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Grind rails! What say you!


Badnik Zero

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I said I'd defend grind rails, so I will. There was a time long ago when grind rails were cool, back when they were a gimmick in SA2, and they were a fast paced balancing game. You could design whole levels around them (not Rail Canyon or Final Fortress) where in between islands suspended over a death pit, the only way forward was a daring slide over the abyss on a single rail. Three options. Speed up or slow down, switch rails, or suicide jump to get that item or shortcut. Like the modern zoom tube straight out of the Scrambled Egg Zone, it was a test of reflex at high speeds, only more dangerous. Then along came Sonic Heroes known for it's great additions to the series such as the buddy system, speed-flight-power, and repetitive gameplay. Rails were cool no longer.

What I mean to say, is rails are a gimmick, something to spice the games up. Too much spice and your game tastes like crap. Don't be badmouthing my rails though. You know you love em, come on.

Try this out. Anyone who has Sonic Rush can go to Altitude Limit, the most grind heavy level in the game. It's a 2D game, so we can compare it to the other 2D titles. If you remember the zoom tubes (I think I'm borrowing this term from JezMM) in the other 2D games, try to imagine what the level would be like with the tubes instead of the rails. There might be more forks in the tube path, but it's essentially the same game. Fast paced movement with some risk of falling off, and dodging hazards instead of choosing a tube path. I would say the grind rail has replaced the zoom tube in the 2D and 3D environment, and is a good replacement, not counting the clunky Heroes and SHtH versions.

I've said my piece. Rails are the new tubes. What do you think about grind rails and their place in the series?

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I liked them in SA2 and in Sonic Advance where they were there only to allow you get more points, get an item or take an alternate route. I can't stand huge-ass 'rails in the sky' stages, talk about lazy stage design. I much preffered it when you can grind on a rail thats actually part of the scenery ala City Escape, Radical Highway and Green Forest ect, floating rails attached to NOTHING just make no sense and aren't as entertaining as finding something rail shaped then discovering you could grind on it.

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I loved them in SA2. Most favourite part of any of the levels. That's one of several reasons why I adore racing in SA2's multiplayer. RAILS!

But I only like them when they're dangerous, and you have to be precise with jumping on, off, and between 'em. They're pointless when riding on them is pretty much automatic and takes no skill.

Also, jumping down from one set of rails to another waaaaay below as a skilled shortcut? EPIC.

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Yeah, rails have become as much a part of Sonic to me as loops and springs now. It'd be weird without them. I just hope they don't keep up their habit of messing them up in each game. SA2 = good, Heroes = bad, Shadow = good, 2006 = bad, Unleashed = good again.

Though I would like to see them make a return as optional scenery as they were in most of SA2. These days they do tend to appear non-sensically in comparison to the rest of the scenery, being actual "grind rails" rather than "rails, or rail-like objects that Sonic can grind on".

N.B. "Zoom tubes" is fun to say. =D

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I liked them in SA2, the grind physics were great and Final Rush is one of my favourite levels of all time. Each level had rails and used them effectively, and not too often (White Jungle didn't even have any, and even "Sky Rail" wasn't as infested as Final Rush is, infested in a good way in that stage though), and used them well in the landscape such as in City Escape and Radical Highway.

Heroes just shoved them in any old how though, and broke the physics of them in the first place. Rail Canyon and Bullet Station weren't that fun to play, and they only appeared more often with no logical sense (except the growing vine at the end of Frog Forest and the banisters in Mystic Mansion, 2 good moments there). Shadow continued to use them with little sense, but rail changing was much easier and made stages like Lava Shelter and GUN Fortress more fun. Additionally, they weren't in every single level.

They seem to be homing attackable in 06, which is a good addition, but they didn't do that in Unleashed iirc. However, having played the demo, rail switching is as easy as it was in Shadow, and how it should be.

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Aside from always using flight formation to avoid falling, I was quite fond of some of the rail-heavy levels from Sonic Heroes. Although I very much prefer the level design to not be entirely based around the rails, if they are dynamic enough I can enjoy them. Rail Canyon was not perfect, but some of the rails were dynamic at least by nature of the hazards involved, although I'd like to see rails more seamlessly implemented and definitely some better physics. Also worth noting is that Sonic and the Black Knight had some interesting implementation of these grind rails in Molten Mine, most notably being the fact that they were actually rails.

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I love grind rails! I find them really fun, and I like the fast-paced platforming that ensues. I don't like normal Sonic platforming because they seem to not realise that I want Sonic to STOP and WALK not skid around lol. But yeah, I love grind rails, one of my fav levels on Unleashed 360 is Apotos Windmill Isle Day Act 3.

I don't like grind rails on Sonic 06 because you can't switch, you have to actually jump and though that usually isn't a problem, it is annoying.

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I think the changes to the rail physics after SA2 just made it a bit easy in a way. Like some others have said, it was practically automatic at times, whereas in SA2 you at least had a bit more to think about in terms of balance.

Its also true that they've become a lot more compulsory in the level design, being forced routes rather than a dangerous alternative to get extra points or items.

...come to think of it, do you even get points for grinding in any game after SA2?

Oh, and I'd have to say I hated the grinding in Sonic Advance 1. For all the two or so grind rails they actually had in the game, it was nigh on impossible for the game to register you actually jumping on them, and it only registered you as 'on' the rail if you jumped on it at an exact point. As a result, they were pretty unusable. Not that they did much or there were many of them in the game anyway, I suppose.

Edited by Mahzes
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Oh, and I'd have to say I hated the grinding in Sonic Advance 1. For all the two or so grind rails they actually had in the game, it was nigh on impossible for the game to register you actually jumping on them, and it only registered you as 'on' the rail if you jumped on it at an exact point. As a result, they were pretty unusable. Not that they did much or there were many of them in the game anyway, I suppose.

There only 3 or so in the entire game, you had to jump on the top flat bit of the rail whilst running to land on it and only Sonic and Amy can actually use them. Still, finding the grind rail in Neo Green Hill Act 2 gave you a pretty sneaky shortcut and if you were skilled enough to perform the trick at the end of the rail you could reach an otherwise unobtainable Magnet Shield which was came in useful for gathering rings for the Tiny Chao Garden. Actually, the trick system at the end of certain rails in SA2 needs to come back, you can skip some platforming sections of Radical Highway and Sky Rail if you do it properly, plus you get a large amount of points for pulling it off.

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Rails fun = going down stairs, optional little thingy to do for a speed boost

Rails bad = forced paths to progress in levels, entire stages based around them.

I really, really hate forced rail sections, they're idiotic and I do not enjoy them in any platformer. they disgust me. Lazy crappy senseless level design.

but I kind of liked them when they were optional in SA2, I guess.

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I love grind levels that´s why Rail Canyon and Bullet Station are one of my favourite levels in Sonic Heroes.I also love Altitude Limit because at how difficult it is. I remeber falling too many times there lol.

In SA2 rails were nice, if only i didn´t suck...xD.

Edited by Blue Kirby
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Rails are neat. It lets Sonic get his parkour on, and use the environment in a new way. But ReMolly has a point. In the 3-D games, they've gone from being realistic environmental pieces to bizarre floating play-the-game-for-you sections. Almost like the tubes from Chemical Plant zone. In unleashed, the rails, while still bizarre, got a little better in terms of interactivity. Jumping, traps, switching rails, ect. I like that, but I want them to get more realistic, less extensive and become less of a focus.

That said, I think that rails definitely have a place in the franchise. Just not front and center.

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Did it? If you hold down B not only do you go faster than manually balancing but it's near impossible to fall off.

The "Entire Levels Made of Nothing But Cheap Grind Rails" levels in Heroes would have been near-impossible with Adventure 2 rail physics.

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SA2, the first game to use them, is undoubtedly also the only game which actually used them right, together with the Advance games. =) The grinding was awesome and intense in SA2, and you had to sometimes actually keep your balance, so as not to fall off the rail.

Since then however, it's gone totally downhill starting with Sonic Heroes. And I totally agree that the grind above huge chasm of death lol stages are highly annoying! Bah, Wild Canyon and Bullet Station still haunt me.

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I like the grind rails for most of the Sonic games. I still think that Sonic Adventure 2's rails were by far the best. Grinding took some practice to master, and it was always fun trying new shortcuts on most of the stages. I also really enjoyed the rail stages in both Sonic Heroes and Sonic rush just because they were hard, but at the same time they were fun as hell.

Sonic 06, not really a surprise, really killed the whole rail thing. I could almost count the number of times I died on Crisis City because of a problem with the grind system in the game.

I also enjoy the whole grinding rail thing because it actually made me get my own pair of SOAP shoes! I kind of like the fact that I can attract a crowed at school who have never heard of SOAP shoes before.

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Grinding has got to go, no compromises. They're more of the damn automation that's been dragging the series down.
Screw that, instead of whining that it doesn't belong, fix it so it works.

When rails first appeared, there were two problems with them. The first being that transferring between rails was too unreliable; it seems like all they did was throw you sideways and hope you landed on another rail properly. They fixed this in ShtH and then again in Unleashed by specifically programming the rail-switching, so you could do so without worrying about instant death. The other problem, and the one they've yet to solve, is that there's so little to do on them. There's often long stretches of rail with no other options, where your only options are to switch between rails (sometimes, and in some games risking death in doing so) and jumping (which tends to slow you down and, if you're not on a straightaway, kill you). They need to reduce the number of huge grinding segments (ideally giving most or all of the remaining ones an alternate ground path) and increase the number of actions you can do while grinding, and at the same time increasing the number of challenges they throw at you to match. You should at least be able to jump and attack while on a rail...

  • Chuckle 1
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The rail system was entertaining and skillful when it was just the hedgehogs doing it. Then here comes Heroes, now everybody's doing it.

Moreover, how can Sonic grind in those flat shoes? Seriously. Amy was excusable, because of her boots, but without Sonic's Soaps, it just doesn't look the same.

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My first game with rails was SatSR. There was too much grinding, and I would keep having to press 2 to get my speed up. If there was an enemy on the rail, jumping and homing attacking would be really frustrating because 2 is used to increase grinding speed back to the maximum. And trying to jump off and land on another rail is an exercise in frustration. Sometimes, Sonic'll jump way too far off any of the rails. Or, he'll jump the opposite direction that you tilt the remote and land in a bottomless pit. I hated it.

Then, I played SA2, and that made it all better.

Even though Riders and Zero Gravity are racing games, I like their implementation of the grind rail as well. Optional shortcuts, and you don't need to worry about keeping your speed up. Sometimes, you'll have to jump over splits in the rail, adding some extra challenge.

Unleashed also used the rail jumping effect well (at least the 360 version). In the Wii version, there wasn't much rail jumping, and when there was. it was a little frustrating with using the nunchuck and B button for a quick step.

So when it's done right, it's great.

Also - I love how people can jump of rails in Unleashed 360 and land on others wayyyy below to take a shortcut. Awesome.

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Unleashed also used the rail jumping effect well (at least the 360 version). In the Wii version, there wasn't much rail jumping, and when there was. it was a little frustrating with using the nunchuck and B button for a quick step.

Actually, in the Wii version, 3D grind rails are only used once in the entire game, during the final boss. Quite odd really. All the other rails are in 2D sections.

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Screw that, instead of whining that it doesn't belong, fix it so it works.

When rails first appeared, there were two problems with them. The first being that transferring between rails was too unreliable; it seems like all they did was throw you sideways and hope you landed on another rail properly. They fixed this in ShtH and then again in Unleashed by specifically programming the rail-switching, so you could do so without worrying about instant death. The other problem, and the one they've yet to solve, is that there's so little to do on them.

Exactly my point.

You should at least be able to jump and attack while on a rail...

If you're going to be doing stuff like that, what's the point in even having the rail? Just put a damn pathway there so I can at least control Sonic, or better yet, some kind of stage specific set piece. That's what they did before rails.

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