Hey everyone, I’m moving all Is It Epic? content to a new site, specifically a new Tumblr blog. You can find that here. Whether or not this blog will be used for anything in the future, I remain unsure.
Sonic Mania is a pretty special game, from it’s creation story to the end product we see before us today. During the days of the Dreamcast and the days following after, there would be several attempts to recapture Sonic’s glory days on the Genesis. Though none of them quite matched the quality of those games, for many, Sonic’s handheld adventures such as the Sonic Advance trilogy would be Sonic’s only 2D games for several years.
But that’s just for official Sonic games, meanwhile, there was a steady, lively community for Sonic mods and fangames, yet again trying to recapture that Sonic 16-bit magic. While many fell flat on their face, some of them actually came quite close. Enter Christian Whitehead and Simon Thomley.
Christian Whitehead, also known as the Taxman, had coded his own engine, dubbed the Retro Engine, and showed it off at SAGE of 2009. This engine would of course, be used for his pitched remake of Sonic CD. Whereas games like Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 were available on iOS at the time, they ran on rather crummy emulators. This was different. This was a complete remake from the ground up.
Enter Simon Thomley, aka Stealth, who worked on several well known Sonic fangame projects like Sonic MegaMix, and possibly most famously his own version of Sonic the Hedgehog on Gameboy Advance Hardware. Being friends with Christian, he provided his own advice on the Sonic CD remake before joining him on the remakes of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2.
After a failed pitch for a Sonic 3 and Knuckles remake, the two would not be deturred. Enter Sonic Discovery, after a lengthy meeting with Takashi Iizuka, Sonic Mania was born. After it’s reveal at San Diego Comic Con 2016, people were excited, and I was right along with them.
After a frustrating delay for the PC version and dealing with the fallout of Denuvo, many people, including myself, were completely enamored with the game. But that was a year ago, and a lot can change in a year. I’ve certainly changed a lot in the course of a year.
With the new Sonic Mania Plus DLC that was released in July of this year, the game has changed quite a bit and the hype has died down significantly. With this in mind, I figured now is as good of a time as any to sit down and really analyze Sonic Mania, especially with the new 1.4 update.
The plot of Sonic Mania is unfortunately a lot of wasted potential. After discovering a mysterious power source on Angel Island that teleports whoever it is you’re playing as to Green Hill Zone, it transforms the surrounding EggRobos into the new Hard Boiled Heavies. Through one big adventure, The Heavy King faces off with the Egg Reverie and Super Sonic. After defeating them both, a portal opens up and Sonic is sucked in, kicking off the events of Sonic Forces.
In essence, the story only exists to advertise Sonic Forces and that ends up working against it. The original story saw Dr. Robotnik falling into a deep depression after the events of Sonic 3, with the Hard Boiled Heavies taking over, but that was scrapped for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.
But story was never the drawing point of Classic Sonic the Hedgehog. While games like Sonic CD or Sonic 3 had something of a narrative, it was never the heavy focus of the game. What really sold Sonic was his gameplay, and luckily, Sonic Mania excels in that regard. What made Sonic work in the original Genesis games were his physics and level design.
The key to good Sonic level design is fluidity, keeping Sonic moving is as important and his speed itself. Take Sonic 1 for example, all the best levels in that game are filled with slopes and loop de loops that Sonic can roll around and pick up so much speed that he can outrun the screen itself. Sonic Mania keeps such design mentalities in mind, as even in more rigid levels such as Titanic Monarch, skilled players can speedrun it as easily as something like Green Hill Zone.
What’s also important is Sonic’s physics, and by extension, his momentum. This is where Sonic Mania succeeds and something like Sonic 4 fails miserably. How Sonic reacts to the terrain below him is cruical, because if he doesn’t react properly, then the game won’t function right.
Sonic Mania is the first “Classic” Sonic game since 1994 to truly feel like it understood why the Genesis trilogy was so beloved, expanding on what people liked about them in every way. That’s not to say the game is without it’s flaws, however. Some of the bosses way overstay their welcome. Hydrocity Zone Act 2 in particular can really feel like a slog, being two full bosses back to back. Metal Sonic also can be a bit of a drag, but thankfully in the recent 1.4 update, it’s been updated to be slightly more forgiving, adding a checkpoint right before the final phase, which has also been updated quite significantly.
Some of the levels in general can also go on for a really, really long time, and that’s especially a bit of a problem when the save system saves only by Zone and not by Act. What’s especially strange about this is that the Sonic Advance trilogy, Sonic Rush games, and the Sonic 1, 2 and CD remakes all had this figured out, save by Act, and those levels are significantly smaller than those found in Sonic Mania. If I stop playing at Mirage Saloon Act 2, I shold, at the very least, be able to pick it back up again at Mirage Saloon Act 2.
While it’s nice to see the Elemental Shields get some more creative usage, they don’t really get enough of that creative usage. I mean, yeah setting fire to Oil Ocean Zone is pretty cool, and yeah, sticking to the ceilling in Flying Battery Zone is a pretty creative idea, but aside from setting fire to a bridge here or there in Green Hill Zone, that’s kind of it.
Sonic Mania also got paid DLC in the form of Sonic Mania Plus, adding two new characters, Mighty and Ray. It also adds some new Bonus Stages, new Special Stage layouts and a brand new Encore Mode, with new stage color palletes and slightly altered stage layouts. But that’s the operative word: slightly. Mighty is essentially the easy mode of this game, with a ground pound that can destroy certain objects and occasionally lead to different paths, and his shell protects him from certain dangers. Ray is essentially Super Mario World’s Cape Mario in the form of a Sonic the Hedgehog character, allowing him to glide over large distances.
The new level layouts don’t really lend themselves well to the new character’s abilities. By and large, aside from different entity placement, the levels are basically identical. The Special Stages have also seen a significant overhaul, with all new, much more difficult to find Warp Ring placement, the Special Stage design aesthetics going in reverse and being BRUTALLY unforgiving. One slip up, and at that point you may as well throw yourself off the track because you aren’t getting the Emerald.
The only reason I got all the Emeralds in my playthrough of Encore mode is, what I assume was a Debug feature left in the PC version by mistake that allowed you to instantly go up a speed level and the press of a button.
But as cool as it is to see these characters return after over 22 years of absence, and as fun as they are to play, these levels aren’t entirely built around these characters’ abilities. We have fewer Warp Rings and those are moved around quite substanstially, and we have a lot more harsh enemy placement, but that’s all, really.
To be completely honest, I am beyond the point of burnout with Sonic Mania. With over 100 hours on record, gathering all the footage for the video review and getting 100% clear on all files in Encore Mode, I am Mania’d out. I am taking a long, long break from Sonic games until Team Sonic Racing comes out.
Though I sound pretty negative in this review, don’t take that the wrong way; Sonic Mania is a gorgeous, beautiful game that serves as a love letter to fans of Classic Sonic. While not a perfect game, for the first time in many years, we finally have a worthy followup to Sonic’s adventures on the Genesis. If you fell in love with the potbellied hedgehog like I did, Sonic Mania serves as a beautiful reminder of why Sonic set the world on fire.
Note: this review was originally completed April 7, 2017.
2013 was an…interesting time for me. I had started high school and with that came the purchase of my Wii U and ZombiU. I of course had my eyes on another game that I had been following since its initial reveal: Sonic Lost World. Was it worth the pre-order and picking it up launch day? The short answer is no, it really, really, really wasn’t.
Sonic Lost World opens with Sonic and Tails chasing Doctor Robotnik high in the sky as he carries with him an animal capsule anyone who’s played the original Sega Genesis games will immediately recognize. After a failed rescue, Sonic and Tails make an emergency landing on the Lost Hex, a thing that’s not really given any explanation behind the fact that it’s a thing that exists.
How long it’s been there, what it is, none of it is ever really touched upon by anyone.
Upon landing, Sonic encounters Eggman now leading the Deadly Six, a group of bad guys who exist on the Lost Hex and that’s all we ever get about them. Their personalities are obvious immediately upon looking at them and much like the Lost Hex, who they are and what they are is never really addressed. They just sort of are.
Eggman uses Conch that once again is never explained, to which Sonic hastily kicks it away. The Deadly Six take control of Eggman’s robots and it’s up to Sonic, Tails and the Doctor to save the day.
The writing team of Ken Pontac and Warren Graff return, and it’s very obvious, as, while less prominent than Sonic Generations, the plot of Sonic Lost World is about as deep as a kiddy pool. Plot threads pop up seemingly out of nowhere and never really go anywhere, and the plot in general leaves a very empty feeling at the end of it all. It feels like it was rushed, like there was supposed to be more here but all they had time to do was strike the major plot points but either weren’t allowed to flesh them out or they just didn’t have time to.
The plot of Sonic Lost World is best left ignored.
One of the major selling points of Sonic Lost World was the new parkour element, who sees Sonic run up and across walls easily. Gone are the days of slamming into walls when running at high speed, but instead will see Sonic make his way up various obstacles with the touch of the run button. And no, you didn’t hear me incorrectly, the run button. With the success of games like Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, one would think that Sonic Team would expand upon that, but what we have instead is radically different from either of those titles. What we have instead is a bit of a weird mishmash of Super Mario Galaxy and the canceled Sonic X-Treme, with level design that’s mostly large cylinders and spheres with various cubes placed on them. On paper, things like parkour and the run button aren’t necessarily the worst ideas in the world. And for the most part, they work. However, much like Sonic Riders in 2006, neither one is really explained to the player, at the very least, not very well. Sonic Lost World has also seen two patches and no less than 3 pieces of DLC: The Zelda Zone that skilled players can clear in under a minute, the Yoshi’s Island Zone which is good for scoring extra lives, and the Nightmare Zone, a throwback to NiGHTS. While all of them are free and nothing but a grand total of a few minutes were lost on them, none of them feel particularly great or worthwhile. The biggest problem Sonic Lost World suffers from is that it can’t seem to pick one thing to focus on; each act feels completely different from the last. One will play almost like a traditional Sonic game, the other will have Sonic travel as a giant snowball. This is compounded by the game’s new dual-homing attack system,
Sonic games have always been hit and miss, and Sonic Lost World strikes out several times over.
One thing I can’t fault Sonic Lost World for is the presentation. The world is vibrant and colorful and the game looks almost as good as Sonic Generations. Sonic Unleashed still beats it visually speaking, but Sonic Lost World isn’t half bad looking. The sound design, however, has seen a significant step down from Sonic Generations. The music, despite some tracks being more memorable than others, feels largely uninspired. Tomoya Ohtani returns to handle the soundtrack, and unfortunately, very few tracks stick out in memory.
Sonic Lost World is not a very good game. Technically playable, yes, and while it has it’s moments, it feels to be as big of a misstep as Sonic Heroes or Shadow the Hedgehog. I can only hope Project Sonic 2017 learns from this.
When it was initially revealed in 2016 alongside Sonic Mania, my immediate reaction to what then known as Project Sonic 2017 was excitement if a bit of confusion. For as much as Takashi Iizuka tried to swear that it was a unique, new experience and not a sequel to anything, for the longest time all we had was a CG trailer that was highly reminiscent of Sonic Generations. The more of it was revealed, the more skeptical I became. Everything seemed like an almost deliberate step back from previous titles, specifically Sonic Unleashed and Generations. Despite priding itself on being developed by the same team that brought us Sonic Colors and Generations. This would be incredibly contradictory to both what we know and what we would learn as the game came out.
For those of you who are unaware, Sonic Team as we know it is divided into two halves, for the sake of brevity, we’ll refer to them as Team A and Team B. Team A has made Sonic Unleashed and Generations, whereas Team B has worked on Sonic Colors, Sonic Lost World and now Sonic Forces. Like many people I was under the impression that this would be a return for Team A, who now, at time of writing this, has been absent for about 7 years. This is because Sonic Forces, as we later found out, was developed by Team B. For most of those 7 years, Sonic Team was developing the new Hedgehog Engine 2 that makes it debut in Sonic Forces. Sonic Forces spent roughly a year and a half in development, whereas the Hedgehog Engine 2 spent around four years in production. That may sound relatively short in comparison to other games’ development times, but for Sonic, short development cycles are normal and pretty standard. Does Sonic Forces break the standard, or does it fall into the same trap a lot of other Sonic titles do?
Before the review proper begins, it’s important to note that Sonic Forces has an “Episode Shadow” DLC that serves as a prologue for the main story of the game. It’s not REQUIRED playing to understand the plot, and what it does add is very little and almost makes me question why they even bothered with it. Confusingly enough, the prologue itself has a miniature prologue. Try to wrap your head around that.
The story begins with Shadow on a mission, infiltrating Eggman’s base for information on something that’s never really elaborated on and encounters a mysterious figure leaps at Shadow only to be quickly dispatched. After screaming about how he’s not weak, flash forward a few months and Shadow is on a mission on a search for E-123 Omega. Encountering the same figure, donning a mask, the Phantom Ruby from Sonic Mania and the new name of Infinite, he swears his ultimate power and how not even Sonic will be able to stop him.
A month later, things are looking a bit screwy as Green Hill Zone’s once vast oceans and lush fields are replaced with miles and miles of sand and dying grass. Via walkie-talkie, Tails informs Sonic that Eggman’s forces have stormed the city and are running amok. Rushing to the rescue, Sonic destroys some of Eggman’s robots that, for some reason, Tails was cowering in fear of with the other citizens. Before Sonic can take on Eggman directly, he’s intercepted by Shadow, Zavok, Metal Sonic and Chaos, followed by the new kid in town, Infinite. Sonic promptly is knocked out and is taken captive.
Flash forward another few months, the newly formed Resistance pressumes Sonic to be dead as he breaks out of prison. As they learn he’s in fact alive, they send a new character that you create to go rescue him. After the rescue, it’s up to you, Sonic and Classic Sonic who is now from another dimension to stop Eggman and Infinite’s plans for world domination and save the day.
You’ll notice how much of the story is delivered via these black screens with text and these little walkie talkie moments on the World Map. That’s one of the larger problems with the story, it does more telling than it does showing. It has a lot of pacing issues that make it feel really inconsistent, one cutscene everyone thinks Sonic is dead and then the very next cutscene they learn he isn’t. Time skips in stories are not a new thing, but the placement of them ruins the pacing and makes the entire thought of Sonic being dead completely pointless.
You’ll also notice how passively I mentioned Classic Sonic. And that’s because he has very little if any importance in the overall plot. He shows up out of nowhere, dispatches Chaos 0 who Tails also cowers in fear of and from there he just kinda…doesn’t really do anything? It’s mentioned how he’s now from another dimension (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, either!) and Sonic makes a lame joke about how it’s been generations since he’s seen him, (ha ha, get it?) but really, he doesn’t do anything much at all. If you wrote him out of the plot, very little would change and it may actually be better if anything.
Messy, poorly written plots aren’t really anything new for Sonic, and for better or worse, Sonic Forces isn’t an exception. But plenty of beloved Sonic games have crummy plots, right? So maybe the gameplay makes up for it? It really, really doesn’t.
Sonic Forces largely walks in the footsteps of the games to come before it, for better and for worse. Modern Sonic controls as a sort of hybrid between Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, and that’s not really a good thing. The problems lay largely in the momentum and weight of all the characters. Everyone feels remarkably heavy and stiff, and it’s especially noticeable with the two Sonic’s. What should be simple jumps are now leaps of faith.
The Custom Character in particular feels incredibly clunky. Movements are heavy and the Wispons range from sending you flying forward to being borderline useless. Somewhere in the middle is the Burst Wispon, easily the most overpowered weapon in the game with how easily you can mow down everything in your path with it and how quickly it shaves off health from bosses. The catch to this is that this is the default Wispon you get at the start of the game, so you really have no reason to ever use anything else.
Sure, Red Star Rings return from previous titles, but those don’t really contribute to anything, either. Super Sonic returns in the form of free DLC, and there’s no secret unlockable levels, either. No secret unlockable characters unless you count being able to play as Shadow in the Modern Sonic stages, nothing, really. Everything is and feels completely inconsequential.
Rings don’t really serve much of a purpose, either. Sonic Forces does away with the lives system that was standard in just about every prior release, and depending on if you pick Normal or Hard mode, you will always cap out at 100 Rings or will be able to, in theory, collect as many Rings as you can grab respectively. This is where it gets a little backwards, if you take a hit in Normal mode, you lose 20 Rings at a time and in Hard mode you lose all your Rings. This never made sense to me. With the lack of a shop mechanic and how levels are scattered with Rings to tempt and challenge you to take certain paths, Rings, much like in 2014’s Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, act like more of a health bar than anything. But wouldn’t it make more sense to let the player collect more Rings in the Normal mode? Normal mode describes itself as “For those who have never played a Sonic game before”, whereas Hard mode describes itself as “For those who have played a Sonic game before”.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for lesser experienced players to have an easier experience? One could argue that Hard mode creates a “High risk, High reward” scenario, but the question is, what IS the reward? S Ranks are handed out like candy, and as mentioned earlier, Rings don’t really contribute to anything beyond the Rank. Unlockable items are completely randomized. Having all equippable items be unlockable feels completely counterintuitive for a Custom Character. One could also argue that 2011’s Sonic Generations was also a very easy game but was still highly regarded, so Sonic Forces could be the same. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Sonic Forces essentially plays itself in all the worst ways. Gone are features like shorthopping and drifting, now corners are scripted along with essentially all the corridors, and that’s essentially the best way to put it. Sonic Forces is mostly scripted. What few places you have full control in are as short as they are easy, and the stages aren’t much better, either. Levels average about two to two and a half minutes long. Levels constantly feel like they’re building up to something that simply never comes. Just as things start to get interesting, the stage abruptly ends. Bosses aren’t very challenging, either. The fight with Metal Sonic is blatantly copy and pasted into the final battle with Infinite, and the first phase of the Death Egg Robot is just the second phase of the Egg Dragoon but with easily avoidable disappearing ground. All the challenge in the game comes from frustrating, poorly controlling mechanics such as the slide in the Jungle levels. Hopefully the modding community can give us more for the levels than Sonic Team did with all four locales in Sonic Forces.
Sonic Forces is not a very good game. It feels so bland and afraid to stick to any of it’s ideas, some of which are legitimately interesting and could actually be fun if they were more fully realized. But as it stands, Sonic Forces is not a game worth buying. If you must play it, give it a rental or wait for a large price drop. The future of Modern Sonic is uncertain, and that’s both exciting and terrifying. But with Sonic Team’s track record, I imagine much of what was in Sonic Forces will either be completely abandoned or beaten to death and annoyance. We’ll just see. For a more concise video review, see the link below.
I’ve encountered many people in my many years of being on the internet, especially plays like Youtube and various social medias. Many of them have been Sonic fans or just trying to get into the series, and me being the upstanding guy I am, after all this time, I’ve decided to compile a list of the games that I consider to be must plays.
Number one is arguably the best Sonic game ever made, Sonic 3 and Knuckles. The game that refined and perfected the gameplay style introduced with the original game and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it has arguably some of the best level design of the series. It introduces fan favorite character, Knuckles the Echidna and gives Sonic the ability to use the Instashield, finally gives the ability to control Tails’ flight and use it to carry Sonic to higher areas. It is also the first and only appearance of the Super Emeralds, which would unlock Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles and Super Tails; also being the first game to start the tradition of having a “True final boss” for Super Sonic.
Number two is Sonic’s first worthwhile jump to 3D, Sonic Adventure. Being honest, this game really doesn’t hold up all that well, and the Gamecube/HD port, Sonic Adventure DX, is kind of a crappy port. Some of the gameplay styles really aren’t that necessary, the visuals are pretty dated, and the voice work is laughably bad. However, one could easily over look this for the real spectacle of the game – Sonic’s gameplay. It is essentially the gameplay of the original trilogy on the Sega Genesis translated into 3D – that being said, I’d just stick to playing as Sonic, and maybe delve into playing as Tails. Everything else ranges from meh to downright tedious.
Number three would be the entire Sonic Advance trilogy. The first being the first Nintendo exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog title, it essentially serves as the TRUE Sonic the Hedgehog 4; they’re essentially more modern, updated versions of the Genesis Trilogy. They’re by no means the best in the series, but they do serve as fun pass times.
Number four would be Sonic Rush Adventure. People can talk about how annoying Marine was, and I may even agree with them, but this game serves as a far more accessible and less punishing version of the original Sonic Rush. With a bit more bulk and meat to the game and story, I would recommend checking out this one before the original – not that you really need to play them in order to understand the story.
Number five is the game that personally restored my faith in the franchise after Sonic 2006 and Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed (at the very least, the HD version) is still possibly the best looking game they’ve put out. Most certainly the fastest Sonic has ever been – released on almost every platform known to man, even mobile phones in certain areas of the world! Sure, the Medal system in the HD version can be kind of cumbersome, but much like an archaeologist, playing a Sonic game is like digging through the dirt to find the gem buried underneath, and that’s no different with Sonic Unleashed. It’s not perfect, but as far as 3D Sonic games go, it’s the closest we’ve come to a perfect 3D Sonic Title.
Number six is the 20th anniversary celebration game, Sonic Generations. Easily the best and most polished anniversary game (though, considering it’s competition, that’s not really saying much.) it takes everything great about the past games and multiplies it several million times over. People may complain about the story, however, they forget that Sonic the Hedgehog has never particularly excelled story. Sonic Generations, much like Portal, focuses on it’s high points at lets everything else be optional. The high point of Sonic Generations just so happens to be speeding through past famous locales of the franchise re-created in HD, as both Classic Sonic from the Genesis Trilogy, and Modern Sonic from Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors.
Those are the six Sonic games I consider to be must plays, at least the ones I consider to be the best or most worth playing. Now, bare in mind, there are titles like Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 that I intentionally left out so is not to give newcomers the wrong idea, and honestly, you’re really not missing much if you skip out on the bad games.
Oh my, now THIS, is a bad one.
Shadow the Hedgehog was released on November 15th, 2005 on the GameCube, Playstation 2 and Xbox. After the release of Sonic Heroes, Sega released a poll asking fans which Sonic character should get their own game.
And, let’s be honest, how pointless was that? Everyone knew that Shadow would win, he was the new big deal, and for a while, he still was, until well…Yeah, for the sake of me not getting my house burned down, let’s…just get back to his titular game.
The story of Shadow the Hedgehog follows the events of Sonic Heroes, about 3 months later. Shadow stands on a hill, starring into the city of Westopolis. He begins to question who he is, and just who is Maria. Before he can even have another though, Aliens emerge from the sky and begin to wreak havoc on the city bellow. Shadow begins to walk off when the leader of the aliens, Black Doom and approaches him, instructing him to deliver the seven Chaos Emeralds to him as promised. Shadow questions what he’s talking about, but Black Doom flies off, leaving Shadow (in his mind, I guess?) with no one to rely on (which is kind of ridiculous), he begins his journey.
The story in Shadow the Hedgehog is…to say the least, rather sub par. One of the major selling points of the game is the prospect of Shadow’s future being in the hands of the player, however, regardless of where you align yourself, after about 10 playthroughs, you find yourself at a Last Story segment that ultimately sets Shadow up as a hero and saving everyone. Had this little segment been omitted, or even, have Shadow go through all the stages in one big adventure with one ending, then it would have been fine. But I will never be okay with having to play the first stage ten times for an ending that’s not even satisfying.
Shadow the Hedgehog borrows the models from Sonic Heroes, and honestly, they don’t particularly blend well with the good chunk of apocalyptic environments the game takes place in. When you place any of the bright, colorful Sonic characters next to Black Doom, it…feels like two entirely different games.
The graphics themselves aren’t all that great either. The textures are muddy, and while plenty of levels try to differentiate themselves, there’s still plenty of moments where I was fairly certain that it was the same level as one I had previously played.
Central City, for instance, looks eerily similar to the first stage, Westopolis. All of the levels on the Space Colony ARK look pretty similar, too!
To put it simply, Shadow the Hedgehog feels sloppy. That’s really the best word I can use to describe it, sloppy.The gunplay (yes, guns and other weapons) work well enough and are effective for dealing with enemies, especially those with larger health bars.
The weapons themselves, while I find the idea absurd, in execution, aren’t that bad.
The vehicles, however, are another story. Throughout several of the stages, Shadow can jump into different types of vehicles from buggies, to motorcycles, to saucers. Shadow, however, naturally moves faster than any of them. Yes, some of them make traveling easier for things like traveling across acid, there’s really no other alternative to avoid situations like that. Had something like a Light Speed Dash trail of Rings been placed for an alternate path, this wouldn’t be an issue. But as it is, they really just break the flow.
Shadow the Hedgehog is a bad game, but would you believe me if I told you it wasn’t the worst? It came out in this really weird era where every Sonic game was some kind of an experiment, and, unfortunately, the results of this experiment were inconclusive at best, and negative at the worst.