Jump to content
Badnik Zero

Sonic is Allergic to Collectathons

Recommended Posts

Back in the days of the N64 Mario introduced us to the collectathon. Any fan of 3D platformers knows what it is: A hub world with access to smaller but open levels, with a mission style structure that rewards you with the game’s magical trinket. Stars, moons, puzzle pieces, bananas and more. Wannabes copied this formula with varying success (Gex lol) so it is understandable that Sega wanted to stand apart from the competition, especially because so many of these were Nintendo’s hallmark titles.

Eventually these types of games wore out their welcome. Donkey Kong 64 did a character swapping thing. Mario Sunshine introduced a gimmick to make the concept as fresh as it could. Mario Galaxy used more levels per star, which added variety. In Odyssey they don’t even remove you from the level, making them more part of natural gameplay. The closest Sonic comes to this is the emblems you receive in SA1 for completing levels (and sometimes loose in the overworld). A case could also be made for the sun and moon medals of Unleashed.

But now that the trend is collectathon-lite, how come Sonic hasn’t experimented with this kind of game? Are mission style levels not particularly Sonic enough? The goal has always been to speed towards the end, and now we’re several games deep into a style that is all about shooting down a straight path in a reflexes matter type of gameplay. It’s not compatible with modern Sonic.

The last truly open levels in this series were SA2’s treasure stages. If something like Meteor Herd had objectives, would that be bad for the gameplay? Or if a level like that was more suited to Sonic’s playstyle? It’s clear Sonic has a style of his own now, arguably the most unique among platformer styles. Games like Yooka-Laylee  and a nostalgia among gamers for Banjo prove that this genre could be in a revival. But Sonic Team has always avoided making this type of game. Why though?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think Collectathons lend themselves to action setpieces outside of boss battles. They would also require a strong focus on turning. But I could still see them try a collectathon out of desperation and a desire to follow SpongeBob, Mario, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But they do lend themselves to great platforming sections. Is Sonic no longer a platformer if he can’t function in a wide space dedicated to movement? I get what you mean about turning though. At high speeds Sonic would make some wide turns.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not quite sure if I can articulate just how I feel about collectibles as they have been in Sonic games, but I feel that they work best when you don't actively have to go out of your way for them.

That's not to say they should be just lying right in the middle of the level instead - far from it. I just feel that as it stands now, they work better when they come as a natural result of being better at a level. A lot of the time, the best examples of this are simply finding an alternate (often better) route through the level and finding a little medal along the way. But a lot of the time, that isn't the case. They tend to be so far out of the way that nothing about discovering or looking for them feels like natural level design, and there's usually no reason to seek them out after that fact because they'll be a small cache of rings at best and a literal dead end at worst. It doesn't help that the collectibles themselves have no further value once already collected, either - at least Special Stage rings gave you enough of a boon to trigger Super Sonic then and there, and that there was more of them in the game than you needed to get all the Chaos Emeralds.

I feel like this makes the most sense when you compare them to the green stars in Mario Galaxy 2 - which aren't really integrated into the level design so much as shoved on barely reachable but as of yet unexploited level geometry as an afterthought, like they were just looking to give their level testers more work to do.

As for why they haven't dabbled in a more open collectathon, that's pretty simple - Sonic is pretty much designed only to handle well in one direction at a time, and arguably always has been. Sonic Team knows this. Maybe somewhere in there, there's a statement on how ST uses overly linear level design as a crutch, or how they need to rely on springs and boost pads to forcibly change direction, or how there literally has never been a camera system that functions well enough to be able to focus on objects outside your peripheral vision without compromising your ability to jump at the same time. What can be said with certainty is that they would need to greatly rethink and rework the way Sonic interacts with a 3D environment for a Banjo-esque collectathon to even function well, let alone thrive.

54 minutes ago, Badnik Zero said:

If something like Meteor Herd had objectives, would that be bad for the gameplay? Or if a level like that was more suited to Sonic’s playstyle?

It's funny that you'd mention Meteor Herd specifically, because the way the level is built, it actually functions better as a point-to-point objective (climbing from the bottom of the level to the ARK high up above) than a series of three random collectibles. One of the main reasons it takes so goddamn long to complete is how long it takes to gain height vs simply being able to fall or drilldive all the way back down to the bottom, to the point that you're essentially repeating the same stretch of level multiple times to scout for emerald shards. Say what you will about emerald hunting as a whole, but it really works to the playstyle's benefit when the level design is mostly lateral - at least that way you can full on sprint through a level until your radar gets a ping.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sonic is fast. Often very fast. Sometimes the level design can apply that speed to different directions, and gimmicks like springs and ramps can launch him wherever the designer pleases, but Sonic's own abilities are very forward-focused and always have been. That's why his level design and objectives have always trended towards linearity, relatively speaking. On the other hand, a good collectathon platformer character should move well in all directions; the genre is designed around exploring areas freely and completing various challenges. That's why most collectathon platformer characters are pretty well rounded in their movement, and why Knuckles was the one doing the treasure hunting rather than Sonic. If you wanted to put Sonic himself in a collectathon you'd have to radically rethink how he moves...which is not something I'm against, but I feel it'd be hard to square the things that make Sonic uniquely fun and interesting with that kind of gameplay. Without radical changes the closest I could imagine is something like ShtH or some of SA2's missions, where you've got (mostly) linear levels that let you warp back to the start if you miss something. That's pretty far from typical collectathon gameplay though, and I wouldn't say it was fun enough in either game to justify making it the focus of a new game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Sonic game focused on collectables which impact the main game in any real way I could only see working if they made a semi-open world Sonic game. Normal Sonic games even among the more open ones currently haven't been built with collectables in mind much. For example getting all the ring rings often has been obnoxious because it forces you to typically replay each level at least a few times because the levels were not remotely designed with backtracking in mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Because that's not really the style of gameplay Sonic is built for.

Things like the Red Rings in Generations are fine, they're completely optional and sprinkled along the paths, but like, when we get into things like the Sun/Moon medals or the Treasure Hunting where slowing down to find things is the entire point? That's counter intuitive for the kind of game Sonic is.

If you make someone like Knuckles the star and not Sonic, then sure, maybe?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The thing I love about rings is that they're so much fun to collect and make a lovely sound when you grab them. Being tossed into a section or a room full of rings is like pure bliss. 

However, one of the greatest things about them is that you can ignore them if you want too. You only ever need one ring in order to stay alive and that's great. 

It's a good feeling when the stuff you have to collect is largely optional. It keeps the challenge focused on the objective of making it through the level and gives the player the option to impose that challenge on themselves, should they so desire.

Obviously, there are games out there that are designed to have the collectables be the ultimate objective and in those cases, doing so would probably be a lot of fun. Sonic, my man, blazes through that shit. It's his greatest strength and sometimes even his greatest curse but it's what he do.

That said, I'm not opposed to the idea of implementing more things to collect and more interesting ways at finding neat little trinkets. Stuff like that would do well to flesh out a well designed level and especially a well designed hub world should those ever make a return. It'd probably feel a lot like a mini-Sonic stage in and of itself and do well to distract anyone worried about going through one just to find the entrance to a stage. Like how Odyssey just dropped several dump trucks full of moons in each level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The treasure hunting  levels were basically collectathons with a twist

 

Given how everyone cried about them because  "SONIC IS ABOUT SPEED" crowd I doubt they will ever try that again 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another example of what Sonic would look like as a collectehon could be his Lego Dimensions world.
Altough that was more "do missions" rather then the collecting in and on itself.
Not sure if that's actuall a Good thing for Sonic tough, much as I liked Lego Dimensions stage. It's just not in Sonic's DNA.

That said, Sonic Forces is an example of the other extreme, when you only have brainless racing and action with near nothing when it comes to the slower style platforming. I'm seeing more and more people wishing for a more open 3d Sonic game, so it seems there's more and more interest in this direction.

And I'd be all for a Knuckles/ Amy starring spin off where they can be more experimental with the gameplay while sidestepping the trappings of what a Sonic game should be.
They can use a little attention and focus anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Badnik Zero said:

But they do lend themselves to great platforming sections. Is Sonic no longer a platformer if he can’t function in a wide space dedicated to movement? I get what you mean about turning though. At high speeds Sonic would make some wide turns.

Yeah, like the rising water in the castle in BFBB. The lead-up to the Bowser fight in SM64. Flying high above the city in BFBB... Ahhh...

 

This would actually work. Make it like Chaotix, perhaps. Give these sorts of things a Sonic twist with momentum movement. Call it "Sonic Open Drift", which gives players gameplay clues to the open-ness and the emphasis on drifting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It’s hard to be “allergic” to a genre that the series hasn’t honestly given a go at TBH. I guess the treasure hunting/mission stuff in the Adventure titles (and to a lesser extent, Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island) can be considered attempts at collect-a-thon/sandbox platforming genre, but they’re still bound by traditional Sonic game system rules to the point I wouldn’t really consider them as genuine installments.

Which is the main crux of the matter—you have to change up the main gameplay system for the series if you want to give it an earnest shot. Which, to be honest, isn’t really a big concern for this series at all in light of the various experiments it has been put through anyway (for better but mostly for worse). If done smartly an collect-a-thon adaptation for Sonic wouldn’t be much different than, say, how Mario went from the 2D NES/SNES games to 64 in regards to reworking the material they have for another frontier.

To say nothing that a collect-a-thon/sandbox Sonic can actually bring the series into new territory in how the games are designed; with respect to their mission structure/goals, level design, and especially game mechanics. As far as I’m concerned I see way more value in that than trying to preserve the focus on speed as it currently exists in Sonic games (the only thing holding up Sonic gameplay).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me the concept isn’t that different than point A to B, it just allows for larger environments. When using an objective based structure you are still moving towards your goal, in as straight as a line as you want (or as deviating a line as you want). Sonic’s moveset isn't so handicapping that it couldn’t be tailored for a new style. Tighter turns allowing for u-turns, and a camera system made for larger maps and different types of mobility.

Mario or Banjo levels would not be suitable though. Sonic needs more space to move, and precision jumps require larger platforms than an average character. Speed and small platforms do not go well together. “Open” Sonic levels have been far too small in the past for a collectathon to be viable. A game like Shadow of the Colossus (different genre but still) used large open spaces between areas, with literally nothing to do but look at visuals. Similar to that I like the idea that open space in a Sonic level is not wasted space when speed is its own reward. Level architecture does not have to be located close together when a 6 second boost covers most space and feels good.

Movement in wide open space, with slopes and verticality for variety. In short I think it’s the level design that would need to change a lot, not necessarily the moveset.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I could see three categories of whatever tier of collectible is used as the main collectible objective (maybe something new?); those found simply by meeting the given objectives/waypoints, those obtained via side quests through talking to various characters, and those that are hidden away in levels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't mind some kind of objective based mission system in an open area like a hub world or something akin to Lego Dimensions as Roger mentioned. It could be a good way to implement non-Sonic characters without making them playable if they escort or assist you.
But I would rather it be something to break up the pace, as opposed to being something that the entire game is built around and more importantly the game would need to be designed in a way to facilitate them so that they're interesting and fun to do. Without that kind of foresight it will just feel like an arbitrary attachment. And preferably the implementation of the other characters would need to be more meaningful than just about every instance of the 3D games have given us of this concept.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Which is funny considering Colors, Lost World, and even Forces added optional things to collect for 100%.

 

Also, Team Chaotix and 33% of Shadow's Game.

6 hours ago, Miragnarok said:

Yeah, like the rising water in the castle in BFBB. Flying high above the city in BFBB... Ahhh...

 

In what now?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

Which is funny considering Colors, Lost World, and even Forces added optional things to collect for 100%.

 

Also, Team Chaotix and 33% of Shadow's Game.

In what now?

The completionist actually said in his Forces review that Forces is a lot better if you try to go 100% rather than just doing story mode , makes me wonder why they put so much focus on Post Game content when The Story mode is so underwhelming

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, ComeAsYouAre said:

The completionist actually said in his Forces review that Forces is a lot better if you try to go 100% rather than just doing story mode , makes me wonder why they put so much focus on Post Game content when The Story mode is so underwhelming

Probably because Sonic Team clearly had a number of ideas for gameplay over story content.

Which in Forces's case isn't much given how things played out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's see what makes Collectathons work in general and what would make them work for Sonic. Some assets of collectathons in general may not work for Sonic:

 

1. Collectathons have memorable worlds to explore. This is due to recognizable landmarks placed in each stage. Maybe in this case, the landmarks could also impact momentum, or provide the action setpieces. Collectathons also try to make their worlds each unique from one another, and have a central hub to link them all. This hub is effectively a level in and of itself, too. SpongeBob is a good example of this, peppered with references to the television series. The Goo Lagoon castle sequence is quite memorable. Collectathons are semi-open and their worlds have side quests and even secrets to find (like the 6th and 7th stars of SM64). Sonic might be able to use wide open spaces for hairpin turns to gain momentum and launch characters over wide spaces.  A new setting would work well.

2. Collectathons are generally light-hearted. Usually to the extent of... the dreaded early Pontaff games. This is where Sonic can be unique; to avoid Pontaffisms where other franchises consider it completely normal.

3. Movement in the better ones tends to be as joyous as anything. Well, Sonic's attacking with a spinball is simultaneously Mario's stomp and SpongeBob's rising horn smash at once. This provides a way to make combat less frustrating. Games like DK64, Y-L, etc, fail at making it feel joyous. All of the moves of SpongeBob feel good. Even the other characters are well-done with how players can switch. Replicate that, and Mario 64's moves. One of the most universal collectathon moves is a double jump. Now that it also serves as an attack, its use is doubled. 

There’s also often a ground-pound move.  Other possible moves include acrobatic flip-jumps, a sort of 360 degree attack, and an anti-air attack.

4. There are multiple types of collectibles. We should do so too; Waypoint Collectibles, Task Collectibles, and Secret Collectibles. Waypoint collectibles are present on the map and the specific target collectible is chosen from a menu (SM64). Task collectibles are given by NPCs as rewards for performing a task for them (BFBB). And the Secret collectibles can be obtained in several ways. Some are obtained by getting a certain number of Rings/Red Star Rings. Others are simply well-hidden in levels. To preserve an arcade nature, one can add a score tally after every collectible obtained. These score tallies themselves may also grant Secret Collectibles. In addition to these three kinds of main collectible, most games had Secondary, Tertiary, and Extra collectibles. BFBB had the secondary collectibles able to be exchanged for the primary ones. Of the Tertiary collectibles, one is obviously the Rings, while the other could serve as a currency, and maybe a third one that works as a power source for special moves.

I think having a story inspired by Link's Awakening would work, introducing a new cast and world. Tell the story through level design, through the art of the levels and NPC dialogue. Give the goings-on of the cutscenes an impact, an impact in gameplay. An impact on the story, on each other, and on the world players visit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

You must read and accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to continue using this website. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.