Xbox Series X/S Launches Today – These Are The Sonic Games You Can Play Right Now

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, we don’t mean Christmas – pfft! – but instead Next-Gen Console Day! This month sees the launch of two new platforms in the Xbox and PlayStation family of gaming systems, and we couldn’t be more excited about both. Today, Microsoft formally releases the Xbox Series X and S, and with backwards compatibility a major factor we decided to dig into the archives and check which Sonic the Hedgehog titles you can play from Day One.

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SHC 2020: Roundup #2: Technically Cool

While many mods exist for the sake of giving a different gameplay experience, there are others whose only interest is to say “Oh man, look at this insane thing I can make this game do!!” Technical achievement won’t interest player, but it it can be impressive in its own way: making things bigger, faster, stronger, or just proving you can do the unexpected for its own sake. In this roundup, let’s look at some technically impressive or technically noteworthy games.

Sonic Delta 40Mb (AKA Sonic Delta Next)
Submitted by Neto

Why put your file size in the name of your hack? Because this game is big. It’s very big. How big is it? It combines all stages, special stages, and characters from Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles into one massive 37 Zone odyssey. The hack uses bank switching to press itself into a format that Genesis standards can allow, some custom sound drivers, and the Sonic & Knuckles engine by way of Sonic 3’s save system. That save system will prove extremely valuable when you put three hours in, and see you’ve only reached Zone 24. Only reached Zone 24.

Beyond the expected character choices, you can select the co-op team of Knuckles & Tails to trek from Green Hill to Sky Sanctuary. The game claims to have followed the logical progression of the emeralds, letting you collect them in Sonic 1 & 2, but staying true to Knuckles stealing them in 3 (sadly, I can’t confirm since I went for the novel Knuckles & Tails playthrough). In a rather unusual choice, this beta prioritizes alpha and beta versions of Sonic 2 stages and names, and includes Wood Zone, Dust Hill Zone, and Hidden Palace Zone among others. The only place to be wary is the stage select cheat, which caused the game to crash when I attempted to load certain levels, often by trying to put characters on incompatible stages (such as Knuckles in S&K Death Egg Zone), but also when I just tried to select a stage normally.

To myself as a non-developer, the impressive feat is just the scale of it all. This is marathon Sonic, a game to occupy most of a day if you let it. Even if its technical achievements don’t do much for you, having those four landmark games stitched together into a single contiguous experience gives a whole era of gaming a gravitas it doesn’t have when separate. It’s not more than the sum of its parts, only because that sum in itself is already strong.

DOOM in Sonic Mania
Submitted by TheStoneBanana

In the realm of getting DOOM to play on every device and in every context known to man, DOOM in Sonic Mania adds an additional menu choice from the Sonic Mania main menu that… just lets you play DOOM. Yeah. DOOM, the 1993 shooter. In Sonic Mania. With controller support. That’s… kind of it. I don’t want to downplay the personal amusement I get playing DOOM from within Sonic Mania itself, but it does exactly what it says it does, and it seems to do it well. Soon as I made my menu selection, I was running around boxy 3D environments blasting demons in the face with a shotgun.

That said, your results may vary, and not just because it’s a shooter that’s older than Sonic 3. The controls feel pretty good on a gamepad, but the limits of Sonic Mania’s button inputs mean concessions had to be made. There’s no mouse support, you’ll have to toggle between strafing and turning, and changing weapons require button combinations. You’ll also need a legitimate copy of DOOM, such as Ultimate Doom on Steam, so you can snag the WAD and put it in the mod’s root folder. If you don’t, you’ll be restricted to the game’s included freeware WAD which will not support custom WADs. On the other hand, if you do, it’ll load in a nifty bonus WAD that replaces Doom Guy’s sprites with Sonic’s face and cartoony gloved hands.

I was unable to test adding other WADs such as Doom II or Chex Quest, but they do appear to be supported.

Sonic Mania J2ME
Submitted by Iso Kilo

So this one requires a bit of clarification. J2ME, or Java 2 Platform Micro Edition, is a Java platform that a number of phone games run on. No, not games on your iPhone or Android. Old flip phones. The kind that used your number pad as the controller. During the years I owned a an old color screen Nokia, I bought and played a handful of… generally terrible games, including a port of Sonic 1 that could, at best, be described as functional.

Sonic Mania J2ME doesn’t make many modifications from the original, but it does show off what can be done to this specific version of the game, such as sprite and music replacement. Marble Zone has Lava Reef music, and Sprint Yard Zone has a few Studiopolis designs.

I personally like this, and I don’t expect many others to. It’s an effort to poke at a really esoteric version of Sonic and pick it apart. It’s just… it’s going to be weird to play. Keep your expectations low. The sprite replacement in this version isn’t thorough, and the game it’s built off of is… it’s bad. It’s a bad but still playable version of Sonic 1. The midi music is grating and will just stop after a loop or two, and there are no sound effects. Sonic’s sprite rotation will regularly glitch until he’s just running backwards and upside-down while descending small slopes. Many animations are linked to framerate, and to quote the hack’s description, “Limit to 30 FPS for a smooth but tolerable experience. Limit to 15 FPS for correct object and animation speeds.” And none of this is the hack’s doing, that’s just the nature of its source material. If you play this, do so for the proof of concept and accept that it’s doing what it can with the tools it has.

SHC 2020: Pantufa the Cat Spins & Twirls His Way Through a Surprisingly Original ROM Hack

If I wasn’t playing Pantufa during something called “Sonic Hacking Contest,” it being a hack would have never crossed my mind. A homage, or a Freedom Planet-esque Sonic-like? Sure! But a ROM hack? Heck no! That should speak to the kind of experience Pantufa has in store for you: certainly something with lots of Sonic elements, but a surprisingly original experience in its own right.

How original? Well, for starters, Pantufa simply feels different from a classic Sonic character. He is a bit heavier, a bit slower, and when he jumps, there’s a moment before the character curls into a ball that leaves him vulnerable to enemies. Said enemies don’t provide the kind of bounce you’d expect from a Sonic game when you jump on them. Pantufa also has a slight double jump, which is effective for getting a little bit of additional height or maneuverability, without feeling overpowering or negating some of the more difficult platforming design. The physics feel like they come out of a Sonic game, but the way the character interacts with them changes things enough that it often feels like a very different game. These differences extend to how health and power-ups work, too.

Instead of rings, Pantufa has three hit points, and while the game does still have shields, these shields are now stackable.  The game does have a few other power-ups that work as expected, including speed shoes and invincibility. These power ups can still be found in item monitors, but they can also be found in breakable Super Mario Bros-esque bricks and item blocks in the first stage, because why not? I’ve played plenty of Sonic hacks that introduce new characters and moves, but I don’t think I’ve ever played one that practically built a new game. Yet somehow, Pantufa manages that.

The level design can also feel pretty different from a classic Sonic game, particularly the opening level. This build of Pantufa has three levels, and they each show off fairly different kinds of level design. The first level, Pipes of Green, is expansive and explorative, and while it’s certainly possible to just run from the beginning to the end, you’ll be missing a lot if you do. Here, the standard way to move through the stage is to take a path through an underground area at the midway point, before emerging back on the surface, where you need to hit a green switch to activate some platforms to progress to the end. 

However, if you explore the level a bit and pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll find that there is a little more to it. For one, there’s an entire path that lets you bypass the underground area, that you can only reach by activating some invisible blocks (by jumping into them, Super Mario Bros style). If you miss these blocks and run through the underground area, you’ll still be able to reach this path by backtracking after hitting the green switch and jumping onto a newly activated green platform that takes you up to this area. If you backtrack through the upper path as well, you’ll reach more green platforms, which can now take you to some hidden shield power-ups. Is all this exploration and backtracking necessary? Not really. But it’s fun, and it’s something the game is actually designed to accommodate, unlike the any of Sonic’s 16-bit titles.

On the much more linear side of things is the demo’s second stage, Mount Fade, which is a simple linear platforming level. It’s fun to run through, with lots of places that utilize the classic Sonic rolling mechanics, and it also has a great visual style. It takes place on a snowy mountain and tries hard to evoke a wintery feeling, with pine trees, snowmen, and gigantic candles that go out as you pass them. It’s an impressive use of the Genesis’s limited color palette to create some gorgeous spritework.

The final stage, Shandon Hill, is easily the most “Sonic-like” of the three stages. It’s speedy, has loads of places where the character can actually cut loose and run, and there’s even a momentum gimmick: flexible palm trees that can send the Pantufa soaring through the air at high speeds. These trees offer a great way gain enough momentum to speed through the stage’s more complex, curvy geometry, allowing Pantufa to speed up walls and on ceilings. Much like the first level, Shandon Hill is somewhat expansive, but has a much greater focus on speed and momentum then platforming, and it’s not hard to beat it in less than a minute. The way the palm trees can toss Pantufa around really open up the stage, though, and there are upper paths you can only reach by hitting them in the right pattern. Much like Mount Fade, Shandon Hill also looks great. The level has a gorgeous neon color palette that kind of evokes the 80s neon aesthetic.

On top of the demos for this hack, Pantufa the Cat: Extended Edition also contains the entirety of the character’s previous 2011 ROM hack, called “Classic Mode” on the main menu. There is also an additional hack that utilizes much of that game’s assets, called Classic DX. While neither of these hacks are as polished or as nice looking as the new one, and feel a bit more like Sonic 1 hacks, they are still worth playing in their own right.

So Pantufa the Cat: Extended Edition by VAdePEGA is a definite recommendation from me. Check it out on the Sonic Hacking Contest website, here!

20 Years of TSS: The Biggest Sonic Stories of the Last Two Decades

What’s that? You want Sonic the Hedgehog news, sonny? Well, it just so happens that we’ve got a whole LIBRARY’S worth of news stories and features covering the last twenty years! We could tell you when Archie Sonic #117 hit comic store shelves… or we could tell you something interesting instead. How about the biggest Sonic stories to hit the internet since The Sonic Stadium opened its doors in 2000?

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20 Years of TSS: Twelve Ways We Were More Than Just a Website

It’s true that for the last two decades, we’ve been on top of the latest and greatest Sonic the Hedgehog news. But I wanted The Sonic Stadium to be more than just an information resource. My goal has been to create meaningful contributions to expand and enrich the online Sonic community. Which is why you might remember Sonic Stadium just as much for its list of wacky projects as you might for news and opinion.

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20 Years of TSS: A Short History of The Sonic Stadium

Two decades is a long time for most people. For Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s probably an absolute eternity, actually. On 24th October in the year 2000, I launched the very first iteration of The Sonic Stadium. I was fifteen years old, a year away from my high school finals and the worst of what we called the ‘World Wide Web’ was still only being foreseen by the late and great David Bowie. It truly was a different time.

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Sonic Stadium’s 20th Anniversary! Special Features, Discord, Twitch Channel and More!

Twenty years. That’s how long this humble little Sonic the Hedgehog fan site has been kicking around for. The Sonic Stadium launched on 24 October 2000 and hasn’t taken a break (server crashes aside) ever since, making it possibly the oldest, longest-running Sonic site still active to this day. Over the next couple weeks, we will be celebrating our anniversary in style with special Twitch and Discord channel launches, special features and more!

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TSS SAGE 2020 Roundtable: Some Other Games We Played

As we wrap up our coverage of this year’s SAGE, we’ve still barely scratched the surface of everything available. So as a send off, we’ve decided to do a round-up of all the other games we played that, for one reason or another, couldn’t get their own articles. Check out what other games caught our attention below!

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SAGE 2020: Sonic Speed Course is a Twist on a SNES Classic

There’s certainly no shortage of creative ideas among the fanbase, but a game concept I bet nobody ever saw coming was a cross-over between Sonic the Hedgehog and a lesser known Kirby game for the Super Nintendo! Enter: Sonic Speed Course.

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SAGE 2020: Sonic Galactic is a Showstopper!

2D Sonic fangames seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but that doesn’t mean the quality of these projects are suffering. Au contraire, with each and every expo, there’s bound to be a handful to impress the masses. One of this years showstoppers is Sonic Galactic, and if we didn’t know any better, we’d think it was a comprehensive Sonic Mania overhaul.

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SAGE 2020: Sonic 2 SMS Remake Goes Above and Beyond

One of the biggest delights I’ve had playing a Sonic fangame this year was based off a game I admittedly never liked much. Sonic 2 (8-bit), and most of Sonic’s Game Gear/Master System lineup, never struck the same chord with me that the Genesis trilogy did. Controls were never as tight, graphics never as pretty, sound never as catchy, and level design never as interesting. Just about all of that can understandably be chalked up to hardware limitations. But what happens when those shackles are removed, and over 20 years of hindsight from a zealous fanbase can be put into practice?

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SAGE 2020: Sonic and the Mayhem Master

I like this game? I think? Okay, this is a weird one. It’s a fascinating one, but it’s a weird one, and I think I love what it wants to be, but perhaps not what it is right now, but also it’s still pretty great, but it’s really difficult, but–

Okay, deep calming breaths. Let’s start over.

I didn’t catch this game at previous SAGE years, but this might be my most anticipated project since a darling demo by the name Freedom Planet. Sonic and the Mayhem Master is barely a fan game. It claims inspiration from the Storybook series (Secret Rings and Black Knight), but it only manifests insomuch as the main characters happen to be blue and pink hedgehogs, and one of them spins into a ball when he jumps.

The duo of Private Detective Amy and her assistant Sonic respond to a job to repair the computer systems of a robotics company, and are thrown into intrigue and danger after uncovering a robot conspiracy. Sonic acts as your avatar in an overworld swapping between top-down and side-scrolling. The writing’s not bad, but I stumbled through a number of typos. So then why does this game have me borderline hyperventilating?

Because eventually an enemy battle kicks in, and it turns out this is some sort of jacked up  Mario & Luigi RPG using mouse and keyboard.

Sonic stands on one side of the battle field, jumping and double-jumping to dodge enemy attacks via the WASD controls. Amy, offscreen, shoots down red projectiles with the mouse crosshair for defense and chip damage. As Sonic dodges enemy fire, bars behind both Sonic and the enemy fill up. When the enemy’s bar fills completely, they overheat, leaving them open to attack. Sonic can then use part or all of his bar to heal, gain a stat boost, or go on the offensive.

While you wait for your opening, the world is constantly throwing obstacles at you. This build doesn’t have a wide variety of enemies, but each have wildly different attack patterns. In one fight, I dodged (and frequently failed to dodge) sparks that spawned behind me, as a robot lightbulb charged massive red blasts. In another, a cannon spewed a steady stream of red bullets, until it fired a glowing bullet that I volleyed back. Boss fights get even crazier, such as a security computer that spews 1s and 0s and demands you solve a pattern to identify which is the right target.

But you don’t have the luxury of learning only one set of patterns. The background itself has hazards, from floors that discharge electricity at regular intervals, to lightning strikes that chase your cursor. It’s a challenge of maintaining focus on multiple parts of the screen and knowing how to react. It’s a big challenge. It’s hard. This is a hard demo. It might be too hard. I’ve seen the Game Over screen quite often. In the whole of my time with it, I failed at git gud, utterly and miserably, and had to debug-skip two bosses just to get far enough to feel comfortable writing this. And even then, I was never able to get past an escape sequence late in the power plant act, just because I was constantly overwhelmed by random encounter enemies. You better be able to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time, and do it on command, and do it accurately, or you’re screwed.

The developer’s in-game commentary suggests this was on-purpose, and perhaps not the final balance for an early stage. I sure hope this is true, or that there will eventually be alternate difficulties.

The aesthetics are really striking compared to what you may expect from a fan game. All the art is original from the developer, and it follows no existing Sonic style. There’s webcomic energy here, mashing steampunk with art deco sci-fi, sort of reminiscent of the Nickelodeon cartoon My Life as a Teenage Robot. The sound effects and music lift from Sonic, Professor Layton, and Ace Attorney, among other games. It’s placeholder, but it still points towards a specific tone.

I feel like the highest praise I can give to a fan game is to say it doesn’t have to be a fan game, that with some modifications, it could escape the shackles of a pre-existing IP, and thrive on its own merits. Sonic and the Mayhem Master has a clear path to achieve that. It’s a unique idea with fun, demanding gameplay, and, occasionally, very polished art.

And now that I’ve built it up, let’s let the air out just a bit. Because I love what this game wants to be. I’m just not sold on what it is right at this moment. The developer admits there are bugs and glitches in this version. I personally experienced a number of crashes, a few times when my character spawned above the floor, and one nerve wracking moment where I got off the beaten path, and I was sincerely concerned my playthrough was unsalvageable. Thankfully, I was able to restart the game, re-navigate some old areas, fight a boss again, and get whatever flag got unflagged to work properly. I’m also inclined to criticize certain parts of the script, the fact that you never really get a firm introduction to the main characters, the sparse flavorless overworld, the lack of variety in what attack actions Sonic can take in battle, and the weird way it’s never explained why his attack is just a series of electrical impulse timing challenges. But I’m willing to chalk these up to work-in-progress, and hope they’re refined and expanded upon in the future.

If you’re playing games from SAGE, you’re probably okay with work-in-progress demos, seeing where development is at, and forgiving broken and incomplete projects. For you, I emphatically recommend checking this game out. The outcome of an ambitious fan projects is unpredictable, but there is a hypothetical future where a great game comes out of this. It needs some work, it fluctuates from rough to impressively polished throughout, but I can’t think of a game I want to look back on in five years and say “Man, I remember when I played that game during SAGE, and look at it now!” more than this one.

You can grab the Sonic and the Mayhem Master 2020 demo on its SFGHQ page, or its GameJolt page.

SAGE 2020: Mania Mods Roundup

When Sonic Mania first released, it represented a fresh blast of energy for classic Genesis Sonic. It paid homage as much as it tread new ground. It played into expectations as much as it subverted them. And in the years since, new tools have made it easier for mod developers to recraft color pallets, sprites, music, and stage design. SAGE this year brings a bundle of Mania mods, so grab your Steam copy, download the Mod Manager, and let’s dig into some Mania remade!

Sonic DVD
Mod type: Original Game
Status: Demo – Sonic only, 1 Complete Stage, 1 Incomplete Stage, “Encore” variants on both.

Sonic DVD bills itself as a fan sequel to Sonic CD, and it certainly has the menu style down. This (mostly) single stage demo has the player navigate an underwater stage somewhere between Press Garden and Hydropolis with a gemstone aesthetic and chill music. Throwing the player into an underwater stage as your first and only impression is a risky move, but the game maintains pace through ample use of currents, boats, and the occasional running-on-water. The design motif is firmly aligned with those two zones as well, putting Sonic in cramped tunnels and locked rooms that require finding a button to progress.

It’s a solid Mania-style stage, though it doesn’t scream “Sonic CD” (interpret that as a positive or negative as you see fit). It has the density and diverging paths of a Sonic stage, though it leans heavily on simple puzzles, traps, and doors. The game gives an incredibly small taste, but an ambitious one, with professional-looking reskins of the stage features and badniks. I would have liked to see more to gauge the designers’ knack for variety in level theme and structure. It still has a long way to go, but it’s definitely one worth keeping an eye on.

Chaotix Mania
Mod type: Recreation
Status: All Mania characters, 6 stages and final boss, special stage, pinball stage, and 4 “Encore” variants.

I’ll put this up front: I don’t think Knuckles’ Chaotix is a very good game. It has a neat hook and some fun stage gimmicks, but the aesthetics are gaudy and the level design is uninspired, especially when set against characters that control in such unique ways! Thus, I’m put in the awkward position of saying, yes, it recreates the stages of Knuckles’ Chaotix within the constraints of Sonic Mania, allowing you to beat the stages as a single character instead of a tethered team, but I also question if it was a feat worth accomplishing. I feel gross saying that, I want to judge it based on what it sets out to do, but I feel it’s absolutely necessary to reinforce that the things the developers couldn’t recreate within the constraints of Sonic Mania were the specific things that made Knuckles’ Chaotix cool.

As a sprite conversion, you’ll be able to easily identify which Mania stages became which Chaotix stages. I wanted to verify accuracy of the level layouts, but the liberties they took to translate one stage to the other made it difficult to find 1:1 comparisons. It certainly has the look and sound of Chaotix, including a thoroughly customized HUD. However, it suffers from frequently bland level design and occasional bugs. The appeal here strikes directly at the most dedicated fans of Knuckles’ Chaotix. For everyone outside that target, stick to the 32X original.

Sonic Aspect
Mod Type: Recreation
Status: Demo – Sonic only, 2 stages

Aspect Co. was the studio responsible for a surprising number of 8-bit Sega games, including Sonic 2, Sonic Chaos, and Sonic Triple Trouble. Sonic Aspect aims to bring a selection of classic Aspect-developed Sonic stages to 16-bit, and… man, is it a crowded year for that. The demo reskins Green Hill and Angel Island as the two acts of Great Turquoise from Sonic Triple Trouble. Motobugs have been converted to turtles (without springs), and Crabmeats have taken on a two-tone paint job.

The level graphics are simple and bright to match the spirit of the original, and I adore the blocky, chunky checkerboard pillars that form the stage and dot the background. The remixed music has a peppy energy that fits the level perfectly. But despite this, it’s really hard not to draw direct comparisons to rival remake Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit, a standalone application that feels just as good mechanically, and isn’t constrained by the limits of being a Mania mod. I want to see more of this game. I want to be surprised and impressed by the team’s level interpretations. But this year won’t be the year for that. There’s fun to be had in this demo, but you can’t be blamed if your thoughts stray towards greener hills.

SAGE 2020: Sonic GT Brings a New Twist to 3D Sonic

I’ve been playing Sonic fan games since the early 2000s, occasionally loading them up on my PC whenever something looked interesting. I’ve had loads of fun with these games, but while the scene has been producing impressive 2D games for decades, 3D fan games have typically been rougher, less complete experiences. That is until now: Sonic GT, developed by NotSoGreedy, is the most fun and impressive 3D Sonic fan game I have ever played, if not one of the best fan games, period. What’s more, this isn’t a demo, but a complete, finished project!

The core to that fun is how Sonic GT handles movement and level design. While official 3D Sonic games are typically about moving through fairly linear levels and getting the highest scores and lowest times possible, Sonic GT is all about having you move through massive 3D worlds and letting you find your own way. In Sonic GT, there is no ideal path, just worlds full of springs, rails, enemies, ramps and slopes.

No single area has just one path through it.

You can be running across a bridge one moment, then leaping over to a nearby rail the next. You can hit a slope with enough momentum to send yourself flying high enough to reach a new area you weren’t even planning on going to seconds before. You can botch a jump, and instead of falling to your death you’ll find yourself in a less convenient area instead. Sonic GT is all about those moment-to-moment decisions, and letting you constantly find new ways to move through a stage, sometimes by choice, and sometimes by accident.

Sonic GT accomplishes this by borrowing mechanics from a variety of different Sonic games. The momentum-centric platforming and expansive level design is drawn from the classic games, but almost everything else feels more like a fusion of Adventure and Boost era mechanics. While the game doesn’t include an option to boost, characters still feels very zippy, with a fast running speed, a homing attack with a massive range, and a targeting reticule. The game even borrows the surface gripping mechanics from Unleashed, allowing characters to grab onto sheer walls and jump off them. With enough speed, the characters will even run along these walls instead, similar to the parkour from Lost World.

You can do tricks too.

The lack of boost not only accommodates the momentum mechanics, but also gives moves that haven’t been relevant since the Adventure era like the light speed dash, spin dash and bounce attack a chance to shine. Certain moves are recontextualized by the game’s mechanics as well. The stomp move from the boost games now allows for more precise platforming. If you’re feeling adventurous, the bounce attack can be used for that same purpose, while also allowing your character’s momentum to be maintained.

In addition to the standard moves, GT also has four different characters, including Sonic and Mighty (I’ll avoid spoiling the rest) who each feel distinct. They each have unique moves and their own top speed, acceleration, jump height, and ways of interacting with the physics. All of these moves make the levels of GT an absolute joy to run through, and those runs are almost never the same because of the sheer amount of paths, moves, and distinct characters at your disposal.

Sonic’s got his drop dash and a unique homing attack

That said, the gameplay does have its issues. The game’s motobug badniks can be a bit of a pain to deal with, as they’ll sometimes come speeding out of nowhere and blindside you. The expansive range of the homing attack can also mean exactly what its targets can be a tad unpredictable at times. The expansiveness of the levels led to me accidentally backtracking a couple times and it is really easy to miss check points. I found being conscious of these things does a lot to mitigate them, but they can make the experience feel a bit rough and unfair at times, though they are small blemishes in what is an otherwise ridiculously fun experience.

GT’s greatest flaw is its bosses. The game has three bosses, and two of them can be pretty frustrating. For one, they each take a LOT of hits (about 12 each) which can be difficult to deliver. The first one needs to be run down, which can be an absolute thrill…until one mistake allows it to get so far ahead that it can’t be hit again. This frustrated me at first, until I realized I could run in the opposite direction and catch it from behind, but that made the whole fight feel a bit sloppy.

These little buggers have a way of sneaking up on you.

The second boss, a robotic bird in an arena surrounded by spikes, was a lot more unforgiving. It gives you one chance to reliably hit it every minute or so, after it spends some time launching electric mines at you, then attempts to blast you into the spikes with a wind attack. Only then can you deliver a homing attack…two if you’re lucky. It’s possible to land additional hits by bouncing off the mines right after it fires them off, but this is not only very unreliable, it’s also very easy to home into the mines just before they activate, hurting you instead. On top of that, the wind attack isn’t telegraphed, so it constantly took me off-guard, leading to many deaths that just felt cheap. It took me over an hour to finally beat the damn thing.

Thankfully, Sonic GT’s developers have already confirmed that a patch addressing the bird boss is in the works, and could be out in a few days. Regardless of how the other bosses are tweaked, however, GT’s final boss is still very fun to fight. So the game does at least have a solid finale!

This damn bird was a pain in my rear.

It’ll take just a couple of hours to see that ending, but the game doesn’t stop there. Like any good Sonic game, GT has replay value. You can play through the story a second time as Mighty the Armadillo, and there is a time attack mode and a mission mode. Mission mode has you playing through each level as one of the game’s four characters while accomplishing a particular goal. GT’s a ridiculously fun and feature rich experience with some frustrating issues, and these qualities extend into the game’s production values too.

The visuals, which were part of what attracted me to this game to begin with, are pretty damn impressive. Sunset Boulevard and Hilltop Zone are especially gorgeous, featuring colorful, atmospheric environments that feel like they were ripped right out of the Sonic universe. The game’s frame rate can be a bit rough at times, no matter what I set the graphical settings to, but I found myself forgetting the issue was even there after awhile.

The soundtrack is pretty diverse and understated. You won’t find any loud Crush40-inspired cheese rock here, but if you dig the level soundtracks of games like Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors, you should like what GT has to offer.

It’s with the story that GT stumbles. That this game has a story at all is impressive, and I appreciate the game going in a lighthearted direction rather then trying to do something dark and edgy. The plot is pretty simple: Eggman wants Mighty’s “shell,” and kidnaps one of his friends to lure him in. With most Sonic plot lines typically dealing with apocalyptic or world-shattering scenarios, it’s nice seeing the characters dealing with a basic, hair-brained Eggman plot instead.

The CG portraits for the story scenes are also incredibly well-done, looking practically indistinguishable from what you’d get from SEGA itself. This game goes above and beyond what we typically get from fan games. Yet…the writing itself is mediocre, and the voice acting isn’t that great either. I obviously never actually expected a fan game to have professional-level writing and voice acting, but I know I would be doing the game a disservice if I didn’t set player expectations accordingly. Cutscenes cannot be skipped at all, or sped through on first playthrough either, so you will be experiencing all of it.

Like I said at the start of this massive preview, I’ve been playing Sonic fan games for nearly two decades, starting around 2002/2003, during the great Sonic console game drought between SA2 and Heroes. At the time, I was so hungry for new Sonic experiences that I turned to SFGHQ and started downloading my first fan games. Now, in 2020, we are in the midst of another Sonic drought, and I find myself again turning to fan games, and…Sonic GT has done a damn good job quenching my thirst. If you’ve been desperate for a new 3D Sonic game, download and play this. Despite some rough edges, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Sonic GT can be downloaded here or here.

SAGE 2020: Eggman And The Hard-Boiled Heavies Await You In Sonic Mania Boss Rush+

Do you like Sonic Mania’s various bosses? Then you will probably like this SAGE 2020 mod. One boss after another will show up to defeat Sonic once in for all. This time, we’re taking a look at Sonic Mania Boss Rush+.

Continue reading SAGE 2020: Eggman And The Hard-Boiled Heavies Await You In Sonic Mania Boss Rush+

SAGE 2020: Search For Treasure In Knuckles’ Emerald Hunt Mania

Next up in our SAGE 2020 coverage is another Sonic Mania mod, but with gameplay that will remind you of the old Sonic Adventure days. Knuckles is back to look for emeralds in Knuckles’ Emerald Hunt Mania.

Continue reading SAGE 2020: Search For Treasure In Knuckles’ Emerald Hunt Mania

SAGE 2020: Sonic Pinball Panic Imagines What A Real Sonic Pinball Table Would Look Like

SAGE 2020 is here, so it is time to shine the spotlight on some of the games featured this year. There’s a lot of them, so we won’t be able to cover all of them, but we’ll do as many as we possibly can. First up is Sonic Pinball Panic.

Continue reading SAGE 2020: Sonic Pinball Panic Imagines What A Real Sonic Pinball Table Would Look Like

SAGE 2020: Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit is Looking to be a Quality Remake of a Portable 8-bit Classic

Out of all of Sonic’s 90s offerings, Sonic Triple Trouble is probably the most under-appreciated. Featuring some of the best levels, bosses, and music outside of the series’ core offerings, Triple Trouble is the apex of Sonic’s 8-bit entries. It built on the unique quirks of those games, while also coming the closest out of all of them to matching Sonic’s 16-bit releases. This makes it all the more frustrating that the game hasn’t seen an accessible re-release since it hit the 3DS eShop 8 years ago. Hopefully, this will be corrected soon, but until then, we’re set to get something much better: Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit.

Continue reading SAGE 2020: Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit is Looking to be a Quality Remake of a Portable 8-bit Classic

Sonic Team, It’s Time To Bring Back The Chao Gardens

When I was 18, it was in 2010 and I had yet to become a Sonic news writer. It was also the year that I got Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Gamecube. I wanted to get all the game’s emblems, only to learn that doing so meant that I had to go raise these little creatures that are called Chao, enter them in races and Karate tournaments, and get some emblems there. It didn’t take long before I discovered that raising these cute, adorable Chao is fun and addictive. Now, a decade later, I think it’s time that Sonic Team decided to bring that back.

Continue reading Sonic Team, It’s Time To Bring Back The Chao Gardens

The Mystery Behind Gas Stations Using Sonic Sound Effects

If you’ve ever stopped for a snack at a local gas station convenience store, chances are you’re familiar with that jingle that plays every time the clerk scans your item. You might also be familiar with it if you’re a Sonic fan, because they both use the sound byte whenever a golden ring is collected.

Continue reading The Mystery Behind Gas Stations Using Sonic Sound Effects

Retrospective: Sonic Colors Ten Years Later

It may be hard to believe, but Sonic Colors, the Sonic Team game exclusively for Nintendo consoles that supposedly sparked a minor renaissance of sorts for the series, has been on the scene for a decade now!

Continue reading Retrospective: Sonic Colors Ten Years Later

New Genesis Is Phantasy Star Online 2, But It Isn’t

For those of you confused about Phantasy Star Online 2’s upcoming update “New Genesis,” you’re in good company, because it’s connected to PSO2, but also it’s its own thing, but… Okay, you know what, let’s just break it down:

According to the PSO2 official news blog, New Genesis will release in place of a new episode next year and targets bringing the 8-year-old game to fit modern tech and design expectations. It features a new world, new enemies, a new combat system, a more open map (though it’s premature to call it true open world yet), and significant visual upgrades.

The news post refers to the setup as “twin universes,” noting that you can you can swap between playing original PSO2 and New Genesis. New Genesis’ PC requirements will be a step above PSO2, but your created characters and emotes can shift between the two games. Both remain free-to-play and use the same account. Further, your weapons, units, and Mags can move over from PSO2 to New Genesis…with some significant caveats.

You will effectively have to treat the two as separate games, as you can’t bring over most of your items and basic character progression (your level/EXP, skills, arts, etc…). Weapon stats may change, and you may not be able to use certain weapons at all until the required class is put in the game (which may imply some current classes won’t be available at launch of New Genesis). Same with Units, but they will not be visible on your character. Mags will… exist, but they won’t impact your gameplay or character, suggesting they could be cosmetic only.

Much like Final Fantasy 14 and A Realm Reborn, this mid-life drastic shift is a high risk move with potentially high rewards, especially if PSO2 continues to grow outside of Japan. At the moment, only Xbox One and Windows 10 are the confirmed platforms with the statement “If PSO2 is added to new platforms, we plan to make PSO2: NGS available on those platforms as well.”

Tangle now available in Sonic Dash UPDATE: Now With Gameplay Footage

While Tangle and Whisper will be coming to Sonic Forces: Mobile very soon, Tangle herself is available in Sonic Dash today! This lightfooted lemur is the first playable Sonic character taken from the comics and not from the games themselves (Sally and the Freedom Fighters had a non-playable cameo in Sonic Spinball). Tangle is playable by unlocking 500 Tangle tokens in an event going on all this week. Shouldn’t take players too long to unlock her as a good player can nab 20+ tokens per game easy.

The event only lasts a week, so make sure you get in some time on Sonic Dash soon!

UPDATE: Check out footage of Tangle in action below:

This Sonic 3 & Knuckles Mod Keeps Getting Better and Better

If you asked the average Sonic fan what the best Sonic game of all time was, chances are Sonic 3 (& Knuckles) would frequently be the top pick. Incidentally, this same game is also the most requested game to get a remaster, yet has received none of the love that Sonic 1 or Sonic 2 has gotten in recent years. This changed when one talented programmer by the name of Eukaryot took it upon himself to provide what may be the definitive version of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and unlike other mods and ROM hacks, this one requires you to legally own the game!

Continue reading This Sonic 3 & Knuckles Mod Keeps Getting Better and Better

The Spin: Five Sonic games that were just shy of greatness

The opinions expressed in this article are those of Jason Berry and dot not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TSS staff.

Guilty pleasures. Fan favorites. Cult classics. Names used for a variety of entertainment from movies to music and of course, video games. Usually, it refers to something that is flawed, but nonetheless, enjoyable. 

The same can be said for a lot, and I mean a LOT of Sonic games out there. Games that are seriously flawed, but still have some fans who enjoy them. I’m still baffled by some people who say that they loved Sonic ‘06 but hey, don’t let me tell you what not to enjoy. Heck, I kinda like Rise of Lyric and that game is in an even more unfinished state than ‘06.

But what I want to talk about are Sonic games that were poorly reviewed by critics, but still enjoyed by fans or vice-versa. Games that are on the cusp of greatness, but some element holds it back. Games that make you say “yeah, it’s not the best, but I like it.” Games that are polished in their design, but their design is ultimately flawed. These are my five Sonic games just shy of greatness.

Sonic and the Black Knight

This is low on the list because it’s genuinely a bad game in the design department, but it has two elements that really shine. Sonic and the Black Knight was the second in the short-lived storybook series just after the arguably better Sonic and the Secret Rings. So why is this one on the list and not Secret Rings? While I didn’t care much for the constant stop-and-slash gameplay of Black Knight, there were two things that really stood out for me. 

One, the story is actually one of my favorites in the series. Sonic is back in a storybook world, only this time, he has the knowledge from the previous game to know that his friends are not the same ones from his world and only look the same in appearance. Also, Sonic’s smart enough to realize that something’s off with the titular villain and the surprise twist reveal is something I didn’t see coming. It also includes a moral that, well… you don’t see very often. 

Two, the music! Crush 40 is back along with a great, guitar-heavy soundtrack by Jun Sunoe and other talented composers including Tommy Talarico. There are also a few remixes of previous Sonic music, but overall a rockin’ soundtrack to a sub-par game.

Sonic Lost World

Boy did everyone love this game when it made the early rounds at preview shows like E3 and  Comic-Con. Most people gave this new and very different entry in the Sonic series a lot of love… until it came out. It’s not that changing the formula for once wasn’t a good idea. I love the boost formula but could’ve used a break. However, once again as most games you see on this list, the biggest flaw is the game design. 

Sonic Lost World was doing it’s best to rip off Mario Galaxy and it just didn’t work. The level design, for the most part, was very good. It was the controls themselves that fell apart. Sonic with a run button just felt wrong. Not allowing a more analog run control was a mistake in my opinion, but the other problem was the game’s newest gimmick, the parkour control. Basically, Sonic could climb and run alongside walls in a parkour-style to traverse certain levels. However, it was very hit and miss. Sonic would start to slide off the wall very quickly and it was hard to bounce from wall to wall. It took a more advanced level of skill than normally required from a platformer. Surprisingly, the 3DS port had the opposite problem. The parkour controls worked very well and should have been implemented in the console game, while the level design was pure torture. Had we had gotten both solid, parkour controls along with good level design, Sonic Lost Word could have been a hit. 

Sonic Forces

Looks like classic Sonic, but doesn’t quite play like him.

Sonic Forces COULD have been a great game under the right circumstances. It’s using the Hedgehog Engine 2, Classic Sonic is back, you have your classic 2-D and boost gameplay just like Generations. You can even design your original character (do not steal), making every Sonic fanfic writer’s dream come true. In fact, it did okay with critics or at least critics who weren’t that familiar with Sonic. But as a fan of Sonic, you played the game and realized right away that something was off. It looked like Generations, but it didn’t quite play like it. 

I think the main problem lies in that a good amount of the team from Sonic Colors worked on this game including the director, Morio Kishimoto. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Sonic Colors. But that game has very different platform physics than Generations or Unleashed. However, this game seems to have the engine of Generations, but with the jumping physics of Colors. Casual game players might not notice, but if you’re a Sonic fan, it’ll throw you off a bit. Like riding a bicycle, only now the bicycle controls like a unicycle.

What also doesn’t help is the terrible writing once again from Pontac and Graff. I’ll admit, I loved the story in Colors and laughed at Eggman’s PSA’s but those two are comedy writers, and every time they attempt drama in Sonic games, it falls flat. Sonic was supposed to be captured by Eggman and tortured for months, but when we see him, he’s the same ol’ Sonic he’s always been. Crackin’ jokes with (not) Zavoc. 

Sonic Heroes

“What goes up, must come down…” Much like the quality of gameplay in Sonic Heroes.

Now, Sonic Heroes is definitely one of my “guilty pleasures”. It has a lot going for it that I like. It offers the 3-D gameplay similar to the last Sonic Adventure games, but stripped down to a level-by-level structure, much like the 2-D classics. The new gimmick in this one is that you control three characters at once. One for speed (Sonic, Shadow, Amy, Espio), one for power (Knuckles, Omega, Big, Vector), and one for flight (Tails, Rouge, Cream, Charmy). Four teams with four stories of their own. Sonic Heroes did a lot right. It brought back the Chaotix, introduced Omega, and had probably Jun Sunoe’s and Crush 40’s best tracks in any of their games. “What I’m made of” is unironically a damn good song and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise (not really). For the most part, the “three at a time” formula works and helps keep the platforming gameplay moving at a fairly fast pace. It even did fairly well by critics (for a Sonic game of that era). Seaside Hill is still a joy to play. So what’s keeping it from being one of the best?

Level design. That’s the biggest problem. Sometimes it works great (like the aforementioned Seaside Hill) while others are a disaster. Casino Park and Bingo Highway still infuriate me to this day. The game’s difficulty constantly spikes. You can be having a great time of it only to have one of the most frustrating experiences on the very next level. It also doesn’t help that this was the first Sonic game to introduce a massive amount of annoying talking during gameplay. I just want to reach into my screen and choke Tails every time he says “Look at all those Eggman’s robots!”.For a child with a high IQ, he sure has poor grammar.

Now, if you’re a big fan of Sonic Heroes, I understand. There’s a lot to love here. But it’s definitely not without its faults. Speaking of a very faulty Sonic game that I love…



Sonic Unleashed

 

 

 

I friggin’ LOVE Sonic Unleashed! But it’s definitely got its flaws. 

It starts out soooo good! That Marza animated intro is the best Sonic…. Anything! (Speaking of, when’s that “Lupin the 3rd: The First” movie hitting the western markets?) We then meet Chip and… yeah, his mileage may vary depending on if he grows on you or not. We then meet humans and OMG!! They actually fit well in Sonic’s world for once! Giving them a cartoon appearance works perfectly. Then, after some story introductions and a training level, we are introduced to our first full level in Apotos, “Windmill Isle Act 2” and OMG is it amazing!!  Sonic’s running at incredible speeds through narrow streets that blur by. Dodging buildings left and right, grinding rails and smashing through Badniks. It was the first Sonic game to introduce the 3-D boost mechanics that are still present in the latest games. It all feels sooo good and it’s over too soon.

And then it happens. The Werehog. The thing both critics and fans felt was a bad idea and frankly, still is. Now, don’t get me wrong. The gameplay of the Werehog is actually not that bad! You’re running, jumping, getting into brawls and shimmying on ledges and it works out okay. It just doesn’t feel like that kind of gameplay belongs in a Sonic game. Also, each level is about a half-hour long or more. Compare that to the Sonic daytime levels that clock in at about five minutes. I’m bored ten minutes into the Werehog levels. The one thing the Wii did right was to break them up into smaller levels so you could take a break from them. The Wii version also didn’t have the frustrating medal hunt. Don’t have enough sun medals for the next Sonic daytime level? Too bad. Back to the old Werehog levels to hunt them down.

With all, it’s faults I’d still be lying if I didn’t say that Sonic Unleashed was one of my favorite 3-D Sonic games. The Werehog isn’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are far worse Sonic gameplay options out there (I’m looking at you, Big in Sonic Adventure.) 

So what flawed Sonic game do you enjoy? Are there any you think I should have put on the list? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Stolen ‘Sonic 1 Bootleg’ Shadow Fan Art Gets Revisited By Original Artist

A piece of Shadow the Hedgehog fan art, which unexpectedly became the face of a series of bootleg Sonic 1 Mega Drive cartridges, has been updated by the original artist into high resolution – and now looks better than ever! Continue reading Stolen ‘Sonic 1 Bootleg’ Shadow Fan Art Gets Revisited By Original Artist

TSS SEGA 60th Anniversary Roundtable: Our Most Important SEGA Memories

As Sonic fans, SEGA has invariably played at least some role in the tastes of everyone on the Sonic Stadium staff. Whether it is our love for their hardware, software or intellectual property, we each have a memory that either defined SEGA for us, or allowed SEGA to shape our tastes in gaming as a whole.

Today, on SEGA’s 60th anniversary, we thought it would be good to reminisce about the company that created a character we all have at least some fondness for.

Continue reading TSS SEGA 60th Anniversary Roundtable: Our Most Important SEGA Memories