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What are the elements make a Sonic game feel like a Sonic game?


Kuzu
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Introduction

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This series means different things for many people; whether you're a Classic fan, a Modern fan, an Archie fan or anything else in between that you define yourself as. We have our own preferences and whatnot, but the one thing that binds us is love for this stupid blue hedgehog. This topic is an attempt to tackle the age old question that seemingly nobody has an answer to. This isn't going to be a simple "What do you want from the series" type of topic, but to better understand the elements about this series that personally define it for us so we can find some type of middle ground for compromise, and how has the series integrated those elements in the past, and how you would want those elements to be integrated in the future. That and we're going through a huge drought right now and I feel we need something substantial to talk about than just cynical musings in the Status Updates. 

So I guess I'll go on and start off with my own personal defining elements; I'll preface this by saying that by no means do I feel my preferences are inherently superior to anyone else's, these are just the things that I have grown to associate with the series and wish to see them better utilized in future installments to satisfy my enjoyment. By no means do I feel my preferences are good for everyone and I'm fully open to critique and opposing opinions if anyone objects.

 

Kuzu's Primary and Secondary elements for a Sonic game.

Primary Elements: I'll start off by saying that I wholly prioritize gameplay above any and all else. While I understand that the franchise has expanded to encompass far more than a simply video game series, it's still firmly rooted as a video game series to me and I want the series to actually be fun and enjoyable as a game to play first and foremost.

Speed: This is pretty self-explanatory, it's simply not a Sonic game if speed is not involved in some way. Speed is what separates from his contemporary platforming brethren. And by speed, I don't mean simply "going fast" 

Control: In short, the different ways to control and dictate how Sonic's speed is utilized. It's 2020, and I still don't feel the series has really has gotten this down yet past the classic titles. Some games are certainly closer than others, but Sonic has yet to just feel.."right" to control in a 3D space. 

Level Design: How the game is designed to use the above two elements essentially and how they can come together.

 

Secondary Elements: By no means do I feel these elements are inferior to the aforementioned, and they do in fact greatly impact the game's presentation and overall enjoyment for myself.

Graphics/Artstyle: How the game defines how the world around Sonic looks and the type of world he lives.

Music: This includes general SFX, and instrumentation. Also favorite composers (More Tee Lopes and Jun Senoue collabs plz)

Additional playstyles: Other character flavors to the main gameplay. Personally speaking, I've grown fond of characters having levels dedicated to their own unique abilities. But I also know this costs a lot more money than normal, which makes it somewhat impractical depending on the amount of characters. I think 3-4 is the maximum any game should attempt.

Plot and characterization: The thing that actually makes me care about what's happening in the game, and therefore, gives me motivation to proceed until the end. 

 

 

 

So yea, those are kind of all of the things I've grown to associate with the series and are things I feel they've kind of faltered in lately. Honestly, aside from the music and graphics, none of the things I've listed have really been implemented well beyond the bare minimum of what's required of them. (Mania notwithstanding). There's plenty of speed by proxy of boost,  but the level design and controls are pretty much designed to do nothing but go fast with not much nuance. It's good spectacle no doubt, but it gets really boring after a while. Lost World attempted to address this, and I do feel the level design and controls are much more varied than  Boost games, but the lack of polish for the controls, and poorer use of the secondary elements kind of soured me to it. 

Graphics have been steadily improving as far as environments, but animations are still pretty stiff and lacking in much visual appeal. Especially if we compare to the mastery that was Unleashed and Generations graphical style. Not that every game should look like that, but we haven't really push the graphical fidelity lately. 

Music is....serviceable ; I do like how the series has tried more than just the standard rock and guitar soundtracks of old, but I don't feel most of the newer tracks are all that memorable outside of maybe 1 or 2 tracks. I'm glad Forces decided to bring back vocal themes tho, please never leave again.

Plot...yea, it's gotten pretty bad lately lol. I don't prioritize this nowhere near as much as other people do anymore, but it's still a glaring flaw. I don't know what the hell is happening here. Not that the series has ever had amazingly written storytelling, but the latest attempts just seem to be getting lazier... I don't care about tone as much as I care about basic storytelling principles. A beginning, a middle, and end would be fine. Maybe add some more subplots to add some flavor?

 

 

So yea, those are are my thoughts; feel free to comment on how you feel about my preferences, or list your own. What are some ideas you feel that could improve some of these elements, what you feel should be prioritized over others and why. Nothing is really off limits here. Maybe you like Archie or SATAM want to see the Freedom Fighters in a game, how could you go about doing it? No idea is bad here. 

 

 

 

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I have to admit I'm a bit confused by your post. I was expecting an explanation of what Sonic means to you, but instead it seems like you described what elements of a game in general are. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong.

I think there's a good reason fans have the Classic, Adventure and Modern split even if it's all Sonic. So I will try to explain what each means to me and what parts I think overlap or differ.

Classic Era Sonic

  • Gameplay: Despite many saying Sonic is all about speed and is promoted as such, the actual game has various slower moments. This is probably repeating what other fans have said, but if I had to sum it up, what people like about the Classic gameplay is the sense of momentum. If you do well, you are rewarded with a higher path, and if you do poorly you get the lower path. Different paths makes it enjoyable to replay levels. Dedicated players can continue to replay the levels to master the controls, while casual players can race to the end. Speed running is a natural part of Sonic's community as well.
  • Graphics: Sonic and his friends are inspired by classic animation, and it's a style I really like. It comes off as both cool and cute, depending on the character. The zones are enjoyable to look at with bright greens for the nature zones, and a lot of grey for the mechanical zones.
  • Spinoffs: I really enjoy Sonic R and Sonic the Fighters. They take the designs from the main titles and give them a different spin.
  • Music: Catchy stuff. The club style of JP Sonic CD was interesting. It goes to show simple can be better. Sonic R's OST was great, even if not as "Sonic"ish.
  • Plot: You see the series grow with each title, and get a good sense of the setting and characters. Sonic 3 & Knuckles is really impressive what they were able to show, and I love how Knuckles is able to tell a different story with his route. I'd say the roots of Adventure's multiple stories truly started here.

Adventure Era Sonic

  • Gameplay: Adventure era really upped the spectacle of the series. It was born from a desire to show off what the Dreamcast could do, and that spirit stuck around. While some of this was automated, it also introduced new staples like the homing attack, light speed dash, and grinding on rails. Some of these came out of needing better aiming for 3D space. If I had to say what differs from this gameplay from Modern, it would be the wideness and exploration in the levels, even if it was sometimes only the illusion of doing so. It also introduced the ranking system which rewarded not just finishing the level quickly, but doing it with style too.
  • Graphics: Sonic and friends got redesigned to fit in with the era and bring back that sense of coolness. I really love the artstyle here too, it has a graffiti like image with bold linework. The poses were made more stylish to fit the design, and it's something I miss seeing. Levels had a mix of more realistic and fantasy (I love Pumpkin Hill).
  • Additional playstyles: I really like both treasure hunting, and the shooting styles. I think they work within reason. Also prefer the speed of Gamma's version compared to the SA2 style. I'm a bit mixed on if the radar should show all pieces, as I enjoyed the surprise of stumbling upon a piece and getting a lot of points. I also like using the hints to get better at spotting them. I get why many don't though.
  • Spinoffs: I enjoyed Sonic Riders and Sonic Battle. Sonic Rush was okay, but it also inspired boost so not so happy about that. I liked Advanced's partner system.
  • Music: I enjoy the wide variety of genres and would like if it returned.
  • Plot: SA1 really felt like a nice finish to the Classic Era story. SA2 is one of my favorites of course, even if not considered as traditionally Sonic. I don't care much for Shadow's game. 06 is mixed. I like the storybook games. Sonic Battle was shockingly good for a spinoff. I still debate if Unleashed fits here, but it was fine.

Modern Era Sonic

  • Gameplay: The major addition is of course boost and wisps. I like the addition of sidestep and drift. This era is defined by it's obsession of trying to mix 3D with 2D segments. I am not fond of this at all. It messes with the flow in my opinion, and the 2D segments feel like slow padding instead of fun. Wisps are fun, but I would rather have more varied power ups. wispons I might be ok with, I'm not sure fully. I don't care for boost, but I get why some do.
  • Graphics: Sonic went from 2D pop art to 3D rendered art. It's ok, but the poses became really bland. Lost World's cover still bugs me. Sonic is a mascot, but he doesn't need to be bland. I can't recall much about the levels, but this era was trying too hard to reuse old designs from the Classic era.
  • Spinoffs: Sonic racing was fine. I can't comment on Boom. Olympics is fun for what it is.
  • Music: I like some tracks from Colors like the Wisp planet theme. Sonic really tried to go for club party music again, this time EDM and remix based. Forces felt like a rave at times and I kind of like it, but wouldn't want it to be the only music. Avatar's felt like DDR music and I also like the return of vocal music.
  • Plot: I'll keep it short, too many jokes. Too much meta. The usual complaints.

So what would I say Sonic has in common in general? It's current trends. Be it the art style, the plot, or the music, they tend to reflect current trends. This can be for the better or worse. Despite many, I don't think Sonic is just a platformer that's all about speed. Again, the 2D segments in Modern feel more like a punishment than fun. To me it's about a system that is easy to progress in, but takes time to master, that just happens to have speedy parts. Different routes makes short levels more replayable. Missions give you different ways of going through the game. As you master the skills you naturally get faster at levels.

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2 hours ago, DryLagoon said:

I have to admit I'm a bit confused by your post. I was expecting an explanation of what Sonic means to you, but instead it seems like you described what elements of a game in general are. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong.

It's kind of both? The main takeaway is what I feel encompasses a Sonic game in general, but everything I listed tends to get varying levels of focus through the years. I actually do like how you broke it down by specific "eras" to get a better feel how the series has progressed (or regressed in certain cases).

Personally speaking, I feel like the gameplay, while not terrible, has kind of degraded from what it once was. Its not unplayable, but it's become something very bland imo and too reliant on spectacle to cover it up. That's not to say it's not enjoyable, but I feel that's why these games tend to be very divisive. You take away all of the flashiness and spectacle and you aren't left with much of a game. 

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