How Sonic Adventure nailed Sonic's characterization.

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by khabastos, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

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    I think somehow the original exposition led to a different discussion than intended. I was sure we were talking about SA1, not SA2, which shares elements with its predecessor but it's quite different plot and tone wise. No, no one says the writing in SA1 is great, just more complete and on point about its depiction of the characters. Gamma, for example, has quite a boilerplate story about a robot gaining self-conscience, understanding what its master does and making a choice about it, but it made me feel empathy, there was something sad about Gamma self-destructing even if I knew that she was in fact freeing herself to join her family because it was an end for that character.

    About colours, yes, an example of "Eggman did this crazy thing, but it's always fishy, so let's check it out" is a better concept for a Sonic game, but Colours doesn't work with that simple formula the way the classics would have done, so the whole premise is ruined. If the plot would have stopped in "Eggman trapped little aliens and is using them for his evil plan", just like what happened with little animals imprisoned in badniks, then great, but the cutscenes aren't just level transitions, area maps and extra challenges break the pace of both game and plot, and the cutscenes rarely link something with something else. It's not that I don't like the jokes or that I'm not ok with having cutscenes and area maps, it's just that they really didn't keep the plot as simple as you say.
     
  2. Roxie Mika

    Roxie Mika

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    i basically can't stand anything beyond unleashed in terms of characterization
    colors established a weird unfunny "self aware saturday morning cartoon" vibe and it worked for a few cheap laughs so they went out and decided to milk it for every last drop of "humor"
    at least adventure/2 had some attempt at characterization that wasn't just "BOY I HATE TAILS. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY. YAY." and "BALDY MCNOSEHAIR :insufferable smirk:"
    i think just on a general level i'm tired of smugly "self-aware" media that puts in zero effort to earn that smugness and expects to be praised for it anyway
    like...sega. if youre listening
    dialogue that wouldve been funny and kind of fresh in a movie from 5-6 years prior to your game launching are not gonna save it and at this point its a detriment

    (and if youre gonna write something serious, take it seriously? please? forces was a joke)
     
  3. Beamer the Meep

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    To be clear, I was raised on both Sonic 3 & Sonic Adventure 2 at roughly the same time with DX & 2 being shortly after. I can't really recall which was my first game, but ultimately I don't even think that's a factor here, at least in my case. I would be wary about making generalizations on that front. I would argue the stories of Sonic 2, CD, & 3 were simple, but more due to the presentation and limitations of hardware rather than the amount of plot. I'm sure that if Sonic Team was able to fully realize their ambitions for games following Sonic 1, the stories would resemble SA1 more than anything else (complete with time travel shenanigans in Sonic 2, but I digress).

    In a way I kind of agree with this. Sonic Colors could have easily gotten away with story being mainly conveyed through the stages and some minor cutscenes that do progress the plot rather than badly delivered quips that don't progress the story all that meaningfully. The approach could have been a lot more Sonic 1-esque, which if I recall is what a lot of people at the time thought it would be.

    Regardless, how this all ties into Sonic's characterization is that the writing has become a lot more dumbed down and painfully self-aware. Just write the character for what he is and use his actions to make him "cool" rather than un-funny or forced dialogue. Show, don't tell.
     
  4. SystemsReady

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    Oh, plot-wise SA1 is garbage (Chaos aside) and SA2 is full of padding. But this is about Sonic's characterization, and I've always been fond of SA1's "that 'cool' but not mean older kid you look up to as a small child*" interpretation. Also, having watched an LP of a contemporaneous Tony Hawk game, Sonic isn't remotely close to the level of tryhard cool edgy those games try to pull in their story modes.

    *and then laugh together about when you're adults because your definition of "hot shit" was so limited and kind of cringe
     
  5. Rudie Radio Waves

    Rudie Radio Waves

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    Off-topic, but was that Tony Hawk game THUG2? I hear its story is very... excessive.
     
  6. SystemsReady

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    Yes, actually! I couldn't remember which one it was but I just looked it up. And it is very excessive :ruby:
     
  7. BlueFrenzy

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    I think here you are inverting the cause and the consequence. It's not like because they added a city they had to expand the narrative tools, but because they wanted to expand the narrative tools, they added a city.

    So, there actually was no actual need to add a city of realistic people, but they took that decision and completely affected the narrative from that point on. They could have taking any other direction but decided on that one. No one was forcing them to have a city with human people and hence, adding speech to make it feel belieable. You don't even need to make a main character talkative even having a realistic human city as proven in other franchises.

    While I don't think that giving any character speech breaks that character, on the contrary, narrative is quite a hard subject and it's very easy to fail. And I think the biggest problem with sonic adventure and on is not that Sonic talks (although if he didn't talk it would have been harder to fall in the biggest pitfalls that came because of that). Sonic Adventure and further Sonics fail mostly because Sonic stopped "being cool" and started to "act cool". Talking doesn't automatically change from one to the other but certainly it's hard to "act" as anything if you don't talk because then what defines your character is your actions, but you can certainly have cool characters that can talk. Sadly, they failed narratively when trying to convey Sonic's coolness into speech and, well, it may seem contradictory but usually the harder you try to be cool the less cool you look. And that's exactly what happened with Sonic at this point and severily aggravated from Sonic Colors and forward. Can sonic be cool talking? Yes, he can. Comics and TV shows can show this and I am sure everybody can think of other game characters that manages to do that. But to do so you need a narrative designer and a very good one and Sonic Team didn't have it.
     
  8. Sid Starkiller

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    Agreed. Classic Sonic stories, especially 3K, were all about doing more with less. They couldn't do full-on talking cutscenes, so they did what they could with the hardware they did have, and while they didn't get really ambitious with it until 3K, what they did do worked great.

    ...the Tony Hawk games had story modes? I only played THPS2, and I don't remember it having a story mode. Was it just later ones?
     
  9. Rudie Radio Waves

    Rudie Radio Waves

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    From THUG1 onwards, most of them had story modes. THPSHD and 5 didn't though- I think Ride and Shred also lacked that.
     
  10. khabastos

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    Yeah, I noticed the deviation too. To be honest, I quite like that the discussion expanded. I mostly wanted to talk about how SA1's characterization is different and, in my opinion, better when compared to the rest. Being the first voiced Sonic story in the main games, the characters are largely unaffected by the biases of the fanbase and general public.

    I must apologize for not being clear enough. I do understand what you're saying, although it might have not been apparent from my original post. You're completely right and, as far as I know, that was Sonic Team's thought process. They wanted a larger narrative to fit the "Adventure" subtitle. That led not only to the creation of Station Square and the added voices for the cast, but also the gameplay decision of having 6 individual journeys surrounding the same major plot. Whether or not the consequences of that ambition were good is up in the air, but I personally feel that Sonic Adventure 1 does a great job with the characters in specific, considering the narrative goals of the game.

    Tuning into the Colors debate: I'm can't speak for everyone, but I believe that even those supposedly "raised on the Adventure games" wouldn't mind the lack of plot if it was written well. By "well", I don't mean "Oscar movie quality", just entertaining dialogue and events. I say this based on the fact that the main criticism of Sonic Colors' narrative is the abundance of unfunny jokes. Sonic Heroes was very childish in tone, but it still took itself seriously and didn't interrupt gameplay for humor. It was very alienating for fans of the series at the time, but nobody hates it, I guess. It's harmless and that's what I think a lighthearted Sonic story should strive to be: harmless.

    Talking about Sonic himself in Heroes (if you couldn't tell by my avatar, I like Heroes a lot), I believe he still acts mostly like in SA1 and 2 in the short dialogues in that game. His banter with Tails and Knuckles is really good, I already mentioned their heart to heart after Eggman's defeat, but there's also his encounter with Shadow. It completely ignores the conversation about "how is he alive?!" in favor of something far more intimate, in my opinion. It's similar to their much loved second fight in SA2, keeping their rivalry alive.
     
  11. Josh

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    First of all... when did Colors ever interrupt gameplay for humor? :P

    Second, regarding Heroes... NOBODY hates it? I hated it! :D I made a 45 minute video about how much I hated it! And I hated it for the exact same reasons people who hate Colors (and the more recent games) claim to hate THOSE stories. "Sonic is trying WAY too hard to be cool instead of just BEING COOL, this all feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, we're just IGNORING Knuckles' characterization now, ugh this dialogue is SO CRINGE!"

    But with the benefit of hindsight, I think my biggest issue with Heroes' story was me. I was 15, and every awful, overacted, cornball line of dialogue about teamwork just made me feel awful for playing it, because I thought I was "too old" for it. If I'd been a few years younger, I'd have enjoyed it on its own level. If I'd been a few years older, I might've found the cornyness at least sort of nostalgically charming, which is what happened with some of Colors' most over-reaching jokes. And to be clear, I _still_ don't like Heroes' cutscenes or voice direction at ALL. But because of my... lack of confidence in my own maturity, and my expectations of the series in 2004, I practically couldn't stand to even have the volume on back when I first played Heroes, and I think it's fair to wonder if that's not at least PART of why younger fans hold SUCH vitriol against more recent games now, too.

    Colors' dialogue, compared to... uh, any 3D game that came before, finally didn't sound like a bad anime dub, and the plot wasn't so overwrought that you needed to like, consult Japanese guidebooks to make sense of what was supposed to be going on. When I said on the last page that no 3D Sonic story had ever gotten past a C+ or _maybe_ a B-, Colors IS the game that punches a little above the average.

    But, I also think a lot of the discussion going on here revolves around humor, and humor is ENORMOUSLY subjective. A lot of Colors' cutscenes are indeed focused on lighthearted, kid-friendly comedy, so whether that element works for you are not is going to make or break your experience. If you (like me) find that dialogue to be, maybe not laugh-out-loud HILARIOUS, but at least decently fun and charming, then you'll probably have a good time. If you (like me in 2004) find such obvious kid-pandering humor to be cringey, or against the core of what you think Sonic SHOULD be, then it's NOT going to work for you, and that's understandable.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
  12. Master Emerald

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    It just didn't.

    Seriously, I think the more simplistic, shallower approach used in modern titles* is better for the series, specially how the events and characters are overly dramatic and, IMO, unfitting with a relaxed 2D/3D platformer like Sonic. I'm also kinda glad they stopped trying to fit humans in the games.

    *Of course Sonic Forces is an exception and it has horrible characterization, so let's please ignore it.
     
  13. Beamer the Meep

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    I think I can second that. There was a pretty significant lack of plot in the Advance series (2 had saving Cream's mother and 3 had some sort of dimensional weirdness involving Gmerl?) but for the most part those same fans love those games. Likewise, I found the plot of Colors DS (which was said to be the true, expanded version of events in that game by Izuka.) much more bearable if because a lot of the terrible jokes were gone and replaced with some good interaction between all the additional characters. Ironically, the portable version of the game had a better executed story compared to the console port even if the presentation was more limited.

    Likewise I think I have to agree about Heroes' story. It was loads more simplified, but it did take itself seriously and I'd like to think that's because of Shiro Maekawa who wrote both that installment and SA2. He knew how to write good characterization with and between all those characters even if his ambitions were curbed more. Personally, I think the problems with that game lie more in the gameplay and voice direction.

    As an aside since there's apparently a misconception here, a lot of fans "raised on the Adventure games", and specifically those who were raised on the GameCube ports, more often than not played the classic games with Mega Collection and Gem Collection if not CD ports of various games. From what I can gather (take with a grain of salt) A lot of those people quite enjoy both styles of games and narratives. Yes, there will always be some who didn't and don't, but it's not a clear divide and really shouldn't be treated as such. Some people only care about the series taking itself a bit more seriously with a little more dignity. *Hops off his soapbox*
     
  14. SystemsReady

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    Additional context: I was technically "raised on the adventure games" if only because I came out in that sweet spot that allowed me to know and play the original titles AND have SA1 and SA2 come out on the Dreamcast, both within my early childhood. Sonic talking was HUGE to nine-year-old me, and that kind of colors it as the aforementioned "cool older kid that lets you hang out with him" vibe I previously mentioned. I wanted to be Sonic so badly as a kid.

    Also, I hated Heroes. A lot. I hate "THE REAL SUPER POWER OF TEAMWORK" and the translation, but weirdly I don't remember the nitty gritty details of the characterization in that game aside from how weirdly soulless Team Rose was and kind of annoying Chaotix was to me. But again, that is also colored by how I was 14 when I first played it. Oddly, I also didn't like SA2 very much until I was that age - it always seemed too gritty and dark for "Sonic" when I was a kid when it first released, a feeling that still drives the things I dislike about the game.

    Nowadays of course, I'm almost 30, but SA1!Sonic trying so hard to be extreeeeeme until things get serious still brings a smile to my face, and the same is true of my other IRL friends who love those games (and even later ones), warts and all. The cheese and tryhardness is part of the charm, especially if you're the kind of adult who has finally decided to throw away the notion of "putting away childish things" and embracing the things you like regardless of what other people might think. It might be harder to "get" that if you're younger than me and didn't have that impact of SA1 (the Dreamcast SA1) first coming out when you were a kid, nor are old enough to finally get so sick of "mature" appearances and just embrace the things you grew up with, perception of other adults be damned.
     
  15. TheKazeblade

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    I came up in the Adventure era, but due to not getting a Dreamcast for a decent amount of time after becoming a fan of the character through Archie comics, I had the benefit of playing most of the classics as well as 3D Blast, R and watching Adventures, the OVA and SatAM prior to actually playing more than the Adventure demo kiosk at Hollywood Video.

    All that to say, I had partaken in most of the various iterations of the character that had existed in the States before actually seeing what Adventure Sonic was like as a character and for that reason I feel like I already had developed a sort of amalgamated concept of what I liked in Sonic's characterization. The averaged out version of Sonic, if you will.

    Sonic in Adventure I would argue has great moments, as he does also in Adventure 2, but frankly I think what fans who think this is the end all be all version of the character are REALLY perceiving the character to be are just the blanks that they filled in with their imaginations between the Sonic they wanted and the actual Sonic we were presented. Sonic said lines that due to the framing of Sonic as a cool character, they perceived to BE cool. Lines that really probably weren't intended to be a deeper facet of the character were made out to be in their minds because they needed to make up the distance in their minds between their perception of Sonic and the character they were being presented, so giving more weight to scenarios than they should probably have.

    I like the ideas Adventure attempts to present, but in execution, removed from nostalgia and bias to the best of my abilities, they are a mess.

    But to play both sides of the field, I don't think Colors accomplishes anything in terms of successfully presenting a compelling character, though I'm sure that those arguing such are doing so more from a place of not wanting Sonic to have a plot that comes anywhere near approaching prominent. I don't want to imply that its just trying to be contrarian to combat a distaste for "Serious Sonic", because I don't want to be that cynical, but I can't personally see how Colors was handled as anything more than the swinging of the pendulum from when Sonic was taking itself TOO seriously. I find either extreme to be extremely cringey.

    With that said and in full acknowledgement of my own bias, the OVA is what I would say best represents the character I believe to be "Sonic Prime."
     
  16. Dek Rollins

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    There is nothing TOO serious about Adventure 1.
     
  17. TheKazeblade

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    I didn't claim there was. Those issues came afterwards. But I think that Colors defenders as far as characterization is concerned would argue it is.
     
  18. Beamer the Meep

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    I had the pleasure of watching your video on why Sonic isn't "cool" anymore Kaze, and while I don't agree which the position that Sonic characters shouldn't talk (That's what I got out of it at least, do correct me if that's not the case) I did agree with the sentiment that they should show "coolness" through action whether it's with dialogue or alone rather than relying heavily on dialogue to do it.

    I can also see your point about the pendulum swinging both ways between SA1 and Colors, but there has to be a middle ground somewhere right? Personally, I think Unleashed might have had a good balance with Sonic's characterization since he's doing a lot more action than talking, and what dialogue there isn't doesn't come across as forced in either direction. I can't recall any other game that handled it as well so I have to ask, has Sega ever pulled that off elsewhere post Adventure?
     
  19. TheKazeblade

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    I would agree that Unleashed is pretty close to a middle ground, and tonally I think that Unleashed's story is definitely what should be aimed for in a more involved attempt at plot. As far as Sonic's characterization, I think that there are, like the Adventure titles, great moments, but overall Sonic is portrayed more as generic hero than a distinct character. Again, I'm partial to the OVA's jerk with a heart of gold approach, which isn't to say how he is handled in Unleashed isn't inadequate. But Unleashed is probably at the very least a good minimum to aim for!

    Also, flattered you enjoyed the video :) my approach there was more that if the games weren't going to to put the effort into doing voiced characters right, they shouldn't do it at all, or at least not a lot. But I probably could have worded it better!
     
  20. SystemsReady

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    God I still love OVA!Sonic. The Mania Adventures Sonic still has that similar cockiness but rounded off the "SHUT UP TAILS" aspects, IMO.

    I wouldn't put SA1 on the end of the swinging pendulum of "serious vs comedic", because really the game isn't nearly as serious as it could be (even though Eggman tries to nuke Station Square!!) - as evidenced by SA2, which I think is far, far more serious than SA1. SA1's threats, nuke attempt aside, are intangible and vague - largely a product of its messy plot - but SA2 starts with Sonic having to escape captivity and never really lets up.
     
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