Sonic ..Excursion?

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Radrappy
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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Radrappy »

big_smile wrote:The second problem is that I don't think Sonic Team really considers Sonic to be broken. How else can we explain the fact that they have done anything new with the Sonic forumla over the last decade. Instead, Sonic Team seem to feel that new play styles are the key to renovating the franchise.
I'm pretty sure Iizuka considers SA1 and SA2 to be smash hit successes on the level of mario 64. He's even gone on record saying Shadow was his favorite character. If that doesn't throw up red flags I don't know what will.

What alarms me most about recent games is the 100% focus on adrenaline and twitch gameplay over all else. It's as if sonic's ability to roll never existed altogether.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by G.Silver »

The first is that the new talent doesn't really care for Sonic: They are more concerned with showing off their own ideas.
I'm not sold on that because those ideas really aren't very well implemented. The Werehog is a great example, it's not as if there's anything particularly special or unique about it, it doesn't bring any Sonic-type specialness to 3D brawling, and as a brawler it isn't remarkable. There's just no way to know who is responsible for what or where these ideas are coming from, or why they're getting picked. Maybe someone really wanted to do the Werehog, or maybe someone pitched it like some kind of joke and an exec thought it was great. We just don't know. But yes, just like I would jump at the chance to "be the guy" who fixed Sonic, other people might see it as a vehicle for other types of ideas, it's definitely true that it could go both ways. But if those were things the developers were passionate about, I just think it would be reflected more in the games' quality.

I don't think it's unreasonable to hold the people attached to one of my favorite properties to lofty expectations, even if I'm never going to get it.
The second problem is that I don't think Sonic Team really considers Sonic to be broken.
I think that's the bigger issue. Even if someone internally wanted to change it, why spend time and effort developing new ideas when you can just slap some new feature on the old one? They continue to sell so for all my ranting and raving it's not as if anything I'm calling for would definitely improve sales... ..just their rep among people like me. But that's how bad it is--I'm totally self aware when I make a fanboy ass of myself on a forum, but here I am anyway.
I'm guessing that re-doing Sonic would require a new engine.
It would require a re-working of the code that handles Sonic and cameras and stuff like that, it might need to tie into different aspects of what they've already got. They use other physics engines in the games as well, and these are all flexible things, the actual act of making Sonic move around is all surface level stuff. An engine is just how the game talks to the hardware, it doesn't necessarily effect the behavior of anything. The real cost difference would be in developing new prototype gameplay styles, but that would be highly variable depending on how far they want to go, how many different ideas to explore, how much user testing and feedback and refinement to put into it before making a "real" game, etc. A prototype game can be banged out in very, very short order but as a big company I'm sure Sega has ways of making it more expensive.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Crisis »

G.Silver wrote:Going back to the talent, the guys they already have, I find it impossible to believe that they don't have the talent and the ambition to make better games. I mean, right here we've got a forum full of people who might not agree about everything, but we're all SURE that we know what's wrong and approximately how to fix it. We've ALL got ideas, and we'd all love to be able to apply them. Even on a sinking ship, Sonic Team's got clout, there's prestige there. How could ANYONE not jump at the chance to be the guy who "fixed Sonic?" Maybe it's a culture thing, maybe Japanese developers prefer to just keep their heads down and do what the boss says. Maybe the environment is completely toxic for people who want to try something different, they aren't allowed to even make their case. But we've got fans who can make a more accurate model of classic 2D physics working on fangames for free. We've got guys hacking roms to figure out EXACTLY how to recreate those old games. And even a layperson can discern the difference in how these games handle. We don't need Yasuhara to make new Sonic levels, we just need someone at Sonic Team to consider what he'd done with Sonic R and take a fucking clue.
I generally agree with this sentiment. It is frustrating that things are moving slowly and in a questionable direction. I'm not trying to excuse Sonic Team for a lack of ambition. Their best game in recent memory was literally a "greatest hits" compilation, and they couldn't even get that done without questionable physics and poor level selection.

I can see the desire for a radical overhaul of Sonic Team's management. I don't think a coup is likely any time soon, but it definitely wouldn't hurt to shake things up. I'm not sure who it would be - none of the candidates that have been mentioned so far strike me as very plausible.

My suspicion is that experienced developers aren't really interested in revitalising Sonic. To us, the Sonic franchise seems like an entity brimming with unfulfilled potential; to an external observer, it looks like a cynically maintained cash cow. Furthermore, none of the designers from Sonic's golden days have anything left to prove. We all know that they could turn Sonic around, but why would they put in the effort when there are companies with much better reputations and more resources at their disposal? Better still, why don't they just make their own startups, like Yuji Naka did?

I feel like any turnaround is going to have to come from younger developers. All the positive activity around Sonic seems to be coming from the generation that grew up with him. SEGA certainly could be doing more to help - Sonic Team desperately needs a chance to work on some smaller projects, for a start - but it's going to take time for these people to find their niche regardless.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by big_smile »

I can see the desire for a radical overhaul of Sonic Team's management. I don't think a coup is likely any time soon, but it definitely wouldn't hurt to shake things up. I'm not sure who it would be - none of the candidates that have been mentioned so far strike me as very plausible.
Starting with Sonic 06, virtually every Sonic game was done with a different person at the helm. Usually once the game was released, that person seemed to disappear from the team (although there are some exceptions).
Then with Sonic 4/Sonic Colours, Iizuka returned to the top spot. It's not clear if he took a leave of absence or was kicked out and then worked his way back, but clearly Sega seem to have trouble finding someone suitable for the job.
I feel like any turnaround is going to have to come from younger developers. All the positive activity around Sonic seems to be coming from the generation that grew up with him.
I'm not 100% sure, but I think the Sonic Unleashed team was staffed by people fresh from University. Obviously this one example cannot be used to discredit the idea of hiring younger developers, but it again highlight Sega's recruitment woes.
They continue to sell so for all my ranting and raving it's not as if anything I'm calling for would definitely improve sales...
I think I read somewhere that Sonic sales have been steadily declining in Japan since Sonic Adventure (DC). I know that the Sonic games no longer get strategy guides, which is kind of shocking as Sega owns part of the company that previously produced them. I suspect this fall in sales is the one reason why there has been a crack down on spin-offs (such as the Riders and Story book series).

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Crisis »

big_smile wrote:Starting with Sonic 06, virtually every Sonic game was done with a different person at the helm. Usually once the game was released, that person seemed to disappear from the team (although there are some exceptions).
Then with Sonic 4/Sonic Colours, Iizuka returned to the top spot. It's not clear if he took a leave of absence or was kicked out and then worked his way back, but clearly Sega seem to have trouble finding someone suitable for the job.
The director shuffle was presumably a response to every game from Heroes up to Colours being an embarrassment. I feel like ousting Iizuka needs to happen, but honestly I don't know who would be up for the job.

Has anyone (with a realistic shot) publicly expressed an interest in it?

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by FlashTHD »

big_smile wrote:I'm not 100% sure, but I think the Sonic Unleashed team was staffed by people fresh from University. Obviously this one example cannot be used to discredit the idea of hiring younger developers, but it again highlight Sega's recruitment woes.
That reminds me, Yoshihisa Hashimoto (the fairly enthusiastic fellow who led Unleashed's development) was very promptly afterward hired away by Square. And his Hedgehog Engine, which took 3 years and a significant chunk of change to rig up, was never licensed to any other party (as was the plan) and has been used for a whopping 2 games in all this time. Talk about leaving your previous employer holding a radioactive dud!

I'd love to see nothing less than Iizuka get kicked out completely, even if it would help nothing, just out of spite for all his work since 2003.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Radrappy »

FlashTHD wrote: I'd love to see nothing less than Iizuka get kicked out completely, even if it would help nothing, just out of spite for all his work since 2003.
Amen to that. I know it's probably unfair to demonize the man as many, many people are involved with these kinds of projects but you just can't help but feel he's responsible for the terrible direction things have gone. Anytime he opens his mouth its about how great the homing attack is, how sonic should explore multiple genres, and how Shadow is his favorite character. You'd think that after Shadow the Hedgehog (the game) he would have been looking for employment elsewhere.

And as for Hashimoto is concerned, he definitely made one of the best looking mascot games to date (one might argue Unleashed still looks better than Generations) and seemingly did his best to make the character relevant again. Then again he did make a game that was half werehog.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by cjmcray »

I agree with Neo. Sonic Adventure 2 was a much more polished game than the original. The framerate was smoother, there was more incentive to play it again, with all of the unlockable items.

Treasure Hunting was actually fun in SA2, becuase each stage was designed specifically for finding hidden items. As Neo said, treasure hunting in SA1 consisted of trimmed-down versions of Sonic's stages.

The hint orbs in SA1 were useless too, given how fast the hint orb would 'woosh' away. There's no way you could keep up with it. They fixed that in SA2 with monitors which would leave a helpful clue that was almost like a riddle.

I liked the jazzy tunes to Rouge's stages. (Security Hall is my favorite) Knuckles music was garbage, though.

The shooting stages were a lot more fun in SA2 as well. Hidden Base, Prison Lane and Cosmic Wall were a blast to play.

The cutscenes and voicework were better too. I don't get why people have such a hard time with drama in Sonic games. (Nobody has that problem with the Ninja Turtles) I liked it. It had action, some silly bits, and some heart. I would be disappointed if all future Sonic games had lighthearted, silly storylines like Generations.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Dr. BUGMAN »

cjmcray wrote:I don't get why people have such a hard time with drama in Sonic games. (Nobody has that problem with the Ninja Turtles) I liked it. It had action, some silly bits, and some heart. I would be disappointed if all future Sonic games had lighthearted, silly storylines like Generations.
Well, I wasn't really exposed (outside the live-action films) to dramatic TMNT because I wasn't really awash in comics as a youngster since they were already being relegated to specialty shops at that point, and becoming an expensive pastime (I didn't even know there was a Sonic comic until 2002-ish). Maybe many people are like me in that they're only really familiar with superheroes and such via Saturday morning cartoons, which tend to be lighter fair than the mediums that birthed them (SatAM notably excepting)?

Or maybe TMNT handled serious material with a bit more tact and finesse than Sonic Team (low, low bar, there).

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Radrappy »

cjmcray wrote:I would be disappointed if all future Sonic games had lighthearted, silly storylines like Generations.
Here's hoping your disappointed for years to come!

In all seriousness though, I don't think it's so much that people have grown tired of dramatic story lines as much as they're tired of the poor execution. Sonic3 & Knuckles had a fairly dramatic tone towards the end yet is well loved among fans. I know this is a lot to ask but I would love to see a return to entirely pantomimed cutscenes and story telling. That way even if things get dramatic and have high stakes there won't be any hammy writing or terrible voice acting to ruin it all! Mostly though, I think people just don't want the franchise to take itself that seriously. And boy did Sa1/Sa2/06/shadow take themselves pretty seriously.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Wombatwarlord777 »

Story-wise, I'm actually extremely pleased with how the recent games approach things. In Sonic Colors, it was great fun to see the game's jokey cut-scenes unfold and to listen to its unabashed self-referential humor. Granted, you can't do that for every single game or you'll diminish the effect of doing so, and I actually have to give Sonic Generations some credit for turning the wacky humor down a notch while still delivering an understandable and enjoyable story.

Generally, I think the series succeeds more in telling its stories because of three things. First, the vocal talent is finally largely decent (at least the English voice actors are, I don't know about the VAs for other languages...). Secondly, the writing has been entrusted to talented and proven people, who know how to deliver a story in an enjoyable fashion in a way that's appropriate for the series. Third, it's much easier to follow the overall plot because there's less elements in play. Both Colors and Generations basically set up the central conflict and plot details in the first ten minutes, and then the rest of the game is basically "okay, go on to the next place". I don't mind some plot development though. S3&K did that pretty well, and I feel that Generations's reveal of Classic Dr. Eggman was handled well enough to be a bit of a surprise.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by big_smile »

I personally think that stories of recent Sonic games are terrible.

Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations didn't even really have a story. Instead both games open up with a narrative frame. Then it's a case of killing time with (admittedly funny) jokes and puns until Sonic reaches the final level. At this point the story finally starts to move, but the resolution doesn't compensate the wait (It also doesn't help that a good chunk of the story can be worked out simply be reading the back of the box).

This story-lite was okay for Sonic Colours, but it was a huge disappointment in Sonic Generations.

To be honest, I would much rather go back to the stories of Sonic 06 and Adventure. Granted, they were too overly convoluted for their own good. But at least stuff happened and there was a sense of being part of an unfolding narrative.

I also wish we would see a story that explores the world of the classic games (and in particular the animal friends) rather then visiting new human locations.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

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The advantage to the light hearted, minimalist story though is that the developers get to focus on the gameplay without really having to worry about waiting for a scenario to be written or having to incorporate major plot elements into the level design. It lets them put most of their energy into what really matters in the end.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by big_smile »

In a Sonic game, the story should be an added enhancement. It doesn't have to dictate the setting or the level design. In some ways, even though it was an absolute mess, Sonic 06 was a good example of this. Even though it takes place on a single island, the locations vary quite greatly. They don't let the setting of the story restrain the use of environments.

Besides, in Sonic Generations and Colours, the story was written by a separate team, so it's even more disappointing that it was so weak. I get the impression that the writing team doesn't regard consider Sonic to be anything more than a generic mascot character.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by cjmcray »

big_smile wrote: To be honest, I would much rather go back to the stories of Sonic 06 and Adventure. Granted, they were too overly convoluted for their own good. But at least stuff happened and there was a sense of being part of an unfolding narrative.
I agree. Even though the stories had their flaws (SA2's final battle was ridiculous) but you could tell Sonic Team were taking the characters seriously, and trying to create a good story. Some of my favorite Sonic moments came from the Adventure series.

-Sonic finding the mural in Lost World, then having a nightmarish vision

-Shadow's partial flashback of Maria, before taking on the military in Radical Highway.

-Shadow rescuing Rouge in Security Hall, followed by his flashback of Maria.

-Sonic being shot into space by Eggman. Sonic telling Tails that he was counting on him was good character development for Tails, who always just followed behind, idolizing him.

-Shadow's "death" in SA2. Sure, it happened under bizarre circumstances, but it was still touching to hear his final words. It gave closure to his character, and was a touching way to end the game.

-Eggman breaking into G.U.N HQ, firing off his rifles, cackling. Throughout Iron Gate, alarms were going off, doors were sealing shut, security forces kept coming at him, while you could hear the panicked yells of a worker to keep Eggman from getting any further. It was an exciting sequence that really made Eggman seem like a legitimate threat. I loved Eggman's characterization in SA2. He was sinister at times, but also comical, and during the credits, we got a little information on his childhood.

I'll take dramatic serious stories over that minimalist garbage found in Generations and Heroes anyday.

I wouldn't mind Sonic tackling sillier stuff in a cartoon series though. AoStH was awesome.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by G.Silver »

I have to admit I've decided that the story really was an important factor in the games for me as well. It isn't that it needed to be overly dramatic (character "deaths" etc) but the unfolding narrative definitely gives extra incentive to play, I mean it's known that it's a big deal in games in general, but it does work on me. Even in Sonic & Knuckles (more than any other early Sonic game) there was a definitely sense of story progression as you moved through to the climax, it really made you wonder what was happening next. It's very easy to look at other Sonic titles as a string of bloated obstacle courses, the large size works against them and they start to feel irrelevant as you have no idea where you are or what progress you've made. I've argued that the design has a lot to do with that before, and it isn't enough to compensate for that with cut scenes and story elements, but allowing for some story flow to direct the game a bit can be really helpful in making it feel more significant.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Radrappy »

G.Silver wrote:I have to admit I've decided that the story really was an important factor in the games for me as well. It isn't that it needed to be overly dramatic (character "deaths" etc) but the unfolding narrative definitely gives extra incentive to play, I mean it's known that it's a big deal in games in general, but it does work on me. Even in Sonic & Knuckles (more than any other early Sonic game) there was a definitely sense of story progression as you moved through to the climax, it really made you wonder what was happening next. It's very easy to look at other Sonic titles as a string of bloated obstacle courses, the large size works against them and they start to feel irrelevant as you have no idea where you are or what progress you've made. I've argued that the design has a lot to do with that before, and it isn't enough to compensate for that with cut scenes and story elements, but allowing for some story flow to direct the game a bit can be really helpful in making it feel more significant.
Wouldn't Colors be a good example of this? There are 5 planets that you need to free and each planet freed brings you closer to the conclusion. There's a definite progression of some sort and enough tension by the end to make the player emotionally invested in the final boss.

I agree with what you're saying(that narrative progression yields player investment), I just don't think the story lines of Sa1/Sa2/06 are the right path for this franchise. I would be more inclined to accept the melodramatic yarns if Sonic Team demonstrated SOME competence in writing them. As it is though even SA2, which to many had a great plot, was a convoluted mess of ideas and characters shouting lines over one another. Was Sonic the ultimate life form? How is this even possible? How did Shadow even die? Does anyone actually give a hoot?

Sonic Unleashed more or less had the same damn story we've been getting for years. Eggman unwittingly unleashes a power he can't control while sonic and friends collect keys/emeralds/artifacts in order to seal said demon away before its too late. I don't think that's something we ever need to see again. I prefer the simpler stories because it's really all these people can handle. You say a good story can enhance a game but keep in mind that a terrible story can completely ruin the experience as well (for example, Uncharted 3).

And maybe I'm just a cold hearted bastard but I thought the Maria flashbacks and the whole Shadow storyline was fanfic worthy junk. I'm just not in this thing for the furry drama bullshit and Tails crying about Sonic dying or what have you. It's just too much to take seriously.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Neo »

Radrappy wrote:I'm just not in this thing for the furry drama bullshit and Tails crying about Sonic dying or what have you. It's just too much to take seriously.
Wow.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by G.Silver »

Wouldn't Colors be a good example of this?
Probably, but I got tired of playing Colors somewhere in the second area (damn my curmudgeonliness) so I don't know. I was mainly referring to:
Big Smile wrote:[Story] doesn't have to dictate the setting or the level design.
Because I think it's better to make the two work together just on principle, not to say that the current games aren't doing it.
Was Sonic the ultimate life form? How is this even possible? How did Shadow even die? Does anyone actually give a hoot?
Those teases were really working at the time, at least for me. I think we're all sick of it by this point but if the point is just to keep the player engaged then all that BS is doing what it's supposed to. I hate to justify a thing like Lost, but if it gets your attention, then it's working. Even Heroes, with its inexplicable return of Shadow and the wall-to-wall clones, that was great stuff to "tease" even if it ended up being pretty meaningless (it was meaningless, right?). I have a suspicion that I'm just playing Iizuka's advocate, if he thinks Shadow is the best character and then gives the Shadow game itself this BS choose-your-own-adventure aspect where you get the impression that he didn't care about the answers either.

SA2 may have played me for a sucker but I hung on until the end, which is more than I can say for Unleashed, Colors, or Generations. I point my finger at the gameplay (it's what's more interesting to me, after all) but I'm sure the stories are a factor, too. (Also how I value my time, "too old for dis shit," etc)

All that said I want to emphasize that even if I appreciate "the tease" I strongly agree that these would be better if they were told competently. As-is I am not looking forward to more of them.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Radrappy »

Neo wrote:
Radrappy wrote:I'm just not in this thing for the furry drama bullshit and Tails crying about Sonic dying or what have you. It's just too much to take seriously.
Wow.
I regretted writing that about 15 minutes afterwards.

I watched this a few times as punishment
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0la5DBtOVNI

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by big_smile »

G.Silver wrote: Those teases were really working at the time, at least for me. I think we're all sick of it by this point but if the point is just to keep the player engaged then all that BS is doing what it's supposed to. I hate to justify a thing like Lost, but if it gets your attention, then it's working. Even Heroes, with its inexplicable return of Shadow and the wall-to-wall clones, that was great stuff to "tease" even if it ended up being pretty meaningless (it was meaningless, right?). I have a suspicion that I'm just playing Iizuka's advocate, if he thinks Shadow is the best character and then gives the Shadow game itself this BS choose-your-own-adventure aspect where you get the impression that he didn't care about the answers either.
While I didn't think the Shadow story line was especially good, I did find it engaging and was hooked by it.
I think it suffered from Sega going multi-platform after SA2 and having to release a Sonic Heroes. It would have probably worked better if they could have gone straight to Shadow after SA2.
The choose-your-adventure gimmick was rubbish, but it did have a canonical ending at the very end.
Wouldn't Colors be a good example of this?
The opening narrative hook in Colours is:
"Eggman's Theme Park: A form of redemption or a trap?".
You can work the answer to this by looking at the back of the box (or watching the FMV intro), so it isn't really an engaging story.

It doesn't help that Sonic and Tails are the only ones on the theme park. They should have had some innocent children to create the tension of a hostage situation.

To save the Wisps, Sonic has to travel to the different planets. However, doing this doesn't bring the player closer to a conclusion, because there aren't any questions to resolve.

Midway through, we get the plot twist of Eggman's mind control ray. This would have been a perfect chance for the story to redeem itself, perhaps with Eggman using it on Earth to make the human his slaves and forcing Sonic to pick between saving the Wisps or the humans. Instead, the ray is resolved in the same scene.

Sonic eventually reaches the end. The only thing that indicates it is the end is that its the final stage on the level select map. There isn't any narrative tention to indicate that an ending is about to occur: It could easily just be another level.

The characters are really poorly handled. Sonic comes across as an over excited pre-teen suffering from ADD. Eggman has his moments, but he wastes too much time messing around with his blundering henchmen (why would he create such idiots?). Through out the story, there is a strong sense that if Sonic just left the theme park, Eggman would destroy it himself due to his own incompetence.

To be fair, the DS version was much better as it worked in Sonic's friends and set up little mysteries around them (although they all had weak resolutions). But Colours is easily one of the worst Sonic stories.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by FlashTHD »

big_smile wrote:The characters are really poorly handled. Sonic comes across as an over excited pre-teen suffering from ADD.
And an unrepentant, unlikeable asshole at that. Maybe half of it is the fault of the writers, but i'd rather have Jason Griffith's non-acting back than listen to another second of Roger Craig Smith. (I'd be a little less annoyed if everybody else I talked to didn't act like I was crazy for stating this.)

I also did not care for the "plot" in Colors if only because I really don't want to be reminded of AoSTH in official Sonic games.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by cjmcray »

I haven't played Colors. How exactly did Sonic act like an asshole in that game?

I can't stand Roger either.

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

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Re: Sonic ..Excursion?

Post by Crisis »

I'm all for a story that's handled well and that adds to the gameplay. Ideally the two would be integrated as much as possible.

Sonic and Tails' friendship seems like an obvious place to start. Usually Tails is either a totally superfluous add-on who regenerates immediately upon death, or he's locked off into his own separate game mode. If the two were more dependent on one another (in a way that was interesting and not simply tedious), you could experiment with things like having Tails get kidnapped, having him come to your rescue, etc.

But even just regular cutscenes help to add context and motivate the player. If you have an interesting cast of characters, then it feels good to learn more about them as a reward for beating challenges. Having a well thought-out and interesting world can play into the level design to create more compelling gameplay. And so on.

The storylines in Sonic games don't really bother me because the core gameplay of the series has very little to with narrative. Themes like freedom and adrenaline and exploration happen to be ones that games are exceptionally good at portraying, with or without dialogue. At worst, a bad narrative is an annoying distraction.

A good narrative can enhance those qualities, though. Would the final level of SA2 be as engaging if it was just a straightforward obstacle course, and not two rival forces joining together to beat a common enemy?

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