TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic Mania Mod Roundup

Sonic Mania… mania wasn’t as pronounced this year as it was previous years, but that hasn’t stopped many fans from bending this engine in cool, entertaining ways. The contest and expo have a handful of entries this year using the Mania base, and here’s how they stack up.

Mystic Cave Zone Mania-fied

Submitted by campbellsonic
Mod Download Page

Mania as a game wasn’t merely about bringing back Classic Sonic. It felt fresh, surprising, and hard to match without a good eye for detail and willingness to add to the experience. Mystic Cave Zone achieves feeling like an actual Mania stage ripped from some fictional director’s cut, and it does so as a reskin of Press Garden.

MCZ Mania-fied captures the claustrophobic, winding, and threatening feel of the Sonic 2 original while speeding it up with some remixed sections and more opportunities to play with ramps and curves. The stage uses the classic icons of the level such as the lever doors, the spinning boxes, narrow moving platforms, and plenty of spikes, but reinterprets a few Mania elements in novel ways.

The best example of this is in Act 2. Where Press Garden has sprayers that freeze Sonic & company, MCZ Mania-fied has minecart dispensers that take you for a ride until you hit a wall or forcibly break it. Splats, the bouncing rubber stamp that emerge from inkwells, are now burrowbot spawning locations complete with warning sign. Finally, the boss at the end pits you against a giant burrowbot (graphically remixed from Eggman’s octopus robot from Oil Ocean) but with falling stalactite hazard above in place of the sinking floor below.

As a thorough reskin, MCZ Mania-fied is a fantastic remix on the source material and captures the Mania spirit. If you’ve got nostalgia for those purple and green depths, be sure to check it out. Also, hey, it has an Encore version too!

Sonic the Hedgehog: Lost Island Demo

Submitted by CartoonsAnimate22
Mod Download Page

Lost Island builds an original game on top of the Mania framework, fully reskinning levels and characters. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles have modified spritework, while Ray and Mighty have been fully replaced with Sonic X-treme’s Tiara (outfitted with Sonic 2 GG’s hang glider) and an original character, Millie, who resembles a Minnie Mouse take on Tails (if I’m wrong and this is some sort of established character I’m not familiar with, I’m sure the comments will correct me). The demo spans 7 zones, with 10 acts total among them.

The visuals and level design spark inspiration from a number of other Sonic games, though the strongest point of comparison is probably Sonic 1 for Master System/Game Gear. It even directly pulls the 8-bit exclusive Sky Base into its roster. The level reskins have a basic but still attractive aesthetic. Simple patterns make it feel a bit more flat than you’d expect from a 16-bit game. Not bad, but also not especially iconic or embellished.

I found Lost Island to be a cute but light experience. It trades Mania’s branching, frenetic action for an experience that’s very straightforward. I have a specific nostalgia for the sort of B-tier platformers that dotted the early 90’s landscape, stuff like Bonk and Cool Spot. Lost Island seems to scratch that itch: platforming that is pleasant, even if it’s not fancy or exciting.

Sonic 2 Mania

Submitted by AChickMcNuggie
Mod Download Page

Sometimes a mod is just straightforward enough that you don’t have to explain much. Sonic 2 Mania is simply an attempt at recreating Sonic 2 within the Sonic Mania framework, and in that goal, it’s pretty faithful with a handful of additional visual flourishes, and only a couple places where you can see the seams of how X was reskinned to be Y.

The demo features both acts of Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, Aquatic Ruin, Hill Top, and in interpretation of the beta Wood Zone, Secret Woods. However, this demo does not include any bosses (new or old). Certain elements could not be fully reproduced, such as the growing pillars in Aquatic Ruin, but in the very few places it falters, it makes up in added background animations and remixed music. And you can play as Mania-perfect Mighty and Ray!

Sonic Vintage

Submitted by ZachmanAwesomeness
Mod Download Page

Each year it gets harder and harder to stand out as a project whose aim is to reproduce classic Sonic’s preview and beta build elements. Sonic Vintage takes inspiration from other ROM hacks and attempts to bring some of these obscure beta elements to the Mania engine, offering a slightly different take on Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Flying Battery, and Stardust Speedway.

…Sort of. Of the four Mania mods I played this year, this is the only one that gave me technical trouble, and I was only able to play two of the four listed zones without issue. Flying Battery Act 1 would only load if I went to Act 2 (where my character died immediately after the stage loaded), and Stardust Speedway would cause Flying Battery Act 2 to load. I don’t know if this issue is unique to me, but I attempted a number of times in a number of ways, and was unable to access Stardust Speedway at all.

The mod has a couple of neat touches. Most notably, the level design of Chemical Plant was expanded. However, this isn’t a project about immediate noticeable changes. If you’re deep into research on Sonic pre-release builds, this might strike your fancy as a chimera of demos, prototypes, and Nick Arcade variants. But between the technical issues and generally subtle changes, it might be worth waiting another year to see how this develops.

IDW’s Sonic FCBD Teases Upcoming Mini-Series

If you caught this year’s Free Comic Book Day issue of IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog, it featured a panel noting the the upcoming clash between Dr. Eggman and Dr. Starline, and significantly, an upcoming 4-part mini-series titled “Sonic: Imposter Syndrome.”

Comic Sonic is no stranger to impersonators across his many series, but hey, maybe this series will address his conflicts with insecurity and self-worth. Why are you really running Sonic? As fast as you are, you can’t run away from yourself.

Source: @IDWSonicNews on Twitter

Bits ‘N Bricks Podcast Highlights How LEGO Sonic Came to Be

Back in February, LEGO Ideas approved Viv Grannell’s Sonic Mania Green Hill Zone set featuring classic Sonic, the imposing Eggman Robot boss, the Hard Boiled Heavies, and modular chunks of Green Hill’s iconic landscape, and while we don’t have a release timetable for the set yet, it turns out we missed some small details back when Bits N’ Bricks, an official LEGO games podcast, did an episode on the Sonic Mania set and the LEGO Ideas process in February 2021.

In an interview with LEGO Group designer Samuel Johnson, he notes that the Mania build is a bit simpler and geometric in structure than most Ideas sets, in line with the series itself. Johnson hopes that this relationship with SEGA does give way to more partnerships as it did with Ghostbusters and Minecraft. Although changes normally occur between the original Ideas pitch and the final released product, LEGO Group’s designers work with the original Ideas submitter (as well as license holders) to make sure it maintains the spirit that the designer originally pitched and was voted on. Later, the team interviews John Choon, SEGA’s Director of Marketing, who expressed interest in seeing other characters and worlds represented as Lego projects in the future.

While the podcast episode doesn’t reveal anything concrete about the set itself or any future plans, it does highlight the LEGO Ideas process and all of the parties that need to be involved to fully realize an Ideas set.

Source: The Chao Channel
Thanks to VisionaryofSUPER for the news tip!

JAKKS Pacific Features Eggman Robot and Excited Child in Online Commercial

As online entertainment has taken over my diet, it’s rare to really encounter the style of toy commercials I used to ingest in my youth, but JAKKS Pacific haven’t given up the style even if the medium has shifted.

The Dr. Eggman Robot Battle Set is now available online and in-stores at Target in the US, and it comes with the ever classic kid-playing-in-living-room ad complete with Sonic 2 video clip and BATTLE DAMAGE!!

Source: Sonic Merch News
Thanks to VisionaryofSUPER for the news tip!

If Any Doubt Remained, Sonic Colors Ultimate’s Switch Trailer Doesn’t Tout 60 FPS

Since release, there’s been subtle and not so subtle hints that the Switch version of Sonic Colors Ultimate won’t hit 60 FPS as it will on other consoles. Perhaps the final nail in the coffin is the recent Sonic Colors Ultimate HD Updates trailer, which differs ever so slightly between the official Sonic YouTube and the official Nintendo YouTube.

The absence of 4K is obvious, but it seems that the change in engine may push just a bit past what the Switch can handle at 60FPS. While unfortunate if you’re a technically-minded Switch owner, for everyone else it further emphasizes that there’s more going on under the hood than just upscaling an 11-year-old game. If you want some silver lining, the original game ran at 30 FPS on the Wii, so you’re certainly no worse off.

FPS and 4K aside, all other new features match among all platforms, such as the new Wisp power, character customization, Tails save, music remixes, etc…

Source: NintendoLife

Dreams Come True Announces Vocal Green Hill Zone Single

A special treat to drink tea to.

If you caught the Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony, there was a special announcement during the intermission where Masato Nakamura of Dreams Come True announced a new single of the Green Hill Zone theme. This version will feature lyrics and vocals from Miwa Yoshida. No formats, platforms, or date were announced.

However, you may have already heard a bit of this single already if you caught a Japanese tea commercial last month. The version announced today will most likely be a full version of this commercial’s jingle. So grab a green tea, and keep an ear out for when the full song drops!

Minecraft Sonic DLC: It’s Official and Out Now!

For those who don’t like gentle curves.

At the end of June’s Sonic Central presentation, Sega teased Sonic coming to Minecraft. Today, we’ve got our first look and our first details. And our first release– it’s now. The DLC is out now. You can go get it. Or so the trailer says.

While tricky to find exact details without actually owning a copy of Minecraft, the official blog post bills this as an infinite 3D runner featuring loops, springs rings, chao, and badniks across Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, and Tails’ workshop. Players can use skins of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, and plenty of others.

UPDATE: The pack, available within the Minecraft in-game Marketplace, is priced at $7.99 (USD), or 1340 Minecoins. The pack includes one Minecraft world (as seen in the trailers), and 24 skins including:

Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Dr. Eggman, Amy Rose, Big, Cream, E-102 Gamma, Shadow, Rouge, E-123 Omega, Chaos, Vector, Charmy, Espio, Mighty, Silver, Blaze, Ray, Infinite, Mecha Sonic (Sonic & Knuckles), Metal Sonic, Metal Knuckles (Sonic R), and Werehog Sonic.