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April 22, 2009 in Sonic Games
In each individual Sonic game, one may notice that the stage settings can often follow a structured pattern, but that pattern changes quite often through the series. If I may elaborate, if you look at the original two Sonic titles, the levels were a unique alternation between modern and ancient worlds (i.e. a tribal setting in Green Hill, an ancient setting in Marble and Labyrinth (and part of Scrap Brain) and modern settings in Spring Yard and Starlight. Sonic CD was more jumpy with more abstract levels such as Collision Chaos and Starlight Speedway. Sonic 3&K used a versatile level structure with some diverse levels like the originals but with more traditional and "elemental" environments such as lava levels, forest levels, ice levels, etc. Sonic Adventure had dynamic and unique environments with concepts branching from the setting of their respective hubs. (SS levels were more civilization oriented, MR stages were more nature focused [barring Final Egg which fits more with the EC framework] and EC levels were more mechanical) Sonic Adventure 2's stages were built individually and scattered but categorized under basic concepts (jungle, prison island, city, desert, ark, etc.) Sonic Heroes' levels, like Sonic CD and slightly like Sonic 3&K, were diverse and jumpy yet traditional but also neatly organized. Shadow's levels were like SA2's in that there were scattered levels that shared basic structural concepts (city, black comet, virtual world, ancient canyon, etc.) Sonic 06's framework was much like that of Sonic 3&K in that it used traditional elemental themes (forest, ice, lava, desert etc.) Finally, Sonic Unleashed's was very specific in that focused primarily on the architectures, environments and auras of different civilizations.
So I ask, what sort of pattern of stages do you like in the Sonic games? If you ask me, I'd like a sort of merge between the stage patterns of Sonic CD and Sonic 06. That way, it would invoke diverse yet traditional video game patterns but still allow for variations and deviations in the concepts.
My favorite style(s) would be the storybook vibe included in SatSR's levels. I like how they took Arabian Nights'-themed levels and made them Sonic-y. While the levels in Black Knight are much like the storybook, they're not as Sonic-related, and so definitely wouldn't be my favorite.
Another would be Unleashed style, where real-world locations were modified for Sonic.
As long as they're interesting, I don't really care.
I just don't want the stage to be the same thing throughought the game.
I don't even care if they make sense. They could just have random, different themes, like the Banjo Kazooie stages. ( Mountain theme, Beach/Pirates theme, Egyptian theme, Haunted house theme, Forrest theme, swamp theme, snow theme, in the first game, and in the second game you got a Dinosaur theme, Factory theme, Mayan Theme, Fire and Ice theme, Atlantis theme, Circus Theme, Gold Rush theme, all in the same game? It doesn't make much sense, but who cares really? The games are awesome. )
I'm not a big fan of the really surreal and non-objective (am I using that right?) themes for actual levels...I think it's better to leave that stuff to the special stages and keep the real-world levels at least identifiable. But aside from that I like to have a good number of levels that go straight for unrealistic...the pinball cities, floating ruins, ridiculously huge airships, and the like, the kind of stuff that has a definite and easily identified theme to it, but either can't exist or would only exist if built by a man who is both obscenely rich and obscenely eccentric. For the rest, go for "enhanced" realistic locations. By that I mean the overall theme is something that could reasonably (or does) exist, but it's been kicked up a notch or two. Pretty much all of Unleashed (Eggmanland excluded) falls under this.
I'm okay with any setting so long as it looks cool. But I tend to enjoy the somewhat realistic ones a bit more.
I just find it intresting to know how it would be like for Sonic to be present in a more abstract version of our world like Empire City, yet at the same time be in places that are too bizarre for our world like Green Hill Zone.
But if anything is my favorite, it's gotta be the airship and military base stages. Don't know why, I've just been too facinated by anything technological.
I liked how with S3&K, and to a large extent, Sonic Adventure, you had a true feeling that you were on an adventure, as you could see the progress between levels, be they transitions or new areas, rather than simple continent hopping or even no transition at all.
As far as style? Something surreal, but not too far. Sonic always had a style that felt realistic, but on the surreal side. I'm not asking or suggesting anything trippin shrooms esque (leave that for Mario, or maybe the Special Stages), just something a little less real than Unleashed, actually. Arabian, Knights, Real-World...it all feels so borrowed. Why can't Sonic fall back on his OWN style of surroundings? Doesn't mean we have to play through the same Green Hill a million different times...but subtle, surreal throwbacks would be awesome.
Honestly, this might seem a bit off topic, but I'd LOVE to see an environment like how we were shown in, say, Sonic CD, or the OVA, or the REALLY old Sonic 06 trailer. I know, the tech today may be a bit...far off from that...but a large, wide open field of surreal, Sonic-esque mountains, maybe a castle area, woods, forests, swamps, a sparkling lake. just one big mass of land with levels in between, perhaps...it's wishing beyond the tech of today, but maybe one day we could see that happen...
I love the way Sonic 1 and 2 look kind of realistic (for the time) at first glace, but the more you look at it, the more bizarre it gets. "The dirt seems to be a made from building blocks... Wait, I called that dirt?"
The surrealistic atmosphere allows you to add a bunch of cool looking stuff that you couldn't do if you chose to constrain yourself to reality. For example, Why do the little caves in Emerald Hill Zone have little dots that light up? They look cool, but wouldn't make sense if you were going for realism. If you look closely at the larger flowers, you notice that some of the bigger ones are animated. The purple ones are pretty realistic, but the blue ones have little bits floating above them, and the pink ones have rotating petals, much like the sunflowers from Green Hill Zone.
I really like the Unleashed mix of the real and the unreal. It's a lot of fun to see a place that looks familiar become Sonicized. It's one of the reasons the 3D highway stages are so popular. Who doesn't want to take Sonic for a ride on a road built for speed? Especially since the stage is based on real life.
The old games also do this to an extent, but it's more likely that the cities there were constructed by Eggman. The old ones were more fantastical, which can be good. Stuff like Lava Reef is amazing to see, however unreal it is.
I like to think of Sonic's world as a more exciting version of Earth, where loops are a naturally occurring part of the terrain and cities, and a lava crystal cave is just something along the way. When you want to make something exotic, you can make it really exotic, or even if you're just sitting in the grass, the flowers might be dancing behind you.
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