Impressions: Sonic x Higround Green Hill Keyboard

I’m not a keyboard hobbyist. My day-to-day workhorse is a straightforward wireless Logitech board that I use until it stops working. So when keyboard maker Higround provided us with a sample of their Sonic the Hedgehog line of USB wired keyboards and accessories, I was curious (and a bit skeptical) of what using a higher end keyboard would be like. For me, the shift hasn’t revolutionized how I think about keyboards, nor will it supplant my current keyboard for daily use, but Higround’s design is undeniably quite functional and a beautiful, compact art object.

Continue reading Impressions: Sonic x Higround Green Hill Keyboard

IDW Sonic Panel Returns to San Diego Comic Con

It’s been a rough few years due to the pandemic, but things seem to slowly be going back to normal. Since 2020, the San Diego Comic-Con has been an online event only. Now, it’s finally back to a live event with many of its popular panels returning, including a Sonic presentation from IDW. The panel, “Sonic the Hedgehog: 50 Way Past Cool Issues and Counting!” will be hosted on Sunday, July 24th from 10:30-11:30 am PST. Here are all the panel details straight from the San Diego Comic-Con website.

IDW’s Sonic The Hedgehog comic book reaches its 50th issue this summer, a mind-blowing face-off with Sonic and Tails facing their twisted counterparts, Surge and Kit. IDW editor David Mariotte, artists Gigi Dutreix and Adam Bryce Thomas, and writer Daniel Barnes provide a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a milestone and tease what’s next for the Blue Blur!

I’ll be there to cover the panel along with any other Sonic news coming out of Comic-Con. If permitted, I may even be covering the panel live here on the Sonic Stadium!

Today’s Sonic Origins Streaming Schedule

Sonic Origins is out, and we’ve got a packed day of showing it off! If you’re not busy playing it yourself, if you’ve got any specific questions about the game, or if you just want to hang out and chat about it, join us on Twitch or YouTube as we take requests and experience a bit of Sonic Origins together!

Twitch feed: https://www.twitch.tv/sonicstadium

No-Cutscene-Spoilers Overview (PC / Steam Deck / Switch)

8 AM PT / 11 AM ET / 3 PM UTC
(about 60-90 minutes long)

We’ll be checking out all the core features of the game, answering your questions, and taking your requests as we JUST check out the games, settings, and bonuses in the collection! If you plan on getting the game later and don’t want to get spoiled on the new animated sequences, this stream is for you.

Extended Story Mode Gameplay

10 AM PT / 1 PM ET / 5 PM UTC
(until ???)

If you want to check out the game’s story mode including cutscenes, we’ll be playing as much of it as we reasonably can! No guarantee that we’ll complete all three games, but rest assured we’ll at least be rushing through a bunch.

TSS REVIEW: Sonic Origins

Sonic has been running for 31 years now, and yet of all of his adventures to date the original Mega Drive games still remain fan favourites. It’s no wonder that most of these timeless classics have been re-released in countless compilations over the years, but Sonic Origins stands out by daring to do something a little different this time around.

Continue reading TSS REVIEW: Sonic Origins

Sonic’s New Frontiers: What We Still Need From Sonic’s First Open World

The IGN coverage thus far has left a lot of unanswered questions. Unsurprisingly, ten minutes of lightly edited gameplay footage without narration or context hasn’t proven itself to be a great way to premiere this game for the first time. We’ve seen a bit of the combat, we’ve seen a little world traversal, and we’ve seen more sky grinding than Final Rush and Rail Canyon’s unholy lovechild. But there’s some BIG aspects we still don’t know about. Big aspects like what the game is.

Continue reading Sonic’s New Frontiers: What We Still Need From Sonic’s First Open World

Sonic Frontiers Gameplay Impressions

So, Sonic Frontiers gameplay has finally been unveiled, thanks to two videos this week that outlined two key concepts; exploration of the open world, and advanced combat techniques. Now that we’d had a chance to digest and absorb all the information, our gut reaction is… we didn’t… hate it?

Continue reading Sonic Frontiers Gameplay Impressions

How the Xbox Series S/X Redeems Sonic Unleashed (Sort of)

For as polished as Sonic Unleashed’s graphics are, its biggest visual flaw is its framerate. The Xbox 360 version played at a mostly steady 24-30 (capped) FPS, while the PS3 version was worse for wear despite an uncapped framerate that would bring the game up to 48FPS on occasion, but dropping to 24FPS or below ruining the flow of the game.

In many ways, the game’s graphic-intensive “Hedgehog Engine” was a bit too ahead of its time. It couldn’t keep a steady 30 FPS on the most powerful system of that era. It would take 2011’s Sonic Generations to iron the kinks out. While the Werehog levels weren’t affected too much by the framerate, several daytime Sonic levels dropped frames horribly. Jungle Joyride became a slideshow at times. Now, in 2022, Sonic Unleashed’s full potential has been unlocked thanks to the Boost Mode on the Xbox Series S/X, bringing the game to a steady 60 FPS.

To me, this brought the game from a guilty pleasure to a legitimately good Sonic title. Sonic’s daytime levels run as smooth as silk, giving you better handling and control. Even the Werehog levels feel less cumbersome as Sonic now feels faster and more responsive. There seems to be less blur as well. The high framerate allows for a faster response time. I can honestly say I was actually enjoying the Werehog levels for a change.

That doesn’t mean the game’s old flaws aren’t still present. Medal collecting near the end game is still soul-crushing, the Werehog levels are still a bit too long, and having the camera suddenly change position when you’re balancing across a steel beam is still as irritating as ever. That said, if you love this style of Sonic gameplay, it’s never looked or played better than it does on Series S/X.

The Series S/X boost mode also improves other Sonic titles as well. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed gets a 60 FPS boost, and Sonic Generations runs at both 4K resolution and 60FPS.

To see Sonic Unleashed in action on the Series S/X, check out our gameplay video below.

Guide to ALL Sonic Content in the KartRider Rush+ Crossover [UPDATED MAY 5]

Since 2020, I’ve played (to my knowledge) every Sonic crossover collaboration in a mobile game. I beat up Mad Max rejects as Super Sonic in Fist of the North Star, I summoned Sonic as a demon in Shin Megami Tensei, and had an epic battle with my wallet in Cookie Run: Kingdom. However, of all the mobile games I dipped my foot into, only two ever took hold for more than a month: Ulala Idle Adventure, and KartRider Rush+. KartRider’s Sonic content has been broader and more involved than any of the other games I just mentioned, but if you want to get started with it, knowing where to find all the Sonic content is tricky (and potentially expensive) business.

[UPDATE] As of May 5, Tails and Chao are now available via the Monthly Pass, and the Dr. Eggman event has started. At this time, there are no future Sonic collaboration content updates we are aware of. However, if any do happen, we will update this article.

What is KartRider Rush+?

KartRider Rush+ is a mobile version of a very popular Korean kart racing game by Nexon (who you might know as the publisher of MapleStory). It features a cartoony style, a variety of game modes, a lengthy story mode with English-dubbed voice acting, and is free to play without timer restrictions. However, as it is a free to play game, many cosmetics, including many of the Sonic cosmetics, are only available if you pay for them. The game has gacha systems for certain cosmetics, but not for any of the Sonic content.

This is not an exhaustive tutorial of the game, but this guide will cover how to access the Sonic content, and how much it will cost.

What can I get for free?

Until May 10, you can redeem this code for Tails Headgear (a Tails face that hovers over your head, a Tails license plate, and a Chao license plate. To enter it, go to Settings (gear icon) > Account > Voucher Code. Passwords are region-specific.

EXPIRED: Until May 3, you can redeem this code for a free Sonic backback and “headgear” (a Sonic face that hovers over your head). To access code entry, go to Settings (gear icon) > Account > Voucher Code. Passwords are region-specific.

Until May 31, you can complete missions to collect “Sonic Letter Shards.” These shards can be exchanged for a Sonic aura, a Sonic Skateboard, a Ring Headgear, a Sonic Driftmoji (special effects that appear when you drift), Sonic Balloons (which are consumable when you equip them in item races, so be aware), and Ring decorations for your character’s home. The missions are daily, so you will need to play multiple days and complete them multiple times to collect every item.

The missions can be accessed from Events > Sonic Collection. The rewards can be accessed from Banquet > Sonic Collection.

Until June 16, you can unlock Sonic himself as a Kart (and a Sonic face mask) by completing special missions that will reward you with “Nitro Shards.” The mission screen then lets you convert a small number of Nitro Shards into a larger number of Ring Shards (yeah, I know, it’s bizarrely indirect). And as you collect more Ring Shards, more rewards unlock. Some missions repeat daily, and some repeat weekly.

At this point, I want to bring up that many collectables in this game are time-limited. I was annoyed by this at the beginning, but the game will throw a lot of time limited karts and clothes at you, so don’t take the limitation too seriously. By the time one free kart expires, you’ll have a different cool free kart to play with. Items list the number of days they’re available, or “Perm” if they permanently stay in your inventory.

Three tiers of unlocking Sonic are 30 days, 90 days, and permanent. If all you want is to dip into the game for free, try it out, play as Sonic, and then drop it, then 30 days might be good enough. Only you yourself know if it’s worth coming back every day to creep towards unlocking Sonic permanently.

This Sonic event can be accessed from the Sonic the Hedgehog icon on the main menu.

Until May 31, you can earn Dr. Eggman (Racer) as part of the “[Dr. Eggman] Secret Base” event. By completing missions, you’ll be able to flip over up to two of the cards on the grid and get rewards, including a Knuckles License Plate, Shadow/Tails/Sonic/Chao decals, Sonic balloons, and a 30-day unlock of Dr. Eggman himself. If you flip over all 20 cards, you’ll permanently unlock Dr. Eggman.

You can access the event via Banquet > [Dr. Eggman] Secret Base from the main menu.

Until May 31, you can earn Chao (Pet) as part of the free monthly Activity Pass. By completing weekly quests, you’ll earn Pass Points that increase your Pass Level (100 points per level), and unlock new rewards at each tier (up to Lv. 80). You can earn a 7 day unlock for Chao at Lvs. 2, 40, and 60. At Lv. 80, Chao unlocks permanently. At Lvs. 5, 25, 45, 65, and 77, you’ll earn Tails Balloons.

You can also earn a time-limited version of Tails (kart) at Lvs. 10, 30, 50, and 70, each adding 7 days and letting you play as Tails for free up to 28 days. You will need to purchase the Honor Pass in order to unlock him permanently (more below).

To access the Pass and Quests, go to the Pass icon on the main menu.

What do I have to pay for?

As of May 1, unlocking all available Sonic content costs a flat sum of $39, and requires actively completing missions and quests throughout the month.

If you want to unlock Tails (kart) permanently, he is available via the monthly Glory pass for $2.99. Once you pay, you immediately get a 7-day Tails unlock. As mentioned above, you need to complete weekly quests to gain Pass Points, gaining one level for every 100 points. Once you get your pass to Lv. 80, Tails will unlock permanently.

To access the Pass and Quests, go to the Pass icon on the main menu.

Things get a bit more involved from here on out:

Until May 31, you can unlock Knuckles and several other cosmetics via Red Star Ring Packs, which have a set price. The packs can be accessed from Banquet > Red Star Ring Pack.

Pack A is $8.99 and contains a different Sonic aura, Shadow balloons, some items, and a single Red Star Ring.

Pack B is $8.99 and contains a Dr. Eggman mask, a Shadow license plate and decals, some items, and another Red Star Ring.

Pack C is $17.99 and contains Knuckles (who is a driver, not a kart), Knuckles balloons and decals, and one last Red Star Ring.

To unlock Shadow (Kart), you’ll need the Red Star Rings from all three packs above. This puts Shadow’s price at about $36, though you’ll also get Knuckles and all the other Red Star Ring accessories and items.

Until May 31, you can unlock Dr. Eggman’s Egg Booster (Kart) by collecting ALL the other characters (which adds it to that $36 price tag to get Shadow and Knuckles, the temporary versions of Sonic, Tails, Chao, and Dr. Eggman are enough to unlock their part of the list). You can also earn 1up balloons, a Sonic avatar frame, a Knuckles glove on a wand, and a Sonic Team title on the path to completion.

The Egg Booster event can be accessed from the Final Battle vs. Dr. Eggman icon on the main menu.

Summary

I’ve personally spent more time in this game than I spend with many other full priced games I’ve purchased, and in that sense, I’ve felt justified in buying the Sonic cosmetics. However, I know not everyone is willing or able to simply spend $36+ on a mobile game. Hopefully this guide has helped anyone interested in the collaboration understand the costs involved, what you can get for free, and if the economics of this game are worth it to you at all.

For those who are interested in looking at the content but not buying or playing it, Sonic Stadium will have coverage of all these collaboration items on our YouTube channel as the event progresses. We’ve already started with Knuckles, Shadow, and the driver cosmetics:

7 Movie References In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 You Might Have Missed

The second Sonic the Hedgehog Movie is absolutely jam-packed with references to the games and even a nod to one of Ben Schwartz’s previous shows, Parks and Recreation. In addition to these, there are a plethora of movie references and tropes featuring throughout the 2-hour run time. While some of these are very obvious (such as Officer Wade Whipple’s referral to Ghostbusters’ infamous candy Kaiju, The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man), some will only have been spotted by the most avid movie buffs!
Below are our 7 favourite subtle movie references in Sonic’s latest cinema outing…

Be warned – movie spoilers ahead!!!

Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Before Knuckles makes his appearance through the ring, Dr Robotnik welcomes the three nameless warriors with the very strange greetings of “Klaatu Barada Nikto!”. Classic sci-fi fans will know this as the famous phrase that originated in the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still – uttered to pacify the giant robot Gort and prevent him from destroying the world. Ironic considering the final act of the movie!

That Slide

Sonic sets about trashing the Wachowski household minutes after Tom and Maddie depart for Hawaii, starting with a slide into the living room with his back to the camera. Those with a keen knowledge of 80’s coming-of-age flicks will recognise this as a homage to the underwear dance scene from 1983’s Risky Business performed by a young Tom Cruise, in which Cruise’s character Joel has also just been left home alone in his parents’ house.

Witching Hour

Margaret Hamilton, the mother of Hamilton Meserve, plays the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”

When Robotnik returns to Earth at night and confronts Sonic in the Wachowski house he threatens Sonic, finishing his line with “…AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO!”. The quote references the threat given by the Wicked Witch of the West to Dorothy in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. The threat is often used as a trope when a villain wants to prove how evil they are.

The name of the Wachowski family dog? Ozzy, of course.

Cast Away

Robotnik’s descent into complete madness when he is exiled to the Mushroom Planet is staved off when he creates a replica Agent Stone out of, well, a stone. This bears semblance to 2000’s Cast Away, in which Tom Hank’s character Chuck creates an inanimate companion, Wilson, from a flotsam Volleyball after being marooned on a remote uninhabited island.

“It’s derivative!”

Knuckles and Robotnik’s navigation through the Labyrinth Zone sees the two antagonists chased down corridor by a huge boulder. While this has most certainly become an adventure movie and video game trope, the idea originated in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones movie. The trope doesn’t go unnoticed by Robotnik, as he says “I refuse to die like this; it’s derivative!”

The 8th Wonder

During the fight between our heroes and the Death Egg Robot and shortly before the destruction of the biplane, Robotnik begins to mockingly swipe at Tails as he manoeuvres around the mechanical juggernaut. This is of course a tribute to the 1933 classic King Kong, in which the final scene sees the colossus batting away attacking Curtis Helldiver biplanes.

Home Run

The second Sonic movie ends where the first started in the Green Hills baseball field, with our protagonist getting his wish of having others to play with. After Knuckles’ “Power bump” that sees him hit a home run, a familiar horn riff plays as declares his conquering of the bases. Soundtrack enthusiasts will recognise this as the theme to 1983’s The Natural, Barry Levinson’s love letter to one of America’s favourite sports.

Have we missed any subtle movie references in Sonic 2? Let us know in the comments!

Roblox, Mobile Events, and LOTS of Music: This Week in Video

Hoy all, it’s been a VERY busy week for video content on Sonic Stadium, and while we used to simply round up everything we’ve been doing on Twitch, we’ve been pushing forward on getting more YouTube content together, and we’d like to highlight that too! Here’s our inaugural This Week in Video!

On Twitch

These and all our Twitch streams can be found over on the Sonic Stadium Twitch Channel!

Sonic Talk Podcast – Sunday, Apr. 24 – 4PM PST / 7 PM EST / 12 AM GMT

It’s nearing the end of the month, and thus it’s time for Nuckles87, Shigs, and GX to round up everything in Sonic news this month in a brand new Sonic Talk podcast! Expect plenty of Sonic Origins discussion this week.

Almost Every Sonic – Tuesday, Apr. 26 – 4 PM PST / 7 PM EST / 12 AM GMT

On Tuesday, Almost Every Sonic returns, and will be checking out the Sonic events in KartRider Rush+ on mobile. We may also return to Sonic Speed Simulator to check in on its latest updates, time permitting.

SegaSonic Radio – Friday, Apr. 29 – 4 PM PST / 7 PM EST / 12 AM GMT

As always, GX is digging deep to find plenty of great SEGA and Sonic music for SegaSonic Radio. It’s the weekend, so chill and enjoy some Sonic hits!

On YouTube

Our biggest project is that we’ve finally uploaded our ENTIRE 30 episode backlog of SegaSonic Radio!! You can check out the entire 2021/2022 series thus far via this playlist, or just start from our latest episode here:

We’ve got plenty of gameplay uploads this week! To start, Nuckles87 played Sonic Venture, a very impressive fan game demo made entirely in the PS4/PS5 game creator Dreams!

In Roblox, GX took a look at both the Nickverse Sonic 2 event and plenty of Sonic Speed Simulator.

Nuckles87 also spent some time in Sonic Dash and Sonic Forces: Speed Battle for the Sonic 2 movie events, and brought us gameplay footage of Movie Tails and Movie Knuckles:

If you’re yearning for more, Nuckles posted video of the lead-up, collecting Knuckles emblems in Sonic Dash, and completing Tails missions / Knuckles Challenges in Sonic Forces. Go check ’em out!

One More Thing

Starting next week, we’ll be uploading the archive of another of our streaming series, Winter Wonderworld, where GX begrudgingly plods his way through the entirety of Balan Wonderworld. Each in the nine-episode series will go live Thursdays at 12:00 PM EST.

We’re also preparing to upload our entire backlog of Almost Every Sonic. If you like Sonic longplays, obscure games, and weird mobile crossovers, stay tuned over the coming weeks!

Bats, Family, and Outer Space: What Knuckles Should Do in His Paramount+ Series

*** SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS FROM THE END OF SONIC 2 ***

I am a Knuckles fan. His name is my online handle, which I’ve been using consistently since the early days of the SEGA forums. I love his moves, his lore, and even his weird comic series. So, naturally, I was excited when Paramount announced a Knuckles-centric TV series a few months ago, starring the red, dreadlocked knucklehead. It wasn’t long before my worry over Sonic 2 fumbling things tempered that excitement with anxiety, but now that I’ve seen the movie that anxiety has given way to enthusiasm. Knuckles was the best thing in that movie and I am ready for a show about him.

But…what exactly will the Knuckles series be? All we know about it is that it’ll be a live action series on Paramount Plus. I can’t imagine something like that being done without a sizable budget akin to Disney+’s MCU and Star Wars offerings. That is an assumption I will be running with for this article. What do I want from the Knuckles series? A lot, but I’d like to think my hopes are at least somewhat realistic (yes, including this first one.)

It’s Time to Go Off-World

The Sonic movies have been consistently teasing us with a larger universe. We’ve been given brief glimpses of Sonic’s home and the mushroom planet, Tails has talked about a “village,” and Knuckles’ introduction was even preceded by strange masked aliens, initially introduced in the Sonic 2 Pre-Quill comic.

It’s high time the Sonic Movie Universe make good on those teases and actually take us somewhere. A planet hopping space adventure would be the perfect backdrop for a TV show. Likewise, a TV show is a great place to flesh out multiple locations beyond Earth in the Sonic Movie Universe. I wouldn’t expect most of these locations to be especially fantastical or grand for purely budgetary reasons, but I will definitely take “generic desert planet” and “rusty cheap-looking backwater planet” over “Knuckles goes to New Jersey.”

Make it Knuckles, Sonic and Tails’ First Adventure Together

Yes, this is a Knuckles show, but that doesn’t mean Sonic and Tails can’t get in on the action! Sonic 2 served as an origin for the trio coming together as friends, but there is no better medium for their first proper adventure than a TV show. Explore their chemistry. Let them talk and explore their interactions outside of the context of a movie climax. Let Sonic be the fish out of water as he’s taken to places Knuckles is more familiar with.

As fun as Knuckles is, I think he was at his best when he had Sonic and Tails to bounce off of, so it’d be a shame to separate them for his small screen debut. Let Knuckles have the main plot and the spotlight, but allow Sonic and Tails to tag along for the ride.

Bring Back Knuckles’ People…and Make Them the Bad Guys

Look: I don’t care what Knuckles said, Longclaw didn’t wipe out his entire tribe. They are alive, and if they are meant to be dead, undead them, because they would make the perfect villains for this series. It is already firmly established in these movies that the echidnas are the power-hungry aggressors. They were the ones who created the Master Emerald, they were the ones who used it for war, and they were the ones who hunted down the owls and attempted to take Sonic’s power. They can certainly be three dimensional villains. Giving them a reason to be so power hungry would only make them more interesting. But ultimately, Knuckles needs to come down against them.

So how could this work? Have them abandon Knuckles. When they went after Longclaw and failed to capture Sonic, they began searching the universe relentlessly for him and the map to the Master Emerald rather than return to him. This would not only demonstrate how far his people have fallen that they would rather hunt for power than go back for one of their own, it would also allow the SMU to explore a different kind of familial loss, and the differences between family by blood and family by love, and why one is more meaningful.

Heck, Tikal could even be introduced as an unwilling pawn of her people. When the Master Emerald is used at the end of Sonic 2, the echidnas learn that Knuckles has it. Tikal is sent under the lie that she’s looking for their people. Knuckles, upon discovering they are alive, agrees to help her find them. Sonic and Tails won’t let him go alone. This gives us the motivation for the planet-hopping adventure as they go from planet to planet, searching for clues, Tikal subtly pointing them in the right direction. This was, in reality, done to separate the Master Emerald from its protectors.

Some version of this, where the story potential for Knuckles’ people is utilized, and Knuckles is made to see the truth about them, feels like the perfect place to take this. It wraps up standing plot points, gives Knuckles a unique group of villains who are personal to him, strengthens his newfound bonds, and gives our tri-colored trio their first test as the Master Emerald’s guardians.

If You’re Going to Focus on Humans, Focus on the Wachowskis

I am going to say something potentially controversial: Tom and Maddie Wachowski are the only decent human characters in the Sonic movies. Everyone else is an annoying cartoon caricature of a human, Jim Carrey worst of all. But even if I liked Carrey, he shouldn’t be here, as Knuckles ought to have his own villain. So since a live action Sonic tv series will inevitably need to spend time with humans on Earth for budgetary reasons, they might as well flesh out the best ones.

Their plot? Well, jumping off my previous point: have them be the ones protecting the Master Emerald while the furballs are out in space. Maybe a few different parties, one of whom were hired by the echidnas, are after the gemstone and they need to go on their own adventure to keep it away from them. They can be hunted by those weird masked bird people from Sonic 2, some random humanoid aliens in make-up, and maybe eventually a certain…bat jewel thief.

Alternatively, if Knuckles and co need a human companion, Maddie can go with them and get some much-needed screen time, and Tom can get paired with Rachel and they’re made to hash their whole thing out.

Bring in Rouge

So if you ignored this article’s spoiler warnings, chances are you already know that Sonic 3 will have Shadow, effectively setting it up to be an adaptation of Sonic Adventure 2. You know who you can’t leave out of any version of SA2? Rouge. Problem is, with Sonic 3 set up to be a story about Shadow, Rouge will almost certainly take a backseat, much like Tails did in Sonic 2. That’s why Rouge absolutely needs to be in the Knuckles series.

There are multiple reasons to introduce Rouge here: she is the closest thing Knuckles has to his own adversary and rival in the games. They are both treasure hunters, and both have an interest in the Master Emerald. So bringing her in as a villain for Knuckles to eventually deal with only makes sense. With the Master Emerald and GUN now present in the SMU, Rouge also has something to do in regards to her own plotline. She has a jewel to hunt and a faction that can employ her skills for covert ops on Earth.

Bare minimum, the Knuckles series ought to lay the groundwork for Rouge’s role in Sonic 3.

Heck, Bring In Some Other Sonic Characters Too

The great thing about TV shows is that you can give a character or group of characters a complete story in a single episode’s run time. The Knuckles series isn’t just a good place to set up some stuff for Sonic 3, it’s a great place to set up stuff for the franchise as a whole going forward.

You know what would be cool? An episode where Knuckles just had to work with the Chaotix. While Sonic, Tails, and whoever else is with them go off to explore a planet or check out its local cuisine (mostly off-screen), Knuckles hires the bumbling detectives to find the next clue for finding his people or whatever he’s doing. Hijinks, of course, ensue.

A few episodes just establishing characters while Knuckles is on his adventure is a stellar way to bring new Sonic characters into the franchise.

Let the IDW Creative Team Work on an Episode or Two

You know who’s been consistently producing the best Sonic stories for the past four years? IDW. Yes, they’re busy people. Ian Flynn is working on a friggin game. I don’t care. Flynn has experience working in TV, Evan Stanley’s been doing great work at IDW for years, bring one or both of them in for an episode or two. I’m sure you all can work it out.

Nothing would make the fandom more excited for the series than their involvement, and they’re input would be nothing but a net benefit for the show. Please make this happen!

Dive Into the History of the Chaos Emeralds

Sonic 2 remained fairly vague on the details regarding the history of the Master Emerald and the Chaos Emeralds. Since Knuckles is the character most directly connected to the gemstones, a series about him ought to dive deeper into their history. How did the echidnas get their hands on the chaos emeralds? How did they create the Master Emerald? What other sorts of conflicts were the emeralds involved in? Heck, where did the Chaos Emeralds come from? SEGA has always been cagey about the Chaos Emerald’s origins, but that’s no reason for the movies to not touch on that in some way.

Whether its Tikal, Knuckles’ people, or a plot exposition fairy, the Knuckles series is the perfect opportunity to dive deeper. And if this does happen, Chaos and the chao ought to also be brought in, at least in some capacity. Chaos was the original Master Emerald guardian after all, and we know he wasn’t inside the Master Emerald in this universe. Maybe when the echidnas took the emeralds, he was imprisoned somewhere or something?

Basically, Make This a Weird Sonic Adventure Adaptation Set in Outer Space

I mean, this is basically what this whole article has been leading to, hasn’t it? Sonic Adventure was, in many ways, basically Knuckles’ story. His people, home, and the Master Emerald all sit at the center of the game’s events. It is the perfect game to mine for Knuckles-centric plot elements, and the many changes the SMU has made to the echidnas makes the game’s plot elements all the more enticing for a Knuckles TV series.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve expected that Paramount already knows what it wants from a Knuckles series. So far, their Sonic writers have had a decent idea of what to take from the games. They’ve already grabbed bits and pieces from Sonic Adventure. I just hope they go back to that well again for this.

Sonic Movies, Baseball, and Found Family Dynamics

*** SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS AND SCREENSHOTS FROM THE END OF SONIC 2 ***

When I went into the first Sonic movie more than two years ago, I wasn’t expecting much. I was incredibly cynical about the whole affair, in fact. “Sure,” I thought, “they made the design better. But plenty of terrible movies can still look nice.” Then, the Paramount and SEGA logos rolled, and the movie spent the next 13 minutes winning me over, before one moment finally sealed it. It demonstrated this movie was going to be more than pop culture references and Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey. This was a movie about a lonely kid that, shockingly, had a heart. Here, SEGA’s cool blue mascot was in a bad place, and desperately needed to find a way to move forward.

By the end of it he did, and it all started at a baseball field.

After giving the audience a tour of his adopted home, Green Hills, Sonic goes to a baseball game. A team wins, and they celebrate together, something Sonic is clearly envious of. Later, after nightfall, Sonic takes to the field and uses his speed to pretend to be an entire team. As a scene, there is a lot to like here: it features a creative use of Sonic’s speed, it shows what he’s capable of, and it also gives more screen time to establishing his character. The personalities Sonic gives his “teammates” are cute, and Ben Schwartz does a superb job bringing the whole thing to life. But then Sonic hits the ball, fails to catch it, “wins” the game by a hair, readies himself for the same sort of adulation he saw earlier only to experience…nothing. Because he’s alone.

For a moment, his cheerful façade cracks, and Sonic does something he never does in the games: he loses his cool. Overwhelmed by his loneliness, he unleashes all his pent-up frustrations by running laps around the field. This leads to a power outage across the entire Pacific Northwest, which naturally gets the attention of the US government and leads to Sonic getting discovered. More importantly, it also starts Sonic on a two-movie-long journey to finally experience what he saw on that field.

Two years later, Sonic was playing baseball again, but this time he wasn’t alone. He had an entire family to play with, celebrate with, and go off for ice cream with. As a scene, it acts as a very effective bookend to Sonic’s journey to end his loneliness and find his place in the world. Years after losing one family, he’s found another.

The through line these scenes book end ultimately make up the emotional core of these otherwise fairly trivial popcorn flicks, which makes them probably the most important ones of the entire film series so far. As cool as any of the action sequences are, and as effective as the characterization is for Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails, it would all mean next-to-nothing without that emotional core. Enjoyable movies aren’t built on action, pop culture jokes, weird Jim Carrey antics and Olive Garden gift cards. They are built on character, more specifically making audiences care about those characters.

Caring about Sonic and wanting to see him find that family he so desperately needs gives those action scenes weight. They make the bad jokes and Jim Carrey antics bearable. They make Sonic feel like a character and not a walking collection of dated references, and they give him a means to connect to characters like Tom, Tails, and Knuckles, creating the most effective and impactful scenes across both movies.

Of course, plenty of movies do the “found family” thing better, with Pixar’s Luca and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy executing it more effectively. The concept is also nothing new for Sonic as a franchise. Tails is Sonic’s little brother in the games, and the Freedom Fighters are basically Sonic’s surrogate family in both SatAM and Archie. Regardless, if someone had told me a few years ago that I’d get a little emotional at a scene in a Sonic movie where Sonic called a human “dad,” I’d call you a damn liar.

These movies had everything going against them from the beginning. From out of touch executives, to the terrible track record of video game adaptations, to how regularly terrible movies with cartoon animal sidekicks usually are! And yet, somehow, Sonic was able to find box office, audience, and (modest) critical success. Twice. Some will put the credit on the redesign and “listening to fans,” but the actual reason is much more fundamental: the movie’s writers were smart enough to give the characters heart, rooted in a game of baseball, that sprang forth into the most successful video game film franchise of all time.

As we move forward into a wider cinematic universe, I can only hope the Sonic Movie Universe’s creatives don’t lose sight of this. That heart is something that must be built upon and expanded, in order to keep audiences invested in these characters and their adventures.

Sonic Talk Podcast: Sonic 2 Movie Spoilercast Special

Everyone on Sonic Talk has finally seen Sonic 2, and we’ve brought our thoughts to the podcast alongside our guest and boss Dreadknux!

With five different views, good discussion is guaranteed! But of course, with loads of people comes a lengthy discussion, as we dissect and debate the entirety of the movie and its characters in depth. So be sure to grab a snack and drink before hand, or save us for when you’ve got some chores or work to do! Either way, check us out below:

Sonic Talk Podcast 85: My Favorite Sonic Character is the Olive Garden


Sonic Talk episodes are finally returning to our Youtube, and we’re starting with the latest episode, recorded March 31. In this, we talk about the Sonic 2 Pre-quill comic, the last bit of Sonic movie news before the release of the movie, and Tails’ debut as a Vtuber, among other things!

But first, we talk about the latest things we’ve been playing, including Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Mario Kart 8’s DLC. Check out the episode below:

TSS Movie Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

You’d be forgiven for wondering if the success of the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie was a total fluke. After all, were it not for intense community feedback (and eventually the artistic talents of Tyson Hesse), the blue blur’s big-screen debut would have surely flopped. But with a car crash swiftly avoided, and the fanbase on-side as a result, it would have been easy for Paramount to rest on its laurels and phone it in for the sequel. Especially with the introduction of rival Knuckles the Echidna to automatically guarantee fan support.

Continue reading TSS Movie Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

RUMOR: Sonic 2 Happy Meal Toys Coming Soon?

It’s been almost two decades since Sonic and friends have been part of a McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion, but it looks like Sonic will be returning to the Golden Arches very soon. Yesterday, several images hit Twitter showing three (out of six) Sonic 2 Happy Meal toys. Tails, Knuckles, and a yet unknown Eggman robot. The images were quickly taken down due to a copyright claim.

Now, McDonald’s just started a Stitch Happy Meal promotion, so if this is true, don’t expect to see the toys for a few weeks, and it may depend on what country you are in. While we’re putting this under rumor, the images being taken down quickly due to a copyright strike would suggest that they could be the real deal.



Sonic 2 Chinese New Year Posters Show Brand New Renders

It may be the Year of the Tiger, but for us Sonic fans, it will always be the year of the hedgehog. Paramount Pictures Malaysia has just released some new advertisements celebrating the Chinese New Year. You can see these new renders down below. Sonic 2 hits theaters on April 12 and April 28 in Malaysia.



Sonic Meme Round-Up: Doc Ock Floats His Way into Sonic Twitter

So, we’re trying something new today: a round-up of all the Sonic related versions of the latest meme craze on Twitter. For anyone who doesn’t frequent social media (or wisely has their media preview setting switched to “off”) the internet is obsessed with photoshopping various things onto this image of Doc Ock altered by twitter user @Rawbertbeef. He removed Doc Ock’s mechanical arms, making him look like some sort of all-powerful being.

For context (and for assisting Sonic fans in their own meme-making) I’ve got the original, unaltered image below:

If you want a version without a background, you can find it here.

If you make your own, link it to us in the comments! If you find someone else’s on Twitter, link to the tweet (not the image).

Anyway, check out what horrible things the internet has wrought below! In an effort to make sure people are credited, we’re only embedding ones we’ve found on Twitter. If any of these don’t belong to the posters, we’ll try to correct it, but please don’t take this too seriously! We’re all just trying to enjoy some fun memes here!

First, we’ll start with the obvious one, created by my boss, which is his most popular tweet of all time, apparently. Because he’s my boss I’m obligated to say its the best one (it’s not):

When all is said and done, this tweet is what Dreadknux will be remembered for.

And now the rest!

If you find one on Twitter, link to the tweet (not just the image) in the comments. If you make one, feel free to share it in the comments. Keep it PG, please!

Not Sonic related, but here’s one more:

2021 Was the Year of Weird Mobile Crossovers

Sonic is no stranger to the FOMO demon that is mobile game limited time events. He’s hung out with PAC-MAN, he jammed with Taiko no Tatsujin, and Puyo Puyo Quest… is also a thing. That happened. And I really, really wish didn’t.

Pictured above: A mistake.

Anyhow, SEGA went mad with Sonic guesting in mobile games left and right. Here’s the breakdown:

Ulala: Idle Adventure

Ulala is an idling RPG where you and three other pre-historic adventurers team up to travel many lands, grinding experience and taking on bosses in automated battle. You’ll incrementally upgrade your fighter with equipment, abilities, and animal friends. This was one of the few games I legitimately enjoyed my time with and continued to play regularly for six months. You get some pretty significant benefits chipping in about $5 a month. If you’re after event cosmetics, the cost is miserable, but if you just want to play the game, it’s pretty generous.

During the Sonic event, the blue boy himself has been thrown into this world by a portal, and he’ll need you to recharge enough energy to send him home by playing a very basic Sonic Dash-like minigame, and then inflicting as much damage to Eggman as possible. Your reward for completing tasks (and/or spending heaps of premium currency) is Sonic and Eggman cosmetics, the coolest of which is Eggman’s mustache, which lets your character pilot the hovercraft between encounters.

Fist of the North Star LEGENDS ReVIVE

I’m a bit of a Shonen Jump fan, and my heart leapt at the thought of just how profoundly asinine this would be. I was not disappointed.

Legends Revive is a gashapon (or gacha) character collecting RPG following the events of the Fist of the North Star manga and anime, where expert martial artist Kenshiro walks the wasteland of the post-apocalypse and punches brawny Mad-Max rejects until they explode into viscera. So yeah, perfect game to add Sonic to. There’s no context to why Sonic’s there. He just is, bringing along a bunch of music that either doesn’t quite fit the tone of the game, or fits it perfectly.

The game itself is a mess of a design. The RPG part is simple, just tap your characters in the order you want to attack, do it at the right time to maintain a combo, and occasionally pop off super moves. But there are so many menus and modes and stores and daily missions stacked on top of it. The menu is awash in icons, it’s barely navigable and incredibly disorienting.

It’s not a good game, not in the slightest, but it had me hooked for a solid month on the novelty of running through the story and watching an extremely overpowered Sonic go super with his 1980’s beefcake anime buddies as Live and Learn blares out my tablet speakers.

Dx2 Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation

I’ve seen that game’s title arranged about five different ways, so I don’t know what word order is supposed to be the most accurate anymore.

Sonic as a demon in an SMT Digital Devil-style world is conceptually funny, but the game just couldn’t hold my attention very long. Your avatar is conscripted into a war between two factions of fighters, each battling SMT style with digital demons on your phones. Much like the series proper, you’ll be recruiting, fusing, and building elemental combos with various demons, though this edition lets you recruit via gacha.

It isn’t bad. The visual style is very SMT, the characters can get a little wild, and boy is there plenty of story. But I think my hesitance just comes down to my lack of experience with the primary series. If you’re an SMT fanatic and don’t mind juggling your standard free-to-play complications, it seems like it has a touch more depth than you might expect from a mobile RPG.

I’m mad that I like this game. It doesn’t deserve praise, but darn it, it has really solid production values, fun characters, and entertaining writing. It’s also EVERY irritating mobile game design wrapped into a single package. Not only is it a town-building timer-waiting resource-tapping slog, but it’s also a gacha-collecting RPG-incrementing money-dumping grind.

The Sonic content was pretty entertaining, but it was designed for players at a much higher level than you could likely get to in the brief time the event ran. You could get adorable cookie version of both Sonic and Tails, but only by exchanging rings for pulls from a specialty limited-quantity gacha. If you got seven Chaos Emeralds from it, you could unlock one of the two heroes, but it sure seems like that seventh emerald was rigged to be the VERY LAST item you’d nab from the lot.

The production value of the Sonic content itself is great, with Smith and O’Shaughnessey doing voicework for the duo. With the event’s town-building decor, you can fill your town with Green Hill palm trees and chili dog stands. The cookies are cute, and they can do anything that any of the other characters can… but if you wanted them to get you past the third stage of their special Green Hill Eggman Battle stages, you’ll be out of luck. The power requirement jump between each Sonic RPG stage was huge. But don’t worry, for only $20, you could get the big pack that might net you 60% of a Sonic. Or one of the dozens upon dozens of subscriptions and packs in their store. I’d legitimately love to see the story to its conclusion, but I just don’t think I have the patience, persistence, and fortitude to do so.


It was beyond unusual to get a continuous stream of Sonic mobile game guest appearances, but I predominantly have three takeaways:

First, the best crossovers are the ones that are just completely nonsensical and provoke the strongest dissonance possible.

Second, trying to grapple with three Japanese/Korean gacha RPGs across three months is both expensive and spiritually draining.

And finally, Puyo Puyo Quest currently has somewhere in the realm of 2500 characters and character variants, and many of them are deeply upsetting. The Sonic event from a previous year returned, and I got Ringo cosplaying as Shadow. The game is a worse version of Puzzle and Dragon. I’m ending this article with a picture of Arle dressed as Eva Unit 001:

Happy New Year, I guess?

2021 Was the Year of Waiting for Trailers

While it may still feel fresh in everyone’s mind, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces were released in late 2017. We are four years divorced from those games (five by the time we get the next major release), with only one Sumo Digital racer and a piece of significant DLC between. We as Sonic fans don’t typically have to wait as long for the next big thing, even if the next big thing is a disappointment. We’re hungry, and we can’t stop thinking about what’s next.

2021 came with multiple new game announcements, a couple new trailers, and in spite of all that, we still don’t have a firm idea on what that next thing is.

May’s Sonic Central was a firehose of announcements, from the first official reveal of Sonic Colors: Ultimate to King Ice’s big gaudy necklaces to putting fictional doctors and athletes in Sonic mascot suits. But wedged in there were announcements for Sonic Origins, a collection of the core 16-bit Sonic platformers, and some sort of game where Sonic runs through the woods with digital effects (we now know as Sonic Frontiers). Despite these reveals, both slotted for next year, we have not actually seen their respective games. We’ve seen messaging, aspirations, and broad genre and style proclamations, but we’ve not seen an actual fully-formed game idea that will clearly go on to become a retail product.

While I don’t think the infamous Sonic Cycle has held real power for over a decade, SEGA’s marketing strategy remains as frustrating as ever: they seed teasers and extremely limited reveals long before they show any context, letting everyone’s mind go wild with possibilities before eventually grounding us in the reality of the game they are actually making. I’ve seen so many fans envision what Sonic Frontiers would be/could be/should be based on slow pans of landscapes and 4chan leaks from 2019, but the hard reality is that we still know very little of what that game is now and what it will be a year from now. The Game Awards trailer only contains three real pieces of information about the game:

1. The next Sonic game is open world.

2. It has open, natural environments with ancient-civilization-style points of interest dotted throughout.

3. There are one or more giant enemies.

At the very least, these core concepts have been around long enough that a CG animation studio (Marza or otherwise) was able to complete pre-rendered cutscenes for the trailer. What they don’t show during this trailer is what Sonic does, which, you know, is kind of important for a game. But the goal here admittedly wasn’t to show the game itself. The goal was messaging, and the message is, “We are working on the next game, and we’re winding up for a big risky swing.”

Weirdly, Origins is an even tougher nut to crack. We’ve either seen 60% of the game already if the collection compiles the Retro/Star Engine remakes (or some modification of them) while finally adding Sonic 3 & Knuckles to the lineup, or we’ve seen literally nothing if they’re using some other engine to recreate these games in 16:9. That said, development must have been incredibly early when SEGA announced it, since the Sonic Central reveal contains no actual video of the collection itself (as denoted by the “Original Gameplay” disclaimer in the corner and all the 4:3 footage of Sonic 3/Sonic & Knuckles).

In the same vein, we still know precious little about next year’s new animated series, Sonic Prime, save for some concept art we weren’t supposed to see. We know it’s some manner of multiverse show coming from Man of Action and WildBrain, two groups whose outputs vary wildly in quality and demographic aim. If there’s any room for more definitive feelings about a future Sonic project, the one space where we did get a trailer with plenty of information was for Paramount’s Sonic 2 movie. It’s more Ben Schwartz and Jim Carrey antics, but with game references and Idris Elba. You probably already have a sense of whether or not that appeals to you.

I’m left excited and anxious for 2022, not because I can point to anything and say “I think this will be good” or “I think this will be a trash fire.” I just need to know. 2021 wasn’t an appetizer, it was looking at a menu and imagining the best and worst possible scenarios. Making a satisfying open world game is difficult and time consuming for any development studio, but Sonic Team certainly have plenty of time. Templates for really satisfying open world games exist, such as Breath of the Wild and Shadow of the Colossus, and the Frontiers trailer has an interest in both.

These 2022 projects are still a ways out, it’s worth reiterating that. But who can blame us for walking away from 2021 disoriented. We were told so much, and yet we were told so little. Until we actually have a clear vision of what next year’s games and cartoon are, we’ll be entering 2022 still waiting for trailers.

TSS @ SHC 2021 SNOLF: Tournament Edition

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.

TSS @ SHC 2021: Dash Adventure 2

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.

TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic the Hackable Splash Hill Demo

To many die-hard Sonic fans, Sonic 4 is a game unworthy of its title, with a physics engine more closely related to Dimps’ DS past than the Genesis/Mega Drive trilogy. But what if Sonic 4 was a Genesis game? CHRdutch gives us a taste of what that might be like in this Sonic 1 hack which covers Splash Hill Zone acts 1-3.

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”.

TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic Mania Mod Roundup

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

Mystic Cave Zone Mania-fied

Submitted by campbellsonic
Mod Download Page

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

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

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

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

Sonic the Hedgehog: Lost Island Demo

Submitted by CartoonsAnimate22
Mod Download Page

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

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

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

Sonic 2 Mania

Submitted by AChickMcNuggie
Mod Download Page

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

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

Sonic Vintage

Submitted by ZachmanAwesomeness
Mod Download Page

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

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

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

TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic Debut

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.

TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic Forces Re-Imagined

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.

TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic the Hedgehog Blastless DX

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.

A screen from the hidden DOS graphics mode.

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!

TSS & SHC 2021: Shivery Mountainside

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.

TSS @ SHC 2021: Sonic Forces Overclocked

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.

This demo features its own omochao. Attack it, and it’ll remind you it has a chainsaw for an arm.

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.