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Character interaction in Sonic cutscenes


smogfog

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I've got an issue with how character conversations and interaction are handled in cutscenes in Sonic games.

So for an arbitrary cutscene that is not action focused and most likely occurs either in the beginning or in the end of the plot there is a number of typical culturally accepted manual gestures one can expect: a guy holding a girl by her waist, an embracing hug, a brofist, a paternalistic backslap, a friendly "don't worry it's not that bad" kind of shoulder hug, a fatherly "time to man up son" shoulder hold, a friendly "haha you're an asshole" punch, a friendly hair grind mess-up, etc, you name it. Even considering the quality and humor-focused direction of writing in Sonic games, there are still all kinds of situations when such gestures would fit naturally into the narrative. As Peter Jackson used to say, hobbit party at the beginning of "The Fellowship of The Ring" was supposed to show to the viewer "that this world is worthy of saving". Sonic mostly fights robots in his games so it would be just natural to differentiate his friends from his enemies through a social and humane interaction, maybe even a little exagerrated. But I keep seeing the opposite again and again.

It really seems like there is an unspoken rule over there at Sega: minimize manual or body contact between the characters. Exploit every trick in the book to either downplay it into a joke - by exaggerating character's behaviour or making him act rude for a moment - or if you can't, just halt the action in the middle, right at the moment when it would feel awkward already but not way too much.
Every time Sonic characters get together - either for a party or they are just around each other like in Forces and Lost World - it looks like an official CEO meeting in the office. You expect characters to party but they just stand there and make gestures.

Amy is about to hug Sonic but then he just grabs her face.

Knuckles is about to establish a bond with a rookie like he wishes him good luck but then he slaps him so hard it's funny.

Tails meets Sonic for the first time after thinking his best friend was dead(!) for half a year(!) and one expect them to have the biggest hug ever but then Tails just awkwardly places his hands on friends' shoulders and his body is still like half a meter away.

Sonic is back from Lost Hex, he saved Amy and Knuckles from a certain death and one expect some kind of payoff from the characters, they'd have to come closer to him and express their gratitude. A hug, a handshake, just an emotional dialogue, anything. Nope, they just get not too far away from each other, then part again and camera pans out. Sonic lies down, they come closer again but the scenery pans up already. The emotional release never happens.

Such situations aren't something special that should be scrupulously planned by an experienced director or anything, no. They occur naturally during human interaction. They are supposed to be an organic part of certain cutscenes, for example ones establishing a synopsis, a villain, or somehow happy ending. Any 7/10 fanfic have these not to mention any classic. The fact that Sonic games steadily don't, indicate that this is a deliberate decision of a director. Of course the world is not spinning around me and director can and should have his decisions but this particular practice feels outright weird. Such kind of writing cuts corners it should double down on instead to make player care for the characters and the plot.

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The real sin is like 90% of cutscenes is just people standing still and talking, which is boring. It was the worst in Colors where you have a whole theme park of locations, and yet the characters always talk in the dullest looking areas possible, while making the most basic of actions possible.

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Those are all norms for Western communication, not so much for Japanese communication who don't favour body contact at all. In Japan, even Amy hugging would be seen as her being rude (even if still seen as cute). 

I say Western, but even in the UK we're as likely to fall on the latter side as the former.

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9 minutes ago, VEDJ-F said:

Those are all norms for Western communication, not so much for Japanese communication who don't favour body contact at all. In Japan, even Amy hugging would be seen as her being rude (even if still seen as cute). 

I say Western, but even in the UK we're as likely to fall on the latter side as the former.

Hand Sonic games to a latino or a french or a magrebian dev team then.

Greetings are always hugs and kiss on the cheeks there.

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9 minutes ago, VEDJ-F said:

Those are all norms for Western communication, not so much for Japanese communication who don't favour body contact at all. In Japan, even Amy hugging would be seen as her being rude (even if still seen as cute).

Isn’t Sonic way more popular in the West anyway? Business-wise, it makes the most sense to adapt to that demographic.

Mixing cultures like that is right at the core of the franchise. I mean, the original Sonic and Eggman look like hybrids of 30s cartoon and anime characters.

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2 hours ago, smogfog said:

Amy is about to hug Sonic but then he just grabs her face.

He stops her from hugging him. That itself is an interaction...which is standard for the character that Amy is. It's not like hugging was never a thing, she hugs literally all 3 dude-hogs. (Unfortunately there's no image of the hug itself)image.png.c87cee5f304b2bf8b63d29d04142a797.png

 

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7 hours ago, MasterDisaster64 said:

Isn’t Sonic way more popular in the West anyway? Business-wise, it makes the most sense to adapt to that demographic.

Mixing cultures like that is right at the core of the franchise. I mean, the original Sonic and Eggman look like hybrids of 30s cartoon and anime characters.

Business doesn't really come into it when the ethos of the writing would be "write what you know". This falls more into creative influence, considering 99% of the time the initial writing is done on the Japanese side. 

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14 hours ago, smogfog said:

Tails meets Sonic for the first time after thinking his best friend was dead(!) for half a year(!) and one expect them to have the biggest hug ever but then Tails just awkwardly places his hands on friends' shoulders and his body is still like half a meter away

That may have something to do with the way their bodies are designed making a full hug animation awkward. 

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The lack of an abundance of body contact and gestures does open the door for other possibilities though. Its worth noting by not going to that well all too often, when they do choose to emphasize a moment via body language it is usually to very great effect. Half the internet lost their shit when Sonic reached back for Pikachu. When Sonic took two steps forward to shield Tails from the Egg Nega wisp, people noticed and appreciated that too. Sonic getting cozy with Nimue, Holding hands with Blaze as their dimensions got torn apart,  Chip holding Sonic in the palm of his hand... When the time comes to drop the big hammer, Sonic Team isn't shy about the body contact. By keeping things lighter elsewhere, those moments can stand out all the more.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Sega DogTagz said:

The lack of an abundance of body contact and gestures does open the door for other possibilities though. Its worth noting by not going to that well all too often, when they do choose to emphasize a moment via body language it is usually to very great effect. Half the internet lost their shit when Sonic reached back for Pikachu. When Sonic took two steps forward to shield Tails from the Egg Nega wisp, people noticed and appreciated that too. Sonic getting cozy with Nimue, Holding hands with Blaze as their dimensions got torn apart,  Chip holding Sonic in the palm of his hand... When the time comes to drop the big hammer, Sonic Team isn't shy about the body contact. By keeping things lighter elsewhere, those moments can stand out all the more.

 

 

This comment applies to the different styles of storytelling and/or tone as well.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/31/2018 at 8:11 AM, Sega DogTagz said:

The lack of an abundance of body contact and gestures does open the door for other possibilities though. Its worth noting by not going to that well all too often, when they do choose to emphasize a moment via body language it is usually to very great effect. Half the internet lost their shit when Sonic reached back for Pikachu. When Sonic took two steps forward to shield Tails from the Egg Nega wisp, people noticed and appreciated that too. Sonic getting cozy with Nimue, Holding hands with Blaze as their dimensions got torn apart,  Chip holding Sonic in the palm of his hand... When the time comes to drop the big hammer, Sonic Team isn't shy about the body contact. By keeping things lighter elsewhere, those moments can stand out all the more.

 

 

I can hardly see these situations as a "big hammer". I've already brought up examples of Sonic Team refusing to drop the big hammer when they clearly should have.

People reach out for each other and hold each other all the time. It's okay if internet chooses to be crazy about mundane stuff like that but no franchise can maintain a healthy development in such conditions.

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5 hours ago, smogfog said:

I can hardly see these situations as a "big hammer". I've already brought up examples of Sonic Team refusing to drop the big hammer when they clearly should have.

People reach out for each other and hold each other all the time. It's okay if internet chooses to be crazy about mundane stuff like that but no franchise can maintain a healthy development in such conditions.

I'm kind of curious for an answer to a question that's hard to word, but your assessment that people reach out and touch and hold each other all the time honestly creeps me out. I personally loathe physical contact and avoid it as best as I'm able. No high fives, hugs, shoulder pats, nothing like that. At best you may get a handshake out of me or a fist bump if that is your preference but that's all and never anything extended. Physical contact makes me very uncomfortable.

Moving on from me, Sonic was created and handled by for the longest time a Japanese company, in Japan, where physical contact is typically avoided (consider shaking hands is typically only amongst diplomatic or large business ventures) and just so much as holding hands in public is still considered a public display of affection. Now also consider that touching someone without their permission could be considered rude and that this is a children's series and the last thing you want in any country is familiarizing children with people touching them through their media. That's also a little disturbing to even think about in my opinion.

To a point though, while I can't speak for everyone, you find the lack of the characters being all over each other as unnatural where as from my personal experience and passive knowledge of Japan I find it both natural and strangely comforting. I also find that adds to certain interactions such as Sonic's reactions to Amy who disregards all sense of personal space which immediately makes Sonic uncomfortable when said space is violated without his consent. I can understand that feeling and believe it would help you better build your argument to both consider the culture that made the franchise and that not everyone who shares your input on what is normal human interaction. Now would it hurt for the characters to be more animated during cutscenes? Probably not and I'll agree with that, but I don't believe they need to be putting their hands all over each other for every meeting and line of conversation. That seems every bit as unnatural to me as them not doing it seems to you and as a point it might be worth noting that the people who direct these cutscenes feel more similar to me than you resulting in the lack of the body contact you find lacking.

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On ‎12‎/‎29‎/‎2018 at 1:15 AM, smogfog said:

Every time Sonic characters get together - either for a party or they are just around each other like in Forces and Lost World - it looks like an official CEO meeting in the office. You expect characters to party but they just stand there and make gestures.

100% agree with this.

Ever since Sonic Team brought back secondary characters into the stories following Generations, I've never once thought "These guys are all such close friends!" In Lost World Knuckles and Amy might as well of been cardboard cutouts. With Forces they've all been fighting for months, yet their briefings feel so stilted; acting like acquaintances at a office like you said. We're just supposed to assume guys like Silver and the Chaotix are just as good friends as Sonic and Tails? Based on what: that they're in the same room together?

You'd think of all things global war would strengthen their relationships. But no, just another day at the office...

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I'll agree with that myself too. Again, one of the most interesting things about the Chaotix to me was the fact that they had no real bond with Sonic and the others in both Heroes and Shadow and yet did things to affect the plot regardless. It was nice seeing a flash of that come back a bit in the recent IDW issue where they just go up to Amy and expect payment for their services after the Resistance is disbanded. 

Interpersonal relationships are great in small doses. I like the idea of stuff like Team Dark and Team Chaotix existing but this weird idea that all of them need to be together as this tight-knit group of friends is boring, tired, lazy, and honestly does a lot to sacrifice a lot of what made some of these guys interesting in the first place.

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