Sonic 3 Character Analysis

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

  1. theyogwog


    S3K Analysis
    There are 3 playable characters in Sonic 3 (and Knuckles). Each has a unique signature ability with different strengths and weaknesses that result in a different playing experience. Let's start by examining those abilities in detail.

    Character: Sonic
    Ability: Insta-Shield
    Use: By pressing the jump button during any jump
    Reset: Once per jump
    Cancel: N/A
    Effect: Causes a brief moment of invincibility against all forms of damage
    Effect: Increases range of Spin Jump, allowing it to affect enemies from slightly further away, and thus penetrate certain enemy resistances to Spin Jump
    Note: With an Elemental Shield on, Insta-Shield is disabled and replaced by the Elemental Shield's Active effect (which only Sonic can use)
    Comment: It's like Sonic's real ability is having 4 different ones.

    Character: Tails
    Ability: Fly
    Use: By tapping a jump button
    Reset: Every time Tails is hit or touches the ground
    Cancel: Cannot be canceled once it's initiated except by being hit or touching ground
    Effect: Able to carry Sonic during flight or just fly around alone, for up to about 8 seconds, after which time Tails will quickly descend
    Effect: Hitting an enemy by flying into them from below causes damage, with rebound
    Note: If underwater, Tails will swim instead but while swimming Tails can't carry Sonic or damage enemies from below
    Comment: Mainly only useful for bypassing platforming sections and avoiding death by enemies/drowning, ineffective and impractical to use offensively

    Character: Knuckles
    Ability: Glide
    Use: By pressing and holding the jump button during any jump
    Reset: Once per jump
    Cancel: Taking damage cancels the glide and causes knockback, automatic cancellation and rebound against bosses
    Cancel: Releasing the jump button will instantly cancel the Glide, causing Knuckles to drop straight down and briefly pause (crouch) upon landing
    Effect: Steadily descend through the air while moving forward at near running speed
    Effect: Damages enemies and reflects projectiles from the front without interrupting the glide or momentum
    Effect: Gliding into or attempting to glide while touching most walls will cause Knuckles to grab onto the wall which he can then climb up or down
    Note: Spin jumping onto an enemy/monitor and activating Glide just as Knuckles makes contact will launch him high into the air
    Note: Since Knuckles always crouches when Glide is canceled manually, it's sometimes possible to quickly perform a spin dash even on steep slopes
    Comment: Instant acceleration/deceleration make it a lot like a slower but more controllable super spin dash

    Next, let's take a quick look at the Elemental Shields:

    Type: Fire
    Active: Jump horizontally
    Passive: Immune to fire
    Note: Canceled by water

    Type: Lightning
    Active: Jump vertically
    Passive: Attract nearby power rings
    Note: Canceled by water and taking damage

    Type: Water
    Active: Jump straight down with rebound
    Passive: Breathe underwater
    Note: Canceled by taking damage

    So far we've looked at what we already know about the various abilities and shields. Now it's time to get a little bit more subjective. If anyone is still interested, I'd like to encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts and opinions about what all of the above means for the gameplay experience with the different characters. I'll start by submitting my own observations below.

    I'll admit I'm somewhat biased as Sonic is my favorite character. He feels powerful and untouchable, better able to race through levels destroying everything in his path than the other characters. With the E. Shields at his disposal, it's really like he has 4 signature abilities. Except that he can only use 1 at a time, and most of them are inherently unreliable to the extent that they're dependent on having an E. Shield, which depends on which level is being played and whether or not any E. Shield monitors have been reached yet. Plus, there's always a chance of getting hit and losing the shield at any time. This unpredictable nature can be mitigated substantially by skill and experience, however. Overall, Sonic probably has the greatest fun factor, versatility (he can do a lot of stuff), and offense of anyone despite the fact that he can't glide, climb, swim, or fly.

    No offense to Tails fans, but IMO Tails has the simplest ability and the most boring gameplay. Flying makes platforming easier and more forgiving than for anyone else, and also gives him the greatest survivability underwater and in boss fights. However, flying is really the only thing he can do for the whole game, and on top of that, it tends to slowdown the action when he does. He has the most raw mobility, but he's seriously lacking in utility and offense compared to Sonic and Knuckles. In a way, he's kind of hard to play in that his weakness in other areas helps offset the helpfulness of Fly. Still, if Sonic 3 had a difficulty setting, playing as Tails would be like playing on easy mode.

    Knuckles has good mobility, partially due to his excellent utility (the stuff he can do, is useful in a lot of ways), and he has great handling/control. Glide adds a little bit of improvement to a lot of different attributes. As we all know he can't jump as high as Sonic and Tails, and I don't think he can run quite as fast, and he seems to be slightly more heavy in general. His campaign is also shorter and consists of more difficult boss battles, so I'm not sure whether this makes it harder or easier to complete the game with him.

    I'd really like to think more about the idea of skill floors/ceilings for each character too. And I haven't even mentioned transformations. Perhaps a chart is in order to illustrate more clearly what I mean? IDK, anyway I might think of more to say in a later post but for now this is all I can do as writing this has slowly turned my brain to mush and I need to stop now. :psyduck:
  2. theyogwog


    S3K Analysis
    Are the characters balanced? Are any of them over powered? Is Tails underpowered? Whose ability is superior, Sonic's or Knuckles'?

    Is it possible the changes to Knuckles' campaign and jump height were implemented at least in part as balance changes? Or is it more likely to do with level routes and time constraints?

    Would it be fair to think of them not only as characters, but as classes like in a RPG? If so, would each character really constitute a distinct class? Or, would it be more accurate to view them all like different specs within a single class? Sonic-class, Tails spec. Afterall, all their common moves such as spin jumps and dashes originated from Sonic. The core gameplay is fundamentally the same no matter who you play as... compared to if say, Amy Rose was a playable character like in some of the hacks, who relies on a hammer and doesn't into spin jumping that would be more like a separate class don't you think?

    Am I the only one who finds this stuff fascinating? :v:
  3. RetroKoH


    Project Sonic 8x16
    I think many people find this fascinating... the issue is you aren't going to get any feedback, because instead of making topic about things we already have known about since before the age of 10... we are exploring new ways to make this type of gameplay fresh. Want a clue? S Factor... Sonic Classic Heroes... Amy hacks, (and any of E-Psi's character hacks)... You are simply sharing the same thoughts and feelings that virtually everyone else has about the Sonic 3K gameplay...

    Side note, topic bumps like that one you just did there PROBABLY won't help your chances when you reach 20 posts. Just throwing it out there.
  4. ICEknight


    Researcher Researcher
    Also, immune to electricity.
  5. Tiberious


    Yeah, I'm furry. Got a problem? Oldbie
    Except there's only one hazard in the game that protects against, and that's only in the final zone. Hell, it doesn't even protect against the bolts they give off (there's a spot where you will likely have an electric shield and you can check that out for yourself if you don't believe me).
  6. Deef


    That post could have really been condensed into less than half the space getting straight to the point. The huge intro of old info really kills what attention it might have brought to what it was really meant to focus on. I couldn't bring myself to read through anything properly until "So far..", at which point I had to consciously remind myself that I was still looking for the point.

    I think the different abilities were inspired not by a desire to produce differently playing characters, but by the need to fill the gap Sonic 2 had started to create. If Tails were to appear again in Sonic 3, he absolutely had to be controllable in flight. With Knuckles then coming onto the scene, he absolutely had to have his own moves to match Tails. With these two in mind, Sonic absolutely needed something to compete, so he got the shields.

    I also believe the shields were inspired as a reaction to Mario's suits.

    What it means for the gameplay experience stands out pretty clearly in the games, in my opinion. The other characters moves are novelties, not core pieces of gameplay. Supported, bolstered novelties, but novelties nonetheless. The whole game is still Sonic's game, and when Tails and Knuckles are giving the player the best gameplay is when they are behaving like Sonic, ie, running and rolling. Climbing would have to be the most boring motion you can control in the game, gliding has no control at all except for "stop gliding". Tails' flight gives the player something to play with, but it's still more cumbersome and less rewarding that simply walking. This is demonstrated by the fact that when you fly as Tails, you fly to get somewhere. You don't fly to just fly.

    There are exceptions to the dull controls: picking up Sonic and flying away is fun, swimming feels better because it's an escape from the drudge of underwater walking, and Knuckles bounce-glide is something I think everyone loves. And all of these exceptions are barely acknowledged in the game, if at all, let alone catered for.

    As a result of all this, the extra character abilities really do just function as marginal, novelty gameplay that doesn't carry itself too well. It's Sonic's game. The other guys are more variety appeal than anything else.

    I think a safe definition of balance is who gets used the most. And I think a safe assumption to make is that most people use Sonic the most by far, and not just because he's the hero character. So to me personally, they're not balanced. It was a good attempt, flight vs exploration vs shields, but nope, Sonic wins.

    I put this down to the simple fact that flow is a big deal in a classic Sonic, and always has been. The player wants to keep moving, to convert every quarterpipe and bounce and hill into whatever he has to in order to avoid stopping. It doesn't matter if it's fast or not, but just having to either start walking or spin dash again is not what we want. Sonic is the only character who listens to this. This is also exactly why (for me) the water shield is a pain in the arse. Anyway, this preservation of flow is one of great aspects of the insta-shield also. It even allows Sonic to control jumps in ways that Tails and Knuckles can't. So my thoughts on balance are that it really is about flow, and Sonic is the only character who doesn't mess it up all the time. If Tails' flight or Knuckles' gliding preserved motion better, this could be a different story. Knuckles especially is just awful for keeping the flow going, unless you deliberately avoid all of his moves. His lower jump doesn't help matters either. (Sonic Classic Heroes gives Knuckles the full height jump. So much nicer.)

    In terms of power, Sonic is the most powerful but I wouldn't say any of them are over or underpowered. Tails isn't underpowered, he's just dull. What is superior to you is up to you. I've already talked about flow and power so that'll do me heh.

    Knuckles jump height:
    I'm not sure. It might have been a perceived need for balance. It might have been the easiest way to separate his paths. I'm not really in love with either need.

    Different classes:
    Sonic Heroes yes. Sonic 3&K no. Just 3 characters off the same mould trying to keep their differences balanced. I think like this basically due to my first point: It's Sonic's game. Tails and Knuckles play best when they're playing like Sonic.

    Personally I prefer the differences to be slight, much like Ryu and Ken. Now Amy might be a different story, but when I choose Tails or Knuckles I'd rather it was a matter of taste, not a matter of here's-a-bunch-of-stuff-that-mucks-up-your-Sonic-gameplay. I'd happily see all characters get shield abilities, Knuckles get his full jump height, and Tails' and Knuckles' specials to enter and exit by preserving momentum. Which means huge buffs for them and nothing for Sonic, but eh, that could be worked out.

    (Seconding KoH's motion there, you probably don't want any more double posts showing up in your first 20 when the mods look over them.)
  7. Sparks


    Kyle and Lucy: Wonderworld
    I still never quite understood how some element shields reflected projectiles that weren't really of the same element (or any specified element). It was a life saver, but still confused me.
  8. Beyond Death Egg Zone it also has use in Flying Battery and against the CNZ2 boss (if memory serves).
  9. Dashtube


    'Cause I find memes funny Member
    Sonic Exodus
    Doesn't sparkle (a badnik from Carnival Night Zone) also have an electric attack?
  10. Deef


    I can't think of the lightning shield doing anything particular to Flying Battery....
  11. Hukos


    Yes. I *think* it ignores it if you have the lightning shield, but I haven't tested that despite the disgusting number of playthroughs I've had of that game.

    The boss of act 1 (If memory serves me correctly), whose electricity can be ignored with the lightning shield. The lightning used by Robotnik in act 2 also applies, you can easily use the double jump to hit him without worrying about being hit by the lightning.

    But really, just having a double jump at all times automatically makes the lightning shield the best one. :colbert:
  12. theyogwog


    S3K Analysis
    Hm, I didn't know that about the act 2 boss. I was thinking of playing that later tonight. Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. I've noticed certain shields are super effective against some bosses, it sounds like this might be one such case, like how Flame Mobile and Screw Mobile are vulnerable to flame and aqua shields, respectively, just as another example.

    Double jump is probably the best shield ability but personally my favorite is flame shield's ability. It's almost the same thing just horizontally, which is a pretty cool concept to me. I also like the acceleration like a fireball and being able to quickly change directions without losing too much speed.
  13. ICEknight


    Researcher Researcher
    Yeah, it was like a more balanced version of Modern Sonic's boost because you had to earn it and it could be lost if you fucked up.

    I hope SEGA is reading this.
  14. TheInvisibleSun


    The Flame Shield also breaks LRZ Act 2's boss, and the Electric Shield breaks LBZ Act 2's boss as well, if memory serves.
  15. Facemelt


    Analysing the Fabric of Sonic the Hedgehog
    Always liked the flame shield. Was kind of like an early homing attack or air boost. I used to seriously rage if I lost a shield though :p

    Anyhow I really like the concept. Sounds interesting :)
  16. Puto


    Shin'ichi Kudō, detective. Tech Member
    Portugal, Oeiras
    Part of Team Megamix, but haven't done any actual work in ages.
    Just a little trivia: Knuckles ISN'T slower than Sonic. All three main characters have the same speed and acceleration.
  17. TheInvisibleSun


    Perhaps it might be the sprites/art they used in their respective walking/running animations that had to do with this common misconception? That would certainly explain why this mistake is so universally made.
  18. winterhell


    And Tails is shorter making him invulnerable to some crushing spikes.
  19. dsrb


    It's more likely that it's due to Knuckles's lower jumping height. I can imagine people noticing that and then just assuming it applies to everything else.

    I certainly assumed this. Part of me still isn't convinced, thinking back (without any easy way to test it at the moment), but I have to go with what people say here. :v:
  20. jbr


    I have a vague memory of reading that their speeds are different in 2-player mode, which might explain the misconception if it is true - I thought that each player had a certain advantage, like Sonic is fastest, Tails can jump highest, and Knuckles... not sure. It is most likely I read it in the official Sonic 3 guide, which I don't have any more, so if anyone could confirm whether I'm imagining things that would be great!