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Level variety

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Apologies for practically making two topics back to back, but another idea just struck me. D=

In a lot of the Sonic 4 speculation (especially since the leak), I've seen some people complaining that a lot of levels in the more recent 2D Sonic games have simply been clones and/or rehashes of iconic classic levels, at least in a visual sense. Needless to say there's at least some truth in this, what with quite a fair few games ahering to the cliched 'Green Hill clone', 'Casino Night clone', and 'generic metallic/ mechanical level' somewhere toward the end.

So, which types of stages do you think are over or under-used, and which games do you think have the best level variety?

Okay, Green Hill clones are overused, but at the same time it's totally understandable. It's a 2D Sonic game. It's what people want to see at the start of the game, in most cases. I do personally feel that the Casino-themed levels get a bit old though, if only because I'm not overly fond of them, and there are other level types I'd like to see return. I'm glad that water and ice stages (particularly water) have been fairly prominent in the Advance and Rush games, although personally I think that water stages in the Rush games don't have the same impact they once had, if only because the boost makes it so that the physics barely change underwater whatsoever, and the sense of treading carefully in a restricted, claustrophobic environment is lost.

I'd actually really like to see the return of a fire/ lava themed level. I mean, they're relatively frequent in the 3D titles, yet seem to have been completely ignored in the 2D games since, well, Sonic & Knuckles, if my memory serves. I don't mind them reusing basic level themes, it's nostalgic and a lot of the time it's what people want to see, but at the same time I do think they've fallen into a habit of overusing certain level types, whilst ignoring others that I'd like to see return.

In terms of level design, I think that Sonic Advance 2 and 3 were actually some of the best, if slight double-edged swords. Leaf Forest was a very well-done intro stage that didn't look too much like your typical Green Hill rehash, despite having a similar theme, and Hot Crater and Sky Canyon were both very original stage themes, as was Chaos Angel from Advance 3. However, I do think that, whilst the latter two Advance games clearly tried to mix things up a bit in terms of level design, it was a bit hit-and-miss in the sense that some of the levels they came up with, whilst undoubtedly original for Sonic games, didn't exactly fit with the theme and style of Sonic as a whole. Music Plant, Techno Base, Toy Kingdom and Cyber Track in particular, here.

I'd actually say that the original Sonic Rush has some of the weaker level variety, in my opinion. The latter half of the game is basically a string of mechanical themed stages, with Huge Crisis and Altitude Limit being relatively unmemorable and similar in appearance.

So, what do you think? Are there certain stage types you're sick to death of? Are there some that haven't been used in a long while that you want to see return? I suppose I'm speaking more in terms of the 2D games here, since the 3D ones have (generally) been a bit better in terms of stage variety, if only because they tend to have a lot more levels in the game with which to play around with, whereas the typical 7-zone formula in the recent 2D games only gives them so much to work with.

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I actually loved Huge Crisis in Sonic Rush if only because it was clearly a GUN Base. We rarely see anything of them in the portable games, I like it when we get a nice little link like that. I consider Altitude Limit to be a "Sky" level rather than a mechanical one though.

I loved Music Plant myself, reminded me of Ristar. (Well, actually I think I played Advance 2 first so it was the other way round), but yeah. Awesome music too.

If it were up to me, I'd like to just see them shake up the formula a bit. Give us a daytime casino level. A snow AND lava level (granted, Mario and numerous others beat Sonic to the punch here but it's still a cool idea). More early morning looking levels (loved Windmill Isle Act 1 in Unleashed).

Rush Adventure had probably the most unique stages we've seen in a Sonic game (which is what I always expect of sequels with "generic" themes for the original game). Haunted Pirate Ship, an underground pirate town, sky ruins but... colourful GREEN SKY sky ruins. And a very steampunk looking zone (which unfortunately did not have epic enough music to match IMO - I wanted something cool sounding like the clock tower level from Super Monkey Ball 2 (which I thought at the time was very similar looking)).

It's pretty easy to come up with weird new zone themes though. A boredom activity of mine is to imagine zone names from a game, and shift the second word one zone forward to see what crazy new theme it creates. Some of my favourites:

"Metropolis Ocean Zone", "Volcano Stadium Zone", "Security Mine Zone", "Sky Cave Zone", "Space Jungle Zone", "Digital Garden Zone", "Skyscraper Sands Zone".

Oh, and then there are just plain weird or lulzy ones:

"Mushroom Doomsday Zone", "Frog Station Zone", "Central Park Zone", "Mad Troops Zone", "90's Strip Zone", "Eggman Joyride Zone".

I forgot what my point was.

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Sky Cave and Space Jungle make no sense. D:

But yeah, whilst I didn't mind Music Plant et al as levels themselves, they were just too unrealistically bizarre for Sonic stages. Most other Sonic stages look like they could physically exist somewhere, be it underground, in a space station or whatnot. Music Plant and Toy Kingdom looked like something out of a magical kiddy fantasy land and Techno Base/ Cyber Track look like you're inside a computer. Okay, that one was done in Shadow the Hedgehog, but at least it was in context to the plot, there. Those four levels in particular just felt really out of place in a Sonic game, design wise.

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But yeah, whilst I didn't mind Music Plant et al as levels themselves, they were just too unrealistically bizarre for Sonic stages. Most other Sonic stages look like they could physically exist somewhere, be it underground, in a space station or whatnot. Music Plant and Toy Kingdom looked like something out of a magical kiddy fantasy land and Techno Base/ Cyber Track look like you're inside a computer. Okay, that one was done in Shadow the Hedgehog, but at least it was in context to the plot, there. Those four levels in particular just felt really out of place in a Sonic game, design wise.

Well, Techno Base I always chalked up to that wacky Eggman liking to give his bases a theme sometimes. He chose to make it look like it was in a computer. Cyber Track though is definately inside a computer so... dunno what to make of that one, lol.

I thought Toy Kingdom was just about believable. It wouldn't be the first time the Sonic series has had a larger than life amusement park.

Hell yeah Space Jungle and Sky Cave. 8D The former would be full of purple plants on the moon and the latter would be like a cave level, but not dark bottomless pits below you... SKY.

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I guess this is one thing I'm very optimistic about after hearing that Dimps is developing. Rush physics or not, they've certainly made some of the most interesting level themes since the Genesis games. I expect that ep.1 is an intentional retro rehash to hook older fans while more original designs will appear in later episodes.

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One of the things I loved about the early Sonic games and the Advance titles is that they didn't need logic for level transitions. You could jump straight from a construction yard to an underground temple or from an aquatic base to a surreal toyland and not need to question it.

"Metropolis Ocean Zone"

Sonic in Rapture?

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Well, S3&K had pretty logical level transitions, which was nice. Goes to show, you really only need a few seconds of footage to link two levels together, no matter how obscure or even nonexistant the connection would be otherwise.

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Some space levels in different environments would be nice. For example: Frozen Comet Zone, Red Planet Zone, Shooting Star Zone. Those environments are pretty self-explanatory I think. I want to see space levels that aren't on a space station for a change.

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Sky Cave and Space Jungle make no sense. D:

Do you have any idea how awesome it would be if we got a zone based around forest preservation in space stations, like greenhouse domes.

I think I'll call it Silent Running Zone.

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I'm with Mahzes for the return of fire/lava levels. I would have to say that the Lava Reef Zone from Sonic & Knuckles was probably my favorite stage out of all the stages from all the classic Sonic games. There was just something that was really cool about it. If we could get a level similar to that in StH4, I would be really happy. :)

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