TSS REVIEW: Sonic Mania Plus

Last year’s explosive release of Sonic Mania wasn’t just about a game that ended up thrilling both new and old blue blur fans. It was also proof that a brand new, ‘classic’ style 2D Sonic title will sell – and sell it most certainly did, cementing itself in the annals of hedgehog history. But, while widely regarded as one of the most critically-acclaimed Sonic titles in recent memory, there were some clear presentation omissions and missing elements in the base game – elements that you would think Christian Whitehead and co would have included, if they were just given more time to bake it in.

Enter Sonic Mania Plus. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Mania Plus

GALLERY: See the Sonic Mania Plus Special Edition, Up Close and Personal

Sonic Mania Plus hits digital game stores in just a few days time! But next Tuesday is also important for the fact that it will mark the first time that the 2017 platformer will be available in physical format on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. We’ve had a review copy sitting in TSS Towers for a while now (review coming soon!), but we thought we’d share what you can expect to find in the physical package to help hype up next week’s release. Read on to find high-quality photos of everything! Continue reading GALLERY: See the Sonic Mania Plus Special Edition, Up Close and Personal

Impressions: Sonic Generations on the Smach Z portable PC console

As a matter of disclosure, the author of this article has invested in the Smach Z Indiegogo campaign.

When I first heard about the Smach Z (initially revealed as the Steam Boy) back in 2014, I knew it was something I wanted. In addition to being a Sonic fan, I’m also a big portable gamer, so a console that could allow me to take some of my favorite Sonic games (and some other titles like NiGHTS and Witcher 3) on the go for the first time immediately caught my interest. Unfortunately, the reality has been a bit more complicated then what the initial pitch promised. Since its announcement, the system’s price has more than doubled, from $300 to $699, to accommodate more ambitious hardware (though it is currently possible to pre-order the console for $629). The system has also had to change its internal hardware twice. This and other development issues have caused the system to be delayed for nearly two years so far.  But now, the console may finally be hitting the home stretch, with hardware that is supposedly on the verge of being finalized and a planned September shipping date for backers. As the company revs up for a planned 2018 holiday launch, it invited both press and backers to check out a prototype during E3.

So when I was offered the chance to check out the hardware myself, I had one question on my mind: how does it run Sonic Generations? The Smach Team was willing to indulge my curiosity when  I went to check out the Smach Z prototype in a small room situated right across the street from the LA Convention Center at Hotel Figueroa. While I don’t have the best eye for things like frame rate, my fellow Sonic Stadium staffer Jason Berry does, and luckily he was with me to help me determine exactly how well the Smach Z hardware handled the game. These impressions are based off of a prototype of the 8GB “Pro” SKU, connected to an external display and played with a Steam controller.

So how did Sonic Generations perform? Pretty well. We first tried the game out at its default settings: 1080p resolution, FXAA anti-aliasing, letter box display mode, v-sync, and low shadow and reflection quality. At these settings, the game managed 30 fps with occasional frame skips. At basically the same frame rate as the 360 version, that may not seem too impressive…until one considers that the Xbox 360 achieved this frame rate at a resolution of 720p, and that the PC version was actually rather demanding when it came out in 2011. As someone who was fine with the frame rate on the Xbox 360 original, I was happy with this result. Things got even better when we decided to go into the settings and drop the resolution down to 720p. This allowed the game to hit a silky smooth 60 fps.

So this portable is capable of running Sonic Generations pretty well, which means it should also be quite capable of running many of the other Steam games I was hoping to play on it, such as NiGHTS into Dreams and Sonic Adventure 2. From a performance perspective, the Smach Z looks like everything I was hoping it would be. But does that mean I’d recommend you go out and pre-order right now? Well…no.

For one, despite the system’s expected September shipping date, Smach Team still doesn’t have a fully functional portable prototype available to show to the press. The prototype I got to see was connected to a flatscreen TV and operated with a mouse, keyboard, and Steam controller. This means I have little to say about the system’s comfort or build quality. The Smach Team did have a 3D printed mold of the final casing on display, which was fairly comfortable to hold, but being comfortable to hold and comfortable to play are two different things.

Team Smach told us that they intend to demonstrate a fully functional Smach Z prototype at Gamescom in August. As it stands, I’ll be surprised if the console meets its planned September shipping date to backers. While I don’t buy into talk that the Smach Z is a “scam” or that the people behind it are crooks, hardware development is expensive and complex, and there isn’t technically a real guarantee that this thing will even make it to production.

The Smach Z is, on paper, everything I’ve wanted from a portable device for a long time, and then some. It will be able to not only run games like Sonic Generations, NiGHTS into Dreams, and a variety of other officially released SEGA games on Steam, but it will also be capable of running a variety of PC emulators (the Smach Team confirmed Dolphin to us, though I can’t vouch for it myself), and supposedly even current triple A PC titles at medium to low settings. Users will apparently even be able to customize the Smach Z’s button layout with “z-pads,” circular button inputs that will “click into” the two circular touch pads on either side of the device. These z-pads have been shown taking the form of directional pads, a second analog stick, and even different console button layouts. As a concept, it has a lot of potential, but it remains to be seen how well the Smach Z will be able to fulfill that potential, or if it will even be able to do it at all.

The z-pads are an interesting idea, but they’ve only been shown as computer renders.

 

The specs for two of the Smach Z SKUs are posted in the image below:

 

In addition to the regular and Pro SKUs, there is also an Ultra SKU with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB of SSD. All three SKUs can currently be pre-ordered from the website for 10 percent off retail price at $629, $809, and $989 respectively. Pre-orders can be canceled, according to the website.

The Spin: The Case for Shadow the Hedgehog in Smash Bros. Ultimate

Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.

“Shadow, Quick to Action” render by Nibroc-Rock.

On June 12, 2018 via their E3 2018 Direct, Nintendo finally unveiled Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to the world, coming to Nintendo Switch just in time for Christmas. The celebrated blockbuster franchise is back to reunite gaming’s greatest all-stars, this time with series creator and director Masahiro Sakurai going above and beyond to bring back every single playable character in Smash Bros. history, including one-offs like Pichu and Young Link and DLC characters like Bayonetta and Corrin.

Chief among them is Sonic the Hedgehog, who has arguably become a Smash mainstay since his groundbreaking debut in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, alongside Solid Snake of Metal Gear Solid fame, as a third party fighter. This trend paved the way for other gaming giants to join the battle in later instalments.

So with the new game on the horizon, discussions for new character ideas has unsurprisingly overtaken the Internet. Ultimate is already filled to the brim with nearly 70 playable characters at this time, with the entire Smash cast now joined by the likes of Inklings, Princess Daisy, and the highly demanded Ridley as of the game’s formal reveal last month. Sakurai was wise to advise Direct viewers that they made bringing every character back their first priority, and that hopefully we’re not anticipating too many new fighters towards launch.

This is the ultimate showdown (of ultimate destiny)!

Smash 64 started with 12 characters. Melee more than doubled that count to 26. Brawl pushed to 39 while scrapping a few veterans. Including the seven DLC characters, Wii U/3DS totalled to 58. In Ultimate, we’re up to 68 right now with three of these fighters being new… almost.

That doesn’t leave a lot of spots left for wholly new characters, which will more than likely include some of Nintendo’s most recent stars—like Rex from Xenoblade 2, Spring Man from ARMS, or Celica from Fire Emblem Echoes—or other highly demanded characters from the company’s storied past like King K. Rool or Geno.

Thankfully, the game’s emphasis on Echo Fighters—fighters with cloned movesets and animations from another playable character—might help pad out the roster with a few more fun variants. Echo Fighters and semi-Echoes, compared to brand new characters, take little time to develop, as most of the groundwork for movesets is already done, so like Lucina, Daisy, and the three Links, we could expect characters like Impa as a foil to Sheik, Octolings to Inklings, or, dare I say it…

…Shadow the Hedgehog to Sonic.


Like Sonic, Shadow made his Super Smash Bros. debut in Brawl, joining the Blue Blur as an Assist Trophy. Once on the field, the Ultimate Life Form would unleash Chaos Control and slow down time for everyone but his summoner for a short period. This was a role he later reprised in Wii U/3DS.

These days, in the midst of newcomer predictions months ahead of Ultimate‘s release, the growing brouhaha surrounding the nature of Shadow’s possible return to Smash has taken an interesting turn since the game’s reveal this past E3, starting off with the Direct, the show floor demo and the revived Dojo.

Our first deep dive into Ultimate‘s inner workings not only showed how each returning character changed and which stages are confirmed (whether explicitly name-dropped or implicitly hinted mid-footage), but also showed off some of the Assist Trophies. Like the roster, the new Smash will have a much higher count of Assist Trophies present with 50+ confirmed (compared to Wii U/3DS‘ 39).

“We bad!”
“We bad.”
“’cause if I bad and you bad…”
“…then we bad.”

With the 2018 Invitational and numerous Nintendo Treehouse previews, we have seen 29 of them in action at this time. To the delight of Sonic fans, among the new Assist Trophies comes one who is rougher than the rest of them, the best of them, tougher than leather! Knuckles the Echidna will be lending his hallmark strength and burrowing capabilities to his summoner, surprising opposing fighters with rushes, Homing Attacks, and surprise uppercuts from underground.

However, Shadow is nowhere to be seen. Not only is he not featured on any of the promotional material or even the Smash Bros. website, he is mysteriously absent as an Assist Trophy in the E3 demo at this time.

This leads to one of three possibilities:

  1. Knuckles has wholly replaced Shadow as the Sonic the Hedgehog series representative Assist Trophy. Given Shadow’s own aforementioned popularity, him being cut at all feels incredibly unlikely to happen, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry.
  2. Shadow is still an Assist Trophy, and simply hasn’t been shown off yet. Ultimate is still in development after all, and we’ve only seen roughly half of the Assist Trophies from the final version, so Shadow returning to his established Smash Bros. role is all but written in stone. Sonic could very well have two of his rivals backing him up as Assists this time around.
  3. Shadow the Hedgehog becomes a playable character. While not a probable eventuality, despite the already packed roster and Sakurai’s own comments on a limited newcomer count, quite frankly it’s not an impossibility.

And the fact that a playable Shadow could very well be coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is enough cause for me to speculate like crazy. Let’s dive right into the thick of it and weigh the pros and cons of just such a wild expectation.

Shadow Unleashes Chaos!

PROS

Pro 1: Ease of Development

Live and learn.
Remastered by RealSonicVideos.

As previously mentioned, one of the biggest points in the black hedgehog’s favour is that Shadow as a fighter would be much quicker and easier to develop compared to other newcomers, reason being that a good chunk of the development work—when you think about it—is already done. Much like how Dark Pit began as a costume swap or how Falco borrows from Fox’s moves, Shadow’s development would more than likely turn out being just as easy; there’s proof of this already, but we’ll get around to that in a moment.

While Ultimate is a brand new game, it builds upon the assets of Wii U/3DS as its foundation (a certainly fortuitous circumstance what with developer Bandai Namco returning at the helm). It’s only natural that they would still have Shadow’s old model that was produced for the previous Smash, so they already have a rig to work with.

As for his moveset, there’s really nowhere else to look but Sonic himself. While not as a bona-fide Echo Fighter given how he stands out, Shadow’s movepool would borrow heavily from the Blue Blur’s own arsenal, as they’re both capable of Homing Attacks, Spin Dashes, and Spin Charges right out of the gate.

“Disappear!”

Simply switch out Sonic’s Spring Up Special with Chaos Control (which would behave not too unlike Mewtwo’s own Teleport recovery), alter some of the standard moves and Smash attacks to better reflect his own Chaos-powered capabilities, and keep the running speed appropriately intact to tie with Sonic as the fastest character in Ultimate.

Plus, it would feel like a more appropriate tribute to the character than a mere Assist Trophy, let alone a redundant one. There is already an item in the game that can slow down time through the Stopwatch, so Shadow wouldn’t be missed as an Assist Trophy with the (albeit backfire-proof) same ability if he becomes playable.

Just like that, Shadow would be viable as an easy-to-develop semi-clone and perfect foil to Sonic to squeeze into the roster—a fighter that would hardly take much time away from producing more resource-heavy, wholly original newcomers—which feels like the more realistic outcome than becoming a said original newcomer.

Pro 2: “I’m the coolest!

This one somewhat goes without saying, but Shadow the Hedgehog is one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise. Ever since his debut in Sonic Adventure 2, the veritable anti-Sonic and the Blue Blur’s top rival earned himself a ton of pull from fans, having become just as (if not more) popular than the likes of Tails, Knuckles, or Metal Sonic, who’ve been around much longer than he has. Some might say he’s become “the second-most popular character in the whole canon.”

That popularity since extended beyond the Sonic fanbase and into the Super Smash Bros. community itself. Sure, we could talk about how fans still voted for the character in the previous Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot despite his established role in Wii U/3DS, but more relevantly, I ask you this.

Who was one of the very first characters to be modded into a Smash game as a playable fighter? From the likes of Project M to Legacy XP and beyond, who was one of the new, non-veteran characters developed by fans and hacked into Brawl and Smash 4?

Shadow the Hedgehog, of course!

We’ve seen already seen for ourselves how program-savvy Smash fans are well capable of modding the game, and with the tools for Shadow’s own movepool already at their disposal, some even went a step further to separate him from Sonic all the more with moves inspired by the likes of Sonic Battle. That right there is attention to detail.

At the very least, from within the Sonic fanbase since 2001 and in the Smash scene, Nintendo ought to know how popular Shadow is as a character. Hell, just thinking of Shadow becoming for an official Smash game with Sakurai’s personal touch, semi-clone or not, would get anyone excited!

Pro 3. No Arbitrary Restrictions

“But Jeff, there can’t be more than one playable Sonic character in Smash!”

…says who?

Let’s get one of the biggest misconceptions out of the way: there is no “rule” that states that no more than one character from the same third party can join the roster. There is no age-old slab of stone with the “Ten Commandments of Master Hand” written on it decreeing such a law. Sakurai has yet to be quoted on this, at least. It’s merely a popularized assumption that’s been spread among Smash fans, who at this point (myself included) should know better than to say “Sakurai wouldn’t” or “he can’t” within reason.

We’re talking about the same man directing a series of games that brings together a whole cavalcade of Nintendo all-stars led by Mario, while also featuring Sonic the Hedgehog, Solid Snake, Mega Man, Pac-Man, Ryu, Cloud Strife, and Bayonetta. Even James Bond was once considered for Melee following Rare’s GoldenEye 007, only stopped by licensing issues that naturally comes with an IP based on a long-running novel and film franchise.

Plus, in a game that already has a staggering 68 playable characters so far, pulled from all sorts of Nintendo properties and more, would a second Sonic character really tip the scales that much? Let alone one who often stars opposite to Sonic and wouldn’t take much time to develop from scratch?

My point is: Shadow isn’t impossible. Improbable? For reasons we’re about to get into, sure. Outright impossible? I don’t think we’d be giving Sakurai enough credit.

But every party needs a pooper.

CONS

Con 1: Seeing Double

Throwing it back like it’s 1991.

Shadow isn’t an impossible addition to Smash Bros. Ultimate, but despite his strengths, there are still a number of odds stacked against him, starting right from his own home series. We could sit here all day about how Sonic’s longtime companion Tails is more worthy to become a second fighter, or how Metal Sonic would make the better Sonic clone in Smash (which sounds incredibly ludicrous to me honestly, given his robotic abilities), but when we’re talking about popularity and ease of development, Shadow loses out on both fronts to none other than Sonic yet again.

Or, to be more specific: Classic Sonic.

Shadow is not the only possible Sonic alternative, now that the little hedgehog many have grown up with is back in the limelight since the tour de force that was Sonic Mania. Classic really doesn’t need any major differences and would play 1:1 to his Modern counterpart aside from a handful of minor tweaks, and would come into his own quite naturally as an Echo Fighter with the exact same moveset. We’ve got two Marios and three Links already, so what’s a second Sonic? Easier to produce than Shadow, that’s for certain.

Con 2: Assists No Longer?

Isaac (centre) of Golden Sun fame.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Ultimate is still in development, and while we know how many Assist Trophies will join the game, we’ve only seen about half of them on display. Of the many Assists who are still missing in action, there are several Nintendo characters who have been highly requested to be made playable and, for all we know, might get the coveted promotion to playable character like Little Mac did before them.

These include forgotten heroes like Saki Amamiya from Sin and Punishment and Isaac from Golden Sun, as well as other oft-mentioned characters like Ashley from WarioWare, Skull Kid and Tingle from The Legend of Zelda, and Magnus from Kid Icarus.

Sin and Punishment’s Saki Amamiya, as an Assist Trophy in Wii U/3DS.

Sure, Shadow might have the upper hand when it comes to development time and name recognition, but there’s no denying the high demand backing some of these potentials up, not to mention how unpredictable Sakurai can be in his roster choices. The retro and obscure often make for excellent additions to the cast (Mr. Game & Watch, Ice Climbers, Duck Hunt Duo to name a few), and might even see revivals and a resurgence in popularity for smaller, neglected in-house franchises.

Fire Emblem got its foot in the door of the Western market thanks to Melee, and Kid Icarus got its first new game in over 20 years for the 3DS after Brawl, so who knows which other series might be dusted off in time for the biggest Smash game ever?

Whatever the case, Shadow isn’t the only Assist Trophy in the running for “Promoted to Playable” and might just return to his prior role for all we know, with Knuckles in tow. Still, at least he has a sliver of chance unlike some.

Sorry, Waluigi.

Con 3. Musical Chairs

The absolute madman, Masahiro Sakurai.

We’ve made including every single fighter ever our number one goal, so I’m kind of hoping you aren’t expecting too many new challengers.”

While I’m personally stoked to play as all of my mains in a single game, Sakurai’s final words in the Nintendo E3 2018 Direct did paint a somewhat bleak picture for those expecting an array of newcomers like in previous titles.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a roster comprised of 68 characters thus far, and there are many other potential fighters who have been requested over the years. Regardless of who makes the cut from here until December, barring possible DLC after launch, many will inevitably be disappointed if the amount of spots left for new characters are slim. Shadow can, at the very least, edge in as a Sonic semi-clone, but it’s likely he’ll plain lose out to other characters.

Cool guys don’t look at explosions.

Metroid fans have asked for Ridley since the very beginning, so his inclusion lends some hope to other highly requested Nintendo stars like Geno (who Sakurai often considered in previous games) making the cut.

New heroes have emerged in just the past few years and their games have been in concurrent production with Ultimate for the Switch, so Sakurai more than likely started work on these recent additions long before games like ARMS and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 were announced to the public, just like he did with Greninja for Wii U/3DS while Pokémon X & Y was in early development.

Plus, like Shadow, there are plenty other minor Smash Bros. characters who might get the playable upgrade, be they prior Assist Trophies or cameos. Palutena once played a part in Pit’s Final Smash, Little Mac went from Assist Trophy to a deadly glass cannon of a fighter, Charizard used to be a Pokéball summon, and Inklings used to be a Mii Fighter costume. Sure, this increases Shadow’s odds, but that applies to so many others as well.

There aren’t a whole lot of spots left, and there are many names to consider. Does Shadow stand a chance among them?

DISCUSSION

Shadow vs. Sonic! From IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog #6, in stores now.

Do you believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Ultimate Life Form should stand toe-to-toe against Sonic and other Nintendo greats in Final Destination later this year? Do you think the odds are in Shadow’s favour, or should he stick to being an Assist Trophy to make way for other, potentially more viable fighters?

More importantly, who do you think will make the cut for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and which newcomers would you most like to see? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, so share them with us in the comments below!

Sonic Talk 53: Sonic Talk Live!

Live! From Sonic Revolution 2018, it’s Sonic Talk with Jason and Alex! In this episode, the two hosts have a (semi) full audience for their show. They discuss Team Sonic Racing, IDW Sonic comic #5, the upcoming Sonic movie and much more as they desperately try to fill the 45 minute mark as Jason forgot to write down notes! Revel in the awkwardness!!

Team Sonic Racing Impressions: Jason’s Take

If there’s one thing Sumo Digital is best at more than anything, it’s making a solid racing game. From Outrun 2 to Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed, the development team has proven that they are the best at what they do. The only thing that could possibly hold them back is a good concept with a fatal flaw. And this is where Team Sonic Racing comes in. Having gotten my hands on the game at E3, I find that it feels just as good as the previous two All-Stars games. However, there’s one major thing that separates Team Sonic Racing from it’s predecessors and that’s relying heavily on AI in order to win.

The demo begins with you picking a racer out of two teams. Team Sonic (Sonic, Tails and Knuckles) or Team Shadow (Shadow, Rouge and Omega) with red and blue Egg Pawns filling out the rest of the roster. Once you’ve picked your driver, it’s time for the race to start and this is where Team Sonic’s major flaw rears it’s ugly head. The game relies not on you getting first place in the race you’re in, but for all of your teammates to perform well. This is done by trading Wisp power-ups with your friends, skimming past them to help them get a speed boost or driving on their wake to help speed yourself up. Good teamwork brings up your “Ultimate Meter” which will give all three of your teammates a huge boost of speed. This is why teamwork and sharing items is very important. If the three of you do well, your score at the end of the game will determine if your team wins.

While the game is meant to be played in multiplayer co-op for the best experience, the demos at E3 were in single player. This means you are completely reliant on your AI buddies being good enough to not screw you up. Sure you can share items with them and watch their back as best you can, but if they run into a wall, you’re screwed. This leaves you with trying to babysit your team rather than focus on winning the race.

That doesn’t mean this one aspect ruins the game. The racing is still just as smooth and intense as it’s ever been. Drifting and handling is spot on and the enemy AI doesn’t take it easy on you, making for a more enjoyable race. New items such the cube and rocket wisps provide plenty of new ways to antagonize your opponents. Think bananas are annoying in Mario Kart? Try giant, blue cubes everywhere. My favorite is the burst wisp. It lets you shoot flames from the back of your vehicle that do serious damage to the racers behind you.

Another interesting aspect is the sound. What little music I heard is rock solid, with an original track that starts out really jazzy, but quickly brings in the rock guitar in a tune that reminds me a little of Jun Sunoe’s work on Sonic Heroes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Junoe worked on the soundtrack. The sound effects themselves are satisfactory enough, but the sounds of ring collecting seemed muted and slightly different from the traditional ring sound.

The biggest change in sound is the voice acting. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s still the same voice actors and it sounds like even the announcer from the last game makes a return. But this is possibly the first in the Sega sports series of games to include all original voice acting (not counting the Sonic Riders series) specifically for this game. This means no stock voice work from previous games to save money, but full on taunts and brags to make the game feel more alive. Of course, this being a Sonic game, that means some really groan-worthy lines too. Does all of this extra dialogue mean we’ll get a full story mode as well? Who knows?

As far as graphics go, they’re a bit of a jump from the last game. The game features smooth textures with great lighting and a high resolution. Little details such as particle effects like pollen or confetti in the air and the tread on the tires as it spins are all present. There are even billboards for different things in the Sonic-verse. Some of which I’m sure will have obscure references.

All of this comes at a price. Like it’s predecessors, the game currently runs at 30 frames per second. Whether this will change before release remains to be seen. From what I could tell playing both demos, the PS4 version seems to have a resolution of 1080P while the X-Box One version is running at 720P. The Switch version was not on the show floor, but Sumo Digital has always done a good job at porting their racing games to less powerful consoles while keeping it looking and feeling great.

One minor thing I noticed is that the PS4 demo has a bit of a performance issue. Sometimes when boosting, the frame rate will suddenly chug and drop heavily. This also leads to the sound stuttering as well. I wouldn’t worry too much about it as the game is still in development and it has a long way to go before release, so I doubt this will be an issue.

While I’m not to crazy for the teamwork game play aspect in it’s current state, Sumo Digital has never let me down and since Aaron Webber has already confirmed more modes within the game, I have great confidence that the more we see of this racer, the more hyped I’ll be for it. That said, Team Sonic Racing’s got a long drive ahead before it can beat All-Stars Racing Transformed past the finish line.

Team Sonic Racing speeds into stores on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, X-Box One and PC this holiday season.

TSS @ E3 2018 Interview with Aaron Webber

Yesterday Afternoon during E3, I got a chance to sit down and chat with Sega’s social media manager and world’s biggest Big the Cat fan, Aaron Webber. We chatted about all things “Team Sonic Racing” including extra modes and customizations. This is a good one folks, with plenty of new info. So sit back, click and enjoy.

Crush 40 and Belly Headline Sega and Puma’s Launch Party

On Wednesday June 13, get ready to party with Belly and Crush 40 as Sega teams up with Puma to give you a rockin’ launch party for their new Sonic-themed shoes at Nice Kicks in L.A. This includes a meet and greet with Sonic Team’s own Takashi Iizuka. While the shoes go on sale on the 12th, the party is on the 13th. While no ticket info is given, it appears to be a party open to the public, so you may want to come in early before it gets too crowded.

Alex and I are bound to be there, so expect coverage right here at the Sonic Stadium. In the meantime, go to the offical launch announcement page for more information.

First Screenshots And Price of Team Sonic Racing Leaked

Following our news story on the the title and cover of Sonic’s latest racing game come three screenshots, courtesy of Walmart.com. The images show Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Shadow racing on what appears to be a track taken from Planet Wisp. Wal-Mart have also listed the game price-listed at $39.96 (USD). Whether this is just a place holder or this is a Switch exclusive game remains to be seen. For now, here’s two more screenshots from this upcoming game. Click on the images for a higher res version.

Big thanks to Bobnik on the SSMB for the link.

As always, stay tuned to TSS for more information as it comes!

“Team Sonic Racing” Cover Image Leaked

UPDATED WITH HIGHER QUALITY IMAGES. The full title of the mystery Sonic game along with what’s likely the official cover has finally been revealed thanks to a leaked image on Wal-Mart’s app. Team Sonic Racing (Super Sonic Racing would have been so much better IMO) is the third in the Sonic racing series in the past ten years, only this time there doesn’t appear to be a regular Sega character in sight. The cover is from the Nintendo Switch version, but it should arrive on PS4 and XB1 as well.

Just two days ago, Sega teased the game from it’s official Twitter account. This leads me to believe we should be getting a full announcement later today if not Thursday. Team Sonic Racing is likely due this fall or holiday season. We’ll be giving you more and more coverage of this game is we get closer to E3.

Credit goes to Sonic Revolution’s own Lidice “Angelidia” Mendoza for discovering the leak.

Sonic Talk 52: Amy is the new Sally

In a four-man Sonic Talk that will in no way upset anyone, Jason, Alex GX and guest, the Evil Dr. Reef discuss the first four issues on IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog and whether ot not Amy has replaced Sally. We also chat about Sonic Generations now on X-Box One, Sonic Mania Plus, the Sonic Mania Adventures cartoon and more! So give it a look and the opinions on Sonic Talk are not neccesarily those of the Sonic Stadium and all that other legal mumbo jumbo.

Sonic Talk 51: A Pile of Princesses

In this month’s Sonic Talk, we discuss Sonic’s IDW comic debut with Sonic #1, Sonic Mania Plus, the Sega Genesis collection that’s not coming to Switch for some reason and finally, censored Puma shoes! Meanwhile, Alex still refuses to show his face, so GX piles a ton of Nintendo stock images on top of him. All this and much, much more so give it a watch!….Please. We need the views badly.

TSS Review: Sonic The Hedgehog #1 (IDW)

The old phrase “The more things change, the more they stay the same” has never been more true when it comes to the return of Sonic in comics in IDW’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” #1.

After being gone from comic shelves for over a year thanks to a fallout between Sega and Archie, Sonic’s found a new home with IDW. But the creative team has not left. This issue features a story by Ian Flynn, along with Tracy Yardley on pencils, Jim Amash on inks and even Matt Herms doing the colors. IDW knew the strength of the Archie Sonic books for the last ten-plus years was the strength of it’s creative team, so it only made sense to bring them all over.

So what’s different? Well, for one thing this is a full reboot focused primarily on Sonic as the main character and taking place in the game universe (but not canon to the games themselves). There’s no Mobius, no Ixis Naugus, no Freedom Fighters (yet) and no baggage from over twenty years of continuity.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD! (Please note that this is the start of a new story arc so there’s not a lot to spoil.) The comic is adapted from “Sonic Forces” and takes place after the end of the game. Eggman has been defeated and is currently missing, but his robot army has been on auto pilot without him. Most of them have been only a minor threat with some going off blindly and even walking right into the ocean. However, after some more difficult bot battles, Sonic and Tails have noticed that the robots seem to be more organized. Has Eggman returned or is there someone else at the controls? With Eggman not appearing until issue five, I’d say it’s the later.

The main plot is almost background fodder for the bot-kicking action of Sonic and Tails. The book does a good job of showing off their camaraderie. Sonic is arrogant and full of bravado while Tails mostly uses his wits and fights alongside Sonic in a few scenes. One scene worthy of note is Tails worrying about Sonic getting into too much danger. While those who have never played Sonic Forces may see him as being a bit of a worry wort, those who played the game and know what Tails went through will get a bit more character depth out of the scene.

I also like how the citizens react to Sonic. While there are some resistance fighters, most are inexperienced and scared. They see Sonic as not only a hero, but a celebrity of sorts. They gush over him and want his autograph.

Tracy, Jim and Matt haven’t lost a step. The art’s great and the colors really make it pop. One minor complaint is that the paper stock is a bit too stiff and crinkly for my tastes. While re-reading for this review in the quiet comfort of my home, every turn of the page was extremely loud with more crackles and pops than a bowl of Rice Crispys. Basically the paper stock used for the cover is used for every page. I know it’s a weird critique to make, but it’s true. Also, while the inks and colors are very bold, the print is a bit dark. They use dark purple borders around the panels and Sonic himself even seems a darker blue. I don’t know if this is on purpose or the printing just came out too dark. I will say it does look sharper than Archie’s prints.

While yes, your favorite creative team is back, it does lead to this feeling of the book being new but not fresh. It’s as if I haven’t picked up the Archie book in over a year and just came back in at the end of a game adaption story arc. It may not be the same world or all the same cast, but it doesn’t feel much different. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. I imagine most fans wanted Ian, Tracy, Matt and all the others back on board. I did too and I’m glad they returned. But those who may have been looking for a brand new Sonic experience like they’ve never gotten before probably won’t find it here.

One thing I’ll say is that I do really like the new fan section “Sonic Letters Squad”. Not only does it include letters and fan art, but they are also posting pictures of fans in their cosplay. It’s nice that this is starting with issue one. I also hope they bring back a form of “Off-Panel” in the future or allow fans to make their own little comic strips for the back of the comic.

Overall, while IDW’s Sonic does feel more familiar than fresh, the new comic is off to a great start. There’s plenty of action, character interaction, fun and a bit of mystery to hook you into the next issue. Let’s hope Sonic gets another twenty year run at his new home.

Wondercon 2018: Interview with Ian Flynn

Walking around Wondercon today, I came across quite a few interesting things. Cosplayers, tons of artists, every other booth requiring a few hundred Funko Pops for sale, a booth that sells only Ewok heads (I’m not kidding) and (formerly) Sonic Boom’s own Bill Freiberger.

But the most interesting thing for me was IDW’s booth with it’s large banner for Sonic the Hedghog. It features Sonic, Blaze and new gal, Tangle all striking poses. IDW’s acquisition of the Sonic license has given the blue blur a much larger spotlight than he’s had in the past few years with Archie. All the way to the cover of Diamond’s “Previews” catalog and Tangle making headlines across the internet.

IDW wants to make sure Sonic is a huge success and what better way than to bring back much of the old team that made the previous book a huge hit to begin with. Including bringing back head writer, Ian Flynn.

After his afternoon autograph session, I had the chance to chat with Ian Flynn about all things Sonic.

TSS: What differences will there be in how you approach writing IDW Sonic compared to the reboot era of Archie Sonic?

Flynn: The reboot era of Archie Sonic was an attempt to please everyone at the same time including both fans of the old style and fans of the newer style while blazing a new trail and doing it all in the first year or two which in hindsight, was impossible. IDW Sonic is a new take. Nothin’ but good ol’ distilled Sonicdom with no outside baggage attached.

TSS: Has the announcement of Sonic Mania Plus had any effect on how you were planning to use “certain characters”?

Flynn: Yes and we’ll be getting into that at the panel.

TSS: Are there any broad concepts you’d want to revisit in the future of the comic (for example; colonies of fish people existing alongside regular land characters)?

Flynn: Maybe. Meropis was the brainchild of Aleah Baker so I’d feel a little dirty just cribbing that idea again without her involvement. The series is so new that it’s hard to say what we will or won’t do in the future. The book hasn’t come out yet. Give us some time to establish what IDW Sonic is and then we’ll start building and exploring from there.

TSS: Will there be any sections for user content? Like Fan art, questions, letters to the editor?

Flynn: Yes. (I can confirm this having read the first issue.-Jason)

TSS: When Tangle was first introduced, my Twitter account just blew up with fan art of her. Were you surprised at just how well she was received?

Flynn: Yes and no. I’m not surprised at just how much people love her. Tyson Hesse did an amazing job designing the character and I knew people would dig her once the book came out. I wasn’t anticipating the VOLUME of fan love this early on. It’s exciting, I’m very happy for it, I just wasn’t expecting it this early on.

TSS: Which of your characters from the Archie era do you regret that you can’t bring to IDW?

Flynn: If I could transplant a couple, I’d love to bring Relic the Pika and Eclipse. I think those resonated the best with folks. I know folks would have loved to have seen Razor come back, but those first two are near and dear to my heart.

TSS: Are any plans for the Freedom Fighters in the future?

Flynn:  We’ll cover that in the panel tomorrow.

TSS: There was once going to be a comic conclusion to Sonic Underground. Is there any chance that can now see the light of day?

Flynn: Probably not because the factors that got the story pulled have not changed from what I understand.

TSS: How soon did IDW approach you after getting the license from Sega?

Flynn: I’m not sure, but I can say with some certainty that they had me on board for a while before the New York Comic Con announcement.

TSS: Thank you very much for your time.

Flynn: Thank you.

The first issue of IDW’s Sonic the hedgehog will be out Wednesday April 4th. You can pick up a convention exclusive #1 issue at Wondercon this weekend. Stay tuned later this week for my review of the first issue.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Crash Course is available for pre-order

While Battle Racers is still in it’s funding phase on Kickstarter, Gamenerdz and IDW games have announced a similar board game of their own. “Sonic the Hedgehog: Crash Course.”  In the game, You can play as either Sonic, Tails, Knuckles or Eggman in their classic style as you race to collect the Chaos Emeralds. The game has an MSRP of $29.99, but is available for pre-order for $18.97. Check out the official statement below and go to the official  website for more details.

Sonic, Tails, Knuckes, and Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik are on a crash course for the Chaos Emeralds! Speeding through the classic Green Hill Zone, players in Sonic the Hedgehog: Crash Course race to be the first player to collect the most Chaos Emeralds! If you want to take the victory, then you gotta go fast! Game design by Sean McDonald.

HOW TO PLAY
-RACE forward and leave your opponents in the dust
-COLLECT items then heal damage
-WIN if you’re the fastest to earn the most Chaos Emeralds!

Contains:

  • 60 Item Tokens
  • 24 Chaos Emerald Tokens
  • 12 Damage Tokens
  • 4 Extra Life Tokens
  • 10 Track Tiles
  • 4 Character Tiles
  • 1 Reference Tile
  • 4 Pre-painted Miniatures
  • 1 Rulebook

 

The Spin: How SEGA is Ignoring the Middle Children of Sonic’s Legacy

Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.


2010 was the year Sonic the Hedgehog came back.

Yes, we all heard the stories about how the franchise had declined not long after the jump to 3D, how gaming news outlets and critics even now would begin their pieces with some variation of “Sonic has had a rocky history,” and how every new Sonic game released around the “dark ages” period couldn’t shake off the dreaded “Sonic Cycle.”

Continue reading The Spin: How SEGA is Ignoring the Middle Children of Sonic’s Legacy

Sonic Talk 49: Unstoppable Forces vs. Immovable Objections

Sonic Forces has come and gone and the Sonic Talk crew of Jason, Alex, GX and special guest (and occasional header artist) Cory Holmes weigh in on the game. We go in and critique every detail of this new 3-D outing from Sonic Team. Is it as good as we’d hoped or as bad as we feared? Listen in to find out.

By the way, sorry this one is so late,, but I had a ton of computer problems after I had this originally set up, so the audio in this month’s episode is done by our own GX Echidna.

 

 

TSS REVIEW: Sonic Forces Speed Battle (iOS)

It can be hard to produce a companion app for a high-profile console game. If you get it wrong, it can largely be seen as a cynical micro-transaction-heavy cash grab, or at the very least, a poor afterthought. Which is why it’s good news that SEGA Networks’ Hardlight Studio was tasked with building a new mobile experience to coincide with the launch of Sonic Forces. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Forces Speed Battle (iOS)

TSS Review: Sonic Mania Soundtrack & Vinyl

Growing up in the early 90’s it was impossible to avoid the music scene pervading daily life; seductive R&B tones danced through ear-worm melodies, from songs that would https://www.sonicstadium.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=50098&action=edithang at the top of the charts for weeks. From this musical era came the Sonic CD soundtrack, of which I speak specifically the Japanese/European version, which for many forms the epitome of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog sound. Twenty-something years later, we see the classic series revived through Sonic Mania – complete with a brand new soundtrack. But how does this compare to it’s 1990’s predecessors?

Continue reading TSS Review: Sonic Mania Soundtrack & Vinyl

Sonic Talk 47: Sonic Mania is Runnin’ Wild!

Well let me tell ya somethin’ brother!! I was at Venice beach pumpin’ iron when I heard someone listenin’ to a podcast! It had these three nerds, Jason, Alex and GX, all talking about that new Sonic game, Sonic Mania and heapin’ a bunch of praise on it! Jason was reviewing that new Sega game, Yakuza Kiwami and giving his hands on impressions about Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. They also talked a bunch about all the news on Sonic Forces and reviewed some of the latest episodes of Sonic Boom! Continue reading Sonic Talk 47: Sonic Mania is Runnin’ Wild!

My History with the Archie Sonic Comics

It’s been a month since the announcement that the Archie comics will no longer produce it’s long-running Sonic the Comic, and that a new partnership with IDW will continue to keep Sonic alive in print. Information on the new incarnation of the comic is set to be divulged at New York Comic Con in October. Before we look to the future of Sonic the Comic, why don’t we take a look at the past? In this feature I would like to talk about the many aspects of the American comics, starting with my own 24-year experience with the comic strip adventures.

Continue reading My History with the Archie Sonic Comics

Mistaken Identity: Fang and Bean Are Not What You Think They Are

In the past, I’ve talked about Sonic facts that aren’t true. We’ve seen various reasons for such misinformation to become fact. However, I don’t think we’ve seen such a web of different reasons play out to get to the points we have with these misconceptions.

The misconceptions? We’ve been getting Fang and Bean’s species wrong for decades.

Continue reading Mistaken Identity: Fang and Bean Are Not What You Think They Are

The Spin: The Notion of ‘A True Threat To Sonic’

[This article will contain some spoilers for Sonic Mania, so if you’re waiting for the PC version, see you next week]

You know how some people have these phrases that they use to try and articulate their feelings? Especially when it comes to Sonic games? Well today we’re going to look at one of them; this one:

“I want the villain to be ‘a true threat to Sonic”

Continue reading The Spin: The Notion of ‘A True Threat To Sonic’

Sonic On The Road: Playing Mania on Nintendo Switch

Sonic Mania has officially released on a number of home consoles, but perhaps the most interesting release has to be on Nintendo’s newly-launched Switch platform. With its home-portable hybrid design, it makes it relatively easy to play the latest Sonic platformer on the move. So, a couple of our TSS reporters went walkies with their Switches to see if the experience was any good. Some of them found a pretty blurry line between the real world and the Sonic world… be careful out there, Switch users. Continue reading Sonic On The Road: Playing Mania on Nintendo Switch

Sonic Mania ‘Drawn Back to the 90s’ Competition: THE WINNERS

WOW! Last week, we asked you all to ‘draw like a 90s kid’ to celebrate Sonic Mania’s launch tomorrow, and boy have we been bowled over by the humungous response (and amazing talent)! It seems like everyone’s nostalgia-bone has been well and truly tickled. Let’s take a look at the winners – and some honourable mentions – below! Continue reading Sonic Mania ‘Drawn Back to the 90s’ Competition: THE WINNERS

TSS REVIEW: Sonic Mania

Note: This review qualifies as ‘spoiler free’, but it does contain information on stages, gameplay elements and story concepts that have already been made public by official SEGA marketing channels. Be aware, if you’ve been on a total media blackout.

In the middle of Sonic Mania’s main adventure mode, Sonic is warped to the Little Planet and finds himself in a spectacularly familiar place. Golden speakers line a series of curvy narrow chutes that catapult our blue hero into the sky, against a starlit backdrop. Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania Collector’s Edition & vinyl soundtrack back in stock; new t-shirts

Sonic Mania is out now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and set to release on Tuesday 29th August on Windows PC. Here’s all you need to know about getting a hold of the game on your system of choice, and all the merch we know of!
Continue reading Sonic Mania Collector’s Edition & vinyl soundtrack back in stock; new t-shirts

TSS Roundtable: Our Hopes and Expectations for Sonic Mania

It’s the final weekend before Sonic Mania is released, and boy has this been a game that a lot of fans have been waiting a long time for. A pure sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles is what a lot of people have asked for, and this collaborative effort between Christian Whitehead, HeadCannon, PagodaWest Games and SEGA aims to fulfil just that. So, with that in mind, what does our Sonic Stadium team think of the project, and what are our collective hopes and expectations for the game? Take a look, below. Continue reading TSS Roundtable: Our Hopes and Expectations for Sonic Mania

SONIC MANIA WEEK: Your One-Stop Shop for Mania News and Info!

Welcome to ‘Mania Week’ on The Sonic Stadium! To celebrate the upcoming release of the SEGA/Whitehead/HeadCannon/PagodaWest collaboration project, we will be spending the next week producing a whole heap of awesome content – all about the Mania! This post will house links to all of the stuff we have planned, in one easy location, so keep this page bookmarked and come back often! Continue reading SONIC MANIA WEEK: Your One-Stop Shop for Mania News and Info!

Sonic Talk 46: Comic Con Carne

In this month’s episode, Jason talks about his trip to the San Diego Comic Con and we discuss all of the big Sonic news that happened during the event along with recent news, including some Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces discussion, Archie’s Sonic cancellation, IDW’s Sonic acquisition and much, much more! Continue reading Sonic Talk 46: Comic Con Carne

SONIC MANIA COMPETITION: Drawn Back to the 90s [CLOSED]

Sonic Mania is right around the corner, and you’ve probably pre-ordered the digital version a hundred times over (definitely not an exaggeration), right? What’s that? Something missing? You wish you had the money to grab yourself a Sonic Mania Collector’s Edition on PS4, or that you had the chance to get it before it sold out? Well, boy are you in luck – because we have five of these bad boys to give away courtesy of SEGA Europe.

[This contest is now closed – please stay tuned for winner announcements]  Continue reading SONIC MANIA COMPETITION: Drawn Back to the 90s [CLOSED]

TSS REVIEW: Cook & Becker’s Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Art Book

As perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated collector’s items in recent memory, Cook & Becker’s 25th Anniversary Sonic art book has a lot of expectations to meet. It’s not easy to produce an elegant video game-themed art book at the best of times, so working on such a project for a franchise as iconic as Sonic no doubt comes with extra pressure. Especially when the blue blur has been through so many design changes over the years. We recently got our hands on a copy; is it worth your hard-earned money? Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Cook & Becker’s Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Art Book

TSS Review: The Sounds of Sonic Concert (With Video Highlights!)

On Thursday, July 20th in the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront, I witnessed a concert by Sonic fans, for Sonic fans. A rocking music extravaganza with trumpets, saxophones, guitars, drums a keyboard and a lot of passion. It’s obvious that Shoto Nakama wanted to create something special and he truly has.

It started off with the usual stuff. Sound tests, followed by a ton of trailers. There was a funny moment as I watched Jun Senoue hanging out on the side, head-banging to his own tune, “Infinite’s Theme”.

The first song off the bat is of course, “Green Hill Zone”. The saxophone and trumpets really added a jazzy vibe to this classic tune. The video screens off to the side were showing off the original classic along with a bit of the level from Generations. Next, we go from the first Sonic tune, to one of the newest, Studiopolis! It’s cool hearing an instrumental version of a tune almost entirely programmed digitally and it’s done really well.

Next up, the lead singer, Dave Ross came onto the stage along with Crush 40’s own Jun Senoue. Now this was a rock concert! “Live and Learn” was the first tune up and they really rocked it. Dave shows a strong passion in his singing and a great range as well. Especially since the next song up was “Believe in Myself”. A song originally done by female singer Karen Brake, was sung by Dave himself and he did a surprisingly faithful version.

I gotta say this about Dave. He really knew how to work the crowd and was full of energy. When he wasn’t rocking out onstage, he was constantly jumping off the stage and running around into the crowd, giving out high-fives and making damn sure that the audience was having a great time.

Next up was “Endless Possibility” which must have been a favorite for the band as it was also the encore of the night. Dave was incredibly into it and seem to really love the number. After that, it was “Reach
For The Stars”. It was great hearing a number normally done mostly in chiptune and tonebox done with full instruments and vocals. Another great highlight of the night. They followed that up with “Escape From The City” which Dave seem to take as something he wanted the audience to do as he jumped off the stage, running around the large crowd. After fooling around for a bit and having Jun do a VERY short guitar solo, they went into “It Doesn’t Matter”, a song that fit Dave’s vocal range very well. The concert wrapped up with another performance of “Endless Possibility”.

All in all, this was a fantastic concert. The people onstage were full of energy and passion for the music they were playing and that passion was absorbed by the crowd watching. Dave Ross had a great vocal range and the performance of a true rock star. They asked if they’d like to see this concert tour close to a town near you. Hell yes, I would! I’ve seen a lot of Sonic concert performances (mostly Crush 40) and this was by far the best one. If they turn this into a full tour, don’t miss it!

Of Manias, Forces, and Serials: A Sonic at SDCC 2017 Recap

San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone for 2017, and this year’s gave attendees the world over a lot to look forward to in forthcoming entertainment. Superhero movie aficionados got an early peek at a number of highly anticipated films for the upcoming year (Black Panther, Justice League, and Avengers: Infinity War to name a few), bitesized previews were shown off for new seasons to Stranger Things and Steven Universe among other hit shows to whet eager fans’ appetites, and in Sonic’s case?

Well, whether you’ve fallen out of the loop or just enjoy a quick summary of last week’s events, allow me to bring you all back up to speed!

Continue reading Of Manias, Forces, and Serials: A Sonic at SDCC 2017 Recap

Sonic Mania: Behind the Scenes Panel from San Diego Comic Con

Check out the Sonic Mania panel at 2017 to get all the details we couldn’t cover! Join host Aaron Webber with guests, Takashi Iizuka, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Tom Fry, and Simon Thomley as we get more details on what went into this game.Get the full scoop on the game, check out some wacky glitches and the fan Q&A it’s all here! Continue reading Sonic Mania: Behind the Scenes Panel from San Diego Comic Con

SDCC Sonic Mania Panel Roundup & Special Stage Reveal

San Diego Comic Con played host to the Sonic Mania Development team yesterday, in a panel that included Takashi Iizuka, programmers Christian Whitehead and Simon Thomley, alongside lead artist Tom Fry, composer Tee Lopes and SEGA community manager Aaron Webber. Our man in the field Jason Berry was at the panel, and captured the events as they happened via The Sonic Stadium Twitter. Continue reading SDCC Sonic Mania Panel Roundup & Special Stage Reveal