SHC 2020: Roundup #2: Technically Cool

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

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

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

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

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

DOOM in Sonic Mania
Submitted by TheStoneBanana

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

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

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

Sonic Mania J2ME
Submitted by Iso Kilo

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

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

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

SHC 2020: If You Want Another Sonic Lost World Level, Dead Lines Gives You What U Need

The hacking community isn’t just about Sonic Mania and crazy versions of the 16-bit Sonic games. There are plenty for the 3D games as well, including one by hacker AnotherBlob that takes Windy Hill Zone 1 from Sonic Lost World and turns it into a version of Dead Line Zone from Sonic Rush. While AnotherBlob admitting to rushing it out to meet the Sonic Hacking Contest deadline (ha), it’s a quality mod, though there’s some room for improvement.

Most of the level consists of small platforms and ramps floating in space that end with a fenced tunnel similar to the ones from original Dead Line level. Like any good Sonic level, Dead Line has its share of extra paths and shortcuts. One such path is small, blue ramp that you’ll find early in the level. If you spindash and aim just right, you’ll roll high off the ramp and over a large chasm, giving you a shortcut. There’s also a small, grinding section with some robots on the side, attack them and you can find a tube that will launch you high up to the top of some buildings where more badniks await. 

There are also five hidden red rings, which can be tricky to get to. I’ve only managed to find three in my time with the game, to give you an idea of how hard they can be to get. I got the first when spindashing over that chasm I mentioned earlier, one high up top of a building, and found another on the parkour tunnel near the exit. The level has some good replayability, as there are red rings and paths I still haven’t found even after several playthroughs.

While the level uses textures inspired by the DS original, and utilizes the level’s original music track, Hideki Naganuma’s What U Need, it’s also far from being an accurate 3D adaptation of the stage. The layout is very different and of course, this being a Lost World level, there’s no boost. As a result, this is more of a homage to the level than anything else.

The level has some difficult portions, such as one area where I had to spindash up a steep hills while avoiding spikes and Moro bugs. There is a long parkour tunnel to get through at the end that requires mastery of Sonic’s parkour ability. I stink at parkour and I’m not the best at wall-running, so it took me several tries. The difficulty’s fair, but it’ll definitely test your Lost World skills.

For all it does right, the level does have an issue caused by the flat, blue texture covering most of the structures. At one point, this texturing made it hard to get out of a large area where I had to run up a slope, but couldn’t see the way out. Some more texturing on the structures to make the exits more apparent would be nice, and I hope we’ll get that in a future update.

Texturing issues aside, Dead Line is a solid, well built Lost World level. It requires the full range of Sonic’s parkour moves, which can make it pretty difficult or anyone who hasn’t mastered his moves. It’s good for being a rushed project, and I look forward to seeing what the developer is able to do with more time. If you want more Lost World, you can’t go wrong here.

The Votes Are In! Here Are The Winners Of The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest

The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest has come to an end. After a week of live streams, videos, and articles, it is time to hand out trophies to the winners. These entries stood out from the crowd and achieved the highest in quality. Some of them even managed to win multiple trophies.

Continue reading The Votes Are In! Here Are The Winners Of The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest

SHC 2020: We’ve Gone Full Circle With Sonic Megamix Mania

Our 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest coverage continues as we look at another Sonic Mania mod demo that’s available to download, and it’s another one with plenty of content. It’s time to take a look at Sonic Megamix Mania.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHC 2020: Sonic 2 Mania Welcomes Sonic 2 To The Next Level

The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest is here, and so is our special coverage of it. Throughout the week, we’ll be shining the spotlight on some of the entries you can play this year. Our first one involves a recreation of one Classic Sonic game into another Classic Sonic game, Sonic 2 Mania.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Get A Preview Of Some Of The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest’s Entries In The New Trailer

By now, you’re probably aware of the 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest. Well, Contest Week is just 9 days away, so the team has released an official trailer to showcase just some of the entries you’ll be able to try out this year.

Continue reading Get A Preview Of Some Of The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest’s Entries In The New Trailer

TSS SAGE 2020 Roundtable: Some Other Games We Played

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

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SAGE 2020: Virtua Sonic Lets You See What it’s Like to be in Sonic’s Shoes…if He Could Get Motion Sickness

This year’s SAGE has been filled to the brim with quality, creative, and odd games. Fewer, however, so perfectly represent all three of these qualities like Virtua Sonic does. “Virtual reality Sonic” sounds like an awful idea on paper. VR games in general tend to struggle with allowing for movement without giving the user motion sickness, so how is a game about a high speed hedgehog that constantly spins around supposed to do it? Well, I don’t know…but somehow, Virtua Sonic isn’t the vomit-inducing VR experience I was expecting, and on top of that it’s…actually a surprisingly decent Sonic game!

First, it’s important that I talk about my own tolerance for VR, and my current set-up before I go on. Experiences like this are certainly not for everyone. I’ve been exposed to VR gaming for roughly four years now, starting with the HTC Vive back in 2016. Like a lot of people, I’m able to handle room scale VR (where you physically walk around a virtual space) for long stretches. Also like most people, standing VR games (where movement is handled via a controller while you just stand or sit) does make me sick, and my tolerance level for these games used to be 10-20 minutes, but that has marginally improved.

If you can’t handle these kinds of VR experiences, Virtua Sonic is not for you. That said, Virtua Sonic is actually one of the better standing VR experiences I’ve had. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the game design or my own tolerance, but I was able to play for 20 minutes before I started to feel sick, and I was able to play it for 40 minutes without having to put it down. Not bad! I played the entire thing on an Oculus Quest, connected to my computer via its Oculus Link feature. Oculus Link can be a bit jittery, and this occasionally got in the way of the experience, but I won’t be noting those aspects of the experience here, as that has nothing to do with the game.

Virtua Sonic plays surprisingly well and it is…mostly intuitive. You move by holding down buttons on the motion controllers and pumping them up and down like you’re “running,” and jumping is done by holding down the triggers and thrusting a controller down. Aside from running and jumping, all of Sonic’s moves are here, from the homing attack, to the light speed dash, stomp, spindash, and roll.

All of these moves are handled via a combination of motion controls and button presses. None of these moves are as intuitive to pull off as they are in the official games, but I eventually got used to them. That said, I did run into some problems. For one, the jumping controls just don’t feel natural in this game.

You jump by holding the triggers and thrusting a controller down, which just kept conflicting with what my brain wanted to do. I wanted to thrust the controller up, in the direction I wanted to move. I’m not sure if it would have interfered with other parts of the controls, but it took me until my third play session with the game to finally get used to it. The stomp, likewise, feels unnatural: you do it by raising your hands after a jump. Again, thrusting my arms down would feel more natural for a downward stomping motion.

But once I got used to everything, playing through the game actually felt pretty good. Like, way better than I ever would have expected a VR Sonic game to feel! Homing in on enemies, rolling, spin dashing, and light speed dashing all felt supremely satisfying. There’s even a move in the game where you basically need to “Naruto run” once you achieve a high enough speed. This allows you to retain your momentum and pull off all sorts of neat tricks like running on water or along walls. I admit, this could make me feel pretty goofy, but actually replicating Sonic’s running stance to run along a waterfall is also probably one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had in VR.

You’re going to need to master these moves to get through the demo. Aside from the tutorial stage, which is pretty linear and basic in its design, Virtua Sonic sports one full level and boss fight, and that level, Sakura Sanctuary, is big. It’s got multiple paths to to run through, and it gets increasingly large and expansive as it continues. It features design sensibilities similar to the superb Sonic GT, which isn’t surprising, since it’s based on the same tech as GT. The boss battle’s also pretty fun: you’ve got to chase down a big robot, using the physics and your moves to keep pace with it and bring it down.

It isn’t all roses, though, as the levels do have a few rough edges. In the tutorial stage, the hill that’s supposed to teach players how to jump is just a little too high, and I found myself consistently struggling to successfully scale it. There’s also an incline towards the end of Sakura Sanctuary that’s nearly impossible to get up consistently. Even spin dashing didn’t seem to work! These are small issues, but ones I found detrimental to the overall experience.

The game’s short, but it’s a complete package all the same. It tells a simple, complete story with good writing and solid voice work. Sakura Sanctuary and the tutorial stage are both gorgeous, and the selection of music (which includes a nice little track from NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams) works well with the levels. Once you beat the game you can play through both levels and the boss battle in Time Attack mode, which adds a bit of replay value.

I hope we get more projects like this. During an event that was full of surprises, Virtua Sonic may be the biggest of the lot. If you’ve got a VR set up and your stomach can take it, check it out! You wont be disappointed.

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

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

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SAGE 2020: Sonic Galactic is a Showstopper!

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

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SAGE 2020: Sonic 2 SMS Remake Goes Above and Beyond

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

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SAGE 2020: Sonic and the Mayhem Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAGE 2020: Mania Mods Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No single area has just one path through it.

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

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

You can do tricks too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This damn bird was a pain in my rear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonic GT can be downloaded here or here.

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

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

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

SAGE 2020 Site Knocked Offline by Record Breaking Traffic, Backup Site Now Up

SAGE 2020 is doing so well this year that the event’s website has broken from the sheer amount of traffic! As we reported when the event launched yesterday, the website has been down since everything started. Despite this, the website logged more than 3.5 million hits in its first 16 hours. Although these are for visits, not individual users, this is a significant uptick from the 100,000 hits the event scored in its first 24 hours last year.

Thankfully, SAGE 2020 has been doing everything it can to keep the event going despite these technical issues. While they work with the site’s ISP, SAGE 2020 has launched a back up website with secondary links to many of the event’s games. You can check it out here.

If you’re a SAGE exhibitor, and your game does not yet have a secondary link on the back up website, be sure to let SAGE know through its discord server!

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAGE 2020 Starts Today!

The 20th edition of the Sonic Amateur Game Expo, SAGE 2020, has officially launched! The long running online fan event will have a whopping 250+ games this year, including loads of Sonic fan games, mods, and original titles. This massive selection shows just how far this event has since its inception as a small Sonic community event back in 2000.

Unfortunately, the website is currently experiencing technical difficulties, but you can find alternate download links for some of SAGE’s projects on Twitter, here.

Be sure to stay tuned to Sonic Stadium throughout the event for coverage of some of the events games! You can already see our coverage of one of the games here.

The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest Website Is Now Open To Submit Entries

If you have been in the mood to try out some Sonic ROM hacks, 3D mods, 2D PC mods, and more, then get ready. The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest begins in just 2 months, and the contest’s website is now live for people to enter their submissions.

Continue reading The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest Website Is Now Open To Submit Entries

Sonic Fan Hack Makes its Way into Netflix Documentary Series

Sonic fans can be talented. Very talented. They can be so talented, in fact, that the stuff they produce is sometimes confused with the real thing. The latest example of this can be found in Netflix’s new video game documentary series, High Score. Continue reading Sonic Fan Hack Makes its Way into Netflix Documentary Series

Sonic Composers Jun Senoue & Tee Lopes Feature In My Hero Academia Charity Performance

More than 80 musicians and cast members join Senoue and Lopes in a star-studded performance of “You Say Run” as part of the Anime Gives Back Again charity programme in aid of UNICEF.

Continue reading Sonic Composers Jun Senoue & Tee Lopes Feature In My Hero Academia Charity Performance

Popular Fangame Stirs Minor Controversy After Changing It’s Vision

When SEGA and Sonic Team are hard at work creating the next Sonic experience, some fans of the series are left to fill the gaps with their own creative endeavors. One of the more promising fangames is the impressive “Project Hero” which showcased the possibilities of a fully 3D action platformer that incorporates the best qualities of Sonic gameplay throughout the years.

Continue reading Popular Fangame Stirs Minor Controversy After Changing It’s Vision

14 Minutes Of Fan Game & Indie Footage Awaits In The New SAGE 2020 Trailer

September 5th – 11th, the week of SAGE 2020, is almost here. And that means it’s time to see what games will be playable. So, the team has released a lengthy trailer showcasing the many games that fans will soon be able to enjoy.

The trailer goes for nearly 15 minutes, and there is no shortage of games. People have been hyped for Sonic Chroma, which is one game that will be at SAGE 2020. Rad Venture and Hover Warz are making their SAGE debuts this year.

Another game that will be playable is Sondro Gomez. It’s returning to SAGE, but this time they have had some help from someone that may sound familiar to you. Headcannon, one of Sonic Mania’s developers, contributed to Sondro Gomez’s development.

But that’s not all. Submissions are still open until August 21st, so these aren’t even going to be all the games playable. And there’s still time to submit one, if you have been planning to do so. But, in the meantime, here’s the trailer:

Get Ready For Sonic Game Speedruns At Summer Games Done Quick 2020 Online

It will be online-only for this year, but Summer Games Done Quick 2020 Online is almost upon us. With just a month ago until the speed-running charity marathon event begins, the schedule of games was unveiled recently. And yes, the schedule includes a block of Sonic games.

Continue reading Get Ready For Sonic Game Speedruns At Summer Games Done Quick 2020 Online

Fan-made Radio Drama Sonic and Tails R Light-Speed Dashes onto YouTube

Hold onto your light speed shoes, remember that radio drama that was teased a while back? Well, it’s out now, and we couldn’t be happier to hear such an all-star cast lend their talents to what is shaping up to be quite an adventurous project!

Continue reading Fan-made Radio Drama Sonic and Tails R Light-Speed Dashes onto YouTube

Legacy Sonic Fan Site ‘Sonic Cage Dome’ Returns With New Crew

If you’re a bit of an old-timer in the Sonic community, you’ll remember a website called ‘Sonic Cage Dome’. Dedicated to online Sonic game tournaments and streamed multiplayer events (it was basically Twitch before Twitch happened), it had an enthusiastic gaming community and was even a part of the ‘TSS Network’. Now, ten years after it closed its doors, a new team has revived the project – just in time for Sonic’s 29th birthday. Continue reading Legacy Sonic Fan Site ‘Sonic Cage Dome’ Returns With New Crew

Watch Sonic Revolution 2020 on Twitch today! (6/20)

Sonic Revolution, the yearly Sonic convention normally hosted on the west coast of the United States will have it’s first digital convention and everyone can attend! The event will start at 10 am US pacific time on Twitch at this link. You can also chat with other Sonic fans and do “Meet and Greets” with some of the Sonic talents at the discord server. Continue reading Watch Sonic Revolution 2020 on Twitch today! (6/20)

This Sonic 3 & Knuckles Mod Keeps Getting Better and Better

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

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