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Sonic games look so fucking good


Wraith

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On the topic of the Classic games, Sega REALLY knew how to push the Genesis' inferior graphical qualities to look better than the SNES. Sonic 1 made a point of having as much color and detail on screen as a way to prove that the limited palette didn't matter as long as it was used correctly. Case in point:

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Now, I love Super Mario World, maybe even more than Sonic 1, but there's no doubt which one is more visually impressive.

In my opinion, Sonic CD has some of the best art design of the series.

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The wacky, alien looking worlds are just so unique.

As for the 3D games, I'd agree with Unleashed and Generations. And yes, Sonic Heroes was definitely the best looking "Dreamcast-Era" game. It blew my mind that Shadow the Hedgehog, which used the same assets, looked so much worse. But even that has cool looking levels like Black Comet.

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I think that we can all agree that the grand "Worse Sonic Graphics" award goes to Unleashed PS2, for a number of factors: It came out in 2008, when even PS2 graphics still could have looked better, and it can forever be compared to the beautiful HD version.

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Spoiler

I really like to rag on this game!

 

 

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I've always reaaaally loved the usage of silhouetted buildings in the background to both show how hot the area was and how it's due to factory Eggman has setup here. It might not have the most depth in paralax scrolling compared to other levels, but I felt like they've always done a really good job of setting up the atmosphere here in a simplified format. 

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I think all Sonic games have their own beauty, and I'm loving these screenshots...but I particularly wanna give a shoutout to cutscenes in various Sonic games, particularly Unleashed and 06. If the upcoming Sonic movie looks like one of those, I'll be sold. I can't find the particular scene I'm thinking of, but towards the end of Unleashed when Sonic is a Werehog and Dark Gaia first pops up, his fur is just beautifully animated...

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I have always adored the effect in Hydrocity Act 1 and Launch Base Act 2 where the water level matches the background. Coral Cave in Rush Adventure did it too, and the underwater segments look gorgeous.

 

Generations looks so good though too. Unleashed has the better lighting, but I feel Generations looks better because of the style being a nice mixture of cartoony and realistic, while Unleashed leans too much towards realism.

 

I think what made these games look gorgeous was the attention to detail in terms of making every area feel like an actual place. Even in like Shadow and 06, it's still there. Shadow is fairly ugly overall, but Lethal Highway looks pretty awesome, dammit. You feel like you're really deep into the city with broken highways around you and shit falling down everywhere. But then you get to Lost World, and it's trying to do the Mario thing, and it just loses so much of what makes the environments in Sonic games special. Like, Speed Highway Classic had the area that is all indoors, and there's loads of detail in that you can see mannequins in the shops or tables in the cafés. Or like how Crisis City in Generations shows loads of rubble all over the floor and has a bright orange sky, and broken highways in the background. Or the Sonic statues in Hydrocity Act 1. Or the drills in the background of Planet Wisp. Or the fish swimming around in Aquarium Park.

 

Sonic has always been about spectacle, and that's not just the automated sequences. It's also because of what the game shows you as you progress through the levels. It kind of reminds me of Castlevania in that each level or area makes you feel like you're in an actual living world. Castlevania was doing this even in the NES days, with the clock tower looming in the background when you're on the final staircase leading to Dracula (which is in nearly every game since, and almost always looks awesome).

 

I don't need Unleashed style world building really, I just like levels that make you feel like you're really there.

 

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Also the heat shimmering in the tornado sections of Crisis City in Generations are absolutely phenomenal, and they're displayed here and there throughout the rest of the zone too. This is why I love Crisis City so much. You feel that intensity, you feel that desolation, you feel that tension.

 

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Starlight Carnival is just ridiculously good looking. I recently gave it a shot on Dolphin with the resolution cranked up and my god. My two picks for 'best looking wii game' are Colours and Mario Galaxy, no-one else seemed to try doing spectacular stuff with the Wii.

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I remember being absolutely breath taken by Sonic Colors too, especially Starlight Carnival. It's amazing how Sonic Colors looked better than, say, Sonic 06; especially with it running on a graphically inferior console. Even when Starlight Carnival was in All Stars Racing Transformed, it looked nearly identical on next gen hardware.

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This specific area in Sonic Colors if my absolute favorite thing in the entire game:

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So relaxing, beautiful, and jam-packed with detail and color. Every modern Sonic game should look this great. As much as I liked Sonic Lost World, I think that style is best left to Mario. Even the Genesis games weren't that simplistically rendered. Sonic Colors (and Generations, really) exemplifies to me what Sonic games should look like In 3D. Fantasy/Cartoon lands with a shitload of things to look at; not exactly "realistic", but enough to be believable as if on some kind of alien world.

Sonic Team always seemed to have trouble figuring out what Sonic's visual style should be in 3D. They tried realistic settings in SA1 and SA2, classic inspired worlds in Heroes, ultra realism in Sonic 06, and Pixar-esque visuals in Unleashed. But they really hit a sweet spot with Colors.

Starting with Unleashed, 3D Sonic games started to feel like they were in immersive, deep locations again, like Shroomz's description of Angel Island Zone. I see something like this:

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And I think "platforms arranged over a bottomless pit"; a "level". Not that SA2 had bad graphics (in fact, I love the way the highway and Final Rush stages looked), but the locations felt like obstacle courses rather than real worlds. But something like this:

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The highway/level is still there, but that's not all. There are flames, a Ferris wheel, moving cars, etc. It still feels like a full world rather than JUST being a path over a pit like SA2 or Shadow, for example. 

Whew. That's over. Didn't think I'd ramble like this. Now I want to play some Sonic Colors.

Spoiler

As a certain side-note, and because I have a relevant profile pic, I'd like to mention that Crash Bandicoot did this "large world on a confined path" thing pretty well.

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Crash plays like you're walking through a goddamn hallway, but there's still plenty of visual charm beside that. This makes these levels seem larger than they actually are, and creates a more expansive environment than it actually is. Again, packed full of detail, even though you'll likely be passing by it fairly fast.

 

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One thing that bothers me about environments in the later games, fucking gorgeous though they are, is that the picturesque moments are always the most fleeting. Now, it's really not hard to see why - Sonic's literally moved faster than the speed of sound for most of them, and at best you'll usually have about a second to truly appreciate it before your attention needs to be brought back to centre and focus on something that can probably kill you. Even when you're essentially autopathed for the sake of spectacle, you can either run it too long and cut into actual gameplay time, or run it too short and miss out on all the carefully sculpted background architecture they made. Or to put it in practical examples, you can add in lots of really big, long launches where literally nothing happens:

11 hours ago, Wraith said:

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Or you can basically just make something briefely visible off to the side when you're on a grind rail or something and hope the player actually has no reason to stay focused on the rail grinding itself:

11 hours ago, Mikyeong said:

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This isn't a problem the 2D games tend to have because the camera is always facing one direction. Even though this limits the size of your canvas per se, you'll always be in view of nearly the entire thing, whereas in 3D games it basically becomes its own level design challenge of capitalizing on breaks in the action as best you can, or cleverly directing where the player's focus is. Starlight Carnival is clever in this regard mainly because they're essentially one in the same - whenever there's eye candy, you're always moving towards it. When the star fleet shows up, you're falling into them. When the pathways show up, they literally materialize ahead of you. If you have to hope that the player is looking in the right direction when you want to add something pretty to the level, you're pretty much doing it wrong. And if there was ever a huge, glaring flaw with the art design of modern Sonic games, that is absolutely it. Not hating on what they already have, I should be clear on that - I just think it's the one thing holding them back.

 

On another note, it still boggles my fucking mind that Sonic Team can put together soundtracks, artstyles, graphical fidelity and characters beloved by most of the world and somehow still doesn't have the resources to tie it all together into an amazing game yet.

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Mega Drive titles impress me the most. The console didn't have spectacular specs but I think Sonic games (And SEGA's first party games in general) really pushed the most out of their hardware. Sonic the hedgehog 3 is the best looking game on the system for that reason.

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The graphics have usually been a main redeeming point in each game. While some, like Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 2006 looked kinda bad even for their day (hell, Sonic 2006 was released one year after Kameo: Elements of Power, and the same year as Viva Pinata), many others hold up well.

Hell, it's probably one of Sonic Riders' good points. That game looked amazing for PS2 hardware, and had the best graphics of the sixth generation, having a Dreamcast feel to it while still being up to par with other games on the PS2. A shame the gameplay didn't hold up at all, but hey, give credit where it's due (something I've had trouble with, admittedly).

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The level and backdrop artwork in Sonic Chronicles are really, really good. Something I feel that they pulled off well is having super simple colour schemes yet still make the levels bright and vibrant and full of detail.

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The Zoah Colony is a really good example of how well cold and warm colours can work together too.

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Every level in the in the Twilight Cage to me personally feels unique, though I wouldn't at all say they're all perfect. There are some odd design choices here and there, but when it comes to with colour schemes, I can't find anything wrong.

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You know how I always say that Sonic and the Black Knight was the last Sonic game I truly liked? Well here's another reason why, the game is positively gorgeous. On a technical level it's graphics may not be on par with the HD version of Unleashed (not that it's a slouch in that department either) but even so the art direction alone more than makes up for that fact.

Some examples (spoilered because the images are rather large):

Spoiler

File:Result Screen - Misty Lake 2.pngFile:Result Screen - Deep Woods 1.pngFile:Result Screen - Titanic Plain - Sir Gawain 1.pngFile:Result Screen - Molten Mine 1.pngFile:Result Screen - Faraway Avalon - King Arthur 1.png

SatBK packs a ton of detail into its environments and creates a sense of atmosphere that few other game in the series can match. The whole game just oozes its own unique personality and the visuals are a huge part of that. It's clear that the developers had a very clear idea of what they wanted to do with this game and set out to create a medieval fantasy world, in the vein of The Legend of Zelda or The Elder Scrolls, which also facilitated the over-the-top action movie antics that characterized Sonic the Hedgehog pre-Colors (seriously name for me one other series where the Knights of the Round table go surfing inside of an active volcano). The levels in Black Knight also look like actual environments rather than... Whatever the hell this is supposed to be:

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Sorry. I hadn't taken a borderline tangential jab at Lost World for a while. I was overdue.

Anyhow, I know people tend to take issue with Sonic games don't have a super bright and colorful artstyle (it's "too realistic for Sonic" or somesuch), but for the atmosphere alone I'd take Black Knight over stuff like Colors and Generations any day of the week.

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4 hours ago, Bowbowis said:

You know how I always say that Sonic and the Black Knight was the last Sonic game I truly liked? Well here's another reason why, the game is positively gorgeous. On a technical level it's graphics may not be on par with the HD version of Unleashed (not that it's a slouch in that department either) but even so the art direction alone more than makes up for that fact.

Some examples (spoilered because the images are rather large):

  Hide contents

File:Result Screen - Misty Lake 2.pngFile:Result Screen - Deep Woods 1.pngFile:Result Screen - Titanic Plain - Sir Gawain 1.pngFile:Result Screen - Molten Mine 1.pngFile:Result Screen - Faraway Avalon - King Arthur 1.png

SatBK packs a ton of detail into its environments and creates a sense of atmosphere that few other game in the series can match. The whole game just oozes its own unique personality and the visuals are a huge part of that. It's clear that the developers had a very clear idea of what they wanted to do with this game and set out to create a medieval fantasy world, in the vein of The Legend of Zelda or The Elder Scrolls, which also facilitated the over-the-top action movie antics that characterized Sonic the Hedgehog pre-Colors (seriously name for me one other series where the Knights of the Round table go surfing inside of an active volcano). The levels in Black Knight also look like actual environments rather than... Whatever the hell this is supposed to be:

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Sorry. I hadn't taken a borderline tangential jab at Lost World for a while. I was overdue.

Anyhow, I know people tend to take issue with Sonic games don't have a super bright and colorful artstyle (it's "too realistic for Sonic" or somesuch), but for the atmosphere alone I'd take Black Knight over stuff like Colors and Generations any day of the week.

I agree actually. I almost mentioned Black Knight in my post but I decided against it. I've always thought Black Knight looked better, at least visually, than Sonic Colors.

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  • 4 years later...

I really loved Marble Garden Zone's background. I especially loved Hydrocity's background, it's absolutely gorgeous and I love how big it makes the level feel. It adds more to the Sonic world. It's cool to look at the lights in the background of Hyrdocity. A large underground temple with It's lights just shimmering in that large area. Amazing. 

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