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Does Sonic Mania Have the Definitive Classic Zone Selection? (Spoilers)


Forte-Metallix

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So Mania's been out for about half a month, and it's still blowing me away with how much thought has been put into every detail. After my first playthrough, I let the hype simmer down and asked myself, "Okay, time to look at this game critically. Is there anything major Mania is lacking?" The first idea to come to mind was the Zone selection. While the new ones were all hits (Even though I think there should be more of them), what about the returning Zones? Were there any other candidates I wish were in this game?

I thought about it, and honestly..... no.

Out of all the remaining Zones from Sonic 1-K, I really don't think any of them were necessary for Mania- Not because none of them are good enough, but because none would really offer something we don't already have. Just to list them all off:

Sonic 1:

Spoiler

Marble: We already have Lava Reef for the fire Zone and Hydro City for ruins, and Marble is kind of infamous for how pace-breaking it is.

Spring Yard: Studiopolis has all the best parts of this place tenfold, between the nighttime aesthetic, pinball gimmicks, and catchy-as-heck music.

Labyrinth: Same reasoning as Marble, plus this is arguably the most infamous location of all the Genesis games.

Star Light: The anti-Spring-Yard arguments also apply here, plus many of Star Light's most iconic gimmicks are already in Mania. (The seesaws, crumbling bridges, etc.) Good news is, Tee Lopes has already given this track an amazing remix: 

Scrap Brain/Final: I hear Scrap Brain was originally gonna be the penultimate Zone, but the team scrapped (heh) it in favor of Metallic Madness- A good call, since the latter has much better music, aesthetics, and gameplay. Plus, we still got the Final Zone boss for Act 1!

Sonic 2:

Spoiler

Emerald Hill: For obvious reasons, this is completely unnecessary. Despite having better music than Green Hill

Aquatic Ruin: Many of us thought this would make the cut, since it was in the first trailer alongside Green Hill and Flying Battery. But Chemical Plant and Hydro City are simply better water levels, and AR's above-water visuals and gimmicks don't stand out much- Not to mention they were already rehashed in Sonic 4's Sylvania Castle.

Casino Night: We got it twice in Generations, the series has more than enough casinos as-is, and Studiopolis makes it obsolete.

Hill Top: It's Emerald Hill again, except blue and with lava and caves. Nothing we don't already have/need.

Mystic Cave: Lava Reef already checks the box for a caverns Zone, so this place can stay left in the dark.

Hidden Palace: Already had its time to shine when Christian brought it back for his Sonic 2 remake, and Knuckles's Lava Reef Act 2 does the job well-enough.

Metropolis Zone: Eggman has two bases in Mania as-is, and both do a much better job of feeling like the ultimate test for the player. Plus Mad Gear already rehashed this green factory.

Sky Chase: Mirage Saloon did this a thousand times better.

Wind Fortress: Flying Battery has many shades of this aircraft, so it can't stand (fly?) on its own.

Death Egg: Arguably the most unique of the remaining Sonic 2 Zones, but between Generations, Sonic 4, and Lego Dimensions, this orbiting ovule needn't be brought back again.

Sonic CD: 

Spoiler

Palmtree Panic: It's Green Hill with cheering children. Big whoop.

Collision Chaos: A pink Spring Yard.

Tidal Tempest: Not-Labyrinth. (Noticing a pattern here?)

Quartz Quadrant: It would've been the best candidate if Lava Reef hadn't taken its gimmicks.

Wacky Workbench: Everyone hates this place, and Chemical Plant already made it good.

Sonic 3: (For this one, I'm going to disregard the possible legal issues with the music and just focus on the Zones themselves)

Spoiler

Angel Island: Aside from the fire, just a junglier Green Hill. (Though we did at least get to see it in Mania)

Marble Garden: One of the weaker Zones from 3, and both Press Garden and Hydro City have the ruins theme covered.

Carnival Night: Studiopolis arguably makes this place obsolete, too.

Ice Cap: Press Garden Act 2 did the whole "winter wonderland" thing exponentially better.

Launch Base: Thematically and visually, Metallic Madness does a better job at what this Zone tries to do. And Lava Reef (Man, this Zone references a lot of places) harkens back to the whole "Eggman's base ominously floating in the background" thing, except with music and visuals that actually add to the suspense.

Sonic & Knuckles:

Spoiler

Mushroom Hill: It was in Generations 3DS, and Press Garden has some forest elements of its own.

Sandopolis: Mirage Saloon's presence means we've more than reached our desert quota. Plus, Oil Ocean Act 2 reuses this Zone's most iconic gimmick.

Hidden Palace: The original was just a boss battle, and it technically already is in Mania.

Sky Sanctuary: If Generations didn't already bring it back, this could've been one of the best contenders. Plus, both the sky and ruins themes have been done, as stated previously.

Death Egg: Same reasons as the Sonic 2 version, plus Titanic Monarch.

Doomsday: Egg Reverie.

So what do you guys think? Do any of these Zones have something that Mania doesn't? Or do we really not need to draw from the past anymore? (I'm hoping we get all-new Zones next time)

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Well, Mania only covers themes, styles and tropes so well because the team obviously set out to do so. They pulled from previous games and built up ideas of their own to cover as many bases as possible. Chemical Plant lost its trademark water in act 2 for a totally reworked take on Wacky Workbench's bouncy floors, for example. Lava Reef could have been replaced with Marble - they could have reworked the second act into some sort of mining/excavation facility because why not. And what about Oil Ocean? Who even liked that zone in Sonic 2? Why bring it back? Because they had lot to work with and develop.

Mania's selection of levels is great, and I especially love that they didn't just stick to fan-favourites. Oil Ocean and Metallic Madness would never have got a look-in in any other gams. They just thought up bunch of stages with some differing themes, and decided to develop them with new and innovative ideas. Nothing was stopping them from going with different choices, and I don't think that Mania's level list is somehow "definitive". But they did do a really fucking good job.

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For me, I do think both Oil Ocean and Metallic Madness were "out there" choices, but honestly?  No gripes, they were both fantastic surprises when they occured, and of course the Mania team did great with them.  Metallic Madness in particular felt almost like a whole new zone, they did crazy cool stuff with recreating the aesthetic, particularly the sense of scale on the background.

I would say though, taking in the game as a whole, we do have a slight overabundance of "industrial" feeling levels.  Flying Battery, Press Garden Act 1, Stardust Speedway Act 2, Oil Ocean, Lava Reef Act 2, Metallic Madness and Titanic Monarch all have a strong "Eggman's abode" theme to them in some way or another, that's nearly 50% of the game (obviously Studopolis too by means of motif, but the actual theme of that level isn't mechanical in nature).

I was genuinely expecting Angel Island to be a proper stage later in the game, with the intro serving as a little teaser/foreshadowing for it.  Either that or a new original "natural" beach/grass/forest locale stage.  It'd be cool to get such a trope given the "late-game" treatment difficulty-wise, and I wanted to see what the Mania team came up with when adding their own contributions to the legacy of Green Hill sequels.

 

Still, it's all nitpicking on very pendantic, close-minded thoughts that are built from traditional expectations of trope variety in platformers.  Much in the same way Sonic CD had a lot of industrial stages but they're all totally different to one another, I feel Mania is the same case.  I'm perfectly happy with the stage selection in Mania, there's not a dull one among them, and I really wanted them to surprise me somewhere, which as said, they did with Oil Ocean and Metallic Madness.  Oil Ocean isn't a stage I particularly like originally either, and while it is a lower point in Mania for me, it's still not bad at all (though the boss is a bit overly mean).

Edited by JezMM
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"Oil Ocean but now with Gimmicks from Sandopolis" is probably the worst idea that's ever turned out completely fine.

To answer your question, I actually agree. I can't justify any other picks from a gameplay perspective because the majority of the series tropes level gimmicks worked their way in one way or another. I have personal picks I wanted like Mystic Cave and Quartz Quadrant but they mostly would have made the list less varied than it is now.

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I think basically, "definitive" wouldn't be what I'd describe Sonic Mania's stage list.  That implies this is the best or only way they could've possibly combined past and new ideas with this broad range of concepts.  But all the justifications for each zone depends on how they relate to the full list of zones and how they relate to each other, not on lone virtues.  I think you could create an equally "full" feeling game with entirely different stages to cover the same tropes in combination with different new stages.

 

...Which is why, y'know, roll on Mania 2.

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13 minutes ago, JezMM said:

I would say though, taking in the game as a whole, we do have a slight overabundance of "industrial" feeling levels.  Flying Battery, Press Garden Act 1, Stardust Speedway Act 2, Oil Ocean, Lava Reef Act 2, Metallic Madness and Titanic Monarch all have a strong "Eggman's abode" theme to them in some way or another, that's nearly 50% of the game.

I personally noticed that the levels were mostly quite dark or set at night.

GHZ2 - Unless you make it to the very top of the level, the background is cavernous/dark mountains where you can't see the sky.

CPZ - Red and green like the original.

SPZ - Bright, but it's at night.

FBZ2 - Blue skies traded in for storms, and is mostly indoors.

PGZ1 - Industrial and indoors.

SSZ - more nighttime here.

HCZ - Underground ruins

OOZ - Just like the original it's for am orange sky, and it's cranked up to eleven in act 2.

LRZ - Mostly deep in the caverns, but we do get glimpses of... A night sky!

MMZ - All indoors, all industrial.

TMZ - Dreary throughout, but especially at the start of act 1.

I was really gagging for more of AIZ after the intro, and without the S3 fire. I'm just used to seeing more bright blue skies in Sonic games, and would have definitely welcomed one or two more here. Actually, I was disappointed that HCZ2 didn't take things above land at all.

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1 minute ago, Blue Blood said:

MMZ - All indoors, all industrial.

I personally percieve Metallic Madness Act 1 as being outside, but underneath a ceiling.  The bright white in the distance is the outdoors, but because you're sandwiched between the ground and ceiling, it's nothing but bright bloom from where Sonic is standing.  It's a cool aesthetic that I dig a lot that makes a change from straight up inside OR outside.

(But yeah I agree with your observations of the game overall lol).

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6 minutes ago, JezMM said:

I personally percieve Metallic Madness Act 1 as being outside, but underneath a ceiling.  The bright white in the distance is the outdoors, but because you're sandwiched between the ground and ceiling, it's nothing but bright bloom from where Sonic is standing.  It's a cool aesthetic that I dig a lot that makes a change from straight up inside OR outside.

(But yeah I agree with your observations of the game overall lol).

Can't believe that I never actually noticed this. I know that the good future in CD is outdoors, but so is act 1 in Mania!

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I understand that Green Hill Zone is considered the essential Sonic level at this point and it did make sense to include the level in the game, but I really wish Angel Island Zone took place as the first level. The cock tease of seeing Angel Island in a cutscene only makes me really want to see what an Act 2 remake of the level would have looked like. I hope we never see Green Hill after this. Fuck checkerboards. Still better than Emerald Hill

If we absolutely needed a Sonic 1 level, Metallic Madness could have been replaced with Scrap Brain.

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I would have switched Metallic Madness and Oil Ocean with Scrap Brain or Launch Base and Mystic Cave. 

Never was a fan of Metallic Madness in general. 

Other than that uuuuuuh... Star Light Zone would've been nice to have seen in updated graphics. Love that zone and theme. 

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I can agree with the list, but I think that each game deserved at least two. And I believe there are reasons why Chaotix and the 8-bit games weren't touched (Sonic Team did not make those games), but what about recreations from 3D Blast and R?

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1 hour ago, Blue Blood said:

CPZ - Red and green like the original.

SPZ - Bright, but it's at night.

FBZ2 - Blue skies traded in for storms, and is mostly indoors.

See this is what puzzled me. Studiopolis is supposed to be at dusk right? Unless chemical plant and studiopolis were on the same night and flying battery zone takes place during the next day, does chemical plant take place during the day?

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I hope Forces doesn't use any more stages than Green Hill, Mania was already enough of a rehash. I want new zones. How ridiculous would it be if Green Hill Zone was in Sonic 3. Or Chemical Plant in Sonic and Knuckles.

I know they may reuse old stages, because Sonic Team seem to have a fetish for it, but I really hope they don't.

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I got pretty much the exact level list I want with the exception of Quartz Quadrant (which is heavily represented anyway) and Mystic Cave. The latter could have just rolled a lot of Quartz Quadrant's gimmicks and concepts into it with a dash of Hidden Palace mobile in there. I'm still satisfied with what we got, though. Metallic Madness and Oil Ocean left me a little baffled but I think what they did with them was really cool. Someone already pointed this out, but "Oil Ocean meets Sandopolis Act 2" sounds like the worst idea possible, but it ends up working fine. The shrink-ray sections of Metallic Madness were also a lot of fun to play, while I hated them in CD. I kicked and moaned about Flying Battery's inclusion too, since I never was a fan of the original, but I honestly had a really good time with Mania's version.

Ice Cap is another level I would have loved to see back, but the compromise was an original snow themed level in the form of Press Garden. Considering Ice Cap was the only snow level in the classics, I think getting an all new one is preferred.

So yeah I think Mania has a pretty good roster of levels all around. The only lingering complaint I have with it is the lack of entirely new levels, which hopefully Mania 2 rectifies.

 

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1 hour ago, A HyperKING heavy engine said:

See this is what puzzled me. Studiopolis is supposed to be at dusk right? Unless chemical plant and studiopolis were on the same night and flying battery zone takes place during the next day, does chemical plant take place during the day?

That could be the case, for one of two reasons:

1) The plant is causing so much pollution that it's blocking out the sun.

2)

Spoiler

Because Eggman is abusing the Phantom Ruby, he can not only send the heroes anywhere he wants, but rewrite reality in those places. It's been confirmed that some of the new gimmicks in the old Zones are the result of the Ruby's reality-warping powers. 

So it's fair to assume he can change the time of day, too.

 

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4 hours ago, Blue Blood said:

I personally noticed that the levels were mostly quite dark or set at night.

GHZ2 - Unless you make it to the very top of the level, the background is cavernous/dark mountains where you can't see the sky.

CPZ - Red and green like the original.

SPZ - Bright, but it's at night.

FBZ2 - Blue skies traded in for storms, and is mostly indoors.

PGZ1 - Industrial and indoors.

SSZ - more nighttime here.

HCZ - Underground ruins

OOZ - Just like the original it's for am orange sky, and it's cranked up to eleven in act 2.

LRZ - Mostly deep in the caverns, but we do get glimpses of... A night sky!

MMZ - All indoors, all industrial.

TMZ - Dreary throughout, but especially at the start of act 1.

I was really gagging for more of AIZ after the intro, and without the S3 fire. I'm just used to seeing more bright blue skies in Sonic games, and would have definitely welcomed one or two more here. Actually, I was disappointed that HCZ2 didn't take things above land at all.

Somehow this allows it to be complementary to S3&K in a unique way!  I did consider that Green Hill is basically the only primarily natural zone, but didn't remember that it really is one of the only daytime zones.  S3&K has so many that are in the daylight, as well as so many primarily natural areas or otherwise unique ruins!  It really is like yin and yang, according to your list! 

S3&K zones taking place during daylight:

Angel Island (Act 1's very iconic part that may as well be an entire act! ^_^:) )

Marble Garden

Ice Cap (Very early pre-dawn morning and morning I think?)

Launch Base

/

Mushroom Hill

Flying Battery

Sandopolis (Act 1)

Sky Sanctuary

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Honestly I cant think of any zone that I think is missing. 

Flying battery, chemcial Plant, hydrocity and Lava reef are my some of my favorite zones, even if i havent played Hydrocity or Lava reef yet. 

I never played Sonic CD so I'm glad to play stardust speedway.

If I had to pick another zone maybe Launch Base( but we have enough base like stages already)

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To be honest, I just wish the game had more original zones overall, because, eventhough there's anything wrong with Oil Ocean or Metallic Madness, I'll always have prefered other zones instead, like many of you.

I agree that Sonic Mania covers all the familiar tropes. You have the tropical checkerboard zone, desert zone, water zone, fire zone, airship zone, industry zone, city zone, and a few "one acts", like one act ice zone, one act byplane zone, one act pinball zone...

I just really wish Mania had a ghost/mansion/gothic castle/spooky zone. Mystic Cave cooooould cover it, but the zone is pretty much shades of green, and we already have a bunch of green in this game (GHZ, PGZ1, SSZ1).

Also, a proper ruins level (Hydrocity doesn't count for me).

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