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How is a Sonic game supposed to 'feel'?

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You may or may not had heard this sentiment in regards to some Sonic games, they sentiment being that some games do not 'feel' a proper Sonic game. I know that how a game 'feels' is relative to to the player but I learned that there are some elements of the Sonic franchise that are immutable.  The question I have is, what those elements that are immutable? And what is a Sonic game supposed to 'feel' like?

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It should be fast and fun. It should have an attitude yet also be somewhat lighthearted. It shouldn't be too watered down, too slow, too complex, or too serious. It should be based off of rather simple principles that add a little flavor and turn into a challenging yet rewarding gameplay experience.

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It should be a mix of Sonic adventure and its structure of exploring, but make the world bigger, station square was honestly tiny, and with a tad more speed behind it. It should not simply be a hold down x button to boost through a stage. It also should not have tedious items to track down like in Sonic unleashed or gimmicks ala sonic colors.

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I think Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 are the best of the best when it comes to how a Sonic game should control, moreso Adventure 1 as I prefer those levels and I think it controls a bit better in some aspects. The worst part about SA1 Sonic is the light speed dash being required to charge up before use, which was fixed in Adventure 2. I love some of the boost games, especially Colors and Generations, but I still think SA1 was probably the most fun I've ever had with a Sonic game. The hub works very well too IMO, and it'd be great to get something like the Adventure 1 hub again but with the designs of the humans in Unleashed being there instead of the realistic ones. I do think it needs to be bigger as well, but I think the hubs still need to stand out as opposed to something like the hubs in Sonic '06. I can remember nearly everything in Station Square, but not much in regards to '06's hubs. 

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Fluid and mobile.

You should be able to use the environment itself to get across obstacles and be able to maintain it based on how you approach it. Needless to say that while it’s fine for the environment itself to be an obstacle course that challenges you, but the hazards shouldn’t be so cheap that they require luck to get past—and this goes from enemy placement to fucking QTEs that kill you for missing one button.

And it shouldn’t matter what character you pick, or what style you prefer as long as their movement through a level can be fluid and mobile. Case in point, Unleashed’s Day vs Night stages—Daytime is all about moving from beginning to end in one go while Nighttime forces you to stop and go at different intervals from beginning to end, when it would be far better to have had the Night stages allow you to fling over obstacles Spider-Man style rather than wall you off to fight like you’re in God of War.

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In a word, liberating.

My two most common complaints about the modern Sonic series are that only Sonic is playable, and that boost makes irrelevant a lot of the level design tropes that were in games before it was introduced, but those aren't what I actually hate most about the series now.  What I hate most is that the Sonic games have ceased to take place in whole environments that you have actual freedom to move through how, when, at what pace and what angle you choose.  Of course there have always been invisible walls and bottomless pits restricting motion in games; not to mention that they were 2D for a while, but even in 2D, the better Sonic levels used to let players fool around with their character, seeing what they were capable of doing if they built up speed and hurled off cliffs, up hills, etc.  Their physics were fun to play with. 

In modern Sonic games, it feels like physics are against you constantly.  They force when you go fast, they might force you to slow down, they force inability to backtrack, they force you to shift from 3D to 2D and back when and where they say so, they force whether in 2D you move straight or rotate, etc etc etc.  Sonic games no longer feel liberating.  There's the feeling of playing as a super-powerful character, but only when he does exactly what they intended him to do and almost nothing more.

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The Adventures had the right idea, particularly SA1 in its level structure. Sonic should always feel free, like he can almost anything (that you intend for him to do). I should be able to turn around when I want to. I should be able to spin and manipulate the environment to gain distance on both ground and air. Spider-man 2 for PS2 has the right idea as well, keeping the flow provided you make use of his moveset. 

We honestly should have seen something that topped the free feeling movement of that game a long time ago, but each time as said earlier, Sega keeps attaching a ball and chain to Sonic, restricting more and more movement each time to where it's mostly automation now even without boosting. Constantly being dragged around and "told what to do" by the stage and not trusting the player to handle it themselves makes it very underwhelming once you get past the speed spectacle. 

I can't imagine Sonic himself enjoying that kind of design philosophy. Let him feel free.

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