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Sonic Adventure 2, Style, and Scoring.

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On 5/19/2020 at 11:14 PM, Blacklightning said:

One of the things I find facinating about SA2's approach to it is that a lot of the point bonuses you need to get max ranks - at least, in the case of the main hedgies - are simple routing differences. And that a lot of them are otherwise frivilous, but at the same time a perfect fit for the character if that makes any sense?

Alright let's clear this up by going to probably the best example of this, which is pretty much the near goddamned entirety of Metal Harbour.

Just 14 seconds in you're given an open invitation to grind rails. Is it necessary? No. Is it even faster? Probably not. But is it cool? Fuck yes it's cool.

What about the homing attack chain at 0:27? I think you can just spindash jump over most if not all of it if you're just going for time. So why would you not only incentivize completing it at all, but even go as far as offering a longer route for points? Because fuck you it's there, and fuck you I wanna.

And that whole deal with the rocket? Who the fuck in their right mind would literally risk life and limb ignoring a perfectly reasonable opportunity to escape to hunt down one that's even further out of the way for the same outcome anyway? Sonic the fucking Hedgehog, that's who. A hedgehog who eats danger, shits awesome and shows off just for the sake of it. It's such a perfect, self-encapsulated representation of the character, and it makes me a little sad that we've never gotten anything like it since - at most, integrated as a gameplay mechanic instead ala the tricks system in the Rush games.

See, here's why I disagree. Yes, all of those tricks are cool, but them being cool is being dictated by the developers. In Sonic 3, if I pull off a cool trick, I don't need the game to tell me "you're awesome", I KNOW I am. In the classics, a lot of the cool stuff you can do in just the result of a player mastering the physics engine to blast through a stage. In SA2, the game essentially says "do this specific trick we put into the level, and you can totally be cool like Sonic"

This becomes a problem when all of those "cool tricks" become a requirement if you want to A rank, and this takes away the player's agency when going through a level and trying to play it well. You brought up that homing attack chain that you can spindash jump over. What if I think spindash jumping over that section is cooler than homing attacking a bunch of enemies? Well, according to the game, I'm not doing it right, since doing so I miss out on the Gold Beetle and thus likely the A-Rank. The game essentially wants you to play a specific way, and judges you according NOT to how skillfully you performed, but to how close to the way the devs intended the level to be played you did.

On 5/21/2020 at 1:55 PM, Maxtiis said:

Reminds me of how in the comments of most speedrun videos of the Sonic games that have ranks, there's always that one guy that's like "he beat it in 30 seconds and only got a D? WTF?" It sort of hearkens back to that old adage of the Genesis/Mega Drive games that we tend to think where speed isn't the entire point of the games contrary to popular opinion.

Yeah sure you can go fast but where's the fun in just doing that when you can go fast stylishly? 

No, Sonic isn't all about speed, but playing as fast as possible SHOULD be a valid playstyle that the games should reward. The fact that speedrunners put hundreds of hours at the game, are capable of pulling impressive shit your average player couldn't even dream of, and YET according to the game their run sucked is at least to me proof that SA2's ranking system is flawed to some extent.

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3 minutes ago, PaperSonic said:

This becomes a problem when all of those "cool tricks" become a requirement if you want to A rank

No you know what, I actually agree completely with this - score and time runs should absolutely be graded separately, and one should only need to be ranked top in one or the other for the level to be overall considered A ranked. My main reason for bringing it up at all was that it suited Sonic as a character, who is otherwise commonly depicted using his agility to mock the situation rather than just to be quick and clean about it. I personally find it fun for the game to acknowledge these displays of cockiness in their own right, but no, I don't actually think it should be the sole metric that the player is judged by.

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On 5/20/2020 at 8:14 AM, Blacklightning said:

One of the things I find facinating about SA2's approach to it is that a lot of the point bonuses you need to get max ranks - at least, in the case of the main hedgies - are simple routing differences. And that a lot of them are otherwise frivilous, but at the same time a perfect fit for the character if that makes any sense?

Alright let's clear this up by going to probably the best example of this, which is pretty much the near goddamned entirety of Metal Harbour.

Just 14 seconds in you're given an open invitation to grind rails. Is it necessary? No. Is it even faster? Probably not. But is it cool? Fuck yes it's cool.

What about the homing attack chain at 0:27? I think you can just spindash jump over most if not all of it if you're just going for time. So why would you not only incentivize completing it at all, but even go as far as offering a longer route for points? Because fuck you it's there, and fuck you I wanna.

And that whole deal with the rocket? Who the fuck in their right mind would literally risk life and limb ignoring a perfectly reasonable opportunity to escape to hunt down one that's even further out of the way for the same outcome anyway? Sonic the fucking Hedgehog, that's who. A hedgehog who eats danger, shits awesome and shows off just for the sake of it. It's such a perfect, self-encapsulated representation of the character, and it makes me a little sad that we've never gotten anything like it since - at most, integrated as a gameplay mechanic instead ala the tricks system in the Rush games.

Yeah this is what I really like about the style system. Sonic's not just a speed demon, he's also a thrill-seeker and showoff (despite the first lyrics of his theme). He cares more about having fun rather than being efficient. Having impractical, wholly unnecessary trick segments or thrill-seeking moments like these are just very Sonic things to do. He doesn't stop to smell the roses, but he does slow down to backflip and vault over them, just to look cool.

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11 hours ago, PaperSonic said:

No, Sonic isn't all about speed, but playing as fast as possible SHOULD be a valid playstyle that the games should reward. The fact that speedrunners put hundreds of hours at the game, are capable of pulling impressive shit your average player couldn't even dream of, and YET according to the game their run sucked is at least to me proof that SA2's ranking system is flawed to some extent.

I highly doubt Sega had any clue that people would learn to speedrun their game to such an extent they could clear a level in under 30 seconds with a very particular clip through a wall all while avoiding kill planes to take that into account when designing their ranking system. Ranking systems are designed to reward the player a grade for taking full advantage of the game's mechanics and tools that they intended you to use.

As cool as it is, you weren't supposed to finish the levels as fast as they do and via the methods they use. I have no idea how you would design around something like that myself, unless you give a much larger amount of time bonus points at the end of the stage but at that point it could come at the expense of the game's other mechanics.

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13 hours ago, PaperSonic said:

The fact that speedrunners put hundreds of hours at the game, are capable of pulling impressive shit your average player couldn't even dream of, and YET according to the game their run sucked is at least to me proof that SA2's ranking system is flawed to some extent.

All that means is that time score is capped so that it's not the only thing that matters...

Which is a problem the other games run into.

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I feel that the ranking system was probably one of the most fun aspects of SA2, and I would have loved to seen something similar incorporated into subsequent games.  I felt it added so much replayability, and there are a lot of levels where I had to practice a lot to earn the A rank.  Even in that video of Metal Harbor alone, did you know you could do a bounce attack at 0:22 rather than simply landing to link those two chains of beetles and increase your bonus?  Did you know that when running across the aircraft carrier at 0:35 you can do a bounce attack and take out the jet flying overhead for an extra 500 points?  The fact that the A ranks were actually difficult to get, so it made me look into all these mechanisms and really learn the stages better than in most other Sonic games.

I'm a little surprised people are so sensitive about getting low ranks (especially since you only need to get an A once for it to be recorded), but if that's the case maybe they can just replace the ranking system with a star or something instead of an A rank and no mention of a grade for anything below an A.  For myself at least, I was always equally disappointed with a B or with an E.

Regarding the criticism that you need to play a certain way in order to earn the A, I think that is a definitely valid (and Metal Harbor is ironically one of the worse examples, given that it is particularly linear and such a short stage), but ideally a stage should have enough opportunities the earn a top rank that you aren't forced to go in one particular path or do one particular trick to pull it off.

 

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