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Your opinion on rail grinding.


S0NIC-Keyblade 007
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Rail grinding was introduced to the Sonic franchise in 2001 in the game, Sonic Adventure 2. This was a gameplay gimmick exclusive to Sonic and Shadow, and then in 2002 we were given Sonic Advance which introduced Amy to rail grinding. And the in 2004 we were given Sonic Heroes where every playable character including Big the Cat (no offense to Big fans) was able to grind rails and since then, rail grinding has been included within just about every Sonic game to date with just about every character having this ability but my question is, do we really need rail grinding?

Lately, I really haven't been seeing much of a point in rail grinding, and as of late it has seemed pretty over done in my opinion. Sometimes it really seems like a lack of level design and makes the stage look really empty when Sega just decides to slap rails on a giant portion of the level over a giant pit of death. What I would like to know is what inspired Sega to give Sonic the ability to grind rails? Was it an attempt to make Sonic look cool and edgy?

sonicgrinding.jpg

I must admit that Sonic does look a bit cool, edgy and confident when grinding a rail in this pic, but I personally would rather see and play as him running than grinding a rail any day. I'm not trying to bash rail grinding or anything, I just wanted to give my opinion on this little gameplay gimmick. So what's your opinion on rail grinding?

Edited by S0NIC Toadstool
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I loved rail grinding in SA2B. It was one of the selling points for the game so I guess they put a bit more work into it then the other games. Doing the whole soap promotion of course, which btw I miss those shoes on 3d sonic.

Ever since then though it has been half assed. It definitely has been taking away from some much needed platforming sections. Especially in the 2d games, it just doesn't belong in them. Sonic already has several ways to gain speed, jumping on rails is just tedious and put your character on auto pilot till you have to get off.

They definitely need to go unless they make them live up to SA2Bs rails, but then again SA2B set a lot of standards for modern day sonic games.

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They did a great job making rail grinding interesting in Unleashed. Every grinding segment felt different enough to be worth being there. However I can respect that they overdid it. I think they really pushed it to the limit in Unleashed so they'd have trouble keeping unique set-ups in the next game without retreading Unleashed's ground again.

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I like the concept, but it's inception has been very hit and miss.

In my opinion, Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Unleashed really had the only worthwhile rail systems. In SA2, there was some challenge to it. Other than the fact that you actually have to maintain balance to stay on the rail, it starts with just landing on the rails alone and ends with timing a jump off of it. It's satisfying when done correctly, as it should be.

Between SA2 and most of Unleashed, though, rails just became superficial. Rail Canyon in Heroes is probably the worst abuse of it; for the first entire minute of the stage, you don't have to even do anything but press the grind button. It really just seemed like a cheap way to transition between areas.

Unleashed added some more interactivity back to it. While the rails in the 2D sections usually seemed pointless, the 3D sections require reflexes and skill.

In the end, I think what they should do with rails is make them a bit more limited (about the same frequency as in SA2's speed stages.) but they need to make sure the player is DOING something while on them.

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I like the concept, but it's inception has been very hit and miss.

In my opinion, Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Unleashed really had the only worthwhile rail systems. In SA2, there was some challenge to it. Other than the fact that you actually have to maintain balance to stay on the rail, it starts with just landing on the rails alone and ends with timing a jump off of it. It's satisfying when done correctly, as it should be.

Between SA2 and most of Unleashed, though, rails just became superficial. Rail Canyon in Heroes is probably the worst abuse of it; for the first entire minute of the stage, you don't have to even do anything but press the grind button. It really just seemed like a cheap way to transition between areas.

Unleashed added some more interactivity back to it. While the rails in the 2D sections usually seemed pointless, the 3D sections require reflexes and skill.

In the end, I think what they should do with rails is make them a bit more limited (about the same frequency as in SA2's speed stages.) but they need to make sure the player is DOING something while on them.

Rail canyon is what first comes to my mind when I think of rails in sonic games unfortunately. I believe the best use of them was in final rush (I think) in SA2. They were used pretty excessively in this stage but in a good way. They made the stage unique and flow differently then the other levels in the game. Sonic could grind straight up walls or take short cuts if done successfully. It may even be one of the best final levels in a sonic game and it is heavily plagued with rails. :P

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Done well, it could be a reasonable addition to the series, a nice little diversion from running and rolling.

Unfortunately it never really has been done well.

SA2 somehow manages to be one of the best implementations, in spite of it being their first attempt. It was fast, made for some neat stunts, fit in well with the trick-based scoring system, and required at least some input from the player to work properly. Unfortunately, switching rails was completely busted. Trying to switch rails basically just had the game throw Sonic off to the side and assume he'd catch a rail properly, and more often than not, he didn't.

Heroes is basically a more busted version of SA2's grinding. Switching rails still didn't work quite right, though you were required (or at least meant) to do it more often. The game lacked the trick system, removing one of grinding's most important features. The effect of balancing had been reduced, and instead, the player spends his time hammering the "go faster" button any time he isn't being boosted forward. They went way overboard on the number of rails. And, like every other case where teamwork is required, the 3 side-by-side rails almost never work the way they're supposed to. Isn't it odd that a game about teamwork makes it so goddamn hard to actually do anything with more than one character?

ShtH, in a rare moment of competence, actually implemented proper rail switching. For the first time, dodging things while on a rail actually became a valid option, instead of Russian Roulette with 5 bullets. Unfortunately basically all they were good for was that and hammering the "go fast" button. It was nice to actually be able to dodge at high speeds, yes, but it ends up being a very shallow mechanic.

'06, for reasons unknown, dropped the rail switching mechanics. And, like everything else in '06, it sucks. *shrugs*

Unleashed brought back proper rail switching, but like ShtH, it's basically that and boosting, nothing else. Hell, the Wii version doesn't even get that; there's exactly one point in the entire game where you can switch rails. And it'll probably kill you your first time, since it's during the final boss and you've gone through the whole goddamn game without seeing it.

So, yeah, grinding's never really worked. But I think it can, with a little more effort. First thing, I'd bring back the balancing. There needs to be things for the player to actually do while grinding, else it's little more than an automated event, and I think this should be a big one. Logically it should require some amount of effort to stay balanced on a rail, and how well you maintain balance can affect how well the rail fulfills its purpose. And speaking of purpose, rails need to stop being just long transports between areas. Shortcuts, sure, but we should never see another Rail Canyon. I'd like to see rails that are better integrated into the environment, something that can run alongside solid ground instead of just switching between the two. Remember in SA2's Green Forest, how there were a few places where you could grind the edge of the halfpipe? That's more how rails should be used. In that sort of case, there needs to be some reason to choose between rail and ground, tho'...it kind of depends on the game. Points work in a game like SA2 where score is important, whereas a game like Unleashed could have it fill your boost meter (y'know, I always liked how the Rushes framed it, "tension"; not some magic energy, just the adrenaline from doing all sorts of crazy stunts. Grinding fits in real well with that framing...).

I also think it'd be nice if there was an easier way to get off rails than jumping, like being able to intentionally fall off, in a way that doesn't cut your speed. Maybe having to hold a button to grind, and releasing lets you drop off?

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'06, for reasons unknown, dropped the rail switching mechanics. And, like everything else in '06, it sucks. *shrugs*

I just wanted to comment on this. Stop me if I'm wrong but one thing that I believe 06 did right was let your homing attack lock in on rails unlike its predecesors SA2, SH, and ShTH, if memory serves correctly.

Edited by S0NIC Toadstool
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I just wanted to comment on this. Stop me if I'm wrong but one thing that I believe 06 did right was let your homing attack lock in on rails unlike its predecesors SA2, SH, and ShTH, if memory serves correctly.

I don't like it. It doesn't always work, and what it does, it just makes the rail system seem unnecessary and easy. SA2 gave the challenge of making you aim for the rail. Taking that away just makes the whole thing overly automated.
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I don't like it. It doesn't always work, and what it does, it just makes the rail system seem unnecessary and easy. SA2 gave the challenge of making you aim for the rail. Taking that away just makes the whole thing overly automated.

Oh I never looked at it that way, I guess the whole lock-on rail feature in 06 made the rail system look even more unneeded than it already was when you think of it that way.

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Like I said before, it was interesting enough for one level. Not only has it appeared in almost every Sonic game since, it's also popped up in a bunch of other plat formers as well, so I've become very tired of this mechanic.

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I actually enjoy rail-grinding, but to an extent. Switching rails, however has became a main focus point, and having not played any of the Next-gen games after Shadow: ('06 and Unleashed,) I cannot comment on the effectiveness of their system and the improvements made to the handling of it.

I can mention that Shadow the Hedgehog did get something right, and that was the ability to switch rails in mid-grind without missing your steel target for the most part. Heroes' control of the switching exemplary system caused me to fall to my death many time at crucial moments in the game, mainly at Rail Station and also at Final Fortress where you had to dodge the giant electrical rail grid's laser blast. I soon found out it was much easier to switch to a flying character and cruise below 20 M.P.H. in case of any flubs to befall my way. Stages that were mainly compromised of rail-grinding such as the befittingly titled Rail Station got on my nerves after a while, due to the lack of change in action and scenery; I practically yearned to reach the mini islands of mesh and iron along the course for a change of pace during the stage. one thing did bug me in Shadow and that was your character was a magnet for rails, even if you were on a flat piece of ground and happened to pass over it to cross over to the other side (Lava Shelter is one example) you would start out sliding on the rail at a snail's pace, following the track until you stopped.

Advance's rail system was usually a miss. If you didn't travel fast enough, your character would fall through the rail. If you wanted to jump onto it, because of simple Sonic game logic knowing it was a solid surface, you would miss and meet your doom below.

Rush's system was a bit better, and added a flavour to the whole speed element of the game.

SA2's system was new, and some uphill rail grinding parts (Final Chase, I think.) were frustrating if you didn't collect enough speed to amount enough force behind you to climb upwards onto the next part. (What gets me is that there were meteors floating in the weightlessness of space around you, and yet gravity itself kept you from grinding upwards. Whoah, game logic.)

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Rail grinding has certainly become a bit of a staple in the series since SA2, and for me it's always been pretty fun. It's one of those segments, no matter how quick, that I look forward to in a Sonic game.

I just hope to god they never combine it with a Secret Rings style control system ever again. That was simply a pain in the ass, especially if you accidentally jumped on a rail.

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SA2 somehow manages to be one of the best implementations, in spite of it being their first attempt. It was fast, made for some neat stunts, fit in well with the trick-based scoring system, and required at least some input from the player to work properly. Unfortunately, switching rails was completely busted. Trying to switch rails basically just had the game throw Sonic off to the side and assume he'd catch a rail properly, and more often than not, he didn't.

Rail switching in SA2 really depends on your technique. If you hold left/right and press A for say half a second as you would with a regular jump, then yeah you'll fail miserably. I had no problems with switching when I held a direction about 75% and tapped A lightly. The jump is the key, though - if you think about it the switch is just a short hop, so the jump should be the same.

Final Rush is the finest example of a rails-oriented level in any game whatsoever. Everything since SA2, with the possible exception of Unleashed, has been shit.

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It's interesting for one level, and only with the SA2 mechanics, though changing rails needs to be a bit tweaked out. Sure it's easy once one gets the hang of it, but sometimes you just forget you can't be touching the analog at all to jump properly out of it and there's death for you.

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and then in 2002 we were given Sonic Advance which introduced Amy to rail grinding.

Wait a minute, I don't remember Amy being able to rail grind in Sonic Advance. Plus, Amy could even rail grind in SA2's multiplayer.

But as for my thoughts on the rail grinding, they did it just fine in SA2, Unleashed, SAdv2, and the Sonic Rush games, but other than that, I think the rail grinding is just getting old.

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At this point, I consider rails on par with other terrain-based staples like loops and spirals. All they're really there for is to allow Sonic to travel to a new area, gain speed, look cool, or a combination thereof, and their usefulness is determined merely by how they're implemented. SA2 and Unleashed have more or less proven they can be positive and fun additions, the former especially so with your ability to perform tricks off of them. No real reason to get rid of or restrict them to me.

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Rail grinding was at it's prime in SA2, which required you to balance and keep your momentum going as you change rails. Rail grinding ever since has been pretty lame ever since, but it was kind of improved in Unleashed, with the ability to switch rails easier. If they added that onto the SA2 rail grinding engine it would be perfect, honestly. If they insist on keeping grinding physic-less, I'd like them to implement the trick system from Rush, or implement something similar to JSRF's grinding, to give us something to do on the rails to get extra points.

Edited by Solid SOAP
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I always thought it was kinda ridiculous how the rails themselves are set up in various locations, but the real fuckin' cream of the crop would have to be Shadow's version of Crisis City in Sonic '06 - which has you perform at least two full loops and a corkscrew, without your momentum ever changing. It looks positively fuckin' ridiculous. However the hell a set of suspended rails even got bent into that kind of shape even in the goddamned post-apocalypse in the first place is also anyone's guess. I mean, god damn... I'd say this level was designed by monkeys, but seeing as this is a Sonic game that actually wouldn't be too far out of place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not entirely against rail grinding, but for fuck's sake the rails should at least some kind of sense and there should be some actual effort needed in using them, even if it's just gathering the momentum to keep going once you've hit one.

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Wait a minute, I don't remember Amy being able to rail grind in Sonic Advance. Plus, Amy could even rail grind in SA2's multiplayer.

You can see Amy grinding a rail in Sonic Advance in

at 0:23. I didn't bither mentioning SA2s multiplayer because for the most part, she was just an alternate skin of Sonic for the multiplayer mode along with the other multiplayer exclusive characters.
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I liked how rail grinding was implemented in Sonic Advance 2, every character can do it and Sonic and Amy can pull off stunts at the end of certain rails to reach higher/further away areas similar to Sonic Adventure 2's rail system.

Sonic Adventure 2's rail system is cool but switching rails is alot harder than it should be, Sonic Unleashed's rail system is better as it's easier to switch rails. Only stunt's would make Unleashed's rails better.

One thing I don't understand in Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic '06 and Sonic Unleashed is why you can switch the direction your facing on the rails when it seemingly doesn't do anything but in Sonic Heroes it gives you a push on the rails. Very odd.

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I just hope to god they never combine it with a Secret Rings style control system ever again. That was simply a pain in the ass, especially if you accidentally jumped on a rail.

Oh god, I can't believe I forgot about Secret Rings. The controls were fine for the most part, but the rail mechanics were so terrible it's not even funny. Jumping's a pain, switching's a pain- the whole thing was just broken. Black Knight seemed to do it quite well, though, but maybe that's just by comparison.
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