Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

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Esrever
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Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Esrever »

So last night, I sat down and played the first five zones of Sonic 1. Like most of you, I've probably played this game a million times before, but this was my first time picking it up in a couple of years. And I was really struck by a number of things that, until now, I'd never noticed before!

In the first five zones of Sonic 1...

* Only two zones (Green Hill and Starlight) have the 360-degree loops that are now basically the visual signature of the franchise.

* Marble Zone doesn't have any curved surfaces at all... no 360-degree loops, no 180-degree ditches, no 90-degree curves... nothin!

* Labyrinth Zone doesn't even have ramps! No ramps! Every single surface you can walk on in that stage is completely horizontal. The only inclines are the waterfalls, and the only curves are those water current tubes. Any time the stage requires you to move up or down, you have to do so by hopping up and down stairs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUrir6FKvJ0

Can you imagine ever seeing a stage like this in a Sonic game ever again? No ramps! When I realized this, it completely blew my mind.

I guess I just never realized how distinct each zone's architecture was. Green Hill and Starlight have sloping hills and 360 loops. Spring Yard has giant 180-degree ditches, spring-lined pits and long, shallow-angled hills. Labyrinth zone has jagged, stair-like tunnels built entirely out of bricks.

The things I think of as being common structures found in nearly every Sonic level... in Sonic 1, they aren't! There aren't any common structures that appear in every zone. Each one will show up in one or two zones, and then that's it. It's crazy when you think that some of these structures (like the loops) went on to to appear in pretty much every single zone of every single sequel... while others (like Labyrinth zone's tunnels) were never seen again.

No ramps!

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Rob-Bert »

The distinctiveness in each Zone is part of why Sonic 1 is actually my favorite of the Original Trilogy™. That, and probably because the slower, flatter stages like Marble and Labyrinth give off a very Mario-ish vibe, and lord knows I was a Mario fanatic long before I ever played a Sonic game.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Dr. BUGMAN »

I wish I knew why I find Spring Yard Zone so depressing despite having a fun layout and catchy music. Probably the colors.

Also, fuck the third Special Zone. I feel like I'm at the game's mercy there.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by G.Silver »

Marble Zone does have the more organic curves the GHZ does, just not the circular ramp variety.

But this is what I am always talking about! xD That distinctiveness that each level has is also what I really like about Sonic CD over most others, it shares a lot more in common with Sonic 1 structurally than the other games.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by gr4yJ4Y »

Esrever wrote:Green Hill and Starlight have sloping hills and 360 loops. Spring Yard has giant 180-degree ditches, spring-lined pits and long, shallow-angled hills. Labyrinth zone has jagged, stair-like tunnels built entirely out of bricks.

The things I think of as being common structures found in nearly every Sonic level... in Sonic 1, they aren't! There aren't any common structures that appear in every zone. Each one will show up in one or two zones, and then that's it. It's crazy when you think that some of these structures (like the loops) went on to to appear in pretty much every single zone of every single sequel... while others (like Labyrinth zone's tunnels) were never seen again.
It's like poetry man!

I've never noticed that before either, but thinking about it, you're absolutely right! It's actually hard to "analyze" these levels I've played a million times each. Maybe I should try to avoid the games for a couple of years and come back to them with fresh eyes.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by (No Imagination) »

...I think what you're beginning to realize is that Sonic is not supposed to be about ramps and speed and shit. It's a conspiracy that has been going on since number 2 of the series...my personal speculation is that Tails is somehow responsible by introducing Sonic to a supposed baggie of at this moment yet unidentified powdery substance. (Word on the street is, they call it the 7th Emerald or somesuch.)

Seriously, Sonic 1 is designed as a platforming game like Mario, only better - that means there is an occasional memorable loop and slope that Mario couldn't handle, just to spite him. There's a lot of momentum involved, and plenty of variety on how to utilize it. Each level has its own momentum-based gimmicks, and it's wonderful.

...it's obvious if you just play the damn thing and not limit yourself to thinking about Star Light Zone as an epitome of typical Sonic design. If there's ever a time when you - God forbid - need to crack skulls with 21st century Sonic n00bs, tell them to go count the number of full loops in Spring Yard Zone.

(Also: Sonic Advance 2, 3 and Rush games = nerfed Mushroom Hill times ten. In my opinion.)

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Malchik »

(No Imagination) wrote:...I think what you're beginning to realize is that Sonic is not supposed to be about ramps and speed and shit. It's a conspiracy that has been going on since number 2 of the series...my personal speculation is that Tails is somehow responsible by introducing Sonic to a supposed baggie of at this moment yet unidentified powdery substance. (Word on the street is, they call it the 7th Emerald or somesuch.)
It's funny you say that. Sonic CD didn't suffer the problems Sonic 2 and up did.

It's that damn fox.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Alexrd »

Rob-Bert wrote:The distinctiveness in each Zone is part of why Sonic 1 is actually my favorite of the Original Trilogy™. That, and probably because the slower, flatter stages like Marble and Labyrinth give off a very Mario-ish vibe
This.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Bo »

I played Sonic 2 a while back and was struck by how damn hard it is. How did I beat that game without savestates a million times?

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by G.Silver »

Is it? I am pretty sure I beat Sonic 2 the second or third time I played it (the end bosses may have thrown me).

But I can still beat Sonic 2 without really even trying, so I you can't blame getting old!

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Tweaker »

One thing I noticed in particular about Sonic 1 is the distinctive shape of the loops that differs from literally every other game in the franchise. From the outset, they almost look ovular in nature, but if you look at the shape of the traversable section itself, it's very much circular. I always wondered if there was a particular reason that this shape was changed later and never used again, because it seems pretty out of place in comparison to later games. I know it's not a technical limitation, either, since I remember we put some of the "standard" looking loops in Spring Yard for Megamix.

Actually, a lot of stylistic properties of common items in Sonic 1 were changed after the first game--spikes, invincibility stars, shields... do we know who might have influenced these changes? It'd be a pretty interesting insight into the shifting of the development team, I think; after all, the narrower spikes in particular haven't changed since Sonic 2 and 3 (though the perspective was altered slightly). I understand that they're less practical and not as aesthetically pleasing in Sonic 1, but it seems like such a particular thing to alter given the plethora of other things they could have concentrated on.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Alexrd »

Tweaker wrote:One thing I noticed in particular about Sonic 1 is the distinctive shape of the loops that differs from literally every other game in the franchise. From the outset, they almost look ovular in nature,
I think that's specially seen in Star Light Zone. But in Green Hill Zone they are circular, IIRC.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Arcade »

Thats why I said that those who think Sonic is about speed have never played Sonic 1. In sonic 1 there are parts where you have to stop and think what to do, running like crazy in all the stages is not the way you can beat the game.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by j-man »

I only beat Sonic 1 with all the Emeralds about a year back. I've had it since my seventh birthday and I never knew about that sweet little cutscene at the end! I spent most of my youth just tooling around in debug and cheating my way through. I think the only game I legitimately completed was Sonic 3K, and even then I remember using Sonic Jam's Easy Mode.

Sonic 2 is hard as balls, man, but Sunday night I finally - FINALLY - beat it in one playthrough with all the Emeralds. Like, no save states or nothin'. I was pretty stoked. My girlfriend was bored as hell. She didn't appreciate me singing Sweet Sweet Sweet at her during the credits, but I thought it was super romantic.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Alexrd »

Arcade wrote:Thats why I said that those who think Sonic is about speed have never played Sonic 1. In sonic 1 there are parts where you have to stop and think what to do, running like crazy in all the stages is not the way you can beat the game.
Exactly. That's what is lacking in the most recent 2D and 3D games. Momentum.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by j-man »

...having to stop and think is an example of momentum?

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Alexrd »

j-man wrote:...having to stop and think is an example of momentum?
No, but a game where you just have to run like crazy in all the stages is definitely lacking momentum.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by G.Silver »

Tweaker wrote:Actually, a lot of stylistic properties of common items in Sonic 1 were changed after the first game--spikes, invincibility stars, shields... do we know who might have influenced these changes? It'd be a pretty interesting insight into the shifting of the development team, I think; after all, the narrower spikes in particular haven't changed since Sonic 2 and 3 (though the perspective was altered slightly). I understand that they're less practical and not as aesthetically pleasing in Sonic 1, but it seems like such a particular thing to alter given the plethora of other things they could have concentrated on.
I'd argue that some of the changed elements don't look better (many things seem a lot smaller, for one thing, and that really effects the feel of things--level construction elements, checkpoint posts, enemies, etc), but the invincibility was pretty lame in the first place. They probably just took one look at Super Mario World and figured they'd just snag the general style of invincibility from that, since at least with Sonic 1 they were still looking at Mario as the game to beat.

But I'm sure most changes just came about because they had so many new people working on it and they redrew everything from the ground up. Of course it's all going to get different!

What sort of things would you have focused on changing from Sonic 1 to Sonic 2?

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Esrever »

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I believe I once read somewhere that starting with Sonic 2, the Sonic games switched to using 16x16 tiles instead of 32x32. Maybe that's why some objects changed size?

Image
Image

The Sonic 2 spike are a pattern that can be repeated every 16 pixels.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by G.Silver »

Pretty sure those spikes are still 32x32, at the very least. Sonic himself is definitely bigger than 16x16 (that's more like classic Megaman-size), so just looking at this image here you can tell there's no way those spike clumps are 16x16.

In that time, games were still restricted to storing art in tile-like formats, but the sprites themselves aren't restricted to such specific dimensions, although they might be built out of graphic elements that are 16x16 or even 8x8, the complete sprite object shouldn't be required to fit a particular grid space the way a true tile (ie, a background element) would be. 16x16 blocks could be used to create more intricate structures, but I don't think there would be a problem creating the same larger sprites and objects out a greater number of small pieces. 32x32 is actually a very large unit for something that is meant to be viewed on a low-def TV, so I don't think any 16-bit games would have been made out of such large chunks anyway.

That's what I'd think, anyway, but Tweaker probably knows more about this sort of thing.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Locit »

G.Silver wrote:I'd argue that some of the changed elements don't look better (many things seem a lot smaller, for one thing, and that really effects the feel of things--level construction elements, checkpoint posts, enemies, etc), but the invincibility was pretty lame in the first place.
My absolute favorite thing in Green Hill is to get invincibility, run really fast off a ramp or red spring and walk-bop motobugs and buzzkills from above. There's something so utterly silly about the running animation in that context that if loving it is wrong, I don't want to be right.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Esrever »

The spike clumps are 32x32! But they are made out of a repeating pattern that is only 16 pixels wide.

Apparently the thing that changed between Sonic 1 and 2 is that level art "blocks" were switched to "128x128 blocks rather than Sonic 1's 256x256s", which just goes to show that I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by G.Silver »

Locit wrote:
G.Silver wrote:I'd argue that some of the changed elements don't look better (many things seem a lot smaller, for one thing, and that really effects the feel of things--level construction elements, checkpoint posts, enemies, etc), but the invincibility was pretty lame in the first place.
My absolute favorite thing in Green Hill is to get invincibility, run really fast off a ramp or red spring and walk-bop motobugs and buzzkills from above. There's something so utterly silly about the running animation in that context that if loving it is wrong, I don't want to be right.
I meant the star effect around Sonic, is the lame thing that got changed in Sonic 2. What you do with the invincibility is your own business! (and kind of awesome actually)
Esrever wrote:The spike clumps are 32x32! But they are made out of a repeating pattern that is only 16 pixels wide.
Ohh I get what you were saying. If only I read things with comprehension the first time this sort of thing could be avoided. I just wanted to talk about tiles. :(

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by Esrever »

I enjoyed hearing you talk about tiles! I had no idea sprites could be any size. Shows what I know!

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Re: Things I never noticed about Sonic 1

Post by (No Imagination) »

Esrever wrote: Apparently the thing that changed between Sonic 1 and 2 is that level art "blocks" were switched to "128x128 blocks rather than Sonic 1's 256x256s", which just goes to show that I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.
More like level blocks, because they have as much to do with art as with momentum-based gameplay and all that. See, a Sonic level is drawn as a grid, where each of the squares is occupied by a 256x256 (Sonic 1) or 128x128 (Sonic 2) "chunk" (SonED calls 'em that way), composed of given number of 16x16 "blocks", which are in turn each composed of four "tiles". The 16x16 blocks are important because they are each assigned a solidity value and an angle...or not.

So you build your chunks from 16x16 blocks, assign the appropriate solidity settings on the ones you want to be solid, then position those chunks to form a level. 128x128 chunks are smaller, so you can have more of them and the level will be easier to put together consistently, but it will take you longer to build and you will run into temptation of turning your levels into fluid racetracks if you overdo the design.

..switching from 256x256 to 128x128 chunks is really the biggest difference between Sonic 1 and 2 (aside from spin dash)...bigger chunks mean less variety and speed in terrain (well, you can make it go fast all the time, connecting all the pieces to form a consistent road, but it will be kind of repetitive and boring to play through), so Sonic 1 has to compensate for that with more clever object usage, where Sonic 2 has levels that can afford to have consistently fluid runs inside them and stay varied at the same time.

(...of course I'm sure the Sonic old timers here have known about all this since '97...I'm just bringing it up here because I like refreshing my memory about this.)

... I prefer playing levels with bigger chunks, just because they make the Zones look more formal, intimidating (generally bigger stuff, larger rooms) and less prone to rushing.

On that note, does anyone know what format Sonic 3 uses?

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