New Sonic 25th Anniversary Artwork At Castle Galleries

Back in December, The Sonic Stadium attended the launch of the Castle Fine Art Sonic 25th Gallery Exhibition, in which eight artists produced 25 different pieces to commemorate the milestone birthday.

Following the success of the collection, two of the artists, Keith Maiden and Craig Davison, have created more pieces in their signature styles.

Continue reading New Sonic 25th Anniversary Artwork At Castle Galleries

Sonic Mania OST to be released on vinyl?

While not 100% confirmed, it was put to the audience at SXSW today by SoA Sonic Community Manager Aaron Webber to whether fans would be interested in owning the Sonic Mania soundtrack on vinyl! At the moment this appears to be a WIP, but we will keep you up to date on whether or not this item makes it to production!

Thanks to TheEmuEmi on twitter for the image!

Sonic-Themed GLAMGLOW GRAVITYMUD Now Available In The UK

Following the launch at San Diego Comic Con last year, beauty products company GLAMGLOW have brought their Sonic the Hedgehog-themed GRAVITYMUD product to UK shores!

The GRAVITYMUD firming treatment, in an exclusive SONIC BLUE, is available from the UK site for the sum of £39, making it significantly cheaper to obtain than importing from the USA.

You can watch our friend Jay over at the Sonic Show try out the product below:

Follow the link to purchase Sonic Blue GLAMGOW GRAVITYMUD

Thanks to Sarah over at the Sonic Merch facebook group for the tip!

New Enemy Character and Green Hill Zone 2 Revealed for Sonic Mania

The Sonic the Hedgehog social media pages have revealed the origin of yesterday’s teaser image of a leg, with the owner of the appendage being a new Badnik on the Block, named Heavy Gunner. HG is part of the Hard Boiled Heavies, who while no further detail was given, will no doubt be antogonists of Sonic and friends in the new game. The stipulation that he is a member of this team alludes to there being more egg-shaped robots to face-off against throughout Mania, possibly akin to the Egg Robot in Sonic & Knuckles.

Additionally, a video was also released today showing off some of Green Hill Zone Act 2 (see below), in which the zone takes place against a vista backdrop paying homage to the Green Hill Zone beta design.

We continue to look forward to hearing more information on Sonic Mania (and the accompanying music to this zone) – and as always, stay tuned!

Cook & Becker Art Print For Sonic 25th Anniversary Art Book Collector’s Edition Revealed

We reported on the release of the Cook & Becker Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Art Book back in October, and we continue to be impressed the more we see! The original press release mentioned a limited edition This week, C&B have shown a sneak preview of the art giclee print that comes packaged with the Collector’s Edition. Continue reading Cook & Becker Art Print For Sonic 25th Anniversary Art Book Collector’s Edition Revealed

Summer 2017 Release for Archie Sonic: Mega Drive Trade Paperback

Archie’s fastest selling Sonic the Hedgehog comic is due to make its way to trade paperback format in the Summer following the release of the third and final installment in the arc, Mega Drive: Overdrive. Many fans who have had difficulty in obtaining the sold-out first issue will be pleased, and probably not surprised these comics will be making their way to this format. Continue reading Summer 2017 Release for Archie Sonic: Mega Drive Trade Paperback

TSS Merchandise Review: Kidrobot Blind Box Figures

Happy New Year! To celebrate the ushering in of a fresh 12 months of Sonic the Hedgehog goodness, we decided to club together and create our very first merchandise review video. Join Adam, Kieran, Mark and Lewis as we unbox some of the brand new kidrobot Sonic blind bag figures! Continue reading TSS Merchandise Review: Kidrobot Blind Box Figures

Tomy 2017 Catalogue Reveals More Boom and Classic Merchandise

The first images from the Tomy 2017 toy catalogue are beginning to surface, and show that their Sonic the Hedgehog license is set to continue well into next year.

Continue reading Tomy 2017 Catalogue Reveals More Boom and Classic Merchandise

Sonic X Kidrobot Blind Box Figures and Keychains Now Available

Following hot on the heels of the vinyl figure diorama, Kidrobot have released their range of “blind box” Sonic the Hedgehog figures and keychains! Sonic has previously enjoyed success in vinyl form with the limited run of figures produced in the Funko Pop! line, although only Sonic, Tails and Knuckles made it into figurine form. Now, Kidrobot have gone the full hog, and produced two different product lines which includes a 14 different figures in the 3″ figure range, and 18 different keychain figurines. Continue reading Sonic X Kidrobot Blind Box Figures and Keychains Now Available

Official Sonic The Hedgehog 25th Anniversary art book now available for pre-order

Art aficionados Cook & Becker today announce the opening of pre-orders for their much anticipated Sonic the Hedgehog 25th anniversary art book! Each tome is set to contain more than 200 pages of artwork and interviews, with the special edition arriving in a collectors box which includes an exclusive print created by Sonic Team artist Yuji Uekawa. Continue reading Official Sonic The Hedgehog 25th Anniversary art book now available for pre-order

TSS Review: Castle Fine Art Sonic the Hedgehog Gallery Opening

The Sonic Stadium spent last Wednesday night enjoying a spot of high society, quaffing champagne, dining on hors d’oeuvres and indulging in the opening night of the Castle Art Gallery’s Sonic the Hedgehog 25th anniversary art exhibition. And, while we were initially apprehensive of what we might find, we left the gallery discovering some fantastic and inspiring art featuring our favourite hedgehog. Continue reading TSS Review: Castle Fine Art Sonic the Hedgehog Gallery Opening

UK Pre-orders Now Open For Sonic Mania Collectors Edition With Amazon

maniaboxset

[UPDATE 4 – Oct. 18] The CE is back in stock again, hopefully for good this time.
[UPDATE 3 – Oct. 17] The Collector’s Edition is now out of stock. As a note, this happened with the North American listing as well shortly after availability, so this may open up again in the near future.
[UPDATE 2 – Oct. 17] Pre orders have returned at Amazon, to coincide with the official announcement.
[UPDATE 1 – Oct. 16] Links to the pre-orders have been removed – we will keep you up-to-date when they return! Amazon is currently still honouring all orders placed. Original story follows:

Continue reading UK Pre-orders Now Open For Sonic Mania Collectors Edition With Amazon

ESP×SONIC SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 25th Anniversary & SHADOW THE HEDGEHOG 15th Anniversary Guitars Announced

Guitar aficionados rejoice, as Japanese guitar producers ESP announce a brand new range of Sonic the Hedgehog themed guitars! The designs, SONIC-II and SHADOW-II are both based on the signature guitar played by Crush 40 and Sonic Team guitarist and composer Jun Senoue, which have been used at a number of performances around the world. Continue reading ESP×SONIC SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 25th Anniversary & SHADOW THE HEDGEHOG 15th Anniversary Guitars Announced

Summer of Sonic Guest Announcement: Duncan Gutteridge & James Wallis

The Summer of Sonic guest roster continues to expand!

announce_gutteridge

The most recent announcement includes Sonic calendar and box art illustrator Duncan Gutteridge, synonymous with some of the most recognisable artwork in circulation during the early 90s.

announce_wallis

Additionally, the special guest list will also include James Wallis, known for his writing work on the Sonic the Hedgehog adventure game books Metal City Mayhem and The Zone Rangers.

Sonic the Comic Artists Nigel Dobbyn and Richard Elson to Attend Summer of Sonic 2016

The Summer of Sonic 2016 roster of guests continues to grow, with the announcement today of Sonic the Comic artists Nigel Dobbyn and Richard Elson to be in attendance at the event. Dobbyn has been a frequent guest at previous Summer of Sonic events, contributing to the special edition of Sonic the Comic given away in 2013. This year sees the first appearance of Richard Elson at the event, having also attended Sonic the Comic Con in 2014.

TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure Music Experience 2016, Tokyo

A large proportion of the fan base to this day cite the Sonic Adventure series as being the pinnacle of the Sonic the Hedgehog gaming experience; on the most part, the games were their first jaunt into the Sonic Universe, and have defined what they come to expect from titles to this day. Being one of the more senior fans, Sonic Adventure was an exciting revival of my favourite video game franchise, after several years of stagnation and the glory days of the Megadrive now a distant echo. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Adventure Music Experience 2016, Tokyo

Sonic Revolution: Sonic Boom TV Show Producer & Writer Confirmed As Special Guests

Sonic Revolution 2016 has announced the attendance of two more special guests to their event roster.

BFRIEDBERGER

Co-executive producer on the Sonic Boom TV series, Bill Freiberger, will be in attendance. In addition to his production role, Bill also provides the voices of Comedy Chimp and Lady Walrus, and was one of the writers on the Sonic Boom comics during their run.

Alan_Denton

Accompanying Bill is Alan Denton, Creative consultant and writer for the Sonic Boom TV series, accredited with penning such classic episodes as “Battle of the Boybands” and “Cowbot”.

An additional ticket option “Classic Sonic Pass” is now available for $4.99 via EventBrite, which grant entry into the event. All tickets are available at http://sonicrevolution2016.eventbrite.com/

To find out more about the event, visit the Sonic Revolution Website

F4F Announce Modern Silver & 25th Anniversary Statues

f4f25th

First4Figures have today revealed 2 renders for their upcoming additions to their Sonic the hedgehog statue range. The 25th anniversary statue depicts Sonic inset into a base playing games consoles, which according to the images are interchangeable, including a SEGA Dreamcast.

The Silver statue will conform to the “modern line” of statues (which so far includes Sonic, Shadow and Super Sonic) and feature a Kingdom Valley base (No Crisis City love?) and lighting in the exclusive version as seen previously with similar models.

f4fsilver

Many thanks to Peter Robinson for the spot at Weston Super Sonic!

Johnny Gioeli Launches Pledge Music Campaign For Solo Album

SOS024

International Superstar and Crush 40 vocalist Johnny Gioeli has announced the launch of a Pledge music campaign to fund what will be the first solo album of his career. Among many Crush 40 releases, Gioeli’s career spans 4 decades and includes more than 30 albums (most notably as the lead singer of the anthemic rock bands Hardline and Axel Rudi Pell) and no doubt hardcore fans will be excited at the prospect of this debut album and an EP of the long awaited Colorblind.

The driving force behind the funding drive is to raise support for a family friend:

A tragic story of our friend’s son who had a horrific accident, leaving him paralyzed. He’s a high school student fighting for movement as simple as moving his finger, and I want to find a way to “pay it forward” and use the good things happening to me, to help someone else. The average cost of rehabilitation in the first year, far exceeds anything they can raise on their own. Let’s all help keep the music alive and help my friends too.

Backers of the campaign can not only look forward to receiving a copy of the new album (with the option of a signature from Gioeli), but will have options to access to a boatload of exclusives such as a streamed live acoustic performance, original (and rare) Hardline and Axel Rudi Pell memorabilia and handwritten lyrics to some of the songs in his extensive back catalogue.

Check out the Johnny Gioeli Pledge Music campaign here, or check out the Johnny Gioeli facebook page for more details.

UPDATE: Johnny Gioeli Hints at Possible Crush 40 Involvement In 25th Anniversary Title

SOS022

UPDATE: Following the publication of the article, the post on the Facebook Page has since been removed.

Original Story: It probably isn’t far-fetched to guess that SEGA have a Sonic the hedgehog title lined up for the 25th Anniversary this year, however Crush 40 lead singer Johnny Gioeli has given a very strong indication that one is in the pipe line…and that Crush 40 could potentially contribute material to it.

Via a Q&A on the Official Johnny Gioeli Facebook Page today, Gioeli gave the following response to a question regarding new Crush 40 material in the works:

When will there be news about the Crush 40 album?
~We are planning a few performances for 2016 to commemorate the anniversary of Sonic. We “might” participate in writing new songs for the anniversary game…stay tuned…

Although some caution should be exercised with the key word in this response is “might”, the fan anticipation for a new Sonic game announcement will no doubt be further escalated, irregardless of game or new Crush 40 songs.

Stay tuned for more 25th anniversary announcements!

Japanese Sonic Fan event to take place at JOYPOLIS, Tokyo

271215eventJapanese Sonic the Hedgehog fans will once again be treated to another Sonic fan event, due to take place at the SEGA JOYPOLIS theme park in Odaiba, Tokyo on Sunday, 27th of December, 2015.

The event, similar to those that have taken place at this venue in the past, will include appearances from Takashi Iizuka, Yuji Uekawa, Tomoya Ohtani and Jun Senoue, and a musical performance. For the first time, a cosplay contest will take place, which will require entrants to submit their photo applications prior to the event in order to be selected for the finals which will take place on stage at the event.

Are you going to Japan in December and are you planning on attending the event? Let us know in the comments!

2015: The Year of the Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter Account

HaveUEver

Today saw the Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account featured on prolific internet social media hub Buzzfeed.

For those who aren’t connected to the Twitterverse, you will have missed the rather spectacular recent awakening of the account, which gained a new level of sentience this year. In among it’s now self-awareness of the sizable collection of Sonic the Hedgehog internet memes, the account also called out several big name commentators and competitors this year, including Nintendo, and was temporarily taken over by Doctor Eggman for a day (although we’re sure we’ve heard that voice somewhere else before). Needless to say this has caused several internet-breaking moments, so much so it has caught the attention of many media outlets.

The account has even received an endorsement from Sonic the Hedgehog creator Naoto Oshima:

TwitterOshimaSanWe at TSS salute the Sonic Twitter account and crafty creatures on the media team running it (including a certain Aaron Webber!), and we can’t wait for the next post!

Gotta go fatsr.

New Crush 40 album in the works for 2016

4563CRUSH40 fans who follow the official Johnny Gioeli facebook page will have noticed a recent surge in activity as Mr. Gioeli has become more involved its running.

During a recent Q&A post, Johnny hinted that a new Crush40 album is being worked on, and is due for launch next year. The album will be the band’s second studio album (and the first in over a decade), and would follow the band’s recent success through the release of two live albums, a “best of” and an EP in 2012.

In the wake of several live shows in the US, Japan, and Mexico, Johnny alluded to potential live shows in 2016. Although it is currently unclear as to whether or not any of the tracks featured on the new album will be connected to future Sonic the Hedgehog titles, it has lead many to speculate as to the correlation of the album release with the 25th anniversary celebrations.

Stay tuned for more information as it comes to light!

Sonic Runners version 2.0 released

runners2Friday saw a swathe of changes made to Sonic Runners with the release of the second version of the mobile app. Along with a number of superficial changes, a rather sizable overhaul of the game rules have been made. The main game has been divided into Story, Quick and Daily Battle modes, and a number of rules have been alterations have been made with regards to roulette probabilities, promotion and rankings. A special character, ESP Silver is now available via the roulette or through 5 consecutive daily log-ins. All non event-specific characters are also now permanently available, with the character egg drop probability increased to 10%.

Some players will be pleased to hear the game recharge rate has been reduced to 15 minutes and that a maximum stock recharge of lives has increased to 5, however this is likely to have been implemented to compensate for the relatively short length of the timed game. The scoring system has also been revamped in order to compress the game duration while still allowing high scores to be achieved, without the player having to demonstrate incredible feats of stamina and runs lasting for many hours (for reference, to score around 50 million points in version 1 of the game could take around an hour).

Alterations to the game which will no doubt infuriate long time players is the significant reduction of Wisp power and item power-up duration, but even more so will be the significant weakening of buddy abilities, including those which many players will have purchased extra red rings in order to improve. A number of players via social media have also complained about game breaking bugs and crashes, along with in-game obstacles that cannot be avoided.

What are your opinions of the new version of the game, positive or negative? Let us know in the comments!

Huge selection of Sonic the Hedgehog songs now available on Spotify

Spottysonic

For those of you who make use of the digital music service Spotify, you will be pleased to know that a gargantuan selection of Sonic Soundtracks, from Sonic CD to Sonic Runners, have been added to the vast library of songs available for streaming.

As if this wasn’t enough, you can also enjoy a selection of Crush 40 songs including their “Best of title”, the 2012 “LIVE” album and the tracks from their 2012 EP.

While Spotify does not contain a complete library of Sonic the Hedgehog songs, many fans will be pleased they can now access many of their favourite songs on the go without the need to purchase songs through other services or track down physical copies of the official soundtracks.

Crush 40 to play Youmacon 2015 in Detroit

C40COKEThe juggernauts of Sonic the Hedgehog soundtracks, Crush 40, are set to play the Youmacon convention in Detroit later this year. Crush 40 have recently played at the JOYPOLIS theme park in Tokyo to promote the launch of their latest album 2 Nights 2 Remember, but have not played any shows outside of Japan since 2013.

Youmacon is a celebration of Japanese pop culture, including video games, anime and music, running across three days from Friday 29th of October until Sunday 1st of November. There is currently no information as to which day Crush 40 will be performing as of publication of this article, however we will keep you up to date as more details come to light.

Details on tickets and registration for Youmacon can be found here:
http://www.youmacon.com/registration

A Thank You to the SEGA of America Community Team

SOACrewWith the current relocation of SEGA of America’s HQ, we have in the past few days said goodbye to many long-standing employees of SoA, including Kellie Parker and Julian Mehlfeld from the Community Team.

One of the most vivid memories I have in dealing with the SEGA social team was during a trip out to Los Angeles for E3 and the very first Sonic Boom event back in 2011. What struck us was the dedication of the team whom over the course of the week seemed indefatigable, not only working tirelessly manning the gargantuan stand in the main convention centre, but who tangentially assembled another monster event down the street. I’m sure tired didn’t begin to describe their state during that week, yet I don’t think I remember a moment they didn’t all have huge beaming smiles across their faces, or were laughing at the end of the day with a well-earned beverage. Kellie has written a parting post on the SEGA blog where she has stated “we laughed hard, and we worked harder” – I can’t think of anything more appropriate to describe what I saw during my brief insight into the team’s operation.

This is but one of countless examples of what the community team were involved in, and similarly, I’m sure everyone who has had any interaction with the SoA social and community team over the past decade will agree that the hallmark has, and likely always will be, a penchant for excellence, and a drive to go far beyond the call of duty. An inordinate amount of what is has now become the face of the Sonic the Hedgehog community, both online and in real life, is in part of wholly due to the fantastic team that has been at SoA.

I’d love to be able to write down the extensive résumé of the team’s accomplishments to date, but I’d fear it would fail to be a comprehensive summary of the entirety of great things they have managed. Instead, we at TSS would like to invite you all to share the stories you might have of any memories of your interactions with the social team in the comments below.

You can read Julian and Kellie‘s parting blog entries on the SEGA blog.

While we sadly bid farewell to some, we welcome back others!

TSS would like to welcome back to the SoA fold Aaron Webber, who will be taking up the social media and community reins once more for our favourite hedgehog! Many of you will remember Aaron from his previous roles at SEGA, and as host of the Sonic Boom fan event from 2011 to 2014.

We wish all the community and social team members the very best in the future, and that they will always be a very special part of the Sonic the Hedgehog community.

 

Sonic Boom: The Rise and Demise of a Spin-Off

SB12014 has been a significant year in my books; To mark my 30th I’ve been fortunate enough to have also celebrated Sonic the Hedgehog at three different events across three continents with many fellow enthusiasts. 2014 has also been a year in which SEGA has proven it can still put on a show. Sonic Boom (the fan event, now in its 4th year) was yet another fantastic showcase of the best of what the Sonic franchise has to offer, including the a troop of extremely talented musicians, artists and voice actors presented in an incredibly well executed evening. Sonic Boom (the show, the 5th Sonic the Hedgehog TV series to date) is currently airing State-side entertaining kids young and old alike with its unique brand of slapstick sitcom comedy, packaged snuggly into accessible, digestible episodes. But while two Booms seem to have won over the fans, the third, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Nintendo Wii U, is most certainly not – and it doesn’t take much searching to find there is a rather polarised, negative opinion of the game.

The game’s origin is unusual in that it is rather Inception-esque: a spin-off game from a TV show, which in itself inspired by the Sonic the Hedgehog series. If SB:RoL were to be purely judged as a tie-in with a TV show, it could be taken as a typical endeavour designed purely to reinforce sales of merchandise.

SB2Unfortunately, SB:RoL doesn’t get off the hook that easily for several reasons; most notably, the Big Red Button brand bred high expectations with many fans for a full and thorough development of something potentially fresh and exciting. It seems like cracks in the game began to manifest fairly early on, likely compounded by the en-mass exodus of staff from the developer. Furthermore, the herculean marketing drive for the game across the many months led many to believe that something special was in the pipeline, myself included. This was further reinforced by the waves of concept art and character designs which came cascading out from official releases; peaks at lush, organic environments and teasers of gargantuan mechanical leviathans confronting our heroes was more than sufficient to induce salivation from a large fraction of the fan base.

So what, in the end, did Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric deliver? The premise is something like this: Sonic and his friends accidentally awaken Lyric, a biomechanical snake with a penchant for destruction, and it is up to the heroes to collect crystals in order to prevent him from eradicating life from the planet. The game takes a triple threat format of speed, puzzle-solving and exploration stages, interspersed with arenas where the player does battle with an onslaught of cybernetic creations.

SB4The game commences with an apparently arbitrary flash-forward before switching to a brief encounter with Eggman and Metal Sonic, after which the player is dropped into the world and SB:RoL begins to show it’s true colours. The bulk of the game consists of navigating through a number of linear dungeons lying off a main hub world. From the get go it becomes strikingly obvious that the sheer scale of ambition in this title has been its demise, resulting in a lack of focus on any element of gameplay. Speed sections, at full pace, give the players few chances to react properly to any obstacles; bizarrely you can also slow to a snail’s pace with virtually no consequence, other than to prolong the experience. Sections involving combat require little to no skill or tactics, and can be completed successfully with the age old art of button bashing. Additionally, there is no consequence in running out of rings as death simply results in an instant respawn, meaning players can operate with near immunity throughout. From start to finish puzzles lack variety or originality and will fail to challenge even the youngest players, and although some differential is offered through each of the characters wielding their own unique abilities, most areas can be navigated regardless of character selected, rendering differences in skill sets as arbitrary and pointless on the most part.

SB3Contrary to what some of the early screens indicated, the worlds of SB:RoL feel empty and flat – almost reminiscent of a past generation game that might have been expected from a title released ten or even fifteen years ago. The sparseness of the realm is baffling as the characters can only saunter along at a leisurely jog (ironically unless you are on water) requiring the player to traverse vast distances to get to and from areas and characters of interest. A number of optional quests delegated by supporting characters fail to provide any unique gaming experience, with the rewards providing no noticeable benefit gameplay whatsoever. What’s more are the numbers of objects dotted around such as crowns and “shinies”, which seem to serve no purpose other than to be sought after by completionists. Fortunately, only one game-breaking bug was encountered in the play through, but demonstrates a distinct lack of any comprehensive QA tests having been carried out.

The story is inconsequential and predictable on the most part, and includes two completely inexplicable encounters with Shadow, the inclusion of which can only really be explained away as fan service. The dialogue in the game is probably one of the highlights, with Mike Pollock once again stealing the show as the voice of Dr Eggman. However, amongst the fleeting moments of humour are the endless cycles of character soundbytes that remind the player repeatedly of the obvious (e.g. ramps can be used as ramps), over and over again.

Needless to say the overall state of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is disappointing, but the problem with this title, and the continuing problem with modern Sonic games, is much more deep-seated. SEGA has in recent years felt the need to perpetually reinvent Sonic in aid of keeping the franchise fresh to younger audiences. While the redesign of Sonic and fellow protagonists are probably subjective and down to personal preference (and although they are not ‘canon’ could be argued as uncalled for anyway), the deviation from what makes Sonic games so special is where these modern Sonic titles fail. The Sonic games that fans fell in love with back in the nineties won over flocks of gamers because of their originality, their pace, their music and the worlds they painted – it was because of this revolutionary take on the platformer that Sonic became immortalised as videogame legend. While other successful franchises, such as Mario, continue to grow and evolve with ever increasing computational capabilities, we’d have expected Sonic to do similarly. But while Mario retains a familiar identity (characters, themes) and first and foremost its high-calibre of gameplay, Sonic games of recent have futilely attempted to mimic the architecture of others; one recent exception is Sonic Generations, a title that retained the core of what constituted as quintessential Sonic gameplay, and succeeded because of this.

The other great successes of recent have also been the fantastic revampings of classic titles for iOS by Taxman and Stealth – two veterans of the Sonic community. While the success of these titles will have been partially due to the capitalisation on nostalgia, you can ask any die-hard Sonic fan about these versions and they will tell you they aren’t the original game – they are loving restorations, painstakingly tweaked with additions that have breathed more beauty into what were already masterpieces. This duo are already demonstrating they can do the same with Sonic & Knuckles, and we can only hope that this title will get a similar official release. If I was in the shoes of those responsible for mobile gaming at SEGA, I’d be asking these guys to build a whole new game with a neo-retro look around the old engine; retro sells.

YouTube Preview Image

From a consumer perspective some of these moves made with Sonic Boom seem logical, and perhaps, as stated before, this game should only be regarded as a spin-off – but from a fan perspective there is a great fear that Sonic is or has mutated into nothing more than the face for market products with, as opposed to a high-calibre game series lovingly constructed by an enthusiastic and capable ensemble and equally loved by those who play them. I hope that the overwhelming opinion on this title will be observed by the powers that be, and that the criticisms, or perhaps even the suggests from the fans and reviewers alike are heeded. I, like many others, am extremely passionate about the Sonic universe – and we want to see great games created.

I’m still ever hopeful that Sonic will return to form very soon, and I certainly hope by the time my 40th rolls around that the Sonic franchise will have found its stride again. In the meantime, the show must go on.

Many thanks to Nintendo PR for supplying TSS with a review copy of Sonic Boom

A Day Out at SONIC FEST 2014

In June I had an opportunity to complete the set of SEGA-affiliated fan events and attend SONIC FEST 2014, SEGA of Japan’s answer to Sonic Boom and Summer of Sonic at SEGA’s Tokyo theme park, JOYPOLIS. SONICFEST this year was also a celebration of Sonic’s golden birthday (the birthday for which the age in years matches the date of the month of birth) which is a big deal in eastern culture. Although I’ve had a lot of contact with fans based in the Europe and the US, I’ve not spoken to many Japanese fans; whether this is because there are fewer of them or because there is a language barrier, I was unsure. Suffice to say we arrived at the gates of JOYPOLIS on Daiba island, unsure what to expect in regards to both the order of the day and turnout.

Queue for Sonic Fest 2014I was pleased to see Japanese Sonic fans are just as enthusiastic as the rest! By the time we had arrived (about 45 minutes before doors opened), the queue was already down the boardwalk, heaving with fans dressed for the occasion, excitedly talking and greeting each other as the queue built. The first 200 fans through the door were given special individually numbered tickets, which allowed them access to the “golden circle” for the main stage event at SONICFEST (other fans could watch but from further back from the stage).

The park itself was open as usual on the day, albeit dressed a little more Sonic-themed than usual. In addition to these extras, the park recently underwent a large refurbishment, removing a lot of the old and outdated features and replacing them with attractions more akin to Sonic’s more modern appearance. A large portion of the first floor in the park is now an area known as the “Sonic Carnival”, an area dedicated to Sonic-centric games, as well as a very impressive Sonic statue, who exclaims various statements (in Japanese) when activated; fittingly, Sonic had been adorned in a crown and fur coat for the day. Several of the games are typical fairground affairs in which the most skilled players are rewarded for their efforts in the form of a lovely Sonic plush.

Sonic statue dressed up!Amongst the standard affair are three unique Sonic games. Sonic Athletics sees players take to treadmills, in order to compete in three track events including sprints, long jumps and hurdles. The players physically run on the treadmill, with the forward pressure applied dictating the velocity of the chosen character. Conversely, Sonic Brain Training requires competitors to flex their grey matter through a series of five of a possible ten games, involving memory, mathematics, fast reflexes and a keen understanding of Japanese! Players stand at podiums containing touch screens, and compete to score the highest each round. Those scoring above 1,000,000 were rewarded with a keepsake card to mark your achievement, with those exceeding 1,200,000 earning a special card (the latter being just out of the reaches of my abilities!). Children can also enjoy the Sonic Ghost Shooting game, where a small cart takes players around a small track while blasting Sonic Adventure 2 era ghosts with a gun.

JOYPOLIS storeFor the seasoned merchandise hunter, JOYPOLIS is heaven. The gift shop is filled with a huge range of current, generally available items, as well as a lot of exclusive pieces which can only be purchased at JOYPOLIS. More excitingly, the UFO machines had been especially stocked for one day only with the entire range of seasonal Sonic plushes, which included Surf Board and Water Melon Sonic (Summer exclusive), Halloween Vampire Sonic (Fall exclusive) and Santa Sonic (Winter exclusive). While some were easily obtained by unhooking a ring holding the plush in the catcher machine, others required you to destroy a load-bearing paper tie with a needle-like UFO arm – One Japanese fan pumped thousands of yen into a machine in order to obtain their prize!

For those feeling a little peckish, a special drink and chilidog combo was available, which came with a sticker to prove you’d devoured the foot-long. A limited edition range of sweets were on offer, including a special branded E-MA capsule which contained little cherry candies.

Iizuka-san introduces the main eventThe main event of the day was a 90 minute show on the main stage, hosted by a gentleman in a SEGA boiler suit [EDIT: The guy is called Sexy Saito! Good to know! Thanks to Shane for the info – T]. He was soon joined on stage by Takashi Iizuka, who introduced the trailer for Sonic Boom (branded as “Sonic Toon” for the eastern market), after which gameplay was demonstrated by Iizuka-san himself, Jun Senoue played a selection of Sonic songs accompanied by Sonic himself with fans accompanying by singing along. AiAi from Super Monkey ball made his presence known for the blowing out of the candles of Sonic’s birthday cake.

Iizuka-san then issued a challenge to the audience for three competitors to go head-to-head against at Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed, with participants receiving a goodie bag of Sonic goods. Amusingly, none of the challengers has the skill to beat Iizuka-san, who came in first in the race!

Posing for photos

Uekawa-san on stageYuji Uekawa, best known for his signature Sonic the hedgehog designs that have graced the franchise since the days of Sonic Adventure, also made a rare stage appearance at SONICFEST to talk to the fans during the show. Soon after, a raffle also took place on stage, with the numbers of the 200 golden circle audiences being drawn at random to receive a special prize. After several of these prizes had been amusingly “modeled” by Senoue-san, we were ecstatic to realise that one of our number had been drawn (The winner being Lewis from Segadriven)! Not only that, Uekawa-san also presented three hand-drawn original Sonic sketches, which were also given away to three lucky winners (unfortunately my number was not picked!)

After advertisements for several SEGA games, the stage events concluded, and fans were invited to a meet and greet session with Iizuka-san, Senoue-san and Uekawa-san, with an impressive range of rare Sonic items being brought out by fans for signing (Kieran also got an opportunity to present Uekawa-san with a hand drawn gift). Post-signing session, I had an opportunity to talk to some Japanese fans and take some photos; some of the hand-made items were incredible, and it was obvious to see that a lot of them were extremely passionate about Sonic. More impressively, we saw an attendee wearing a Summer of Sonic shirt! We also got to meet Act, one of the drummers from Crush 40’s live shows, who was also in attendance for the day.

IMG_2899SONIC FEST was a fantastic day out, and it is great to see that community events like this have also caught on in the east. Hopefully SONIC FEST will be a reoccurring event, and I implore you to go if you’re in Tokyo next year! JOYPOLIS is open all year round, with admission starting from ¥800 ($8 / £5) – you can find more information about the park on the English JOYPOLIS page.

Us at Sonic Fest!

 

Johnny Gioeli Interview: New Crush 40 Material Lined Up for 2014

Crush40-fanclub.de founder Angie Fabian had a chance to catch up with Crush 40 superstar Johnny Gioeli while he was out on the Axel Rudi Pell last week. In amongst many Johnny-oriented queries, Johnny fields questions on Crush 40, including their future direction, and hints that 2014 will yield new Crush 40 material.

Johnny also answers questions about his favourite films, his artists, how much Chinese chicken was consumed during the recording of the Crush 40 album and his favourite ice cream (also my favourite!) Want to know the answers? Check out the video of the interview below!

(Warning! Some swears and lewd material…but it is Johnny!)

California’s Sonic Revolution Convention Announces 2014 Date and Venue

SoCalFollowing the first California-based Sonic the Hedgehog fan convention last year, Sonic Revolution returns in 2014 for a second time, promising to be an event even bigger and better than before.

If you’re a resident of California, or can travel to Orange County mid-June, you can look forward to a day of Sonic-themed events, including a showing of an exclusive clip of Sonic Prologue film along with a Q&A with the director, an appearance and performance from the Sonic the Hedgehog cover band Serenity Seven, as well as opportunities for gaming and fan art showcasing.

The event venue and date are as follows:

Date: Sunday, June 15, 2014
Time: 10 AM to 6 PM
Location: The Marquis Room at the Holiday Inn Buena Park
Address: 7000 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, California 90620

Tickets will be up for grabs on the 1st of March, 2014, and will be available through EventBrite for free. There will also be discount codes available for those wanting to stay the night at the hotel venue.

The event is also holding a fundraiser in order to generate the capital for hosting the event – head on down to the fundraising page and make a donation; donations of $30 or more will receive a Sonic Revolution shirt and pin.

Further details will become available over the coming weeks through the Sonic Revolution website.

Sonic Boom or Sonic Bust?

SB_LOGO_RGB_WHITEBG_1391691188I remember a time not too long ago where one could wake up to find out that their favourite blue hedgehog had taken up the hover board, had decided that swords were cool, or had a accumulated another new friend to add to the already brimming roster of colourful critters. At the time, Sonic had suffered a spate of mediocre to down-right poor titles, the most notorious being Sonic ’06. The prevailing morale of the online community was pretty low and on the morning of the announcement of Sonic Unleashed, images of the Werehog did nothing to inspire or reassure fans that a title of note was in the making. Forums lit up with debate, sites quizzed their audiences with “will it be good, won’t it be good?” polls and comment boxes became an arena for conflicts of opinion.

Many fans at the time, including myself, were certain that the train of thought implemented in the making of Sonic titles had become intrinsically flawed, with focus on graphics and sheen, rather than gameplay. Many desired to see a return to the roots of what made the classic Sonic titles so good, which ironically backfired somewhat with the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I. The last thing we were interested in was another gimmick, and this is what it looked like SEGA were about to present us with. On this occasion however, I couldn’t have been happier to be proven wrong. I love Sonic Unleashed, from the diverse soundtrack, to the lush worlds, to the level design to the Pixar feel of the characters. While not a perfect game in many respects, it was fun, and had elements to please both old and new fans. Not only that, Night of the Werehog was a fantastic little bonus; ten minutes of distilled genius and beautiful animation.

Fast forward six years and we seem to be back at this juncture once more.

sonicboomSonic the Hedgehog fans have had a lot of new information to assimilate over the last 48 hours with regards to the announcement of Sonic Boom, which will hit screens later in the year in both TV show and videogame incarnations. Scanning through my facebook feed, the general vibe from a lot of the younger members of the community is one of excitement at the prospect of another TV show, after all it has been a decade since Sonic X premiered on western screens (has it really been that long?). However, these announcements have been completely eclipsed by the news and images of the new character designs, which have in the cases for some characters, been fairly drastic.

But haven’t we been here before? If so, what is all the fuss about? Well, a few months back, we were all given a glimpse of some familiar shadows set against a wall. It was obvious that the main characters of the franchise were looking to get a makeover, and internet speculation about whether or not Knuckles had been hitting the gym exploded onto every Sonic-themed forum.

Boom10It seems almost seems surprising therefore, that the community has reacted in the way they have, given there was fair warning substantial changes to the character models were on the horizon. Indeed, Knuckles looks like he has now swallowed the Master emerald in a last-ditch attempt to prevent it from getting nicked. Other characters seem to have been less drastically altered, in most cases proportions have been subtly tweaked, and many would be forgiven in suggesting the team have had a recent run-in with the Andrex puppy. Admittedly, I’ve had a good giggle at some fan parodies and interpretations of these changes. Fortunately, fan reaction has been tempered by a follow up announcement that Sonic Boom would remain an isolated “sub franchise” and that these changes would not be canon.
So again, we come back to the question: what’s the big deal? Why has something like a change in the colour of Sonic’s arms hit such a nerve amongst fans?

Well, the likely answer to that is probably many fold. Firstly and most obviously, many fans probably fear that SEGA are back on down the gimmick route to promote new games. Sonic Lost World didn’t quite achieve the accolade many thought it might, and it’s understandable that there is apprehension over whether this is the dawn of the second era of the so-called “Sonic cycle”. Secondly, and more importantly I think, is the change in the base properties of the franchise. There aren’t many other fandoms that command such a loyal legion as Sonic does, and many are invested in the characters, the stories and the universe on the whole. So when something fundamental is modified, no matter how trivial it may seem to someone on the outside looking in, fans are going to react negatively; after all, why change something that isn’t broken? Indeed, most fans are questioning the necessity of equipping a hedgehog with a scarf and a copious quantity of sports bandages. Perhaps in some cases it is purely personal opinion. More curiously, many have noticed how pedantic SEGA have been in the past with regards to attention to character models, what they are allowed to be doing, and how they are represented in any media. Many perceive this as an almost complete U-turn on this previous ethos, and has opened up speculation to whether or not this is the result of a shift in those who call the shots when it comes to the franchise globally (although a recent statement from Iizuka picked up on TSSZ News announced that Boom will only be available to western markets).

soniclegsThe counter opinion of course, is that sometimes, change is good. You probably wouldn’t be seen dead in the clothes you were wearing a decade ago, and indeed, it could be seen as logical in this sense that over time, some things will inevitably update in order to remain fresh, keep with trends, and of course, interest a new generation. Back in 1998, Sonic underwent his transformation from a short fat spike-ball to a more athletic, green-eyed iteration of himself; that metamorphosis seemed on the whole a successful transition. Examining the timescales between those character models, it does seem like Sonic is well overdue a cosmetic overhaul.

Those of you who, like me, pine for another title with the same DNA as Unleashed, will no doubt be as giddy as I to see stunning pieces of concept art of environments, and some extremely amusing facial expressions from the cast, which lead to believe we will be getting a game with rich worlds to explore akin to Unleashed. Those worried about the game have had some reassuring news in that the development is in the hands of those behind the Uncharted and Jak and Daxter franchises (now developing under the name of Big Red Button), and if the quality of these titles are a reflection of what the next Sonic game will be like, we have nothing to worry about. The attitudes of SEGA have also markedly changed in the past half-decade, with the growth of an extremely competent and capable community team who have been receptive of fan feedback.  On top of this, the connection to fans has been reinforced through events such as Sonic Boom in the states and Summer of Sonic in the UK, which have both received an incredible reception from attending patrons.

I think as a community we have matured in many aspects; after all, many have now been fans for over twenty years; some are now employed in the video game business and are more able to understand the intricate nuisances that go into making a video game. That said, I think we shouldn’t fall into the trap of becoming grumpy old women and men, and forming opinions on changes purely because they “aren’t as good as they were back in the good old days”. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to whether or not you think the new direction Sonic is taking will be good or bad, as after all the main component at the end of the day is personal preference. I hope as an older and somewhat wiser community, we can hold final judgement of the “Sonic Renaissance” until we’ve seen the final product.

After all, we’ve only just read the first page of this new chapter of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog 3!

Sonic3_titleIt still feels like only yesterday! Sonic the Hedgehog 3 turns the grand old age of 20 today, marking two decades since the title hit the shelves way back in 1994 for the SEGA Megadrive / Genesis; this date also marks the anniversary of the introduction of Knuckles the Echidna to the franchise. While not one of the best selling Sonic the Hedgehog titles to date, Sonic 3 is heralded by many as one of the definitive titles released, along with it’s sister title Sonic & Knuckles, which will also be celebrating it’s birthday later this year.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 still causes debate to this day with regards to the level of involvement Michael Jackson may have had in the creation of the soundtrack.

How will you be celebrating today? Maybe you’re having a speed-run party, rocking out to some remixes of your favorite levels, or perhaps you’re digging a hole in the back garden to hide your emeralds in? Share your thoughts, ideas and reflections in the comments!

TSS Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (iOS)

unnamedI’m sure I am not alone when I say I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve purchased Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in various incarnations, be it through a port to a 7th gen console or a compilation release over the last decade. Yet, SEGA keep coming back to these classic titles in order to capitalise on those still reminiscing of a golden age, and indeed I keep coming back to these epitomes of gaming on the Megadrive. I might have been apprehensive in purchasing this game once more, had it not been for the involvement of the now legendary Taxman and Stealth in this port, and going off their incredible rebuilds of Sonic 1 and Sonic CD for iOS and Android I couldn’t resist.

Indeed, even after playing for a few minutes, it is obvious that there was no misplaced faith. The Retro Engine lends itself perfectly to the title, with Emerald Hill looking crisp from the get-go. Once you pop into the special stages though, your eyes are in for the real treat; gone is the old frame-by-frame half-pipe, now replaced by a glorious gliding 3D environment that is so silky smooth it’s almost hypnotic. It’s impressive that even the busiest screens don’t show any break in frame rate, which really helps maintain the pace; even when other iOS applications are throwing update after update at you.

I’ve never been fond of the touchscreen interface with mobile ports, but one thing that has made these titles much more bearable is playing them on one of the larger devices, specifically the iPad; the larger footprint of the D-pad makes for a much more pleasant experience than on the iPhone counterpart (or maybe it’s just my fat thumbs). That said there were some experiences where precision was required and my thumbs missed the control, resulting in my hurtling down the level after failing to avoid an Asteron explosion.

Sonic2-BossFightControls aside, what will really sell this to the veteran Sonic fans is the new inclusions to the game, namely the much talked about Hidden Palace Zone, which until now only existed as screenshots from the Beta version, an unused track in the sound test and years of speculation on forums. Should you be fortunate enough to find the new stage (as its name suggests, it’s hidden, and hidden in the most ingenious place), you’ll discover a level that has been built from the ground up by Taxman and Stealth. Without spoiling the mystique for those who are yet to play through, the stage feels like it’s been part of the game forever; alternative routes, Badniks and obstacles unique to the environment are some of the highlights of the stage, along with the most original and refreshing boss fight I have played though in many, many years. The Hidden Palace Zone music from the original has not been utilised to accompany the stage, but instead has been replaced with the 2-player stage theme to fit the pace of the level; a wise choice in my opinion.

On the subject of the two player mode, the feature has been completely revamped in order to open it up to the competitive arena of the internet, bringing in elements such as randomised item boxes and the shields from Sonic 3 / S&K, making for a much different experience from previous incarnations. While not an element of gameplay I generally garner the most pleasure from, many will find the ability to drop in and out of the multiplayer mode a huge attraction, even if the odd disconnection and lag occurs from time-to-time; this seems to be symptomatic of networks rather than a flaw in the game itself. The various time attack modes available also offer an extra dimension of re-playability that will extend the game’s interest long after completion of the main game.

I’m unsure whether it was intentional or not, but in both play through with Sonic and Tails I failed to encounter the Hill Top Zone boss. The first time through, the change only builds anticipation of the additional zone, however, many will be disappointed that this boss has been left out the final version, or only appears in certain circumstances. [UPDATE: Apparently the omission of the boss was a glitch, and the new update fixes this – T].

Flaws aside, and smalls flaws at that, this game makes for the hat-trick of classic ports that have regenerated the titles universally thought to be virtually perfect. The title is a testament and an example of a game in a franchise where those working behind the scenes have a great passion for what they are creating. Taxman and Stealth should once again be proud of their magnificent endeavor, and I only hope SEGA are now negotiating their work on a fourth title. If you own an mobile device, this is a must have purchase regardless of your level of dedication to the franchise. Even if you have defeated Sonic the Hedgehog 2 a hundred times, you’ll want to revisit it at least once more through the mobile port; it makes for a strangely new, yet nostalgic experience.

You’ll Love:

+ Three playable characters from the get-go for three different game experiences

+ A brand new level, faithful to the world of Sonic the Hedgehog 2

+ Boss and stage time attack modes

+ A rejuvenated multiplayer mode with online play

You’ll Hate:

– Some frustrating moments with connection issues

– Using the touch screen controls in vital situations

– Putting the game down