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The Ranking System: Should it Stay or not? *Plays Sonic Heroes, Gets an F Rank*


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Ah, good ol’ Ranks. The simplest way to channel your inner completionist, starting as early as Adventure 1(?), it sure has been a mainstay in the series in some way. Where it’s to grade on how good you made your tricks in the Riders series (no one speaks of Free Riders around here) or how high your combo can go (Rise of Lyric says hi! *everyone picks up their torches and pitchforks*) and the typical visual showing on how many points you’ve earned. But here’s a question: Should it even exist anymore?

 

Before we answer that question, let’s look back on how the Ranks were done.

 

In Adventure 1, it’s the probably the most unique way of handling Ranks in the series. To get a good rank, you do a set of challenges of the stage and complete them, giving you the “A” Rank for the stage. I kind of like this way since it encourages the player to try out the challenges and better their “Rank” of the level, it’s pretty cool and I would like to see this come back in some way.

 

For most Sonic games, it’s usually this: Hit a lot of enemies + Collect a lot of rings + finish the stage the quickest time possible = Easy S/A Rank and of course, there’s its share of variations. Like in Heroes, the Energy Cores counts as a multiplier (I think?) so getting your A Rank becomes easier. In Shadow, doing the opposite things the mission expects you to do counts as a penalty and lowers down your score. In the Rush series, having a high Trick score is also expected to get your S Rank.

 

And of course, there are games that don’t use the Ranks but rather Medals. Like in the Riders’ Mission Mode, Secret Rings, Advance 3 and probably a couple other games but that’s all I’m allowed to think for the moment.

 

So yeah, most of the time S/A Ranks are mostly timed-based since it is a Sonic game and the Time Bonus does make up a good chunk of your score. But what about some games that also expect you to kill plenty of enemies and/or carry as much rings as possible? For people that goes out for that stuff, that kind of puts a bit of unneeded pressure especially in a hard stage *looks at Eggmanland* (How did I even got that S Rank?!). But I guess, you could always do a work around in such scenarios. For every hit you take, you lose a fraction of your rings (Boom games and Shadow says hi again!) and for the enemy bonuses, make a “leader” enemy that can kill the other enemies and make that into an enemy bonus (06 did do this). Or you could just not make ridiculously high score requirements for an S/A Rank (looks at 06, Unleashed HD and Heroes). There is a lot of ways to rework the ranking system into future Sonic titles, like in Lost World U or Unleashed PS2/Wii, the ranking were solely time-based so the faster you go through a level, the better your rank (though even then, some stages are just hard as balls to get that S Rank *looks at Tropical Coast Zone 4*).

 

Or maybe, you’re just one those people and think the A/S Ranks should just be removed like the lives because they’re just a lazy, archaic tool to artificially generate replay value and make Sonic games more user-friendly for players since there’s when there’s the choice to get a high rank, most people would play the level just to get that rank and if they don’t do it well, they’ll just restart and try again, killing the enjoyment of the game. And to be honest, that’s kind of why I’m kinda mixed with the Ranks, getting an S Rank is super rewarding especially in games like in Lost World 3DS or Rush Adventure, where I get a material bonus based on my rank, but I usually never just play through a level and always try to get a high rank whenever I’m playing since my enjoyment of the game/level comes from whether I got a high rank or not. But at this point, I’m just rambling so I leave it to you people.

 

What are your thoughts on the Ranking System? Love it? Hate it? Don’t really care? Still want a good Sonic game? (why are you even reading this then?) What can be improved and much, much more!

 

Yes, I am running out of ideas. 

 

Edited by Soni
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I kinda like what Rodea the Sky Soldier attempts. In the Wii version, you get two separate ranks based on time and collected gems. The former necessitates speedrunning and some rather clever sequence breaking, while the latter encourages exploration and chaining enemies. S-ranks are extremely difficult to obtain in this game (I try to settle for As, which is a bit of an achievement in itself honestly) but the manner in which you obtain them is simple and easy to understand.

Sonic games that factor in multiple things for rankings like time, enemies defeated, rings collected, etc. are stressful, especially when time is the most important element (and sometimes it feels like the requirements are unfairly arbituary, such as in Rush's case), and I'm the worst when it comes to holding onto my rings and avoiding death when I'm going fast in games like Unleashed and Rush. I think separating the categories like in Rodea's case would be a good idea, since that encourages multiple ways of playing a single level rather than just the one right way.

Edited by Sean
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. But what about some games that also expect you to kill plenty of enemies and/or carry as much rings as possible? For people that goes out for that stuff, that kind of puts a bit of unneeded pressure especially in a hard stage *looks at Eggmanland*

Hidden Content

That doesn't even make sense.

You basically asking how fair is a system that expects you to do well in all facets of the game in order to receive a favorable score for people that specifically set out looking for that challenge.

That's like asking how fair is it for a basketball player to have to put a ball in a hoop in order to score a point. Thats the game you chose to play. If you want to score, you gotta excel by the defined rules. Most of these games are all about moving from point A to B efficiently, stylishly and with as many rings as you can carry. How can it be a negative to expect a score not to reflect all of that? It doesn't stop speedrunners from speedrunning, and it doesn't mean you can't stop and smell the flowers either.

Considering the the ranking system, for the most part, has been an optional addition to the series there is no real reason to gimp the process for casual players other than to spare their feelings and to that end I would laugh. Sonic is a character with attitude and if little jimmy feels bad that his "O god I barely got through that in one piece" run through Adabat got him a D rank, then he should take solace in the fact that Sonic is not flipping him off for running into so many spikes. Quite frankly, I'm surprised the E rank animation isn't a certain Sonic CD rehash.

Technically speaking, I think Rush had it best. It balanced out every asset of the game (rings, time, tricks) in such a way that you really had to earn your S ranks. A run through a stage lacking in the slightest way in any of the three categories was simply not enough to do it. Each stage had individualized thresholds and you could tell that the developers poured a lot of man hours into finding the most optimized route on time, that produced the most rings and the most chances for tricks. When you saw Sonic breakdancing his way onto the screen, or Blaze's graceful ballet moves, you really felt like you accomplished something. As far as I am concerned, only Unleashed has come close to that.

 

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I think the Ranking System should only exist if there are rewards for getting A and S Ranks, besides bragging rights and achievements/trophies. Sonic Adventure 2 had the right idea with the costumes, unlockable characters, and secret throwback level. Not sure if Super Hard Mode (Sonic Heroes) or playing every level from start to finish with unique dialogue being said (Shadow the Hedgehog) were good rewards though.

I did think it was interesting how in Lost World Wii-U, they moved the Ranking System to the Time Attack instead of the main game. That might be a better alternative if the game is not offering rewards for getting high scores.

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I'd prefer if it stay just because it gives me more incentive to get better at the levels though i'd like it to be more strict and more based around everything that you do in the levels again ala SA2 or sonic heroes. I feel like the only people who'd really want it gone are the ones who just don't like seeing visual representations of how they did in a level (which has always baffled me since its not like it really matters much to those who don't care much about it in the long run) so I can't see any reason why it shouldn't still be put in the games.

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Ranks...I like 'em and hate 'em at the same time.

Hate 'em because I can be kind of a perfectionist at times and it makes me want to tear my (lack of) hair out to friggin' get the highest score possible. On the other hand, all that channeled frustration turns into skill later on and I get awesome at certain levels.

I never really tried to completely get all A/S ranks in a game before Generations, but mainly because Generations had the easiest rank system. Anyways, Ranks are a good way to add some extra challenge to the games, 'specially since they're usually short. Although, sometimes the artificial difficulty of some missions becomes more of a pain in the ass than an actual challenge. *glares angrily at the "Don't hit other cars"/"Don't hit the walls" missions from SA2*

As for the actual way the ranks are given, it depends on the style of the game. I liked how Unleashed Wii (which I still like), was based on the time itself, while Shadow had scores based on the actual accompanying missions and stuff. The way the ranks played out in games like that complimented the game's play style and I think that's the best way to go about it with these games: Center the rankings around the way the levels are completed and how the player is expected to play. Balance the scoring enough (a la Unleashed PS360) to make rankings not reliable on one sole aspect of the game (time, enemies killed, rings collected, etc.) but don't make the scoring too lenient (a la Generations) so that it becomes a bit of a snoozefest to get all S ranks.

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Only if there are rewards for doing so, and said reward not being "play as super sanic luls."

If I were to be frank I'd much rather them design levels with a great feel of replay value instead of just instantly jumping to "Well whatever, make them earn ranks, that pads the replayability issue right?" But dreaming aside I feel like the only time getting S or A ranks in a game are worth while is if I get something snazzy in the end. Like mentioned, SA2 was fantastic at giving you a complete new level. There's nothing better than being rewarded with more game to play, to me anyway. I'm pretty tired of Super Sonic, as playing god mode gets stale faster than Sonic can run. If alternate characters were unlocked on the other hand and offered complete new ways to play said levels, that'd be a completely 'nother story. Offering double mileage and beyond out of your levels would be a worth-while investment.

Maybe because I never was much of the trophy/achievement hunter type gamer, but I just get absolutely no satisfaction from taking a screen shot showing the world that I got some high ranks in a luls Sonic game of all things. I don't think anyone, including myself, genuinely cares if I did so haha. It's just padding the game at this point, but Sonic isn't a stranger to that concept so I guess we just continue to let it slide? IDK

247 Words
Ample amount of sass
OK grammar

"B"
"HEH NOT BAD"

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Honestly, I actually prefer ranks be something left for the sake of evaluating your own skills and/or bragging rights.  I don't really think they should be necessary for unlocking anything.  This might be because my perception of it has been tainted with the execution that is either annoyingly strict or underwhelmingly easy, but I just don't really like the idea of having to complete a level any number of times over until you achieve mastery just for some arbitrary prize.  That being said, it should be made abundantly clear pretty early on that these ranks don't mean anything.

Another option that I'd settle for is have the score and rank system act as a determining factor for experience points that you can use to upgrade the character, sort of like in the Arkham games.  That would not only make me want to do it, but give me an actual gameplay incentive to go back, provided the upgrades had any sort of intrinsic value.

Basically, I mainly don't mind the ranking system, but I don't like it actually anything to do with the actual game.  It's complicated, I guess.

Edited by Tara
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I personally like the ranking system because it gives a motivation to try to get better (of course levels should be replayable even without it). But try to keep getting higher ranks somewhat reasonable, I mean, for example in SA2 A-ranking some of the levels is insane. Of course it would be great if there was some reward from getting all S-ranks.

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The only thing I feel like mentioning on this subject specifically is that I like the concept of what SA2 was going for, at least as far as the speed stages are concerned - specifically, style actually played a part in scoring, and you could boost your score not just by finishing the level quickly but also by doing some increasingly daring shit along the way, like jumping as late as possible on certain ramps and pipes or taking more difficult shortcuts or - this being the extreme example here - grabbing onto a higher rung on the missile in Metal Harbour just because you can. It's really refreshing to be reminded of just what is possible with the level design you're handed this way, just as much as it is to see that the level designers actually have a good idea of the player character's capabilities and reward you for exploiting them in unique ways.

If ever I were to expand on that personally, I'd take a leaf from Bayonetta's book and sub-total ranks from individual segments of level at a time rather than a broad asessment of your performance over the entire level, so you can get a better idea of where you fucked up if your rank falls a little. Then I'd probably take Sean's idea of dividing individual facets of rank like speed and the aformentioned style into separate rankings and slap a "ORIGINAL IDEA DO NOT STEAL" sticker on it.

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As long as they're balanced right, I think rankings are a good way to encourage the player to explore and reexamine levels. In most Sonic games, it's not too difficult just to beat a level. The difficulty comes from beating a level well. You can bumble through a level your first time and still be able to continue the game, but rankings give you a reason to go back and learn the level properly, to find the best routes and useful secrets, and to practice your execution to pull everything off flawlessly (or at least close to).

I think it would be interesting if a game's unlocks only required A-ranks, while still leaving S-ranks in purely for bragging rights. That means the game can have a decent challenge with decent rewards without requiring every player to polish their skills to perfect mastery, but still have something for the most hardcore players to shoot for. Actually didn't Secret Rings do that? I think I remember only needing all silver medals to unlock everything.

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I have no personal interest in trophies or ranks type stuff. However if a game wants me to try to aim hard for that kinda stuff then it has to offer big rewards… and not just anything, for me it’s got to be stuff such as new characters or stories/levels… alternate-outfits sometimes are enough too. Besides all that, I prefer rankings on Sonic games to be a separate mode like it was on Lost World-Wii-U, which I thought was nice.

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As long as they're balanced right, I think rankings are a good way to encourage the player to explore and reexamine levels. In most Sonic games, it's not too difficult just to beat a level. The difficulty comes from beating a level well. You can bumble through a level your first time and still be able to continue the game, but rankings give you a reason to go back and learn the level properly, to find the best routes and useful secrets, and to practice your execution to pull everything off flawlessly (or at least close to).

I completely agree with you. The biggest difference between ranking games I believe would be Unleashed and Generations. All you have to do in Generations is not die to get an S-Rank, basically. I can't say I've got too many S-Ranks in Unleashed (just because I haven't put much time into the game after beating the story), but I know there's one level I did great at every time (Apatos Act 2), and I'd only come out with an A-Rank most of the time. It's crazy! Generations did it better obviously, but like I said there's just not a lot of challenge to it.

To be frank, now that I think about it, I would say Heroes did it the best. At least from what all I can think of at the moment. It was a challenge, but not too much of a challenge. I also had fun while doing it, but that's thanks to fun level design. c:

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I love the ranking system. Considering Sonic games are generally quite short, I think ranking your performance is a good way to ensure replayability. Moreover, it's good to get some recognition that you've skilfully gone through at top steep / with loads of rings / without getting hit, rather than just barely making it through. For me, it motivates me to learn every path and intricacy associated with each level, so that I make most of the content that's there. Actually, now that I think about it, if they rereleased 1-3+K with ranks it would definitely motivate me through a few replays...

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I think the ranking system is great for two reasons.

One, it goes hand in hand with the Rush style of gameplay recent Sonic games have been using. Just making it through a level isn't really the hard part anymore. But the score is a big motivator (at least for me) to get better at a level. I'm not usually satisfied until I get at bare minimum an A-Rank (I strive for S-Rank though, of course!) in all levels (in Generations, I first played through all levels, and then went back through the entire game until I S-Ranked everything!). So really, the gameplay shift moves away from just making it through, and towards making it through faster and better.

And on the other hand, it gives the player really obvious feedback that works almost on a subconscious level (IMHO in a way that giving just a number score wouldn't). Human brains are really good at learning from positive feedback. When that big golden S pops up, the triumphant music starts, and Sonic performs a dance, it feels really good and it motivates you. And on the flip side, to take an example from Unleashed, when that cracked and skewed E hits the screen, the music plays out of tune, and Sonic expresses discontent with his performance, you feel bad as a player and are motivated to do it better next time.

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