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Act/zone climaxes

A super No.1 washedupgamer

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This is a topic about something that I've always loved about levels in sonic games. Those neat little chase scenes, set pieces and challenges that you meet at the end of an act in a zone, mostly act 2. What are some of the best and the worst out there that you liked? What added to the gameplay experience and how tense did they make you feel? Here is a list of them.  

Forgive me if I leave some out:


Angel island zone sonic 3


The famous bomb chase. An epic way to close out act 2 of this zone leading to a battle with eggman.

Sonic 1 spring yard zone


A minor example but unique in that you have to traverse over a bottomless pit to reach eggman. I'm sure this tested a lot of player's patience back in the day.

sonic 2 chemical plant zone


The infamous rising Mega Mack is also a minor example to me that challenges you to keep your head above water. This made me so nervous when i was young. There is no other place in the level like it. 


Sunset park sonic triple trouble


You jump from the crazy rides of the park to the escaping train. I like the twist at the beginning to make you think that you cleared the act then boom! Train. It gave this place a little story to it.

back to sonic 3 marble garden 


I'm a sucker for ground collapsing challenges. I guess because they add the tension to a situation and eggman has just the tool for it. It really brings the progression of sonic 3 to life.

launch base zone sonic 3


Eggman's goal is to try to stop you here and he's throwing everything he's got at you. He's only moments away from launching his death egg so it's no holds barred! 

flying battery zone sonic & knuckles 


One of my favorites. Running to the top of a crippled airship really made things happening in flying battery act 2.

lava reef zone sonic & knuckles


The most popular one yet. The death egg re-igniting a dangerous volcano giving sonic the struggle of climbing up the rocks and through the lava to surviving is the most tense moment in the classic games.

I'll do the dreamcast era tomorrow. I just posted these so anyone can get the gist of what I'm talking about.

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While I really enjoy a lot of the set-pieces, I do have qualms about a few of them.  Fundamentally, the idea of closing out an act with a particularly memorable section, maybe something with a new idea (the Angel Island airship) or just a new way of presenting an old idea (the pre-boss section of Lava Reef), is a good one that helps to develop the level's identity.  They add a bit of cinematic flair... but sometimes it's a bit too cinematic.

The Angel Island airship, for example, is a true example of "hold right to win," because if you just hold right you'll hit max speed, stop in the centre of the screen, and all that will happen is that the airship will blast Tails to oblivion in your wake.  It's all for show unless you seriously lose your head.  Well, maybe that is the test, but it might have been better if you had to adjust your positions to avoid bombs, or jump over the explosions from bombs dropped ahead.  Otherwise, it's essentially a cutscene.  You could argue that it's meant to ease new players in, but then the boss fight immediately following pretty much drops you straight into a pit on your first time playing, so I don't know if that lines up.

I know I've ranted about this before, but Generations 3DS made it its business to include zone-ending set-pieces like these, and a lot of them fail to come off for this reason; fleeing a falling totem pole at the end of Modern Green Hill, for instance, I think was simply a matter of holding the Boost button, while the orca chase at the end of one of the Emerald Coast stages (I forget which) was a genuine put-down-your-console-and-press-nothing experience where you won without doing anything.  Conversely, though, I recall that the end of (Classic?) Water Palace involved a giant badnik pounding the wall to cause blocks to fall, altering the level design, which was a strong idea, and Modern Tropical Resort closed out with a rail-grinding section where you had to dodge meteors, and while I also have reservations about describing rail-grinding as "gameplay" (it certainly isn't platforming), then at least you had to actually do something and be precise.

Basically, these climax sequences are at their best when they're asking something of you as the player; where the danger is real and palpable and you can actually fail while still putting effort in.

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So does the Sonic and Knuckles Mushroom Hill Act 2 Boss not count as a climax sequence?


Well, I guess it's actually a boss battle and not a sequence.

I do remember on Generations 3DS one time not having enough boost energy during the falling totem pole part and being promptly crushed for it.

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emerald coast sonic adventure 


The famous whale chase. Our first full 3d epic stage climax was mindblow-hole-wing by the time adventure came out.

speed highway


Another awesome spectacle that amazed me back in the day. Running straight down the side of a building out running the police chasers.

Ice cap zone


The first time players get to play a 3d snowboarding segment. Getting that balloon was frustrating though.

red mountain


Rising lava, skeletons and prisons and badniks all over the place. It really gives you the feeling that you're on a dangerous mini quest to save amy and there is no turning back.

lost world 


This picture alone describes the tension that you feel in this stage. It had so many of those moments.

city escape sonic adventure 2


Everyone's favorite. It makes a comeback in generations with the craziness cranked up to 11.

metal harbor 


You gotta love this one. Riding a nuke up to the sky, falling down with an improvised snowboard to the goal ring. One of my most favorites.

Crazy gadget


So your nemesis has been taunting you about killing your not-so girlfriend and you've almost reached the room they're in....until You wind up in this room first. A gravity puzzle that's very nerve-racking.

final rush320px-Finalrush.png.5160a81c85634440fefc4ff20a8e2bdc.png

I don't have the correct screenshot but there is this part forward the end where you have to run from hot space debris to get to the goal ring. Key thing: don't die.

seaside hill sonic heroes 


Your team gets chased by 3 big rocks. I remember feeling so excited after I beat this stage because I knew I what an awesome adventure was in store for me in the rest of the game.

Power plant zone


I died a few times at this one but once I got it, words can't express the feeling I got when I finally reached the beautiful room with the goal ring.

bullet station 320px-Sh_Bullet_Station.png.78f0c8f278197c6f8f7fd96671145abb.png

It felt so satisfying to destroy eggman's terminal from being launched at high speeds.

lost jungle


Now this felt like a unique challenge to me. You had to time your swings right to make it to the next swinging vines trying to escape the giant alligator. You gotta give them credit for trying something different.

mystic mansion


There is a part at the end that tests the character's abilities and you have to go through each one of them to get to the unique looking room with the goal ring.

final fortress 59cdc2df58f49_images(37).jpg.58216df3063ec162231ef8993c291f2d.jpg

After a long slog through the flying stronghold, one final challenge awaits team sonic or team dark. It's Sonic's lines at the beginning and end of this challenge that makes this so awesome.



Sorry it took me so long. Had a busy day today. The modern era is up next!

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Final Fortress from Heroes had one of if not the most epic climactic end-of-level challenges of any Sonic game, I think. Hopping from rail to rail as more and more lasers continue to assault you, all leading up to the final rail that you have to get across before the super-giant-ultimate-death laser blasts you into oblivion. Amazing scene.

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