When did Sonic's speed become a *unique* trait compared to the rest of the cast?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Frostav, Jan 28, 2021.

  1. Frostav

    Frostav

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    This is a terrible title but ROLL WITH IT.

    (side note: I'm not taking the non-game media into account here, as they have, quite often to a detriment, deviated from Sonic Team's groundwork and thus are slightly to extremely unreliable)

    Sonic is fast. As in the character. Everyone knows that. But if you go back and look throughout the series, you'll notice that at first that wasn't a unique trait to him. In fact, most of the cast was as fast as him. Then at some point during the 3D series, Sonic went from being the main character of a cast that can all run fast to being a uniquely fast character, exceptionally more so than almost anyone else (with some inconsistent exceptions because Sonic Team never maintains cohesive decisions...). I wonder when was the exact point this happened.

    Obviously not the 2D games--I don't mean the Genesis games, I mean ever in the 2D games. Tails and Knuckles in the classic trilogy have the exact same stats regarding speed as him. Mighty and Ray can keep up with him in SegaSonic. Sonic isn't in Chaotix, but everyone keeps up with Knuckles and he runs as fast as sonic so by analogy they can keep up with Sonic. In the "modern" 2D games, this doesn't change: Amy, Cream, and Blaze are all as fast as him in their respective games; Shadow isn't in a 2D platformer (honestly, that's really surprising ngl) but in Battle he runs pretty much as fast as Sonic.

    The early 3D games are pretty consistent in this matter too: Amy is slower but that's because of her gameplay style. Shadow and Rogue both seem to run really damn fast. In Heroes, all the Speed characters run at Sonic's speed and their partners keep up with them, which means that ALL twelve characters are logically as fast as Sonic (even...Big?) Same goes for partner characters in Shadow though I'm willing to concede this to gameplay convenience because otherwise Maria can run as fast as Sonic.

    In 06, though, Sonic is now way faster than Shadow for seemingly no reason. Silver is even slower, though he can apparently fly with psychokinesis at super fast speed. But the Mach Speed sections are I think where this modern character trait began because Sonic now can go ridiculously crazy fast with seemingly no reason. This is actually what I'm getting at here: at some point in the series, Sonic went from merely being a guy who can run fast to a blue superhero whose superpower was running extremely fast, way faster than almost anyone else in the game's world. Before 06, he didn't really have a specific superpower. In fact, if anything, Sonic was defined by not have some unique special ability. Even the spindash and homing attack appear to be things that basically any Funny Animal in the series can do, or at least they were until around 06.

    (before I settled on this topic I was originally going to make a topic on whether you all think characters like Rogue, Silver, etc. can do the spindash, but "hey whats ur headcanon lol" is a pretty boring idea for a topic so I decided to go with this)

    Then Unleashed came out and Sonic got boost, with literally zero explanation, codifying his superpower. Few other characters in the cast showed up but Amy and Tails appear to be just objectively way slower than him now.

    Except then in Generations Shadow could boost too. And Silver could keep up while flying.

    And then in Forces the Avatar can keep up with Sonic without a sweat, so are we back to everyone being able to keep up with Sonic? uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    I basically answered my question in this post but fuck it this is a place for Sonic nerds and if I can't vomit my stream-of-consciousness thoughts onto this forum where else can I put them :V

    I just find this to be weirdly fascinating. The popular conception of Sonic, especially outside of the fanbase, is that he is uniquely fast, that he's effectively a superhero and his superpower is "running faster than the speed of sound"--but for a good portion of this series' life, that wasn't true at all. Sonic Team just changed him into that without really any build-up. It's like if Nintendo just suddenly made Mario the ONLY character in his series that can jump higher than a real-life human out of nowhere for no reason, completely erasing the fact that other characters like Luigi, Peach, Wario, etc. can do that too (and in Luigi's case jump even higher than Mario!).
     
  2. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    Gameplay and story segregation. The way I see it, characters like Tails or Knuckles were never supposed to be on par with Sonic in speed, but they were made about as fast in the classic games because the gameplay and level design were built around Sonic's speed (and also because Tails was just a sprite swap of Sonic in Sonic 2, with no unique traits other than his inability to turn Super). SA1, SA2 and Sonic '06 were more finely tuned for different play styles, so everyone who wasn't Sonic was made slower and more different, like they're supposed to be lore-wise. Heroes was built more like the 2d games in that the alternate teams were basically sprite swaps of Team Sonic with a few different moves, so Amy and Espio were super fast in it (although not as fast as Sonic IIRC).

    There are a few characters who are supposed to be comparable to Sonic in speed in terms of lore like Metal Sonic or Shadow (and the latter uses his hover shoes for it), but they're the exception to the rule, not the norm.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2021
  3. Nova

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    It's always just been the established character for him. He's the fast one. In the games, the characters have the same running speed but I just explain this away to myself as game-y guff to make the other characters as fun to play as Sonic. I would argue that in practice, thanks to the double spin attack in Sonic 3 and the lack of a momentum-killing flight ability, Sonic is actually the fastest of the three but that's another discussion. You can tell through the manuals, comics and cartoon series that Sega had an established idea of the character and his abilities relative to the universe he inhabits and even if some aren't canon, they would have had directives from Sega on how to present the character(s).

    Regarding Sonic versus Shadow, I always just imagined Sonic to be naturally faster (note his almost-instant acceleration in the Adventure games) with Shadow requiring his air shoes to match that.

    This is just not true. Sonic was always marketed as 'fast' in the 90s, it was his defining gimmick, or 'power'. As mentioned above, every incarnation of the character mentioned his speed as a defining trait in some fashion so to me it's no wonder they eventually ended up on something like the Boost formula. It's fast and when someone plays it who knows what they're doing, it can look downright cinematic at points. It's all an evolution of 'Sonic is fast', right?
     
  4. Frostav

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    I'm not contesting that Sonic has always been marketed as being fast; I know that. But in the games specifically, he wasn't uniquely fast amongst the cast until around 06 and Unleashed where he suddenly became explicitly way faster than (nearly) everyone else, without question.
     
  5. Nova

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    Well I'm just willing to chalk Sonic 2 and, to an extent, 3 up to the realm of gameplay and for the other games in the series I can't honestly say anyone was as fast as Sonic unless he was allowing them to be (Heroes being the main thing coming to mind here).
     
  6. Zephyr

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    So, the original Sonic the Hedgehog, along with its immediate sequels and its spiritual successors made by Dimps (and Mania), are of a kin with Super Mario Bros., its forebears such as Donkey Kong and Joust, and its own immediate sequels.

    Sonic Adventure, and its immediate sequels, including the core platforming mechanics of Sonic 06, are of a kin with Super Mario 64.

    Sonic 06's Mach Speed sections, along with its iterations in Secret Rings, Unleashed (Day), Generations (Modern), and Forces (Modern + Avatar), feel of a kin with racing games, like Virtua Racing and OutRun, where you need to control your steering and speed carefully in order to play the game well.
    Yes, there's a jump button, so platforming mechanics are mixed in as well. This partly owes to Unleashed also pulling from Sonic Rush, whose boost was an evolution of Advance 2's mach speed mode. Also, yeah, when the camera switches to 2D, it's certainly more "2D platformer with a dash button" than it is "Virtua Racing with a jump button", but speaking of broad strokes here.

    Racing games are all about going fast, by their very nature, in ways that platforming games are not. I think what you're noticing is Sonic finally inhabiting a gameplay context which might more convincingly feel "playing as the character". Arguably Sonic R beat it to the punch, as did the Mega Drive Special Stages (sans Sonic 1's), where you're constantly running forward with the camera behind your back, and all you can do is steer and jump.

    That said, I don't really see any need for this to remain unique "Sonic" gameplay. Let Tails and Knuckles and Rouge and Omega and Big run just as fast as Sonic. Maybe tweak their jump height, give some characters additional jumps, give some characters different aerial abilities, etc. Sonic Riders was still a racing game where everyone felt fast, despite trying to have distinct classes of characters like "Speed", "Flight", and "Power". And modern Mario Kart games have all kinds of variability with weight, traction, acceleration, top speed, etc.

    Just let Big be the fastest of them all, already, Sega, please.
     
  7. Metalwario64

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    I like the idea of Tails, in universe, being slower than Sonic, but by using his tails is fast enough to keep up with Sonic. I thought that was kinda his point in Sonic 2.
     
  8. Canonically speaking, Sonic is the fastest character, with his only competitors being Shadow or Metal Sonic. But making the other characters slower would be a terrible design choice for a game that's meant to be fast, so the other characters are given Sonic's base speed, but it's not at all reflective of the cast's canonical abilities.
     
  9. Xiao Hayes

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    Sonic used to run with friends, so he slowed down to allow them to follow him; later, he became the only playable character, so he allowed himself to run at his natural speed. Typical thing of shonen, a character containing his power to not overwhelm the world itself. Just think about poor Tails trying to follow Sonic, the fox kid would have given up quickly.
     
  10. SystemsReady

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    Gameplay-wise: Sonic 2, IIRC, with Tails having a different speed cap? but I can't find it, so I might be misremembering; in that case, general differentiation started with Sonic 3, where they leaned into different movement abilities and Knuckles having a different jump height. Speed differentiation seemed to have first shown up in Sonic R (?!), as our wiki lists him as the fastest of the initial cast.

    Lore-wise, seems to be even later, as his backstory circa 2 was that Tails admired Sonic, Knuckles was tricked in 3, and that was really it in-game until Adventure.
     
  11. DigitalDuck

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    One of my complaints with S3K is actually that Knuckles can run as fast as Sonic. We've got the explanation that Tails can keep up with Sonic's regular running speed using his Tails and we can kind of believe it due to its propeller nature, but there's no explanation given for Knuckles' speed. It might've been a little more interesting to have different max speeds among the cast, if even only a little (e.g. boost Sonic to 7px/frame, nerf Knuckles to 5px/frame).
     
  12. Yash

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    Ironically I remember plenty of sites and magazines back in the day suggesting that Sonic actually was faster than Tails and Knuckles in the 2D games - either because it seemed logical, or just because they wanted to assign an attribute to Sonic that gave him one over on Tails and Knuckles who in my experience are seen as more fun to play as.
     
  13. Laura

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    I really hate this revisionist nonsense that Sonic was only about speed in the marketing. Every aspect of the games, level design, and even his character is designed around the fact he's fast. He taps his foot when you are waiting around because he's impatient and wants to run off. When you complete acts in Sonic 1 and 2 he immediately runs off screen to the next one. All of his moves are based around moving quickly and not thinking methodically like in traditional platformers. Even the speed of the games' scrolling was remarkable and set it apart from contemporaries. The games were more than just speed, especially in Sonic 1, but it was never like it was this throwaway part of them either.

    I think it's important to remember that Tails alone in Sonic 2 was really just a bonus feature. A lot of people back in the day didn't even know you could play as him in single player by going into the options menu. The default of the game is Sonic with Tails running behind him and trying to catch up, which I think perfectly captures their dynamic. And to be honest, Tails in Sonic 3 is really like a bonus feature too, in that his levels are generally the same as Sonic's and don't have unique paths and bosses like Knuckles.

    Now Knuckles I think you can make a case for, but he also has a smaller jump, which always indicated to me that he was stronger than Sonic but not as agile. But he was never meant to be a pushover either and seeing as he was the main rival/antagonist I never questioned his speed.

    Where I would agree is that the side characters have been made too weak and slow in the newer games. Tails similarly gets impatient if you wait a long time in Sonic 2, which I think is part and parcel of how him and Knuckles were fast, just not as fast as Sonic. Likewise, in Adventure 1, Tails and Knuckles weren't as fast as Sonic but they were still very fast in their own right, which is always how I envisaged them in the Genesis games. Adventure took things a bit far with Amy but I think Adventure 2 really started a bad precedent by what they did to Tails in the Chao Garden. It was just a little bonus thing, but making him so slow and not able to roll into a ball really did foreshadow Heroes, where Tails couldn't be easily played alone and when he was he was pretty slow and had those dumb dummy rings. So the lead up to Sonic 06, where they made a lot of characters slow and cumbersome was a slow burn.
     
  14. Yash

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    Can't speak for everyone else who's ever made this argument but my take on this has always been that "Sonic's speed was just marketing" is more referring to the impression that people got from the ads that in Sonic games, you just run fast at all times and never have to stop or think about what you next move is, and get irrationally upset whenever there are slower platforming parts or obstacles along the route that challenge the player. It's where the idea of "speed as reward" comes from - the better you are at the game, the faster you can go. I think that's why Sonic 2 is so popular in particular among the series, because it has more automated segments like in Chemical Plant for example that really show off Sonic's speed, but the broader point is that kind of speed is achievable in virtually every level across the series (with a few notable exceptions, like Sonic 1's Marble and Labyrinth, which were explicitly designed as more traditional platforming gauntlets to account for gamers who were used to stuff like Mario and Alex Kidd).

    I guess you can blame the marketing for suggesting that everyone is going to have that experience the first time they fire up the game, but I mean... all video game commercials demonstrate *good* gameplay. It's not like Super Mario Bros. advertised itself by showing players jumping straight into a flying hammer or falling into a bottomless pit. "What the fuck, game, I thought Mario was supposed to be jumping, now you're telling me there are parts where you're NOT supposed to jump?"

    Buuut I guess that's neither here nor there for this particular topic.
     
  15. Nova

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    @Laura It wasn't my intention to say that the speed was only present in the marketing, just that in comparison to the other characters who have the same ground speed in gameplay, it's contradicted by the series' marketing of Sonic as the fast one. It wasn't an issue with Sonic 1 as there were no other characters to be 'as fast' as Sonic for this to be disputable, but as mentioned by @Sonic5993, the later characters were made to be the same speed purely for gameplay reasons but we can still tell via comics, cartoons, descriptions, etc, that Sonic is still meant to be 'faster' than them.
     
  16. TheInvisibleSun

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    Are his 'speed' stats in Sonic R higher in comparison to other racers?

    Failing that, the spamdash in SA1 at least fits the bill from a gameplay perspective, since no other character can dash off like that, or sustain said speed, iirc.
     
  17. I blame the American cartoons. That's the pin-point time when I've seen that trait pop up.
    Also the chili dogs. Never recalled them being a thing at all in the earlier games, but the cartoons pushed it. Every western-made cartoon had to have food as a personal trait. (Ninja Turtles with pizza, pasta with Mario,etc.)
     
  18. Xiao Hayes

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    While the speed may have been the same, it's not until Sonic Heroes that we see characters other than Sonic and Tails running together. Well, there was Shadow and his rival fights in SA2, but Shadow was precisely the guy supposed to be able to keep up with Sonic, so, in the classic games, it didn't really matter if the other characters run at the same speed, because there's no occasion to compare them besides Knuckles' cutscenes which don't let Sonic show his speed. Let's be real, we only lose the chaos emeralds at the beginning of that game because Sonic stays idle instead of instantly spindashing.
     
  19. Nova

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    See, this I disagree with, despite my stance on those cartoons emphasizing the speed. Sonic was always intended to be fast, that was the entire point of the initial game.
     
  20. qwertysonic

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    I think in Sonic 2 is where you see Sonic as the "fast one". When playing as Sonic and Tails Sonic always outruns Tails and you have to wait in place for him to fly to meet you. (obviously if you play as Tails he's just as fast, but that's from a gameplay perspective.)

    Then in SA1 you have the same idea that Tails follows Sonic but isn't as fast. And in Tails' levels you are "racing" so to speak to keep up with Sonic. Sonic is obviously faster, but Tails has some tricks up his sleeve like being able to fly to find shortcuts. And at by end of the game Tails grows to the point that he accepts he'll never be as fast as Sonic, but has his own strengths that he can utilize to help save the day. Hence his theme song.
     
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