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July 3, 2015 in Sonic Games
I've come back from an SSMB break!
I did some searching on these forums and couldn't find any threads discussing how best to approach Boss design in Sonic games. This is pretty funny, since Sonic is memorable for those end of level bosses and partly because they are such a walk in the park.
This guy's pretty memorable for how much of a pushover he is . Of course, the bosses can also reach into absurd levels of difficulty, like Sonic 2's final boss. Balance is key, and Sonic often misses the mark.
So, what do you guys think would be the best way to implement bosses in Sonic?
Personally. I think that the bosses in Sonic are best when they actually try to focus on what Sonic's gamestyle is actually based on, fast-paced platforming. This is why standout bosses like the ones in Labyrinth Zone, Mushroom Hill, Death Egg Chase Sequence (Sonic 3), Casino Night, Quartz Quadrant and Collision Chaos are so memorable, despite having varying degrees of success. This can potentially create a problem, as games like Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations relied on the 'Auto-Run' Boss, and whilst this can be fun, if not used sparingly it just comes across as plain lazy and uninspired.
The bosses where you have to do lots of precision platforming are the ones that are the biggest offender to me. Bosses like Death Egg (Sonic 2), Hidden Palace (Sonic 2) and Chemical Plant are good examples of this.
How would you guys approach Bosses in the Sonic Franchise?
The way you play the boss kinda depends on the type of game it is, and that's a whole other discussion altogether. I would however like to see a departure from the chase bosses we've had a lot of since Unleashed though.
The main thing that comes to mind at the moment is I think I'd try and add a bit of context to the bosses. Rather than just reach the end of Act 2 or whatever and Eggman is sat waiting for you, make it feel like Sonic has stumbled upon Eggman as he's actively trying to accomplish something in that zone.
Maybe Eggman turns around from his work and see's Sonic standing there and then flies away off screen in his Egg mobile in a panic, there's brief gameplay section where you follow where he went and then he ambushes you in his new mech and the fight starts.
I've actually been meaning to make a boss thread for a while now but never got around to it. Anyway my biggest complaint with Sonic bosses is that they're often too easy, usually because they just repeat a handful of attack patterns over and over and very few of them try to trip the player up in any real fashion. For that reason bosses which actually do mix things up like Egg Viper and Biolizard tend to be my favorites.
Something regarding boss fights that I've always thought had potential but was never really fleshed out is the way the boss's health bars worked in Sonic Heroes and to a lesser extent Shadow the Hedgehog. I like the idea that each part of the boss has its own health bar and that by depleting that health bar you would actually destroy that part of the boss or otherwise render it unusable. I think that if done properly it can add a layer of strategy to the boss fights that would help make them much more interesting. Would you rather lose a bit of time taking out the boss's weapons or risk damage by going straight for the weak point? Perhaps there's a part of the boss that's reducing the damage it takes but that part is heavily guarded, do you want to risk getting hurt to destroy that part or would you rather be safe but deal less damage? Maybe you have to destroy the entire boss. In that case if you fighting a tank is it better to destroy the cannons first and go about the rest of the fight without having to worry about them, or to destroy the treads first and render the boss immobile? Or say if you're fighting a dragon-like boss, should you take out the wings first, making it easier to hit but placing it dangerously close to yourself? Or should you take out the legs first, forcing it to stay in the air and away from you, but also making it harder to hit? It's such a simple system but it can add a shocking amount of depth to the proceedings.
I honestly don't think the series has many genuinely good bosses. There's a lot of trouble in finding a balance; most bosses either get thrashed quickly by an aggressive player due to constantly exposed weak points, or end up being tedious waiting games because they spend way too much time being invulnerable and you usually can only get one hit per cycle.
Rush Adventure is one of the few games that hits that balance, at least with most of its bosses. They're generally vulnerable long enough to reward aggression, while having enough health that they can't be taken down in one good round. And unlike Heroes, where a lot of the combat degrades into semireliably spamming an attack, in SRA you pinball really nicely off of bosses, so you need to quickly adjust to every bounce to get in as many hits as possible. Sky Babylon's boss is especially good about this; there's a nice dynamic between the defensive bottom screen and the aggressive top screen, and trying to bounce off the boss as many times as you can without falling down.
And while some of its bosses are basically meat walls, there's still enough variety to keep things interesting. The pendulum boss has you attacking indirectly, weighing the extra effort it takes to knock the larger pendulums into the boss against the extra damage they do. Big Swell has you turning the boss's attacks against it, some as direct counterattacks but mostly so you can then unlock a cannon and launch yourself at it for a potential sequence of hits. The whale is the most unique, only requiring a few hits but hiding its weak spot behind a few microlevels, putting the focus on your platforming skills.
That last one is also something I'd like to see more of. A "boss" doesn't necessarily need to be a direct fight. Sonic is a platformer character, his strengths are in movement moreso than combat, so the player's skill is better tested by platforming than fighting a guy. And, like the whale boss, it can still be staged like a fight for narrative purposes.
I'm not sure how to implement bosses in Sonic, I'm not as in depth as you guys to think of anything.
I do like the creative approach to bosses that Sonic CD had though, it'll be cool to see bosses like that again.
Outside of the mediocre Time Eater boss fight, I think Generations did a great job with how it handled its boss fights. Each boss challenges the player in a fair manner that tests your skills in a way that could actually be considered fun and not piss easy or bullshit hard.
Besides Generations, in my opinion, most of the other games don't have good boss fights, classic games included. Sonic Colors is definitely the biggest offender in this case, as the only boss that I think presented somewhat of a challenge was Aquarium Park's. The final boss is a joke.
Sonic CD is a bit unique in the way it handled its boss fights and I think it both succeeded and failed in certain aspects of making the bosses enjoyable. Metal Sonic's boss was pretty darn fun, and the way the player has to maneuver Sonic to actually hit Eggman was, at times, really well thought out. My problem with these bosses is that Eggman goes down too easy sometimes. 1-3 hits is all it takes most times. I do like when the level makes platforming an important aspect of its boss fight, but give the boss itself some tougher armor or more attacks to make it seem like I'm actually fighting something that poses a threat instead of just a badnik that looks like Eggman.
I would make character bosses more interesting for starters. Sonic Adventure 2 and Generations had interesting character bosses, but the other games fell flat it at.
I feel like Sonic Adventure 2 had a lot of well designed bosses honestly. I wouldn't mind seeing the series take more notes in terms of bosses from that game.
A problem with a lot of bosses in the series is that they tend to be too easy. Now, this isn't a problem early on, but when you get to, say, the midpoint of the game, the challenge should be upped. The classic games are some of the biggest offenders of this, as if you play aggressively enough, you can take down even some of the 'supposedly' tougher later bosses pretty quickly once you've figured out their weak points. Which are usually very obvious by the way. (hint, it's usually the head or the cockpit).
Or, especially the case of the 3D games, you have to wait for an opening and that could take quite a while.
Though, I have to give credit to this boss right here.
Perfect Chaos from Generations. What I like about this one is how you get to him;
They made what is essentially a mini stage that you need to go through in order to get to be able to attack him, which is actually a very cool idea. It keeps you from just blasting away and taking him down a few seconds (not that the original had that problem), but you also don't have to wait terribly long for an opening - you can actually get to him pretty quickly if you know what you're doing. And, I don't know, it was pretty neat going through the ruins of Station Square like that. If we could have a boss like that in a more narrative-driven game, I'd be all for it.
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