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What's the point of Special Stages?


MetalSkulkBane

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Sonic games I own can be separated in two categories: the ones I finished and the ones I finished multiple times.

Special Stages can be divided into: "to this day didn't finished" or "finished once and never again"

Can someone tell me what's the point of them? They aren't part of Sonic Formula (running, spinning, jumping etc), they just mini games that obnoxiously lock final boss or something. Maybe few can be fun, but they can be also Sonic 2, Heroes, Advance series (especially 2!!!) or Lost World 3DS.

Is there any reason to keep them other than tradition sake?

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Like Bender said, they are essentially minigames that allow you to take a break from the main campaign and play around with something different, with Super Sonic / "good endings" being the reward if you can complete them all. Since they aren't compulsory towards progressing through or completing the game (unless you're going for 100% completion for gameplay/story reasons), I don't inherently see the issue; they're conceptually just neat bonus content.

I will say though that a fair amount of them are pretty crap in design or how you access them, and there's probably way too many special stages that are derivative from the Sonic 2 "half-pipe" special stages. Sonic CD, Heroes, the Advance trilogy, and Lost World 3DS come to mind personally as major offenders in one of or both of these faults. Future special stages that are more unique in their design and aren't a pain to access or control would be greatly appreciated.

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Sonic 1 is an arcade game that wasn't made for arcades.

Bonus stages were important parts of arcade games where you broke a bit from the main campaign and were rewarded, for your skill, with goodies, including the coveted extra-lives which'd allow you to not have to shove more coins into the machine to continue later on.

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8 minutes ago, The KKM said:

Sonic 1 is an arcade game that wasn't made for arcades.

Bonus stages were important parts of arcade games where you broke a bit from the main campaign and were rewarded, for your skill, with goodies, including the coveted extra-lives which'd allow you to not have to shove more coins into the machine to continue later on.

Ironically in the Mega-Play arcade version of Sonic 1, they actually removed the Special Stages! 

I don't mind Special Stages unless they're done like Sonic 2; by which I mean unless they suck. Sonic 1 and 3's I quite enjoy. 

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I think Bender said it best.  They're breaks from the main campaign with the prize being extra little goodies that aren't inherently optional to the game (usually).  Sonic 3 I think had probably the best idea of giving multiple special stages for the Chaos Emerald challenges and the challenges that would allow you to earn extra lives, shields, rings, and other things that would help you along your way.

I don't mind special stages in and of themselves, even if they do make them a thousand times harder to get the "good" ending, but I do think that some of the special stages are relentlessly difficult, but not for good reasons.  Sonic 1's are great in concept, but are tricky mostly because you can't really see what comes next on most occasions, so you'll have to do more than the occasional gamble to get to the Emerald.  I like the concept of Sonic 2's special stages, but not the way they're implemented in Sonic 2 specifically.  I quite like Blue Sphere, actually.  It's a little more forgiving, in my opinion, so I feel like I want to go through the bonus stage instead of stressing over it.

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Blue Spheres is one of the worst things I've ever played, I hate it so much. For some reason I have just never been able to get even remotely used to how it controls. I even hate the music, it's so shrill. The won-won-won-won-BZZZZZZ sound effect of me dying inspires deep, deep loathing. 

Sonic 1's acid vomitorium also isn't great - really difficult to control, Sonic gets stuck everywhere, the jumping is weird and unpredictable... Sonic 4 just made it worse with time limits and ring doors.

The best thing about CD's is the fact that you don't actually need to do them to get the good ending. Sonic has the turning circle of a bus, and the faux 3D means it's really hard to judge yr jumps.

The hate for the halfpipe stage is baffling to me, they're the only ones I can stand!

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I think the Sonic Spitball series brought up the suggestion that Special Stages maybe should be more about using the same gameplay style as the rest of the game but using it in more unusual circumstances.

I'm thinking like a lot of the one-off levels in Mario Galaxy. Mario's moveset remains constant but the construction of the environments he's in get shaken up for the sake of really getting creative with the situations he can be placed in. For example, the levels where you have to go around a cube and step on each tile to change its colour while making sure not to retread any ground to avoid switching them back. 

Sonic's Special Stages could do a similar thing; shorter than regular levels but with a focus on level design and gimmicks that complement Sonic's moveset while still feeling like they're in some weird, trippy reality. You could have a stage that looks fairly normal but the ground is actually far more squishy than it should be by normal standards. You then have two potential setups where the ground either fires Sonic higher than usual when he jumps or do the complete opposite where Sonic outright sticks to the surface. He can't jump but he doesn't lose speed and he can traverse walls and ceilings without fear of falling off.

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Just now, Hyp3hat said:

Blue Spheres is one of the worst things I've ever played, I hate it so much. For some reason I have just never been able to get even remotely used to how it controls.

Just saying this really: The only thing you have to do is "turn" once you start moving. React and turn, the one thing that can really be a problem is that the controls are a bit sensitive...could make a lot of unintentional turns, control sticks pretty much ruin these stages.

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My bigger problem has often been with how you access them; only once have I ever even gotten to a Sonic Advance 2 special stage, I don't think anybody liked how you got to Advance 3 special stages either, but then you get boring alternatives like Generations 3DS just putting them on the level select with everything else.  There's a "special" sweet spot, I think, that exists between "entered like any other level" and "obtuse or tedious."  I would tend to agree, however, that it's somewhat odd how they so often have nothing to do with standard Sonic gameplay; I think it's very interesting that the lamppost bonus stages in S3&K used standard Sonic physics and gameplay in weird bumper-heavy areas, while the special stages themselves were a completely different game.  It's not that I really dislike any special stage type I've encountered, but they don't make a huge amount of sense as elements of a Sonic game.  Special stages that are more like those S3&K lamppost bonus stages I think would do a better job of feeling "special" whilst retaining that connection and relevance to the main Sonic gameplay.  ...Granted, you can say the same thing about a lot of Super Sonic finales, too; they often become a completely different game as well, which seems strange.

Just goes to show how there are a lot of elements of "classic" gameplay and structure which bear thinking about despite how often they've been unquestioningly rolled out.

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I like Advance 2's concept for getting to the Special Stage, but it could definitely use tweaking. Maybe combine it with Chaotix's method; you only need one Star Ring to enter, but getting more can make the Special Stage easier somehow.

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17 minutes ago, Indigo Rush said:

lmao just practice the special stages they are not that difficult. I'm actually astonished anyone could hate Sonic 3&Ks special stages. They're the most straight forward and forgiving of all of them.

They're incredibly unforgiving! One false move and it's a red sphere for you, in my bitter, bitter experience. At least Sonic 2 has the good grace to not eject you when you hit a bomb.

19 minutes ago, StaticMania said:

Just saying this really: The only thing you have to do is "turn" once you start moving. React and turn, the one thing that can really be a problem is that the controls are a bit sensitive...could make a lot of unintentional turns, control sticks pretty much ruin these stages.

I know how to control it, I'm saying that it doesn't control well - either too responsive or not fast enough, it's incredibly frustrating for me. Maybe next time I'll try it with a d-pad. 

I've been playing Sonic 3 since I was a child, when it was released, and I think I've actually got a Chaos Emerald in Blue Spheres... less than five times? I've never got 2 Chaos Emeralds in the game. My loathing has gone beyond the rational with it, it's my videogaming nemesis. 

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s3-other-specialstage1img2.png

My blood pressure just went up looking at this image. I die on these bits all the time thanks to those bumpers.

I don't expect you to understand, this is my personal, irrational hatred based off of twenty years of failure.

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I recently did a playthrough of Sonic 3&K which I uploaded. I got a perfect in all 14 special stages at my first attempt. How? Well, by practising. First time I played any of the special stages from Sonic games I struggled because I didn't know what to expect. The only way to get good at special stages is trial and error. You need to get used to the controls, get a feel for how the special stage plays. You can't expect to remember every single section of the special stages as they are often long and complex, but once you have mastered the controls your confidence grows and you can adapt.

Also, the device you are playing the game on (console/mobile) or even the control-pad can have a significant effect how the special stage plays. I find the special stages in Sonic 2 incredibly easy, and yet when I first played the StealthTax mobile version I struggled with them and then adapted to the feel of touch screen controls and now it's easy again.

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Even if they are change of paste, majority of them aren't fun. So if people replay Sonic games, but without Special Stages, then maybe it's a sign that they should be cut off.

I mean, Big's fishing would be change of pace, but does anyone wants it to play super hard fishing stages to unlock final boss of the game?

Sonic Colors had a right ideas (from what I heard anyway), making a no texture extra levels. Cheap to make, as fun to play. (Or to change things up: since special stage should be place of confusion, maybe it should use textures from the game, but mixed up, like having snow stage with lava, ruins with casino etc. Just and idea).

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I definitely agree with the notion that special stages are flawed as a concept, PARTICULARLY when the final boss is locked behind them.

Sonic 1 is about the only game where locking the final boss behind them would actually be justifiable, since the gameplay of the special stages makes use of skills and operation from the main game - it is the stage design that makes them unique and far-out compared to the "not special" stages.

But yeah, it is a bizarre thing when you deconstruct them.  Here in order to see all of the main content of the game, you must play stages which feature gameplay completely unlike what the game has predominantly allowed you to practice in a structured manner, under conditions where failure does not allow you to immediately try again.

I guess, if anything, they weren't so much designed to emulate the bonus stages of arcade games out of habit, but rather they add artificial difficulty in a way that doesn't completely lock off the main game from being enjoyed - something important to add replay value to a game from those days that can be beaten in an hour once you're skilled so people would get their money's worth.

Basically... special stages were the filler gameplay of the old days.

 

I dunno how I'd fix them to keep to established tradition by including them without majorly changing up how they function.  If the developers come up with gameplay that uses the same movements and engine as the main game like Sonic 1 did, you could argue "if it's fun, why not use that design in the main game for a single stage or a recurring element".  Sonic Lost World did that a fair bit (granted, with mixed results).  Extra lives as a reward instead of emeralds or final stages feels a little off when extra lives are an outdated concept as is.

 

 

I am a fan of how the Game Gear games made each special stage about a design element from the main games and tested you more thoroughly on it, though they have the issue that you can't really pace their difficulty.  Either the earlier special stage gimmicks don't truly push the player to the limit with their design and lose the point of being a "here's a challenge involving this gimmick that would be too mean for a mandatory stage", or, if the special stages can be encountered early on, they will be stupidly hard for lesser skilled players.

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Even if they are change of paste, majority of them aren't fun. So if people replay Sonic games, but without Special Stages, then maybe it's a sign that they should be cut off.

I mean, Big's fishing would be change of pace, but does anyone wants it to play super hard fishing stages to unlock final boss of the game?

Sonic Colors had a right ideas (from what I heard anyway), making a no texture extra levels. Cheap to make, as fun to play. (Or to change things up: since special stage should be place of confusion, maybe it should use textures from the game, but mixed up, like having snow stage with lava, ruins with casino etc. Just and idea).

That last bit is kinda what Before the Sequel did for its extra stages. It still had Special Stages, as well, but I think making the Special Stages into harder or unique versions of regular levels would be interesting to explore.

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It really wouldn't have been much of a problem if they were just some optional stuff. Making them mandatory for "true final boss" stuff wasn't a good idea, especially if accessing them ended up being a major pain in the rear-end area.

 

Just keep them sticked to a Super Sonic game-play bonus, not everybody likes playing as SS anyway, so if they don't wanna do, then they don't have to do.

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When done well, I feel it gives incentive to explore the levels even moreso, (with the devs making the levels very expansive, wanting you to play the levels over and over again to find what they've made, like shortcuts, power ups and ect, I'd assume they were like "Might as well throw in some super hidden secrets along the way for their hard work.") and rewards the player with super/hyper forms and/or true hidden acts for the very curious who stuck out for that long. But yea, some versions of special stages can be a chore and counter-intuitive, though

My gripe with Sonic Heroes is that they expected you to not get hit once (unshielded) with a special key you'd find within acts that can drag on for 10 hours or else you'd have to kiss that special entrance good bye. Then you'd have to worry about the special stage itself which controlled like an unmitigated monstrosity with awful camera angles whipped on top. I like what they were going for, but it needed some polish.

With Advance 2....i couldn't tell you to be honest. I've played that game multiple times and yet not once have I entered a special stage because of the requirements. I don't know why the game is so "hold right to win" yet, at the same time, expects you to find all 7 special rings in literally every act...just for one true final boss that only Sonic can do that only lasts for mere minutes. All of those characters and not one of them can play a part after all of that?

Some needed some work and be less "Sonic me 2's", but I actually miss seeing the special stages in the main Sonic games, though, as I feel they're a staple. I always found the extra challenge fun. It doesn't have to be in every game just like how the chaos emeralds don't have to be the center of the universe every storyline, but a nice bone for a person like me to chew on wouldn't hurt every now and then.

 

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7 hours ago, MetalSkulkBane said:

Even if they are change of paste, majority of them aren't fun. So if people replay Sonic games, but without Special Stages, then maybe it's a sign that they should be cut off.

I mean, Big's fishing would be change of pace, but does anyone wants it to play super hard fishing stages to unlock final boss of the game?

Fun is subjective obviously. To me a Sonic game without minigames is more dull then a Sonic game with them. And as a minigame and variety gameplay maniac that I am... I often can get into stuff like minigames just as much as the maingame itself, and yes I enjoyed Big The Cat's... honestly easy fishing levels on Sonic Adventure.

However I feel especially Special Stages often could use better design work. And personally I think there always should be a retry button when I fail a minigame instead of getting kicked out and having to collect another 50 rings while finishing a level or whatever.

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