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Awoo.

Flash and Style but with the Substance


Soniman

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I love the aplomb of some of the things in Sonic stages and levels. They add a sense of excitement and can be amazing spectacles. That said, they can come off as oh so shallow when they're primarily flash and no substance. For instance, I always personally thought that whilst Sonic ripping-apart the Egg Dragoon with his bare hands was awesome, it wasn't satisfying to control because all it amounted to was simple button-pressing. The Final Colour Blaster was even worse because all it basically amounted to was a glorified Homing Attack.

 

Sections of Unleashed's day stages such as the grind down the rail after the clock tower whilst taking-in the scale of Spagonia, traversing the areas around the ginormous waterfalls in Jungle Joyride and the running on the sides of buildings in Skyscraper Scamper were simply awesome and are a factor in why I regard that game so fondly because it all looks so amazing.

 

I'd love to see the Sonic series embrace in-your-face set pieces in greater volume whilst making them fun.

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A Sonic game with platinum levels of flash would get so much love from me; I know people on this site tend to look down on things like automation and when control is taken away from the player, but I honestly feel set pieces like the ones depicted in the OP are part of what makes a game memorable, especially since I always felt Sonic is a series that thrives on set pieces.

 

Not that the entire game should encompass that philosophy, but more set pieces wouldn't hurt.

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Honestly, what you're saying was what Generations was doing with it's gameplay a lot of the time, which is why it's bosses and stages stand out on their own despite being based off stages from other games. They basically took what they had before and turned it up to 11. They even managed to cut down on a lot of the automation from Unleashed too.

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And while I agree about being against automation, It'd be pretty hard to go platinum levels of crazy without it, since Platinum succeeds in it's level of batshit insanity by allowing the player to do really cool shit on the fly by leaving them to master the ultimately complicated control schemes. Since (IMO, at least) Sonic games should really avoid complication when it comes to controls, they'd have to either settle for automation or reel themselves in and focus on providing intensity around the things Sonic can already do. Plus, I think Platinum levels of crazy are a biiit too over the top for this series anyway.

 

Basically, Generations got the closest to that sweet spot where style and substance come together.

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Too add on to what you're saying, Soniman

 

These flashy moments are the ones we remember when we think about a game, they can end up defining an entire experience in just a few short, sweet moments.

 

There is one thing however you've neglected to mention which is a major set piece when it comes to style and fashion, the music. The music should fit the scene and change dynamically with the fight. The combination of Open your Heart and that tense orchestrated piece from the Perfect Chaos Final boss fight helped mesh together the ideas of "Yes, you're the hero." and "Everything is at stake now." and it made one awesomely brilliant boss battle.

 

Music is always overlooked, it is always seen as a static piece to most games, not interactive like the rest of it. The music should change and fit the tone of what you're doing! This is why I have so much respect for Falk and his awesome display of what Sonic Unleashed's Rooftop Run would be like with dynamic music.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjtXrKpW7G4

 

All I'm saying is that style is important, and music is a huge component.

 

 

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I didn't think I have to mention music since Sonic games tend to have that down when it comes to being full of style. Heck SLW had a great final boss theme that could have added to the experience if the boss itself wasn't so blah.

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I didn't think I have to mention music since Sonic games tend to have that down when it comes to being full of style. Heck SLW had a great final boss theme that could have added to the experience if the boss itself wasn't so blah.

 

I think you may have misunderstood, what I meant is that music should be dynamic and fit what's happening. Music in Sonic titles are usually static. That doesn't diminish the fact that they are great pieces, but it could only serve to add to the experience.

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I think you may have misunderstood, what I meant is that music should be dynamic and fit what's happening. Music in Sonic titles are usually static. That doesn't diminish the fact that they are great pieces, but it could only serve to add to the experience.

 

Oh I see. Like how in Colors the music would get muffled if you go underwater stuff like that?

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Oh I see. Like how in Colors the music would get muffled if you go underwater stuff like that?

 

Precisely, but on a larger scale than just a filter. The video in my original post is an excellent example.

I'd like to see bosses be designed more like levels; run from them, chase them down, have them smash through the environment as you navigate it, put the focus on movement, where Sonic's strengths lie.

 

This is essentially all of Day-Sonic's bosses in Unleashed. They were really cool :)

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Unleashed's bosses really aren't what I was getting at. They put the fight on the move, but it's still very much about the fight, not about the movement. The "levels" are mostly just featureless looping tracks.

 

Generations' Perfect Chaos is closer to what I'd like to see.

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I think spectacle is one of the biggest things about Sonic that's so appealing, as long as it's paired with full (or at least 80%) control. 

 

Crazy camera angles that don't interfere with your movement nor leave you disoriented, level pacing to where you can feel the buildup, bosses that actually take a challenge and reward you with satisfying reactions.. yeah, all those things are really the icing on the cake, which to some is just as essential as the cake itself.

 

SLW's level design and ideas were decent fun but it would've been so much more entertaining if it was nearly as exciting in delivery as the classics, Adventures, Unleashed or Generations were. There's only so much you could do with tubes in space, though. :v

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There's only so much you could do with tubes in space, though. :v

Honestly I'm not sure what they couldn't do. Having tubes didn't prevent them from making flat(-ish) areas of more traditional design, and I would think being free of static gravity would only open up more options.
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Yeah, I suppose you're right. It just seems like it'd take a lot of extra work thinking up how to do anything like that, especially since mixing Sonic's speedy gravity-based gameplay with spheres/cyllinders that have their own central gravity plus all that just seems a bit hectic.

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Unleashed used automation too much I agree, and funnily enough as much as I still adore the Whales, Clock Towers and Fireworks my biggest mindblow moment in Unleashed will always be Eggmanland's Roller Coaster and I'm sure I've raved about it in past topics before.

 

You get flung into the roller coaster, which is cool enough as is.  The game makes use of dramatic camera angles and a bunch of bright, close-up scenery whizzing past to really emphasise the speed (Sonic Colours severely lacked in this when it came to stages like Asteroid Coaster with its giant, distant, slow moving scenery during the space sections).

 

And just when you think that's it, it's all automated, BAM you get flung off with no warning.  The camera doesn't suddenly change to show the missing track before you hit it, you're completely in Sonic's shoes and it was beautiful.

 

And the best part was, while aesthetically it has the appeal of Sonic dealing with an unexpected and inconvenient situation, as a player you aren't left in the dark, as while the surprise gives you a jolt and makes you go "OH GOD WHAT" for a moment, the controls immediately become familiar thanks to the bobsled sections from Cool Edge.

 

 

 

Gosh it's just so perfectly constructed as a moment in both visuals and fairness to the player I love it.

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Wow, I completely forgot about that. What Jez said to the 'nth degree.

 

Yeah we need more of that. More predicaments where the game throws you a curveball and you got to take control. I feel like Lost World tried to do that at times, but it felt more subdued since they based entire stages around it rather than instances.

 

Imagine moments in a snow level where you start to Spin Dash down thickly-layered snowbanks and you pick up clumps of snow and roll into a big ball knocking down enemies like pins (instead of that whole snowball stage). Or parts of the level like Desert Ruins crumbling to pieces as you're running on it and you have to keep pace. 

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I think that cinematic set pieces are certainly a way of injecting pure memorability into a game, the same applies to old blue. What Jez said perfectly encapsulates that idea - either these things have to feel unpredictable or earnt to me personally, especially the latter. If you've battled through the entire game and had a suitably difficult final boss battle I'd feel that one final cinematic set piece would just seal the deal for me.

Style and substance should most certainly work hand in hand. Too much style leads to games like Beyond Two Souls which are devoid of excitement gameplay wise since everything is so thoroughly planned out to be a certain way cinematically. And powerful, dramatic scenes have no weight since I didn't need to fight to get to that point, or at least I didn't feel I had to.

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I always liked it in Generations Crisis City where you hit the spring and fly dramaticaly into the air, where the glass smashes behind you - then you homing attack and regain control before you even land, or ignore it and land slightly lower down. Crisis City in that game as a whole was really flashy yet had a lot of gameplay focus (mach speed section where you really have to pay attention only there's like 6 different tiers you can hit or the Classic platforming section in the tornado based on the original level which had a cool section like this). Chemical Plant is another great example because the plant slowly falls apart during the course of the level. It starts out normal, before having the sirens go off, and you being able to see broken glass and water filling the area up before the whole thing starts exploding around you. It doesn't change how you play the level, but it feels more intense.

 

I also like to see loads of crazy shit stunts you can do, like grabbing onto the chopper in Speed Highway Modern at the start of the level or jumping over the ramp to get to a shortcut. It's badass and it's something where you go against the ordinary to succeed. Sonic's Kingdom Valley in 06 actually lets you grab the eagle that flies above you RIGHT at the very start of the level - its' genius.

 

From what I've seen and not played, Lost World's "speed sections" are entirely separate from the rest of the game in terms of how it plays, and there are few setpieces.

 

I just don't want the setpieces to last too long and be too automated, which is why I'm not overly fond of City Escape Modern's truck sequence. If there was more to do, sure, but as it is you don't need to do a lot. Crisis City Modern's finale requires you to pay attention to EVERYTHING around you if you want to do it fast, and it doesn't automatically barrel you forward either. Try exploring that little section sometimes - it's surprisingly complex in design for a "going forward" section.

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While I agree that style shouldn't take priority over substance, if there isn't going to be any substance anyway then a bit of style certainly doesn't hurt.  Generations 3DS ended pretty much every level with a near-automated set-piece segment, and they were all visually pretty impressive but a lot of them didn't actually require you to properly play the game.  A huge totem pole falling down on you?  Sonic auto-runs and all you do is literally Boost To Win.  Grinding through a cave in Mushroom Hill?  Exactly the same thing, only with less to do with the original level.  Killer whale attack?  Press the jump button at semi-arbitrary points while Sonic runs and jumps and does cool stuff on his own.  There were some better parts - the end of Classic Water Palace had an enormous Badnik appear in the background and start smashing the ground to cause earthquakes and bring parts of the level collapsing on you, and not only was the gameplay as normal but I think the pace of the destruction according to your progress through the sequence wasn't automated so if you got through it faster you'd leave a lot of the negative effects behind.  There were consequences to playing well or poorly.  Similar, the meteor shower multi-rail-grind at the end of Modern Tropical Resort had standard multi-rail gameplay which you played in real-time with normal controls and succeeded or failed according to normal conditions, and while rail-grinding isn't exactly the least automated gameplay, it was still part of how you normally play the game.  Anyway, there's no denying that those parts were the most memorable parts of each level - but that's partly because the rest of each level was boring, so even the sequences where you could literally just put your game down and tap a button every couple of seconds felt more engaging.

 

Lost World, 3DS anyway, definitely had this problem.  While it did have some distinctive areas in each level, they weren't distinctive for the right reasons.  I didn't get a solid sense of place - each level felt too much like an arbitrary obstacle course of no great significance.  And what moments of style it did have were either inconsequential or irritating - Zavok's dragon-mech attacking the stage in the later parts of Sky Road didn't really do much, and I think there's probably nobody who didn't loathe Zeena's tedious giant snowball.  Those parts might actually have been better if they were automated!  They could've been both flashier and less annoying to play.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that, while they should quite rightly be working on providing real substance and then augmenting it with flashy style, then if they're going to make a game that's boring to play then it's almost a courtesy to add some whizzbang for those who went to the trouble of playing through it.  If they literally can't do substance any more, as sometimes seems to be the case, then they'd sure better get some style in, and who knows?  Maybe it'll even give them some ideas.

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Oh and also I would like to bring up SA2's old "style points" system, where it would rank you for pulling of neat trick in SA2, and not just "use trick off this ramp" but also when you pulled of a impressive feat with your own skill, such as when in City Escape when you can  rack up points when you remain on the long end rail, destroy the robots and then latch on to a swing pole without touching the ground.

 

Id love to see the old ranking style of "cool, radical, jamming, awesome, perfect, etc" return again for pulling off cool shit during gameplay, and in that sense id also to tricks come back, again Gens kinda had that, but id want it do be done anywhere.

 

This sort of reminds me of Sonic Rush's trick system, where you could perform tricks anywhere as long as you were in the air or on a rail. In that game it served as your main source of boost, but I'm sure it could be re-purposed for a point system.

 

As long as the tricks aren't as simple as Color's "Spam A to Amazing", I'd be happy with any sort of trick system returning.

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This sort of reminds me of Sonic Rush's trick system, where you could perform tricks anywhere as long as you were in the air or on a rail. In that game it served as your main source of boost, but I'm sure it could be re-purposed for a point system.

 

As long as the tricks aren't as simple as Color's "Spam A to Amazing", I'd be happy with any sort of trick system returning.

Yeah, I think sega really missed out on bringing in the trick system with lost world and having a little focus on it, you would basically be rewarded for doing all kinds of parkour stunts and even get speed boosts in the process too. Not only would it have made the parkour a bit more useful over the spin dash in some areas but it also would've given you more of a reason for doing it and it would give you a good sense of style by trying your best to parkour perfectly too.

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