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Scritch the Cat

Isn't it ironic that Classic Sonic now has more playable characters than Modern Sonic?

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How did this happen?  I have my own ideas, which I'll get to eventually, but let's recap first.

I've been in-and-out of Sonic ever since it debuted on SEGA Genesis; I haven't played all of the games but I pay enough attention to know what all of the games contain.  The height of my Sonic fandom was the first few years that Sonic games first started being released or rereleased on Nintendo systems; apparently that was the entry point for many new fans, but it was when critics started to sour on it and pre-Adventure fans started coming out of the woodwork to wax nostalgic.  Back then, almost any time there was a negative opinion of Sonic games, at least part of the narrative was that the speakers preferred how there were less characters in the Classic era...among other things about the Genesis era  There was a point to be made about this; some of the new characters had attached annoying playstyles at worst, or were near clones of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles at best...but that isn't all of them.  I don't think I ever remember reading someone saying to get rid of Tails and Knuckles.  Nothing about how people said they disliked the slower gameplay styles even suggests that impetus, as Sonic Team knew full-well that Tails and Knuckles used to do just fine in speedy stages, and could again.  However, for whatever reason, eventually even Tails and Knuckles got the axe.

I still can only speculate at what that reason is.  I remember at one point, SEGA seemed to take seriously a certain viral image that is rightly banned from this forum for perpetuating the myth that fans hate all of Sonic's supporting cast in and of themselves, maybe because it gave them an excuse to strip their games down and call that progress.  However, whatever their reasons for throwing out playing as Tails and Knuckles, I can think of two very likely reasons that loss has stuck:

1) Boost: This has arguably dragged Sonic even further from his Genesis roots than the Adventure series did, since it essentially breaks the sort of levels and challenges that Sonic used to do, and that also cuts into what other characters were good for.  Because jumping while boosting lets Sonic clear gaps, the incentive to play as character who can fly and glide is lessened.  Also, because extremely speedy running is now the draw of the game, Sonic Team has been forced to make their stages longer and longer to make the game feature length, and they sacrifice depth in the process, which also lessens the use of other characters who are better at vertical movement.

2) Wisps: These are probably a worse offender.  Being able to give Sonic himself all the powers he needs to do anything makes other characters obsolete.  Takeshi Iizuka has even admitted that was the point of the Wisps.

Who knows how long this reductionist garbage would have gone if not for Sonic Generations?  They found another way to get more gameplay styles in while still only playing as Sonic; just also include another Sonic in your game!  This, of course, probably got a lot of people back into Classic Sonic games, which reminded them that for all that Sonic Team scrambled to abandon their direction from the Dreamcast era, somehow that didn't make them arrive back where they were in the Genesis era.  Enter Taxman, and soon Sonic Mania.  Featuring Tails and Knuckles, and then also Mighty and Ray.  Not featuring boost or Wisps.

So what's the takeaway from this?  Some my thoughts:

*Sonic Team cares too much about being cool.  They always have, really, but sometimes they happened to have competent developers helping to put substance to that style.  However, when their developers are either too inept, too lazy or too rushed to put out a good game, all they can do is spout propaganda about their being right on the level with their audiences.

*Gamers aren't as dumb as they think, though.  We aren't just blinded by coolness; we actually want a game that plays well, and characters are pretty secondary to that.  It was just unfortunate that bad gameplay got attached to a lot of characters, because this allowed Sonic Team to cherrypick a narrative that justified slacking off.  Acting like the characters are the problem, and not the attached gameplay, is convenient for lackluster developers because it's far easier to remove things than improve things.

*I think that cheap approach to game development has been pushed dangerously past its breaking point.  It's truly indicative of how much they still shove in weird gimmicks to diversify the experience; some good and some bad, but very few reminiscent of Classic Sonic.

*Classic Sonic has ironically rescued multiple playable characters because it has been handed to the fans, who always knew Sonic Team was taking the wrong narrative about at least some characters.  They also understood, in a way I'm guessing Sonic Team often wished they didn't, that pandering to supposedly "cool" tastes is no substitute for selling a quality product that earns its own appeal.

Those are just my thoughts.  Let's hear yours!

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Sonic Team doesn't know how to make 3D Sonic work so they've stuck with an inefficient and limited gameplay style that wouldn't play well with most characters' abilities. Mania, on the other hand, uses a formula that's already proven flexible enough to handle multiple playable characters with modest differences so it wasn't terribly difficult for them to add a few more characters.

2 hours ago, Scritch the Cat said:

2) Wisps: These are probably a worse offender.  Being able to give Sonic himself all the powers he needs to do anything makes other characters obsolete. 

I don't agree with this reasoning. The way the wisps work and the way separate characters work are almost entirely different. Powerups that are only available based on the whims of the level designers and your ability to find and collect them and that only have a limited duration or number of uses are an entirely separate kind of experience from characters with inherent, permanent abilities.

At most I'd guess the wisps are an attempt to add more variety to Sonic's gameplay after they've already decided that other characters/gameplay styles aren't viable. They don't prevent other characters from being playable, they're the consolation prize for when they're already not.

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9 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

Well, I was also thinking about a Boost topic, on how the use of it managed to decrease in quality over time. And I agree with a ton of these points. 

If by "with time," you mean "was moved on from, then hastily backtracked on in an unprepared engine with minimal relatively level design," then sure, maybe.

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No? At its peak people have always remembered three playable characters for the classic Sonic games, and outside of the spin-offs where you'd expect multiple characters (racing games, fighting games etc) and the Advance series which is the classic series on crack, there's been...what, three mainline games where you could say there's more than three playable characters effectively (SA1, Sonic Heroes and Sonic '06. SA2 had the two teams effectively identical to each other, so there's only three effectively playable. Heroes had one gameplay style but there were nuances between different teams)?

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Ironic? No

Sad and a sign of continued failures, and an inability due to lack of ability or lack of trying to actually expand on any of the premises that worked with multiple characters. Yes.

Don't worry, They might press the " adventure emergency button " sooner than later , so we'll get a bad version of that kind of game soon enough

 

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1 minute ago, Shadowlax said:

Ironic? No

Sad and a sign of continued failures, and an inability due to lack of ability or lack of trying to actually expand on any of the premises that worked with multiple characters. Yes.

Don't worry, They might press the " adventure emergency button " sooner than later , so we'll get a bad version of that kind of game soon enough

 

Remember how we got a real classic game seven years since they hit the “classic emergency button?” This means seven years after the button hits, Adventure finally gets its dues.

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Just now, Miragnarok said:

Remember how we got a real classic game seven years since they hit the “classic emergency button?” This means seven years after the button hits, Adventure finally gets its dues.

As long as they get other people to make it , its whatever dog.

Shrugs

I don't even care, the horizon of sonic stuff is pretty barren so Eh whatever sure.

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Adventure fans have been pretty frustrating on this topic for a while to be honest. I've commented on it recently, but the way the classic series shows clearly that multiple playable characters can be done very well....I just dont know why many fans dont understand this needs to be done for the 3D series.

At the end of the day, it's a very simple matter. No matter how beloved your favorite characters are, most gamers are not going to want to play a broken, boring, crappy game. Sonic Team has to focus on building a playstyle that is both fun and flexible, analogous to the way the classic achieved that for 2D. Once they do, the series will be very very successful and most fans will be happy because they will mostly get what they want. All else with respect to their formula is secondary until they achieve this. They have to realize how critical it is to their future that they execute this and ignoring the whining from fans in the meantime. It has to be first, second, and third priority until it is executed properly because it is the foundation for all else.

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This is a very interesting topic. On one hand, it's easier to make levels based on a single character like Sonic, but when you have to make levels that accommodate for other characters like Tails and Knuckles (who have quite OP abilities) then you're gonna have a much harder time.

The classics and Mania managed to do this quite well, but since these games are 2D, there's not much room for these flying abilities to really break the game.

In 3D, we've seen how broken Tails is in SA1, that's probably one of the reasons why his gameplay style didn't return in SA2, and also why Knuckles never had traditional levels but instead the Treasure Hunting stages. It's just really hard to make a stage in 3D that works for Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles at the same time. Sonic Heroes heavily nerfed Tails and Knuckles' abilities for example, and Sonic 06 did pretty much the same.

I'm sure it's possible to design levels that work for all these characters, but I have not seen a good example of it yet even in fangames. Then again, I'm not a game designer so I don't know.

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9 minutes ago, Detective Kaito said:

This is a very interesting topic. On one hand, it's easier to make levels based on a single character like Sonic, but when you have to make levels that accommodate for other characters like Tails and Knuckles (who have quite OP abilities) then you're gonna have a much harder time.

The classics and Mania managed to do this quite well, but since these games are 2D, there's not much room for these flying abilities to really break the game.

In 3D, we've seen how broken Tails is in SA1, that's probably one of the reasons why his gameplay style didn't return in SA2, and also why Knuckles never had traditional levels but instead the Treasure Hunting stages. It's just really hard to make a stage in 3D that works for Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles at the same time. Sonic Heroes heavily nerfed Tails and Knuckles' abilities for example, and Sonic 06 did pretty much the same.

I'm sure it's possible to design levels that work for all these characters, but I have not seen a good example of it yet even in fangames. Then again, I'm not a game designer so I don't know.

I think it is definitely possible but sonic team has to stop taking the approach of trying to directly translate 2D gameplay into a 3D space. Theyve been mostly doing this since SA1 and it will not work. They have to embrace a fully 3D world and gameplay context and the path forward will open up for them. Spiderman, breath of the wild, Sonic Utopia...they have to start thinking about how to create fully 3D environments and translating what is fun about controlling sonic (the momentum gameplay, the exploration, the skill ceiling) into a different context. It's what Nintendo realized they would have to do with mario 64 and they doubled down on it.

They need to think about these games, the sonic CD opening, take that inspiration and go into the workshop and produce a proof of concept. Sonic cannot maximize his potential in 3D without doing it. 

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23 minutes ago, Detective Kaito said:

I'm sure it's possible to design levels that work for all these characters, but I have not seen a good example of it yet even in fangames. Then again, I'm not a game designer so I don't know.

I have number of different ways to handle that problem in my mind.

#1: Change out certain characters problematic abilities for 3D games instead of merely nerfing them. For example take away Tails power to fly and refocus him using gizmos/powerups. Take away the gliding skill from Knuckles and give him a natural drill wisp power. Some games have tried this kinda stuff before, but I feel they just didn't implemented the changes very good.

#2: Just use other characters instead of Tails and Knuckles that skill sets are better suited for 3D gameplay.

#3: Make a open world Sonic game where things like flying abilities are still great! but at the same time not as super OP because the level designs are big and not linear.

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7 minutes ago, Lord-Dreamerz said:

Tails power to fly and refocus him using gizmos/powerups.

I always ponder about this mentality involving Tails and stripping him of his athletic and physical abilities to build him around a style that was never the only thing about him. Even in the OVA and Mania Adventures Tails is shown able to mostly keep up with Sonic in combat with his gadget use complimenting where he can't keep up or Sonic can't overcome the problem with brute force and speed alone. His gadgets and tinkering skills were introduced as complimentary abilities originally so I find it untruthful to Tails' character and character concept to have those traits override and replace his athletic and physical abilities. Sure, I don't have any solutions to resolve the flight problem in 3D myself, but I don't think getting rid of aspects of his character to pull it off is the right choice.

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2 hours ago, Sonic Fan J said:

I find it untruthful to Tails' character and character concept to have those traits override and replace his athletic and physical abilities. Sure, I don't have any solutions to resolve the flight problem in 3D myself, but I don't think getting rid of aspects of his character to pull it off is the right choice.

Didn't say I loved the idea myself, regardless that I suggested it. I never was a fan of SEGA making Tails into the series 2nd scientist, it goes to far from the main concept of Tails in my mind... However there is no erasing history, we are long past that point and SEGA indeed has made him a boy genius no matter if we like it or not. If full flight isn't a option in a 3D Sonic game without breaking it... well even nerfing his power down to a weak hover move is lame and appeals to nobody really. Better to swap out abilities for different ones then it is obsessing over a character power legacy. Or just use different characters altogether as I said already.

2 hours ago, Sonic Fan J said:

I always ponder about this mentality involving Tails and stripping him of his athletic and physical abilities

Also I said nothing about removing his athletic and physical abilities... only his flight power as that is the problem ability in a 3D game not built to revolve around it.

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2 hours ago, UpCDownCLeftCRightC said:

Adventure fans have been pretty frustrating on this topic for a while to be honest. I've commented on it recently, but the way the classic series shows clearly that multiple playable characters can be done very well....I just dont know why many fans dont understand this needs to be done for the 3D series.

At the end of the day, it's a very simple matter. No matter how beloved your favorite characters are, most gamers are not going to want to play a broken, boring, crappy game. Sonic Team has to focus on building a playstyle that is both fun and flexible, analogous to the way the classic achieved that for 2D. Once they do, the series will be very very successful and most fans will be happy because they will mostly get what they want. All else with respect to their formula is secondary until they achieve this. They have to realize how critical it is to their future that they execute this and ignoring the whining from fans in the meantime. It has to be first, second, and third priority until it is executed properly because it is the foundation for all else.

The issue with idea is that they did

They did it several times

Heck they kind of did it more than that

And then they just stop

If they literally made generations , the 3d parts, with other characters people would be fine. This is not some abstract impossibility, people have liked 3d sonic games and enjoyed them. Stop with the very thinly veiled " 3d is just flawed stuff "

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26 minutes ago, Shadowlax said:

If they literally made generations , the 3d parts, with other characters people would be fine.

What does that even mean, though?

If you just reskin Sonic into other characters without changing any mechanics it'll work just as well (setting aside whether Generations' 3D sections are good enough in the first place), but that's a pretty poor way of handling a lot of characters.

If you try to be true to every characters' actual abilities then you need level design that accounts for those abilities. And Generations absolutely is not set up for that as is, both because it's not designed to prevent those abilities from breaking the levels and because it's not designed to take advantage of those abilities in a balanced and satisfying way. And I'm not saying it necessarily can't be done, but it's not a trivial matter.

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The positive mainstream reception to Sonic’s friends in Mania demonstrates that people’s disgust with “Sonic’s shitty friendzz!1” really came from how different and markedly inferior their gameplay was in 3D titles. We could have Charmy shitting Bee in Sonic Mania and everyone would like him. 

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1 hour ago, Diogenes said:

If you try to be true to every characters' actual abilities then you need level design that accounts for those abilities. And Generations absolutely is not set up for that as is, both because it's not designed to prevent those abilities from breaking the levels and because it's not designed to take advantage of those abilities in a balanced and satisfying way. And I'm not saying it necessarily can't be done, but it's not a trivial matter.

I think it is

I actually think, outside of knuckles, You could do some pretty good levels that have variation on abilities that allow people navigate levels differently. It would require more intricate design, but I don't think its impossible. Infact I think its just the natural evolution of that game type.

I don't think this task is impossible. I don't even this task is daunting ( I mean game design from any aspect isn't ' easy ' by anymeans ) , I think a studio with good level designers and and people who understand game design, could have ... and would have come up with that years ago.

I think sega's incompetence has trapped people in some mental space where , everything seems impossible. Nah this is fine,

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8 minutes ago, Shadowlax said:

I think it is

I actually think, outside of knuckles, You could do some pretty good levels that have variation on abilities that allow people navigate levels differently. It would require more intricate design, but I don't think its impossible. Infact I think its just the natural evolution of that game type.

I don't think this task is impossible. I don't even this task is daunting ( I mean game design from any aspect isn't ' easy ' by anymeans ) , I think a studio with good level designers and and people who understand game design, could have ... and would have come up with that years ago.

I think sega's incompetence has trapped people in some mental space where , everything seems impossible. Nah this is fine,

Unless you have a proof of concept, then this just wishful thinking.

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5 hours ago, Fire-N-Space said:

Making characters in 3D is a whole lot harder than making them in 2D.  

So let’s not try at all and continue the laziness of the modern “3D” games of being dependent on 2D sections for half the time.

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3 hours ago, Shadowlax said:

The issue with idea is that they did

They did it several times

Heck they kind of did it more than that

And then they just stop

If they literally made generations , the 3d parts, with other characters people would be fine. This is not some abstract impossibility, people have liked 3d sonic games and enjoyed them. Stop with the very thinly veiled " 3d is just flawed stuff "

I'm probably one of the biggest advocates for 3D sonic gameplay in concept and think the series wont reach it's full potential until it nails 3D so I literally have no clue why I'd be accused of anything else. I post about this on a semi regular basis on here and other forums because it's a dream of mine since the mid 90s. I badly want to see sonic succeed in 3D even more than I want another Mania sequel. I always have. "3D is flawed stuff" is not my opinion and I dont think it's necessary to take shots at me.

However we need to be honest and admit that 3D sonic hasnt worked well yet, especially in establishing a fun and flexible enough formula. There are big fundamental problems with what has been tried so far in the context of a creating a true 3D platformer, whether you look at sonic adventure or sonic generations. The reason for this, I believe, is because sonic team has been trying too directly to figure out how to port the classic 2D style gameplay into a 3D space, rather than understanding the appeal of the gameplay and recontextualizing it. Mario did this between 1991 and 1995, and gave birth to mario 64 in 1996 with a foundation for all future 3D titles of that series; they didn't just try to do the same thing as before, they understood the appeal of the gameplay and built a new foundation with it within a fully 3D environment;  so it plays different, yet keeps in the same spirit as the classic entries. I do believe Yuji and company thought a lot about some things they wished they could do during development of SA1 in 1996 but couldn't do to limitations of the time. However today, this can definitely be done for sonic.

 

If anyone thinks that what we have tried in the past was successful and we should just do it again and everything will be fine, then I dont know what to say to that. Its obviosu it hasn't worked or else SEGA would not have been as erratic in the design decisions as they have been. They have tried many things and have admitted themselves they have struggled to figure this out because it hasnt worked. But I suspect if you aren't convinced by now it probably wont ever happen, you like what you like and that's fine.

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It's really just a consequence of the boost gameplay that other characters aren't used. At the speeds you're intended to travel with boost, all other character's abilities are rendered moot. The only way I can see them returning is slowing the gameplay down, which I think is a long time coming. Unleashed came out ten years ago, and we've seen just about everything that can be done with the formula. The level design just isn't flexible enough to accommodate much beyond running in a straight line, unless maybe Sega did away with the need for holding down a button to boost and turned the focus towards something more akin to Trackmania. These could easily pass for Sonic levels with the right touch and variances to make way for conventional Sonic level tropes: 

However, I personally think it's past due for a return to something that relies more on 3-D platforming than high velocity hallways, it would be a breath of fresh air, and likely save Sega time and money on designing levels as many assets essentially go to waste with how fast you speed by them in boost gameplay.

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