No this isn't an oldschool Sonic vs Mario argument.
What would happen if we took Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, or Super Mario World and then removed:
· the well balanced life system
· the well balanced power ups system
· the strategically positioned, completely non-mandatory, rewarding collectibles (coins)
· the deliberate focus on consistently fair level design
· the secrets in plain sight (pipes)
Sounds terrible! As if we're deliberately stripping Mario of all the fundamentals that make his games so solid. But the truth is that even after ditching all of the above, we still have this:
Once can spend a lot of time talking about how critical Mario's fundamentals have been to the ongoing quality and integrity of his games. However until we were given large and progressive stages to run through, most of those fundamentals did not and could not even exist. But Mario already had it. Before such fundamentals became possible, before long stages, even before the NES was real, Mario already had it. In the original Mario Bros. of 1983 he's headbutting, aiming, and dodging, it's already compelling, and it's just one screen.
So now take away Sonic's large and progressive stages.
Does Sonic already have it?
I dwell on the principles of 2D Mario all the time in the interest of making a Sonic fangame, but I never thought of taking my comparisons right back to the original Mario that had so little. Yet now it seems so obvious that part of Mario's gameplay appeal comes from from his ability to generate compelling play even on just one screen, so that if you grab that Mario by his greasy pixelated Italian hair and drop him straight into Super Mario Bros. 3, the first thing the player is going to do - is going to want to do - is still headbutt, jump on baddies, and actively not-die.
Does Sonic have the same ability?
If he does, then one should be able to design a single-screen Sonic game that generates comparable levels of compulsion.
To assist with the design of one aspect of gameplay in a full-level fangame I would like to build, I am looking for discussion on what Sonic already has that makes him compelling to play even in a small space. Or discussion, as the case may be, on what Sonic doesn't have. What's typically happening, or what could happen, right there on the screen/in the controller/in the immediate area, that compels the player?
I am not trying to discuss ideas for a single-screen Sonic game. But if you are able to imagine a compelling single-screen Sonic game whose gameplay and compulsion continues to function in a full-level Sonic game, you have an answer to this post. (Just don't confuse that approach for a discussion of neat single-screen-game ideas, because that isn't what this is and would be off-topic.)