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Sonic Duels: Chao VS Wisp


Red Hot Jack
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Chao VS Wisp

(It's not a battle topic, it's a discussion one)

The Sonic franchise has a vast and interesting lore, and other than animals it includes a lot of little critters and pets like the Chao who are supposed to be evolving water creatures, and the Wisps, who are aliens that grant Sonic some very cool powers. They are VASTLY different, but both are fantasy creatures who help Sonic.

Points Pro Chao: They actually have a backstory, and with a villain as well; they need a lot of caring and attention, they need to be fed with little animals and Chaos Drives as well as fruits, and they need a lot of love to grow up and depending on that, they will evolve either into Hero or Dark, I thought this was a really cool feature in the Adventure series. And if the Chao's are really loved, they will reincarnate once their life cycle is complete, plus they can change their appearance and evolve into Chaos Chao, an upgraded species who is immortal. Overall the Chao are really well thought and so damn cute, they are a wonderful addition to the Sonic series, they should definitely have their own mobile spin-off app in my opinion.

Points Con Chao: Well, sadly the Chao Gardens are just a minigame that has little to do with Sonic, but it's a nice time waster, even though it doesn't really fit with the game (SA2) and it doesn't help you in any progress with the story, unlike in SA1 where they are quite relevant. Sadly they haven't been appearing a lot in Sonic games recently, until Team Sonic Racing where they are gonna be playable, but they kind of have been forgotten to be honest.

Points Pro Wisp: They also have a story in Sonic Colors, they aren't added without context, Eggman kidnaps them to use a powerful cannon and turns them into Nega Wisps, Sonic has to rescue them from their capsules, it's pretty easy as a premise. Now... the fact is that the Wisps are actually useful in gameplay, they give Sonic a vast range of powers, in fact they are classic power ups, which I think are always nice in a videogame, they add a lot of variety I have to say. Their powers include turning into a rocket, a floating spaceship, blasting through lasers, burrowing underground, flying as an eagle, using a classic Spin Dash to break walls, and more. They are also used as a boost, which makes it a bit less overused than when you have to gain it through rings and destroyed enemies, I think it works well in Sonic Colors, and the Wisp overall are great in that game. They can also be used to power up Wispons and used in TSR as items.

Points Con Wisp: They are a bit overused, they are basically in every game nowadays, which make people hate them, and I understand that, Sega however finds a lot of ways to use them, even some new ones like in Sonic Forces. But in games like Lost World and Forces, Wisps aren't really relevant or useful, they are just needed for alternate routes and red rings, which is also kind of nice, but not enough. They are also used when they are not supposed to be (in Sonic's planet). There is also the fact that they are a bit similar to Mario's power ups, but not too much in my view.

Final Opinion: I think they are both wonderful additions to the Sonic universe and lore, as well as gameplay, but in the end, the Wisps seem to be way more integral to it, as they directly help Sonic in battling robots and villains, they are a part of gameplay that brings fresh variety and a lot of ways to explore stages. They shouldn't be used everywhere, but they are more involved than the Chao's, they are used in better ways, and they are more thought, there's also a bigger variation of Wisps (like, 15) and really great power ups. So it's just my opinion, but I believe the Wisps are a fantastic addition to the series, and they can help rival Mario's power ups, but still be different from those. So they should still be part of main Sonic games in the future, they are quite underrated because of their overuse.

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Honestly I think Chao are sort of treated like the "Green Hill Zone" of characters.  Green Hill Zone is the "HEY REMEMBER THIS" for casual/grown-up Sonic fans, while Chao is that for Adventure-era fans exclusively.  For a while they were a major part of the lore, much as Wisps... sort of are now, but their whole point was customisation, so seeing "NPC" chao doesn't really have any value to anyone.  People who weren't around for the Adventure era have no reason to care about them, and for the people who were, the "HEY GUYS REMEMBER CHAO" feeling presumebly kinda stings as they continually can't offer anything more for chao fans than references to the fact that they were once relevant.  I feel they don't really have any "innate" appeal like bringing back a character for a spin-off.  Like say, if Tikal was in Team Sonic Racing, I'm sure a lot of people who hadn't played Sonic Adventure might still like her, because her personality would still shine through as-is.  Default, uncustomisable Chao don't have any personality, as evidenced by the fact that they need Omochao at the wheel to provide dialogue.  They don't really have that same appeal other than, as said, "HEY GUYS REMEMBER CHAO", and being a good generic copy-pastable character for crowds in Mario & Sonic or racing spin-offs.  Their continued appearance in the series is certainly throwing a bone towards chao garden fans... but it's just that.  A bone.  Not a scrap of meat on it.

Though that's just how I see Chao right now, which this topic sort of gave me a platform to think about and articulate.  To respond to the topic more directly, I don't find Chao vs Wisps to be all that comparable other than being "cute small creatures that are very different from the main cast of characters in design".  They serve extremely different purposes when it comes down to gameplay - and when you are looking at that, you might as well be making a thread for "Chao Gardens vs Sonic Mania Power-Up Monitors" or "Chao Gardens vs Sonic Advance 3 Team-Up Move System".

All I can say though is that I don't care a huge amount either way.  Chao Gardens, Wisps, I'm fine with neither, because I wanna do platforming as vanilla Sonic really.  Wisp sections get in the way of that when they're mandatory to finish levels or even just reach certain routes.  And of course, Chao Gardens contain no platforming, and I don't play Sonic games to do not-platforming.  Their absence or inclusion wouldn't affect me a huge amount for that reason.

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I think the Chao do have appeal, and both them and the Wisp have a lot of personality IMO, just in their design and the way they act, even though they don't talk. I didn't touch on the Chao minigames though, because honestly I didn't like them, so I forgot about them.

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I don't think it needs saying that the Sonic fanbase is divisive. Like holy shit is it divisive. For every subject I could possibly think of off the top of my head, there's a near-even split on the community's views at the best of times, and they always get significantly worse with age. And yet, there's one subject, in and out of the fanbase, that nearly everybody agrees with bar the most optimistic and meme-iest of hot takes - that Big the Cat (or more specifically, his fishing) was a fucking stupid idea because it was slow, flow breaking and had so little to do with Sonic that he's considered a completely different genre to the rest of the cast. Some people are more hyperbolic than that, but the general jist of that message is never misunderstood. And in this fanbase, that's a pretty huge feat.

So for that same fanbase - and in many cases, the very same people - to then turn around and say a fucking digital pet sim is somehow one of the best things that ever happened to the franchise with all of those very same caveats involved just blows my fucking mind.

And the mental gymnastics some people will go through to justify it I just don't understand. Some will say it encourages replay value, but there's nothing about the Chao system that actually encourages you to explore stages any deeper than you would normally or optimize your run times or rankings - the only thing it incentivises is stopping for every enemy you blow up for chaos drives, usually having to cherry-pick what you need because for some reason you have a 10 drive limit, and then repeating that same level over and over until you have enough stats to stand a chance in races. That's not replay value - that is grinding. And the very worst kind of it too, because it's mandatory for progressing through the challenges rather than an alternative to buffering out a challenging yet technically doable experience. And don't give me that crap about the whole thing being optional either, not as long as there's actual platforming content locked behind emblems exclusive to it.

I might have been a little softer on this in retrospect if the challenges themselves were even any fun, but they're not - you barely have any actual input in them bar to burn through all of your leftover stamina right at the end of a race, and that's to say nothing of Chao Karate, where relieving your Chao of boredom is actually, honest to god a real game mechanic. It's such a non-game that you could've just replaced the entire thing with generic checks for whether your Chao's stats are above a certain level for emblem requirements, and the only thing that would really change is that you wouldn't have to restart a challenge several times to compensate for getting dicked over by RNG mechanics you don't have any control over. And to suggest Sonic games need systems like this as a break from the main game? The main game was already fine. Why did it need this? There's no actual interaction between the two bar that you need to grind Iron Gate for Chaos Drives.

...okay, let's take a step back. This isn't to suggest Chao don't have a place in the series - they're cute, they're memorable and they're incredibly modular, and I feel there's a pretty good mechanic lurking somewhere in those criteria. I'm just saying we haven't seen it yet, and SA1/2's implementation of it is totally fucked. This is more than what I can say about Wisps, which in my mind seem to exist only to peddle gimmicks and inane questions like "how do we make levels based around flying without involving characters that can already do that?"

3 minutes ago, JezMM said:

Though that's just how I see Chao right now, which this topic sort of gave me a platform to think about and articulate.  To respond to the topic more directly, I don't find Chao vs Wisps to be all that comparable other than being "cute small creatures that are very different from the main cast of characters in design".  They serve extremely different purposes when it comes down to gameplay - and when you are looking at that, you might as well be making a thread for "Chao Gardens vs Sonic Mania Power-Up Monitors" or "Chao Gardens vs Sonic Advance 3 Team-Up Move System".

That all being said, I definitely agree with this.

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CHAO PLUS
1) Lore: They are natural part of the world. They live on Mobius. They seemed to be drawn to chaos energy. We know a lot about them.  Cream owns one.
In comparison Wisp are power-up if living form. What stupid evolution gave them powers that they can't use without representative of other specie? What are they still doing on Mobius? They just feel more artificial.
2) Chao are cuter. I know, subjective. But when your Chao falls into water he's sad, you can help him and pet, and then he makes a little heart which makes a little 'aww' in your head. Wisps don't exactly give stimulate any emotional response.

WISPS PLUS
1) They are actually useful to the gameplay. Chao can be collectable or motivate you to do stuff (find tiny animals, collect rings to buy then stuff, etc), but don't improve gameplay, while Wisps can do that.
BUT!!!
Chao are never intrusive. Some people love Chao garden, but if you don't care, you're free to ignore it. Wisps can be much more tiresome if implemented badly (Lost World).

..so yeah, I kinda prefer Chao. They make Sonic Universe more realistic and alive, when Wisps can be two-edged blade in that department. Chao have smaller impact, but they never 'damaged' the game they were in (...until they replace Cream in newest racing game anyway).

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52 minutes ago, Blacklightning said:

So for that same fanbase - and in many cases, the very same people - to then turn around and say a fucking digital pet sim is somehow one of the best things that ever happened to the franchise with all of those very same caveats involved just blows my fucking mind.

I guess in the case of the Chao Gardens, they were optional while Big's gameplay wasn't. 

42 minutes ago, MetalSkulkBane said:

Chao have smaller impact, but they never 'damaged' the game they were in (...until they replace Cream in newest racing game anyway).

^^^^^

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I like both, personally.

Wisps have potential, and could be dialed down to be optional-but-fun powerup, and storywise, I've seen some interesting uses by Flynn both with Eclipse (because Eclipse looking after his edgy baby wisps was perfect) and Whisper. The explanation that some found Sonic's world cool and decided to stay is good enough for me (tbh, I don't think that they need an especially complex' reason to stay). About chao… well, I remember the hours I passed playing with them while I was younger 😄

So personally there isn't one I really "prefer" to the other, both can be useful.

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I always thought the fact that the Chao resonated so strongly as an optional mini game should have always been exploited rather than looked at as a blight by fans. They've should have long been trying to implement the little guys into the games themselves better. I'm not even sure why the idea was dropped considering every side thing they've invested in since then has been far less optional and way less fleshed out. 

The chao are, potentially, an easy way to keep long term interest in a one and done sonic game. That's what they were for me in the adventure games, anyway. It was the weirdest little idea that I think was kind of genius in retrospect: a completely optional place to invest the items you find in levels to a place where they make an actual tangible difference. Grinding is potentially a troubling factor, but only if you're trying to raise god chao to get all the emblems. Most people are really not as obsessed with completion as hardcore fans seem to be. 

The chao and their mannerisms have a surprising amount of depth to me still. The way they'd go from crawling to walking to running around. The way they'd take on some animal's behaviors. The fact that you could "spoil" them or neglect them in the same way. Their appearances would gradually change depending on how they were raised and who they were raised by.

The minigames were lacking in interactivity, but the Chao dominating them after you invested enough time into them is where all the appeal comes from. 

This system wasn't without flaws IMO. I think repetitive grinding should be alleviated by just hiding collectables like chaos drives properly instead of making them random drops. They could take the place of red rings and actually have a place where they can be used for something. The minigames could lean more on player interaction. I think it's something worth looking into though. With forces Sonic Team was clearly looking for ways to extend the longevity of their games and I feel like this is it.

The wisps on the other hand imo need to be completely rethought. They function as level gimmicks more than powerups, so they feel redundant compared to just putting in more engaging level gimmicks properly. If you were to rework them as power ups they'd have to start leaning on more general usage rather than the specific contextual door opener they are in Colors. Spike needs to let you easily scale most surfaces without momentum, as an example. 

It feels weird to compare them since they're trying to do two completely different things, but the Wisps feel very binary and redundant to me. The Chao at the very least completely avoidable and added more to the game for me beyond that.

 

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I'll take the Chao at this point. The Wisps just don't add anything at this point. The Chao at least brought some variety, and they were optional to boot. I also feel the Chao haven't been fully realized. There's plenty of room for improvement going off Sonic Adventure 2 Battle's system. Honestly, watching Chao race and fight is not as fun as controlling them during a race or fight. Granted, I hear that's not really the point of a virtual pet, but eh, the way I see it, making them more accessible, all the while increasing depth with RPG elements like typing and attacks can only be a good thing. Maybe that's just me though.

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I don't like the Wisps at all. Their designs are lazy and boring, they offer nothing to the gameplay (exception being Sonic Colors), and their inclusion in every game after Colors has been forced and stupid (I'll at least give TSR a pass).

The Chao on the other hand have simple designs, and most importantly, they're cute. They don't interfere with the gameplay and you could completely ignore them if you want to. If you decide to visit the Chao Garden, you could start raising, which means you'll need to buy items from the Black Market, which means you need to play the stages to get rings. So it adds even more replay value for Sonic/Shadow stages in SA1/SA2.

When Sonic Colors came out, I was 12-years-old, so I should have a "connection" to the Wisps since Sonic games were still aimed at my age demographic, but the Wisps have failed to leave the impact that the Chao did. Nobody asked for the Wisps to return after Sonic Colors, but everyone wants the Chao Garden to return.

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I just don't think the Chao fit into anything Sonic, neither gameplay or anything else. Strangely the Wisps work and mesh well with Sonic's gameplay, at least the skills, it's true that they transform Sonic into... things, but they are still fun to use. I would definitely prefer the other characters at this point, but power ups are cool too. The Chao... are/were just there, and they're buried now.

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9 hours ago, Silent Jack said:

there's also a bigger variation of Wisps (like, 15)

There are too color combinations, stat combinations, and appearances that Chao can take that far surpasses the current number of Wisps right now.

That's not even counting the Character Chao like Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, Super Sonic, Super Shadow, NiGHTS, & Reala.

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I somewhat like the Wisps. I just hate how they’ve been implemented up until Forces brought the Wispon.

Honestly, I think there’s something worthwhile to utilize the Wisps if one can be more creative about hiw they can operate in a game. 

The Chao meanwhile aren’t exactly the most offensive thing, but that requires some creativity in a different way if someone wants to go beyond the Garden Pet mechanic the Adventures used them for. They could work in a similar vein as the Wisps, but I personally have a hard time figuring that out by comparison beyond reworking the whole idea from scratch—one idea I have in mind is similar to the Cyber-Elf mechanic from the Megaman Zero series, granting you health, resistance, or extra abilities that the Wisps can’t provide if all possible.

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Throw me in the side that doesn't like the way Wisps are implemented in Sonic's gameplay. I prefer Sonic's core gameplay to be as gimmick free as possible and what the Wisps do is changing his form for a shallow one use power up, especially when a lot of what they do are abilities that Sonic should have the ability to do on his own, things that already have some kind of representation in the series or would make for more interesting gameplay if played out normally. I would rather use Sonic's abilities to scale heights, or at least a spring, than use a rocket power up for instance. For a series that has such potential in its unique forms of movement it's a shame to see that potential squandered on power ups that feel generic, like they could be found anywhere else.

I also am not a huge fan of how disconnected they feel from Sonic's world being literal aliens. They have no history to add to the series, in comparison to the Chao whose backstory in SA1 shows they've been around for a long time and implies a connection to the chaos emeralds. Wisps are just kinda aliens who are here now. They do little for the mystique and intrigue of the world, which I suppose is very indicative of Sonic Team's current approach to the series. They aren't distinct enough to be characters, they don't feel personal enough to be pets.

I do agree that  recent showings, like the Wispons show some potential in fun and creative usage of Wisps, it builds on a more literal interpretation of the Wisp's concept as a power source, which is the most interesting thing about them, rather than using them as a cheap power up gimmick, so if you ask me, keep them away from Sonic's gameplay and do more stuff like that with them and I'll be fine with them.

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They don't really "need" a reason, for me, more than what they already said. Some of them kept being here (in Runners), that's done. It's even easier to keep them than to use Blaze or Silver, as you need a one-time explanation (it would also be possible for Blaze and Silver to do that, but it would need some stuff). Basically the rest is using them in an interesting way.

What I think its interesting is basically the fact that they add something different than the small animals (while building on their premise) and Chao (while having the same kind of simplicity). Animals are what you save (and can have some uses with Chao), Chao are something you pet and that can be added in some mission, and Wisp can power you. Each can have their own usefulness. What I would change with the wisp is how they are used in level : instead of being a "gimmick" in a part of a level, it would be more interesting to let the player keep some wisp in a "storage" and use them when he want, in his own creative way (maybe even search a bit the place where it would be useful).

Things like the Wispon, or their use in TSR are also quite nice.

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4 hours ago, Darth InVaders said:

Wisps have no narrative reason to stick around. Chao can appear in the background similar to little Animals (or, in the case of Cheese, as a recurring character). Wisp's Color Powers can still be turned into special Shields and Shoes.

Honestly, that's because you dislike them. The reason for them... they are still on Sonic's world, simple. They are more useful to gameplay than Chao's have ever been, and they work well IMO.

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3 hours ago, Silent Jack said:

Honestly, that's because you dislike them. The reason for them... they are still on Sonic's world, simple. They are more useful to gameplay than Chao's have ever been, and they work well IMO.

I don't dislike them, they worked well in Sonic Colors (and their only reasonable return in Sonic Generations). But Sonic Team does not let characters, whose stories have ended, leave. Like I said, their only purpose, which is in gameplay, can be moved into Sonic's existing power ups, Shoes and Shields.

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The comparison doesn't really work, since the Wisps were originally designed to tie into the main gameplay (and likely as a one-off gimmick made to entice fans of Nintendo platformers), while the Chao were an optional mini game. The problem with the former is that they feel shoehorned into every experience following Colours, not really serving to enhance the experience at all but to remind the player that Sonic had a good game a few years ago. Unlike Chao, which exist alongside other animals, the Wisps don't really feel that they belong either, with little effort being made to introduce them properly to Earth/Sonic's World.

And outside of Spikes and Drill, they never really felt versatile enough to begin with. Chao, on the other hand, feel like they could be integrated into the game in any number of ways without encroaching on or cluttering the core experience. The fact that Sonic Team have failed to capitalise on their popularity with some side content or companion app speaks to how tone deaf they are. It also doesn't help that their most recent games feel so poorly developed at a conceptual stage that the idea of extra content has likely been off the table for a long time.

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