Tag Archives: Sonic Rush

Horrible Boss Battles: Sonic Rush

Can you remember your favorite boss in any game?  Can you think of three you really enjoy?  How many do you absolutely hate?  For me, I dislike way more boss battles in games than I like.  So many of them miss the mark of making a fun, challenging encounter.  I haven’t talked much about this problem as of now, so I want to start with a boss battle that annoyed me recently.  It’s at the end of Sonic Rush.

I love Sonic Rush.  I think it’s a very fun game, and the best of handheld Sonic.  But its final boss is one of the worst I’ve ever played.  This series has a very bad history with final bosses.  They usually end up being a drudge, impossible, or overly-time consuming.  But I haven’t yet found one in the series worse than Rush.

Let me set the stage for you.  Rush has two campaigns, consisting of the same stages with different layouts.  One is played as Sonic, the other as Blaze the Cat.  They control slightly differently, but end with the same boss.  After getting all the emeralds as both characters, the true final boss can be beaten after completing both stories.  As I said before, the same boss must be fought as both characters.

I’ll try to explain it as best I can.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS

The enemy: Eggman/Eggman Nega in a massive mech suit.  Nine rings are available to the player in total.  The goal is to hit the mech’s cockpit eight times (on Normal) by baiting it into getting its arm stuck on the stage and running up its arm.

The boss has six attacks: 1) slamming the stage with alternating fists, which send out damaging energy waves; 2) a similar delayed slam with both fists that can kill instantly; 3) a repeated laser attack that automatically trails the player; 4) a series of drones that arc electricity across the stage in succession; 5) one similar drone that automatically trails the player and traps them, forcing them to follow under it or get hit; 6) slamming the stage to create energy 4-5 waves that the player must dodge to get on its arm.

Now, attacks 1 and 2 are the only ways to trigger 6, meaning the player has to wait for them and land a counterattack just for a chance at doing damage.  As the boss progresses, it will attempt to shake the player off its arm as they try to attack.  The player must crouch down and wait to stay on the arm.  If the player doesn’t, or takes too long, the player gets knocked back to the stage.  On top of everything else, it will also send rolling spikes down its arm that can not only do damage, but make the frame rate drop, which adds an unnecessary layer of challenge.

THE PROBLEMS

Three things make this fight fundamentally broken: length, random chance, and unpredictable attacks.

This boss drags on for about 7 minutes for each attempt.  Over the course of two fights, I had to take about 20 tries.  This part of the game took me over two stressful hours.  It should’ve taken maybe 30 minutes overall.

The attacks that Eggman will use at any given time vary randomly — sometimes it’ll take a couple attacks to make him vulnerable, sometimes it’ll take four.  Sometimes he’ll use the same attack twice in a row.

The problem here is that attacks 3, 4, and 5 that I mentioned above are impossible to truly learn.  That is, chance determines how well the player will fare against them.  4 and 5 are both virtually undodgeable.  What rubs salt in the wound is, these attacks are most common when the boss is nearly beaten.  This means that the player has to complete over half the battle before dealing with three attacks that basically come down to luck.  Again, this comes back to time-wasting design.

I wanna re-iterate, you have to fight this boss twice.

As difficult as this boss is, the true final boss is a chore.  It consists of hits with virtually no consequences, and collecting rings to avoid death until the player can deal out a hit.  Most of it is spent in meaningless hitstun.

But hey, the music is awesome.

SOLUTIONS

The final boss sequence of Sonic Rush is some of the most frustrated I’ve been playing a video game.  Here’s what I’d do differently for the Eggman boss:

  1. Reduce the necessary hits by 2 or 3.  If the undodgeable attacks are staying in, the fight has to be shorter, and get to the point.  This is less than ideal.
  2. Only include attacks with discernable patterns to which the player can adapt, to create a sense of progression.  Attacks that are virtually a toll on rings only create a sense of rage.  This improves the fight.
  3. Since the player attack sequence lags, remove the spikes.  They have no reason to be there except frustration.
  4. My best solution is to make every attack an opportunity to make the boss vulnerable.  This would cut down on wait time, leave room for learning patterns, and force out random strings of attacks.

On a fundamental level, a hard boss should be quick and dirty, and it should be something the player can improve at dealing with.  It should be less a gauntlet, and more a tug of war.  If the player fails repeatedly, they can become more efficient instead of waiting on a lucky run.

Again, this game is great.  The boss is not.  If the player is going to relive the same fight over and over, the number one priority is to give it nuance and ways to get better.   Sonic as a series should take that to heart.

My Top 5 Favorite Sonic Games

I’m an unusual Sonic the Hedgehog fan.  Although really, I guess that means I’m a normal Sonic fan at the same time.  Right around my high school years, I became absolutely hooked on the franchise.  The major appeal for me was the music, but I also love the universe itself.  Sure, it’s been overcomplicated and overhauled too many times over the years, but there’s just something lovable about it.

Sonic games vary in quality so much that two people liking all the same games is extremely rare.  But some things are consistent.  I like Sonic and his cast of friends.  The games’ worlds are always unique.  And the music is almost always spectacular.  In fact, without Crush 40, I probably wouldn’t have discovered my love of 80s metal.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot of Sonic games I don’t like.  But there are a few that made a great impression on me, and I decided to talk about them!

5 – Sonic Rush

Few people seem to remember Sonic Rush for Nintendo DS.  I first picked it up for one reason: the soundtrack.  It’s composed by Hideki Naganuma, my favorite video game composer of all time, responsible for both Jet Set Radio soundtracks.  If you played those games, you could guess that Sonic Rush‘s soundtrack is eclectic, unique, and catchy as hell.

You’d be right.

In other news, the game was developed by Dimps, who make some pretty great 2D Sonic games.  It was also the first to use the boost mechanic, which carried over to most of the series’ major releases afterwards.  Blaze the Cat is a new character to the game — she has the ability to hover and rocket higher into the air.  Otherwise, her formula is pretty much the same as Sonic’s.  This is kind of a failing I guess, since the stage design is only slightly different for the two characters.

Thing is, Sonic Rush is really pretty fun.  For a DS game, its control is more solid than you might expect, and doing tricks on rails and in the air is a blast.   Sometimes the stages feel cheap, since they stretch across two screens by default.  They get pretty vertical, and some levels halt your progress until you defeat a gauntlet of enemies.  This kind of design drives me crazy, but it’s not a deal breaker.

In my humble view, Sonic Rush is the very best handheld game in the series.  Give it a swing.

4 – Sonic Colors

Fun fact, Colors was my first Sonic game ever.  And man, what a great entry point.  Critics complain that it’s not much of a Sonic game, and that’s fair.  The game is more generally about level exploration than speed, but it works as a more typical platformer.

The wisps add an incredible dynamic to the game.  The drill wisp lets you speed through earth and water, the laser wisp provides opportunities for crazy shortcuts, and others like the rocket wisp have levels design around them really well.  They worked so well that they were actually reused in more than one game afterwards, for better or worse.

Colors was a breath of fresh air for a series that many claimed was dead.  It was the debut of Roger Craig Smith as Sonic, and it took a somewhat Guardians of the Galaxy approach to its aesthetic.  It goes from lush vegetation to flashy amusement park at the drop of a hat, and its soundtrack is the perfect complement.  This game was the one that roped me into the franchise, and I can’t recommend it enough.

3 – Sonic Generations

Just when people thought Colors was an exception, Sega decided to go all-out for its 20th anniversary and make Sonic Generations.  Everybody was floored when they decided to compile the most iconic stages from Sonic’s history, and bring back classic Sonic himself to boot.

What we got was a pretty short game, but a great one.  The boost formula is the best it’s ever been, and the classic formula is reworked pretty faithfully.  Stages are beautifully remastered and remixed, with pretty neat minibosses.  It also has awesome features like buffs and custom music (which I love in any game).

The last couple bosses of the game are terrible, and not all of the levels feel like they fit the gameplay.  But I love this game particularly because of how much room there is to blaze through a level.  It even checks your time at every checkpoint.  The levels were built for speedrunning, which I assume is why it gives you so many lives.  I always have a blast playing this game, and to me it’s the standard for Sonic Team.

2 – Sonic Mania

I never dreamed Sonic Mania would be one of my favorite games in the series.  I have so many problems with the classic trilogy of Sonic games that fans seem to love.  Their design always strikes me as outdated, cheap, and contradictory.  But Sonic Mania, their eventual successor, is the classic game I’ve been waiting for.

I could go on and on about Mania.  Actually I already did, you can read it here.  The point is, this game not only optimizes an old formula, it puts that formula in a supremely creative game.  What drives it home is that it was basically made by highly talented fans of the franchise.  Honestly, I think they did the job better than Sonic Team ever could have.

Mania still has some god-awful insta-crush deaths and restrictive lives from the old games.  Also the true final boss is a drudge.  Nevertheless, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a Sonic game on first playthrough.  It’s overflowing with love and care, so for now, it’s one of my favorites.

1 – Sonic Adventure 2

About 5 years ago, Sonic Adventure 2 was ported to seventh generation consoles.  That was when I first played SA2, and five years later, I don’t think it’s objectively very good.  The story and voice acting are awkward, and it only has about one and a half fun gameplay modes.  The speed stages are fun, and the hunting stages are kinda fun.  The mech stages are a drag.  All of the game is inconsistent and glitchy as hell.

I love it anyway.

SA2 just has an overtone that I think really works for the series.  It’s silly and over the top, but strangely moving in a way.  The plot of Shadow and Maria at its core is interesting for Shadow’s character, and a good doomsday picture of what might happen to Sonic if he were to risk it all and fail.  The story is goofy, but endearing somehow.

The gameplay is also some of my favorite in 3D — it’s linear, but well-paced, and it’s picky about rewarding good maneuvers.  Getting an A-rank is difficult, and I appreciate that.  Grinding is also viscerally fun to do, and I’m glad it was carried through the rest of the games.

And the soundtrack.  Never have I seen acid jazz, metal, and hip-hop synergize so well to create such a fantastic soundscape.  I could honestly listen to Pumpkin Hill on loop for a half-hour.  Everything in SA2 just comes together.  In a lot of ways, it’s a mess.  In others, it’s magical.  I prefer to see the magic in it.