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The surrealism of early 2000's era Sonic backgrounds.

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Frostav, Apr 9, 2024.

  1. Frostav


    While on youtube yesterday, youtube reccommended me a Sonic Heroes TAS. I don't care much for Heroes, but TASs are always fun. Two comments struck me, though.


    It did make me think, yeah, the skyboxes of this era of Sonic games are something oddly charming. I've always preferred the mixture of vaguely realistic themes but surreal presentation that Sonic's setting normally has. These levels are clearly based on something real, yet clearly aren't, and I think the skyboxes honestly have something to do with that. Just look at these monolithic, backdrops:
    Since Heroes has a severe case of "Rollercoaster 20 miles in the sky" syndrome with its levels, these backdrops have to be stretching for an absolutely unfathomable amount of distance. Like, Casino Park is over a city, but that city has to be ludicrously massive if the characters are so far that nearly everything in it looks flat. Likewise, the huge canyons of Rail Canyon or the lush greenery of Frog Forest just go on and on and on. The fucked up perspective inherent to these actually just being 2D images stretched over a sphere that isn't that far away from the characters only makes it look even stranger, but in a way I kinda adore. Once Sonic Team had the console power to actually render more distinct backgrounds with the PS360, this kind of stuff faded away, and I absolutely why--the actually modeled buildings of Rooftop Run for instance are more visually impressive--but I kinda love the surreal vibes this era brought us, where the level itself was this incoherent roller coaster suspended amidst a seemingly endless field of surreal landscape that resembles reality and yet is oddly uncanny. It's the 3D version of the way 2D sprite games are built, a distinct "playfield" and "background". Given that Heroes was an intentional throwback aesthetically, was that a factor as well? Okay, probably not lmao, but it's interesting to ponder I think.

    It's the low detail that ironically enough makes me wonder just WHAT is in that distance. Not being actually designed and rendered tickles the mind. Heroes isn't the only game with this obviously:


    I wonder how these were made. Renders and highly edited stock photographs?
  2. Palas


    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
    This is very interesting because we had that very lengthy discussion about realism (or lack thereof) in the Adventure Era not too long ago, and it touched on some topics you're discussing here. It makes sense that the spatial separation between the playfield and the background woul be inspired in the 2D games!

    Since there's all sorts of concept art from Hiroshi Nishiyama for the games, I find it hard to imagine they just edited stock photos. That could very well be the casses, but I imagine aerial photos would be really hard to work with for these purposes due to perspective, no? This aren't educated guesses at all though! I have no idea how these things work.
  3. Felik


    These heroes skyboxes look AI generated before AI generated imagery was invented...
  4. Childish


    Pigs wiggle when they walk Member
    Shady lane
    Sonic 4 Blast Processed
    that's presumably because these are composites of multiple images
  5. I'm pretty sure the reason for that is because those screenshots were put into an upscaler.
  6. Londinium


    People actually read these? Member
    I really like Windy Valley's background for this reason. It looks so beautiful, I get lost in its JPG glory starting at it.