Why is “Star Light Zone” all green and gray? The answer isn’t quite what you think.
This post is a followup to a blog post I made from last year, reviewing hbomberguy’s video “SERIOUS SONIC LORE ANALYSIS“.
Last night, I was in bed thinking about another Sonic related video that’s more grounded in reality and how it ties in to hbomb’s overanalysis of Sonic the Hedgehog (the first game). That video is “Square Trees?!” – A Critique of Sonic Art Styles Throughout the Series” by Triple-Q; I had seen it before watching SERIOUS SONIC LORE ANALYSIS.
The section of Square Trees that relates to SERIOUS SONIC LORE ANALYSIS is that on Sonic 1, starting from this timestamp. At that point, Q discusses how every zone after Green Hill looks kind of boring and monochrome. When I first saw that video, the point in that section that struck me the most was the description of Star Light Zone (shown above), whose name would suggest something awesome and spacey but is instead murky green and gray.
The most logical thing to deduce from this simplistic zone design is that the developers didn’t put too much thought into designing the levels. This is especially clear when you compare it to the next few classic Sonic games. Sonic 2, CD, and 3&K all have delightful level design; Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant Zone is one of the best designed levels in any video game I have ever played, if not the best. Many zones in the next few share similar elements to Sonic 1’s but look a lot more lively and colorful, or just have much more of their own personalities. CD’s Tidal Tempest is a version of Labyrinth that doesn’t look like ass, while 3&K’s Lava Reef is a gorgeous spin on the lava theme set by 1’s Marble. Also on the topic of CD, Stardust Speedway is what Star Light was probably always meant to be: jumpy design, iconic music, and a way cooler sounding name. Sonic 1’s bland zones are best seen as predecessors to similar but more lively zones, am I right?
That idea is cool and all and makes sense, but doesn’t stop hbomb from analyzing the game how he wants; reading too much into it, if you will.
Before we go on, I’ll note the following. As I said in my prior post about SERIOUS SONIC LORE ANALYSIS, hbomberguy and Patricia Taxxon both taught me that there is nothing wrong with reading too much into things. It can lead to mind-blowing analysis if done right. It’s just that if done poorly, reading too much into things will make you look like a doofus. In my most recent Homestuck posts I can proudly say there’s a few points where I read “too much” into things. And a few points where I read just the “right amount” into things, so that I could decipher Hussie’s mind and predict his book commentary almost verbatim.
OK, back to where I was.
As the game progresses, Sonic 1’s art styles evolve from vibrant nature all the way to robotic dystopia. If you compare each of the zones, the general trend is that they become more robotic looking as you go through the game. I established prior that aside from the ending zones, the robotic appearance is probably just a result of overly simple design. But hbomb takes full advantage of the monochromatic appearance of the game’s zones and draws a conclusion that I already discussed in my prior post about his video.
Perhaps hbomb’s dystopian Sonic 1 analysis was inspired by Sonic CD’s bad future zones? Or perhaps it wasn’t. Either way, the cool thing is that he never talks about other Sonic games in this video (aside from a few offhand jokes) and nor does he need to. He masterfully interpreted Sonic 1 as a standalone game, without saying “oh it’s the first game, the next few do it better” or “Sonic has had a rocky history ever since its transition to 3D” or such clichés.
Man writing about Sonic is pretty fun. Maybe I should do it more often; I’ve been thinking of writing about Sonic CD, the weirdest of the classic games. In a parallel universe, I’m probably working on blog posts about Sonic every day and maybe on occasion some weird webcomic called Homestuck. My next post about the weird webcomic called Homestuck probably won’t take that long to make, which is why I don’t feel guilty about making a blog post on something unrelated. See my schedule for more information.