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Specials Stages in Sonic Games

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Jlook, Dec 2, 2020.

  1. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    It comes from a 2004 interview with Yuji Naka conducted by IGN:
    Anyway, back on topic. My personal favorite special stages are Blue Spheres and the Sonic Simulator from Colors. Blue Spheres is really fun and gratifying once you get the hang of it, and Sonic Simulator is a nice bonus, doing a good job of giving you more gameplay and paying homage to earlier levels of the franchise. I also like how Sonic Simulator is completely optional.

    The other special stages aren't... bad, but a lot of them feel just like glorified tech demos. Sonic 1 and 2 in particular.
     
  2. Mana

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    I think that quote more implies they didn't have the manpower to produce it internally and not that they didn't have the understanding.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  3. TheInvisibleSun

    TheInvisibleSun

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    This take kinda baffles me a bit, since there are literally over [edit: 14] of them before the 4th zone, with enough of them visibly located around the main path to not really require much 'exploration'. Regardless of how you feel about Blue Spheres itself, the game gives you a ridiculous amount of chances to beat those special stages.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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  4. Frostav

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    I am really bad at exploring.

    I have played through nearly all of Sonic 3 & K and I know the location of, like, three big rings. That's it. I don't bother looking for them because I think exploring in 2D Sonic (actually, exploring in 2D games in general) is clunky and not fun, so I've never gotten more than, like, two chaos emeralds (god forbid the super emeralds) ever. As I said before: if you had this game as a kid on your genesis and therefore had literally hundreds of days upon hundreds of days to just exhaustively search every single nook and cranny 20 times over, yeah they're probably obvious to find, but I'm not like that. I find CD to be mostly a boring game for the same reason: 2D exploring is not fun. I can barely every get into the past to begin with and even when I do, I can never find a robot generator no matter how much I look so I always get the bad ending. CD basically doubles down on the side of Sonic I actively do not like.

    2D Sonic for me is about speedrunning levels anyway so I don't really miss super/hyper sonic. Takes too look to get them.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
  5. Josh

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    I meet those criteria, and yet I pretty much agree with everything you said. I feel the same way you do about exploring, with the additional caveat that I don't generally enjoy it in general, regardless of whether it's 2D or 3D. I'm absolutely TERRIBLE at it. What draws me to Sonic is blitzing through stages, not wandering around them. As a kid playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles, I got to a point where I could beat the special stages no prob, but I could never got all the emeralds until I finished the whole game and I could just go to Mushroom Hill over and over, because I was so hopeless at and uninterested in finding giant rings.

    In recent years, I've sort of treated them as PART of my speedrun, haha. I looked them up on Zone: 0, and memorized where JUST enough rings are that I can get my 14th emerald in Lava Reef.

    That said, I think a huge part of the reason old-school 2D Sonic games enjoy a wider appeal is that they can be approached in different ways. You can be a speed junkie and fly through them, or you can slow down and map out the routes, find hidden paths and secrets, or just take your time. As the series has gone on, and particularly since SA2, it's trended toward a more narrow focus on speed. This suits ME just fine, but it's not for everybody, and I think that's one reason many of the 3D titles have had trouble finding as big of an audience.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
  6. kyasarintsu

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    I "explore" a level by just playing it a bunch of times, taking different paths each time I run through. I like to maintain my forward progression in games, and crawling through a level checking every nook and cranny gets me sick of the level really quickly.
    It doesn't help that 3&K and Mania really love having their special stage entrances be placed in hidden passages, which just makes me want to rub Sonic along any given wall simply because there's always a chance of there being a secret there. Exploring more casually, by just whimsically taking new paths through the level in each playthrough, protects me from my worst instincts.

    I don't know how I'd want special stages to be found in the next game. I wouldn't mind if the method of getting to a new game's special stage was something less tiring, like simply having gotten to the end of the level after having collected some number of rings (note that I didn't say "while holding").
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
  7. DigitalDuck

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    I found like 12 big rings on my first playthrough. Didn't get all the emeralds from them first time obviously but I genuinely do not understand not finding them. The game basically throws you directly into two of the first three, the last one in AIZ you'll probably land in by chance, HCZ has one that you'll see and then miss because of the spring but it tells you it's there, plus another one almost directly on the normal path. MGZ has a couple with arrows literally pointing right fucking at them. First ICZ one is difficult to miss accidentally. MHZ again literally throws you directly into the first one, at least three others are completely obvious.

    The game actively wants you to find these things.
     
  8. Mana

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    Yeah once you understand the game and how they designed the stages finding them is really easy. Just hug the walls when it seems right and you might find one. That's actually how I found all of the ones I needed for Super and Hyper in both Mania and 3 and Knuckles.
     
  9. Laura

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    You can put as many arguments as you want, the fact of the matter is that I can never find the big rings in Sonic 3 except for the really obvious ones :V
     
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  10. Zephyr

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    With regards to "multiple gameplay styles":

    I think the Special Stages, as they are implemented in the Mega Drive trilogy, connect elegantly to the side of the already excellent gameplay-loop of the core platforming game. Bonus Stages just as well.

    They're effectively different games, of different "gameplay styles" (different genres) from the main, core, platforming game. Unlike many later Sonic games which incorporate multiple genres of game, these remain optional, distinct and apart from the core platforming game. They function largely act as player-initiated pace-breakers from the core game. They likewise feed into the core platforming game, by requiring exploration and/or successful transport of large quantities of Rings in order to be accessed, and by conferring rewards, such as Rings, Lives, Continues, and/or Power Ups.

    When they're relegated to side-games like this, it becomes more natural for them to be more mechanically-simple (and more forgivable for them to not be given as much design attention), when compared against the core platforming game. With regards to the game's overall structure, 06's Mach Speed sections, for instance, feel like a really shoddy "behind the back auto running" Special Stage, ala Sonic 2, CD, or 3K, that you're required to play in order to complete certain Acts.


    With regards to the individual stages and genres:

    I've always liked Sonic 1's. It's like a Pachinko labyrinth, with platforming elements. With Sonic having mechanical ancestry in Billiards-type games, it's also a novel genre to include within a Sonic game. I also enjoy the other Billiards-type games that have been used, such as Sonic 3K's rotating slot machine, and Mania's pinball game.

    Sonic 2's, Sonic CD's, Sonic 3's, and Sonic Mania's all feel to me like similar stabs at a different genre: Racing. Which is another pretty inspired genre to place Sonic into, since he's a fast-running cartoon character. Mechanically, these all involve some varying form of steering around obstacles and corners, with platforming elements. I've never been able to consistently get more than 3 or 4 Emeralds in Sonic 2, Sonic CD's Special Stages have never clicked for me (bless the "play more of the platforming game to get the good ending" option), and while I can confidently nab all 14 Emeralds in 3K (if maybe not till after clearing the game), Blue Sphere just bores me.

    Sonic Mania's on the other hand, are a blast. I wish they had their own mode. I wish they had their own game! Maybe that would just be Sonic R. Either way, Sonic R for Special Stages is fantastic. Now imagine.......Unleashed Day/Generations Modern/Forces Modern for Special Stages?


    With regards to entrances:

    I like how 3K combined Sonic 1's and Sonic 2's approaches to Special Stage entrances, by having Giant Rings and Checkpoints serve as entrances to side-games. Which meant it had multiple side-games, and could lean in on multiple genres. If I were to continue building on the gameplay post-Mania, I'd try to devise a way to incorporate "have 50 Rings at end of stage for an optional side-game" back in, as well.
     
  11. Xiao Hayes

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    I can't understand playing Sonic and NOT exploring. I can't understand this necessity of avoiding it. I can understand not liking special stages or missing giant rings because you go with the flow and haven't stopped to check out unlikely places, but having an aversion to even try it in the slower or less demanding moments... Sorry, I don't get it. I like to play quick with good stunts and timing, and I like to take advantage of the environment, but it's not like I get anxiety or absolute boredom from stopping here and there, in fact I'm very stubborn and try to reach places time and again if I want to take a specific route. The way you play 16-bit games like it was segasonic arcade or something... Now wonder why "boost to win" happened.

    Oh, and you don't need to play hours and hours to find them, the size of the games isn't big enough for it.
     
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  12. almeda

    almeda

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    There's some Sonic games that make it a little fun to search and explore for special stage rings (3&K), especially because those ones are usually obvious, then there's others that make searching, and playing it, absolute hell (the Advance trilogy). I still don't know how anyone has managed to 100% complete those games because of those special stages, both finding them AND playing them were horrifying.

    As for Mania, I found myself not being able to find a lot of them, to be honest, but I didn't really blame the game for it because most of the ones I did find were easy. They probably wanted to encourage a good mix of special rings that you'd find by actually exploring and rings that you just run into. And at least the special stages were actually fun as well lol.

    My favourite would have to be Sonic CD. It wasn't too difficult, but it didn't feel boring either; I liked playing the special stages in that game, they're at the right pace and looked nice visually for a pseudo 3D stage back then. And the thing is, Sonic CD didn't take away elements of exploration completely because you could choose between either travelling to the past and destroying generators or just going through the special zones.
     
  13. MathUser

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    I don't like any of the special stages. I always skip them. So I don't get to be Super Sonic.
     
  14. Frostav

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    Sonic has always been a speedrunning series. Naka straight up said the reason it exists was because he played Mario obsessively and wanted to make a game where being better made you literally go faster, instead of just doing the same thing as a slower player more quickly and with less mistakes. The games are shorter and denser than most other 2D platformers to incentivize speedrunning them. The 2D games track your time throughout the stage, something very few others did at the time, even! You had to manually time your Mario or Mega Man run--Sonic straight-up tells you your time when you beat the stage!

    The 3D games had degenerated into hallways long before the boost was ever invented. That had nothing to do with people playing Sonic wrong. That was all on Sonic Team leaning on automation and rail-roading because of Dreamcast hardware limitations and then refusing to ever move from that paradigm once they had more powerful hardware.

    I don't mind that the games have exploratory elements for people who like them--it's what makes them well-rounded and fun for a wide variety of people. But I don't see the appeal in them personally. All exploring gets you is rings, lives and shields--things you don't need if you just can play the level perfectly and fast and just not get hit ever to begin with. The shield abilities for Sonic do mitigate this--but that just means I re-route my runs to find the shield I need and then just play perfectly from then on. Get hit? I reset. I once spent an inordinate amount of time getting in the top 50 on CPZ2 in Mania on PC and damn was it fun shaving off miliseconds each run and figuring out the routing on my own.

    I play basically all Sonic games like this. I play Sonic Robo Blast 2 like it, I ain't got no clue where all the secrets and goodies in that game are lmao because I just play it to speedrun XD
     
  15. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

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    So you had to explore to find the best speedrunning route, thanks for clarifying.

    As you so eloquently described despite trying to say the opposite or not getting what I meant, being able to play Sonic faster is a goal, but not the only thing you can do, and not necessarily for speedrunning.

    Also, be sure that I played in your style on time attack mode from Sonic CD and solo competition mode from S3K. If I plug my Mega Drive I could probably find some best times in Azure Lake that I wouldn't be able to repeat now or ever again.

    In other words: why only plays these games one way or the other when you can give a try to everything as many times as you want?
     
  16. kyasarintsu

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    I'm willing to bet that most fans of these games have replayed them quite a bit. They're pretty short and get most of their values from replaying. The amount of hidden stuff in levels helps make repeat playthroughs fresh, so it has value even to someone like me who doesn't enjoy stopping too long to explore.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
  17. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

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    To go back on topic and reply to something that was commented before but I didn't answer to, I think a good balance for those who seek more difficulty to go to special stages could be having the hidden giant rings throughout the level like in S3K but ask you to have 50 rings like in previous games. It would be easier than S1 and SCD, not as frequent as S2, and of course harder than just finding them.

    Another option is make them a flag to allow you to enter the special stage when beating the level, so you'd have to at least remain alive until the end of the act to access them, and you could have multiple chances to get that "ticket" but you'd still only enter them once per act. Or they could even work like a timepost from SCD and require you to mantain speed for some time to enter them instead of inmmediately sending you there. Entering them should still be easier than beating them, so you can try frequently enough to get better at them.

    For those who hate them totally, having an actual special zone like in 8-bit games with a time limit but better level design would probably please those who hate them, as they would be just 7 additional acts that would ask you to do some speedrunning. We could even have a classic styled 2D game for standard levels with 3D boosting gameplay for special stages.
     
  18. Blastfrog

    Blastfrog

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    I'm surprised no one has mentioned yet how jumping is literally broken in the S1 special stage. You're forced to jump full height as if you held the button down, regardless of how long you hold it. There's unused code apparently meant to let you cut your jump short, but it doesn't actually work. I forget who fixed it, but someone made a fix, and these stages are a lot more tolerable with it.

    They're still incredibly tedious and unfun, however.
     
  19. Jlook

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    Here's my continuation of the special stages:

    Sonic 1 (SMS/GG): They're surprisingly fun special stages to obtain extra lives and continues.

    Sonic Chaos: The obstacle course-based design of the special stages are really decent. But except for the first special stage, you won't get these on your first try.

    Sonic Triple Trouble: They're good. Nothing really special to them but the final special stage is hell.

    Sonic Blast (SMS/GG): The special stages are really boring and not that good. You just press left or right to collect 50 rings and that's it.
     
  20. Graxer

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    Sonic 1: They can be frustrating at times, but they are still relatively fun.

    Sonic 1 (8-Bit): Not too hard, can be frustrating when you it the vertical bumpers and get launched backwards. A good way to collect continues, but why no chaos emeralds?

    Sonic CD: Quite fun and not too difficult. It took me a while to master them though.

    Sonic 2: Insanely difficult and frustrating and I wish this style hadn't become a staple in the series.

    Sonic Chaos: Not that great and at times more based on memory than skill.

    Sonic 3 & Knuckles: Really fun. I can breeze through them all now without any issues, and quickly mastered the new maps when they returned in Mania as bonus stages.

    Sonic 3D (Genesis): A bit boring, and very easy, but at least they aren't frustrating.

    Sonic 3D (Saturn): I hate this as much as in Sonic 2. Unbearably frustrating, but the 3D graphics were cool for the time.

    Sonic 3D (PC): See Sonic 2

    Sonic Heroes: A more interesting take on the Sonic 2 special stages that was less frustrating and actually quite fun.

    Sonic Rush & Colours DS: They actually found ways to make the Sonic 2 special stages relatively playable, so that was nice.

    Sonic Mania: A good balance of challenge and fun. Not as good as the Sonic 3 & Knuckles ones, but still great!