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Sonic 3: A Follow-Up

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I was telling Darth-Ganon that I decided to revisit Sonic 3, a game I previously couldn't see the appeal of, after beating Sonic Mania, which in terms of design seemed like a half step between Sonic 2 and 3. I can now happily say that Sonic 3 has definitely grown on me, but I only grew to love it once I approached its level design differently than from most other Sonic games:

To start, I loved Sonic 2 because it was very arcadey; alternate paths are easy to spot, but also easy to miss and be locked out of; for example, a player hits a Spring on the wall and gets thrown into a slower route, so their next run of that level will hopefully result in remembering to jump as they get closer to that same point. This level design also applies to Sonic Advance; my second 2D Sonic game (for those curious, the first was Sonic CD, but I lost it pretty early as a kid) and the first one I beat, so this was the approach I grew up with. Now that I think about it, most Modern Sonic games that utilize the "Boost" formula also have a similar design philosophy. The order I've played Sonic games is more convoluted than the order I've played Final Fantasy games, but suffice to say I was used to a certain style of level design for Sonic.

Anyway, returning to Sonic 2 specifically, my second favorite quality about it is that the game rewards you for replaying over and over again by rewarding continues for finishing the levels quickly, leading an inexperienced player to get a little further with every playthrough. It encourages twitch timing and a tiny bit of memorization, which are some of my favorite things (I really like Treasure games like Sin and Punishment and Alien Soldier)

I previously couldn't get into Sonic 3 because the large levels didn't accommodate for that same arcade-y style. That being said, I've only just realized it's more comparable to Super Metroid, which happens to be one of my top 10 games. Like Super Metroid, the speed only really comes in once you've explored and mapped out the fastest route for yourself. The gratification isn't as instant, but I realize now that it doesn't have to be. The massive environments tell the story for the game, and the player is encouraged to take their time with the levels; you're more likely to be bombarded with continues by playing Bonus and Special Stages than gunning for the end of the stage, and said special stages also give the player a chance to earn a shield that will best help them to continue exploring. A game over doesn't encourage you to play the entire game faster, but rather, the save system enables you to load up the zone you're on to see what you've missed (a function made even nicer with the level select unlocked upon finishing the game).
So anyway, yeah. Sonic 3 is a kickass game that I couldn't appreciate for the longest time because its design philosophy was more unorthodox than what I expected. It's the equivalent of playing a Final Fantasy game that plays like Dragon Age (FFXII), or expecting a Star Wars game to play like the 1983 game when in reality it's a dog-fighting flight simulator (SW Tie Fighter) it's unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome.

I still hate Marble Garden though
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  1. Darth Ganon's Avatar
    The way you described Sonic 3 is exactly how I approached Sonic Mania and I didn't even realize it until now. It's probably how I handled Sonic 3 & Knuckles back in the day and possibly why I'm so in love with Mania. Perhaps the experience was a lot similar than I remembered.