Over the years, Sonic games have used Super Sonic fights to fill all three roles. These portions await the player at the end of many Sonic games, oftentimes beyond the normal ending. Here are three notable examples.
Denouement: Sonic & KnucklesAfter clearing the Death Egg, you stand far from the Earth on shaky girders suspended in space. Robotnik chases after you with a giant laser cannon not much smaller than the height of your jump, ripping apart your footing as he goes. What's more, in order to hit Robotnik's mech suit, you've got to hit his cannon and bounce off onto safe ground; miss, and you fall into the abyss of space. Die, and you'll restart the fight without any chance to collect rings.
It's a brutal, strict fight by 2D Sonic standards, and clearing it is cause for celebration. This fight sets the stage for a denouement, the Doomsday Zone.
|You're a super star, soldier.|
If you're playing as Sonic and you've collected at least the seven Chaos Emeralds, defeating Robotnik's mech will lead you to the Doomsday Zone. Here, you're instantly upgraded to Super Sonic (normally, the transformation requires scrounging for 50 rings). Better than that, you can fly about the screen at will. Robotnik will fire missiles at you, but their sluggish pace is no match for you; you'll have no problem luring them into hitting Robotnik's mech. After that phase, Robotnik will try to escape, but this is just your opportunity to wail on him. Ram into him by hammering the jump button, and eventually his mech will explode.
Sonic & Knuckles follows a punishing fight with the opportunity to let loose. By beating Robotnik's mech as normal Sonic, you've shown mastery over the game. That mastery is matched by the Doomsday Zone sequence, in which Sonic's own powers reflect your skill; he's not bogged down by gravity, he's invincible, and in Robotnik's final phase, Robotnik has no means of retaliation.
In terms of story, this serves as a denouement because you finally catch Robotnik. In terms of gameplay, it resolves the game's test of platforming. If the game as a whole is about testing your ability to jump around or into things, Doomsday Zone is recognition that you have cleared the test.
Final Exam: Sonic HeroesWhich isn't to say that denouements and climaxes can't be final exams, but some sequences lend themselves more to one reading than another.
Sonic Heroes loves paint-by-numbers gameplay. That is to say, the solution to any given situation is labelled. See a fan? switch to Knuckles so you can ride its drafts. See a pole? Switch to Sonic so you can swing off of it. See a flying enemy? Switch to Tails so you can ground it and put it within reach of your power character.
These situations are placed in a variety of platforming contexts, such as the rising lava portion of Power Plant, the fleet of battleships in Egg Fleet, and others. These contexts color each skirmish differently. Can you chain Sonic's homing attacks over the rising lava bed? Can you clear out enemies with Knuckles while dodging cannonfire from battleships? At the gameplay's core, you're always painting by numbers. To perform that homing attack, you need to recognize the call for Sonic. To clear out those enemies, you need to recognize the call for Knuckles.
And on your way to the Super Sonic scenario of Sonic Heroes, you'll have this idea drilled into your head. It'll be so far drilled that the drill will come out the other end, and your head will just be leaking this idea all over the place. First, you need to clear the main story four times, once with each team playing through more or less the same stages. Then, you'll need to get good enough at the stages to earn all seven Chaos Emeralds. Just to earn a shot at a Chaos Emerald, you'll need to find a key in the appropriate stage and then clear that stage without taking one hit.
|Sonic Heroes: come for the deep|
combat, stay for the rich dialogue.
It's what you've been doing all along, and if you made it this far, you must enjoy it, so have some more. It also gets to the heart of Sonic Heroes; Metal Overlord lays down straight talk and discusses the one thing running throughout the whole game.
"Final exam" might not be the best term, since it suggests reviewing everything in the game. Rather, Sonic Heroes' final fight serves as a final exam by testing the one thing you should've learned by now.
Climax: Sonic Unleashed
|Not since I-Ninja have I played a|
platformer with a boxing boss.
Ready for the final boss?
Sonic Unleashed doesn't know when to quit. Its Werehog stages employ trick pacing, regularly preparing you for the end only to yank it away and put you through 10 more minutes of bland brawling. Eggmanland is the king of such pacing, wearing you thin before you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don't game over!
So, when Sonic finally goes Super, it's a relief--kind of. On one hand, you know the end is near. On the other hand, it brings new gameplay to learn, piling more tests upon a player already tired.
In Sonic & Knuckles, flying is a relief because it empowers you; in Sonic Unleashed, it's a burden. Sonic must fly around the edge of Dark Gaia's shield, narrowly avoiding just-out-of-sight boulders. Your job is to destroy worms that produce the shield, but you've got to find them first, and even then, they poke in and out of the shield; they're vulnerable while out, invulnerable while in. This would be fine, except that Chip, your best bud, is quickly losing health at the same time. Let him die, and you need to start the Super Sonic fight over. Seeing Chip retire while I waited for a worm to rear its head was enough for me to give up on clearing this game.
|I think this incomprehensible screencap|
gives a good sense of how bewildered
I felt when I encountered this sequence.
So, does this article end with a denouement, final exam or climax? None of the above, I guess.