ties into the issue of their reveals often being very selective - through particular YouTubers, for instance, or at particular panels, or in a Nintendo Direct; these are the sorts of things where you'd expect the second-party tease to be complemented by a first-party blowout, but Sega took a fortnight to show Forces GHZ outside of the Nintendo Direct. The drip-feed approach is rendered tedious by the fact that we have no idea when to expect new information - and for all we may criticise announcements of announcements, they do at least give us a sense that something is going o, rather than nothing - and by the fact that that new information is often effectively stealth-announced in some select corner of the Internet which not everyone is watching, or even effectively hidden. I'm not asking for Sega to suddenly tell us everything; I think that games are too readily effectively spoiled by their own marketing these days and am happy for a bit of secrecy. But I don't think they're handling their reveals very effectively at the moment, and are more or less just leaving them in the hands of third parties. It will be interesting to look back from the game releases at the rest of the marketing campaign. I'm sure I can't see them continuing in this vein, certainly not for Forces.
  2. I did consider the possibility that the different zoom was just the way the image had been edited; lighting could be an artifact of making an interesting screenshot, too (or just altered graphical settings for a screenshot run versus a footage-capture run). That would account for these small differences while there's such a big difference between the Direct and the more recent GHZ footage. At any rate, though, we can safely dismiss the conspiracy theory that the Direct GHZ footage was from a downgraded Switch build. The Direct Modern footage was provably a different playthrough than the gameplay we'd already been shown; it makes no sense to propose that Sega's PR team took fresh footage from the PC build, then switched to a Switch build to take GHZ footage, while planning to later released PC-build footage of GHZ to the masses. The idea that they only produced new misleading footage for Modern when they were both willing and able to provide equally misleading footage for Classic as well is inconsistent and therefore unlikely. The more plausible explanation is this: Level design for the early game is more or less finished and in the process of being suitably beautified for the final product; Modern's city level was done first to showcase to fans and the media, with other levels like Green Hill Zone in a less finished state; Nintendo would have asked for footage for the Direct quite a long time before it aired and as such would have gotten more finished Modern footage and the less finished Classic footage; by the time the Direct actually came out, Green Hill Zone was a lot more polished and thus Sega could prepare this better and more recent material to release according to its own internal schedule.
  3. I think I understand why they took the approach they did with the sand. Sonic Team want the game to reflect Eggman's negative impact on the planet, but they don't want the whole game to look grim, destroyed and downbeat. They probably want to avoid criticism of being excessively "edgy," but there's also the fact that it would be a bit dull and un-Sonic-like to have a whole game of grey, brown and fire; even Sonic CD only gave you Bad Futures by default every three acts (though its Bad Futures were still individually very creative and colourful for all that). So the compromise Sonic Team came up with was to take out the water in Green Hill Zone and replace it with sand; the change is clear and conceptually negative, but doesn't detract from their ability to make a bright and colourful zone that feels like the Green Hill we know. The fact that Green Hill is looking a bit hackneyed now is in a sense an unfortunate coincidence, I think. Were it not for Mania, this would only be the second time in recent years we'd had Green Hill reused, with the last time being Generations, so we'd see it as more clearly a homage to Generations rather than part of a trend. Mania, which began development after Forces, also because of its theme was pretty much obliged to use Green Hill Zone, though, and was lucky enough to be able to reveal it first, but the cumulative result is that GHZ feels overused even though I don't think that was ever the plan. If Mania had revealed its GHZ after Forces, it would have been the one to get the flak, but in reality there just happened to be two more nostalgic throwback games being developed at the same time. Even so, though, Forces should really have used Emerald Hill; granted, the two are by design not that different, but as an effective Generations sequel they have the clout to use Green Hill's "sequel."
  4. The camera also appears to be zoomed slightly farther in in the screenshot, cutting off some of the details at the edges; the totem pole is the most conspicuous sign of this. The lighting is different, too. Between the Direct footage, the full playthrough, and the screenshots, we're looking at three recognisably different builds of the game. Perhaps that's standard practice, but it seems a bit odd to me.
  5. The impression I get from the "not Green Hill" dialogue is that whoever's speaking simply can't believe that what they're looking at is Green Hill Zone - whether because its appearance has changed with the sand and so on, or its location, or something else. Speaking of the sand, I would also propose that this and especially the less cartoony badnik designs suggest that this part of the game is already taking place in the present - or that Eggman has travelled through time to the past to get there; either would lend credibility to the theories that Classic Sonic was punted forward through time or that there's some kind of world-merging plot. Curious that this came along right after a Japanese Sega livestream which reused a lot of previous Sonic footage; in fact, the whole preview has come rather out of the blue. My impression is that maybe the sudden release of an extended piece of footage from a more recent build of the game was specifically intended to counter the negative reception of the old-build footage used in the Nintendo Direct - and, well, people do think the visuals have improved...
  6. Fastforward nine months, and I've just finished Bye-Bye, BoxBoy!, the third and final game in the series. It's a return to form! Whereas the second game basically spent its time slowly reintroducing every old gimmick, now with two boxes, B3 (BBBB?) brings in an absolute cartload of fresh material, more or less a wholly new gimmick each world, alongside the showcase box powers that appear in one particular world of each area. Very few gimmicks from the past games reappear at all, and when they do, it's either with some new twist or just part of the background scenery of a puzzle. The whole game feels, gameplay-wise, a lot newer and more original than BoxBoxBoy! in consequence, and a worthy finale to the series. Even the presentation and navigation is a step up; while the levels themselves retain the same consciously spartan aesthetic, the hubs have just enough flavour to make you feel like you're on a journey, with surprising intrusions of plot in the final act. As bonuses, there's the typical music player and a full set of new and returning costumes, the return of the four-panel comics from BoxBoxBoy!, and a new set of multi-level Challenge Worlds which create special levels which must be completed with some significant alteration to the regular physics, like the introduction of fall damage. S-ranking this game felt like a proper challenge again, but I did it, and in doing so I realised what for me is one of the big attractions of BoxBoy as a puzzle franchise: The often vast gulf between what they let you do and the absolute minimum of what is necessary to do, just how far you can prune down the number of boxes used in each level when you have perfect understanding of the game's physics... It's there where BoxBoy becomes a challenge for those who want it, though there's nothing wrong with the light and fluffy puzzler that is all that they strictly speaking make you do. This is a good series, and it got a good send-off; I'm glad that I played the full trilogy.
  7. The first post nods to this idea, I think, but has there ever been a stage based on formal gardens? The elaborate and refined gardens accompanying palaces such as Versailles? I imagine it would be harder to do in a 2D side-scroller, of course, but there are still plenty of possibilities to evoke. Just having a very carefully-managed and pruned version of a typical grassland stage rather than something wilder would be a change; there could be water features, streams to be swept down and fountains to jet you up; rising and sinking hedge obstacles to simulate a maze; weird tree formations, like monkey puzzles or inverted stumps; a palacial backdrop; topiary and statuary, possibly of badniks or Eggman or Sonic. A Grecian-style statue would make a good miniboss or boss, not unlike Sandopolis; another boss idea could be a great hedge-trimmer adorned with chainsaws and buzzsaws. There's plenty of potential for other acts to be set at night, sunset, sunrise, or especially in rain...
  8. I can live with the Hard-Boiled Heavies betraying Eggman in some way so long as Eggman is still the final boss. Bearing in mind it has to be something you can show in a silent sprite-based cutscene, I could picture them maybe just wanting dibs on Sonic and regarding their master and creator as simply getting in the way. The idea of them trying to convert Eggman into a badnik out of misplaced respect is compelling, too. Maybe the leader, the most Eggman-like of the five, comes to believe that it's as important as Eggman, and the other four's programming causes them to obey the leader before Eggman himself. There are interesting possibilities. Not sure how this is going to work if you destroy them one-by-one across the course of the game, though! Heavy Gunner isn't going to have much time to betray anything if it gets smashed to pieces three acts in.
  9. For various reasons, I've only just seen the first two episodes. The Pilot I thought was rather good; there was something very fresh about it, that felt very different from a lot of past stories and companion introductions. I think it's probably the fact that the Doctor is more or less retired at the start of the episode, and he and Bill actually meet before there's a threat and an adventure to be had - but the general trappings of the episode, too, felt unusual. Ditto Smile, actually, which really benefited from such fantastic location filming; as for the plot itself, I liked the world-building, but the trade-off was that it took longer for the plot to get going. The design of the Emojibots, too, I thought was visually very successful.
  10. I don't think it's going to happen, but I could see the last level - one immediately following the typical Eggman base finale - being like a standard first zone, but with Eggman's fleeing mech soaring over it, constantly spewing smoke and firing missiles which leave destruction in their wake. The high stakes between Sonic and Eggman are right there for you to see on-screen. It might even be more like Doomsday Zone, gameplay-wise; a sort of epilogue or coda.
  11. SEGA didn't mention any of those, gaming media have mentioned them as characters they've noticed in private demo footage. IGN has since mentioned Tails as appearing in the same context as Amy et al., so there's no reason to think he's either out of the picture or has any special status in this game.
  12. To take a step back a page or two, isn't the point of a character creator that your character is the main character? Whereas in Sonic Forces, "Buddy" is going to be at best sharing time with two other Sonics for the protagonist role; at worst, he's just a third wheel to Modern Sonic, considering that Classic doesn't talk and Buddy is... well, I don't know. Here's the thing: How would they write Buddy? Would he be silent, like a lot of classic self-insert main characters (Link, a huge number of RPG protagonists)? Generically heroic? Mysterious adventurer from another world? Sonic's biggest fan who isn't called Amy? Even if you actually got to choose a personality (requiring them to make multiple versions of every cutscene), In the context of a Sonic game with Modern Sonic as the star, I can't see any of these being anything but either irrelevant or cringeworthy. There's also instant limited empathy value because you are not in any way creating something that looks anything like yourself. You'd be creating an anthro protagonist; an animal. Well, that's a lot better than it being a human in a Sonic game, but for anyone other than small children and furries (no disrespect intended here, but is either going to be the majority audience?), there is instant distance; you're not creating "you," you're creating some random animal person. So the emotional connection or even the humour value of putting "yourself" in the game just isn't there. The use of an anthro also limits any flexibility you might have to create other fictional characters from other media, which again cuts down on both humour and goodwill. Instead, the humour pool for YouTubers and streamers is instead limited to that infamous low-hanging fruit, "bad Sonic OCs." Which of course is more or less what's being invited anyway. Character creators are not an innate selling point. They can just as easily be used to mock and devalue a game. This depends both on the quality of the character creator and the quality of the game overall; if the game is poor, or neutral but published in poor circumstances, a character creator has as much likelihood of losing the game sales as it does to gain them. Streamers and YouTubers will turn the game into a laughing stock - and very few people will spend, what, thirty, forty dollars on a joke purchase inspired by a derogatory stream.
  13. It's very convenient to have no proof and no way of verifying any statement you might make, because it means you can assume whatever you want, and by the time anyone can disprove your statement, it will have been long-forgotten. For that reason, I'm going to propose that the Direct footage of the Modern Sonic gameplay was definitely from the Switch version because it was a different recording, and that the Classic gameplay was such a downgrade because the director didn't work on Generations and is bringing Lost World standards to the Classic visuals instead. Oh, sorry, my mistake - I actually included two objectively-verifiable statements in my suggestion. I'll have to try harder next time to create my own unprovable narrative rather than deducing from available evidence!
  14. A professional animator puts up clearly unfinished, nonetheless high-quality CD-style animation, featuring currently unrevealed design elements of a known character, for a retro Sonic game which is embracing the best of the classic series, and then immediately takes it down... Everything about this points to it very possibly leaking the existence of a CD-style animated intro for Mania, or some similar promotional device. We probably aren't paying enough attention to this. But on the other hand, it might actually be better to keep quiet about it, not just in case the speculation is wrong but because it would be an amazing surprise.
  15. And just to add to the barrage of questions: Does anyone know if, in the end, there was any new or interesting information about Mania in the Famitsu spread? (If nothing else, I was kind of wondering what the Hard-Boiled Heavies are called in Japan.)