Sonic hacks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from character swaps, to whole new games, to things that use the existing physics and levels to do something completely crazy! Drmelon’s SNOLF goes for the latter, offering a very different spin on Sonic 2 as Sonic is now a golf ball. But is this hack a fun spin on Sonic 2, or is it too frustrating? The answer is both.
SNOLF: Tournament Edition basically turns Sonic 2 into a 2D golf game, with the end of the stage acting as the hole. You line Sonic up and take swings to get him through the stages. Each button acts as a different kind of club, so you can get weak to strong swings. Button A is a putter swing for light taps, B is regular, and C is a driver, which offers the strongest swing. To measure, you have a ring that goes left and right and then up and down so you can get the proper angle. You also have some control of the ball when it is rolling, but not in the air. Because of that, the are moments where you can’t get the momentum to go further, whether it’s rolling from the top of a cliff, or going straight up and down on a spring. When this occurs, the trick is to try and get a swing in mid-air to get a bit further. There’s also a multiplayer mode for up to four players in competitive and cooperative play.
Swatting Sonic through the Sonic 2 levels is both novel and frustrating at the same time. It took me a long time to get any good at this hack and I still had to just give up at Chemical Plant Zone Act 2. There are moments when it seems like it’s just near impossible to traverse any further, not to mention many moments where you can get stuck for tens of swings (I still don’t know how I managed to beat Robotnik in Emerald Hill). Many times, I felt like throwing down my controller in defeat. That said, there are some options to make your experience less frustrating. For example, you can set it to only do Act one of each zone so you don’t have to go against Robotnik.
After everything that’s been said, SNOLF is definitely something you should check out at least once. It’s difficult and frustrating as hell to play, but its unique challenge kept me coming back despite the times I wanted to toss the controller. It’s just crazy and unique enough to give it a go.
There are plenty of ambitious mods at this year’s Sonic Hacking Contest, but Dash Adventure 2 is definitely among the more unique ones. This mod seeks to alter all of Sonic Adventure 2, turning it into a hypothetical evolution of what might have happened had SEGA gone with the rabbit character instead of Sonic back when they were searching for a mascot. While the most striking changes may initially appear to be superficial, Dash Adventure 2 has plenty of character and level tweaks that make it a rather unique way of experiencing this twenty-year-old game.
DA2’s most obvious change is, of course, its cast of characters. Instead of Sonic, Knuckles and Tails, we’ve got Dash the Rabbit, Jabs the Kangaroo, and Bolt the Maned Wolf. On the villain side of things, Eggman is a professor instead of a doctor, and Dusk the Rabbit and Pikara the Owl replace Shadow and Rouge. All of their designs seek to mimic Yuji Uekawa’s art style, and they not only accomplish this effectively, but they all look great and fit in well as early 2000s mascot characters.
Don’t mistake these characters for mere reskins, though, because they each introduce brand new mechanics that, in some cases, significantly impact how the game is played. Dash can jump much higher then Sonic, has a drop dash in place of a bounce attack, and can double jump with the Y button, giving him a lot of aerial maneuverability. This allows for Dash to move through a level very differently, letting him pull off feats Sonic never could. Dusk, likewise, can also jump higher than Shadow, has an air blast that lets him shoot forward, and even has a unique spindash move that lets him move forward while its charging. Other characters have similar improvements in their jump height and aerial maneuverability, especially Pikara, who can outright fly. As cool as these new abilities are, however, they also give rise to…issues. For one, Pikara’s aforementioned flight ability isn’t really practical to use, since it requires holding both the Y and A buttons, which forces me to contort my hand. The abilities can also kind of…break the level design a little?
Perhaps the most obvious of these issues is the simple fact that Sonic Adventure 2’s levels were not designed with these abilities in mind. This means some levels are easy to break and cheat through, while others (primarily the speed levels) have certain design bits that don’t work as well. For instance, in City Escape, after running down the side of the building and hitting the springs, instead of reliably bouncing into the swing bar, it is now very easy to overshoot. It’s possible to maneuver into it of course, and none of these moments typically result in death or otherwise break the level, but it does interrupt the level’s flow in a way I don’t like.
DA2 is at its best in its handful of fully customized levels. While most of the levels have been significantly altered aesthetically, a few boast some notable design alterations. Metal Harbor (changed into Chemical Plant here) features some pretty major changes, including an opening bit of platforming that encourages heavy use of Dash’s double jump. That, combined with some new paths through areas, make this level among the best experiences currently available in the mod.
Speaking of the levels, the new looks they sport are also pretty nice…for the most part. I’m just not a huge fan of the look of Weapons Bed, which employs a lot of purple for the floor texturing. I also find the usage of classic Sonic level aesthetics in this game to be a bit odd. Why is Marble Zone being used for the Chao Garden? Why has Aquatic Mine been turned into Hydro City? It still looks nice, but given that SA2 was an even bigger visual departure from classic Sonic then SA1 was, I’m not sure why a hypothetical DA2 would utilize retro aesthetics outside of Green Hill Zone (which has been turned into Marble Zone here). This is something that would probably only bug a video game history buff like me, as when I sweep all that aside…I do rather like seeing these classic Sonic level aesthetics in SA2’s visuals!
Dash Adventure 2 was one of the mods I checked out last year, and while I found it curious I ultimately decided not to write about it. It has come a long way since then, and while it still has some issues, the sheer ambition on display here is wild. There’s a brand new soundtrack and new, well done voice work for each character. While it does currently have some issues, the mod as it is is still well worth checking out. I do hope the final mod features more level alterations, and maybe figures out a better way to map Pikara’s flight. But even if it doesn’t, I definitely intend to play the mod’s final release. Anyone who owns SA2 should at least give this a shot!
You can find the mod here. You can learn how to install it here.
Splash Hill Zone act one mimics the original Sonic 4 level fairly closely. There are some sacrifices made. Gone are the pulleys and rope swings and in their place are rotating platforms. However, it does have much of the original’s poor level design, including the lack of slopes, narrow loops, and completely unnecessary dash-pads. CHRdutch also does an impressive job trying to copy Sonic 4’s game play quirks into this Sonic 1 hack. When rolling into the air off a wall, Sonic will fly up with his arms stretched open and completely defenseless. Sonic also has a forward boost with a double jump. While there is no homing attack in this version, it can hit enemies when used right and works well for a quick boost forward. However, since this is a hack that still relies on Sonic 1 physics in some form, it doesn’t replicate Sonic 4’s physics, so you won’t find things like wall-walking here. That’s a nice improvement in my book, though.
While Splash Hill act one and act three are pretty faithful to the original, Act two offers its own original design. Keep on the upper path, and you can get to the goal quickly. Fall into the lower path, and you’ll be running underwater. Unlike Labyrinth Zone, it doesn’t feel slow and it won’t take too long until you can find your way out. It’s a well-done level. Also impressive is how well the original soundtrack comes over to the Genesis with little sacrifice. Now, from what I recall, Jun Senoue wanted to get the soundtrack as close to the Genesis sound as possible. Still, I’m surprised at how well remix composer LackOfTrack was able to bring over the soundtrack almost perfectly. At times, it’s exact.
Sonic the Hackable: Splash Hill shows both the flaws of Dimps 2D design while showing the strength of the Genesis Sonic’s physics. While not a perfect 1:1 port, the changes made are for the better. If you were wondering if Sonic 4 could work or even be improved on the Genesis, CHRdutch’s Sonic the Hackable seems to be a solid “yes”.
Sonic Mania… mania wasn’t as pronounced this year as it was previous years, but that hasn’t stopped many fans from bending this engine in cool, entertaining ways. The contest and expo have a handful of entries this year using the Mania base, and here’s how they stack up.
Mania as a game wasn’t merely about bringing back Classic Sonic. It felt fresh, surprising, and hard to match without a good eye for detail and willingness to add to the experience. Mystic Cave Zone achieves feeling like an actual Mania stage ripped from some fictional director’s cut, and it does so as a reskin of Press Garden.
MCZ Mania-fied captures the claustrophobic, winding, and threatening feel of the Sonic 2 original while speeding it up with some remixed sections and more opportunities to play with ramps and curves. The stage uses the classic icons of the level such as the lever doors, the spinning boxes, narrow moving platforms, and plenty of spikes, but reinterprets a few Mania elements in novel ways.
The best example of this is in Act 2. Where Press Garden has sprayers that freeze Sonic & company, MCZ Mania-fied has minecart dispensers that take you for a ride until you hit a wall or forcibly break it. Splats, the bouncing rubber stamp that emerge from inkwells, are now burrowbot spawning locations complete with warning sign. Finally, the boss at the end pits you against a giant burrowbot (graphically remixed from Eggman’s octopus robot from Oil Ocean) but with falling stalactite hazard above in place of the sinking floor below.
As a thorough reskin, MCZ Mania-fied is a fantastic remix on the source material and captures the Mania spirit. If you’ve got nostalgia for those purple and green depths, be sure to check it out. Also, hey, it has an Encore version too!
Lost Island builds an original game on top of the Mania framework, fully reskinning levels and characters. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles have modified spritework, while Ray and Mighty have been fully replaced with Sonic X-treme’s Tiara (outfitted with Sonic 2 GG’s hang glider) and an original character, Millie, who resembles a Minnie Mouse take on Tails (if I’m wrong and this is some sort of established character I’m not familiar with, I’m sure the comments will correct me). The demo spans 7 zones, with 10 acts total among them.
The visuals and level design spark inspiration from a number of other Sonic games, though the strongest point of comparison is probably Sonic 1 for Master System/Game Gear. It even directly pulls the 8-bit exclusive Sky Base into its roster. The level reskins have a basic but still attractive aesthetic. Simple patterns make it feel a bit more flat than you’d expect from a 16-bit game. Not bad, but also not especially iconic or embellished.
I found Lost Island to be a cute but light experience. It trades Mania’s branching, frenetic action for an experience that’s very straightforward. I have a specific nostalgia for the sort of B-tier platformers that dotted the early 90’s landscape, stuff like Bonk and Cool Spot. Lost Island seems to scratch that itch: platforming that is pleasant, even if it’s not fancy or exciting.
Sometimes a mod is just straightforward enough that you don’t have to explain much. Sonic 2 Mania is simply an attempt at recreating Sonic 2 within the Sonic Mania framework, and in that goal, it’s pretty faithful with a handful of additional visual flourishes, and only a couple places where you can see the seams of how X was reskinned to be Y.
The demo features both acts of Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, Aquatic Ruin, Hill Top, and in interpretation of the beta Wood Zone, Secret Woods. However, this demo does not include any bosses (new or old). Certain elements could not be fully reproduced, such as the growing pillars in Aquatic Ruin, but in the very few places it falters, it makes up in added background animations and remixed music. And you can play as Mania-perfect Mighty and Ray!
Each year it gets harder and harder to stand out as a project whose aim is to reproduce classic Sonic’s preview and beta build elements. Sonic Vintage takes inspiration from other ROM hacks and attempts to bring some of these obscure beta elements to the Mania engine, offering a slightly different take on Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Flying Battery, and Stardust Speedway.
…Sort of. Of the four Mania mods I played this year, this is the only one that gave me technical trouble, and I was only able to play two of the four listed zones without issue. Flying Battery Act 1 would only load if I went to Act 2 (where my character died immediately after the stage loaded), and Stardust Speedway would cause Flying Battery Act 2 to load. I don’t know if this issue is unique to me, but I attempted a number of times in a number of ways, and was unable to access Stardust Speedway at all.
The mod has a couple of neat touches. Most notably, the level design of Chemical Plant was expanded. However, this isn’t a project about immediate noticeable changes. If you’re deep into research on Sonic pre-release builds, this might strike your fancy as a chimera of demos, prototypes, and Nick Arcade variants. But between the technical issues and generally subtle changes, it might be worth waiting another year to see how this develops.
Sonic 1’s earliest tech demo is something that has only been preserved in screenshots from game magazines, and was only ever shown publicly at some events in 1990. This demo featured many different backgrounds, enemies, and visual elements. Fans have long wanted to get a taste of what this old demo was like, and MCTravisYT and crew’s hack, Sonic Debut, gives us all a chance to live out that fantasy, by giving us a glimpse of what could have been if Sonic 1 had been produced with its earliest concepts intact.
The first thing of note is that Sonic looks and feels just a bit different here. MCTravisYT has put in new sprite animation to better represent the artwork of early screenshots. Also, Sonic is now more vulnerable in the way he jumps. One button press gets him to jump while a second rolls him into a ball. It’s not bad, but a little hard to get used to. I tend to forget that I can’t attack an enemy from below and end up getting hurt.
Speaking of getting hurt, there is a new life and damage system in Sonic Debut. Rings are now just coins. Fifty coins get you a new life represented by a star on the bottom-left screen. When you get hit, coins don’t explode out of you, but rather, you gain health by hitting monitors with hearts on them. The hearts are also numbered on the bottom left screen. On the plus side, this results in you not losing your coins when hit, so getting enough coins for an extra life is easy. However, it’s much easier to lose track of how many times you’ve been hit. Thirty years of losing rings when damaged is in my muscle memory, so it feels strange that one ring won’t save you anymore.
Besides new sprite work for Sonic, there are new Badniks about. One is a robot pig who shuffles to the side and drops bombs out of his belly while the other is a blue, gremlin-looking thing that looks more like a tooth-shaped monster than a Badnik. I call him a “Cavity-Creep”. The two returning Badniks include Buzz Bombers and yellow Choppers. The only other new obstacle is a large ball that rolls along, though it’s more in the way than a threat.
The level layout is very different, as it’s now more linear and a bit larger. That said, neither the upper or lower path seems to offer the player any advantage. The level design leaves a bit to be desired as there are a few instances where going too fast can lead to your death. There’s one spot that always seems to get me where I’m rolling and a spike trap comes up and bounces Sonic back and forth until he runs out of health and dies. It becomes a case of studying the level rather than having fun with it. Robotnik’s boss fight is different as well. There’s still a large wrecking ball on a chain, but now it’s separated from him. The boss fight is a bit more vertical and you have to use elevated platforms to attack him. It’s a fun change as it requires a bit more skill to finish Robotnik off.
That said, MCTravisYT’s Sonic Debut isn’t about its level design as much as it’s giving us a bit of a “What if?” in terms of looking at Sonic in his earliest form. When it comes to early Sonic, we only have screenshots to go by and Sonic Debut is a very interesting look at what might have been. If this was what Sega put out, would it still have been a huge hit? It’s hard to say. Still, it’s compelling to see someone try their hand at filling in the blanks with this entertaining Sonic hack. I’d recommend this to anyone curious about Sonic’s roots, or those who would enjoy a different take on a classic game.
You can download the mod here. Go to the Sonic Hacking Contest website for information on how to install the mod.
It seems like any Sonic Forces mods seeking to improve the base game’s content had hit on two solutions: increase level length, and up the fan service. If today’s entry proves anything, it’s that this is definitely a winning formula. Sonic Forces Re-imagined, a mod by Brandonj, significantly alters Arsenal Pyramid and Sunset Heights.
My biggest issue with Sonic Forces has always been rooted in the length of individual levels. Levels often felt like they ended just as they were getting going, which kept them from leaving much of an impression. Because the levels are so short, the levels themselves often didn’t have time to mix up or add variety to their design, or to iterate on game play ideas. Reimagined fixes this by doubling the length of these levels, giving them more room to breath, and they’ve never felt better!
Arsenal Pyramid significantly expands on the area outside of the pyramid itself. There are way more opportunities to mix and match Sonic and the avatar’s abilities to both move through the stage and deal with enemies. Quickly figuring out whether to use Sonic or the avatar’s abilities in certain situations felt great, and the way the level used both Sonic and the avatar to provide multiple paths and traversal options lends some nice depth to the stage that was missing before.
Sunset Heights got an even cooler makeover. While the start of the stage is largely unaltered, a whole additional portion has been added at the place where it typically ended. What follows is a series of side-stepping chase sequences as airborne Badniks try to bomb you. Then, you get to face Infinite’s Shadow apparition, as he pops up in several parts of the stage and tries to do damage to you. Finally, there’s an awesome and challenging rail grinding sequence, before the stage finally ends. Not only is Sunset Heights more satisfying to blast through now, but it also gives us the showdown with fake Shadow that the original game failed to deliver on.
This mod does currently have a few issues, unfortunately. The altered levels appear to be poorly optimized, resulting in a lot of frame rate issues on higher settings, something I don’t usually see on my PC. Arsenal Pyramid has a few spots in boost areas where I can accidentally get caught on geography or miss springs, though this is an issue can be avoided by remaining towards the center of the path while boosting. The gear platforms inside the pyramid itself also seem to be slow to move to allow progression.
These minor issues aside, Sonic Forces Re-imagined is pretty great. These level alterations are quite natural, and make them feel far more complete. I didn’t finish these levels wanting something longer or more substantive. I’m happy to see Sonic Forces becoming more popular in the modding scene, and I’m excited to see where this project (and Overclocked, which I wrote about earlier in the week) go. Superb work!
You can download the mod here. Go to the Sonic Hacking Contest website for information on how to install the mod.
I’m relatively new to the world of PC Sonic hacks. As I’ve never been much of a PC gamer, I never had much inclination to check out PC-only Sonic hacks until I decided to help cover last year’s Sonic Hacking Contest. Sonic ROM hacks are a different story, however. I’ve been exploring those for nearly a decade now, on my actual SEGA Genesis, through my Mega Everdrive or SEGA CD, as I’ve always loved the novelty of seeing these games running on my actual, ancient gaming hardware. I’ve played some true technical marvels over the years, but I don’t think any have impressed me quite as much as Vladikcomper’s Sonic the Hedgehog Blastless DX. An improved version of an April Fools hack released earlier this year, Blastless DX is a technological showcase with a fun premise: Sonic 1 has “lost” its blast processing, and the player needs to restore it.
Before getting into the game, I’ll explain exactly what “blast processing” is, in case you don’t know. It was a fancy marketing term SEGA of America used to highlight the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive’s CPU speed, which was faster than the Super Nintendo, making speedy games like Sonic easier to make on the machine (SNES devs did eventually figure out how to get around this limitation, but it did plague early games like Gradius 3). Faster CPU aside, however, blast processing was little more than a marketing buzzword, and a key part of this game’s joke.
So, what does Sonic 1 look like without “blast processing”? An 8-bit demake, apparently. The central goal of the hack is to restore “blast processing” by filling up a blast processing bar in the bottom right of the screen, and keep it from emptying until the end of the level. Doing this successfully will “restore” an act, and essentially replaces the chaos emeralds, which can’t be gathered here. The bar can be filled up by gathering rings, destroying enemies, and smashing breakable walls. The bar is emptied whenever damage is taken, downgrading the game’s visuals to less powerful hardware. It’s here where this hack truly shines.
In addition to the 8-bit Master System visuals, there are two lower rungs of visual fidelity, which are reached after taking damage. Getting hit in Master System mode will downgrade visuals to “Atari.” Not the Atari 2600/VCS you’re probably familiar with, but an Atari 8-bit computer (at least, I think, because I know VCS games never looked this good.) Get hit in Atari mode, and visuals are downgraded further, to the colorless, green scale Game Boy. If these visual changes weren’t enough, each graphics mode also has its own music track and sound effects.
These changes are instantaneous, which makes it all the more wild that this actually works on real hardware. I’m used to the more impressive hacks requiring PC emulators, and so the fact that this is all being done with a stock SEGA Genesis absolutely astounds me. And what’s even wilder? This is actually fun to play. It’s more than just a gimmick. It changes how I play the game, and it’s fun.
Because chaos emeralds are no longer in play and I have incentive to seek out enemies and breakable objects, I actively seek that stuff out in the level. The blast processing bar is constantly draining, so I’m incentivized to both try to get through a level quickly, and also clear that level out as thoroughly as possible. Taking damage also carries different penalties, since it can result in multiple visual downgrades, which makes filling the blast processing bar before the end more difficult.
And the visual modes themselves look and sound really cool. The 8-bit mode looks like an 8-bit demake of Sonic 1 that’s graphically taxing the hardware, with accurate looking sprite art and loads of sprite flicker for moving background objects. The accompanying music tracks sound like genuine downgrades, but are also kind of catchy in their own ways. The Atari mode is probably the least impressive of the graphical modes to me, though that might be because I’m not very familiar with how those games looked and sounded, but it at least looks noticeably different and less advanced visually. Game Boy mode is thoroughly impressive, bringing Sonic 1 down to something that does kind of look like something from the platform, albeit without much in the way of music.
Perhaps my only real issue with all this is that these modes do include some graphical issues that may or may not be intentional. The sprite flicker might be a little much, and I do wonder if that’s just the Genesis buckling under everything it’s being asked to do. In Game Boy mode, there are brief moments where Sonic himself will disappear. And with every downgrade, in-game text becomes more and more indecipherable. I didn’t find these issues to affect playability much, but if things like sprite flicker bothers you, this hack might not be for you.
On my Tuesday SHC stream, someone in chat told me Vlad is a magician when it comes to coding for the Genesis. It’s kind of impossible for me to disagree on that front. I don’t know how he did it, whether he really managed to get it to switch between multiple kinds of graphics, or if he employed some sort of visual distorter or filter. But regardless of whatever tricks he used, I find them truly impressive, and Blastless DX is easily one of my favorite retro hacks to come out of Sonic Hacking Contest 2021. Check it out!
You know what Sonic Generations had a severe lack of? Proper DLC levels. Thankfully, it’s a Sonic game, so the fan base has provided with loads of mods over the years. Shivery Mountainside by Goalringmod27 is among the latest of these, and I’ve got to say: it’s a fun, fascinating experience…if you’re looking for a challenge that can at times be a little unfair, but also do things regular Generations levels never did.
Shivery Mountainside starts in a cozy log cabin, which acts as a small hub area where players can buy upgrades and lives before setting off on their run down the mountain. It’s here that you’ll notice the start of a trend: the hub is in full 3D. The whole mod is in 3D, in fact. This alone does a lot to set this level apart from Sonic’s official boosting stages.
The demo starts out with a brief, exciting snowboarding section. After Sonic bursts out of his cabin on a snowboard, the player must then boost through hordes of enemies while navigating the mountain’s snowy slopes. There are two paths to take here, as well as some rings for more skilled players to jump through, to get them to grinding paths on top of some cabins. It’s not long before Sonic reaches the town at the foot of the mountain, where he ditches the snowboard and starts running on foot. And it’s here where the fun, and brief bouts of frustration, begin.
Shivery Mountainside’s level design is tailored around the idea of encouraging new and unorthodox utilization of Generations’ physics. Sometimes, to cross a pit, you need to hit the boost button at exactly the right moment to send yourself flying into a set of rings to your next platform. On other occasions, you’ll need to interrupt your momentum with a stomp in order to reach a ring or boost pad. This sort of thinking isn’t always necessary, and sometimes its possible to clear a gap through some other means, like attacking enemies.
It’s pretty cool playing a level like this in Generations, but I must admit it can also lead to…frustrations. One inherent issue in this sort of design is that the level can just be really difficult. When those mid-air boosts become required to survive a pit, messing up their timing results in instant death. 3D platforming was also never Generations’ strong suit, as it can be a bit slippery, so having to navigate a level full of areas like this will inevitably result in a lot of falling into pits. It took me hours of trial and error to fully figure these areas out, and I still mess them up on occasion. This is not the Sonic Generations you’re used to: it does not allow for much margin of error.
All that said, while the level can be quite challenging, that challenge is, for the most part, quite fair, and makes mastering this level exhilarating. It is only when you reach the ice caverns that the design becomes a little…mean. After navigating a series of narrow ice platforms, you reach a cavern full of red ice. While gorgeous, I found this area very hard to navigate effectively. The lower water path, which was the first one I took, was very confusing to navigate. Even with the big arrows made out of golden rings, I simply found the area unnavigable because, between the red ice pillars and the water, there was no clear path through to an exit. So I simply died repeatedly. I eventually managed to make my way through the area by taking one of its other, optional paths above the water. I did eventually beat the area on the lower path, but I’m still not entirely sure how I did it.
Right after this is the second worse area of the level: a curved ice path, with no guardrails, over a bottomless pit, that leads directly to a wall-running section with bombs that are impossible to dodge, at least with my human reflexes. I eventually managed to get past this part by slow walking on the path, and then activating a new power up introduced in this mod, “time break.” This slows down time, which allowed me to avoid the bombs, and finally beat the cavern section of the level. While these areas are quite beatable, especially after some trial and error, I do hope they are redesigned somewhat. Nothing breaks a Sonic level’s flow more effectively than having to worry about getting confused by the level itself, or having to slow walk on a path to avoid falling off. I do think this goes a little beyond the sort of challenge one should expect from a Sonic boost level.
All of these criticisms aside, Shivery Mountainside truly is a standout Generations mod. Its got great visuals and a superb music track that’s still stuck in my head. It’s only six minutes long, but I’ve already spent hours on it, trying to perfect all the tricks and find all the shortcuts. Even in my latest playthrough, which I did while I was writing this, I managed to reach some extra lives by boosting through rings that I hadn’t been able to get through before. If you’re hungry for a new Sonic boost level, check this out!
You can download the mod here. For instructions on how to implement hacks, check out Sonic Hacking Contest’s website here.
It’s Sonic Hacking Contest time again, and you all should know what that means: hands-on articles for a bunch of mods from lots of awesome fans!
SHC 2021 has a lot of entries worth checking out, but Duck Dealer’s Sonic Forces Overclocked demo, “Freight Frenzy,” is definitely one of the most ambitious. Acting as both a remix of the original game’s levels, and a sequel to its storyline, this mod features original voice work, still-frame hand-drawn cutscenes, a remixed music track (composed by Landy & Tabebo and featuring vocals by Cisconic) and a newly designed level based on Sonic Force’s “Spaceport” stage.
The production values are pretty solid, especially for a fan work. The voice acting is good, the hand-drawn cutscenes tell this demo’s little story effectively, and the remixed track is just as catchy as anything from the original game. On the whole, it’s really impressive work, and not at all the sort of thing I’d expect out of SHC. But as impressive as all this stuff is, it’s the new level that sits at the heart of this mod.
While I never hated Sonic Forces, its level design could certainly be overly simplistic and lacking in any true set pieces. This is something Freight Frenzy aims to fix and it mostly succeeds. This level is meaty, with a length of about five to six minutes, which is perfect for a Sonic stage. It features several areas and obstacles meant for specific wisps, like drill and hover, which provide some nice traversal options.
The mod also employs a neat gimmick: dodging Dr. Eggman’s many freight trains. These were wasted in the original Forces, but here they provide a very nice level gimmick On the whole, this level has a superb flow, and is more engaging than any of the avatar stages from the original game. That said, there are some problems.
One of the freight train obstacles doesn’t telegraph things well. Players have to leap off rails three times in a row to avoid oncoming trains, and there is literally no time to react before the trains hit and kill you. I had to memorize which direction to dodge, and I just started pressing the button to leap over to another rail before the next train even came into view. Anything else simply resulted in getting hit. The final train obstacle can also result in a cheap death, because if you don’t successfully dodge all the trains and hit the speed boosts at the end, a train you have no idea is coming will run you down from behind.
Memorization is critical to Sonic game play. These games are built to accommodate that, with their forgiving health systems and checkpoints. But these bits of SFO don’t really feel fair, even by Sonic standards. Players need to be given more lead time during the first segment I mentioned. I’d also just prefer if the final segment where the train comes at you from behind was simply automated, instead of dependent on hitting speed boosts that are a little too easy to miss.
Finally, the segment where players need to sidestep on top of several trains is just sort of broken. Side-stepping is sticky and slow here for some reason. Hopefully, Duck Dealer will be able to sort out whatever the issue is here, though some memorization does get you passed it.
I think once SFO fixes these issues, it won’t just be a fun hack, but a prime example of what Sonic Force’s avatar stages should’ve been: meaty stages with lots of wisp-centric traversal options and Sonic Generations-quality gimmicks. As it stands, it’s still a very fun, impressive mod, and more than worth checking out for anyone who owns Sonic Forces.
Overdrive is an ongoing project, and the mod promises more is coming in the future. I can’t wait!
Check out the Sonic Hacking Contest website for the mod, as well as instructions on how to implement it, here. You can find the mod here.
We’ve been playing Sonic Colours Ultimate for a few days now, and we’ve slowly been working our way through the Achievements/Trophy list within. We can reveal the list of meta-challenges that you can expect to find on your PC, PlayStation or Xbox copy of the game. We will update this post with guides and tips on how to unlock them as well.
It’s crazy to think that one of the best Sonic the Hedgehog games has been sat in console purgatory for over ten years, locked to (and in way, limited by) Nintendo’s Wii hardware. As a result, Sonic Colours has been in a strange sphere of existence in the eyes of Sonic fans; a game that many haven’t played, most definitely want to play but at the same time is seen as some sort of aberration in the series – most likely because of its graphical performance compared to competing consoles PS3 and Xbox 360 at the time.
I remember the days of bootleg NES cartridges with ROM hacks that would bring Sonic to the NES with usually poor results. Titles like “Sonic 6” would take an existing Mario or other platform game and drop a Sonic sprite into it and maybe change a few enemies. They were always a pale imitation of the Genesis classics. Pico-Sonic goes below even NES limitations and still manages to feel authentic to the Genesis Sonic era.
“Pico Sonic” by Komehara is everything a demake should be. It lowers the pixel count, coloring, and sound bites to an underpowered 8-bit engine, but still keeps the core of the 16-bit original intact. It’s a one-level demo of Angel Island Act-1 done on the Pico-8, a fictional mid-80s game console with specs that fall between an NES and an Atari 7800.
Even with those limitations, Komehara pulls off an amazing little port. Sonic’s animations are all there along with his cool spring bounce pose from Sonic CD. The physics are intact as well, and Sonic’s roll, spindash, and overall sense of gravity are done perfectly. While this level is inspired by Angel Island, there are some limitations that slightly hinder the experience. The rocks don’t break apart when you hit them and there are no real enemies to be found. Instead, your main goal is to find all seven chaos emeralds scattered throughout the level. This gives you a major incentive to explore. If you don’t get all of the emeralds before finishing the level, it asks you to try again, basically giving you the bad ending.
While I would have liked to have seen some enemies in the level, Pico Sonic is a surprisingly charming fan game that shows that Sonic can still work as a game even on very low-powered hardware (or in this case, emulated low-powered hardware.) I’m hoping to see Pico Sonic return to SAGE next year with some more updates.
It’s always awesome to see a long-time Sonic fan project reach its conclusion, and this year’s SAGE has brought us the completed release of a great one: Hez’s Sonic the Hedgehog Classic 2. Having been in development for more then a decade, Classic 2’s road to completion has been a long one. As a Sonic fan hungry for more classic content, it’s come at just the right time for me.
Fan games have been at the forefront of Sonic game design experimentation for a long time, and among the most interesting concepts fan have been pursuing is the idea of combining large, open levels with lots of paths with a momentum-based movement system. Games like Sonic Utopia and Sonic GT have made stellar use of the concept, and Tigersonalex’s Sonic Red Ridge has now joined their ranks as another excellent example of the idea, albeit with its own twists that make it feel quite different.
Yesterday we were given the exciting opportunity to reveal an exclusive first look at one of Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit’s new levels, and now that we’ve gotten our hands on the demo for SAGE 2021 this year, we’re more hyped than ever! The sheer love put into this game is absolutely astonishing, and it’s evident in the attention to detail in this great fangame.
Who all is excited for SAGE this year? We are! And what better way to kick off the weekend with some early details about one of the most anticipated fan-games on the floor! We have exclusive footage of the latest build of Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit’s Sunset Park Zone, and it’s looking mighty fine! Check it out:
Ah, Sonic Colours. How we’ve missed you. When it arrived on Nintendo Wii in 2010, it offered a real breath of fresh air for the Sonic franchise; we were turning a corner from all the doom and gloom of previous games and were heading straight for a vibrant, punchy new platformer with environments, enemies, music and gimmicks that felt much closer to the spirit of the original Mega Drive titles than any 3D Sonic game that came before it.
The critically-acclaimed Sonic Colours is getting a fresh chance to Wispon its way to hearts old and new with a remaster hitting modern platforms later this year. This time, the game will be free from strictly-Nintendo hardware, appearing on PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well as the Switch, and on PC to boot. For SEGA producers Aaron Roseman and Calvin Vu, this presents an opportunity to introduce the fanbase to a game that may have passed them by when it was originally released exclusively on the Wii in 2010. But it also presented a hefty challenge.
Sonic isn’t the only game franchise with an anniversary this year! His other, less popular younger sibling has one too! Twenty-five years ago on July 5, 1996, Sonic Team’s NiGHTS into Dreams… launched for the SEGA Saturn, and we’re celebrating that all week with a series of seven articles, 7 Days of NiGHTS. These articles will explore various aspects of the NiGHTS franchise, as well as my own personal experience with it.
In addition to articles, we will also be running NiGHTS streams at 5PM EST on our Twitch all week, running daily NiGHTS tweets on our Twitter, and we’ll be featuring a bunch NiGHTS track or two on this week’s SEGASonic Radio.
NiGHTS is a character that has long had connections to Sonic via cameos and easter eggs, so if you’ve ever been curious about the games behind it all, we hope you’ll enjoy this!
A defining element of the Sonic the Hedgehog series is the superb soundtrack that has accompanied our favourite characters across 30 year’s worth of adventures. Here’s the top 10 of what our resident music maniac T-Bird considers the best of three decades of music featured in the Sonic Universe!
10. Sonic R
Often dismissed as cheesy (but come on folks, Sonic is often super cheesy), the Sonic R soundtrack is the first entry on my list. While not everyone’s cup of tea, very few Sonic series soundtracks come close to being anywhere near as upbeat at this first foray by Sonic into a more contemporary sound, drawing from late 90s dance and Eurobeat. Authored by the one-and-only veteran composer Richard Jacques and embellished with vocals provided by TJ Davis (previously of D:Ream and Gary Numan) Sonic R is packed with plenty of guilty pleasures – not that there should be any guilt of course! We think Sonic R has a solid-gold track listing, and we will always sing Can You Feel The Sunshine at Karaoke, given the chance!
Highlights: Can You Feel the Sunshine?, Living In The City, Number One.
9. Sonic Heroes
Follow in on the coat tails of the Sonic Adventure series, the Sonic Heroes soundtrack continued the tradition of maintaining a thematic landscape, heavily drawing on the rock sound that worked so well for the last two titles. Sonic Sound Director Jun Senoue once again utilises his links to the world of melodic rock to recruit the vocal talents of Ted Poley (Danger Danger) and Tony Harnell (TNT) for We Can, in addition to two belting themes from Crush 40. Employing industrial electronic act Julien-K to provide an angsty theme to Shadow the Hedgehog’s team in the form of This Machine is perfect. There are far too many great stage themes to list in this game, but the fact that Wave Ocean and Bingo Highway have seen so many reworks and remixes since 2003 is testament to the enduring nature of this soundtrack!
Highlights: What I’m Made Of, This Machine, Wave Ocean
8. Sonic Rush
A unique entry to this list are the funky tones of the Sonic Rush soundtrack. Lead by the rather eccentric Hideki Naganuma (if you don’t believe me check out his Twitter), the genius behind the unforgettable Jet Set Radio soundtracks, provides an infusion of funk, soul, drum and bass, and a mountain of samples from every corner of the music industry. Naganuma’s approach delivers something that is seldom replicated anywhere else, and will leave anyone earworms for days to come. From the happy-go-lucky Back 2 Back to the darker tones of Wrapped in Black for the final boss, you won’t believe that something so powerful can output from a DS.
Highlights: What U Need, A New Day, Wrapped In Black
7. Sonic Unleashed / World Adventure
In a tonal shift from most other Sonic titles, sound director Tomoya Ohtani elected to take the soundtrack to Sonic Unleashed down a more orchestral avenue, to reflect the more cinematic qualities of the game, the environment, and the exploratory nature of the game’s hub worlds. What is delivered is a grandiose performance from the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, interjected with fast-paced and floaty drum and bass day tracks, and the cool jazz strings and flutes for night stages, more often than not arranged by an unsung hero of Sonic sounds, Fumie Kumatani. Although the Werehog battle theme finds itself being overused, its hard not to adore this soundtrack for its variety.
Highlights: Apotos Day, The World Adventure, Cool Edge
6. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive / Genesis)
It doesn’t get much more definitive than the theme to Emerald Hill Zone (with the exception of Green Hill of course) and as such Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s soundtrack ranks high in this list. Composed by Dreams Come True superstar Masato Nakamura, the music collection featured on the title is one of the most definitive to have featured on the Mega Drive / Genesis, exploiting the full range of channels available to deliver a soundtrack with depth and character, with catchy hooks and brilliant basslines. The game concludes with a rendition of DCT’s Sweet Sweet Sweet, to bring the feels as you save the planet once again.
Highlights: Emerald Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Mystic Cave Zone
5. Team Sonic Racing
The most recent entry into this list is the soundtrack to Team Sonic Racing, another titled directed by Senoue-san. Not only is TSR packed with rearrangements and mash-up tracks from previous Sonic games, The SONIC ADVENTURE MUSIC EXPERIENCE, including long-time Crush 40 session bassist Takeshi Taneda and Crush 40 percussionist Akht, drive the heart of this assembly of octane-fuelled compositions, with a massive supporting cast including TORIENA, Hyper Potions, Tee Lopes, and Tyler Smyth (Dangerkids). As such, Senoue and company have delivered what is definitely one of the high-water marks in Sonic the Hedgehog music of the modern era.
Highlights: Ocean View Lap Music, Frozen Junkyard Lap Music, Boo’s House Lap Music
4. Sonic CD
I am going to have to cheat here in that this entry is a two-for-one and include both the American and Japanese soundtracks here (controversial, I know..and not the only time I will cheat either!) for quite different reasons. Naofumi Hataya and Masufumi Ogata’s masterful works are lined with J-Pop sounds, that while might sound a little contemporary and dated, are some of those associated most with Sonic games by the old guard. Spencer Nilsen’s soundtrack on the other hand delivers a much more ambient and darker tone to the game, completely changing the atmosphere; it really goes to show that a soundtrack can completely change the feel of a game. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you can’t deny that both games come armed with a great opening and closing vocal tracks.
Highlights: Sonic Boom, Tidal Tempest (US), Stardust Speedway – Bad Future (US), Comic Eternity (JP), Metallic Madness (JP), Boss!! (JP)
3. Sonic Mania
A modern classic. I probably don’t need to say much more than I have previously, in that Mania’s soundtrack is nothing short of a love letter to Sonic music through the ages. Fan-turned-professional musician Tee Lopes’s universal understanding of the DNA that comprises Sonic the Hedgehog soundscapes is nothing shy masterful, and has set a lofty standard for whatever follows in it’s wake in 2D Sonic titles. Lopes takes the best of the existing material and gives it a polish, breathing new life into well known tracks without detracting from what made them so brilliant in the first place. Additionally, Lopes demonstrates repeatedly throughout that his own compositions are just as phenomenal. Indeed, this is a soundtrack for the ages, and it feels criminal to select just three tracks as highlights!
Highlights: Prime Time – Studiopolis Zone Act 2, Blossom Haze – Studiopolis Act 2, Skyway Octane – Mirage Saloon act 1
2. Sonic 3 & Knuckles
A close call between this and the number 1 spot for sure, but many will hardly be surprised to see this game near the top of the listings. The songs of Sonic 3 & Knuckles are a culmination of tracks that are the very epitome of what makes Sonic soundtracks so good – a completely unique aural experience that has been much emulated but never replicated. Whether it’s the incredible “guitar” licks of Flying Battery, the “steel drums” of Angel Island, or the even the driving basslines of Ice Cap, this game sounds incredible even to this day, and further augments this great game. The calibre of the soundtrack is hardly surprising given that it’s authors include the likes of Senoue-san, Michael Jackson music director Brad Buxer, and in all likelihood the King of Pop himself!
Highlights: Hydrocity Act 2, Flying Battery Zone Act 1, Sky Sanctuary Zone
1. Sonic Adventure 1 & 2
The crowning jewels of the music of Sonic the Hedgehog are the timeless masterpieces that are the soundtracks of the Sonic Adventure series – and yes, I couldn’t pick a favourite. Pulling out all of the stops, Senoue et al. pulled out of the collective minds not one, but TWO massive musical landscapes to embellish the plethora of game environments, with no constraint on musical genre. Songs like the pop-punky Escape from the City and the spectacular power anthem that is Open Your Heart are unmatched in their power, driven home with a triple threat of galloping guitar work, thunderous percussion, and soaring vocals.
Nearly every playable character across the two games have their own distinct theme tune and genre, so their really is something for everyone. This format extends to the stages but is never forced, in fact quite the opposite; breaking into a vault to a jazz soundtrack has never felt so sincere to a 1960’s secret agent film with I’m A Spy…For Security Hall, or the slow Hawaii-esque guitar twangs of sitars that rings throughout Azure Blue World as Sonic adventures across the beach of Emerald Coast. I’m sure many fans will have stopped in Station Square, Mystic Ruins, and even a Chao Garden or two, to just pause and take in the atmosphere delivered by this soundtrack.
A perfect soundtrack for one of the most celebrated games of the series.
Highlights: Too many to list!
Here’s a handful of soundtracks that just missed out on featuring in the top 10:
Sonic Triple Trouble (Game Gear) – there are lots of 8-bit gems that missed out here, but Sonic Triple Trouble is a real diamond in the rough; Sunset Park Act 3 is a real highlight, and Fang the Sniper’s theme exudes a Mexican standoff – perfect for this rootin’ tootin’ sharp shootin’ Wolf. Or Gerboa (who knows!)
Sonic Colors (Nintendo Wii) – A tonally different game once again, Colors deserves a mention here as it’s soundtrack perfectly complements the lighter tone of the game itself, and Tomoya Ohtani gladly provides this in his distinct fashion.
Sonic Forces – Controversial, but why not! Forces, while being one of the poorer outings of Sonic in recent years, has some crackers in the soundtrack, and a smattering of catchy drum and bass-centric vocal songs. Let’s also not forget the heavy hitting Theme of Infinite provided courtesy of the Dangerkids!
Sonic Generations – This has probably missed out on the top 10 for being more of a revisiting of old soundtracks, but is nonetheless brilliant, and there are some phenomenal reworkings of Sonic CD’s Sonic Boom, and a blistering version of Heavy Arm’s theme.
Shadow the Hedgehog – Not to everyone’s taste, but I adore this soundtrack, which is heavier than a heavy thing, and a firm favourite of metal fans for sure. The theme song, I Am…All Of Me, is one of the most powerful Crush 40 songs going, and never fails to get the blood pumping.
Sonic Song Sin Bin:
Sonic Underground soundtrack – Apologies to the Sonic Underground gang, but this falls firmly in the sin bin – and although I am often one for a bit of cheese, this is too difficult not cringe through. Sonic and his band should probably not give up their day jobs! I will make one exception here – and that is the theme song, performed powerfully by Michael Lanning. That rocks.
Wonderman by Right Said Fred – During the advertising campaign in the early 90s, SEGA teamed up with dance-pop act Right Said Fred to create the bizarre Wonderman, which while making tenuous mentions to spin attacking and power sneakers in the lyrics, has little else to do with Sonic. It peaks at number 55 in the British charts, which tells you everything you need to know. Watch the bizarre music video below:
Sonic Jam (Games.com) – Barely a soundtrack, this game features single-channel renditions of stages from earlier Sonic games, that are unrecognisable due to having their tempo reduced by an order of magnitude.
Agree with our list? Don’t agree with our list? Let us know your favourite Sonic songs and soundtracks in the comments!
Sonic’s legacy in comics is almost as old as his legacy in games. From 1991 onward, Sonic’s stories have been depicted in sequential art, from one-shots to decades-spanning series. From a little promo comic to IDW, and with three different series from three different companies running at the franchise’s height of popularity in the 90s, the breadth and length of Sonic’s comic legacy is nearly unmatched in the video game space.
Back in the 90s, when Sonic was the newest, hottest video game property on the block, having a cartoon was always a telltale sign that a game series had truly made it. Mario had a series of them, Legend of Zelda had one, Earthworm Jim had one, and even Bubsy almosthad one.
There is perhaps nobody more eager or proud to be wishing Sonic the Hedgehog a happy 30th birthday than Takashi Iizuka. Having been deeply involved with the franchise since Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the Sonic Team leader’s hands have touched every single era of the blue blur’s legacy. From designing stages for the Mega Drive classics, to directing fan favourites like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, to producing the fine-tuned boost-era titles Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations – he’s seen it all.
With Sonic’s 30th Anniversary in tow, we wanted to look back on some of the more memorable and Influential moments (or arcs) in the games’ stories. These aren’t simply surprising or epic situations, but story arcs, notable moments or any kind of cutscene that made a lasting impact on the series’ continuity and character development.
The original Sonic the Hedgehog is a game that has been ported and re-released on as many consoles, mobile devices and toasters as you can shake a stick at, and for very good reason. It’s a bona fide classic. The 1991 Mega Drive release remains one of the most iconic video games ever made, and cemented the blue blur’s status as a pop culture icon.
Thirty years. SEGA’s plucky blue hedgehog has been running for three whole decades. For some of us 1990s kids who grew up playing the original game on Mega Drive/Genesis, it seems absolutely crazy to think that not only would we still be playing Sonic games, but that the SEGA mascot’s popularity is stronger than ever in 2021. For those that grew up in the 2000s, the fact that Sonic Adventure 2 released twenty years ago may make you feel similarly ancient.
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