Hello there everyone and welcome to "Automation and You", a thread only made possible thanks to the cooperation of every single one of you.
So, Sonic 4 Episode II is almost out! And I feel content to finally make this thread live! I have been intending to, as some of you might know, create this thread for a long time now, but due to not having enough sources I had to delay it up until now. But now, today I feel it's finally time to open it up to debate!
There are a couple of rules I'd like to be kept tho:
1) Keep in mind this is all about my opinion on the matter, and thus is my resolve on what is being introduced to us. If you Don't Agree with it - it's Perfectly Fine.
2) THIS IS A FEEDBACK THREAD. And thus, please, let's make this worth our time! So that Sega can have a pretty massive feedback thread regarding this so called “Automation” that is tearing the Sonic saga inside-out, (and a lot of fans along with that) so please, be constructive, be critic, point out likes/dislikes, but give everyone here a “Say” regarding this topic.
3) Do also Keep in mind that this Thread is not to bring down Episode II, but rather to bring up a more interesting Episode III!
Also, I recommend you guys to have some source of either playing the Sonic games / Search for full Walkthroughs from the Original Sonic Saga to further understand my examples.
(Note: all Links are in the form of >Golden< Use them towards advantage).
- To keep you guys on the mood, while reading, I suggest some nice music to go by!
Bear with me, this will be a Long, long, ride:
>Sonic Symphony - An Orchestral Tribute to the 16-Bit Sega Classics<
If you enjoy it, you can also Download the file, it's available on the Description! - Thanks to the Youtube user VernianProcess for re-arranging various midi compositions he found online, making it such a memorable experience altogether, Give it a shot!
Now without further ado - Let us Begin!
Most of us are gathered here due to one thing we all share in common: our passion of what was once considered one of the best games of the 90's. The Blue mascot that came out of nowhere and before we knew it, found a place into our hearts. There were good times where people would usually just meet up, rent a Sonic game, and have some friend or even family quality time playing together.
Back then you would play the game for fun, there was no Internet source to guide you though, and without it, you'd most likely struggle until you got full control of the hedgehog. The manual was the only thing that could be considered a guide, the rest - Was up to you. People back then enjoyed such challenges and seeing you perform good could only come with practice.
But that was the definition of "Fun" back then - Things weren’t easy, so to feel like you have mastered the game, was the pinnacle of "Challenge". Sonic was no ordinary character And that got many people intrigued on what could the Blue Hedgehog offer to the competition.
What "they" found was stunning - Never seen before did any game offer such an intense game delivered on Momentum and having that very momentum delivering you the main key to open the true core of the game, being able to unlock an Incredible Speed - "Blast Processing", for a platformer this game was original! It had much more then met the eye, which, successfully grabbed the players attention, to feel rewarded for having a good performance and to take the most out of those abilities! - The developers had felt like players would feel the most fun by having full control of the Hedgehog.
But by Today's standards, that very same essence: Having Full Control ultimately driving Freedom has been taken out of the saga, and here - Today, we're gathered here to Tackle one of the most (if not the most) discussed subject aboard the Forums: Automation.
Lately, Modern Sonic has "Learned" a rather peculiar ability: the Boost feature, which worked quite nice in games such as Colors and Generations. But before then there were "Dark" times for many of us Classic fans known as the Sonic Rush series, who lather on passed their "Charm" onto the 3D market, Unleashed being the first direct target. It took Sega two more titles to Master this new ability to be able to keep the fans happier with such feature.
However Sonic 4 took some of these features as well and as Sonic Colors tried adjusting it from Unleashed - Sonic 4 Episode I too is filled with pointless Boosters which contributes towards an Automated game.
I'll tag along this quote from a Takashi Iizuka interview made in 2010:
"DC: Back when Sonic 4 was still known as Project Needlemouse, Sega stated the game would have speed would not be found by hitting a boost button, but rather through momentum. The opposite of this appeared at E3, where the levels (though a work in progress) contained a good number of artificial boosts. Is creating an appropriate sense of speed a major challenge for the development team?
TI: I think there were an misunderstanding here, what I tried to say was classic Sonic series would not use those actions that were featured in ‘Sonic Rush’ series and which is for example activating boost by charging up the gauge and push button… I believe instant execrations by gimmicks like booster are important elements to keep the better game pacing."
From our Sources, we've already seen a bunch of videos demonstrating a few unnecessary boosters along in Episode II. We can’t help but be worried as this (still) demonstrates the lack of skill from the player, that reward you felt when you breezed trough the game because you know what to and to be awarded for such is really, lacking. Players no longer feel the need that encouraged them to go back and replay said levels because of how much they are suffocating, it needs to breathe.
It feels like:
"Hey are you going at top speed already? Well, just in case, Let's double check and add two more Boosters along the way so even if you just want to go downhill with all that extra momentum you built up - it won't matter anyway!".
It's downright unnecessary. It feels like the game doesn't even encourage you to have a good performance because it won't influence the outcome! The game was created for the purpose that whatever you do - You will get there! And now, especially with the announcement of the Spin Dash back to its "former glory" it feels un-encouraging towards the player to even perform it!
So, with this in mind, I'll pose you guys a question:
- What made Boosters fun back in the "Old Days"?
I never once saw boosters as a bad thing in the Classics, Why? Because the levels were made with A balanced level design. On Chemical Plant it was a level gimmick, it was also the first time we were introduced to them. But even so in Chemical Plant you can't abuse them, they may throw you into water were you will most likely struggle to reach air, making it seem like a double edged sword (Like Sonic Generations Modern Boost made it seem like, an idea that I enjoy and support).
Boosters were meant to keep the pace aflow.
Chemical plant is a water themed level, it has that urge of "Need to get out of water". So, in order to help the level's better pacing, the boosters were implemented in such a way to have a mixture of slow platforming and speed. This is key for boosters, this is where they successfully come into play.
With that in mind let's take a close look at this level:
For one to understand what is wrong, one must first understand what is right.
Sonic 3 Onwards the Speed Boosters were more abundant. Say, in Carnival Night - There are tons of them! But after each segment of speed you have a lot to make up for with platforming! (and in this particular case - lots of it!) One of the intresting things to take close notice is how Momentum level design always prevails over boosters as boosters were applied only ever so often which - in contrast made them fun! Carnival Night's also a very dragging level unless you have mastered all of the shortcuts, so the boosters do feel like they had the purpose of making the level feel more fluid and to balance things out.
Everyone enjoys a section of speed, but only if it isn't spread throughout the entire level! The constant fast pace, platforming, with a lot of explorability is what made this one of my favourite levels.
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Level Design, Platforming and Speed
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Definitely the 3 ingredients to Success, as the Youtube username NickonAquaMagna2 said himself.
In Launch Base at the end of Act1 the boosters are quite fun, if you notice carefully, you can use them to do all kind of wacky things! Like rolling uphill, and if you time your jumps correctly you will even carry all that momentum forth and make some pretty massive jumps!
So, can we come to the conclusion that Speed Boosters should have another purpose? All they seem to do is transport you from A to B without any Setback. They are there for you to use and abuse.
I recon reading from someone who said that if they implemented speed boosters in such a way you have to think wisely about using them. If they were to send you towards a longer path, you would want to skip them in order to go thought the shorter path.
So, following that line of thought, what if Sky Sanctuary had boosters? That place would become a Nightmare! As there could've been boosters that may just throw you to your death! You'd have to skip them in order to survive.
But this is Wrong, this way of thinking should Not be the way to go, as shown by:
>Sonic 2 Dimps Edition<
Boosters are placed Everywhere! (You guys should try it out, if only to get a few laughs out of it), It just makes the whole game a mess - Boosters should NOT disorient you - And they definitely should not be Spammed. They should be awarding you the player for making trough intense sections of platforming awarding you with Speed and a brief moment until you face your next challenge, so in other words, and answering Ken's statement of avoiding boosters: Skipping Boosters should in no way feel obligatory!
Thank you Nieves, for helping me reach that conclusion.
Now let's "jump" to Sonic 2's Wing Fortress - After the segment with the "Timed Platforms" (I'm sure you know this part, to me at least that was a living hell) you hit an checkpoint *Phew . . (holds breath) *Thanks*. On that same path there's a sort of like Speed booster which will lunch you in the air. You may want to skip it and Spin Dash Jump to get onto the next platform. OR you could time your jump perfectly to reach the other edge.
This is what I call the correct implementation of Speed Boosters, they can provide with all that loving speed, but you can't just "jump" into it - You need to learn how to approach them, making every booster Unique in performance, thus allowing for more Player Interaction.
- Now Back to Sonic 4 - What makes Boosters so Annoying?
With this "Newfound Logic" of what made the classics so fun, let's jump to Sonic 4.
There's a hack out there for those of you who might know it is called >Sonic 4 No Dash panels<
(I strongly encourage anyone of you who has yet to see it to go watch it), and that's exactly it! A hack without Boosters.
What's funny enough is that it proves that the use of boosters were, most of the times - Completely unnecessary! Altho there are certain places were you may struggle, but only due to the broken physics of the game.
Sonic 4 Episode II should make it shine, since the physics are somewhat brought back to their former glory, if everything is as polished as they claim they are - Then I'm pretty sure we can get trough all those obstacles clean without that extra help just fine.
- Something I would also recommend (like some users have before me) is the use of “Specific Boosters per Zone” Like Sonic 3K did:
>Click for Zone Boosters<
It would feel more Unique for each Level as is they "Belong" in each zone, make them have more player input, a different take on the player to use each one of them individually, so they feel new and refreshing, boosters applied with a good level design are always well welcomed take for instance:
>Launch Base act 1<
Boosters, if implemented correctly, can generate very interesting level designs!
- Springs, what makes them Special?
It's time to head towards a Spring discussion. Now Springs in Sonic 4, far until now have always been the same (Standard) Spring, I did enjoy having the classic Red and Yellow Springs, (being the red the one that carries you further up and the Yellow one just an extra lift) - What happened to them? They were really handy back in the days as they offered more interactivity upon the player! They reach different heights and call upon more interesting level designs, while they can also serve as a threat, depending on their placement.
For example: Sonic 3 Marble Garden (just came to mind) if you notice carefully there are a lot of red springs that you want to stay away from! There are places that if you touch the Red spring it'll launch you to spikes, even the disk you may want to get rid off! At certain points, they pretty much established "Hey! If we give the disk to players they can skip a huge chunk of the level, let's just give them a route that if they carry on with it more then intended they'll hit spikes, or even slow down to the point were it feels like a burden, so they won't abuse them!".
Red Springs can also deliver a boost of speed and momentum, depending on their placement they can help on making so that boosters don't sound so annoying - It's always nice to have a good diversersity on means and ways to attain Speed.
I believe bringing them back would make a lot of fans happy. (I know I was happy by seeing them return in Classic Generations!)
Trough some of the trailers you should have already noticed diagonal springs (who wouldn't by this point), it feels like "Hey! Take this epic moment where you can see Sonic jump from 6 different springs just so you don't have to jump down” (>1st Gameplay trailer on White park<).
Never before were springs so cheaply placed, but for some reason Sonic 4 thought it would be a good Idea to make the player watch the game play itself.
When I was first playing Splash Hill zone - I swear, it felt like a zone gimmick, and I was “O-kay” with it, but by Act 2 I was already fed up with it, so when I finished Splash Hill only to find more of these incorporated throughout the Entire game! I just felt really disappointed.
It's, once again, Sega wanting to rush things out so you get that crazy speed and adrenaline going. For some weird reason they believe Sonic is all about speed they no longer seen to understand what truly made the classic games both fun and unique.
You see, Springs are there to guide you, to help you reach your destination. You shouldn't need to land on so many of them! Additionally, Springs should give you freedom as to were you want to land. Player "feedback" (control) is imperial to a game's success.
Sonic 3K has done it right, in say - Hydrocity Act 2 you had that nice tube and a Speed booster, you would “Skip” a lot of the level at blazing speed! But it felt exciting! Underwater sections are usually so monotonous (even tho I enjoy them) that skipping them - felt fun! And what made it unlike the others, was that it felt right according to the zone itself!
In Act 2 of Hydrocity, near the very end, there's a pipe and Speed Booster, making you go trough all that underwater section and then you go up a ramp handing you with 2 paths:
If you went all the way up with all that momentum you would skip trough a part of the level and grab a Special Stage, or, you could just go down, hit a Bubble power-up and manually go to the boss,
Freedom is an amazing thing!
And I feel like the Speed Boosters and Springs as of now, are taking those Choices away, but, if implemented correctly - Oh! The possibilities are Infinite! When you're in mid air you either go up, or fall down and when you're playing the level for the 1st time it feels amazing to know you have so many routes to take upon!
So, now seeing from a Modern side of view let's think of an example were all those springs can be usefully, let's say you go down a hill with momentum (or say .. a Speed Booster) and as you go up a ramp you find two springs, you have no idea where each one will take you and you find out the hard way that one of the Springs will take you to the longer path and the other one will give you, say, an extra live and the shorter path available.
At least they would be exploring the possibilities they have at their grasp, and give the player the possibility to choose what path they want to head towards.
- "Do we feel that Episode II looks more or less Automated than Episode I?"
Automation-Wise, all things considered, everything we've seen thus far shows that it relies much more on Automation than that of Episode I, especially considering the amount of feedback given trough the creation of Episode II.
In a simple resume: I feel It's unperfect. But, Why?
Sylvania Castle Act1 is the least Automation-wise I’ve seen thus far. Only because at least you have some sections of platforming, I have seen some decent loopy-loops and Sonic running on water “Like only a true Hedgehog can!” But, I feel sad to know that doesn’t feel as rewarding as it should just yet, Why? Right before the Loop, they hand you a Booster pad, reinforcing Automation, and giving little importance to their own created Surroundings! Goes to say, if they want to, they can build very nice level designs to Encourage the player to build momentum for a very nice, refreshing Take-off! However, they have chosen not to do so.
Playing the Classics card, like Pointed by Mr.Haru (and a very valid point he made indeed!), Boosters and Springs are not the only way to grand the player Speed, as Speed before was given in the form of Momentum! Take for example a look at Mushroom Hill (at the very end before the boss and even lather at the Autumn/Spring transition) as a very solid example of such - Speed was given without relying on a Single Speed Booster!
As for White Park Act 1, player input on the overall level, it's just embarassing as seen by the gameplay where the player just taps the Co-op roll and looks back at the camera as if he had nothing more to do, Co-op gimmicks truly were a nice idea. They truly were! But it seems that performing the rolling combo, makes you run straight forward without any input from the player, and thus - cooperating for more Automated Gameplay.
White Park really does have a lot of Automation lying around, but again, Unnecessary, on Act 1 I recon seeing, right before a section of diagonal springs, an upper path, reinforcing players to jump at that precise moment, but if you fail to jump at that specific spot, the diagonal springs bounces you down into a booster pad straight forward where an avalanche awaits you.
Why couldn't we fall down (without the need of diagonal springs) look behind us and see some pretty un-stabilized Snow, and figure "I have to get the hell outta here!", only to find out there's an avalanche chasing right after you?
It would feel like the Scenario interacts with the Player, remember on Sonic 3 Hydrocity act 2 (right off the bat) where that wall chases you? The first time you play, you're totally not expecting that to happen, but as soon as you see it, you already know you have to get the heck out of there! It's player interactive! And that is what's truly amiss here.
So a straight forward answer to this question (on my behalf) is:
Automation's still lurking around, and I'm sceptical at to what point I'll see even more of it in this upcoming Episode, altho I do look up to Oil Desert, where it seems to be a lot more player involving. I do like what I see.
I feel they have every accessory to make this work, they just haven't done as of yet, Maybe due to not being sure what represents Speed to the fans? Surely it ain't all about Speed Boosters, but more of a Reward Angle, if the stage, by Itself, contributes for speed, players will learn how to take advantage out of it!
Look up to the video above representing a speed run trough the Carnival Night as a solid proof behind my statement - The has player managed to pull that stunt by Himself! But Only because he the proper knowledge about the level's surroundings!
I'm pretty sure it felt Rewarding to be able to make it that far - Timing and Reflex were truly tested to the extreme, a lot more than if the Level played that stunt by Itself, would you not agree?
- In Conclusion
Boosters and Springs, as of now, are taking Freedom and Options away, they're bringing forth Automated Gameplay, which is wrong as it brings forth Little interactivity upon the player, all that "required skill" the player could experience after mastering the levels, that satisfaction of Knowing when to grab a hold of Speed, and be able to Maintain it, was taken away the moment Sega decided to implement More Speed Boosters and Springs throughout the levels to give the player the wrong sensation of "Speed".
Sonic Colors has done it right by giving the player the Freedom to use the Wisps, they were Optional, you were perfectly fine to go towards the longer path to even experience other routes. Options is a wonderful thing that Boosters along with Springs have Taken away! Because of the way they were implemented, they are dulling players down, and are requiring each time less cooperation and expectation from us.
I think this is wrong, and while I enjoy Boosters and Springs, I want them to be appropriated to each level, granting Speed after sections of platforming - Complimenting one Another.
Speed should be a reward for valiant effort from the player!
I hope I clarified myself, and remember this is all but my humble opinion!
In a way This is also my personal (along with every individual who supports this thread) feedback to thank you for all the effort put towards This Saga - Cheers Ken and Kellie!
May this be the very first feedback they deliver to collaborate towards a very interesting Episode III!
Please, discuss this in a polite manner, know that I have build this thread with the utmost care, and I'm expecting you guys to do the same. Thank you.
To keep the Thread going I'm willing to update it with a few of my thoughts regarding the latest Beta 8 Leak from Sonic 4 Episode II!
First things off, I'm somewhat Impressed with a whole new features this game brought, such as the graphic engine, the new running animation, cutscenes and to a certain extent even the boss fights. They all look amazing.
With this new Episode there are a whole lot of things to look forward to, no doubt!
So, what I'm going to do here is try to, trough what footage we have at our disposal, (and once again take into consideration this is a beta, how far out it is to the real thing we do not know yet!) I'm going to point out everything from a Level Design prespective a few couple of Zones from a viewer perspective (Being the videos I linked my only reference) to point out what they've successfully achieved and what needs work.
If you do not wish to go in dept with Sonic 4's levels, I suggest you skip this "chapter" and go directly to "GAME ARRIVAL".
If you would like to see the list of all videos they can be found here:
>Youtube User's Ruki's Channel<
Starting off with:
>Sylvania Castle Act 1<
As seen by the video - the level itself starts off Fresh! With Gorgeous Graphics and Scenario, I truly enjoy seeing these new features, I also support the idea of mixing zones to give it a new nostalgic feeling, yet interesting and different, so long as they give them level gimmicks to further identify themselves!
I also accept going back to old levels, so long as there is a reason for us to go there and while we're at it, where does action take place? This is something that has been completely overlooked by Sonic 4.
So, you start up having space to run off and as you progress you'll find two different paths, both leading towards the same route. Further ahead, you notice they brought back the Marble Garden Wheel, which I'll discuss about it lather on the thread.
Now, as you go on, there's this pointless booster I have pointed out earlier right before the loop, here you have some space to perform the Spin Dash, it wouldn't hurt trying it out now would it? But instead they threw you a booster right off the bat, un encouraging the need for the player to interact with the level.
Seeing Sonic running on water was a very nice returning "Glory", Altho something feels - Off, and this is where I'm sure Copley started noticing something was off:
Back on the old days when first seeing Sonic running on Hydrocity's water - He had reached a speed cap. Here, he ain't going nearly as fast, but assumes max speed position as soon as he touches water.
What you see here, ain't even close to that of Sonic's 3 max speed! Sonic went trough a booster a Loopy loop, pretty much everything Sonic did in Hydrocity! And yet - They aren't following at the same speed.
Now I know we can't have Apples to apples, but there is clearly still a lot of a difference here, and if this seems to be indeed in the sequence of a Speed Cap, if so, then the Speed Cap should be Higher, speed should only caps if
Sonic uses the Environment towards His advantage
Real Speed > Artificial Speed.
Next off, as you go forward there's also 6 additional (and unnecessary) diagonal springs. Thing here is: You just ran over water! You had that moment of speed, and immediately afterwards you have further Automation guiding your path. I don't want to sound like I hate the level, but it just mocks the amount of feedback gaven throughout Episode I.
Why giving you 6 springs that launch you around. What purpose do they really Serve? Must I ask.
It then, enforces you with the "Tails gimmick" to make you able to cross the edge. I'd rather have it like this: "If you go towards the other path, you will find a set of Bubbles, if you perform the Homing attack/ jump sequence you will get there by Yourself, if you pick the longer path, you won't be able to beat Bubbles as they are a bit higher over you and you'll have to call Tails for help!"
Doesn't that sound a little bit more forgiving? A little more, say, Rewarding?
Having Tails around is awesome, but having to focus the levels around him, doesn't really make the game anywhere better, if anything it goes backwards as never before did a game rely on such mechanics which now someone decided "No they're new - we must make the game around it!".
After that Automated sequence and Tails tag action required in order to progress, you have yet - Another speed section! The level balance by now is very close to None, The level just doesn't have anything to makes it memorable - it lacks essence.
Now, Let us compare this stage to, say, Sonic & Knuckles Mushroom Hill which acts as a "Part 2" of Sonic 3.
>Sonic and Knuckles Mushroom Hill Act 2<
If you look at Mushroom Hill you'd notice that while it is easier then Lunch base, It does have a well balance of Speed/ Platforming/Slow gimmicks to make up for it. It's a level filled with momentum level design, new gimmicks so not only does it feels easier, it is also much more interesting then Sylvania Castle.
I'd like to compare two different stages from both Episodes:
>Sonic 4 Episode II Sylvania Castle Act 1 - Speed Run by Silverin220<
So, what do we see in the video? From the Get-go the Co-op move almost teleports you towards the Spinning Wheel, then the player chooses to use Tails (and that's the right implementation of Tails, being a Choice) to go towards the upper path, instantly falls on a booster doing all the work from him, has a nice jump on Bubbles (which, in my eyes should immediately give you access to that upper area).
He now has to call Tails (mandatory) and performs the Co-op roll, which immediately makes him skip a huge chunk of the level, without much need of player input, (If not for the Co-op alone, but also for the staggering amount of boosters found in the way) granting maximum speed towards yet another spinning wheel, making now all the level complete with only a small gap between the player and the sign post.
Speed running is an awesome feat - A test of speed and ability to dodge every obstacle the level hands out, thus making the most out of your surroundings.
That out of the way, let us compare this level to Splash Hill Act 1 From Episode I.
I shall now ask you to watch this video:
>Splash Hill Zone Act 1 Speed Run - by Paraxade0<
Right off the bat - You have an incredibly hard jump to pull off, followed up by a tricky ramp jump, now instead of keeping on the top path, he skillfuly jumps down. He lands on a couple of boosters (completly useless and uncalled for) followed by a suburb timing and reflex hitting that speed power-up. As he goes trough a ramp and performs a very harsh jump towards next segment of the level were the player makes a good use of "dash jump" handling out Bubbles in a breeze.
A few springs along the way followed by another absolutely stunning jump to smash a Bubbles badnick which grants the player the timing to go towards the last speed booster, followed up by another skillful jump which allows the player an incredible momentum as he reaches the sign post.
A Speedrun that blew your socks off.
Compare the Two - One has very few player input (although correctly put to good use), the other has suburb timing and reward.
It's just, undeniable, that Episode I's starting level takes the cake. In other words, a downgrade.
>Sylvania Castle Act 2<
Beginning with the ramp Ken has mentioned several times, while this player doesn't perform the Roll I suggest you all to do try and give it a go, for your own judgement of momentum you can capture (I ended up finding out that Running Speed > Momentum Speed the hard way).
So the player went trough a Speed Breeze, what do you have next? Water, Perfect! I'm already enjoying the level as we speak! Followed up by a (Mandatory) Tails gimmick, you are presented with air currents, a very nice gimmick that is correctly utilized in this level!
Some Basic platforming along the way, one booster with an inverted ramp, faces a couple of arrows along the way, which might make you struggle as your still in water, a few springs and your out!
So the player has had a couple of things to lead with here, badnicks, arrows water, it wasn't a breeze so to speak, let’s reward him with speed, Right? And there you go! A section of speed.
The player's now presented with a platform which I believe should be homed to (floating platforms in water), but gives the player the chance to call out Tails as an OPTION, "Hell yeah I want Tails!" Ok then, use it towards your advantage! A missed jump and you’re going towards the longer path, if you were to be successful - You would be rewarded with speed, Now Underwater the player has to deal with the Air Currents while having to look out for air bubbles. So Now you are presented with a bit more of a Speed section, and you find yourself in a very interesting position, were water rises and you have to make the most of your surroundings to your advantage, Or again you CAN call Tails for help!
This Whole "choice" and "balance" is what makes this level very appealing to me.
Let's be honest here: Wasn't this level a whole lot more exciting? As much as it could've been way better, at least I find it to be a much more memorable stage then that of Act 1.
Let us take a close look to another great level:
>Sky Fortress Act 1<
The Co-op there quite amusing, some may argue that It falls back on optional paths as you only have one direction to go, But! That was the whole deal with it! It was supposed to be that way! In a way it even makes use of Sonics Homing attack towards advantage, the "Boss fight" in the background was also well put off, kind of like a "mini boss" in the background with the addition that those badnicks were given nice moves, which feels complemented tho the level itself!
Simply put - It could be better, but I'm okay with it, they researched their "backgrounds" good enough with this one and made for an intresting level, The only thing I feel amiss is the ability to go trought different paths this level doesn't have as many, still It's forgiving as the level feels much more entertaining.
>Sky Fortress Act 2<
Were it not for a little bit too much Automation surrounding the level, if they had made it so that the player felt rewarded with "Ceiling running" without the need of boosters, I’m sure it could be a outstanding level! I really do believe that!
I mean look at it! Jeez it may just be me but I've always loved Wing Fortress, and now seeing it "come back" feels so Alive the level is downright beautiful filled with all wacky things from helix propelling you up, dangerous bottom cliffs, new gimmicks, the level doesn't force you to use Tails but you're able to use him to fuel up explorability! It just feels so awarding and nicely put together!
And Tails FITS in the level! Awarding you with extra exploration, fast rewards, faster routes ultimately being a weapon you CAN summon at any given moment while not exactly enforced on you. This is exactly what I believe levels should had been modeled like.
>Sky Fortress Act 3<
On the other hand Sky Fortress Act 3 has more Tails sections, to what I'd be okay If I was given more Optional Paths, we also have a lot of "Ring Cannon" but nonetheless they only give you a lift, while I would have the chance to run up to the other segment myself (Death Egg gives you 2 optional paths even with the cannon), like I said - I'm okay with it, so long as they explore future Options a little bit better. A gimmick that gives you choices is always better then the ones who don't and which only purpose is for you to go towards it. That said, I do find myself enjoying this stage, while it's level design could've been better, it's much more well developed.
And that's it for now, remember this is all from Beta. The game will be launching soon enought and I'll be able to do a proper review once I get ahold of the game. Untill then I'll be looking forward to know what are your thoughts regarding this Beta version!
Hello all! So, The game is now O-U-T and I have Finally - FINALLY Played the game! About time too! (Being an EU user never hurt as much as it did now, only receiving the game Yesterday) and so, I believe I'm finally ready to share with you guys some of my thoughts.
I shall say this: I am, Overall - Happy, but not due to this game being a Saga, unfortunately not, but more as a "Sonic and Tails" game, for what I (and many others) had feared is set in motion throughout the entire thing.
Now please, do take into account I do not Dislike it, and I shall not Bash it, everything I'll point out will be for the sake of Sega producing even better 2D games. There are a lot of things that still have to be properly nailed and should really be taken a deep look at in order to create a great saga for the Hedgehog to run aboard.
So before we start, I shall, like I have done before, share with you some nice music to go by - For when it doubt, always go for some "Soniky" music:
>Tee Lopes - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Musical Trip<
Tee Lopes - Ahhh~ What a great piece of work he has brought us.
So, let's get this Show on the Road shall we?
- About Co-op
Let us start by taking a look at an intreview made to Takashi Iizuka on Tokyo Joy Polis:
" ― Did you have difficulty developing Ep2, in terms of the new action?
Iizuka: Yes, I thought carefully about "Tag Action." Developers tested the game again and again to decide whether to use Tails as a playable character or not when players play it alone. In the end, we decided to make Ep2, in which you can enjoy the co-op play alone. For we believed that, because it was based on the co-op play, we should compose the level design for the sake of the co-op play and it should be more enjoyable."
This game is about Co-op and Co-op is what it brings, as I feared, Co-op is mostly mandatory throughout the game, shall you not do so -"The Game Breaks" which is rather disappointing, there are a few couple extra paths here and there that I was happy to find and use Tails to my advantage but at the end of the day, the Co-op gimmicks, the way they were presented - do more harm then good.
So what exactly are these new gimmicks? Well, there are 3 new abilities that you can use anytime throughout the game: Flying, Swimming and the Combo Roll.
I'm, personally, very satisfied with the submarine mode Tails, it really feels unique and adequate, while it may take awhile to get used tho, I find it to be very handy.
As I was going trough Co-op Online, on a couple of seals of White Park Act 3, I found out the hard way that if I wasn't able to get Sonic trough such sections, there was no other path, ultimately resulting in me and my partner drowning. They, purposely made it so that if you end up there, you will either succeed or die, they are Way too Mandatory in many regards which will ultimately define your appreciation for the game.
Not to mention I once struggled playing as Tails with a Sonic player that kept using the Co-op moves at the wrong times on Oil Desert act 3 (when the sand is sinking in), what I found was that there are sections of platforming out of place, that really calls upon Co-op for the most wrong reasons: a simple platform that Sonic should be able to jump over, well he can't, really, It's kind of harsh going trough there if you have no confidence with who you're playing with! - For they may call forth Co-op for the most absurd times resulting in a double penalizing death.
If you're Playing Sky Fortress Act 1, well unless you have a good partner online, Sonic can just suicide himself with every jump he does - and I get it! The Tails player is supposed to control the tornado, and in order to go trough, real Co-op really shines, but the way they made it, Sonic is just, well -useless for most of the run, if he attempts to do anything, he's as good as dead, there's not much space to screw up there.
So overall, nice design but the execution overall - Is rather dubious to say the least.
Co-op will really ultimately define your vision on the game, for it just runs trough the entire thing! There is no "Midfield" that I feel could greatly benefit the game - The option to play the game as you regularly do, with the addition of Co-op to further extend its gameplay.
What's missing the most are Choices, if there's anything we learned from The Classics is that every time you make a choice, more are there to come! Which not only add to replayability, but also makes the game more fun to play, it encourages you to make the best of the hedgehog (and a possible Co-op buddy) to be at your best.
There should had been the choice to go trough platforming, the choice to use Tails as a "Call for Help" if you mess up or even want to further fuel up exploring - The game simply doesn't allow you to and that is devastating, the game shouldn't be meant to be a racing game but rather a platforming style that has the ability - The potential to fuel up some incredible speed, for if you know what you are doing, You shall feel rewarded.
I mean, we're all gathered here for being "Sonic fans", but not everyone shares the same ideals, thing is, when you are in the creation of a "Sonic and Tails" it's only expected to find a game that plays such as this! For it plays like a Co-op game, if you choose to play in real Co-op with someone be it online or local, you shall find out that there really is a very special gem in the Co-op department, they really do compliment one another and if you are looking for that, then this is a game for you.
But for those who wish him to be like the classics - to Play like them, and to feel like they are picking up a game that directly follows up the game of 16 years ago - such feeling is yet amiss, the essence is still, Lacking, although it is overall, a nice upgrade from what was once the Sonic 4 Episode I, Level Design wise I see it as a downgrade, while it upgraded explorability and made the levels longer, but didn't made it more enjoyable to play.
Overall this game should really learn from Sonic Advance 3, in which both Co-op abilities feel like an extra and add to the replayability, as there are also many more combinations, several characters, and get to chose which characters tags with each, the level design wasn't even built around Co-op, but rather made it so that there were always alternative paths that were only accessible depending on the combination you chose -Exactly what they have failed to grasp with this whole Episode.
Now, Sonic 4 Episode I had a whole lot of things wrong, but I can clearly state from experience that putting both Episodes side by side - Level gimmicks exist in Sonic 4 Episode I, in a non rehashed way! They literally made some level design gimmicks that felt fun adequate to the zone itself!
Episode II however, such Gimmicks were completely replaced with the "Call Tails to help you navigate trough X,Y,Z situations" ultimately resulting in a game that doesn't have that "distinguished feel" as much as it should.
What feels amiss here is that by having them went for the "Co-op formula" they have completely forgotten the purpose of the game being a Classic - I get it! It's a game with Tails returning, I do enjoy the idea but feel sad for its execution.
Seriously, Give us Tails and yet we are not able to play as Tails? Not even a switch lead feature? How come we are this far into the Sonic gaming industry and they are making these mistakes?
Isn't this a game about seeing the returnal of Tails, so much that we're being given the Co-op treatment? It's just Unreal for fans, who since the very start of this saga wanted other characters playable, the same fans who have picked up this game Because it was advertised with both Sonic and Tails, Only to find the deep frustration of not being able to play as the character they were teased with the most.
It's not just Sad - it's Cruel.
So, for many, this is a Decent upgrade from Episode I, But Honestly?
If this game were to have a bigger budget, a proper team (I'm looking at you Sonic Team from Classic Generations), giving Sonic 4 close to perfect physics, Level Designs that really does push the hedgehog to reach higher heights out of momentum, with that whole "rolling like only an hedgehog can!", Really work level designs around what the hedgehog can perform chopping down boosters/springs, but rather give the player the awarding sensation that is building up speed trough momentum, balancing Exploration/ Level Design / Speed, and having Co-op as an Extra, bringing in Tails Solo play and give him his own exclusive paths, downgrading the Co-op Roll so that it only outperforms the Spindash in Real Co-op action, giving both players a task to maintain that speed and thus -awarding you for maintaining it.
- Then by God they would had done it!
A game that allows you to play solo, feels complimented further fuelled up by Tails, and yet an more interesting, and for some, more fun style of game play that is playing with your sidekick partner on Local Co-op!
This is what they should had been aiming for all along! This was the game that was promissed to us, and that was how the game was advertised to be! Sonic 4 holds that much of a name, we expect no less from the successor of Sonic 3K.
When they chose to start the Project they knew, or rather, should have known that these fans wish only the best, because that's how high the standards were from Sonic 2 to Sonic 3! And those same standards were present in a whole different level of expectation from us fans back then, it was just Mindblowing.
Sonic 4 Episode II, while it has proved, to me that it's fun to play with someone, it really falls Wayyy behind in single player, really, since when did Sonic required Tails to his bidding before?
Answer is, he never did, he was an Extra, and that's how far he went into play, being an extra.
Now? Heck, he is much more then an extra he's Mandatory! How could they have made such a mistake? If you want to have freedom of choice, well there's not much to see honestly. You really do have to use Tails else "the game breaks/ won't function" When did this happen before in the classics?
It just didn't, while it is fun to expand said Co-op - it really is, Co-op can really add a great feature to the saga, there should never had been a Classic game that focuses solely on that. And what's worse, is that the said rewards for momentum style of game play are now only accessible trough Tails, want to get there by yourself? Well too bad, you can't even if you want to. Want to play Tails alone? Nope, not going to happen, Want to build Momentum? Well, I've got news for you pall -It's useless.
Not to mention performing the Co-op roll cancels out your Super form, what a waste, why even bother collecting the emeralds if you can't feel the satisfaction of "running rampant" trough the levels?
You see what's happening? They focused so much in Co-op, that the game doesn't even require a Hedgehog anymore, the game wasn't designed for a hedgehog to roll, but rather for a Fox to Fly and Swim, with some mandatory Co-op sections just so it feels more " player interactive".
Heck, it might as well be Cheese (pun intended), yes, the Chao, the Chao could Homing Attack everything and break solid walls, with the press of a button, it's Tails and Cheese, the invincible duo!
Sonic is there, but I really do pity him, all the abilities he was assigned don't really have the chance to shine throughout the game! As said momentum rewards do not exist, in order to have access to them, you require Tails, and it's not thought momentum, but trough the Extra Co-op, why couldn't they design levels with proper physics to allow us to do all of that by ourselves WHILE having the option of calling Tails for help IF we didn't managed to get up there by ourselves?
Even if they couldn't, at least design levels on what the current Sonic is able to perform, that 8 booster pad long wall on Oil Desert act 2 really does prove that they were going for something they knew was outright impossible to perform.
Let us be honest, I don't hate the game. I don't. But was it the game I was promised? No.
Tails is the game gimmick, Sonic doesn't really have a purpose for being in the game. It is saying Knuckles would add much more to the table.
Sonic needs to be there in order for the Co-op roll move to work, Yes, it was that much of a downgrade. Homing attack is a must for the most awkward reasons (Ring cannon much?), Really, why is rolling so much of a downgrade? As for the Homing attack since he's here to stay, I encourage more research invested in it, so that it brought more to the game, in a non "must Homing Attack to get aboard the Ring Cannon" sort of fashion, I believe the move does hold a lot of potential as shown in Sylvania Castle act 3, so I'd really like to see more of that with a more player input style of platforming.
Co-op Should had been a feature, not the game label!
- Level Design
As seen by the picture, Level design is the main essence of any Sonic Game - while everything has a solid role, Level design is the very >Core< - the main Engine which has a major role holding the main Game structure and everything together apiece.
Now I want you all to take close attention to this Level Design:
>Marble Garden Zone act 1 Map<
Take close attention to the route options you have, look at the level gimmicks, look at the scenario that was like nothing we had yet seen before, the badnicks, the amount of explorability, the special stages which can only be accessed if you use Tails or pick up the fire shield and dash into it and most importantly - momentum based level design that right from the start awards you with a lightning shield chose you roll right from the get-go. You can truly feel this level was built up with the utmost care.
There's just so much to look at! And you know what makes this stage so memorable? Every single time I play it, I feel as if I'm on a new stage for the first time, the amount of routes I can take is just, mindblowing, this level, on its own - Just puts the entirety of Sonic 4 levels to shame.
Sonic 3K had something very important: Level Designs that always award players for exploring and rolling at the right time. It didn't necessarily require 3 acts per level in order for the levels to be amazing. Why? Because they are so expansive, that 2 acts just make for an extremely well balanced and most importantly memorable zones. If you ask me, 3 acts per zone is overdoing it.
Episode II Level design still isn't able to do what it's supposed to - the fast paced rush is Present but not in form of reward, but in the form of Speed Boosters.
When will they ever learn? These cheap gimmicks are not able to cover true rolling, they do not offer any sort of Balance the way they are implemented either, and no, I do not mean this as in “take all the speed boosters away to win”. No they had a place in the past, and they do have a place to be here as well.
Thing is, when you used the level environments to your advantage - Because you knew, you're a hedgehog and you can Roll, but even those Level Layouts could only be rewarding if the player knew how to press momentum forth, not to mention they were only present after sections of platforming/ harsh environments surroundings. So when you press on a booster, it means you are just instantly awarded said Speed, it will never feel as rewarding as a proper roll as players will never truly reach the satisfaction of having a good performance by their own merit.
But does it mean it boosters should be scrapped? Not at all, sometimes players go trough so much tension, ala escape from water, you're about to drown and you have that one booster that delivers you with an instant burst of speed, if applied this way, that one booster will come up as a nice feeling, a reward for having survived the harsh environments.
Boosters do have a place to stay, thing is, with this game, you shall most of the times be running trough un-awarded speed, even some of the momentum you can try to build is pretty redundant as boosters are enforced in your way.
Momentum does not yet feel rewarding, because at the end of the day levels were designed so that only by performing Co-op actions could you reach those higher routes. Co-op, because of the way it was introduced, has torn apart the very essence of timing and reflex players were familiar with on the classics.
Momentum which is said to have come back Well - It's still less rewarding than running, most, if not all the times. Although very rarely you can really roll to build up some decent speed, but it just doesn't work every time as you expect it to behave, it really sounds scripted.
Still, I enjoy that at least it's somewhat present, but the fact that they have yet to nail momentum style physics will always make me sceptical on ever considering this a true Sonic 4.
When will Sega ever learn - Rolling is what made the developers choose a Hedgehog over a Bunny!
I Actually felt that Episode I did somewhat better on the Level Design department, while the levels weren't all that big and overrun by Speed boosters, Bubble chains and Springs, it still had some nice level design to go with it - it had something very important - Level Gimmicks wich are required to create unique levels.
Level Gimmicks are now somewhat Extinct, these "Little things" are of Utmost Importance for a level to feel both unique and fun.
They are what make stages memorable, they make levels a unique experience.
When you reflect on levels and remember of Marble Garden zone with the Wheel, the Disk, the Earthquakes, the fight with Tails lifting you up, or even in Sandopolis with Ghosts, Sand sinking in, timed structures. Or even in say - Sky Sanctuary, the Death egg Lifting up, Knuckles asking you to carry on his mission, the Ground collapsing, the Teleports, the Clouds.
Every level has a Key, a reason to exist - they were created for a purpose, if every level feels more of the same, why even bother making they visualy different? I Can honestly say that going trough Episode II (Because even Episode I has some key memorable level gimmicks to it) there's not much I can say about these level. They really lack on Identity.
Level Design is yet to feel like a classic Sonic game, The levels while longer doesn't exactly mean they are more fun to play either.
What made you - the Player, burst in speed ever since Sonic 1 was utilizing the roll to it's fullest of use! To make the best out of such abilities - Speed was never the main essence that defined the Sonic games. But just the fact that it was present, that you could attain it - That's where it's at!
This is why having Level Designs which encouraged you to master it, awarding players who were familiar with the Hedgehog's abilities a more challenging, yet, rewarding way to finish the stage, was Remarkable.
But that feeling is now - Amiss, the way levels were designed, Speed just doesn't feel rewarding.
Even exploration, which is something people looked up to was cut down in the forms of Tv's and Bottomless pits which emphasize how much the Level design already wants you to go trough said routes.
Like a movie, they feel like you should and therefore must get there, and if you don't? Well there's no other place for you to go, granted, longer level's don't really mean they're more fun to play.
The Rolling "up, down and all around" to make the best out of the hedgehog's abilities and unlock new paths feels now Extinct, and I must really say I'm truly sad to see that, especially when the physics themselves have gotten a bit better. A chance to not only demonstrate better physics would be to fuel up level designs that makes the player well utilize them with the goal of recapturing those moments!
It's saying that even if the physics engine was golden, without a proper level design setup built for it - Momentum style physics won't ever have the chance to shine.
This is why Rolling Is Important - But even more so is having a Level Design that well utilises such abilities and Player Input! So players always try to perform their best for they know that Level designs are always built towards that goal - it encourages players to perform better and even encourage newcomers to feel rewarded as they keep playing as their own skill Increases! This is Sonic's Glory.
A lesson that was learned by players who played all trough Sonic 1 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles and that any successor has to not only hold, but further fuel up and thus is only expected, a necessity - a Must to be present in this Saga as well.
Seriously, as I replay Classic Generations, I can but wonder why couldn't we have something more on pair with it? While the physics could still go a long way, It's just so much closer to attain the Goal Sonic 4 set to be - That's the development team I'd like to see behind this project. They proved to know what they were doing, and executed much more in pair to the desire of playing a Classic game.
- Episode Metal
So, >Episode Metal<
Metal Sonic uses the same Physics Engine as Episode II, and still, carries some of the same problems as it.
From Episode I, people used to point to Casino Street act 1 where you would find a U shaped pendulum placed near the very start of the level reminiscing of Spring Yard zone. So, one would assume that Implementing momentum, would, once again be the key to get out, Right?
People had learned the hard way that performing the same "move" would not get you out this time around, not because you were doing anything wrong, but because the game itself wasn't built for that input.
So, Now comes Episode II, and people are yet asking the same question "Can momentum truly shine this time around?" - I tested that out for myself on the very same pendulum, and No, it is clear as sunlight that Episode II still carries the same problems, what could prove itself worthy to the fanbase As "It's working this time around!" turned into an "It's still not working as intended".
So, you want to roll your way out? You can’t, sad story but I must ask:
Why resembling an experience, if you can't attain the Same goal? It brought out to light the still inconsistent physics, where you can see that even tho you went trough all that trouble you can't bring the rewards that were presented more then 18 years ago. How come I still had to Run my way out of that pendulum, Once again?
If you want levels to purposely award players for using momentum, then at least let players use their knowledge to get free, a lesson learned in Spring Yard Zone which they have yet failed to deliver. if Developers want to recreate it, I believe it's only natural to at least expect the same results, Aight?
Something which also comes to mind, is how after the whole dilemma on Episode I that the "game was built around those physics" Yet, Episode II Clearly shows that even with different physics the game functions, which directly states that it is possible to "Fix" Episode I if they so desire.
Something I would in fact, be grateful for! To be able to play an "Upgraded" version of Episode I, I actually enjoy the Game on its own, and find that there is yet a whole lot of untapped potential buried deep in it!
Now, to get back on what's important, I did find Episode Metal Fun, It's only sad that it comes to an end so soon, 4 acts and your Set, not going much off topic here, while I enjoyed the cut scenes, I must say that I'm disappointed in how Metal was brought back to life, I get it that Little Planet came back, but why did Robotnik not go there himself? An insta-ray by a Television? Boy, those Televisions sure are growing to be menaces now aren’t they? I mean you see that the planet is being robotized as you progress, and a very unique and awesome feeling that was, yet you only see Robotnik up there on the very last stage, it would be much more appropriate to see Robotnik pick him up personally and go from there.
So, they spiked up the levels, and, in fact, they do not feel nearly as Automated as they once were, heck, I even had fun at the sudden spike difficulty rose - it made them more intresting.
Overall every level felt Entertaining, and I do want to emphasize how fun they were, Why? While they are direct rehashes of Episode I - This time around they were able to really bring out some decent balanced level designs! For as cheap as they were they brought out some challenge.
It really did prove that they are well capable of creating nice level designs if they so wish it, Episode Metal really is solid proof of that, while it has a couple of things I dislike with some (very) nasty cheap shots, but other then that, I do in fact, feel like it's a decent upgrade.
It Really brought back the feeling of playing hard mode Knuckles with one disadvantage, Metal is stuck to Sonic's abilities, I believe it would be in order to give him some different move set, to while feeling similar to Sonic, but not an carbonate copy, C'mon! A new character which offers more of the same? Why even bother?
Sure - I noticed that he performs faster Homing Attacks, he also feels abit heavier, but I mean, C'mon! If there's something we learned by Now (especially with Sonic's CD re-Release) if that Metal has the ability to Boost, Here? He's nothing but a Sonic copy! Which truly is sad - a great opportunity for Sega to bring birth a quite an incredible character which just fails to bring anything new.
I must say I was very hyped up with Metal getting that sphere on Lost Labyrinth, to the point that at the very start of Carnival Street, I pushed every single Button/Combination, only clinging to hope for something New - in Vain, a very disappointing moment indeed when I learned the harsh truth there was nothing more the Metal Hedgehog.
I still, however, encourage Sega to keep walking on this path, with more future Character Episodes. But just in case you do, give us Metal Sonic lovers a chance to truly see him shine, if we had the chance to See Metal rebel against both Eggman and Sonic, single handily stealing say, the Master Emerald to further fuel up his powers as the players takes control of the Hedgehog - Gosh darn that would be glorious!
So I say: Bring on forth Episode Knuckles!
- Televisions/Warnings and You
So, throughout the game you must have already noticed they got Televisions in your screen (Yo, dawg, we put Screens on 'yo Screen). Those Televisions which are spread throughout the game, really do cut a lot of interactivity towards us players, going from pointing every single Co-op section - To deliberately tell you how to beat a pinch boss (Oil Desert Boss), Hey, do not know-how to land the last hit? Don’t worry, even if you would like experience the fight by yourself, we’ll have a Tv screen showing it off "just in case".
I know, I know, nowadays tutorials have to be present and Sonic 4 is rated E for “Everybody” But let's get this straight: When you first see the Tv monitors in Sylvania castle, you learn how to break solid walls, learn how to use Tails flying and the Submarine abilities, would it really be necessary after such Co-op TV screens, to be present throughout the entire game? Going as far as to deliberately have them put on Death Egg mk II?
Seriously? The very last Stage of the Game? I mean, if you got that far, I'm quite sure you know how to handle it, right? Jeez, At least an On/Off option is in order.
Tv Monitors along with Death Warnings all over the game, makes you feel like you have absolutely no control over the game as they directly tell you what you should be doing. I'd like more freedom, I should not be tied with one only route, and I should be able to cross paths just fine with, or without Tails. Look, Wing Fortress always had platforms in there, and even in Sky Fortress you notice, such platforms exist! So I must ask, why must the game be developed with one only thought in mind?
Warnings were O-kaish, when Generations got 'em, because you were given the chance to manually toggle them OFF, which I can relate to, it serves its purposes, without annoying a more familiar player with the game. We should be granted that option here as well.
In terms of placements, If you are to look at the Classics you can tell when there's a pit, no need for a warning, Every Bottomless Pit felt Intuitive, they were put in such a way, the player felt familiar with them even before facing them! Mostly due to the level you are in, and the surroundings you are facing.
I guess I know what their thought process behind them was:
"Players dislike Bottomless Pits" (who doesn’t, but they're a part of the challenge) "Let's just solve this with Warnings!" *Erhem* That’s not a proper solution - The proper solution would be to have less Pits, and most importantly: Have them in places that matter!
Oil Desert zone, Seriously? Bottomless pits in a Desert? If you go back to see the 2 levels they mixed up Both Oil Ocean nor Sandopolis had them! Know why? Because Sand/Oil sunk you in! That was the Gimmick! That's the Bottomless pit you'd want to avoid! While they still brought that out, it still brings unnecessary bottomless pits just for Tails to have some action, but again - Unnecessary, I'd much rather have sand quickly sinking in, with a couple platforms, and "Hey, if we find ourselves in a though situation, we can Tails to help!"
The approach I'd like to see in future episodes, would be: more player/ scenario interaction, Bring more of that feeling that you know "Heck, I do not want to end up down there!"
This is funny, as even Sandopolis there were sand sinking-in segments where you could deliberately let yourself sink in, as to get down another route, going thought different exploration sections, unexpected, and yet, fuels up explorability. It would be the last place you'd want to try out, Huh? They should had done their research better before just implementing them, for there's a lot more then it meets the eye of the beholder.
- [Added] Rolling Combo and You
I've been thinking about this a whole lot: What could possibly be a solution to The Rolling Combo? Surely you know by now I do not despise Co-op - It is the way it was presented as a must use feature which bothers me, however that issue really isn't hard to overcome, for I find that most of the gimmicks Co-op provides, both flying and Sub-Tails should not feel like a must if level designs aren't built for those features exclusively in mind.
The most disturbing Co-op gimmick which really needs to be pointed out is the Rolling Combo, for it instantly drives the players away from the essence of "Working for speed" which was presented to us in the past, where from Spring Yard on, you knew that rolling at specific times would come to reward and decide to try building momentum in many other unique ways, this new "Feature" just renders momentum useless.
From Sonic 1 on Rolling became a game gimmick, it was this one ability that brought the hedgehog's full potential, not only beating Spiky or the Caterkiller (finally!) rolling would also make us further seek other routes that were only accessible throughout rolling - It started to make sense, you're a Hedgehog, you can Roll - the Level Environments were meant for that! - It made it so that you were awarded for "using the hedgehog's skills" to your advantage.
- Marble Garden Act 1 right by the start if the player were to deliberately roll from the very start, you would proceed to find a lightning shield. The Designers felt that the most skilled player, would always find it beneficial to roll at the proper times.
There are so many uses for Rolling, which goes to show how far they went with that concept and thus, decided to make the best out of the ability - they always wanted to make the player expand their gameplay, to think of the "unthinkable" and to be awarded for it - that's the deep message behind every single stage created by the developers.
Now - The Spindash - Introduced in Sonic 2, Does what was "Amiss" in Sonic 1 and further makes rolling more tolerable. So for those who started off with Sonic 2, well, Here’s an tutorial all by itself - Now you can charge up your roll and blast off with the momentum you pick up as you blast off! The joy of using the Spindash charge with 2 or 3 spins to power it up even further to make the best of the level surroundings - While - Maintaining risk and reward, If you use it with the proper knowledge of your surroundings the game awards you for such, however choose you use it without the proper knowledge, you might end up in a not so very pleasant situation.
The newly introduced - Rolling Combo - does carry that "You can fail a jump and fall into other routes" thought, however, it does not carry any reward thought angle, for it Instantly drives the player away from building any speed, further fuelling up a Automated style of gameplay - It does not make you - the Player - use the level environments towards your advantage as much as momentum did because of just that - You have no control over it other then to stop it, jump, hit a wall or any kind of obstacle 3 times to come to a complete stop, all of this at the cost of a button press! Jesus, it even grants you Spikes immunity and automatically goes right for crying out loud!
This one move, just tarnishes everything that made the ability to roll Unique.
It really does feel like Nieves has posted >Here< (Bottom page).
The Rolling Combo is a Co-op gimmick right? What about making it more of a Co-op ability then? Say that if you were able to maintain the Rolling Combo long enough you could reach that staggering speed but not only trough the knowledge and effort of one player -But Both!
Make both players earn it by maintaining the Co-op Roll long enough towards advantage.
Make it so the Co-op roll only truly shines with your partner - for that is really the "Ultimate" Co-op move, a little bit like the new Power item where both players have to slam buttons in order to get the highest award possible, both have a "task" in it, and the better you are, as a team - The better award you get! Thus, contributing for more Co-op gameplay, granting its own Charm in a very unique and Fun way to play while also benefiting from the very same logic used in the classics!
- Other Topics
As I was playing Episode II I felt there are a couple of "Minor Things" which could go a long way into creating a more memorable experience for players:
- The Art of Spindashing
Rolling defined Sonic as a platformer. Sonic 2 gave us the Spindash. And so the world witnessed to another great trait of Sonic’s own unique arsenal.
With Sonic 4 Episode I, unfortunately, the spindash lacked power. The terrain couldn’t be used for sonic roll (or spindash) to collect momentum, and thus momentum based level design was not used.
Did Sonic 4 Episode II solve the problem? Sadly. No. Throughout a normal Sonic 4 Episode II little to no times did I even feel like performing an Spindash.
And why is that, you ask? Well, there are three main ingredients why it became so:
1) Level design doesn’t encourage the player the use of momentum
2) Co-Op roll completely nullifies any need for a player to perform it.
3) Automation completely takes off player interaction, giving the player to burn in speed without any need to “charge” up.
If you were to ask a kid who played Sonic 4 Episode II, he would probably not even know said action exists.
The Spindash, ultimately one of the key traits the hedgehog was identified back then failed to deliver an experience akin to those of the classics. Remember, if you don’t encourage the player to use an action, the player will eventually forget he even has access to it. This is where Level design comes into play, keeping the player embodied in the actions you are allowed to perform and have the
- Level Gimmicks and Badnicks
By now you must have seen the Grasshoppers made an loyal return, noticed any difference from the ones in Marble Garden zone? Because those come out of nowhere! They popped up where you least expected them. Their purpose was to ambush you.
As for Episode II however, they are standing still in a well visible point like badnick fodder waiting for you to ambush them! Such reflex that the player had to have towards the Grasshoppers was taken away, it just fails in comparison to its original design, it's intended (and successful) goal.
If you are to rehash something, at least do it right.
The Bear Badnick however? Now there's something I enjoyed!
It felt new, he had a nice design and even offered more resistance then the standard badnick. It was also interesting that there was more then one way to approach him: You were offered the choice to Co-op roll into him, or just do it manually twice. Which is pretty alright, you are given the options to face him as you please.
My favourite Badnick, however, is by far the orbit flame throwing backnick, it was just so cool to see him light up the oil on Fire! That's definitely something I'd like to see more in the future!
Now, about Level Gimmicks. So, they have brought back was the Marble Garden wheel (Sylvania Castle act 1). While it certainly belongs in the Zone and I don't mind them picking old level tropes, the way it was presented I feel as it is yet - Unexplored. More dept could have been gone to it if they gave the player the ability to use it to a certain high and Unlocking different paths. When you have a concept, you explore its full capabilities! You make the most out of it! And if you are rehashing something that already exists (and by no means I'm saying they shouldn't have done, period), You should explore its full potential! For example: The Wheel reacts to your spindash right? What if "Half a spin unlocks the down path, full spin unlocks the upper path" line of thought which could go a long way here, and would had to the replayability of exploring additional paths!
I believe when going towards something "Old", giving it something as an extra charm, could potentially go a long way into making the "Old" sound "New".
- The act of Homing attack
Continuing from our earlier Discussion,
as Nieves has pointed out, you can't normally hit the broken pillars (from Sylvania Castle Act 3) by just jumping into them - No, you are forced to perform a Homing attack in order to activate them! The Ring Cannon also carries this thought, for you are also forced to perform the Homing attack to get aboard, well it makes sense to use it so it's easier, but I’d like to have the chance to jump over it as well, you know, like the classics?
These little things shouldn't be meant for Sonic only, they should rather be gimmicks made easier for Sonic, but not enforced upon you - the player to use it in such fashion.
Must say, there exists far better uses for the Homing Attack and thus far I’ve only seen the Broken Pillars mechanic as an Okaish mechanic, Why? Because they were created in such a fashion that induces more Automated style of gameplay.
There are solutions tho, they just need to encourage gimmicks which feel fun while not enforced upon the player's throat. I'd really like them to bring more of these mechanics that grants you a choise on how you want to approach them. For example:
you can break Bubble's bridge by performing the Homing attack/ just jump (dash) at them, which actually feels more fluid as you carry momentum with you.
Add options where there's no right and wrong, just a different take, if you will.
Like, Make it so you can normally hit the broken pillars, but for that you need to be precise and carry momentum with your jump - with the addition of Sonic's Homing attack to make it easier on you (Like Nieves has suggested), but also know how to use it other then just "Perform the Homing attack 8 times to get trough this segment".
They should make these sorts of mechanics collaborate for Sonic only paths. There's a lot that they can do to make it fun, they just have yet to make it so. Like, paths where using the Homing attack in a non Automated manner can truly collaborate for you to unlock new paths! Like said by Nieves:
A cracked wall that you cannot jump into. However, you can perform the Homing attack to break through it! (like the rocks from Knuckles only paths). Unveiling a new path for Sonic!
There you shall encounter obstacles where the Homing attack can have its full use (since you unlocked a Sonic only path, it's only expected of you to put these abilities to good use).
My Favourite Boss? By far, "The Heart", it just feels AND plays Brilliantly, I like that it's referred to the "Death egg Heart", which even makes out for the location the fight takes place, the suspense, and what leads you to him, is just so well planned out, gotta hand it to them - they truly did capture what a final boss should feel like.
Tails Co-op also feels adequate and placed nicely as you are able to hit the boss manually and also be able to use Tails towards advantage! I wouldn’t even mind the last hit being the Co-op roll, it fits the purpose nicely!
I also enjoy the prequel boss where Eggman Co-op's with Metal and you Co-op with Tails, it seems fit and puts the Co-op mechanic to good use.
Metal Sonic on White Park I also find awesome it feels different from the Stardust Speedway, yet - feels adequate to Metal's style! That on the move pace brings forth what I feel takes advantage of Metal's abilities, the fact he was created to outmatch the Blue blur in every category truly put to the test.
Least enjoyable Boss? Altho I do not despise it - Damn Eggman building a giant Robot right in front of you? That's hardcore!
So, why do I chose such boss despite it being somewhat of an intresting Boss fight? the Oil Desert boss has such a long Cooldown for every time you land a hit - You have to get trough it all over again, it just gets repetitive over a while, I also find the first boss now more of a hassle, Bosses which you can only take down via Co-op is not the way to go, bosses shouldn't be meant to be beat via Co-op.
Overall, all of Episode's II Bosses have this feeling Amiss:
Risk and Reward, remember when you were able to land more then a hit if you were truly skilled? That's what I'd like to come back, the fact that you can hit him more then once, but you get highly exposed to danger so you have to know the boss fight before you implement such a strategy, Last boss of Sonic 2 rings any bell? Even Episode I has done this right.
Not to mention Oil Desert boss has a television telling the player what they are supposed to do! It just feels so out of place it brings down the whole point of learning the boss patterns if you just downright tell players what to do!
Something I also felt Episode I did right, albeit (hardly) perfect - the Boss music, in Episode II the pinch music is always playing in a constant loop! It's just hardly memorable, or rather memorable by the wrong purpose, it just gets so annoying way too fast! Never before was I compeled to mute my speakers to listen to anything Sega made.
So, overall lovely Boss designs! I did like what I saw, but I'd like to have more freedom on how to approach them.
Something I enjoyed a whole lot on Classic Sonic Generations was this new feature which had yet to been used: Weather.
In Crisis City, classic, you had to go through fierce fire tornados (mostly all of them carrying cars, Yes!), such obstacles you had to get trough, wind was blowing in all sorts of directions and even platforms were being tarnished apart, I even had a laught when you see the end level signal post only for it to be crack and drift apart – it felt both new and refreshing! It was pure Genious!
I find it very interesting to research such a feature into more 2D classic levels, rarely have we experimented with weather - you could make it Rain, you could make it have a fierce Thunderstorm affecting platforms themselves, you could make it Windy, you could make it cloudy and misty making it hard to see, there's just so much that can be done which would be a fine addition to the world of 2D gameplay!
Oil Desert has actually used this feature, but it was mostly feeling very bland. It's main purpose was to help Tails navigate quicker trough the sandstorm. I at least like it that it’s there, I'd just like to see more of it implemented in a way that it affects the environment around you in order to create intresting levels around them.
- Secret Passages
On your playtrough of Sonic 4 as a whole, have you not missed the spark for exploration. You know, like going through a wall and finding a secret passage which awards you both with items and a faster path to reach your goal.
Remember back in Sonic 1, in Marble zone act 3, there was a wall you would be able to cross after a very intense section of platforming! (Now that wall Aka - Secret passage, you could only grasp by complete luck, and find out you can get trough it - hit an extra life, and a shortcut!). Pretty nice of Sega to give us some sort of reward for taking the most demanding path, Huh?
A little nod like this can go a long way into giving players a new layer of satisfaction while they better explore the zones themselves! (:
- The Potential in Level Transitions
Last but not least, I'd like to take a moment to emphasize how important are Level Transitions firstly presented to us in Sonic 3, which I believe were very appreciated - a (very) important aspect of the “you can change the environment and outcome” feel.
I believe Sega should seek the potential inside the Level Transitions, I know we have the “press to continue” button, but I'd rather have a "press to exit”" button instead.
Level transitions is very interesting, addicting to watch, and even adds up to replay value!
It's definitely something I believe a lot of fans would love to see brought back!
I did notice Sega brought out a couple of nice cutscenes on Episode II, and they were just Awesome! They serve a great addition to the game itself, it further explains why such events were occurring, and adds dept to the story. The one I loved the most being the transaction from Sky Fortress Boss cutscene which connected to the Death Egg, I just can't say how much I appreciate it, for it felt and looked Awesome! The ending was also pretty neet, even tho it was the (bad) ending - it felt great.
However, there are some nods I want Sega to take into consideration:
I want to see how I went from Spot A to B, What drove me there and to better grasp how the story unfolds, to make it feel like you have a goal, thus bringing the player to an extent where he really does feel like he's on a mission there, to make him feel the urge to know "What’s coming next?", "What's the next Stage?", "How will the story unfold?"
For example, Sylvania Castle Act 2 to 3, how come you start in water? Clearly you were dry in Act 2, how did these acts connect? It's not that I dislike it, I'd just like to know how did they end up there.
From Angel Island to Hydrocity you know your going to end up soaked wet, but they even made it so to start Hydrocity with you falling - That's exactly what is feeling amiss here - Connection between levels.
- My Final Conclusions
Overall I did enjoy what I played, but more in the lines of a “Sonic and Tails” Game rather then the Sonic 4 I was expecting to play, they did expand their Gameplay. Fair play, I like that. They did correct and improved what Sonic 4 Episode I set up in some cool ways, but took a Wrong turn with Episode II's Co-op gimmicks, collaborating even further with the already present lack of choices and thus bringing in less Player Freedom.
I have already played the game more then what I did with Episode I this year, and it’s actually a game I find myself able to pick up from time to time, whenever I have a partner with me to make the experience more memorable.
However, I just can't think of this as an overall worthy sequel as it doesn't really feel like a successor, there's just too much amiss! It really does feel like they just, conveniently put Sonic up in there, naming it a game which would take over the reins of the classics, while not taking the time to create unique layouts as strong and unique as they should had been in the first place!
They have yet to put effort where it should have gone from the start - Into trully building levels surroundings which puts Sonics and the players abilities to the test! Both the Level Design and Sonic's Hedgehog like physics are yet to feel right, and that is of Utmost Importance!
If Episode III goes to improve said things, given a higher budget, presenting Co-op in a more suitable - Non mandatory way, Elemental Shields, A serious tweak on how the 2nd player gets left behind and warps to "ghost mode", Level Transitions, Bosses that take not so much time for you to hit once more (Risk and Reward), Mini bosses, Additional characters with Single Player Mode and Level Design that compliments the characters abilities - both aimed with more Momentum style of gameplay and giving each character Unique Paths.
Then, I could see it happening.
Also, please let's have the Red star rings mean something this next time around! Collecting them for the single purpose of "collecting" doesn't really mean much. Generations did it right by unlocking concept art and cool musics you could play in any level as you chose.
Super Sonic's physics remaining the same, I just cannot understand the purpose of building a "new" physics engine if you purposely leave them behind when going Super, it just, defies the end of building a new physics engine on the first place!
With that said, I do find Episode II enjoyable and worth trying out. For what this game fails to bring in solo play, it sort off compensates in two player mode, However, and let's be very clear here - That was not what was promised to us! For it to be a "true sequel", it should be a priority for Single play mode, while, ultimately, having some nods to it in Co-op to further extend its gameplay, for if you wish to play with someone, the game would then provide you with such enjoyment.
Let's place priority for where it's meant to go in the first place, shall we?
Sonic 3K was such a Masterpiece, without a shed of a doubt it represented to a lot of us Sega at their best, while Sega does indeed show itself promissing with these last few titles, Sonic 4 just fails to grasp what the Classics were truly about - But I remain confident that if Sega truly whishes to - They can create a wonderful 2D experience that rivals that of Segas biggest accomplishment.
They have a wonderful fanbase, they have brought back Sonic CD thanks to the Taxman, were able to provide a wonderful 2D Classic experience via Generations, if they want to - They'll find a way to make this work.
I hope you have all enjoyed Episode II, for I did find it fun, If you have yet to experience it online, please do so to unlock what I call "the real gem" Bring in a pall of yours and experience a whole new game for yourself! Be sure to leave a coment to help out contributing for more Sonic 2D games which feel new, refreshing, entertaining and - Classic.
As a last note, I'd like you guys to check a Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II Review done by SomecallmeJohnny which I'll link >Here<. It's definetely worth checking out as it checks out everything we've spoken off on the forums. He deserves more credit for his work to be honest.
Now to Conclude, my Score:
6.5 out of 10 - A Lot to Improve on, while they certainly made the game considerably more fun, they have went back with some decisions they took, there's still a long road to set sail on, if they want to make this sequel a worthy successor of what was once known as one of the best Saga's around.
Remember the ammount of expectation building to this game Saga is living up to be. Press on and always remember - This Fanbase desires only the best!
This Concludes my Review, I'd like to thank all of you for having supported this thread, we went through a lot and hope this feedback will be put to good use and strike a difference in any upcoming 2D Sonic games who wishes to replicate the Classic experience. One thing is certain:
There are a whole lot of fans who'd wish to see such a game happen!
Once again, you all have my deep Thanks for collaborating, I'd like to particularly thank someone who was very kind and has encouraged me to deliver this thread to you all: Godinha you have my deepest thanks.
If you find yourself a devoted fan that enjoyed what you have read, Please vote 5 stars in order to support the thread - Together we can make this work.
I have also deliberately missed a couple of subjects that do not cosern Automation, But for those of you who wish to read more of my personal opinions regarding Episode II as a whole you can find them here:
If you enjoyed your read, there are also a couple other Supportive Threads I'd like you to take a look at, towards receiving more feedback and support from us Fans. Be sure to also check them out:
May the Blue Hedgehog find a future where he can Run Free from Automation!