Sandopolis Zone, Act 2: The hardest act in the game.

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by theyogwog, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. theyogwog

    theyogwog

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    I got to thinking about the levels in Sonic 3 last night. I ended up wondering which act is objectively the hardest of them all. I concluded it must be 9-2, aka Sandopolis Zone, Act 2, for several reasons.

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    1. Lack of shields. Now I'm not an expert on everything in this level and it wouldn't surprise me if there's more shields here than I'm aware of, but it does definitely seem like there's a lot fewer shields than in most acts. To be honest I only know of one, shown in the pic, near the starting point.

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    2. Endless loop maze (I guess there's probably a better term for this type of thing but I'm not sure). It's confusing at first until you learn the correct path. It winds down the clock, which I've often heard players talk about how this act is unusually time consuming. And in fact it is a relatively long act even if you don't get lost, several of the other zones can be completed in their entirety in the time it takes to finish the content of this one act.

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    3. Timed doorway switches. Again, maybe there's a better term for these than "switches", but whatever. It's a gimmick that appears frequently throughout the act. It's not much fun to interact with, and the ticking sound it makes during the countdown is loud and obnoxious, :ssh: making it pretty tedious at times to have to deal with. The fact that they're timed makes it a lot tougher too, the designers did a fairly good job ensuring that some switches really challenge players to get through the doors before they close in the time allotted.

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    4. Scorpions (Yet again, I apologize for not knowing the proper name). I have to say, this enemy must certainly rank in the top-tier for all enemies in the game. I can't think of any other enemy offhand that is as consistently dangerous, aggressive, and formidable as these things. They're pretty cool, IMO, and I think you can tell a lot more thought went into these things than such enemies as Rhinobot, for one. Killing one involves knowing how to manipulate it's behavior in such a way as to create a safe opening to attack it from. That or having a certain... swagger about you, that you're able to react to its movements quickly enough, and correctly, to execute a counter- or preemptive-attack.

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    5. Auto-scrolling. If you don't go clear the obstacles fast enough, you'll be crushed, no different from the auto-scrolling segments at beginning of HCZ2 and towards the end of MGZ2. The nature of autoscrolling is that it's more punishing and less forgiving of errors compared to other gimmicks and non-autoscrolling areas, which helps to foster a feeling of being pressured or even panic if things get ugly, for the player. It's something that's only used in a few different levels and even then only in short bursts, so in my mind the mere presence of auto-scrolling in 9-2, in addition to everything else this Act throws at you, scores extra difficulty points.

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    6. Lights. In a way, this is like a second timed switch gimmick to be kept track of. You need to always keep in mind the current lighting inside the pyramid, while also keeping an eye open for the switches that relight the candles. This requires you to multitask and serves as a distraction from the main action that's going on. Just in case anyone's wondering, I separated the lights from the ghosts because until the lights actually go out, the ghosts are little more than additional indicators as to the time remaining on the most recently activated light switch. The two are so closely related to one another, though, that I could see consolidating these last 2 points into 1.

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    7. Ghosts. I'm not sure whether to classify them as a gimmick or an enemy, but whatever they are, they're iconic and memorable. No other level has anything like them. What they bring to the Act in terms of difficulty is basically a more frantic and intense multitasking game than in 6. If you're busy managing the ghosts, that affects your decision making, making it easy to overlook minor details. If you miscalculate a jump and land a little bit off from where you intended, there's a good chance you won't be able to react in time to avoid getting hit (either by the ghosts or something else) because you weren't predicting that you would've needed to. In other words, the real threat of the collective ghosts isn't that they will attack you, it's that they will distract you.

    So yeah. Lack of shields, a looping maze, situational timed switches, advanced enemies, auto-scrolling, ongoing timed switches, and to top it all off, Ghosts. I don't know of any other level that contains such an amount and variety of content, mixed together in such a challenging combination.
     
  2. Uberham

    Uberham

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    One of my favourite acts.

    I would use knuckles and just explore when I was a kid, I know every inch of that place.
     
  3. RetroKoH

    RetroKoH

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    Ah Sandopolis.... What sweet painful memories I have of you.

    BTW there is more than 1 shield. BUT they are hard to find... as are Big Rings...


    I consider myself a somewhat skilled player, and even on a good run, I still take roughly 5 minutes to play through. I'll take a playthrough tomorrow to see how I do and post a screencap.
     
  4. Blue Wisp

    Blue Wisp

    Easy on the car okay Member
    This Zone really bothered me when I first arrived. It was so annoying and I always got lost, specially in Act 2. But otherwise it's a fine act, not one of my favourites but oh well.
    The music is great though, got to give it credit!
     
  5. Dr. Corndog

    Dr. Corndog

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    It's hard for me to judge seeing as I've played this game through literally about 20 times, so none of it is really hard anymore (plus it's just been a while), but this act was probably the hardest when I first played it. One of the Death Egg acts is probably what gives me the most trouble these days.
     
  6. Sonic Scotland

    Sonic Scotland

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    I played through this again recently and all the elements mentioned above made for a very entertaining level.
     
  7. theyogwog

    theyogwog

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    Yeah I just recently developed a new appreciation for both acts of Sandopolis. It's one of a few levels that in the past I hardly ever played if I didn't have to, so I was pretty bad at it. I began practicing it to improve for the project I'm working on and it started to grow on me. It was like listening to an old album and suddenly having it click for the first time :) It's still not among my favorites but I respect it probably more than any other one just for its difficulty and design and everything that went into it.

    Cool, I'll be interested to see how you do.

    When I was a kid I used to get stuck on the sandslides. I thought there was dozens of them and it was overwhelming so I just jumped around randomly until I finally lucked out on the right path. It took me a while to realize that it was just the same few slides repeating over and over, lol. I agree about the music too, it's pretty rad.
     
  8. Jen

    Jen

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    To be honest, I never used to have massive amounts of trouble with this level back in the day. It was the length of it that used to get me more than anything - I used to find it a bit tedious when I was a kid. I seem to remember getting squished by the rising sand a fair few times at first as well, but that was about the only thing that was ever an issue as far as I recall. It was a nice challenge but it wasn't the hardest level for me - that would have to be Death Egg Act 2 (and Doomsday - my god did I have some tantrums over that one XD Piece of cake nowadays though). To be fair, nothing in Sonic 3 & Knuckles is difficult to me any more because I've been playing it on a very regular basis since 1994, but to this day if there's one level which will sometimes cause me to lose a life in some ridiculous fashion, it's always Death Egg Act 2 without fail. I have no idea why, it just always seems to get me somehow!

    Going back to Sandopolis, nowadays I really enjoy playing through it despite the length of it, it's a pretty fun level. The ghost/light gimmick in particular is quite cool, I've always thought that was a nice idea.
     
  9. Dragon Dude

    Dragon Dude

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    Oh man, I used to just ragequit as soon as I got to the endless vertically scrolling, er, maze.
    For you noobs out there, just jump as soon as you see the sand-slide that crosses the one you're on. You'll have to do this twice.
    I think the developers could have put something else there. Something less rage-inducing.
    Also, I dare anybody to go through the entire act with the lights out and post it on YouTube. Extra points if you only die once.
     
  10. Deef

    Deef

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    Honestly, once you do that you kind of go "Oh", and then realise how successful the game was at making you fear the ghosts way more than they were worth.
    I always avoid the lights when I play Sandopolis 2. Ghosts through the whole act is just what the level needs, for me.
     
  11. Covarr

    Covarr

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    While certainly my least favorite level in the game, I never found it that hard. Death Egg Zone (either act) or the beginning of Hydrocity 2 are both harder, IMO.
     
  12. muteKi

    muteKi

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    Actually easiest way to get across that sandslide maze is just jump when you see the moving platform.


    Loved this act a lot. There are a couple shields accessible as Sonic that I know of -- one's a water shield in a pushblock trap (truly the revenge of the marble zone pushblock) found not too far after the rising sand segments if you go to the left side; the other is a flame shield where the path that split from there meets up again, to the left of a VERY long sand slide.
     
  13. Hukos

    Hukos

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    It's entirely possible to skip most of the points you brought up (Including the ghosts!) through the vertical scrolling glitch or Hyper Sonic! :eng101:

    Though I suppose the average player doesn't attempt to glitch Sandopolis up the asshole.

    Still, I never thought Sandopolis was that hard, just long. Difficulty in Sonic games is an odd thing, because of how the "health" system works. You can get hit over and over again and still not die. It makes it difficult to justify Sandopolis as a "difficult" level in that case.
     
  14. Uberham

    Uberham

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    Nope, you can avoid popping the capsule, but ghosts turn up anyway.
     
  15. GeneHF

    GeneHF

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    Boring stage. Serves as a cool down from Flying Battery before the upward shift Lava Reef 2 begins.
     
  16. theyogwog

    theyogwog

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    True, this doesn't factor in the use of glitches. I'm not sure if that's something that should be considered or not, but yeah most players probably will not use them.


    That works the same throughout the game, you can get hit repeatedly in all the levels until you run out of rings. By that logic, wouldn't it be equally hard to evaluate/justify the difficulty of any of them? In Sonic, health is a poor measure of difficulty due to the nature of the power rings system. In general, health is affected by difficulty, but doesn't determine it.

    I think this is especially true in Sonic, where a lot of the depth including difficulty has a lot to do with level design. None of the levels in Sonic are really that hard to complete. Sonic is a game based first and foremost around replay value, and the design is focused on that. Incidentally, it actually is pretty tough to play the game well or "as intended".
     
  17. Ravenfreak

    Ravenfreak

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    I had trouble making it through this act a few times when I was younger, got a time over almost every time I made it here. Now it doesn't effect me too bad, but I do complete the act within 5 minutes. I'm seriously thinking about making through the act in a faster time than usual, but I tend to take the same routes over and over again. :v: I'm not the best when it comes to exploring levels in the Sonic games, I usually tend to rush through them as fast as possible. (Yet I have to get the Chaos Emeralds, otherwise I feel incomplete. xD)
     
  18. Hukos

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    The ghosts only turn up if you touch a checkpoint. It's entirely possible to go through all of act 2 without touching a single checkpoint and thus never encounter the ghosts (There's one checkpoint that's difficult to avoid due to the momentum from the sand slide, but it is possible to not touch it). I've done it myself. Of course... doing this requires you to know your shit about how the game works so yeah, the average joe isn't going to think to do this kind of thing. :v:
     
  19. Uberham

    Uberham

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    Never researched it that far, seemed like they just showed up anyway.....
     
  20. Retroman

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    Ghost Explanation:

    Sonic Team Commentary (from Sonic Jam Strategy Guide)
    “ Here's the desert stage, something that hadn't appeared in the series until this point, so we were able to make it relatively free of earlier influences. The ghosts appearing in the second half are the first enemies who weren't made by Eggman. When he infiltrated the pyramid, he must have worked very hard to trap them inside that box." —Takashi Iizuka

    "Courtesy of Sonic Retro Wiki - Sandopolis Zone"