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Sonic CD's uneven usage of its four time periods.

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Frostav, Mar 18, 2021.

  1. Frostav


    I absolutely cannot name threads to save my life.

    There's been this thing in the back of my head about CD that's always slightly bugged me. It's not the level design per se, or the two distinct soundtracks, or its unusual and weird diversions from the codified classic Sonic formula that Sonic 2 created. It's more that the game boasts four distinct time periods, but they're used in a very uneven way. The way CD is set up, the present exists solely for you to go to the past. The bad and good futures on the other hand, are weirdly pointless: in the first two acts of each Zone, there is literally zero gameplay reason to go to the future--it holds no special collectibles, thing to destroy, etc. Act 3 always does take place in the future, but they are all extremely short and exist solely to hold the boss arena. So why can you go to the future in the first two acts? I guess just for the fun of it and messing around, but that still seems kinda pointless, because as far as I know the actual level design differences between time periods are pretty minor. If anything, the future posts do nothing but annoy you because you might hit one and then have to figure out how to get rid of it, which is extra great because the sole way of getting rid of it is getting enough speed to time travel and then not actually doing it.

    There's a huge amount of art and music on CD for time periods you barely go in. Even in the Act 3's, you spend like fifteen seconds hearing the future songs before you go to the boss. While the Sonic community has pretty heavily agreed upon 2 acts as the sweet spot for 2D Sonic, I honestly think CD should have been more like Sonic 1, where the third act is a decently long level in its own right before the boss (and also just not have future posts in the first two acts). Then, you can actually experience the future songs and art in an actual level and either enjoy your hard work or be reminded that you didn't do the proper thing in the previous two acts. That could have also let the two futures have more distinct level design; perhaps the good ones can have speedier level design while the bad ones are much slower, more platforming based, and have enemies in the way. In other words, CD would actually reward you for scouring the first two acts and destroying Eggman's machines with a speedy fun level or punish you with a slower more challenging level with much less flow.

    Alternate versions of a level are a thing I absolutely love in video games--everything from Super Meat Boy's Dark World to Mania's Act 2s often differing a lot from their Act 1s--so it's just annoying to me that CD has four versions of each level, but two are incredibly superfluous in terms of actual gameplay.
  2. SystemsReady


    I Have No Idea What I'm Doing At Any Given Moment Member
    The Twin Cities
    trying to not fall asleep while writing Selenium tests
    with regards to Good Futures, they have no enemies - which makes it easier to beat the act with 50 rings for the special stages. it is also, of course, faster and less annoying.
  3. Frostav


    Well, that makes sense, but...

    ...the entire point of doing the special stages is to get time stones so you don't have to do the time travel. If you've already made a good future, why bother with the special stages?
  4. rata


    Trying to be useful somehow.
    What he means is, until you don't get all stones, go to past to get a good future, then run safely without enemies to have better chance of getting to the end with 50 rings. Then if you got all the time stones, all you have to do is hit the Future sign on acts 1 and 2 to go through them without enemies.
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  5. muteKi


    Fuck it Member
    Wacky Workbench Good Future is also the only one without the dang electrical coils firing off every like half a minute or whatever it is
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  6. DefinitiveDubs


    The Voice Maestro Member
    Cyber City
    Mega Man Zero: The Definitive Dub
    I've seen plenty of people who think CD's time periods simply changing the aesthetic and music is enough to make it worthwhile. I say it isn't. If that's all it was, then that didn't need to be a gimmicky mechanic that hinders Sonic's gameplay. It should've just been a simple system where Act 1 is the present, Act 2 is the past, and so on. The only way in which the time periods justify their existence is forcing you into them at almost-unavoidable areas, resulting in random difficulty spikes for the bad future, and padding gameplay length for those who are such masochists that they enjoy looking everywhere for a past sign, then looking everywhere for the doohicky.
  7. Beltway


    The most grateful Sonic fan of all time this week Member
    Sega of Darkest Peru
    Artwork and classes
    Except it's not just the presentation that changes. It's already been mentioned earlier that the level design, primarily with the enemy placement and incorporation of stage hazards/gimmicks, does have differences across the time periods. I will say that most of these changes are more on the miniscule/subtle side instead of being completely new acts; but they do exist. The Good Future/Bad Future ones in particular also have their use in terms of difficulty, where Good Future levels are easier to get through while Bad Future puts up more of a challenge.

    That and unless you're the type that views getting the Good Ending as super essential to Sonic gameplay, I don't really agree about CD's time-traveling being all that damaging to the gameplay. The offbeat level design and presence of time-traveling posts does make it more difficult, granted; but time-traveling within the stages isn't demanded to complete any of the levels. And in terms of core mechanics, there isn't much CD does that overwrites or contradicts what 1 established or what 2/3&K/M added (the fact Taxman's 2011 remake was able to incorporate material from the mainline sequels, like playable Tails and the more refined physics/spindash, speaks volumes on that front). The game even has the Special Stages as another option for those who want the Good Ending without time traveling in the stages (although it can be argued they have their own issues, I haven't been able to beat more than one of those personally).

    With all that said. I definitely do think that if the time travel concept was revisited with another Sonic game (either in a[nother] CD remake/remaster, direct sequel, or a spiritual successor that dealt with a similar thematic concept); I would design it where the different timezones were more consequential with the gameplay and story outcome. Such as having progression branching (GF takes you to New Zone A, BF takes you to New Zone B, etc.), collect-a-thon properties (get all four pieces of this amulet, spread across the timezones, you get a new prototype powerup you can use for this world), or some other third thing.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
  8. Laura


    Brightened Eyes Member
    I think the good futures are really just so you can see the zone saved with your own eyes more than anything. I think the Act 3's start in the future precisely so you can see this if you missed the chance in Act 1 and 2.

    The bad futures are basically just punishment though. You are right, the time travel is wonky.
  9. DigitalDuck


    Arriving four years late. Member
    Lincs, UK
    TurBoa, S1RL
    They shouldn't scrap the futures, they should scrap the present, and have each zone start in the bad future instead.

    It still leaves three different time periods, gives you enough disc space for CD audio of all zones, and means that if you want to see all versions of an act you only need to time travel twice instead of five times.

    The one that causes problems is the Present, as it makes it a lot more difficult to travel between the Past and the Future.
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  10. KMetalmind


    What I personally missed in both the original and the 2011 remake was a feature to play the entire game in a specific timezone without the posts. You get to play the present timezone a lot in the time attack mode, but I have barely played past/future timezones that much. You either need to change timezone to play them, or you have to use level select, which actually brings you back to the start screen instead on bringing you to the next act. IMO is really annoying because there is actually many cool parts in the past and future layouts, but you need to work too hard to play them.

    I know the Act 3 would always be one of both futures in the "past mode", but personally they are too short and similar to bother about which one you would get, or you could choose it beforehand. But I would really like to play the entire game in other timezones without having to time travel on each act or entering the level select menu after each Act.

    About traveling: Personally the game is more fun is you just let the game change the timezones while you play normally, getting the Good Future (if you want) by collecting the Time Stones. The game gets annoying when you want to get to a specific timezone, so on most of my playthroughs I just don't care and play as I prefer in that moment.

    I love searching things in videogames (I personally love Knuckles stages in both Adventure games an the balloon mode in Sonic R), but I personally don't enjoy finding Metal Sonic or the capsule thing. I already remember most of them from previous playthroughs and unlike other games, they aren't usually well hidden. I would rather search big rings in S3K or Sonic Mania, or even extra lifes. I've played four or five times by breaking them, but only as a challenge.
  11. Diablohead


    Indie dev Oldbie
    Near London
    It would have been awesome if the game allowed you to play start to end in the future or past timezones from the go.
  12. Yarharhar


    I've always thought the CD time travel would work well as an element in a more exploratory/Metroidvania style game. Have reasons to go forward/back both traversal-wise (certain areas are blocked off) and progression-wise. IE: Rather than just smashing that machine in the past, maybe you need to go to the bad future to find some item or element to shut it down. Likewise maybe you need to find timestones in the good future.
  13. Blue Blood

    Blue Blood

    I've thought about the problem that this thread is about before, but I've never realised that the solution is so simple. The present is the problem! The present serves no purpose other than adding an extra step to the time travelling process, and in doing so makes time travel far more time consuming and awkward than it already is.

    Whenever I play CD and go for the robot generators, I make a beeline for the past and finish the levels there. And if I'm going for the Time Stones instead then... I just stay in the present. Time travel in SCD takes too many steps and the usefulness of each time zone is horribly imbalanced. Starting in the Bad Future would solve everything.
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  14. RDNexus


    Especially when even the Anime OP itself sets the premise on Little Planet's bad future.
    So yeah, each stage should've been set to start on the bad future and move from there.
  15. Sonic Hachelle-Bee

    Sonic Hachelle-Bee

    Taking a Sand Shower Tech Member
    Lyon, France
    Sonic 2 Long Version
    The subject of this topic is exactly why I created the Sonic CD Warped hack last year. Sonic CD is frustrating to play because the time zones implementation is wonky. This is probably the main reason I don't play Sonic CD as often as the other classic games, and maybe why it is less appreciated overall. You are almost forced to miss three quarters of the game to not ruin the fun. Switching time zones is not fun, and is almost always pointless.

    You can probably make this happen easily by picking up the Sonic CD Warped source code on GitHub. With some adjustments to the IPX_RandomTimeZone_Pick function, you can make it to always force pick up the time zone you want instead of a randomly chosen one.
  16. Pengi


    It would have been nice if finishing a Zone in a different time-period unlocked that version in the Time Attack mode.
  17. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    Classic Eggman art Member
    I've thought of this as well, and have various methods of dealing with this if I ever do enough or convince someone enough to materailize my concepts, but for the most part, the game should indeed start in the bad future (Doc ruined the place!) and start from there. Present exists for the sole reason of playing the game the standard Sonic way, as it's the timezone that looks like you'd expect the levels to look like if the game didn't feature time travel, but it does and timeposts are there. The right thing would be to have two modes, "original" and "CD", the first just with present and time stones, the last with everything except present and timestones. Act 3 would be fine loading present graphics for original mode.

    Anyway, I like going back and forth through time, what I don't like is how hard is sometimes to do so, especially with the "time over" clause still in effect. If breaking the generator worked a bit like an end of an act score tally and resetted the timer would give the player more ease, and starting in the bad future would mean you did that halfway through the level even if having to go through the present both ways. Then proper level design to fix the rest, of course. And yes, I also wanted to play at least time attack in every time zone.

    For the record, hints at what I want to do some day with time travel shenanigans:

    - A CD sequel which features 7 timezones and something more, slightly based on what I said above. It's a robust feature-heavy project to ensure making sense and being enjoyable, so it's overambitious even for people who make full fangames, but I'll try.

    - A project that reuses zones from existing official games as timezones of each of the project's level. This would be with 4 timezones like CD but slightly deeper gameplay like what I've said above and some lesser use of features of the other project.

    - A bunch of alternative time travel methods. Both of my projects above will use a slightly different method from the one used in CD, and I'll probably release some demo of the latter or a different new level to test any other one I've thought about for difficulty, viability and overall enjoyment.
  18. Azookara


    yup Member
    Here’s my solution to this I came up with a few months ago:

    1. in the Present, you can only go to the Past, much like how in the Past you can only go to the Future. This means no more accidental travels to the useless time zone, haha.

    2. When you break the machines in the Past, the Future sign takes you to the Good Future rather than the Present (this would make more sense imo than the present in a GF being the same).

    3. Extend the length of the Act 3s so that the player gets a full taste of the Bad (or Good) Future, since you won’t ever see the former otherwise, and in case you didn’t travel back to the future for the latter.

    Bam. Game solved. You keep the mechanics, but now it’s much more concise, and Good Futures are more clearly the player’s reward and end goal.
  19. Linkabel


    I actually don't mind the game uses the time zones.

    But I do mind the game keeps the 10 minute time limit. That's what sours the experience for me.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
  20. Malchik


    Then you wouldn't have a future to save. And starting off in the bad future would mean you are just starting off in a bad present.