That’s not the case anymore. In a huge change, Sonic will no longer be able to gather up the rings he drops when he gets hit. If you collect them, and take damage, those rings are lost forever.
That means in the boss fights, Sonic Forces rings are something you’ll only want to collect strategically — and in some cases, you’ll avoid them just like you would an obstacle.
We got hands on with the game over the weekend, and in a boss fight with Doctor Eggman, there was a handful of tactically placed rings right at the start of the level. We collected them all within the first few seconds. Natch.
But that’s exactly the kind of sticky-fingered greed you’ll be punished for. This ain’t the Green Hill Zone you’re used to, buddy. These Sonic Forces rings don’t grow on trees. You might not even get any more rings for the whole boss fight.
The aim here is to force you to think strategically about rings. The same rule as before applies to Sonic taking damage: If you have rings in your inventory, you won’t die.
This means it’s actually better to collect just one ring. That’s your buffer. The difference between a two-hit death and a one-hit death. Anything above that is unnecessary, or perhaps just showing off. Ideally, every time you get hit, you’ll collect just one more coin to stave off death a little bit longer.
No matter if it’s your first instinct to go on a collecting rampage because 26 years of Sonic games have trained you rings are a good thing. But this type of gameplay was restricted to the boss fight — while zooming through levels, getting as many as possible still seemed like the right choice.
Speaking to Game Informer, producer Shun Nakamura said it was a hot topic among the dev team:
We believe what we made [is a good balance] and will be a great experience for people — but we also are hearing that people are wanting something that we haven’t provided to them. I’m still sitting with the team digesting it and figuring out what to do. It’s an unresolved topic even amongst the team.
Easy Come, Easy Go
In the boss fight we played, the rings seemed intentionally placed in awkward spots in the air. Eggman would strafe the ground with projectile attacks that we could jump over. The rings were at full jump height, requiring a fairly exact 80% jump if you’re trying to squeeze between the two.
Avoiding attacks is one thing, but avoiding them without running into extra rings is a whole other level of expert. The boss fight we witnessed was an early one, but the game is sure to play with this system in more advanced ways as the game goes on.
It’s easy to see why some are not 100% sold on the idea. It’s getting rid of a core aspect of Sonic. And up until now, you could’ve made the argument that Sonic games have done so poorly in the last couple of decades, it warrants a drastic change. But the recent community-made Sonic Mania might’ve been the best-received in 15 years — and it achieved that by leaning full-force into nostalgia.
On the other hand, it’s good to see this decision was made with strategic game design in mind. There’s a clear plan behind the Sonic Forces rings system. Depending on its implementation, these rings could be very intelligently placed to force players into awkward positions.
There was a point in our boss fight where it looked like no new rings would spawn at all. Once Eggman was at a certain level of hitpoints, you need to be almost perfect for the rest of the fight.
There may yet be a benefit to collecting large numbers of rings, but I didn’t notice one. There didn’t seem to be a limited number of lives, so gaining an extra life doesn’t seem like an option. One would hope it would be a reward worthy of giving up your safety net. Perhaps it’ll be something for speedrunners or those who enjoy different kinds of challenge runs.