Sandopolis’s Spooky Secret
With Halloween right around the corner, it’s time to take a gander at some spooky elements to our favorite video games. Despite my desire to write about Batman: Arkham Origins, that game actually takes place during Christmas, so I figured I should expand my view beyond the game that’s currently sucking away every free moment of my existence. There are the usual suspects, such as Silent Hill or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but I doubt there’s anything I could say about them that hasn’t already been written by players far more familiar than me — or in some cases, hilariously illustrated in a video.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already accustomed to taking the road less traveled anyway, so today we’re going to take a closer look at one of the more notorious levels in Sonic & Knuckles: Sandopolis Zone. In addition to difficult terrain and a sharp increase in challenge difficulty, Sandopolis also introduces the Sonic canon to ghosts.
The ghosts (or “hyudoro” as they’re technically known) do a good job of spooking up the pyramid and making the level generally more annoying. For most of their screen time, they’re not even actually a threat, but the mere presence of one, two, or three extra sprites on the screen (no pun intended) can still prove distracting. Overall, they’re typically regarded by the Sonic community as a level gimmick that’s thankfully tucked away within a single act of a single game.
I, on the other hand, did what I do best and poured way too much thought into the topic, which has led me to a surprisingly dark conclusion.
For those among us that aren’t thoroughly familiar with the Genesis era games, the first act of Sandopolis Zone is spent outside, and following the defeat of the sub boss, Sonic makes his way into of a pyramid to continue his pursuit of Robotnik. Barely a minute into the act, the level design forces Sonic to open an egg capsule — which in this instance is full of ghosts, not small animals.
Sonic Team guru Takashi Iizuka mentions this moment in a commentary section of the Japanese Sonic Jam strategy guide.
“The ghosts appearing in the second half are the first enemies who weren’t made by Eggman. When he infiltrated the pyramid, he must have worked very hard to trap them inside that box.”
Quite honestly, I’m not so sure that he did. Let’s break down the egg capsule and what we know about it. The only time anything other than an animal has come out of them has been when Robotnik planted his badniks inside of them, and we have it directly from Sonic Team that Robotnik had no hand in creating these ghosts. While I’m not saying that he couldn’t have collected the ghosts and contained them, I personally think that capsule was originally full of animals like they usually are — but this batch didn’t live long enough for Sonic to rescue them.
To reinforce this assertion, look at the ghosts themselves.
When they first appear, the ghosts are not only harmless, but they’re not even aggressive. They’re small, unimposing, and just kind of hover around Sonic, drifting from side to side. I’d go so far as to say that their behavior is not unlike what the animals do to celebrate their reclaimed freedom at the end of any given level.
After they’ve been released, it’s possible the ghosts don’t realize that they’re dead and are trying to carry on as though they were still living, as is common in ghost folklore. They may even be trying to thank Sonic for saving them, only to find that he can’t see or hear them.
This is when the reality starts setting in. The animals have discovered that they never made it out of that egg capsule, and as with anyone that’s not ready to die, they’re starting to get upset. Their eyes go from a calm and peaceful gaze to a resentful glare, and their forms slowly morph to match their negative emotions.
Eventually this comes to a head as the ghosts unleash their anger by lashing out at Sonic, the one who failed to save them. He’s always fast enough to save everyone else that Robotnik ever captures, but not them. They’re the one batch that Sonic was too slow to rescue, that had to pay the price for Sonic’s tardiness. Sonic made the mistake, but he gets to go on living while the rest of them are now doomed to haunt the pyramid.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder the ghosts are such a pain in the ass in the second act of Sandopolis. I have to admit, if I was kidnapped and knew that the superhero who as of yet had never screwed up rescuing anyone else was coming for me, and it just so happened that I was the first person they DIDN’T save, I’d probably be pretty bitter about it, too.
Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic & Knuckles, and all those little critters (dead or alive) are © Sega. Not that I think Sega would even want credit for this, but the idea put forth in this article is my own, and no you may not have it.
Posted on October 28, 2013, in Analysis, Creative Writing, Feature Articles, Game Characters, Humor, Journalism, Plot, Retro Games, Video Games, World Building and tagged ghosts, Sandopolis, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic the Hedgehog. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.