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Sonic's Moves: Light Speed


Emerald Chaos
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Sonic Moves: Light Speed Dash/Attack

Hey guys, here's the first in what I'm hoping are gonna be a variety of topics that I'll make, where I'll look at the
application of various mechanics in the Sonic series. Specifically, the moves which Sonic and friends have, what games they
appeared in, how they work and my opinion of its function. Whether they add or detract from the overall experience.

The first I'm taking a look at is the light speed dash and its bretheren, the light speed attack. As we know, the light
speed dash is a move that lets Sonic dash along a trail of rings. Thus far, every implementation of the move has had huge
issues and on top of that, the very concept of the move feels flawed to me as it inherently seems to involve railroading and attempting
to hide bad level design. I'll now go into the games that feature mechanics, covering the ones that had the biggest changes
for it.

Sonic Adventure 1 is probably the worst usage of the light speed dash by a wide margin, and it will probably be the one
that I spend most time on. Since I'll mostly cover the ideas behind the move here.
You completely break your flow by sitting and charging a spin dash. When the light speed dash is fully charged, Sonic stops
spinning and is covered in a blue glow. He can't spin again until you release the light dash, and his speed is reduced.
Stopping to charge is a huge problem, the charge time is ridiculous, and someone on the dev team obviously knew that,
because there's an upgrade that's SOLE PURPOSE is to reduce the charge time, and you can get the upgrade immediately after
picking up the light speed shoes. 


There's no synergy with Sonic's moveset, and it's not especially fun or satisfying to do. When you release it after it's
fully charged, you do a short dash in a straight line and come to a hard stop. You would have thought they would've given
you some incentive to use it outside of the specific trails of rings that exist but there's essentially no reward for
charging it unless you're specifically wanting to use the dash along rings, the game has very few of these, and even when
it does, it's a pain to stop and charge up for it.

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The move generally seems to be implemented with one of the following intentions 1) as a requirement to deal with an
obstacle hindering the player's path e.g. the button to open Casinopolis. 2) "shortcuts" in the levels, I can think of
examples from Red Mountain and Sky Deck off the top of my head or 3) to hide secrets for instance, the laughable light
bracelet that shortens the charge time.

Funnily, there are a number of instances where a normal spindash jump can be used to reach places that are meant to be only
reachable with light dash. For example, Shadow's flame ring in SA2, is easily reached by charging a spin dash and jumping
over the gap.


Sonic Adventure 2 is probably the best usage of the move. They wisely removed the charge time from the move, this time
linking it with the action system of the game. However, that comes with its own problems. When it works, it adds to the
fluidity of the game this time it activates with a smooth movement and doesn't interrupt your flow, they also use ring
paths fairly well, in small ways like at the start of Metal Harbour where there's a small trail of rings right next to a
rail you can use the light dash to smoothly transition from running into grinding. But the big problems come with it being
intended to be implemented fluidly into the game, when it's mapped to the main action button that does EVERYTHING. This
leads to plenty of instances where you'll soumersault instead of light dashing, or when you pick up the later powerup, the
bounce attack, sharply dipping to your death.

In Sonic heroes, it mostly works the same, it's still mapped to the main action button, fortunately without the bounce
attack you're less likely to fall to your death, though it still doesn't work well with the ground action, and that will
still likely cause unintended repositioning or even deaths. Unfortunately it feels like they had less time to fine tune it
to function smoothly, and from this point onwards, the move feels really awkward and jittery in the performing of the move
itself and never recaptures the smoothness it had back in SA2.

In Shadow the Hedgehog, they FINALLY fixed the issue of it being mapped to the main action button, reducing the odds of
accidental deaths trying to use it. 

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By Sonic Generations, they limited the move even further by only allowing you to dash along specific ring trails. This makes the move
feel even more unnatural, making it feel like a lazy way for SEGA to have thrown in shortcuts without having to actually
design parts of the level around it. There's no room even for what little experimenting or creativity that existed in
previous games.

And that's pretty much where we stand now in regards to the light speed dash. So let's move on the other move. Light speed
attack has been used in fewer games, so I'll cover it on its own.
It functions essentially the same in both SA1 and SA2, similar to the dash in SA1, you charge a spin dash for some time and
then enter a state where, while the button is held, Sonic's movement is limited. Only for this move, you release next to an
enemy or group of enemies and Sonic automatically goes from foe to foe.

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This move kinda baffles me as to why it exists. In Sonic Adventure 1, it was mandatory ONCE to my knowledge, to attack an
enemy robot in a cage that was guarding the path to red mountain, immediately after the move is acquired. And then i's
never needed again. That enemy could have been attackable with a regular move and the rest of the game would've been
unchanged, it's even more baffling since that area is sealed off until then anyway. In Sonic Adventure 2 the upgrade is
hidden and not required for completing the game. Even further demonstrating how pointless it is.

The only fun to be had from the move is watching Sonic take out large number of enemies, but it doesn't fit into the
general idea of Sonic and combat in Sonic games, where ideally you want to keep moving. It requires a long charge time,
during which, even the most idle enemies in Sonic games will normally attack. So in order to get fun from the move, you
need to sit outside of the enemies range, and then take the time to move over to the enemy with your diminished movement.
Which is a level of preparation which combat in a Sonic game should NEVER take. And rooms with enough enemies to justify
doing it are extremely limited, as they should be, because it's a Sonic game.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are people who didn't even know it was a thing in Sonic Heroes. The implementation of the
move in this game was even more nonsensical, as it's designed as a followup to the move that is an automatic room clear.
You then have a timer within which it can be used, and all of the precision from the move is gone, so it's like it exists
to waste the time in which it can be used.It hasn't appeared in any game since then, and it's fairly obvious why.


So, how do I feel these moves should be implemented? Honestly, I think the series would be better off without it. At best,
it adds a superflous amount of flow, getting into a rythym with it in Sonic Adventure 2 can be fun. At worst, it completely
breaks the flow of the game, is glitchy, temperamental and leads to unfair deaths. More often than not, however, it
ultimately adds nothing that couldn't have been more satisfying simply with better level design. It doesn't offer much in
the way of synergy with Sonic's moveset or meaningful options for the player. More like it's a deliberate finger pointing
your where to go from the devs, restricting your options and automatically carrying you through parts of the level. It adds
a little bit of spectacle with no depth, which is something we have too much of in current Sonic games. Most likely it will
be added in to Sonic Forces where it will continue to add nothing of value.

I think that just about covers everything I wanted to say in regards to this mechanic, lemme know what you think about the
move, have I overlooked any of its good points? Am I missing some inherent trait that gives it value? Or do you share the
same opinion as me, that they're moves that by and large, encourage laziness from the developers and detract from the
series as a whole?

Any ideas for moves that you'd like to discuss in future topics? Whenever you see people talk about mechanics in Sonic games it's normally about really big things that fundamentally effect the way the game is played, so I thought it might be interesting to try to spark some discussion on smaller aspects of the games.

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