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Extreme Desicions


eXtaticus
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It's no secret that recently (well, since 2003, but it works if you count 6 years ago as "recently"), Sonic has been deteriorating at an incredible rate. Sonic Heroes was packed to the absolute brim with lame and childish gimmicks (sorry, but Sega preaching about the "real power" of teamwork was just blatant Nintendoism - sucking up to a child's parental party and basically levering the cash from their wallets is one thing, but trying to force unwanted morals down ones throat? Utterly Absurd!), Shadow the Hedgehog was ruined by that god-damned gun and the decidedly awful vehicles (although it must have seemed like a good idea in the boardroom, the actual result was a complete mess; pointless side-missions and a lousy game engine made for a frustrating gaming experience, and the completely terrible RenderWare-powered graphics were the icing of shite on an already stinking arse-cake), and Sonic Unleashed? Don't even get me started on the poor level design and the WereHog...

Although Sega attempted to rectify past mistakes with Secret Rings, the end result was pretty poor; taking a leaf out of the awesome design book of Sonic 06's Super-Speed Stages, it looked like nothing could possibly go wrong - but how mistaken we were to prematurely assume that. Unbelievably horrendous controls and an ear-shatteringly bad soundtrack await any who venture into this pile of crap...

Anyhow... The real point of this topic was not for me to have an hour-long rant about the previous blemishes and felony committed by the Sonic series (although that would be nice...), but to discover what you thought of the Sonical gimmicks, and hopefully establish a logical reason as to why they were implanted into the games in the first place!

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Let's see.

Sonic Adventure's Multiple Characters: Not bad, kept it varied, though ultimately none were as fun as Sonic's, and considering, despite Sonic having the longest story, you played as them more, it is a little dissapointed. They're still great, even Big is moderately fun, but just not quite as fun as Sonic.

Fun-ness (as oppose to game ruining-ness): 7/10

Sonic Adventure 2's Multiple Characters: I can understand why people hate these as the style did switch constantly between the three styles. However overall I found this to be an excellent game. All the styles were much more refined than in Adventure. Treasure Hunting stages are a bore, but they're more fun once you know the level. That still isn't an excuse for the first experience you have with them of course, but still, they're not ALL bad.

Fun-ness: 8/10

Sonic Heroes Team System: Great idea, but it mostly felt like you were playing as one character with three different skills. In fact, considering each formation used only the A and B buttons, they could have easily just made it so X attacks with Knuckles and Y makes Tails fly you up at any time. The end result is basically that you just switch to whatever the floating TVs tell you to, which are still there all the way up to the final level, with the boss fights being the only time you need to use your initiative to work out what to do... and the boss fights were a bit crap to be honest.

Fun-ness: 5/10

Shadow The Hedgehog's Weapons: I thought this was fine. The autoaim rarely failed me, and they gave Shadow a unique gimmick to seperate him from Sonic. The vehicles were rubbish though, and it dissapointed me that these returned in 2006 rather than the guns. Other than that this was basically a Sonic game with an extra attack mechanic, which was fine by me.

Fun-ness: 7/10

Sonic 2006's Mach Speed Zones: Awful idea and awful execution. The whole game should have been as fast as these with the tight control of the regular sections. Something they thankfully pretty much pulled off in Unleashed. Only other gimmick really was Silver's gameplay, which was fine, but nothing exciting. The combat was repetitive and most of the "puzzles" were just standing on a marked area and holding down the trigger to have stuff automatically move into place. Fun, but not exciting. Shadow was lame as he was basically Sonic's levels but slower with boring vehicle sections. Only the jeep was relatively fun.

Mach Speed Fun-ness: 3/10

Silver Fun-ness: 6/10

Secret Rings Style: This was a very bold experiment, and I think the results were good. I never had any problem with this "awful control" most people speak of, and the levels were engaging and interesting throughout. The only downside was all the missions that were completely irrelevant to the story. I can understand getting through Sand Oasis without breaking any jars because otherwise the King will kill us, but... as far as I can tell there was no reason for it. Oh, and you hit a personal mark with that comment on the soundtrack Extaticus, so I'll just say *cough* WRONG WRONG WRONG D= YOU'RE WROOOONG. Nah, just kidding, though you did state it was awful as if it's fact, when it's not. Secret Rings' is actually my most listened to soundtrack from the Sonic franchise. I wish all the games had music as cool and varied with so much effort put into them as this game.

Fun-ness: 8/10

Unleashed's Werehog: The gameplay during the day was near perfection to me. The only way they could improve on this is tightening the controls when at slow speeds, and adding in a few momentum based platforming areas as in the old games (I don't miss them as much as most retro fanboys, but I'm not denying they're one of the things that made the classic games fun). As for Werehog... it was an iffy idea, but well executed. The gameplay is fine and mostly works. The only downside is the levels were a bit too long. I think the stages should have been no longer than 10 minutes first time through, so they'd be about 3 minutes once mastered. There are more Sonic levels than Werehog... but during the story, you do spend more time as the Werehog since his obligatory levels are longer than Sonic's obligatory levels.

Daytime Fun-ness: 9/10

Werehog Fun-ness: 7/10

Black Knight's sword: Swordplay was fine, worked great. But the Secret Rings style control was old-fashioned at this point, and not what the game was meant or expected to be based around. The final problem was there was too much slashing and not nearly enough jumping. Secret Rings was weird, but at least it had Sonic style gameplay, not "run run run slash slash slash run run run .... jump.... run run run slash slash slash...".

Fun-ness: 5/10

Edited by JezMM
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Let's go one by one...

SA:

Racing (Tails): Flying completely breaks several levels making it piss-easy to win, but the concept of racing another character is good, and would be worth revisiting.

Treasure hunting: Eugh. Wandering around an area with buggy collision detection and physics to find randomly placed items? Yeah, I'd really rather not...

Escaping (Amy): It's a nice enough concept, but Amy is too goddamn slow and Zero isn't threatening at all. Might've been fun if they hyped up the feeling of being chased and mostly helpless, but as it is it's kind of boring.

Shooting: Works surprisingly well. Gamma feels a bit clumsy, but aside from that it's pretty decent mindless blasting.

Fishing: Hahahah no. I like Big as a character, but fishing in a Sonic game is garbage.

Chao: A mediocre and overhyped side game.

SA2:

Treasure Hunting: In general it's improved from SA, with the very big exception of the radar...there is no good reason for it to only detect one object at a time. Also Mad Space and its wonky gravity suck.

Shooting: Gamma's gained several thousand pounds, it seems. It's not the worst thing I've played, but it's slow and clunky. Gamma was clumsy, but he could move better than this...why the backslide?

Chao: A mediocre and overhyped side game that is at least better made than in SA.

Heroes:

Team gameplay: Not so bad a concept, but it falls apart in the execution. All the characters are crippled to fit into the "team" gimmick; Sonic can't spindash, Knuckles can't glide, etc. And you can never guarantee that your partners will actually do what they should when you try to use them...the rocket accel is particularly bad about when it wants to work properly. It doesn't help that the power and flight formations are painfully slow so they're only worth switching to when you need them rather than when you want them.

ShtH:

Guns: Why, oh why, does he need a gun? He can shoot energy from his hands. If they wanted to give him a projectile attack, they should've built on that instead of trying to be dark and edgy. Anyway, the guns, as they are, amount to little more than grab them and shoot anything that moves; there's no strategy, no technique, just fill them full of lead because it's the only thing that does decent damage. It's to the point that, as lame as the guns are, it's less fun to play without them simply because it takes too long to kill anything without them.

Vehicles: Nearly all of them are worthless. At best they're a bit of a defense boost with the downside of being very clumsy and very slow. The alien disk and the jump mech actually have some use, but they're the exceptions, and they're still pretty useless outside of their specific strengths.

'06:

Mach speed: Going fast is fun, but not when you continuously plow into walls while barely being able to control yourself. It seems more about memorizing where you need to be to not die instantly and hoping you can get it all right in one go rather than actually playing; you're far too limited in what you can do and even more limited because so much can kill you so easily.

Psychic powers: Silver's main problem isn't the powers he has, but the one he lacks; speed. I don't necessarily need him to be able to keep up with Sonic, but he moves at such a slow pace that he doesn't feel like he belongs in the same series. His psychic powers also seem gimmicky and inconsistent, too much hoping the game will do it right and not enough of you being able to make it go right.

Amigo characters: From what I've seen none of them look like much fun; they're in various states of polish, though generally towards the low end, and full of bad decisions.

SatSR:

On-rails: It's got some similar problems as '06's mach speed sections, but it's improved in that there is far less out to kill you dead (at least early on) and you actually can slow and stop Sonic. Unfortunately the way it's done it feels less like you're playing as Sonic and more like you've got him on a leash and you're trying to fight him as to where you will go. It's an interesting feeling, and for one game I enjoyed it, but I really don't want to see it repeated.

Waggle controls: Maybe this, even more than being on-rails, is what makes you feel like you've got Sonic on a leash. You don't have the precise and predictable input with the waggle that you do with the standard stick and buttons, so it's even more difficult to control an already-unruly hedgehog. This, quite frankly, has no benefit that I can see. Keep the waggle to a minimum, if it's used at all.

Leveling up: My main complaint is that it's an overly complex system for a platformer...there's a shitton of skills to wade through, which is very much against an easygoing pick-up-and-play style that I think Sonic is better suited to. It does have the advantage of easing you into the game with lower speed and simpler abilities and letting you build up to the face-peeling speed gradually, but this comes back to bite you in the ass if you're the sort of person that likes to play games over from the beginning (and the mandatory and very slow tutorial does not help).

Unleashed:

Boost: I like the boost, I just think it's overpowered. The insane speed is fun for a while, but at that speed it can be tough to figure out what you're even doing...there's really not a lot they can reasonably ask you to do when you're going that fast. Personally I think the best part of the boost is being able to get back up to speed after you've slowed down, so I say keep the boost but cut down its top speed. Also, as far as the Wii/PS2 version's boost? Segmenting the bar into distinct pieces is annoying, as is always boosting where the camera is facing rather than where Sonic is.

Werehog: I like the werehog, to an extent. It's a bizarre concept storywise, but the gameplay has potential...cut back on the combat and make the platforming faster and more fluid, and it could be quite fun. A lot like Silver, I think the biggest problem is that he's slow, and again, I don't expect Sonic-level speed, but it should be more than this. If wereSonic played more like he acted in the cutscene before the Egg Dragoon...well, people would probably still hate him, but I'd enjoy it.

SatBK:

On-rails: I suppose not forcing you forward is an improvement, but not that much of one. In a way I think it makes the style's flaws seem even worse, as when you're being forced ahead there's not much else to do but roll with it, but when you can stop and look at the surroundings you realize just how little control you actually have. Also, why can't we actually run backwards?

Sword: ...sword. Sword? Come on now. This would be hard enough to swallow if the game was off rails, but on rails it just becomes even more of a mess.

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Since JezMM already summed up my exact thoughts of Adventure 1 and 2's gimmicks, there's no need for me to repeat what's already been said. As for Black Knight's swordplay:

The swordplay took a great approach in how to mix a gimmick into Sonic's core gameplay without taking too much out of either. The only real problem comes from the lack of depth in the swordplay, and lack of control on Sonic's part. Had the game not taken the Secret Rings route of having on-rails level design and had it incorporated more depth to the sword, like more ways to attack or combos, the game would have been that much better to control. Unfortunately, the game really does fail to exceed farther than being just a waggle fest, the only real skill involved comes from proper timing and use of certain attacks in certain instances. But at least the on-rails gameplay takes advantage of the players limited control over where to go by having some levels which feature some amazing scenery for a Wii game, e.g Titanic Plain.

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Context is a very important part of any game, so I think the presence of the gimmicks would be fine if they were better balanced out by pure, bona fide Sonic titles with the core elements of the originals. Unfortunately, we really don't have any of those which is why gimmicks have began to make the series collapse.

But that doesn't exempt the execution of them. Frankly, I think all of the gimmicks had great potential but were flawed or dismissed by issues surrounding them:

Heroes- The three-character gameplay was a great concept and I think it was done quite well, but they forced you to play what is essentially the same game four times.

Shadow- One of the reasons that guns and vehicles were a con in this game was simply because Shadow didn't need them. But I've been playing Prototype lately though and despite the fact that the player is genetically an overpowered killing machine, guns and vehicles are still useful. So what separates that from Shadow? Shadow is a game that revolves around platforming and flow where in Prototype, movement is only a means to get from point A to point B ASAP. The problem in Shadow is that vehicles, combat and guns are a hindrance, not a help. Again, context is key.

Riders- I don't know why people are upset about Sonic airboarding here. Or being in a car in All-Stars Racing for that matter. I don't dismiss sack racing because I can move faster without them. I thought Riders was an awesome game, it's sequel even more so; it brought in alternate paths, it used special abilities exclusive to certain characters other than the stereotypical "supermove" like you see in the later Mario Kart games. The sequel wasn't a rehash or anything. I just think it was brought down by, again, context.

06- I don't know why you think the soundtrack was so horrendous. I guess the orchestrated music wasn't very fitting, but it was very well composed. That aside, 06 failed because it brought back the factors that ruined Shadow and magnified them; glitchiness aside, this game has no idea what "flow" should be, and when it does execute it in the mach speed stages, shoddy controls and poor mapping bring about incredibly cheap deaths.

Unleashed- I didn't find the Werehog that bad. To me, the gameplay in them was usually better than most of the daytime stages which throw you curve balls when you least expect it and share a lot of problems with the mach speed stages, even if they were improved dramatically here. Still, the existence of the Werehog was incredibly unnecessary. Sonic Team justified it by saying they want to appeal to both new and old Sonic fans with it. I can understand why they did it, but the saying goes "If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither one." The fact that they couldn't bring the experiences that both sides of the fence desire into one gameplay is actually pretty sad.

Black Knight- I appreciate Sonic Team trying something from their own imagination rather than giving into fan ideas. I thought the sword was a good idea in that many games have been done with swords but few if any have with fast paced, adventurous gameplay. Unfortunately, they missed the mark there in execution. A lot was fixed since Secret Rings like grinding, but a lot wasn't as well. It also made another Shadow-esque mistake in that the sword play often broke up the flow in certain areas.

So basically, gimmicks aren't necessarily a bad thing, its just that Sonic Team generally seems to be using ones that tend to deviate from Sonic gameplay rather than enhance it.

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I don't dismiss sack racing because I can move faster without them.
Imagine Sonic's next game: Super Sonic Sack Racing.

Does that sound as much fun as Riders?

If you said "no", you understand why people don't like the airboards.

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Imagine Sonic's next game: Super Sonic Sack Racing.

Does that sound as much fun as Riders?

If you said "no", you understand why people don't like the airboards.

Well, at least the hoverboards were stylish and a pretty cool concept, while sack racing is.... well.... not very stylish or cool.

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*Epically long post*

This is exactly how I feel.

Anyway...

Let's face it: every game has gimmicks. In Mario Galaxy Mario was in gravity-bending space, in Twilight Princess Link turned into a wolf, it's just part of what keeps games fresh. However, while I don't think there is a such thing as a 'bad gimmick', I do feel there is such a thing as a 'poorly executed gimmick'. Many Sonic games have those.

Take SatBK for instance. While Sonic with a sword sounds silly, it could actually work. Imagine wind-based conbat techniques, epically fast slashing and running, and climb and slidding down walls with sparks flying in style. Now doesn't that sound fun? But what we got was run, run, waggle, waggle, waggle, JUMP, waggle, slide, run! Rinse and reapeat and you've got yourself a level. If better techniques, controls, and level designs that feed the sword and speed of the game were insterted, it would have been a decent game.

So, in conclusion, I do like and except gimmicks, as long as they are done correctly.

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Imagine Sonic's next game: Super Sonic Sack Racing.

Does that sound as much fun as Riders?

If you said "no", you understand why people don't like the airboards.

No and still no. What I'm saying is that running:sackraces::Sonic:airboards/cars where your saying humans:sackraces::Sonic:sackraces. I was referring to it from the perspective of Sonic, not the player; people are questioning why Sonic would partake in airboarding if he can move faster without them. Riders' airboards are still faster and more versatile than normal human movement or even many other conventional means of transportation so on an absolute scale, so it still retains a similar degree of escapism to any other Sonic game.
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