In retrospect SA2's secret level is really bizarre.

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Frostav, Jun 9, 2022.

  1. Frostav

    Frostav

    Member
    581
    174
    43
    (I assume every single person here knows about it, but I made the title spoiler-free just to be safe)

    I reinstalled SA2B on Steam today to possibly start a new Chao Garden, but in my constant procrastination because of how much work making a good one would be, I ended up just messing around the world map and picked the GHZ secret level you get if you cheat like me get all the emblems.

    This is such a weird level, because it's an extremely faithful recreation of GHZ act 1 and I cannot deny...it works? Like, it's janky, and the camera is a bit messed up, but it's so incredibly strange that Sonic Team made a level proving that the more classic style of level design can work with their 3D engine at the time, and then just never ever tried it again. With some minor tweaks, I can easily see a whole game built on SA2's engine with level design that expands on their GHZ remake, but they just like...did not do that. It's truly bizarre. The level even runs on the Dreamcast without issue, so it's not like the Windy Valley beta where the console couldn't handle it.

    It isn't like the level is a completely unfitting mess that doesn't work with SA2's physics. It works, at least in my eyes. And compared to SA2's extremely streamlined linear level design almost entirely devoid of multiple layered paths, it sticks out like a sore thumb even more.
     
  2. Yeah... that GHZ was so not worth the immense effort it took to unlock it. I'm glad I did for completions sake and to properly experience the stage instead of vicariously, but incompletely, experiencing it via YT videos.

    Oh, and while I'd like to agree with your point about its pseudo-non-linearity benefiting the stage, I unfortunately, but genuinely, believe the opposite. We may've thought that we wanted 1:1 recreations of classic stages in SA/SA2, but the reality as far as I'm concerned is that any recreations desperately needed to be reformulated, however slight or significant, to really work in the Adventure engine(s?). It was a novel experience, and rewarding enough to unlock and blaze through the stage, but I didn't find it fun and so never revisited it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2022
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  3. Beltway

    Beltway

    The most grateful Sonic fan of all time this week Member
    1,576
    124
    43
    Sega of Darkest Peru
    Artwork and classes
    It's so alien to the rest of the game, I honestly would not be surprised if it was guest designed by someone outside the development team. (On that note, curious to know if a level map for it exists. Due to it being a hidden bonus level, I don't believe it was covered by Prima Games when they made level maps for the rest of the game's stages.)

    And uh, yeah. Perplexing and frustrating they tried it once (like a lot of things with Sonic and 3D), got some things right, and just....never did it again.

    Part of me is curious to try the level out for myself, but to hell with the idea of grinding for 100% completion of a game I don't even like all that much.
     
  4. FollOw

    FollOw

    Show me da wae Oldbie
    421
    35
    28
    I was so desperate to play this level but couldn't be bothered to get it the legit way. I bough an action replay disc for gamecube and I regret nothing. At that time it was amazing to experience GHZ in 3D.
     
    • Like Like x 5
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • List
  5. Azookara

    Azookara

    yup Member
    I find GHZ in SA2 nearly unplayable, haha.

    The camera is dreadful. It whips around like mad following the level layout. And it gets caught on everything, which kind of explains why 3D Sonic quickly decided to go against vertical-stacking level design. We were far before any game had fully mastered the camera system, and Sonic certainly wasn't gonna be the first to crack it. The Dreamcast lacking a second analog stick really didn't help either, making it impossible to tweak the camera position besides relying on the (pretty unreliable for camera) triggers.

    Combine that with the sheer amount of pits it had due to trying a literal translation of GHZ Act 1 in 3D, aaaaand yeah it's terrible to navigate imo. So much of that stage is built on blind jumps, unless you take the slowest, most boring route.

    It was just too early IMO to be trying any of this. GHZ feels like such a weird reward for that reason. You work so hard and the end result is a really frustrating level that I think tells you exactly why Sonic Team decided more linear level design was the way to go (at least for the time being).
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • List
  6. _oliver

    _oliver

    Member
    258
    108
    43
    Oregon
    I've always thought SA2's green hill was just ok. It's a cool translation of the original green hill 1 and nothing more, just a bonus for the most dedicated players.
    It wasn't meant to be SEGA dipping their toes into open level design, it was just a cool reward.
    Although, I could be wrong though, the sonic stages in 06 definitely do lean further into more open stage design with lots of branching paths that weren't nearly as linear as SA2 or even SA1 in some cases. Maybe they really were trying to iterate on what green hill started?
    Of course, this evolution was all thrown out the window with Unleashed completely throwing out the adventure formula. (I don't think that's a bad thing, though.)
     
  7. Beltway

    Beltway

    The most grateful Sonic fan of all time this week Member
    1,576
    124
    43
    Sega of Darkest Peru
    Artwork and classes
    I'm hesitant about using the GHZ remake as an example against vertically-stacked level design in 3D, because I think the level commits the mistake of scaling the size of the level map much bigger than it needs to be. The separation of the routes feels stretched out to the point that it makes Sonic relatively tiny in comparison. The springs (especially the one at the cliff, from the first part of the stage) never gave Sonic the huge amount of airtime in the original game as they do here. Same with the giant dash panel/ramp after the S-tubes. (A part of me guesses that the level map was retrofitted for SA2's stage mechanics, rather than the other way around.) It's identical to how a handful of 3D fan projects have Sonic fly off ramps and he has moon physics that have him take forever to land, due to him having landscapes that are colossal in scope on top of unrestrained momentum properties.

    I've got zero defense for that camera though. I guess part of it is trying to replicate the 2D view of the original stage and showcase how they took advantage of 3D space to recreate the level map to go in multiple directions (rather than just simply have it reproduced in one direction). But I feel like it actively makes the level ten times worse than what it actually is. Is there a mod out there that tries giving the stage a camera that functions more like Sonic's/Shadow's levels in the main campaign?
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2022
  8. Frostav

    Frostav

    Member
    581
    174
    43
    I guess I just don't agree with the camera complaints. If the camera kinda sucks a bit in this kinda level design then fuck it, I don't care. Besides, any game post SA2 would have been on a console with a full second analog stick (GCN, PS2, and OG Xbox), so using SA2's slightly poor camera because of the DC's lack of that feature isn't a very good excuse.

    Maybe it's because I've been playing these 3D Sonic games my whole life but I really have once never thought the camera was even that bad to begin with. I played through SA1, SA2, Heroes, Shadow, 06, and Unleashed as a kid and not once ever as a kid (the time where I would be, ya know, terrible at video games and much worse at compensating for poor game design with skill/knowledge) did I think "wow, this camera fucking sucks". I honestly don't know where tf this complaint comes from, especially since it's one of the most common ones lobbed at these games by grown ass adults who I am, optimistically, assuming aren't dumber than a goddamn 10 year old playing Shadow the Hedgehog on his gamecube in 2005.
     
  9. Azookara

    Azookara

    yup Member
    You seem to be blowing up something I didn't quite say, lol. Seriously, what are you getting heated over?

    The camera in SA2 is overall fine. In GHZ, however, I wouldn't say it is at all. It's hard to wrangle, and yes the fact that it was a Dreamcast game does explain the shortcomings, because the SA games (and their cameras) were designed before a time where a full-movement camera was available. What about those statements is attacking your uhh.. way of playing these games, or what have you? It's just statements.
     
  10. Laura

    Laura

    Brightened Eyes Member
    The camera in SA1 and SA2 aren't good and it's not enough just to say you don't have problems with them.

    If you want concrete examples, in SA1 in Emerald Coast near the beginning of the stage at the walkways, the camera jumps about in different angles and changes the direction of the thumbstick inputs. This makes it confusing to know which direction of the thumbstick you should push to make Sonic go forwards.

    In SA2, the camera is a lot better, but in the DC original you couldn't move it dynamically. Can't remember if this was changed in Battle but it was a problem in the original. You could move it with the right thumbstick in first person but then it would just stick right back to where it was once you started moving. Was a nightmare when doing jumps on the more difficult levels. Crazy Gadget comes to mind.

    I love SA1 and SA2 but the camera was bad even by the standards of the time.
     
  11. Wildcat

    Wildcat

    Member
    248
    76
    28
    I also just got Action Replay for this. I think at time it was an amazing secret stage. The novelty of it. I think it played ok but it obviously wasn’t meant to be 3D.

    Once Generations came it blew it away.
     
  12. kyasarintsu

    kyasarintsu

    Member
    239
    64
    28
    More than anything, I was disappointed that it was only a single act. I tried to milk my time in this single level for as much as I could, because I really wanted to justify all that time I spent doing some tedious things to get there.
    The direct translation of the level felt so weird to me. Full of 90-degree angles, everything's fairly cramped, some of the camera angles were pretty weird. With Sonic's movement abilities you kinda just fly through everything in the blink of an eye and the level's over before you know it. There's seemingly little consideration for how easily the level can be broken, and skipping over stuff here doesn't even feel like I'm doing anything cool but just makes me feel sorry for the poor thing that couldn't really challenge or contain me.
    It was really cute and I appreciate the sentiment a lot, but it was certainly not worth it and it was not at all a satisfying reward. Even detached from its air of mystery and the sheer amount of work that the level takes to get to, it probably would probably still be a disappointment from its length and simplicity alone—it's honestly only the novelty and charm of the thing that holds up.
     
  13. Aerosol

    Aerosol

    Not here. Moderator
    10,953
    306
    63
    Not where I want to be.
    Sonic (?): Coming summer of 2055...?
    My favourite thing about it was the implication that GHZ was off the coast of San Francisco.
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  14. Wildcat

    Wildcat

    Member
    248
    76
    28
    Oh ya it definitely should have been all 3 acts with the wrecking ball boss. I remember thinking why didn’t they do the whole thing? I’m not saying use Classic Robotnik. I mean just replicate a similar fight with Modern Eggman.
     
  15. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    Classic Eggman art Member
    I liked to see MD Green Hill scaled to 3D and enjoyed the level, but I agree is not a good enough reward for so many emblems, it should have been a reward for beating the last story. I unlocked it almost legitly on DC (I had help from friends to get the emblems from the awful kart races) and played the level a good bunch of times as a novelty, but I spent more time with the emblemless missions of Cannon's Core (never got beyond a C in Hard Mode :(). My favourite two things of playing this were using the wacky overpowered light speed attack on the buzz bomber trail of the upper part of the level (that's how you break any sense of physics) and using Magic Hands on leaping Choppers to run through the level with my pet fish. Yes, I know silly stuff. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, it was a bit like playing Sonic's World in Jam (never got a saturn, but I did that in promo cabinets), so I sort of get Frostav's fondness of it.
     
  16. Swifthom

    Swifthom

    A Friend Remembers... Member
    149
    46
    28

    I agree it's bad... And if SA1 and SA2 were to be updated for modern consoles the camera is the number 1 thing I'd look to improve.
    But when you say even by standards of the time?

    That second analogue stick is absolutely paramount in all modern 3D games to give player control over their viewpoint. Going back to all games pre when the PS2 set the design standard for the industry none of them have it. From memory it was around Heroes, and definitely 100% Shadow the Hedgehog, where the backlash to the camera became so overpowering it was a leading statement in the diminishing review scores.

    I'm not saying no-one criticised it in SA1 or SA2 - it was definitely mentioned by reviewers as something players would have to adjust to - but the overall 3D platformer market was uniformly bad at this back then - and actually, compared to some of the absolute dross out there... The camera in SA1 and SA2 is better than many.
    (and - I hate to say it - but I am convinced the SA:DX port retroactively makes the camera worse than it was on the original Dreamcast - as your example of Emerald Coast in specific got far worse for the port compared to the original)

    .... Back on topic - personally - whilst I was always okay with the camera in SA2 I do think the open design of the green hill zone level shows off its worst features. And the fact the level is so massive whilst Sonic is small as already pointed out.
     
  17. Laura

    Laura

    Brightened Eyes Member
    I remember from contemporary reviews of SA2 that the opinion was generally that 3D platformers had poor camera controls but that SA2's camera has a tendency to get stuck on objects more than is typical and that most 3D platformers at the time at least let you move the camera without it snapping. Gamesmaster UK is one I remember (and they gave SA2 90%!)
     
  18. Overlord

    Overlord

    Now playable in Smash Bros Ultimate Moderator
    18,671
    614
    93
    Berkshire, England
    Learning Cymraeg
    Can confirm, both SA1 and 2 have always been notorious for poor cameras, including in reviews at the time. It's something Sonic Team struggled with for years, I'd argue it only stopped being a real problem around the time Boost took over as the main playstyle.
     
  19. SystemsReady

    SystemsReady

    I Have No Idea What I'm Doing At Any Given Moment Member
    875
    281
    63
    The Twin Cities
    trying to not fall asleep while writing Selenium tests
    can also confirm. that and "slippery controls" were basically the "Sonic's rough transition to 3D" of reviews before Unleashed.

    The SA2 GHZ is...fine. It's novel but I always thought it was a too-literal translation of the level. The way you're basically facing the level at a completely different angle makes it feel kind of wrong, and floating in space over a bottomless pit adds to that.

    I do think it was a decent reward for all emblems though, as someone who did manage to do that on the GCN. It blew my mind even if the execution wasn't really there for me.
     
  20. Frostav

    Frostav

    Member
    581
    174
    43
    I think a lot of people in here are responding as if I'm saying that the 3D games should have exactly copied the GHZ1 remake's level design, which...I'm not. I've noticed that this happens a lot in Sonic fandom discussions where someone goes "I think they should done more stuff like X" and people go "SO YOU WANT THEM TO JUST COPY X EXACTLY WITH ALL OF ITS FLAWS" and that's like not what they're saying? At all??????

    I agree with most people here on their criticisms of the level itself. What I was trying to say was that I saw in it a glimpse of a good idea that could have been expanded upon. "The camera is a bit wonky" isn't a good criticism IMO because they could have just made the camera better next time. It's not like they made it better in the actual timeline we're in! It's the thing I'm talking about in the above paragraph: people always go "they couldn't have done X because there was fundamental issues with their engine/design philosophy" and like...I know. I'm saying they could have fixed those along with it. Sonic Team made the games. They could have just made the camera better, and made their levels dip from the well of the Genesis games design philosophy more. They didn't have to make Heroes an extremely linear mess of miserably long levels with reused setpieces and sections where you just use arbitrary moves to automate your way past an obstacle.

    An entire game in on the 6th gen consoles that was designed like the GHZ1 remake, in SA2's engine, with zero improvements to controls or camera, would be a bit of a mess, yes, I think we can all agree on that. But I'm not saying they should have made that, I'm saying that they could have looked at that level, thought "hey, this more classic style of level design isn't completely broken in our engine, so how about we hone that and try to make slightly more complex levels than SA2's extremely linear rollercoasters next time?"

    And I would have liked to see that. That's all I'm saying.

    I am truly bewildered by people going "but it doesn't work perfectly in the SA2 engine" like the idea of them improving the engine and adapting the level design philosophy to work within it is just an assumed impossibility for like, no reason.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2022