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Did the classic offer too little progress between each other?


andrewtuell1991

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Now don't get me wrong, I love the classic trilogy more than the vast majority of Sonic games, but I can't help feel that the amount of progress between them could've been wider.

In the first game, Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Sonic's only moves were running, jumping, and spinning that could only be activated by holding down on a downward slope.

The second game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, offered some new things over it's predecessor but, IMO, not really enough to be called a full fledged sequel.  The only new Sonic 2 offered was the Super Spin Dash and giving the Chaos Emeralds a greater purposed to be collected besides seeing an alternate ending of Eggman throwing a hissy fit.  Tails' was a nice addition but played like a Sonic re-skin.

The third game, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, is when we're finally given enough innovation to be considered a true sequel.  Shields were upgrades from the ordinary blue-shields into three elemental shields that each gave Sonic a different power.  Sonic was given the W Spin Attack (aka Insta-shield) to attack Uniuni-type badniks and some bosses,  Tails' flying and swimming could be controlled by the player, a new character, Knuckles, could glide, climb, and break through walls to yield shortcuts and new route and each character were given their own specific routes to break up the monotony.  And, on top of character-specific routes were yet more alternate and secret routes giving you at least a dozen ways to complete just one act!

Mini-bosses were added for extra-challenge and act transition now made you feel as though you were on an actually adventure with Sonic instead of fumbling around a bunch of disconnected Zones.  And of course we had the Super Emeralds and Hyper Transformations but I didn't care much for those.  The only flaw with S3K, IMO, is that it had to be split up into two games which is probably why it sold so much less than it's two predecessors.  (S1 and S2 sold 6 million apiece and S3 and S&K sold 1.8 million apiece if I'm not mistaken).

My point is things like Mini-Bosses, Act Transition, and Tails' flying and swimming should've been added in Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 should've offer even more.  I think one of the reasons large portions of the fanbase are so resistant to change is that the classics didn't offer enough to distinguish themselves from each other.  The progress between them, IMO, was rather minute at best.

So, what do you think?  Did the classics have just enough 'new' between them to separate them from each other, or could more have been done to set them apart?

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I think that there's a good sense of progression from each one to the next. If S3&K was Sonic 2, they'd have had to add at least the same amount of content for Sonic 3, which sounds incredibly busy. Or maybe I feel that way purely because i'm used to what we do have?

 

I think enough was added in each game that it feels like a fairly natural evolution from one to the next. I kinda feel like they're all pretty pitch-perfect. The only real disconnect I feel is an issue of hindsight; tonally I find Sonic 1 to be so much more dark than the rest of them. The muted colour palette and what feels like more urgent or foreboding music, and even level design. Compare Scrap Brain's visuals and music with Metropolis' and you'll see where i'm coming from.

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I don't know, the transition seems fairly natural to me and it was all basing it off a one button control scheme. You don't need to go leaps and bounds to call it a sequel, it had similar gameplay and control scheme and was much longer than the game before. Also each game was further and further into the consoles life so they were getting better and better at coding for it and understanding what they could do and how to push it more and more, look at the graphical fidelity of S1, S2 and S3, each game gets better in terms of detail, sprite complexity, visual effects and the like. sonic 2 introduced the hanging mechanic and the super sonic mechanic and the spindash. It introduced Tails as a character and introduced the first Son if 2P mode. sonic three then went and introduced things like Ice mechanics, walking on water mechanics, flying, swimming and climbing mechanics. It introduced Knuckles, true character specific paths, level transitions, the "true" final boss. It also introduced some stage specific gimmicks like elasticity mechanics, gravity switching mechanics and pseudo 3D special stages.

To say that there wasn't a lot of progress between the games is, I think, quite blind. There may not be very much outwardly obvious changes, but things like the mechanics introduced, the graphical fidelity and even the things that they could make sonic do in each successive game show that a lot of effort and changes made to each game. Sure the 3D games have had quite a few changes but that's because there is so much more you can do with the hardware that wasn't possible on the Megadrive/Genesis.

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The progression between the numerical games was pretty good actually. I do feel that Sonic 2 was hurt by being rushed to release. This meant some level content (like Hidden Palace) had to be cut from the final version. It sucked that you couldn't fly with Tails, and thus he was just a pointless re-skin of Sonic. This was a shame because the acts in Sonic 2 are often complex and warrant exploration which Sonic can't do as easily with his skill set. Also, Sonic's controls are rather slippery in Sonic 2 which doesn't always work well with the level deign and cheap enemy placement. 

 

Those few nick-picks aside, Sonic 2 felt like a step forward. The 2 player vs mode is brilliant. Personally I think graphically Sonic 2 wasn't a step forward from Sonic 1. The coloring in zones like Mystic Cave and Hill Top looks horrible.

 

I think the story telling got a lot better throughout the series. Sonic 2 started to tell a story as you progressed through the zones from Sky Chase onwards. This of course continued throughout each zone in Sonic 3&K. Sonic CD tried to tell a story with some success.

 

Jolt_TH pretty much touched on all the changes made in terms of the skill sets and gimmicks.

 

The bosses in Sonic 3&K are actually harder to hit in the first place let alone having to hit them eight times, which showed influence from Sonic CD as well as Sonic 2. It's a shame the Super-Peel Out move from CD didn't make it to 3&K. The spin-dash in 3&K was a better design; the more you revved up the spindash the faster Sonic would move when released.

 

What pleased me with 3&K was that the stage design was more complex, more platform heavy. Sonic still has his speed from Sonic 2, but in 3&K the physics are much tighter which allowed for a much better balance between fast speed areas and platforming sections.

 

Graphically speaking 3&K is an amazing looking game. The 3d 'blue-sphere' special stages looks (and plays) so good, as do the bonus stages. When you complete the game you really feel like you've been through an epic adventure.

 

It's easy to be super critical of the games 20 years on, especially when you see the improvements made in the recent mobile versions. As you play through each one you can see how the design changed and got better and better.

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What does a direct follow-up need to be to be considered "enough of a sequel"?

You're basing your entire argument on little additions, neglecting what was changed and improved too. What exactly do you expect to have changed between S1 and S2? The games physics were changed to cater for great speed, the level design focused more on speed, a new co-op system and multiplayer was added, the game was much bigger, new levels that were totally unique and incomparable to the original, there was an all new type of special stage with an added bonus upon completing them all... Big mechanics weren't changed or added because it wasn't unnecessary.

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Sonic 2 would have never been Sonic 3 & Knuckles because they were still figuring out what Sonic was.  Sonic 3 wouldn't have been as it was if Sonic 2 hadn't been as it was.  The only difference would be Sonic 2 would've been made internally, scrapped because it wasn't enough of a sequel, and then we would've never had Sonic 2.  It's my least favourite of the trilogy but still.

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Fun fact: Sonic 2 is built off Sonic 1. It's essentially the exact same game just tweaked a little. If you download the betas off of Retro, you'll notice that the stage select on the early ones use the Sonic 1 names.

 

It's understandable why Sonic 2 isn't much different when you take this into consideration.

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I don't think a series necessarily needs to make huge changes with each entry. If the designers feel pressured to constantly add new things, eventually the games are going to feel bloated. To last a long time, a series needs to be able to produce entries that don't rely on additive changes; games that use the same overall mechanics but with new levels, games based around a one-shot gimmick, games that strip down the formula and build it in a new direction, etc.

The Genesis Sonics lean more towards sameiness than some series, but given that it's only a few games, I don't think it's enough to be a problem.

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Entire franchises are founded on consistency. What exactly is the problem with the Classic Sonic games making minor mechanical changes to the gameplay? Making major changes to how a game functions in its sequel arbitrarily, is completely pointless and may end up frustrating players and fans.

 

You know what, Sonic actually did this. Sonic Heroes, Shadow and 06 needlessly chopped, changed and added various needless, often horrifically poorly implemented gimmicks, just for the sake of differentiation. You know what that did right? Nearly straight-up murdered the franchise....

 

Nah, nah. Consistency is the one thing this franchise has lacked over the latter decade of its life. It certainly wasn't a flaw in the classic titles. If anything, the consistent formula with "minor" incremental updates is what made the series critically acclaimed.

Mario has been doing basically the same stuff for years and the accolades just keep rolling in. 

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Yeah I'll be honest, I don't exactly worship the classics but this is the one thing I hate about newest games not learning from them - somewhere down the line some fucking ridiculous precedent has been set that Sonic essentially has to reinvent himself every single time a new game comes out. It solves absolutely nothing bar dividing and fragmenting this fanbase into tiny little pieces, and poisoning the very definition of what it actually means to be a Sonic game to such an extent that nobody can even fucking tell anymore. This isn't even strictly gameplay speaking anymore, either - we used to have broad arcs of narrative that encompassed entire console generations and weren't afraid to reference and build off each other when relevant, characterization is all over the goddamned place, and to say the aesthetics have been fucking schizophrenic is being extremely generous.

 

Say what you will about the boost generation, but it was at least a solid, consistent way of defining speedy platforming, even if not everyone will agree it's the best. Too often the series is so focused on mixing things up that it never fucking retains anything to buff and add to as they go. Literally nothing they've done in over a decade has been in any way necessary - Sonic games of old only needed gimmicks in level design to differentiate themselves. Why the fuck should that have changed?

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I think the progression is really good, the games refine and improve on what's come before, tweaking the previous game to make it play better. Then they add some new features, new moves and characters and a new story which has a good flow and continues to ramp up, getting more and more epic and grand as they go along.

 

I'm not too sure what you want instead. All three games are pushing up against what the megadrive was capable of and doing the absolute best possible with such limited hardware. The progressions between the games is as much as was possible at the time (and, like I said, more than enough anyway...), they were never going to be able to make a leap like that between S3&K and SA it simply wouldn't have been possible.

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I think it's also worth noting in addition to this "consistency" argument about the Genesis games is that most 2D titles afterward have followed on this principle on having consistent gameplay that wouldn't have anyone familiar with other 2D Sonic games get lost when picking them up for the first time, and this consistency is generally a reason why the 2D titles are viewed much more favorably than the 3D titles. Even if they proceed to give the 2D gameplay formula a major shake-up (namely referring to the Rush and Rivals series) they still leave the core gameplay untouched and at the very least keep consistency within their respective series (barring Advance 3 to an extent with the co-op addition).

 

I'll even give Sonic 4: Episode I some merit for following this principal-despite stripping away the aforementioned "incremental updates" (as Scar coined them) that it's predecessors added to the Classic series, even though it was billed and hyped as a direct sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles; you were still left with the familiar 2D gameplay with none of the gimmicky gameplay overhauls that the 3D games are infamous for, and that is one of the reasons why I assume people gave the game the benefit of the doubt and purchased it, as well as why critics gave it a somewhat warm reception. If Episode II didn't screw things up by shoehorning in the co-op gameplay via Tails in a compulsory, gimmicky manner a la the 3D games; Episode II probably would had still performed well enough (with the critics, anyway) to just barely get a third episode greenlit.

 

E: Heck, I just realized that of all this talk of how important "consistency" is to franchises, it also might explain why Lost World is probably the most polarizing game in this entire series-not only does it give the gameplay a serious overhaul (that some argue wasn't well-executed), it also went against the standard "quickly race/get to the goal" mentality of all Sonic games at that point with it's variety objectives in most of it's levels-one level has a segment where you' have to play pinball to advance through the game, another level is entirely on-rails a la Secret Rings compared to the other platform-centric levels, a third has "stealth" elements that require Sonic to avoid getting caught, and the 3DS version has been outright lambasted for having most of it's levels filled with "push X to location Y / collect X number of Y to advance" in order to advance objectives. It's just a total mess.

Edited by Space☆Gabe
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The second game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, offered some new things over it's predecessor but, IMO, not really enough to be called a full fledged sequel.  The only new Sonic 2 offered was the Super Spin Dash and giving the Chaos Emeralds a greater purposed to be collected besides seeing an alternate ending of Eggman throwing a hissy fit.  Tails' was a nice addition but played like a Sonic re-skin.

 

So, what is a separate game with new levels and challenges to you, if not a sequel?

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Sonic the Hedgehog(1991): Is a good first game in the series, with solid control and solid level design. It was good for what it was and it was something different in terms of 2D Platformers.

 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2: As a sequel it does its job very well it improves on the many things that Sonic 1 either did wrong or just didn't do in general.

 

Improvements: The level design in general isn't as blocky hop and bop as it was in Sonic 1, they did more with the whole use of momentum which allowed for bigger levels. The spin-dash was a great addition for building up speed quickly. They removed the running speed-cap which allowed Sonic to move much faster and make it not feel weird when he suddenly slowed back down to base speed. The Bosses were a step up, they were harder but still pretty simple. The level progression was a step up, the last few stages transitioned pretty well into eachother. The Chaos Emeralds gave a better reward for getting them. The ending scene was a lot better for what it did. Even added a sweet multi-player mode and co-op feature.

 

As a sequel, what are you gonna do with the second game? You aren't gonna go all out 1st thing, you're gonna go baby steps and change things little by little, see what things you should start off with to give the series its own identity. Because its at that point where you can do anything to lock down what the series' is. You don't want to go all out making new additions just because its a sequel, you want to make additions that can make the already solid 1st game even more solid, that way you know that you CAN make another good/solid game that ends up being better than the 1st.

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