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DabigRG

The Quality of Team Sonic Racing's Story

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(DabigRG here--Yep, finally doing my first topic! Not exactly one I planned, as there were at least four others that I didn't do, but I saw a vacancy this time and decided to fill it.)

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The most recent console game in the series right now is Team Sonic Racing, a racing spinoff that features much of the recurring cast, tracks based on previous locations, and a titular mechanic revolving around teamwork. The game's developer Sumo Digital, who previously worked on the All Stars series, structured this game specifically to tell a story in the Sonic Universe and its Team Adventure mode carries double duty as a mission based tutorial for this purpose. And indeed, perhaps the most notable element of the game is it's roster of Sonic characters and the fun of seeing them interact with each other over the course of the in-game dialogue as well as the campaign. With that said, there wasn't really a particular thread dedicated to discussing Team Adventure(and the game in general) in order to parcel out it's strengths and it's shortcomings. Thus I shall present a couple of starting questions to help delve into this:

What did you think of this story's plot and it's handling of the characters overall?

In what areas did it succeed and did it falter?

How might it have been made better?

What are some things you thought/wished would happen in the story?

Are there some things that were done in this story that you think later games could take note of and/or even improve upon?

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It not making Dodon Pa evil/an Eggman disguise is honestly for the best. Most of my problems with this game were the gamplay/character roster, but the story itself didn't really have any weakspots aside from not explaining Zavok's existance. Most of the characters were fine, it had one of the better portrayals of BIg and Vector, and nothing felt to hard to believe. It was a nice little story all together.

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For what it's worth, I liked the "revelation" about Dodon Pa. Ironically, it makes the racers trust him a bit too much after doing the very opposite for 80% of the story, but it left him in an interesting place. All he cares about is perfection and furthering his research regardless of the risk of casualties, and it could easily push him into an antagonistic role in the future as long as it benefits him and his company.

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I thought there was no point in Dodon Pa 's "twist villain" story if he wasn't evil, or a disguise for someone else. Would have liked that, but thought making him good and Eggman be the villain was kind of surprising.

But still, the story wasn't much in general, the fun of it obviously was seeing the interactions to the race, but also in-game, and every character was written decently. I just wish Omega got some lines in Adventure mode.

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Its whatever but I wasn't expecting much. Wish team dark interacted more, wish there were more weird interactions between characters who usally do. And zavok still confuses the cold shit out of me.

 

I would have like the story to taken , like a different path vibe. Instead of starting out with team sonic, you could pick a team and a leader character and whoever you chose effected how the story went. And you can get like different endings and stuff

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Whoo, noticed a few typos and formatting issues there. Went ahead and fixed it.

Anyway, now that there are five posts to start, I guess I'll look over them while I think about what I actually wanna say:

On 8/11/2019 at 10:11 AM, thumbs13 said:

It not making Dodon Pa evil/an Eggman disguise is honestly for the best. Ironically, it makes the racers trust him a bit too much after doing the very opposite for 80% of the story, but it left him in an interesting place. All he cares about is perfection and furthering his research regardless of the risk of casualties, and it could easily push him into an antagonistic role in the future as long as it benefits him and his company.

 

On 8/11/2019 at 10:50 AM, LukA8 said:

For what it's worth, I liked the "revelation" about Dodon Pa. 

Yeah, I wouldn't have minded if he had been a little antagonistic and/or a final boss, but I'm glad he is undoubtedly his own thing. Wasn't expecting him to be a recurring character, but still.

The only real quibble I have with him is the idea that he runs an intergalactic motor company-kingdom.

On 8/11/2019 at 10:11 AM, thumbs13 said:

Most of my problems with this game were the gamplay/character roster, but the story itself didn't really have any weakspots aside from not explaining Zavok's existance.

What do you mean in particular?.

On 8/11/2019 at 12:53 PM, Tangled Jack said:

I thought there was no point in Dodon Pa 's "twist villain" story if he wasn't evil, or a disguise for someone else. Would have liked that, but thought making him good and Eggman be the villain was kind of surprising.

That's sorta the point: they didn't know if they could trust him and he certainly didn't care what they thought as long as things continued to the enabling of his experiment.

On 8/11/2019 at 12:53 PM, Tangled Jack said:

I just wish Omega got some lines in Adventure mode.

Oh, he got three or four.

Unfortunately, he didn't have much to contribute since Team Dark as a whole just sorta show up with little fanfare and not much of a role besides wanting to stop Eggman before Sonic can.

That issue sorta applies to nearly half the roster anyway, but it hit him the second worst.

On 8/12/2019 at 7:07 AM, Splash the Otter said:

Zavok's role should have been taken by Infinite. It would have made more sense, seeing how he's actually loyal to Eggman.

I kinda don't wanna say it, but yeah, his role in the story made him feel more like a corporate spy or something rather than a villain in his own right(as both his normal status and bios for the game attest).

Makes me wonder when he was added to the game vs. when the story was roughly drafted.

On 8/12/2019 at 12:43 PM, Shadowlax said:

Its whatever but I wasn't expecting much. Wish team dark interacted more, wish there were more weird interactions between characters who usally do.

And some who usually don't.

On 8/12/2019 at 12:43 PM, Shadowlax said:

And zavok still confuses the cold shit out of me.

 

Yeah, I gotta say(and have said) that's kinda where I'm at after this

On 8/12/2019 at 12:43 PM, Shadowlax said:

I would have like the story to taken , like a different path vibe. Instead of starting out with team sonic, you could pick a team and a leader character and whoever you chose effected how the story went. And you can get like different endings and stuff

That's more or less what I was expecting.

Okay, maybe not the different endings, but that would've been a nice touch. Didn't Free Riders do something like that?

18 hours ago, Sonictrainer said:

I like the idea of Silver gaining a "Psychic Sense" that warns him of incoming threats or bad situations in the future.

Seems like a cool side effect of his time traveling.

Team Vector in general had some slightly expansive/outside-the-box things going on. You can tell whoever wrote the story really got into them.

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Only watched the Cutscenesbut it seems fine to me. It's cute and has some good humor. I mean it's a racing game I wasn't expecting anything mind blowing. 

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I think the set-up and banter were fun enough, but the plot progresses at a snail's pace so many of the story's pay-offs feel underwhelming. I think this is more a symptom of the campaign mode being padded to hell than poor writing, though. There's only so much you can do with visual novel segments between races, after all.

Overall, it's an OK romp. I did really enjoy getting to see a smaller-stakes Sonic story where the larger cast gets some much-needed attention.

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Here's some extensive talking I did about Zavok and recently Amy

2 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

Honestly, Amy seems like a good example of "The Girl Character" pattern. Where they tend to be either a love interest and/or have some extraneous ability(Piko Piko Hammer and whatever other power/skill she has this week) to make them stand out.

With that said, I think it makes more sense to just have her doing her own thing sometimes. I feel the bulk of the problem with her in TSR is that she seemed overly standardized:

  • She almost felt like she was supposed to be the effective protagonist of the early parts of the story, but did next to nothing to guide the direction before eventually giving way to Silver(who gradually fades out him after Zavok joins the races)
  • She somewhat shared her role with Tails and Knuckles in questioning and being suspicious of Dodon Pa, but did little about it character-wise even if the latter's outlook is out of character for her anyway
  • Whether it's because of the absence of Cream, Omochao's "just here now" status, the Chao Trio just being a nonentity, or a combination of the three, she really has no one to just have friendly chats with for most of the story and thus express herself under normal circumstances
  • Her above it all attitude towards Big, Sonic(!), and I guess Shadow seemed to wanna evoke her Boom characterization without most of the sheer flagrance of that series, not to mention being pretty out of character for her in general

Add in that her primary character traits--her admiration for Sonic and plucky nature--is barely if ever expressed and you got an Amy that's not much of anything.

Mm...yes and no. Not really sure where I stand on that just yet.

Wow. Didn't expect this to come up here. Yeah, I supposed he would generally be Armin.

Eh, the main thing is, there really isn't an equivalent Knuckles in Attack on Titan, from what we know from the anime; Eren, Connie, and Jean are probably the closest you can get, but none of them really fight the full criteria and Commander Erwin certainly doesn't.

So it's kinda hard to really weigh. Nevermind that the reverse setup would see Armin replaced by Sasha.

 

 

 

On 5/24/2019 at 5:38 PM, DabigRG said:

Alrighty, let's talk about the Master of Chaos. 

  Hide contents

 

What happened here? Why was it allowed to? How did anyone not think to prevent this opportunity from getting by? Is everything alright, Sonic Team? Not intending to be rude, I just thought I should check. On the real though, I can’t help but find this whole thing confounding.

 

 

Zavok is one of the latest recurring characters and one of the very few that remains a villain—a rare combo. He’s gone from what one might assume to be another villain of the week to one of the go to choices for filling out a character roster. From an in house standpoint, he is a serious exception to what seemed like pretty consistent habits & rules and may in fact be particularly favored by someone [else] important. Though he and his group may not be that well-regarded out of house, but then that may just add to it depending on your perspective. As does the fact that he’s otherwise been segregated from his original context for the most part—a minor breakout character, if you will.

And yet while they seem insist on having him show up a lot as of a late, they also seem bizarrely averse to actually writing much for him. We kinda sorta saw a indirect bout of that in Forces, where in spite being a proper role in the story, notable interaction, a boss fight, a surprisingly good dubstep remix, and even dialogue (that’s more impressive in context), he was still only in as a Phantom Ruby clone despite his overall status and those other factoids meaning he could’ve easily just been there. Come to think of it, a lot of his subsequent appearances outside of maybe Runners tend to have him as a side thing that doesn’t really affect much and/or is an ally of convenience—looping back into what makes him such an outlier.

Which leads us here to Team Sonic Racing, the most recent [spinoff] game. This game’sThe story mode largely deals with each of the hero teams trying to wrap their heads around the suspicious intentions of Dodon Pa and Eggman and with teamwork being a big theme of the game, one would naturally assume this would each of the teams interacting and working together interdependently. The roster is of course comprised of five teams, each with a Speed, Technique, and Power type character. For Team Eggman, they once again went with Zavok due to the extra factors of his [vague/informed] Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy trope and big meaty claws. However, both he and Vector are relatively out of place among Eggman&Metal and Silver&Blaze, respectively. In Zavok’s case, not only does he have little connection to Eggman—he outright hates him about as much as Sonic due to being abused and enslaved by him in his debut. And yet, the two were lumped together here for the sake of convenience and would have to learn to work together in order to accomplish their goal(s) within Dodon Pa’s terms.

 

To get to the point, this game was an opportunity for more to be done with Zavok as a character. While I’m not sure it’s fair to call him in a particular a flat character, it is common to think that the Deadly Six Zeti weren’t given much exposition and are overall underdeveloped. In Zavok’s case, he has a clear role as their leader & Master Zik’s [last?] disciple and his general personality as a calm & patient, yet cruel and proud warrior is relatively established, but he could still use more exploration. And interacting with not only Eggman and Sonic, but the rest of the recurring cast should’ve been a great way to do that. Especially given this is a freaking kart racer, a pretty low key setup where there’s little risk and the cutscenes are voiced over static images that don't have to worry about action setpieces and extensive choreography (although that last bit definitely would’ve been appreciated).

But he ultimately gets relatively little out of this appearance. Not only does it seem like another case where anyone can say that and a situation where that would logically be expected, but it’s also an instance where they practically teased it with other things:

·         Big the Cat has not only how many mentions of Froggy and fishing, but also a simple-minded insight that makes him notice things the other characters overlook in their scrutiny.

·         Vector uses his love of money as a cover for investigating Dodon Pa’s background and works in tandem with other sources including Tails, who hired(?) him in the first place.

·         Blaze received her invitation across her dimension, has a pleasant relationship with Silver, and casually mentions that one of her duties as  princess(Queen?) equates to potentially being lied to everyday, which means she’s learned to be able to be wary of people’s motives.

·         Silver received his invitation 200(dropped zero?) years in the future, has an interaction with Sonic where his wet eared demeanor causes him to miss the point of trash talk, and even has hints of precognition that Blaze’s suggests could be the result of his travels through time.

·         Omochao, who comes some of the same problems and a few of their own, picks up on telemetric signals from Dodon Pa likely due to being a robot & occasional broadcaster themselves and helps Silver keep a look out for trouble by pointing out that the Chao in the stands are watching everything.

·         Cubot, despite not even being involved with the race, mentions the fact that he actually likes Eggman despite the latter being annoyed by him and feels little jealous when he chooses to hang with other robots. :o

·         Espio and Charmy, who don’t even appear, not only get asked about by Knuckles, but actually off investigating Dodon Pa’s background while Vector stays close to Dodon Pa himself.

And yet Zavok got practically none of that-- there’s practically no explanation of who he is and where he comes from(again), he doesn’t really interact with anyone besides Eggman and maybe Sonic at one point(again), his personal motivation for bothering with this race is never really established(again-ish), and he doesn’t even get to talk much with less than 20 fairly terse lines. He’s just here because Eggman “hired” him to look for the Ultimate Energy Engine, sticks around to race after being spotted on Eggman’s lofty suggestion, and just disappeared in the ending. They might as well have used Zomom or some other antagonist instead—at least the former actually is a strong simpleton himself.

What makes this extra weird, aside from the littlest bit of flavor text he’s given in outside the game, is that they actually build him up before he’s introduced to the plot—unlike Team Dark and especially Metal, who just show up not long after Dodon Pa announces Eggman joining the races and get addressed afterwards. Technically, he’s first hinted at when Silver sensed something bad about to happen, but his actual role first comes into play when Eggman finishes communicating with an operative he has sent data(?) to complete his mission. Admittedly, there wasn’t much guessing room with this game’s roster, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it must be another character. Not too long afterwards, Big notices him hiding in the shadows, as well as a cloud that looks like Froggy—we’ll come back to this later, believe it or not. But he’s finally revealed when, just as Silver inquired of Omochao, the Chao in the stands spot him in the Hidden Volcano and freak out. Now I actually like this gradually set up in theory, it ultimately goes unfulfilled due to how he is implemented into the rest of the plot—or rather, how he’s not.

First of all, there’s that afformentioned flavor text that’s from both his character bio for this game and a Japanese magazine. The former explains that he occasionally comes down from the Lost Hex to battle Sonic and his friends whenever the opportunity arises, while the latter implied that he was getting involved in the story for his own reasons; these two things never really come into play and was straight up suka, respectively. Which is a shame considering it would’ve been perfect for how this story plays out anyway: he could’ve showed up looking to throw down with Sonic, if not straight up being brought there by Dodon Pa, acted as a boss initially separate from Eggman, aside from maybe hijacking some Egg Pawns to use as minions, and gradually be forced to race cooperatively alongside Eggman leading up to the finale.  

Second is the neglect to include his motivation for getting involved. So Eggman hired him to look for the look for the Ultimate Energy Engine using information he sent him and Zavok accepted this mission. Why? How? …With what? They don’t really state what made Zavok an ideal choice for an operative on this since its essentially corporate espionage, cunning be damned. I also don’t really see how doing this task could benefit him, nevermind why he’d take interest in the first place. And given that he hates Eggman anyway, there’s never any indication that he’s bothering for any misguided or ulterior motive, like that Eggman’s identity was masked from his end of things or that he was planning on screwing him over once the mission was accomplished.

Third is his ultimate lack of impact on the story and how it’s told following his introduction. Upon being discovered, Eggman simply tells him that he might as well race with his team since he’s here in an attempt to play off their current alliance. And following this race in Hidden Volcano, the heroes start to get worried due to how intense the races were getting in conjunction with his competing. Yet Dodon Pa never pays him any mind; he just let’s this happen without a comment on how this “deadly” gentleman is a welcome addition (“You know what they say, the more the merrier!”) or query of what the hell a spiky red Zeti is doing there. And he just quietly races alongside Omega in the “oh yeah, these guys are here” category with only an occasional peep had with Eggman. In fact, the only thing he actually does is kidnap Dodon Pa at Eggman’s suggestion, which Metal Sonic probably could’ve done anyway.

Oh and as an addendum of a fourth point, let’s pull the pin out of that one point of buildup with a seemingly random detail I singled out earlier—the Froggy Cloud. His hiding in the shadows coincides with this alleged cumulous and his leaving after that race also saw it disappear, which ends up distracting Big from properly getting his presence across to Amy. While the obvious takeaway to this is “Lol, Big is Dumb,” I couldn’t help but notice that they appear and disappear about the same time. And with Big reinforcing this when Zavok is found out, it makes me wonder if that was supposed to be important to what Zavok was doing. Now obviously Zavok displayed nothing like this in Lost World, but it could be still some baroque Zeti mysticism and it’s not like characters showcasing new powers is that all that uncommon. Ain’t that right Amy?

And last but certainly not least, we arrive at the most basic, yet important element to any character: his characterization. In simultaneous conjunction and summation with all the other points, this game mostly fails to expand on and/or utilize Zavok as a character despite the fertile opportunities to do so. Again, he rarely says anything, interacts with anyone, and doesn’t do much to stand out as a villain or as just a guy. I seem to recall from the Olympic Games that he apparently cherishes an opportunity to hone his skills, perhaps as a reflection of him being the Zeti’s strongest warrior and Master Zik’s student. Perhaps in addition to whatever malicious intent he might’ve brought to the track, he could also take a genuine in learning to drive and stand a chance of besting Sonic at something; according to Eggman, he can’t drive for shit(which is funny considering the final map). I will say though that there are two minor take aways with what dialogue he has after he loses some races. He says that he can respect how strong their opponents are, only getting angry when Eggman calls him weak(“Zavok is Mighty!”). Another prior to the final map, Eggman mentions that kidnapping Dodon Pa is a chance for Zavok to “regain his honor.” I’m not sure what that last one’s about, but I guess they can be a nod to his martial artist motif and a hint of Blue and Orange Morality among Zeti.

As far as interaction goes, he missed the chance to converse and snark with thirteen other racers, plus Dodon Pa, Orbot, Cubot, and maybe even Metal Sonic. He mostly just speaks to Eggman and even then, it’s mostly in response with all but one instance of hostility or rather retort; compare this to Lost World, where his introduction alone has him stoically listen to the doctor’s boasting before breaking the silence with a sarcastic compliment to amuse himself. Some of the more notable dynamics they could’ve went with are:

·         Easily his most notable dynamic aside from Master Zik, Zavok and Eggman have an enmity with each other for enslaving his race and misusing his invention to destroy Sonic’s World in retaliation, respective. When I think of them being forced to compete together, I would imagine there’d be a fair degree of arguing, backhanded comments, and compromised stalemates between them.

·         With Orbot and Cubot chiming in from the Final Fortress(did it need to be called that, btw?), Zavok could’ve commented on how even Eggman’s lackies find him ridiculous, though some tested patience with their own foolishness is something he can admittedly relate to with the likes of Zazz and Zeena.

·         Learning to drive a racecar himself, the sheer competitiveness could’ve been one of the only things he and Sonic share. All the more reason to win.

·         When it comes to Dodon Pa, him joining the competition would make sense due to his own underlying sadism potentially making things more thrilling and yield more variable results. It could’ve also been a chance for both his eloquent and manipulative side to be shown, genuinely holding an charming conversation with him in order to get the Tanuki to give him free reign to crush the Mobians.

·         Once he joined the races on Eggman’s team, Knuckles in particular seemed alarmed. This could’ve been a sign that Zavok nearly tossed him over before, enough for Knuckles to consider him enough of a threat to not fool around with. Their superficially comparable tempers and homelands could’ve also been a talking point, which would likely just make Knuckles angrier.

·         Blaze immediately judging Dodon Pa on being a Tanuki is either suggestive of being well-versed with Yokai or Fantanstic Racism, but given that the Deadly Six are based on(and in the Japanese version, more or less are)Oni, perhaps this another area where she could’ve gotten involved. In fact, Blaze is another character I could see having some of the more interesting conflicts with him, given their similar temperaments.

·         And with the Zeti’s innate ability to manipulate electromagnetic fields, it would’ve been really interesting if this enabled Zavok the ability to communicate with and/or influence Metal Sonic as a second chance from Forces.

You know, it’s so weird to say that Zavok’s presence in this game and it’s story was once again one of the things that piqued my curiosity the most. Call it a bit of Bile Fascination at this point if it makes sense, but SonicTeam keeps bringing this guy back against all of their prior odds. And that, along with his contrast to Eggman, ironically makes him interesting. He’s not even my favorite Zeti—I like Zor, Zazz, and maybe Master Zik more, but this guy in particular has been so weird if muddled that it kinda gets your attention. And this game was a chance for them to not only capitalize on all that, but show why he’s worthy of being taken seriously and cared about.

What an egregious waste—something Zavok himself despises.

 

 

 

 

 Zavok has a ponytail and a convertible. He's clearly going through a mid-life crisis

 

 

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