Most Influential Moments in Sonic Games

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.

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The Spin: So About Those SEGA NFTs… (Updated)

Update: On May 4, Double Jump.Tokyo announced plans to move onto an Asset Mirroring System to diversify cryptocurrency payment sources and move towards environmentally sustainable options.

Almost a week ago, TSS reported on SEGA buying a stake in Double Jump.Tokyo and announcing plans to mint and sell NFTs. According to the official press release, SEGA expects to sell NFTs of art and music assets from classic SEGA IP, and plans to incorporate the technology into new IP – to which the reaction from Sonic fans on social media were mainly negative.

Debates have since ensued over what does and doesn’t constitute an environmental impact, and whether or not NFTs themselves contribute to that environmental impact. The short answer is, no, SEGA’s NFTs won’t dramatically contribute to the massive global resource sink that is crypto mining. However, this investment indisputably moves SEGA into that economy, and that itself has caused concern for many fans, including myself with regards to what direction their business is moving. In this article, we will address what exactly the technology is, why it’s controversial, and why I personally am concerned.

So let’s address this by first starting with the baseline. What is the blockchain, what is cryptocurrency, and what is an NFT?

Blockchain technology is a manner of storing data where all new data is grouped into chunks (or “blocks”) and added to the end of a long running chain of data. Each chunk has a unique ID or a “hash,” and the blockchain knows what order all the blocks are in because each block contains the hash of the previous block. Because you can only add new blocks at the end of the chain, blockchains act as a running record, or a timeline, of the data. Every person participating in the blockchain keeps copy of the blockchain and becomes partially responsible for helping maintain the blockchain.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are two of the most widely used cryptocurrencies today, and they both currently require “mining” to sustain themselves. The currency itself is the reward users are issued for helping create new blocks and, in turn, helping maintain the blockchain. But the process of creating new blocks is like having your computer play a guessing game with every other mining computer.

I’m oversimplifying this, but here’s basically what happens:

The blockchain needs to get its next block because it contains all the new transaction data that it needs to store (stuff like “Sonic transferred 0.01 Ethereum to Tails”). It does so by incentivizing miners to figure out what the next block’s hash will be. Using an algorithm, your computer processor churns out guesses as quickly as it can. If it can correctly guess what the new hash will be, the new block is created, and the first person to do it gets awarded with some cryptocurrency for doing so. To find the “right” guess for the next hash, miners could be attempting tens of millions of incorrect guesses before a new block is made.

So if you have a computer that can process hash guesses faster than others in this constant worldwide lottery, you have a better chance at “winning” the next block’s reward. Or if you have a really nice GPU capable of mining. Or a whole rack of computers. Or an entire warehouse. Or an industrial complex strategically located near a cheap coal-fueled power grid. All of those processors doing all that computing work to produce tens of millions of wrong guess calculations just so the blockchain can process another ten or fifteen seconds of data, and only one person or business (or pool of people) gets rewarded each time.

Much like cryptocurrency, NFTs are a kind of data that can be stored in a blockchain. NFTs are a piece of metadata that specify a URL to a file, and an owner. So, for example, if I’m a digital artist, and I want to sell my work, I can host it on a server (or find a hosting service), use a service to create an NFT of that art, and sell it on a marketplace with whatever selling rules I choose attached to it. The catch is, it will be bought with cryptocurrency, because NFTs are generally sold in cryptocurrency marketplaces. However, any NFT runs into at least one important risk: if that file specified by the NFT ever disappears from the server, or if the server outright goes away, (or if you run into complications with marketplaces and terms of service) you may eventually wind up owning a dead URL.

Because the whole crypto economy is still in wild flux, a lot of companies are making very public, often cynically motivated moves into crypto to wrangle quick profit out of it, to establish themselves as impact-making players in the crypto space, or to just avoid being left behind. Kodak tried and failed to gain foot in that space, right before moving into pharmaceuticals (no really, they actually did that). You may remember that time years ago when a New York iced tea bottler spiked their stock value by changing their name to “Long Blockchain Corp.” The current NFT boom was in part sparked by the NBA selling collectable video clips, the rarest of which are reselling for literally hundred of thousands of dollars. You can bet every entertainment company is discussing NFTs internally whether they actually intend to mint them or not. And if they aren’t discussing it, their investors are.

Maintaining a blockchain does require a certain amount of power across all the computers working within it, but when people discuss the ecological impact of cryptocurrency and NFTs, they usually mean mining. So long as cryptocurrencies hold significant monetary value, there will be an arms race to get them, and the only ways to compete are through either size or efficiency, and both come with huge caveats.

The majority of mining still uses some combination of renewable and non-renewable energy, with more half of all energy consumption coming from non-renewable sources. More miners and bigger miners mean more demand on power plants. Hydroelectric stations can only produce power at a certain rate, while wind and solar can only generate power when conditions are optimal. However, mining is a process that demands consistent and intensive power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thus miners turn to fossil fuel plants, like coal, oil, or natural gas.

When these fossil fuels burn, they release toxins and great amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (this is what people mean when they refer to a “carbon footprint”). Far, far more than we normally make with our lungs. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means higher global temperature because carbon dioxide traps the heat generated by our sun’s radiation. Higher global temperature means disrupted weather patterns. Hotter hots, harsher and more frequent storms, and the oceans slowly encroaching on coastline. On top of the environmental impact, electricity is subject to supply and demand, so higher electrical demand means higher cost for everyone on that electrical grid.

Continued development of more efficient mining technology may, at best, only briefly mitigate the problem. Many cryptocurrency blockchains are designed in such a way that the complexity of the algorithm needed to find the next hash increases once a certain number of blocks are formed. More complexity means more computing power needed, and thus the only possible way more efficient mining could actually work is if advancement itself outpaces the rate that blocks are mined.

So with ALL that out of the way, let’s get back to SEGA.

SEGA entered agreement with and bought a stake in Double Jump.Tokyo, a blockchain/crypto-focused company whose central game My Crypto Heroes allows users to buy and sell game characters and items on crypto marketplaces. My Crypto Heroes’ economy runs on Ethereum, the second most prolific cryptocurrency, just behind Bitcoin. Ethereum is a Proof-of-Work blockchain where anyone’s chance of getting a payday is proportional to the amount of processing power they’re contributing, thus, it is a currency that encourages competitive mining. Ethereum has expressed interest in moving towards a Proof-of-Stake structure that limits who can mine and how much, but they haven’t fully executed on that yet, plus even Proof-of-Stake systems still requires some amount of mining.

We do not yet know what cryptocurrency system SEGA will be operating in, but Ethereum remains at the heart of the NFT marketplace as we currently know it, and Double Jump.Tokyo itself currently deals in Ethereum. Even if SEGA does not do any mining themselves, they will likely be entering an economy that is built on the back of mining.

Thus, opinion splits here:

Do you believe that any engagement with a wasteful mining system is tacit acceptance or approval of that system? OR do you believe SEGA should only be held accountable for what they are directly doing?

Wherever you fall with that will be purely philosophical.

My personal feelings on SEGA selling NFTs is in how it represents them as a business and how they treat their own legacy of games. There isn’t any need use NFTs to make digital collectables. SEGA has made both physical and digital collectables for years through their mobile games, their MMOs, and their partnerships with toy companies. NFTs in concept aren’t a hot new idea. They’re an old idea in a much more obtuse package with a lot of strings attached.

While most of SEGA’s traditional customers don’t own or use Bitcoin or Ethereum, SEGA still sees NFTs as enough of a priority to buy part of a company and get in on crypto. I don’t know if SEGA legitimately sees a long-term plan for positioning themselves in the crypto space, but if they are, selling scans of classic game art is an unambitious and uncreative start.

Optimistically, I’d say that this is just a business diversification that they can divest out of if (when) the bubble bursts. Pessimistically, this is SEGA joining the blockchain to make investors happy or to chase a big pay off. I am not implying in any way that this is SEGA moving away from publishing traditional video games. But companies build reputation by having a clear, strong philosophy, and using that philosophy to drive decisions; I’m concerned that SEGA is buying into this somewhat dubious one – and hopefully they won’t be following in the shallow footsteps of companies like Atari. Nobody should follow in the footsteps of Atari.

5 Things the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Movie Needs (And 3 Things It Doesn’t)

So, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is about a year old now. Like many, I was absolutely surprised to see that it wasn’t a train wreck. I actually rather enjoyed it! With a sequel on the horizon, there are many things I’d like to see, as well as a few things I hope I don’t.

Continue reading 5 Things the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Movie Needs (And 3 Things It Doesn’t)

The Spin: Roger Craig Smith Was Sonic’s Best Game Voice Actor, and Will Be Missed

I was at E3 2010 when I heard the news that Roger Craig Smith would be taking over as Sonic’s voice actor. As I sat in a corner of the convention center and hurriedly typed out an article about it for Sonic Stadium, I was only feeling one thing: excitement. This, on top of playing Sonic Colors – easily the most promising Sonic game I had experienced in years – really made it feel like SEGA was working hard to revitalize the character. 

Continue reading The Spin: Roger Craig Smith Was Sonic’s Best Game Voice Actor, and Will Be Missed

Sonic Prime: An Opportunity To Unite A Multiverse of Fans

Sonic Prime, the latest Sonic the Hedgehog animation due for release on Netflix in 2022, will descend from a long dynasty of animations that reach all the way back from 1993’s slapstick Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, through to the modern charm of Sonic Mania Adventures. Each show has cultivated its own personality, and legion of Sonic the Hedgehog fanatics to boot. Similarly, there are now a multitude of genre-crossing Sonic the Hedgehog video game titles, that you’d be hard pushed to not find something for everyone in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe.

Continue reading Sonic Prime: An Opportunity To Unite A Multiverse of Fans

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

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

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

Retrospective: Sonic Colors Ten Years Later

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

Continue reading Retrospective: Sonic Colors Ten Years Later

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

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

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

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

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

Sonic and the Black Knight

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

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

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

Sonic Lost World

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

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

Sonic Forces

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

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

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

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

Sonic Heroes

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

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

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

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



Sonic Unleashed

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Worst to Best: Why the New Sonic Movie Design Might Be the Best Sonic Design Ever

Early last year, the world saw the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and we got our first look at what the blue blur would finally look like on the silver screen. To say that fans, non-fans, and society in general had a very negative reaction to what was shown onscreen would be a gross understatement. From his small eyes, his wide head, pasty-white hands with clawed fingers and human-like proportions, Sonic looked hideous. Practically a monster. Continue reading From Worst to Best: Why the New Sonic Movie Design Might Be the Best Sonic Design Ever

Sonic & Knuckles is BETTER than Sonic 3, and Here’s 7 Reasons Why

It’s the 25th anniversary of Sonic & Knuckles! 1994 was the year of the Death Egg Saga, and on this day 25 years ago that saga ended with a rather innovative little cartridge. You might think of it as the second half of Sonic 3, but I think it deserves a more fitting title: the better half of Sonic 3! True, you can combine Sonic 3 & Knuckles to get the full experience, but today is Sonic & Knuckles’ birthday, not Sonic 3’s, and I say that if you look at them individually, you’ll find that Sonic & Knuckles has just a bit more to offer, and is the better game! Here are 7 reasons why this is the case.

Continue reading Sonic & Knuckles is BETTER than Sonic 3, and Here’s 7 Reasons Why

Sonic Talk 63: “Let’s be Sonic Heroes!”

Another month, another (incredibly late) episode of Sonic Talk!

In this episode, we discuss Sonic’s appearance in OK KO!, and how he single-handedly caused the series to end (kidding). We also chat about Tangle and Whisper, a Mighty plush, Sonic #19,  Mario and Sonic 2020 Olympics arcade and much, much more! So what are you waiting for? RECENT topics?!! Hah! Like we’d do that!


Download it here. 

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TSS Retrospective: The Needlemouse Debacle: Episode I

“Speed returns, in an all new 2D adventure built from the ground up.”

Ten years ago, on September 8th, 2009, mere hours before the 10th anniversary of the Dreamcast, SEGA dropped a teaser trailer for “Project Needlemouse.” Catching the gaming community by surprise, this mysterious project promised to bring Sonic the Hedgehog back to its 2D roots with a new 2D platformer in the style of the Mega Drive games. This project would later be officially titled Sonic the Hedgehog 4, an episodic download game that hoped to please the older Sonic fans who grew up with the classics.  Continue reading TSS Retrospective: The Needlemouse Debacle: Episode I

The Spin: The Rising Cost Of Sonic the Hedgehog Collecting

Who doesn’t like the constant reminder that Sonic the Hedgehog owns so much of our free time and money? As if our shelves weren’t already stacked high with game cartridges, many companies go out of their way to create a huge array of irresistible merchandise that become objects of desire amongst large parts of the fanbase. Entities such as First 4 Figures have established themselves as one such company that goes the distance and create highly detailed statues of video game and anime characters, Sonic and friends included, in gravity-defying and dynamic poses true to their source material. But as the complexity, scale, and limited nature / scarcity of these pieces of merchandise increase, so does the cost…

Continue reading The Spin: The Rising Cost Of Sonic the Hedgehog Collecting

TSS @ E3 2019: The Sega Genesis Mini (and not-so Mini) Hands-On

While a good chunk of Sega’s booth was dedicated to Mario and Sonic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, there was a corner showing off some of Sega’s other properties slated for release later this year. Among them was the Sega Genesis Mini, Sega’s answer to the NES and SNES Classic. I sat down in a bean bag (which means my fat rump had a hard time getting back up) and sampled SEGA’s miniaturized console.

The first thing you’ll notice when playing the demo at E3 is that the part of the booth you’re at looks like a living room, complete with a bean bag to sit in. Much like the virtual living room in some of the recent Genesis compilations, there are posters of Genesis games everywhere, along with with old VHS tapes with cheesy labels like “Cartoon collection! Do not erase!!” on them. They really went all-in on the “90’s bedroom” aesthetic.

The nostalgia doesn’t stop with the booth aesthetic, as the mini console itself gets a lot right. Its controller has an ergonomic feel and shape that perfectly replicates the original, and the console itself is a faithful, shrunk-down recreation of SEGA’s 16-bit system. Once you boot the mini console up, you’re treated to a screen filled with about a dozen Genesis titles, with the rest coming into view as you scroll down. I don’t know if I care for this, as it shrinks down the box art and makes each game feel less important. Hopefully, the interface can customized in the final product.

Despite the September release date, the console already feels ready for release, as all 42 games were playable on the show floor. I went with Mega Man: The Wily Wars and Road Rash 2 for this preview. Both played great and judging by Road Rash 2 alone, are identical to their original versions. The emulation is perfect.

Holding start for five seconds brings up a menu where you can make a save state and exit back to the main menu. There’s your usual options such as screen filters and what aspect ratio you want the game in, but one of the most interesting features is the language menu. You can set the game menu to many different languages and the games will play in their original language as well. Going back to aspect ratio, another neat feature is that many of the games feature a more natural 16:9 aspect ratio by zooming in on the game while keeping the UI in place. Sonic 2 was shown off as an example of that. It keeps the sprites from looking stretched, but at the cost of zooming in on the picture a bit.

Overall, with a great controller, cool menu features and pixel perfect emulation, the Sega Genesis Mini is something to get hyped for. It blows the old AtGames Genesis consoles out of the water in every way, and should definitely be worth picking up come September.

Adam Tuff on SEGA’s giant controller

In addition to the regular kiosks, SEGA also had a Genesis Mini running on a giant, 5-foot-wide Genesis controller that folks could play Streets of Rage and Sonic 2 on. When I tried to play Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant level, I had to stretch my arms out and punch the A button with my first just to get around. While it was a neat novelty, it wasn’t exactly the most wieldy controller, since I couldn’t even spindash with it.

 Still, even on this giant cumbersome monstrosity, I was able to get enough rings to enter the special special. As I began maneuvering Sonic and Tails through the half-pipe, a crowd formed around me. Despite the massive controller, I made it through and even got a small amount of applause! Here’s hoping SEGA’s booth features and equally cool gimmick next E3.

The Spin: Why Sonic’s Movie Design (Probably) Shouldn’t Change

To say it has been a tumultuous week in the Sonic the Hedgehog fandom is something of an understatement, with the first movie trailer seeing release and receiving a less than favourable reception (at time of writing, dislikes outweighed likes by 2-to-1 on YouTube). Continue reading The Spin: Why Sonic’s Movie Design (Probably) Shouldn’t Change

Sonic Talk Emergency Podcast: Movie Trailer Panic

We didn’t want to wait until the end of the month to talk about this one. Recorded the day after the trailer’s release, Jason, Alex and Chris discuss their opinions on the Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer. We may have seen leaked images early, but we weren’t going to pass judgement until we saw the hedgehog in motion. Well we did and…..it’s even worse than we thought. Join us and listen to what we thought of Sonic, James Marsden, Jim Carrey and more.

You can listen to it here:

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Sonic Talk 58: Sonic Got Bamboozeled

On this much shorter episode of Sonic Talk, Jason discusses Apex Legends (that other game with Roger Craig Smith) only for GX to suffer a power outage which results in about half an hour of our discussion being cut off. We still have plenty of Sonic news and a review of the first dozen issues of IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog. So prepare for 45 minutes of Sonic-y goodness!

The Knuckles comics were weird…and I loved them

When I was a kid, I had a special appreciation for media that didn’t talk down to me and tried to tell a good story with interesting lore and backstory. Knuckles the Echidna, a 32 issue monthly comic series from Archie Comics, did just that. Given Knuckles’ 25th anniversary, I thought it would be nice to revisit the comics in some way. I haven’t read them in some time (due in large part to their lack of easy digital availability) so I will be recounting my memories of the comic’s tone and themes somewhat vaguely and broadly. Hopefully, I will be able to do a deep dive into the comics in the future.

I had been reading Archie’s Sonic comics for a couple of years when the Knuckles the Echidna series got going. Knuckles was a character that got my attention before I was even exposed to his first game thanks to his cool design, his weird abilities, and most importantly his place in the story. Knuckles was that cool guest star character who only popped up occasionally, making his appearances feel special. He could not only could go toe to toe with Sonic himself, but often would, making him Sonic’s “rival,” at a time when that concept was still fresh to my young mind.

To me, Knuckles was the coolest Sonic character. I must’ve not been the only kid who thought that because Knuckles became pretty popular in the comics. His occasional appearances turned into regular back story appearances, which lead to a mini series, which finally led to a monthly ongoing…which was weird as all heck, but also very neat.

Enerjak, an all-powerful chaos-fueled being [Image Credit: Sonic News Network]
As I said before, the Knuckles series didn’t talk down to kids and tackled some subjects that most kids media didn’t put much focus on back then. The world had politics, including three distinct factions: the fanatical technophilic Dark Legion, the fascistic (and later racial minority) dingoes, and of course the citizens of Echidnapolis (who were predominantly echidnas, of course). The series even featured an entire arc devoted to the world’s politics and the tension building up between the factions. The comic also wasn’t afraid to deal with death and romance, going so far as to devote an entire three-issue story arc to Knuckles and Julie-Su’s budding love-life.

The comic also had a lot of backstory and lore. The tension between the Dark Legion and the citizens of Echidnapolis went back hundreds of years, to events involving Knuckles’ ancestors feuding over how technology should be used in echidna society. Before that, there was Enerjak, a power-mad entity created when one of Knuckles’ ancestors absorbed eleven of the island’s twelve chaos emeralds (yes, twelve) in an attempt to return Angel Island (called simply the Floating Island in the comics) to the planet. The series would often dive into this history to give the current day plot line a greater, more epic context, since the conflicts the comic covered often had roots going back centuries.

The comic had some echidna politics [Image Credit: Sonic News Network]
The comic also had loads of weird, often sci-fi concepts. The Dark Legion, who served as the comic’s primary villain faction, often sported loads of cybernetics to display their devotion to technology. These cybernetics could look kind of gruesome to me as a kid. Then there was the Brotherhood, a clandestine organization made up of Knuckles’ living ancestors, who as it turns out were inexplicably long lived, with the oldest being hundreds of years old at the start of the series (I’m not sure an explanation was ever given for that). The comic opened with the Dark Legion escaping from an alternate dimension known as the Twilight Zone, while the second arc focused on two dimensions holding the separate cities belonging to the echidnas and dingoes collapsing in on each other. Then there was Knuckles himself, who was genetically modified when his father, Locke, irradiated his egg with chaos energy to give him special powers.

So yeah, the comic was cool…and weird. Putting my childhood nostalgia aside, it was also flawed. The writing could feel stiff, and many characters often sounded like they were speaking with the same voice. The comic didn’t always make use of what should have been interesting plot revelations, such as when one member of the Brotherhood turned out to be a former leader of the Dark Legion.

This reveal did not have the emotional pay off one would expect: his son, who held a special hatred for the Legion, turned on him immediately, while the rest of the Brotherhood did not seem to express much emotional grief over their son/grandfather/great-grandfather/etc turning out to be a villain the whole time. We were also denied the satisfaction of a reunion between the Brotherhood and the man the Legionnaire replaced.

The lineage of guardians who protected the Floating Island, and later joined the Brotherhood. The living ones go all the way back Hawking, the one with the hat [Image Credit: Sonic News Network]
As I said before, its been a long time since I last read these comics. I don’t remember how pervasive the issues I mentioned above were, but they are there. As much as I enjoyed them as a kid, I couldn’t help but feel a bit…underwhelmed upon revisiting them.

That said, there’s still plenty about the comic that did age well. The interior art was mostly done by Manny Galan, one of the best artists Sonic comics have ever seen. He nails the look of a the comic’s characters and world perfectly, and his work is still a joy to look at. The comic also employed an interesting concept with its covers: each cover of the comic’s three issue story arcs could be combined together into a single image. These covers were mostly done by Sonic comic legend Patrick Spaziente, often depicting epic scenery and action.

The covers didn’t go together cleanly, but would often tell their own little stories. Here we have the arrival of the Dark Legion, a past tragedy from their formation, and the climactic present-day battle [Image Credit: Sonic News Network]
It’s kind of unfortunate these comics are so inaccessible in an age when nearly any comic can be bought online. This does, unfortunately, bring us to one of the reasons why I have difficulties going back to these books even when I do have access to my old copies: the Ken Penders lawsuit.

This is something I’d rather not get into right here, so I will keep it brief: I think every artist should be compensated for reprints of their work, and I wish Archie had worked something out with Penders to make that happen. I hope IDW does what they couldn’t. I also think that, by copywriting the characters he created, Penders effectively destroyed this comic’s legacy. Its characters will never be able to grace any Sonic comic continuity again. They have already faded into complete obscurity and they will never again be able to interact with the game characters they were created to flesh out. I think this is very unfortunate.

Though, in a sense, the Knuckles series being inaccessible does feel right to me. Back when the Knuckles comics were being made, I had difficulties getting ahold of them. My local book store didn’t carry them and the comic book stores that did kept going out of business. So to get them, I’d have to go to a Books-A-Million in Potomac, Virginia, which was an hourlong drive. I didn’t get to go often, but whenever I did and I got to see that Knuckles comic on the rack, it was always special. That reflects my feelings on the comic as a whole: special, memorable, and a series that will always evoke my childhood to me. I do hope inaccessibility does not become this series’ fate. So far as I’m concerned, it at least deserves more than this.

Maybe one day.

The Spin: The Freedom Fighters are Gone (and That’s Okay)

Before you send me a ton of hate mail, let me explain.

First, we gotta go back to the beginning of cartoon adaptions of video games. It wasn’t always easy to do. In the early days of video games you had a protagonist that you played as, an antagonist but no real story tying them together. If there was one, it was VERY bare bones. With very little to go on so the cartoon creators had to come up with some kind of plot that could play for 13 episodes on a Saturday morning. Continue reading The Spin: The Freedom Fighters are Gone (and That’s Okay)

TSS Review: Classic Sonic Totaku Figures

With the popularity of Amiibo figures, it was only a matter of time before other companies followed suit. Gamestop saw the profit in this and with their “ThinkGeek” brand made their own line of exclusive, “Amiibo-ish”, non-electronic figures called Totaku. They don’t interact with your games in any way, they just look pretty on a shelf and they have a plus-shaped base that allows you to connect the bases together for a nice display. It’s a neat way to get non-Nintendo figurines to stand side by side with your Amiibo ones. There are many characters in the line-up including Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Parappa the Rapper, Sackboy, Lara Croft, Kratos and many others.

But of course, I’ll be focusing on the classic Sonic trio recently released. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are all here in their classic glory. Each one with their own fine details. I’ll be going over each one individually.

Sonic

Sonic has his old finger waving pose with a 16-bit ring laying at his feet. There’s striped grass at the base with the checkerboard dirt underneath showing that he’s standing in the Green Hill Zone. This is the same for all three figures. The paint job is fairly well done with a few very tiny blemishes here and there. For instance, the white of the eyes bleed a tiny bit into the muzzle, but only if you’re looking at it from an upper angle. It’s a common flaw in Sonic figures. The ring has several different pixelated levels of colors to make it as exact to it’s game counterpart as possible which is a very nice touch.

Knuckles

Here he comes! Rougher than the rest of them! While he’s not guarding the master emerald, Knuckles is standing over a green chaos emerald. He’s got a cute smirk on his face and looks like he’s ready to enjoy a good fight at a moment’s notice. This is a real solid figure with no paint blemishes at all. Probably my favorite of the bunch.

Tails

Last but not least, Tails is seen flying just above the striped grass. Shown in a pose that says he’s ready to go and an adorable smile on his face, Tails paint job is also flawless. The only downside to this figure is that he has no extra object on his base. No ring, no emerald, just Tails.

Overall this figure set looks great. With the plus-shaped bases and striped grass, you can make a nice display that connects the three figures together. $10 American each isn’t too much for these quality figures. They also make a nice gift for the holidays. You can pick them up at Gamestop in the US, EB Games in Canada or GAME in the UK.

The Spin: Why Can’t EU Order From The Sega Store?

On October 17th 2017, Sega opened it’s own online shop which had many collectors of Sega merch screaming with delight, even prior to the opening to the opening of SonicMerchandise.Com, fans had been begging Sega to have a store which would be full of exclusive or hard to find merchandise. Continue reading The Spin: Why Can’t EU Order From The Sega Store?

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

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

The Spin: How Do You Save, What is Already Doomed?

If you look at some of the most popular debates between fans in the last 12 months, you’ll likely see issues with 2D Vs 3D rear it’s ugly head, the talk of tone in games being bashed around like a tired old deflated leather football, the popular debates are sadly the most tired and dull. Continue reading The Spin: How Do You Save, What is Already Doomed?

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

2010 was the year Sonic the Hedgehog came back. Yes, we all heard the stories about how the franchise had declined not long after the jump to 3D, how gaming news outlets and critics even now would begin their pieces with some variation of “Sonic has had a rocky history,” and how every new Sonic game released around the “dark ages” period couldn’t shake off the dreaded “Sonic Cycle.” Continue reading The Spin: How SEGA is Ignoring the Middle Children of Sonic’s Legacy

The Top 10 Sonic Games Of The 2000’s

2009’s almost out. That means we’ve enjoyed a whole decade of Sonic the Hedgehog goodness in the last ten years, from 2000’s Sonic Shuffle (for Americans, we didn’t get it until the year after, damn SEGA) to 2009’s Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. So, rather than just round up the games of the year, The Sonic Stadium crew have taken to list their Top 10 Sonic games of the decade!

This is how we’ve done it. A bunch of TSS Staffers wrote over their unique Top 10 (which will be listed at the end of this article). Along with it, a short paragraph as to why they ranked each game the way they did. When bunching all of these lists together, we formed an average by giving points to each game’s placement on each staffer’s countdown (so a #1 position would get 10 points, and a game in 10th place would get 1 point). Add all the points up, and we have our own, not-so-scientific average. What game will get TSS’ #1 Sonic Game of the Decade? Read on, dear reader… Continue reading The Top 10 Sonic Games Of The 2000’s

Opinion: Not-So-Mega Collection?

Dear me. Deary, deary me. Sonic Team are all over the shop about this one. Let’s start where it all began… a few months ago, Sonic Team announced (along with Sonic Advance 2) that they would be making a Sonic the Hedgehog compilation game for the Nintendo Gamecube. Fans of the blue hedgehog jumped for joy – and rightly so.

Continue reading Opinion: Not-So-Mega Collection?

Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: What Will be the Future for Sonic the Hedgehog?

At the rate Sega is going, Sonic looks set to win back some old fans of yesteryear. And with Sega going multi-platform, Sonic is going to be able to spin dash his way onto all the upcoming next-gen consoles. Although hardcore Sonic fans won’t like the sound of that, Sonic will win back everyone and gain trust in Sega. To that end, it’s fun to think about what will be coming next: here are the current rumours surrounding future Sonic titles. Continue reading Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: What Will be the Future for Sonic the Hedgehog?

Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: Sega’s Rivals

In the past, Sega has had tough competition from an old respected rival called Nintendo. Consequently, Sonic and Mario were constantly fighting for the Number One spot in people’s lives (of course, the hedgehog won). But aside from Ninty, who have been Sega and Sonic’s rivals, past and new? Well, here’s the lowdown on the bad boys. Continue reading Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: Sega’s Rivals

Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: Unforgettable Moments

Ah, the joys of playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Doesn’t matter if it was on Master System, Mega Drive, NGPC, Dreamcast or any other Sega console in the past, it’s always been a wonderful time. The marvellous adventures that loyal Sonic fans have had playing through the Sonic Adventure 2 Demo; finally getting to the climax of Sonic 3 & Knuckles… Playing Sonic has brought nothing but fond memories for the casual, or even Sonic-fanatic, gamer. Continue reading Sonic’s 10th Anniversary: Unforgettable Moments

Feedback Forum: Give SEGA a Break!

Sega has had its ups and downs – more downs than ups, but that was due to its consoles, not the games created for them. Sega tried to make the most out of every console they made (including the Sega Saturn, which was a mongoose to program for). So I believe that Sega is pretty good when it comes to making games. Just look in your local arcade for Christ’s sake! How many Sega cabinets do you see? Most of the games are made by them! Continue reading Feedback Forum: Give SEGA a Break!

OPINION: Dreamcast Dead?

Heard a rumour that the Dreamcast is dead? At first glance this may all seem like some sort of self-destructive pattern on Sega’s part , and that may make you lose your faith in the company as a fan. But, as this massive news special will soon explain, the odds are all in the favour of the Dreamcasters. First off, let’s address the rumours and stories and whatnot (that sounds SO English. Wait, I AM English).
Continue reading OPINION: Dreamcast Dead?