Retrospective: The Colours Still Feel So Right

soniccoloursretro

2010 was an interesting time to be a Sonic fan. At the start of the year, the franchise was at one of its lowest points, with jokes about the Sonic Cycle being thrown around every which way following the downward spiral of quality in the games – Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic ’06, Sonic and the Black Knight… even 2008’s Sonic Unleashed, the closest thing to a step in the right direction we’d seen, was critically panned and bogged down by poor design choices. Luckily, there seemed to be a shining ray of light on the horizon, one that the entire fanbase was clinging their hopes onto, something that promised to set the series back on track at last…

That game was Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. And we all know how that turned out.

Yes, rather unjustly in retrospect, it was the disappointing sequel to the classic Sonic trilogy that garnered the most attention in 2010. Instead, there was another, far better, far more memorable Sonic game released that year that deserved to receive the lion’s share of fan interest. Announced slap bang in the middle of the Sonic 4 hype, Sonic Colours – or Sonic Colors, for our American readers – was eternally in the shadow of its downloadable counterpart, with only a month separating the two games’ release dates in October and November respectively. It’s understandable, of course – the game’s rather obscure title and lack of concrete gameplay details upon its initial reveal made Colours a bit of a harder sell compared to the prospect of a follow-up to Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Even I’ll admit, I thought Sonic Colours would be a puzzle or spin-off title when I first saw its announcement… but fast forward a few months, and it ended up being one of my favourite Sonic games of all time.

NE Sonic Colours Wii 5

Whereas Sonic 4’s hype train went out of control before well and truly coming off the rails, the more quiet and subtle excitement surrounding Sonic Colours actually worked in its favour. When the astonishingly good reviews came rolling in – that all important first score of 86 from NGamer and an 8.5 from IGN, to name but a couple (let’s just forget that 4.5 from Destructoid though, eh?) – it caught us all by surprise and made us appreciate the game even more. It not only surpassed Sonic 4, it trampled all over it and gave us the first genuinely good Sonic experience in years. Say what you want about the game, but you cannot deny that Sonic Colours set alight the hearts of several fans and critics again after oh so long.

So what was it about the title that sparked off such acclaim? Well… a bit of everything, really. Presentation-wise, Colours definitely delivers on its title – this is a bright, quirky, visually appealing adventure that really pushes the graphical boundaries of the Wii to their limits. While we’ve since seen the likes of Planet Wisp and Starlight Carnival recreated in high definition in Sonic Generations and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, their original incarnations still hold up beautifully on Nintendo’s last-gen system. What really stands out about Colours though is its sheer imagination, fusing recurring Sonic tropes into entirely fresh new locations such as the tropical casino aesthetic of Tropical Resort and the watery Chun-Nan that is Aquarium Park. Despite being a modern 3D title, Colours captures the vibe and essence – and, dare I say it, magic – of the classic era better than ever before (arguably better even that Sonic 4 did), to the extent that famous badniks like Motobugs even make their long-awaited return with a few new twists of their own.

Sonic Colours Wii screen 1 1st Aug

Musically, the soundtrack is also up there with the finest in the series – and that’s an impressive feat considering how consistently brilliant Sonic music tends to be (Chronicles notwithstanding). Almost every tune is a joy to listen to, ranging from the adrenaline-pumping sounds of Terminal Velocity to the gentle and serene Planet Wisp tracks. It’s also the last time we had a vocal song as the main theme of a Sonic game – can you believe it’s been four years already? – and, while Cash Cash’s Reach For The Stars and Speak With Your Heart aren’t to everybody’s taste, they’re serviceable enough and undeniably catchy for those who want to sing along as the credits roll.

Most importantly, Colours nailed the gameplay. Taking the day stages from Sonic Unleashed as a basis, cutting out all of the nonsense like medal hunting and Werehogs, every stage was a high octane blast of speedy Sonic fun. The level design is top notch with some hugely enjoyable courses to overcome right from the off – there’s no messing around with opening cutscenes or tutorials, you press Start at the title screen and you’re straight into Tropical Resort Act 1. It’s a platformer at its most straightforward – clear one level, move onto the next, rinse and repeat until you face off against the world’s boss, then move onto the next area – and it’s all the better for it, with nothing to get in the way of the fun and preventing it from becoming sidetracked by anything unnecessary.

Sonic Colours Pink Wisp screen 1

It’s the Wisps that really steal the spotlight here though. Before 2010, if you heard the words “Sonic” and “gimmick” in the same sentence, you’d shudder in horror. Fishing, treasure hunting, guns, motion controls, stretchy armed brawling, talking swords… you name it, Sonic had probably tried it, often to disastrous effect. But the Wisps did something that none of these other gimmicks were capable of – adding to the basic Sonic gameplay rather than detracting from it or outright replacing it. Each of the different coloured Wisps grants Sonic a new kind of Colour Power to utilise as he traverses his way through a level, be it a quick-firing laser, the ability to hover, or a drill to dig through the earth (or cake, if you happen to be in Sweet Mountain). Each is a bite-sized burst of fun, never outstaying its welcome and often leading to some previously unexplored section of a stage. In a game where the gimmicks are almost entirely optional, you’ll be actively wanting to use them more than ever, going back to previous locales to seek out those hidden Red Rings you missed first time around because you hadn’t unlocked the right Wisp yet. They’re a joyous addition, and it’s a shame that they were used much less gratifyingly in their comeback appearances in Generations and Lost World.

This isn’t even scratching the surface of what Colours brought to the table – a brand new voice cast featuring Roger Craig Smith in his Sonic debut (if you conveniently ignore Sonic Free Riders, as most people do), a more simple and streamlined narrative focusing on just Sonic and Tails rather than the cavalcade of sub-par sidekicks seen previously, the infamous Eggman P.A. announcements, and the first time we’ve seen Super Sonic playable in regular levels in a 3D game. It was a total shift for the Sonic series, both tonally and reception-wise, and it was just the ticket to dig the hedgehog out of the hole he’d dug himself into over the preceding years.

All praise aside, it’s not the perfect Sonic game – there’s some awkward difficulty spikes, it’s only a few hours long, and the story is rather minimal with some love-it-or-hate-it scripting – but it’s by far the most original entry we’ve seen in the franchise in recent memory, Generations included. There’s a certain magic and a certain joy that I get from playing and looking back on Sonic Colours, and that’s something that’s distinct from any other entry in the franchise.

Sonic Colours Wii screenshots 21

In this uncertain age where Sonic is once again descending into mediocrity, it’s enlightening to remember that once upon a time, when even the most promising of projects led only to the bitterness of disappointment, a game like Sonic Colours came along out of nowhere and revitalised the series in a way no one expected. Who’s to say that lightning can’t strike twice…? And, if nothing else, it proves that Sonic can do Nintendo exclusivity right when it puts its mind to it. Sorry Lost World and Boom, but you’ve got nothing on this gem.

With Sonic Colours, SEGA reached for the stars – and boy, did they come close. Four years on and the colours still seem as right and as bright as they ever did. Long may they continue to shine.

What are your feelings and memories about Sonic Colours? We’d love to know your thoughts too, so sound off in the comments! Don’t fall apart, speak with your heart!

The Spin: Sonic Boom What the Heck Happened Part 2

spin

Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.

I have to admit, I was quite surprised at how many people responded to the last article, I guess this game and the whole mess around it has really struck a nerve? Well, I said I’d be coming back to this issue since it really does need looking at from an outside fan perspective and since many fans seem to be asking “Who is to blame for this,” from what I’ve looked into, it really isn’t as clear an answer as many think, so lets look into the reasons why.

Part 2: Big Red Panic Button

The first part talked about cut content, this part will be looking into Big Red Button’s role in all this as well as Sega’s. I’ll also be bringing up a bunch of ‘new information’ which not many people are talking about yet without a doubt must have had an impact on the game’s development.

So shall we get started? As previously, this article will contain spoilers for Boom, can’t say for absolute certain that the conclusions are 100% accurate, for that we actually need someone in an official line to come out and explain what’s happened, but based on the evidence at hand these are the conclusions I’ve been able to draw.

For starters, let’s ask a question which should have a really obvious answer but based on the evidence, there is a lot of dispute surrounding it. That question is…

When Did Development Start On Sonic Boom?

Let’s see, according to Sega’s official word, when the entire Boom franchise was announced back in February, it was 2011.

That is not true.

Because based on evidence uncovered, it was being worked on during June 2010, nearly a year before Sega said so, here is that evidence.

boomfacebookchat

Mr Villarreal is a concept artist for Big Red Button who posted a bunch of early concept art images on his Facebook profile before they got mysteriously pulled. What’s interesting though is this post, particularly with regards to Eytan Zana. Mr Zana does not work at Big Red Button any more, however he was an employee there, during June 2010 according to his LinkedIn profile. What did he do? “Concept artist for several unannounced projects.”

Here we have a guy who clearly worked on Boom thanking another guy who was on his ‘amazing team’ that was only at BRB in June 2010. It doesn’t take a parliamentary investigation to put two and two together here does it?

However, it may in fact be even longer than that. TSS staffer Shadzter managed to find another concept artist who worked at Big Red Button from 2009, whilst the page has been pulled from his website, it was full of concept art for Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric.

So how do you classify development? Actual overall work on the game such as the planning and design? Or hard coding on the game itself? Because if you discount the coding, it might have been 2011, but the actual start of the project in terms of work being done, long before that date.

Boom Started Development in 2009?

To be honest, I’m not sure, because we also have some evidence to suggest Boom actually started development back in 2007!

SegaBits staffer Barry, managed to find soem very interesting interviews from former head of Sega of America Simon Jeffery, which now sound a lot like what’s happened with regards to both Sonic & Boom in the last 3 years.

We will come back to this because you need to know some other bits of information in order for this information to make sense.

Who Are/Is Big Red Button?

bigredbutton

Big Red Button has been around since 2009 and finding out exactly what they have done is not an easy task. However based on personal websites of former staff and LinkedIn profiles we do have an idea.

Big Red Button were a small development studio, how small? About 14 people. According to a former producer and project manager at Big Red Button who worked on delivering Nintendo software during his time, there were only 14 members of it, this manager expanded that number to 65 during his time there. But think about this, if the information found regarding when work on Boom started, there were only 14 people working on Rise of Lyric!

Whilst in terms of total people who reported to him ended up being over 2000, in house staff at BRB for a number of years was only 14 people before expanding to 65.

What Have Big Red Button produced? 

Virtually nothing, well that’s not true, based on a number of personal websites and LinkedIn profiles, there have been some unannounced projects that they have worked on, however none of them have seen a release. Boom is their first completed project.

The Big Red Button Exodus

The story here comes from multiple sources, the claim is that at some point around June/July, there was a mass ‘exodus’ from Big Red Button in which staff were either let go or left. The biggest piece of evidence comes from Christian Senn, who stated he did not leave willingly…

boomchrissenn

I’m not going to speculate as how or why he was let go, but needless to say, someone at BRB let go a bunch of staff.

Now, according to a developer who posted at NeoGaf, Boom went gold in July of this year and a lot of staff left/were let go. However we have found evidence to suggest not only the claim of an exodus, but that there were major problems at BRB spanning back a period of months.

Where is this evidence? It’s on Big Red Buttons own website. Job listings were posted which we’ve been able to view thanks to the wayback machine show that as late as February 2014 Big Red Button were looking to fill a position for a ‘senior combat designer’, however they were still looking for one as late as July 2014. Alarm bells should be ringing, for three reasons.

  1. This matches up to the time period of the so called exodus.
  2. They didn’t have a senior combat designer in July of this year, for a game which main focus is combat
  3. Based on the job listing, for a period of 6 months, there was no senior combat designer working on Boom.

You might be thinking ‘it could be another game,’ that’s unlikely, because we found someone who potentially got this job, Mark Vernon, in his LinkedIn profile he lists a role at BRB from February of this year as combat designer. This strongly suggests that BRB not only didn’t have a senior combat designer, but also lacked combat designers in general.

This is crazy, you have a game which is mainly combat, yet you have one senior role and an unknown number of minor roles which are for designing the combat vacant with less than a year to go? Might explain why the combat has been heavily criticised.

However it doesn’t end there. Because we were also able to find the job advert for Senior Level Designer too, as late as February 2014. You might be thinking ‘are you sure this is for Boom?’ Look at the job details.

  • Develop missions and levels according to the global vision of the game, the characters’ type and the games’ objective
  • experience creating levels; with a strong preference for 3rd person action or character platformer titles
  • Passion for knowledge of co-op gaming

It certainly sounds like they’re describing Boom doesn’t it? Also look at the other listings, all of them mention the CryEngine, and various future job listings put strong emphasis on experience with that engine, the same one Boom uses.

To summarise, Big Red Button had mass layoffs and walkouts, this much is more or less confirmed by former employees, however, evidence on BRB’s own website also points to the fact that BRB did not have senior positions filled during Booms development, there is no question this will have a significant impact on the game and its final quality.

The CryEngine 3 & The Wii U

Boom1

*For the next two sections, my knowledge is limited, there might be gaps and therefore errors here so please don’t take my word alone on this*

Something that keeps getting brought up is the issue of the CryEngine 3 and The Wii U. This is how the conversation usually goes.

Guy 1: CryEngine 3 is too powerful for the Wii U!

Guy 2: No it’s not!

Guy 1: Yes it is!

Guy 2: No it’s not!

*Half an hour later the argument is still going on*

The truth is… you know, I have no idea. I don’t have enough technical knowledge to know if the Wii U can either in practical or theory, run the CryEngine 3 (in it’s most recent build), in a successful, stable and impressive way.

What I do however know is a bit about getting engines or operating systems to run on hardware, especially when it comes to getting game engines to run. As well as requiring talent to do the task in hand, you need documentation and “the knowledge” in order to know how to use the software with the hardware.

This is where one of BRB’s main problems came into effect.

Previously, the developers of CryEngine 3 did get a build of it running ‘successfully’ on the Wii U, however due to speculative reasons around the whole EA thing, nothing has come of it.

But let’s put this into perspective, no other development studio has released a game on the Wii U using this particular engine that’s in Boom. Think about that for a moment and everything it means.

  • Only 1 team has produced any documentation about putting this engine on the Wii U, the developers of the engine.
  • There is little to no community support for using this engine on this particular hardware.
  • There are no case studies to look at in order to learn and predict problems with using the engine on this hardware.

Do I need to go on here? You have a team who are using someone else’s engine on someone else’s hardware with virtually no help or documentation to support them. That team ranges from 14-65 in house staff… There is no way you can do this without problems occurring.

So what does this mean with regards to the CryEngine 3 working on the Wii U? Can it run it? Probably, BRB have ironically proved it can run. But will it be any good? I don’t know, more developers need to use it and learn from it.

The problem here is that BRB were the first to use it with little to no support, there was no way there wouldn’t be problems, hoping for a flawless implementation and outcome was a doomed hope from the start.

In fact according to the LinkedIn Profile of the Senior Programmer Carl-Henrik Skårstedt he had to make major modifications from scratch just to get the game working, there was nothing pre-existing to assist with this work.

Is the CryEngine 3 Good for This Type of Game? 

This is something I can never get a clear answer on because of so many variables. In terms of ‘can it do this type of game.’ If you’re asking is the CryEngine 3 capable of doing a platformer like Rise of Lyric, then the answer is ‘It’s not designed to’ and that comes from Bob Rafei himself.

The issue comes from the Wii U itself, if you look at this video, specifically at 2:40

E3 2014 Challenges Faced Using CryEngine on Wii U Interview with Bob Rafei
  • SEGA pleasantly surprised by the CE3 capabilities
  • Not used for character platform, “but we were able to modify it”
  • Not designed for Wii U. “We optimised it because it’s actually suited to be a PC engine “CE3 not designed for split screen at all.

More details here.

There’s two big problems you can see, 1, it’s not designed for the Wii U due to the dual/split screen element provided by the gamepad. 2, it’s not designed for a character platform game.

Now, this doesn’t mean that in theory it can’t do it, the problem is that it’s never been done. Therefore the engine is unoptimized, untested and the theory work unproven.

The short answer, no it’s not suitable. The long answer “Well it might be but it needs a lot more testing and research.” But this is time and efforts which Big Red Button simply did not have, nobody had it, because nobody has tried to do it.

Why Use the CryEngine if This Was A Wii U Exclusive?

Now we’re getting into very ambiguous territory here. Based on what we’ve seen from Sega’s own production videos and from Big Red Buttons own released material. Boom was at one point running to a much higher standard in all areas.

Sonic Boom – Behind the Scenes

From what little we see of the development builds, aside from the improved graphical fidelity and performance, the builds are not running on Wii U hardware/dev kits, but Windows 7 PC’s.

To put this in as most basic terms as possible so everybody can understand, this is not that uncommon, even exclusive games start out life on PC, or a project might start on a PC, get a long way into development before a console is chosen, if at all.

BRB clearly had the tallent to make something that took advantage of the CryEngine, they clearly won Sega over to get that reported $20 million investment, heck they won fans over with their demo rheels.

So why would devs who clearly knew the engine, clearly had talent, who would have known the weaknesses of the engine put it on the Wii U as an exclusive when it makes much more sense to put it on another system or PC?

Because of this…

The Exclusive Deal

nintendo-logo

As we all know, Sega made a deal with Nintendo to put 3 Sonic games on their systems exclusively. Now, a lot of people assume that how this stuff works is as follows.

  • The deal is done quickly.
  • Everybody in the company knows about it.
  • Everybody in the company knows what everybody is doing including those at the top.

Ok lets think about this. One company which is potentially worth billions and another company who is potentially worth billions, want to do a deal together to release their most valuable commodity exclusively on the others hardware. Add on top of this, the deal is worldwide and Nintendo will publish and distribute the game across Europe.

That kind of deal, the negotiating, the details, the contract signings, that takes weeks if not months to fully sort out. But during this time, other parts of the company are doing deals and continuing to work on projects. It doesn’t just get paused or put on hold.

Now the second point. That kind of deal would have by people very high up the hierarchy chain and restricted to those people. Let me ask you, do you believe a lonely programmer working on a random game in Sega is privy to the details of a major deal like that? Absolutely not.

So how would a group of game developers be able to communicate problems they would have as a result of this deal when they would be kept in the dark about it? They wouldn’t, because they would never be consulted. Especially if they were external developers, like BRB was.

Now let me ask you another question, whilst I wouldn’t doubt that those at the top of the hierarchy chain are aware as to what’s going on within their own company (at least I sincerely hope so), but the finer technical details?

Do you believe that a CEO of a company knows the technical details of the most popular game engines? How about the board of directors? How about the lady in HR? I doubt very much that they do. So even if people are aware of projects, I doubt that major technical details are known by them, the people who made the deal were probably not aware of the problems of using CryEngine 3 on the Wii U, if they were even aware at all as to what engine was being used.

Lets look back on things

When was the exclusive deal announced? May 17th 2013.

When did Sega claim Boom started production? 2011 (though I suspect earlier).

BRB probably found out about the deal at some point between mid/late 2012 and the announcement date. How much development has already been done on the game?

You’re the leader of the development team, what do you do in this situation? What can you do? Can you do anything considering you have a contract with Sega to make a game to their specifications. The answer to all those is no.

Because someone high up in the company made a decision, you now have to make a product to specification, on the system you know isn’t suitable, you have to make it work, it may or may not be to standard. But you have no choice.

Let me put it another way… this guy is Big Red Button, and he’s just got the news that someone in Sega has made a decision that means his game is now much harder to develop and might not be anywhere near as good as it could be.

Worst Line Reading Ever

Is It All Down To The Engine? 

No, Big Red Button utterly failed in nearly every area with this game. The dull level design, the combat design, the camera work, the ring cap, the many many bugs, the repetative dialogue.

Even if the engine was optimised and working to standard, so many other problems exist, it makes me question if BRB had the talent to actually pull this off. Skip ahead to the ‘do they care’ section for a long reply to this point.

Did Other Problems Exist At Big Red Button?

I’ve already listed some of the turmoil involving the exodus, the fact they only had 14 staff at one point, as well as the real possibility that BRB didn’t know they’d have to make the game for the Wii U and shifted their development focus, as well as their staff shortages.

However, there are one or two things that suggest development was not smooth and that there might have been some problems internally, we have no way of verifying this, but there does exist some evidence to suggest all was not well.

If you take a look in the credits for the game, specifically the rather large ‘special thanks’ section, you can find a lot of now ex Big Red Button  staff, I’d like to highlight one in particular. Rob Flaska, Mr Flaska used to work as a producer at Big Red Button, he was there for just under 2 years and left the company around the time of the so called exodus.

On his LinkedIn profile, he lists a lot of jobs, he’s also quite professional about his roles at his other jobs too. But when it comes to Big Red Button, he lists his job details as “Working my tail off.” 

This stands out like a sore thumb, what happened at BRB to make this guy put that for his duties?

Did/Do Big Red Button Care About this game?

*looks around* There is no way to know for sure on this one, but if they did care about the game, they’re certainly doing nothing to suggest it.

Let’s put aside the small fact that… the game is broken and look at what BRB have actually done since Boom was announced and released.

According to BRB’s own website, in their announcements section, the last update is for the E3 trailer. Really? That’s your last update? No Gamescom? No Tokyo Game Show? No pre-order bonus info? E3 is your last announcement?

Not to mention that all the images used on the site are cut from the final game, the graphical representation is completely wrong too. Can you say false advertising? Their site is full of cut content and false images which they claim is in the game.

Boom2

 

Big Red Button still have this image on their website, they are still trying to claim that Sonic Boom looks like this!

Well how about their Facebook page. Oh… no update since E3

How about their twitter page? Well it’s a little better, they certainly promoted their product for a while after E3… however something is missing I can’t put my finger on… OH! Wait I know… They’ve not even acknowledged that the game is out!

This is pathetic. Even Ken Balough was still promoting Sonic 4 Episode 1 & 2 long after reviews had come out utterly slating the game. He was still tweeting about it, making blog posts, engaging in fan and official forums, even doing interviews with the fans about the game.

Big Red Button are frankly cowards. You have made this game, this is your first game that your employees have worked on, at least tell people that it’s out! How bad does it get? Well, so far there’s been at least two cancelled interviews, reasons are for the lack of a better phrase, completely pathetic.

brbcancelledinterview2

A scheduling conflict? Just think, this wouldn’t have happened if someone at BRB had access to a diary, or post it notes… or the back of their hand. Maybe it was a one off?

brbcancelledinterview

It wasn’t.

What are you so afraid of? You don’t even want to say the game is out let alone answer for the mess you have made? You are an unknown studio and this is your first title, come out of the shadows and answer questions as hard as it might be if you want BRB to have any future.

Right now, you look like you don’t care, and with Stephen Frost still not answering questions or engaging with fans, it just looks like nobody on the project cares about it, so why should the fans?

Even if these people did care about their game, if that’s truly the case, then frankly they lack the talent to make the game to expectations. A fun put down amongst the gaming community has been ‘They’re Ex-Naughty Dog developers for a reason,’ I did once defend and dispute this, only it’s becoming increasing hard to do so when so much of this game is a failure when you take out the poorly optimisation.

You have Stephen Frost on record for promoting the game by saying “We have ex-Naughty Dog devs! People who worked on God of War, working on this game” as if to say ‘Naughty Dog & God of War are high quality games and studios’ (and they are) ‘And we’re got their staff working on this game! You know it’ll be good!’ That is what you are saying with this, else, why else would you say it? Don’t blame people for now turning this line back at you given the utter shambles that the game turned out to be.

And then you have something as basic as ‘can we get a subtitle right?’

boomsubtitle

“”

I’m going to hazard a guess that this caption was supposed to be “Do you think we should proof read these captions?”

Now I realise I’m going to open myself up to an open goal, however I would like to remind you I’m doing this as a hobby and not charging you £44 to read. How about grammar?

sonicboomgrammar

“Because ‘where’ Sonic Heroes!”

How about our ability to care enough to line up text correctly? Or make it easy to read a credits listing?

sonicboomcredits1

sonicboomcredits2

Nope.

How about spelling the name of a company who helped you out on the game correctly?

sonicboomcredits3

You mean Pencil Test Studios? Not Studio? Because from what I can tell, Pencil Test Studio doesn’t exist… Pencil Test Studios however do. Not 100% sure on this one since Pencil Test Studios doesn’t mention Boom, however they are still very much active and based on all my searches, Pencil Test Studio doesn’t exist.

Now let me just say right now before I get a ton of comments, yes this might be a typo, but come on, how many mistakes can you make in this game before that excuse no longer works? This is very low level basic stuff, add it with all the other major technical problems in the game, it just doesn’t look like they cared, it really doesn’t. If you did that kind of stuff even in a school level, you’d get called up on it, let alone a £45 game.

Let’s ask ourselves, at what point does it become a typo, or a simple mistake, to it becoming a sign that they either lacked the talent to do a good job, or simply did not care about the project to do a good job.

Case in point, we can access multiple test levels and assets in the final game without the need for a save file edit or any other kind of external hack.

boomtestlevel boomtestlevel2

This shouldn’t be happening in a modern game. In fact ask yourself, with the exception of looking into using an edited save file, how many games do you own in which it’s possible to access test levels and assets? Even with using a glitch, how many games do you own where you can do this as easily as you can in ROL?

Then you look at the game design around this game, it feels like the last 10-15 years of 3D game design theory has been ignored, there’s so much basic stuff here that’s wrong or which is done badly.

Then there’s the dialogue. What where you thinking? Especially since Stephen Frost promised us that it would be toned down.

boomdialoue

Did you just not care to fix this problem before release? No that option to turn off dialogue is not a fix. What you did with that turn off dialogue option is this “I have a leaky tap, I have cut off water to my house, the problem is fixed”

ROL’s Relationship With The SC & The TV Show

A criticism of my last article and probably with this one is the focus on Rise of Lyric… that’s probably fair point to bring up. However I would counter it with this, ROL is arguably the biggest pillar to the Boom franchise, the TV show is not out here in the UK for nearly a year, only two nations both the show and the games, and only one nation has the games, the show and the merchandise.

The rest of us, we only have the game, that’s the biggest way they’re going to sell the new franchise to us.

Lets now look at Rise of Lyric and it’s relationship with the other game and the TV show. Based on my research, I have to ask, what relationship? Because ROL, the Cartoon and Shattered Crystal didn’t exactly share a working environment and didn’t exactly start life at the same time.

To understand this, we need to break it down a lot.

Was Sonic Boom Always Sonic Boom & Did Everyone Collaborate?

Based on the art assets, we know that Sonic Boom at one point had two code names, they are Project Apollo & Sonic Origins.

projectapollo sonicorigins

However, there is also a third unknown name to this project too. Take a look at this image which was taken shortly after Boom was announced.

Bob Rafei

Hey look it’s Sticks & Lyric… but if we look in the background there is something more interesting.

boommysterylogo

What is that logo? It doesn’t look like it says Boom, Apollo or Origins. But it’s not something minor because Stephen Frost commented on it. Regardless as to what it is, it shows that something Boom related wasn’t called Boom at it got this late in development.

Now what’s the point of all this?

I direct you to this interview with Stephen Frost in which the following revelations are made.

Sonic Boom Exclusive Interview – Stephen Frost (Producer)
  • Cartoon has been in production for SEVERAL years. Didn’t start out as Sonic Boom.
  • Nobody was taking to one another before Boom started production. Licensing did their own thing, so did the cartoon, so did game staff. Boom has brought everyone together.

So we have ROL which is in production, a cartoon show in production, and they were not at one point the same thing? So what came first?

As best as we can tell, ROL did. Based on the interview, ROL was in development for a long time before the cartoon became Sonic Boom, the issue is that both the cartoon and ROL only share basic similarities if you really look at it.

Here are a few things which seem to ring true so far.

  • Eggman has no badniks in ROL, but tons in the show.
  • Lyrics minions do not appear in the show.
  • Lyric doesn’t appear in the show (already confirmed he won’t be in the first season).
  • Do any of ROL’s locations exist in the TV Show?
  • Sticks is a fully established character in the TV show and in Shattered Crystal but in ROL she’s barely a footnote NPC (We’ll come onto this soon).
  • The Enerbeam is a fully established concept in ROL, but in the TV Show? It’s never used? In fact it’s only been predominant in the pilot episode? Has it appeared in another episode? This may change later but for such a dominant concept, in the show it’s absent.
  • In the pilot episode, we see Tails Wii U designed plane, this is quickly destroyed and replaced with a second plane. Bit of an odd thing? Why not just fix the old plane instead of designing (from a show development view) a second one? Would save tons of time.

There’s probably more which will turn up over time. However, considering ROL takes place before the show, it seems to lack a lot of the core concepts of the show, and vice versa. It also looks like last minute additions to the game were made in a desperate way to link them, as well as the pilot episode of Boom to try and establish a link.

Here is the problem with this you have a game doing one thing, which is getting far in development, then you have a tv show doing it’s own thing, then the two try to match up their own universes with whatever assets they’ve already created? This isn’t going to work, it’s only going to have a very basic links and connections.

What collaboration was there?

Boom5

Not very much if this evidence is anything to go by. I’ve already talked about how the show and ROL started out as different projects and based on the concept art and dates doing the rounds, the game might have been very different.

But where does Shattered Crystal come into all this?

Shattered Crystal for the most part is a ‘what if’ story, it’s not a sequel, or a prequel, it can’t be, nothing in the game makes any reasonable links or connections to ROL. Then there’s also this point.

In an interview with SegaBits, Sanzaru games talked about the collaboration between them and Big Red Button. Sanzaru claim that they have virtually no collaboration with ROL, that most of their work was done with OuiDo (creators of the TV Show).

There’s two huge connections right off the bat.

  • Sticks is fully established, uses her weapon a lot.
  • Locations from the show appear in the game.
  • The cartoon’s action sequences incorporate speed into the combat instead of show sluggish combat.

These three things alone link the show much more to SC than ROL does.

at most of the collaboration came from the TV show and not BRB. In fact just look at the 3DS version compared to the Wii U version, the 3DS by far is closer to Boom.

Following on from the ‘it was planned in 2007′ there is some evidence to support the theory and that Rise of Lyric has had some alterations made at the last moment and other items thrown in for continuity’s sake.

Think back to that interview with Stephen Frost in the last section, the one where we discover how long the cartoon was in production for and the fact that nobody was talking to one another.

This seems to suggest that Shattered Crystal is a more closer tie to the show, much more collaboration was done, the links to the show are stronger, there’s clear direct references between the show and the game. But in ROL? Very little exists.

It suggests to me that ROL might have started out as being a very different game as did the cartoon, when the idea of Boom started to take off, they tried desperately to link them… which brings me finally to something I commented on right at the start.

What happened in 2007?

Near the start I mentioned about how development on the game may have started as far back as 2007. Well, think about everything that’s been brought up so far, the dates of the concept art, the various project names, the lack of collaboration between BRB and the TV Show, then add this.

SegaBits staff member Barry The Nomad dug up some evidence which in hindsight sounds very much like Sonic Boom was originally conceived as an idea, if not started early planning as far back as 2007.

How many of you remember a gentleman called ‘Simon Jeffery.’ Simon Jeffery is the former Sega of America president who infamously said ‘Sonic isn’t cool if you are over 12 years old.’ He was in charge when Sega were doing something similar with a lot of their franchises at this time, but we’ll come onto that in a moment.

In 2007, Simon Jeffery said this during an interview with CVG.

“We are actually undergoing a fairly considerable refresh of Sonic as an intellectual property, as a character […] We’re not going to be bringing another game out on the other platforms for quite some time, because we feel that it is time to reinvent Sonic, to make Sonic contemporary again. At the same time, even the recent 360 and Playstation 3 games have sold extremely well. Sonic is still an extremely endearing character; there’s still a lot of love for Sonic out there in consumerland.

Source: CVG

 Let’s break that down.

  • Keeping Sonic exclusive to one platform.
  • It’s time to reinvent Sonic.
  • A considerable refresh of Sonic as an IP?

What does that remind you of?

Before you dismiss it, cast your mind back to the mid-late 2000’s what was happening? Sega were re-releasing a lot of games and rebooting franchises. Golden Axe: Beast Rider, Alien Syndrome, Shinobi and Altered Beast. No doubt there were also some cancelled projects, least we forget how evidence of a Streets of Rage reboot gets dug up every year.

Golden_Axe_Beast_Rider

Think back to the Sega Ages 2500 range which saw classic games given a bit of a remake and a refresh on the PS2, there are tons of games released under this lable, some of them their most well known and famous franchises.

So why would Sonic be off the table? During this time, Sega were obsessed with re-releasing and rebooting old franchises, why would Sonic not be an option?

Skip ahead to 2010, we get our second hint that Sega are working on Boom. Mike Hayes stated “Then you’ve got something we haven’t seen for a while, which is like Sonic Heroes, multiplay-type game.”

Source: CVG

A multiplay type game which is like Sonic Heroes, what does that sound like?

And then… nothing, we don’t hear anything for a long time. However, we know from the leaked art assets that things were being worked on as far back as 2010.

Here is a cut down version of Barry’s theory, I encourage you to read the original since there is some evidence to back it up, it’s speculation for the most part, but some evidence exists to support it, much of it discussed in this article.

From 2007-first indication of Boom in development, During this time, we got Sonic Unleashed, Colours, Generations & Lost World, as well as a few spinoffs. No sign of Boom at all, however, lets look back on some interviews during Booms announcement, the reactions to the character designs from Sonic Team suggested that they were heavily resistant to the idea…

10733421_10152492071891824_6928893364938080461_o

 “They couldn’t look at the screens.”

Project Apollo/2007-2008:

Project Apollo initially started out as something very different. In 2007 SEGA president Simon Jeffrey makes his comments regarding his vision for Sonic, as a single console entity and refreshing the brand.

However, in 2008 Sonic Unleashed is released on virtually every system at the time including the Playstation 2. This seems contradictory to Simon Jeffery’s vision. So what happened?

There has been a lot of evidence to say that SEGA of Japan and Sonic Team disagree on many things. Examples of such disagreements can be found in the recent publication of ‘Console Wars’ and the recent ‘MegaDrive/Genesis Collective Works’ books.

Basically, Sega of Japan disagreed and said no to the idea. Don’t forget, as we’ve seen with ‘The History of Sonic Book’ SOJ have to approve many of the Sonic products before they can go ahead.

That was that, SOJ said no, idea was shelved… but it didn’t go away, this is evidenced with Mike Hayes comments in 2010. The first indication that they want to make a Sonic Heroes esq game… think back to day 1 of when Boom was announced, what was one of the games that Boom was compared to? Sonic Heroes.

2009/Sonic Origins/Project Apollo is green lit.

At some point after the idea was initially turned down by SOJ, the idea didn’t go away, some people at SOA liked the idea and wanted to go ahead with it. They persisted with SOJ to give it the greenlight.

What happened during this period with regards to talks we can’t say. However, combine the concept art, the LinkedIn profile dates along with Mike Hayes comments, it’s obvious that something was in development or planning at SOA which was following a Sonic Heroes type game.

2009(?)-2011(?)/Enter OuiDo

It’s difficult to say when exactly the idea of a cartoon first came up. However, we know from interviews, the cartoon was in development for years and didn’t start out life as Sonic Boom. Nobody was working together and by all rights the projects were completely different.

Development on the cartoon must have been granted a bit of freedom to allow them to do something outside of the Boom universe for so long. However over time, somebody decided to bring all parties together and they decided to work on a single project.

Why did this happen? Maybe Sega didn’t feel that the game alone was a strong enough prospect to revitalise the Sonic franchise? Or vice-versa, so Sega decided they should both work together on a single universe and goal?

2011-2013/Sonic Boom

SONIC-BOOM-VIDEO-GAME-01

With Both teams now working on ‘Boom,’ the project is well underway. Some time passes and both teams are well into development. Both BRB and OuiDo are working on the same idea, however due to freedom being granted to OuiDo and the distances between BRB and OuiDo combined with the lack of collaboration. Major differences start to appear.

Later into 2013, BRB find out about Sega’s decision to make the game exclusive to the Wii U, development is now focuses on getting ROL to work on that system as best it can, little time is given to link ROL with the TV Show.

Enter Shattered Crystal

Boom-3DS-20

Realising that the two projects are in the same universe, but very different. Efforts are made to attempt to link the two. But it’s obvious it won’t be enough. So a second game is commissioned.

Shattered Crystal is green lit and due to it’s lack of development, it’s able to work much closer to the cartoon show, hence why Sticks is more dominant, locations match and other aspects of the TV show and the game match up. It’s a ‘what if’ story, but also the missing link between ROL and the TV Show.

Aside from the design of the characters, what really links Shattered Crystal to ROL, the Enerbeam & Lyric. That’s about it?

Also consider this, it took a long time before we found out much about Shattered Crystal, we didn’t get an announcement trailer at the same time as ROL or any media at all as it happens.

Shattered Crystal started development much later on, it was not ready for any kind of promotional material, which is why it was able to be so close to the TV Show compared to the game.

At least, that’s the theory anyway.

 End of Part 2

Sonic Boom Logo

Well that’s about all I have, I have considered doing a part 3 on this called ‘Lies of Lyric’ but not sure if it’s a good idea due to a multitude of reasons. Anyway, like I said at the start, the conclusions here have been based on found research, with BRB not answering questions regards to Boom, it’s hard to know for sure. But if anything is wrong, by all means BRB explain what really happened, don’t just say ‘that’s wrong’ or ‘this is inaccurate’ explain what happened, because there’s all this evidence and some of it is on official outlets which contradicts official word and understanding.

Some people deserve answers, some supported this game for months and gave those on the development team the benefit of the doubt, it would be nice if someone in an official position could explain exactly what happened during the development of this game.

The Spin: Sonic Boom – What The Heck Happened? Part 1

spin

Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.

Article contains spoilers for Boom, also this is not our review of Boom, that is being handled by another staff member. This is more looking into what happened during Booms development and what could have been, not reviewing the final product, that is coming later this week all being well.

Well now, this is going to be an odd one first entry into this feature. For a long time there was a regular feature on TSS called ‘The Spin’ which was a more ‘bloggy’ type thing in which we’d look at stuff with a more personal tone or insight into what was happening in the news or the Sonic fandom. For the past two month’s it’s been my intention to bring it back since it feels like every week for the past two months there has been a new ‘thing’ to talk about.

So, for our first episode of ‘The Spin’ what shall we talk about?

Continue reading The Spin: Sonic Boom – What The Heck Happened? Part 1

A Not so Little Look at: Sonic The Hedgehog 2014 Classic Style Guide

Untitled-2

 

Hello all! It’s Jono, here again to provide a very unique instalment of ‘A Not so Little Look at’.

Today, we’re going to be looking in depth at something that many people who know about the Sonic franchise won’t normally get to see: A style guide. In this case, a style guide to Classic style Sonic the hedgehog.

DSC07103

A style guide is a book, that is sent to merchandise companies to help them create products and packaging that will fit within the brand requirements set out by the license holder. This ring-bound style guide contains many things on how to go about creating Sonic merch; including character artwork, slogans, borders, typefaces, packaging ideas, and even a character height chart as well as a whole host of other information.

DSC07104

With so much information, the book is actually fairly weighty (about 80 pages in fact), and is certainly comprehensive. It’s really a fascinating thing to look through, and to notice all the little touches mentioned in this book seen in real-world products. Paladone certainly would have used this guide when creating their lines of Sonic gear.

DSC07096

You may also notice that this guide contains no references or images of Modern Sonic at all. This is because there is in fact a separate style guide dedicated exclusively to Modern Sonic products (which would you believe, is even more extensive than this guide!) In fact, this guide specifically requests that the Modern and Classic Sonic be kept entirely separate from each other.

Below is a complete set of scans from the book (with some blank pages omitted). Have a read!

Too-Spooky Saturday: Sanic 06 for Oculus Rift

Edit: Sorry this is a day late folks! Was scheduled for Friday – for some reason, it didn’t go up. Sounds a little spooky to me…

YouTube Preview Image

The stuff of nightmares comes in perfectly for this week’s Freak-Out Friday, which coincidentally falls on the same date this year’s Halloween… a little too spooky, perhaps?

Sanic, the popular internet created alternate for Sonic, is without a doubt one of the internet’s greatest creations. So it’s only fitting he would eventually see his own video game to help his world come to life? In the above video, watch as this virtual reality title amazes you with it’s incredible character models, stunning graphics and top notch voice acting. Other friends like Shadow, Knuckles, Silver and Amy make their own cameos too!

And of course, why keep all the fun for yourself, LPer? If you want to give Sanic 06 a go, you can download the demo here! Just try not to go too fast.

Freak-Out Friday: Sonic Adventure 2 Greatest Hits Revisited

I'm sure they'd approve.

I’m sure they’d approve.

Sonic Adventure 2′s vocal themes are some of the most well known the franchise has ever produced. From the big theme song “Live & Learn”, to the classic opening level boarding down the San Francisco-esque city with “City Escape” blaring, these songs are practically embedded in the minds of anyone who picked up the title on either the Dreamcast or Gamecube.

So it comes with great pleasure that I can introduce a stunning collection of remixes of these many vocal themes to you today. By up and coming artist Sonic4ever comes “Sonic Adventure 2 Greatest Hits Revisited”, recently brought to Bandcamp containing a collection of incredible vocal recreations. Not only does the album contain Sonic Adventure 2 themes, but Sonic4ever’s interpretation of Super Sonic Racing and Green Hill Zone!

Give it a listen here! I’m sure you’ll agree – this is some incredible musical talent. Let us know just how steller you thought it was in the comments.

Hero of Legend’s Lookback Part 2: Sonic Unleashed for Wii

Yep, as I hinted in part 1 of my lookback featuring Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, I wanted to do my next one on Sonic Unleashed for the Wii! Have a look at part 1 right here (and comment! I’d really love some more feedback. :) ).

So now onto the lookback:

sonic_unleashed_wiiDeveloper: Sonic Team/Dimps/Xeen/O-TWO Release Date: Nov 18th 2008 (NA) Nov 28th 2008 (EU) Nov 27th 2008 (AUS) Dec 18th 2008 (JP)

So this is what everyone considers to be the afterthought version, the side project, the thing to chuck out there for a quick buck… which apparently worked too well as the Wii version was apparently not only the highest selling version, but APPARENTLY outsold both the PS3 and 360 versions combined. Well that’s one reason Wii got Colors exclusively. :P

So for a long time we always thought it was mainly by Sonic Team with Dimps doing the daytime design work, but after exploring the endless world of the interwebs, I found the websites of Xeen and O-TWO and spotted the Wii version on both sites under games they worked on. As I noted last time, those two indeed worked on Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, and there’s the old interview where a Sega employee (think it was at one E3) where it was said it indeed used the Zero Gravity engine, all signs point to it being correct.

The game runs in 480p, 16:9 widescreen like Zero Gravity and all other Sonic games on Wii, however it runs in 30fps, also like every other Wii Sonic game except for Zero Gravity. Why did a spin-off accomplish what main games wouldn’t do? At least not until Sonic Lost World, and even then Zero Gravity is a locked 60fps where Lost World dips at times…

For those unfamiliar with the latter two teams, Xeen actually was the main dev of Rhythm Thief on 3DS and O-TWO mainly works on various 3DS eShop games like Skater Cat and Cube Tactics, they also helped on the more recent Puyo Pop games.

So here’s another thing to point out and it’s a biggie. The Wii version was basically the darling of most review sites, while the HD versions were slammed and some even rated it lower than Sonic ’06, ouch. I’ve only played the 360 demo in terms of HD version experience and it wasn’t my cup of tea, all the footage I’ve seen so far shows it being NOWHERE near as bad as Sonic ’06, and no, I don’t think Sonic Boom will be either, there was more than just technical issues being why Sonic ’06 was poop.

So what about the Wii game itself you ask? Well I REALLY liked it, it certainly has some glaring issues which of course I’ll dive into, but first let’s talk about the gameplay.

It’s very true the game is pretty one-sided in favor of the Werehog stages, basically for every day stage, you get 3 night stages. Some night levels even take place like 3-5 in a row, yikes. But the daytime stages are purdy fun. One thing I really enjoyed was the limited boost usage where it’s divided into small bursts at a time rather than go hedgehog wild. It allows you to strategize more in when to use it, also I like how after every 30 rings collected, its max amount increases AND fully restores it. I also like that *puts flame shield on* it’s SLOWER! I don’t like boosting like a bajillion miles and hour with little to no control, no sir, I don’t like that. Just give me a sense of going fast but being able to see things around me and being able to control what the hell I’m doing while boosting!

A major bonus on Wii is the medal system, you never have to worry about searching far and wide (I ain’t singing it, get that out of your head!) for medals, instead they’re rewarded depending on your rank in all levels, where as B gets you one, A gets you two, and S gets you all three medal in the level. Much easier. I just encourage you to try and get an S rank in the night levels on the first go if you don’t want to play them again. :P

Speaking of the night levels, here you focus on using the Wiimote and Nunchuck to fight in a sort of Wii Boxing/Punch Out style, and honestly, once you get the hang of it, it works REALLY well, I never used another control setup, I know, crazy right?

S ranking in the night levels is a bit tricky, you have to collect all the experience (called Force), rings, and beating the stage fast enough. But just be quick and break and collect everything you see and you should be okay. Here’s a tip: instead of punching boxes and whatnot, RUN into them, they break automatically thus saving you a lot of time.

So how about dem graphics? Well it’s no secret it’s not as pretty, and frankly, it’s not even close to the graphics of the Colors team’s output (Secret Rings, Black Knight, and Colors), hell, the game runs in 30fps so to me it’s kind of beneath Zero Gravity. Plus there’s something BIZARRE about the image quality where when the Werehog stages begin, he looks VERY weird with how the jaggies move about, like it’s not polished and… ugh, I can’t put my finger on it! The game could’ve used the useful Deflicker technique where it softens the image to reduce jaggies, like a free fake Anti-Aliasing of sorts. A lot of Sonic games on GC and Wii used it, as most famously Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl. It honestly helps a bit I’ve noticed, but I’m no expert so…

Also need to mention this graphical glitch in the first main daytime Adabat stage where you reach the bottom of a 2D section where you’re on the water, and the water just flickers really badly, but this is the only case of that, but it always does that there.

However, when played in HD on Dolphin, it surprisingly shines! Here is a gallery made by a person named zetabio who made DOZENS of screenshots of it in 1920×1200.

So all-in-all, I really enjoyed the game and I highly recommend it as long as you’re not going to puke as soon as you look at it and don’t mind the Wiimote controls. Actually it supports the GameCube controller (not usable at the moment on Wii U of course) and the Classic Controller if you prefer. :)

I’d give it an 8.0 out of 10. It’s not my fav Sonic game, but I still really enjoyed it as I said. It’s hard to say if I prefer Zero Gravity over Unleashed, I kinda prefer Zero Gravity due to it’s vastly superior polish.

That’s it for now! Hope you’ve enjoyed the 2nd lookback. :D Hopefully I’ll do another down the road again, but these two were the most under the radar/underrated of the console games last gen so I felt the warranted lookbacks the most.

TSS Sorta Reviews: Velocity 2X

I am really really excited. Because I get to review the new Sonic game! And here it is!

[NEW] Velocity 2X Trailer (PS4/Vita)

Wait what…?

It’s not my fault, yesterday IGN posted their review of Velocity 2X, a sequel to the very good game ‘Velocity Ultra‘ and in their review they opened with this line.

“Velocity 2X is the best Sonic game in 2 decades”

And closed with…

“It’s the first game in a long time to give me the thrilling sense of mastery that a well-played level of Sonic the Hedgehog used to back in the 90s.”

Well who is to argue with IGN? Anyway, a couple of people who saw this reacted kinda badly and posted the usual ‘you don’t spell ignorant without IGN,’ some said ‘Sonic hate bias’ and then there were the other favourite put downs. So I decided to check it out, I’ve been playing it for a few hours and low and behold…

IGN kinda has a point… just…

Velocity 2X is nothing like any Sonic game, the comparison is utter ludicrous. So why does it remind me so much of playing one?

velocity 2x1

If you think back to the original classic side scrolling game Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka has said many times that he wanted Sonic to be a game which a player could complete faster and faster once they became familiar with the levels. Whilst most players can beat most Sonic stages, completing the stage quickly and with a good score takes time and some degree of practice. Give it some time and odds are you’ll slash your original times and probably double your score. You are left with an uncompromising feeling of satisfaction once you hit the end stage and see your time and score.

Most Sonic games usually begin with stages which are ‘short’ and then get longer and more complicated, the player has to learn how to navigate them in order to go fast through them and maintain a high score. Regardless as to where they come, you can usually feel yourself getting better as you progress and replay difficult or challenging levels, anyone who has attempted the Hot Dog missions in Eggmanland will probably understand this feeling. Or anyone who grew up with a MegaDrive will likely remember their first attempt at the Death Egg Zone. 

deatheggboss2

When I first took on Death Egg Zone, it took me near 7min to beat it, now I can beat it in around 70 seconds. Practising that stage, I can feel myself getting better, my heart rate is pulsing and pounding as I start to master the stage and discover how the gameplay works in order to beat it to the best possible standard.

Well, Velocity 2X has this feeling too, and it’s very similar to how I felt when I first took on a game like Sonic 2 and tried to beat my times and high scores.

Velocity 2X encourages speed, it encourages you to go fast. However, it throws various spanners into the works, meaning you can just hold down the boost and get to the end and expect a top score. You have to rescue hostages, fight aliens, collect power ups and items. There’s also a degree of exploring here, hidden items, data logs and even hidden secret levels, hey remember when Sonic games used to have that kind of stuff?

Now at this point you might be thinking ‘I see where you’re going…’

But it’s not the real reason for the comparison. The real reason comes from a combination of factors. Velocity 2X’s level design is very good. Everything flows into one another very well, even the parts where you go from a space shooter to a side scrolling platformer, there’s no break in the flow it honestly feels like a seamless transition. I can’t be helped but be reminded of early Sonic games which had very well done level design in which the flow of the game didn’t break unless you hit an enemy of failed a jump and landed on a spike trap.

You combine this with the fact that you’re encouraged to learn the stages, encouraged to go fast and the satisfaction one gets from getting a ‘perfect’ when you beat the stage. It’s very easy to say ‘yeah this reminds me of Sonic.

offspring fling

Well… if we’re going to compare games to one another based on factors like the above, then we could also say that the game Offspring Fling is similar to Sonic & Velocity 2X. If you’ve not heard of Offsspring Fling, go check it out, it’s a pretty decent game which is nothing like either of these titles. Yet due to the way it encourages the player to go fast and learn the stage. The feeling of satisfaction is similar to Velocity 2X and Sonic, mastering the stages in Offspring Fling gives you the same level of satisfaction of mastering a stage from Velocity or Sonic. Its a game where you feel yourself getting better and ultimately think about the stage and the challenge ahead of you.

Also with all three of these games, the challenges are fair. If you mess up, odds are it’s because you messed up, if you’re not good at the game, it’s because you’re not very good. You either learn and master the stage, or you just try to get through it as best you can.

The philosophy of Yuji Naka, the idea of a player being able to get through a stage faster as he learnt the stage is more than evident in early Sonic games, the control and the power is in the players hands, unlike Sonic Boom which so far speed segments are automated with little control, and it’s the same with Velocity and Offspring Fling. The player is in 100% control of his character and it’s his own ability and skill which will determine how well he does.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘hold boost to win’ and for a lot of recent games, that’s sadly true. But in Velocity, here is a boost button, however, if you hold it down for too long… odds are you’ll die. You have to learn to use the boost whilst navigating the level and fighting enemies in order to progress. It’s very much like learning Sonic 2′s stages for the first time. Yes you can use the spindash for a huge spin boost, but you can’t rely on it to beat a stage, you will take a hit, you will become trapped and you’ll break the flow of the stage as you attempt to recover from the error you made.

So what of IGN’s opening tagline… is Velocity the best Sonic game in 2 decades. No, because it’s not a Sonic game… but is it a game that gives the same satisfaction to master and beat. Yes, absolutely. However, there are a great many other games out there which also do that. As already mentioned, Offspring Fling is one such game Freedom Planet is probably another, there are no doubt countless others.

velocity 2x2

So if you are one of those people who got angry when they saw that line from IGN, don’t be, if anything its one hell of a compliment. Sonic games should give you the same feeling that Velocity 2X does when you master the stages. I can clearly see why their reviewer drew parallels to the feeling he had when he used to play the original Sonic titles, but there are other games which do this too.

Is IGN right to call it the best Sonic game in 2 decades? No, that’s a silly tagline to try and get people to read someone’s review.

Is IGN right to say it has the same “thrilling sense of mastery that a well-played level of Sonic the Hedgehog used to back in the 90s.” Yes, because it does, if you have played a Sonic game with the intention of mastering this, you will feel the same sensations from playing Velocity 2X.

Well since this ended up being less a review and more of a long ramble of a madman, is Velocity 2X any good? Yes, it’s very good, in fact you should probably go get it right now since it’s pretty awesome in every respect, just don’t expect any blue hedgehogs.

Although if Futurlab wants to patch in Sonic’s spaceship from SegaSonic Cosmo Fighter Galaxy Patrol… Then it really will be the best Sonic game in 2 decades!

Hero of Legend’s Lookback: Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity for Wii

This will be the first in hopefully a line of lookbacks I will be doing related to our fav Hodgepodge err I mean Hedgehog. ;)

I also plan on hopefully getting some video content down the road for the site, mostly I’m waiting for YouTube to unlock their 60fps setting so you can see classics like Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and the recent Sonic Lost World in glorious 60fps, I’ve done some clever editing of 60fps recordings to blend them to 30fps showing a “fake” 60fps video (which I will show an example of below!).

Also I want to address anyone that’s wondering if a 3rd Big Red Button research post will happen. The answer is actually yes, BUT I will wait for Sonic Boom’s release and compile the credits and then dig into it to get the info on who else worked on it. :) So for now it’s on hold until then. :)

But for now, let’s get to the lookback!

reply_card [Converted]Developer: Sonic Team UGA/Xeen/O-TWO Release Date: Jan 8th 2008 (NA) Feb 22nd 2008 (EU) Mar 6th 2008 (AUS) Jan 8th 2008 (JP)

Why are you looking at this? This is crap! You may ask. Well to me, it is NOT! And I will explain hence the point of the lookback.

For one thing, this is a pretty damn technically competent game, and what I mean by that is, this game first of all runs in a brisk 60fps not only in gameplay, but in ALL in-game cutscenes, just like in Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Sonic Heroes. Second, it supports 480p and 16:9 widescreen, so it’s pretty nice even on an HDTV. Now I can’t speak for Sonic ’06 as I’ve (blissfully?) not played it, but I believe it is the ONLY Sonic game of last gen (Wii, 360, PS3) to run in 60fps all the way through and not in either certain parts or very unevenly throughout. Same goes for the cutscenes, Sega’s been pretty happy with always forcing cutscenes nowadays to run in 30fps only (this includes in Sonic Lost World to my disappointment), so this game really does do things later games by the main branch of Sonic Team don’t, think about that. ;)

Now to talk about the gameplay. For me, the gravity mechanic is honestly inferior to the air mechanic in the original, however, the Gravity Dive is pretty satisfying to use, as is the gravity turn technique when you do it right. The items to me don’t really matter much aside from giving you rings and gravity power. The special attacks mean nothing to me as they activate right away and you may not even be able to reach an opponent, also you don’t need it if you’re ahead. You can seemingly use these attacks to access shortcuts specific to a class, but I never get it to work right (likely just me) XD.

Now the part most hate, the controls. To me, they’re JUST FINE! If you’ve played the original on GameCube no prob, then you’ll feel right at home with the GC controller here. On Wii U, you’re forced to use the Wiimote only seemingly (think you can use it on its side or vertically), I tried it on its side Mario Kart Wii/Excite Truck style and I actually had no real issue with it.

Now for other bits, note that this does indeed include the late Deem Bristow’s voice clips from Sonic Adventure 2: Battle for Eggman. Mike Pollock does actually contribute new lines for the gravity moves which work. Also this is NOT the only game of the gen to use the original voice actors! You’re asking “What?! I’ve not heard such a thing, what are you referring to?”, well I’m referring to Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games on DS! That game features reused clips for Omochao and Big from Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Adventure/Sonic Heroes respectively (Omochao just says “Ciao” HA… and Big says, what else, “Froggyyyyyy”).

So what about that video I promised? Why it’s below, footage I recorded of the game in the “fake 60fps” I mentioned. I recommend you download the video in 720p, and watch it in 1/2 the size on your offline player for the cleanest and smoothest viewing experience, in case your internet lags the framerate. Enjoy!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q5hoFsOFFI[/youtube]

So my views overall on the game? I think it’s very much worth playing. By the way, I’ve beaten the whole story. :) I actually like how the cutscenes feel very Sonic Adventure 2: Battle-esc, in some scenes like one with Jet, the scenes ends abruptly, just like in SA2B, so that made me smile as hey, anything that reminds me of that game is cool in my book. ;)

The story itself is also feels like the Adventure-era, it’s deep, not goofy like in the recent games, and Knuckles even references himself as a treasure hunter, nice touch Sega. :) The best term I can give it? Sonic Adventure as a racing game with the 4kids cast, seriously, it’s even got the Chao market ala the Chao Garden where you buy the gear WITH YOUR RINGS, come on people! XD

Speaking of 4kids, also consider this is the only full-fledged on the mark sequel to a pre-gen sonic game. I don’t put Sonic 4 in this category, that’s another story, but here the game has the same voice cast, the same structure, virtually the same everything, but it’s on a newer-gen console. And I actually really liked 4kids in this. Also Jason as Jet gets bonus points from me for sounding like Terrosaur from Beast Wars (who was voiced byDoug Parker), greatest show of all-time, you missed out big time if you didn’t watch it.

I also next want to address the PS2 version, and sadly I can’t personally speak for it as I’ve sadly not tried it out. :( I really want to compare the two. I BELIEVE it lacks 16:9 (the back cover shows 4:3 screens and I don’t recall seeing footage in 16:9) and could also possibly run in 30fps as no footage I’ve seen hints at 60fps. I think I’ve heard it does support 480p, but again, I can’t confirm officially without having played it, gotta put that in my to-do list!

Also I personally think it was a Wii game at heart and then ported down to PS2, consider how the original looked on GameCube (developed by Now Pro), the textures in that had no filtering in the stages so you literally saw the square pixels, aka like a DS game, I was floored at that even way back in 2006. Also I think the environments are more complex in Zero Gravity which would be thanks to more advanced hardware. Also it feels like the PS2 version is a downgrade like they removed things rather added any to the Wii version. Take the water in Aquatic Time, the water has lovely reflections of the stage and I think there’s some bump-mapping

Also, I want to comment on Sonic Free Riders on Xbox 360, again I’ve not played (and I certainly don’t want to other than to see how it runs in person), I can’t believe how obviously low budget it looks, for one thing all cutscenes are in stills instead of in full-3D, also it seems to be more in a mission structure if I recall than purely racing, but it could be foggy memory on my part. Something tells me Sega was prepared due to it being a Xbox 360 Kinect exclusive (personally, I think this was a really strange and bad idea) so they didn’t spend as much as they would’ve like in the previous two games, saving on the cutscene work certainly helped them.

Also, ever notice how first, Rumblebee seemingly was absent in Free Riders, second, he was actually the singer also in Sonic and the Secret Rings, AND was the announcer in all of the Mario & Sonic games? Wow, kinda fond of Nintendo ain’t he? :P

Also, did you know that the developers Xeen and O-TWO also worked on Sonic Unleashed Wii and PS2? Dimps only did daytime stage design work in that. I heard once the game did use the Zero Gravity engine, this pretty much confirms it! I have more to say, but perhaps I’ll save that for the future wink wink nudge nudge. ;)

Anyway, if I had to give a score, I say it’s at least a solid 8 out of 10, but it’s just my opinion because I love what it accomplished and think it was a really solid game under any rough spots reviewers said of it. If you’re lucky, you can still find it in the $20-$30 range, sadly it’s the ONE Wii standalone Sonic game that isn’t everywhere still, so you might have some trouble findng it at least brand-new.

So there you have it! I hope this was an entertaining read for you all, and I hope to have more for you later on down the road. :)

Edit @ Aug 11th, 2014 2:53PM EST: I just remembered this little bizarre point. Anyone remember this article at Eurogamer where Sega confirmed in November 2005 that a sequel to Sonic Riders would be released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Huh, wonder what happened behind the scenes that caused this unexpected shift that made the game a Wii and PS2 game instead, hell was it even true to begin with? The world may never know…

Sonic Boomcast Episode 1

Welcome to the first episode of Sonic Boomcast! A monthy podcast dedicated to the Sonic Boom franchise where we’ll be talking all things Sonic Boom related along with a few other Sonic things should the need arise. Hosted by me, Jason Berry of that other Sonic podcast (Sonic Talk). I’ll have a slightly different roundtable of guest hosts each month with some staying for the long run. This months hosts include Shayne Edwards, Lidice Garcia, Tanner Bates (Oglvie in the SSMB) and Christian Gausin. You may know them as the folks who helped bring the first big Sonic convention “Sonic Revolution” to life in Southern California. This months episode focuses on the history of the franchise from before the major announcement back in February all the way to the recent comic book announcement. So listen in, and I hope you enjoy!

Sonic on the Go: Sonic Jam on the Game.com

Sonc Jam title screen

Few of you truly know the depths the Sonic franchise have sunk to. I know this because I’ve been there repeatedly. I’m not sure if it is out of some perverse pleasure of causing myself pain, or if I just feel the need to punish myself, but I have attempted to play this game repeatedly for all of you, so that I could deliver an accurate account of the experience for the #Sonic23on23 celebration. I mean, what better way to celebrate Sonic’s Golden Birthday then to talk about the worst thing he’s ever been in? Unfortunately, after staring into the awful, dark, green-gray abyss that is the Game.com screen, I come back to you defeated and with a warning: for the love of God, stay away from this thing. This isn’t just the worst portable Sonic game ever made, it’s the worst Sonic game ever made period.

I suppose, before I go into just how awful this thing is, I should give you all a little history lesson. In early 1997 the Game Gear was discontinued, and other handhelds began to rush in to fill the void it left in the market. Among the first was an awful little handheld from Tiger Electronics, a company best known in the gaming space for their portable LCD games. These LCD games were usually based off of licenses from other companies, including SEGA, which gave them the licenses for many of their properties including Panzer Dragoon, After Burner, OutRun, NiGHTS, Shinobi, and of course Sonic. Given their extensive experience in the portable gaming space with these various LED games, one would think that a cartridge based handheld game system would be a natural evolution for Tiger’s business. Unfortunately, Tiger would instead produce the worst handheld game system to ever make it to market.

gamecom_manual_large

The Game.com was awful. It possesses one of the most consistently awful and poorly programmed gaming libraries of any system, it’s screen was poor and difficult to see even by 1997 standards (even worse than the Game Boy’s, released in 1989), and the damn thing just feels cheap to hold. What makes all of this even more depressing is because in many ways this system was ahead of its time. It was the first gaming system to feature a built in touchscreen (seven years before the DS), it was the first handheld system to feature built in PDA functions like a phonebook and calculator, and it was the first handheld system capable of connecting to the internet, albeit through an add on. This damn thing was ambitious, but was so poorly made in so many critical areas that this ambition didn’t really matter. As far as I can tell, this system’s most critical flaw was its lack of true third party support. Though the system features IPs from numerous companies, as near as I can tell they were all developed in-house at Tiger. At least, that’s the only way I can explain the amazingly consistent poor quality of every game in the library to myself, especially Sonic Jam.

Even explosions can't break the boredom Tails is suffering from.
Even explosions can’t break the boredom Tails is suffering from.

So what of the game itself? Well, put simply there is absolutely nothing redeemable about this thing. Nothing. The game utilizes 16 bit sprites ripped straight from Sonic’s Genesis titles, but the Game.com clearly doesn’t have the power to run them. The game runs at a constant slide show, only reaching a playable frame rate for a few faint seconds every now and then. I doubt this game is even running at 15 frames per second most of the time. The physics are the worst I’ve ever experienced. Getting up every single hill is a chore, causing Sonic to slow to a complete stop no matter how much momentum you may try to build up. It’s virtually impossible to build up momentum without use of the spin dash, which itself has been severely gimped so that it’s not possible to rev it up. Rolling down a hill will not only not gain any real speed, it also reveals another weird flaw: the game doesn’t want you to move fast. Try rolling down a hill, and you will hit the edge of the screen and an invisible wall which significantly slows your progress.

Unfortunately the level design often only intensifies these issues, with its constant slopes and hills and randomly placed springs that will shoot you into the air with no apparent destination or item in mind. There is no rhyme or reason to this game’s level design, it all just kind of feels like it was slapped together by some intern in a level editor over the weekend. My first thought was to compare the design negatively against fan games, until I realized that I’d only be insulting fan games. I don’t think I’ve ever played a Sonic fan game that even approaches how slapped together these stages feel. One stage even had a whole lower path that was just a series of flat planes, that occasionally rose or fell. That said, the one positive thing that I can say about these stages is that they aren’t linear. They are actually pretty decent in size and offer a few different paths to traverse. I mean, the design of these stages are still poor, but at least it’s possible to explore right? That’s more than can be said about a lot of other Sonic games!

Sonic Jam Suuuucks

Some parts of the game don’t even seem to work at all. Near the end of the first Sonic 3 level there is a tree that you have to run around in in order to get to the end of the stage. This tree is something most of you might remember from the end of the Angel Island stage. The Game.com attempts to recreate this cool little moment, which it fails to miserably. This makes the entire Sonic 3 portion of the game completely unbeatable by any character but Tails, who can just fly up to the exit after the game breaks.

Really, Tails is the only way to play this game, since Knuckles can’t glide or climb and the level design is so awful that the game is physically painful to traverse on foot. Tails’s flight lasts long enough to get through most of a level in just a couple of goes, and is really the only way to get through any of the levels in this game. Don’t think for a moment that I’m implying Tails makes the game fun though, he just makes it a little less torturous to get through stages. The actual boss battles still tend to be pretty damn awful, since it’s really difficult to play them with the game’s horrid frame rate and they were made too large for the Game.com’s small screen.

Sonic Jam TailsThen there’s the game’s music and…well I don’t even think I’m going to bother describing it. As near as I can tell the Game.com has the worst sound capabilities of any handheld I’ve ever played (including every handheld that predates it) so I’m not sure it’s even fair to bash the poor thing for it. Instead, I’m going to go ahead and link to one of the game’s tracks below. “Enjoy”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay8ilo08mlY[/youtube]

Sonic Jam for the Game.com is the very definition of shovelware. It doesn’t have even a lick of passion in its design, something that I don’t think can be said about any other Sonic game out there. It’s a slow, ugly, poorly planned mess of a game made by people who clearly didn’t seem to understand the limitations of their hardware. The entire game is a mess of false advertising, too.

This isn’t a portable version of Sonic Jam, but instead just a hastily made “original” Sonic game that takes sprites and bosses from Sonic 2, 3 and Knuckles. Though the game may display the cartridges for these games in the menu, each game only actually uses the assets from the first stage of each game. In other words, Sonic 2 just has a few really crappy stages using a assets from Emerald Hill, Sonic 3 is just Angel Island and Sonic & Knuckles is just Mushroom Hill. There are a few bosses taken from randomly from other parts of the game, as well as fully realized 3D special stages from Sonic 3 (which run about as well as you’d expect) but “jammed” this game certainly is not, unless they are referring to how they jammed 16 bit sprites into an 8-bit handheld.

Sonic Jam Boss

The one positive thing that could probably be said about this game is that at the very least, Sonic hit his low point early in his career. Sonic 2006 and Shadow the Hedgehog have nothing on this travesty. After the death of the Game Gear all this release really did was rub salt in the wounds the character was dealt by the Game Boy. I can’t help but pity the few poor Sonic fans who picked this up expecting a quality title, only to discover something that was virtually unplayable, especially given that this was released when Sonic fans were starved for games and didn’t even have Game Gear releases to look forward.

Thankfully, Sonic fans wouldn’t have to wait too long to get their next quality portable Sonic fix. Released on an equally obscure (but considerably better) handheld, Sonic Pocket Adventure would not only act as the final chapter in Sonic’s pre-Nintendo career on handhelds, it would serve as a nice bookend for the classic era of Sonic, released just as Sonic was finally about to make the jump to the third dimension and change the franchise forever.

The Sonic List: My favorite Sonic related moments

DSCF0198
Iizuka – “Why does that scary fat man keep following me?!” Jason “Hhhhiiiiiiiiiiiii.”

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Barry’s Weekly five list on Segabits, I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to do my own Sonic List column. Seeing how people comment and react to my opinions gives me a great feeling of pride (and sometimes shame). The first time I did one of these columns and saw all the replies, good or bad, it was one of my favorite Sonic related moments. That’s what today’s column is all about. My favorite moments in Sonic-dom. Weather it’s from a game, a cartoon or just part of my life. These are the moments that I remember back with great fondness. Click below and enjoy! Continue reading The Sonic List: My favorite Sonic related moments

In Defense of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

SONIC-BOOM-VIDEO-GAME-01

During E3, I came away with an opinion of Sonic Boom that was a little sunnier than most. It didn’t blow me away like Lost World’s crazy cylindrical stage had the year before, but I came away from it smiling and entertained, but not blown away. As I was writing up my preview, Ben Burnham (who wrote the Anatomy of a Bad Sonic Game article, which you should check out) contacted me on Skype and we began talking about the game’s quality. His opinion, based on the various previews he had read, was very bleak. “It sounds like it’s going to be an awful game, man”. I disagreed, but not strongly. Though I didn’t find the demo to be particularly great, I certainly didn’t find it to be awful either. Towards the end of our discussion he asked “How can you defend mediocrity?” It was late, I was busy and tired, and I wasn’t quite sure how to address that.

Last night, after we finished recording our latest, biggest episode of Sonic Talk yet (seriously, we had four guests on) to celebrate #Sonic23on23, it came to me as two of the guests stayed up afterwards debating the game’s quality in the chat. Ben brought up the question again, “How can you defend mediocrity”. As GX and he really got into it, it finally came to me.

Boom-WiiU-L

Gamers these days, I think, get a little too caught up in the idea that every game needs to be a “triple A, top quality game”. Certainly, it’s not a bad standard to have. When you’ve got a limited time and budget, why settle for anything less than the best? But then, I would need to ask that person: why are you even playing a Sonic game to begin with? Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors are fun games to be sure, but why play those games when you could be playing Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 3D World, Ratchet and Clank Future and other superb platformers currently available either physically or digitally? Even the best Sonic games of the last several years have been considered only “good” at best in the face of other triple A platformers, not to mention the numerous other triple A games being released in other genres every year.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have high standards and that you should excuse games for being less then what they could be, but not being as good as some of the best rated games in the genre doesn’t really make a game “bad”. I have played and enjoyed numerous games over the years that have had serious flaws. Among them have been Rhythm Thief, Shinobi 3DS, Batman Arkham Origins, Resident Evil Mercenaries, and most recently Entwined. Criticisms have ranged from these games being too hard, too shallow, or too much of the same. You know what though? I had fun with these games. I don’t regret the time or money I expended on them. In the end, whether or not I had fun, regardless of the quality, is what matters to me. For the record, Shinobi 3DS stands as one of my favorite games on the system and I’m glad I gave the full game a chance despite the somewhat tepid response it got from the gaming media.

Boom-WiiU-F
Really, the same was true for the Sonic Boom Wii U demo. I did not regret the time spent with it (well, aside from the fact that it ate up most of the time I was supposed to spend writing my preview) and I came away a bit happier with it then I thought I would. Sure, the graphics were average, the combat was typical and the stage layout was ho-hum. The demo had its flaws, but it also had one very important element that separated it from numerous other Sonic games I’ve played: it was at least entertaining.

I loved beating the crap out of enemies as Sonic. He has an awesome spin move that jets him quickly around the battlefield and lets him slam into enemies, which can be followed up with a series of quick jabs. Enemies could be dispatched quickly, which allowed for a certain flow from battle to battle that seemed to at least move faster than Unleashed’s werehog stages, which had a tendency to really drag with the amount of enemies that would spawn in a given area.

I loved exploring the demo as the various characters, since each stage on display had completely different methods of traversal for each character, which gave me more to see then I was used to for an E3 demo. I liked digging around as Knuckles and popping up under enemies, I liked hitting them with Amy’s hammer and I liked tossing the smaller enemies around with the enerbeam, which worked well. I enjoyed the funny banter between the characters, which probably stands as some of the best dialogue I’ve heard in a Sonic game outside of Robotnik’s Sonic Colors quotes. It’s all simple, story driven beat-em up fair, but it’s functional and it’s fun.

Boom-WiiU-D
So for me anyway, the Sonic Boom demo did its job. Should it be aiming higher than “just okay”? Should it be aiming for Super Mario Galaxy? While that’s certainly a noble sentiment to have, it’s also an unrealistic one. There can only be so many games that have the talent, budget and time put into them to become Super Mario Galaxy. The very reason games like Galaxy are held so highly is because there can’t be many of them. I think that when it comes to Sonic Boom, it’s good to approach it for what it is: an okay beat-em up platformer (that will have a variety of speed segments, according to the game’s developers) that aims to make itself accessible to a new generation of Sonic fans. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m not “defending mediocrity” because I don’t need to. The level of fun in a game, for me anyway, is irrelevant. The game just needs to be fun.

When it comes down to it, fun is all a game really needs to be. If you have higher standards then me, I respect that. Just remember that there is a much bigger difference between a game that isn’t fun and one that is, then there is between a game that is amazingly entertaining and one that just provides an okay experience. That is the difference between an awful game like Sonic 2006 and an okay game I actually enjoyed like Sonic Unleashed. That is also, in my opinion, the difference between this game and Sonic 2006, or Shadow the Hedgehog, or (shudder) Game.Com’s Sonic Jam. I can’t speak to this game’s final quality, but if the demo is any indication it will at least be okay. When the game does finally come out, just be sure to look to reviews from critics you can trust, or friends whose tastes you know well, or even better try the game for yourself before you buy. Another man’s trash can and often is another’s treasure, after all.

The Anatomy of a Bad Sonic Game

simsonicthehedgehog402

The following is a guest article from SEGAbits writer Ben Burnham, who joined the website several years ago. He is an avid and long-time Sonic fan who’s written about the games numerous times over the years. As part of our intersite #Sonic23on23 celebration, Ben has written an article for us about what he thinks makes a bad Sonic game well…bad! Hope you enjoy.

If there’s one series known as much for its failures as for its successes, it’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
There was a time when SEGA’s famed mascot, spinoffs aside, seemed like he could do no wrong; The series was incredibly popular, and arguably a major reason the Genesis was able to put up such a strong fight against the Super Nintendo.

It then came time for Sonic to make the dreaded transition to 3D, and though critics and fans have become more jaded about the quality of the games in hindsight, the fact remains that Sonic Adventure and its sequel were given rave reviews and greeted with much fanfare when they were released on the Dreamcast.

From there, however, it would become a bumpy ride. Sonic Heroes and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 divided the fanbase, while Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, and Sonic and the Black Knight were panned across the board. Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic Unleashed were met with only tepid enthusiasm, and even with the well-received Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations thrown into the mix, it remains evident that the franchise has struggled to find its ground in recent years.

segabits sonic unleashed werehog

It makes sense then to answer, or at least attempt to answer, the big question of what makes a bad Sonic game bad, and how Sega can work to prevent future entries in the series from becoming bad. It seems like an easy question, but upon sitting down to write this article, it became clear to me just how difficult it is to answer.
The Sonic Adventure games on the surface featured much of what fans would grow to hate about the series; multiple playable characters, a large variety of differing gameplay styles, linear levels with few paths, and cheesy presentation. With all that said, these factors didn’t seem to bother much of anyone back in 1999 and 2001.

Upon giving it some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that what made it work in those days was that the ideas back then were seen as being executed well. Most 3D platformers of that era didn’t feature multiple playable characters; and I don’t think many, if any at all, let you play as the villains in addition to the heroes. The freshness of these concepts certainly gave them strength, and while people universally preferred the Sonic gameplay to that of the other characters, the fanbase by and large didn’t question the existence of the other characters’ gameplay, seeming to accept them as a necessary part of those games. But it wasn’t just the fact that it was a new concept that made it a success. More importantly, the Sonic Adventure series was able to justify the other characters by getting their gameplay right and by giving them a role in the game that felt genuine and not like a marketing ploy.

segabits sonic adventure 2 eggman

Though fairly simplistic, the shooting mechanics of characters like Gamma and Dr. Eggman were solid, doing their job and working the way they were supposed to. Many dreaded the Knuckles and Rouge stages in the Adventure series, but they provided a challenge and did what they were supposed to do. With the exception of Big the Cat, most of the gameplay in the Sonic Adventure games, if nothing else, proved itself worthy of being a part of the overall experience, and it fit organically into what those games were and what they set out to be.

My big issue with where Sonic’s gone these days isn’t that they continue to add gameplay variety, but that the different gameplay they come up isn’t fun or well thought out. Amy Rose’s levels and her storyline in Sonic Adventure were short and didn’t overstay their welcome, while the Werehog in Sonic Unleashed had levels that felt like they went on for ages. Sonic Team back then knew where to devote the majority of their gameplay, while the Sonic Team of today releases games that are more Werehog than Hedgehog. The old Sonic Team knew how design gameplay centered on each characters’ unique strengths, while the new Sonic Team will add a parkour mechanic to a game and do almost nothing with it.

segabits sonic 06 town

If there’s one thing that I’d like more than anything to get across to those who make the Sonic games, it’s that the poor implementation of the ideas is the problem, not the ideas themselves. Nobody would have complained about using the sword in Sonic and the Black Knight if the swordplay was fun and didn’t detract from the experience. Developer Big Red Button didn’t pull punches when they revealed up front that Sonic Boom would be far heavier on the exploration elements than recent Sonic titles, and I personally believe that many in the fanbase were optimistic about this, or at least hopeful, that we would have a fun new take on the franchise. It’s a series that’s flexible enough to warrant change, and to regularly shake things up, and these things are what keep things fresh.

segabits shadow the hedgehog shadow

It’s in this sense that Sega shouldn’t be afraid of new ideas. New ideas are what keep long-running series’ going, and without them, they eventually cease to exist. What makes a bad Sonic game bad isn’t that it features a new take on the character, or a new style of gameplay, but that the gameplay isn’t well-developed or fun. It’s not enough to just give Sonic a sword and call it a day, but the gameplay has to be paced well, using the sword has to be fun, and the new gimmick needs to justify its existence rather than simply feeling like a way to sell Happy Meals. A Sonic game that feels more like an exercise in marketing than a well-made product is a bad Sonic game. A Sonic game that’s released unfinished, where it’s evident that monetary return was more important to its publisher than putting out a quality game, is a bad Sonic game.

These are aspects that should apply to any game, but the Sonic franchise has fallen into these traps repeatedly. The worst Sonic games either banked too much on ideas that didn’t work or weren’t fun, or they attempted to do far too much with too little development time. There’s a level of quality that’s just expected from an IP of Sonic’s stature. Developers who are content enough to add guns to a Sonic spinoff, but not to make the effort to ensure that they work properly and that gamers would be happy to use them, are not doing justice to the series. Ideas that just seem to come across (at best) as “okay” in practice shouldn’t be included in a game, even if they’re for secondary characters, or if they’re in addition to strong speed sections. The ideas should never be making it past the planning stages because they aren’t worthwhile additions to the gameplay.

segabits sonic and the black knight

Looking towards the upcoming Sonic Boom, my fear is that it will be a bad Sonic game. I hope I’m wrong; I was so excited when it was first announced, believing that it would be a promising new start for the iconic mascot. If a combat system, which currently looks to (but hopefully does not) take up a majority of the game, is being viewed by the majority as something that isn’t fun, then it’s something that the developers need to make note of and fix. It’s something that they should have caught before the game was even shown, because what makes a good Sonic game good, just like with what makes any game good, is that it’s fun to play.

Through it all, that’s the most important thing. The conclusion after all this is so simple, but it’s one that has in the past so easily eluded Sega’s grasp; the game has to be fun to play. No matter what longtime fans may think of putting a villainous hedgehog on a motorcycle and sending him into battle, if the gameplay was fun to play, people would have eventually grown to accept it. Fun speaks volumes, and ultimately is the most important part of all forms of entertainment.

If any aspect of the experience, especially a major aspect, proves not to be fun, or proves not to justify itself in the context of the game it’s in, then that’s when we have a problem; because, in my view, that’s when we have a bad Sonic game.

SEGA Games for the Sonic Gamer, Part 1

SonicsegaLike many SEGA fans, I started out as a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog more so then SEGA itself. As I became more invested in SEGA hardware, though, I was encouraged to begin trying out some of SEGA’s other franchises. I’ve since grown to love a variety of SEGA franchises and as part of the #Sonic23on23 celebration, I’d like to share some of my favorites with other Sonic fans on behalf of SEGAbits! All of the titles I’ll be talking about in this series tickle my fancy in the same way Sonic games have for years, that any Sonic fan ought to experience. These titles are not necessarily platformers, or involve cute and furry animals, but they do share at least one key element with Sonic games.

This series will divide the different games into categories and let you know which title you ought to try fist. I hope you’ll try some of these games!

Rail Shooters:

AfterBurnerClimax

After Burner

Before Sonic, SEGA had another adrenaline inducing game called “After Burner”. Here, players take control of the iconic F-14 Tomcat and blast through stages at sonic speed…literally. The After Burner games are all about memorization and twitch game play. Players have to be fast and at least somewhat familiar with enemy formations in order to succeed. All of the After Burner games produce a great sense of speed that is impressive even these days.

The original After Burner is not the most easy game to pay these days, and the best versions of the game available were made for the SEGA 32X and Saturn. SEGA has released a version of the game for the 3DS, which I do recommend picking up if it ever comes over. More accessible is After Burner Climax, which is currently available on Xbox Live and PSN.

If you want to know more about the game franchise, I recommend heading over to SEGAbits and checking out our content from After Burner Week.

panzer-dragoon-orta374331

Panzer Dragoon

In Panzer Dragoon, players take flight on top of a big laser breathing dragon. This franchise is slower and more methodical then the After Burner games, but makes up for that slower pace with deeper game play and longer levels. Just like any great rail shooter, Panzer Dragoon is all about twitch game play, as players get constantly attacked on all sides by waves upon waves of enemies as they blast through beautiful, creative levels. Panzer’s world and music also possess an exotic charm that sets the series apart from other rail shooters.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is easily the most accessible game in the series, as it is the most affordable and is playable on both the Xbox and Xbox 360. It is also my personal favorite game in the series and has probably aged the best out of all of them thanks to the Xbox’s capabilities. The original trilogy is currently only available on SEGA’s Saturn. Of those, Panzer Dragoon Zwei is easily the best rail shooter of the bunch, though the original Panzer Dragoon is also pretty good. The franchise’s magnum opus, Panzer Dragoon Saga, is unique and excellent RPG, though is quite expensive and doesn’t really possess the qualities that would lead me to recommend it to Sonic fans.

Sonic Team Games

nightsintodreams

NiGHTS into Dreams

Kind of obvious, but NiGHTS needs to be included all the same. NiGHTS once had a tendency to pop up often in Sonic games, and with good reason: outside of the Sonic series NiGHTS probably stands as the best thing Sonic Team has ever made. It shares some of Sonic’s qualities: it is simple, yet inventive. Each stage has its own theme and gimmicks that make them stand out and memorable. Many of the stages have unique topography that really do look like they came out of a dream.

NiGHTS isn’t exactly adrenaline inducing, but it’s still a fast game. Many of the game’s best moments come when your quickly zooming through loops and collecting blue chips, racking up huge links and points in the process. NiGHTS is all precision and memorization, perfecting your runs through the game’s stages so that you can improve your scores and A rank all the stages. NiGHTS into Dreams in many ways invokes many of the best elements of Sonic’s best games.

NiGHTS into Dreams HD is available on Xbox Live, PSN and Steam. If you’re feeling up for playing it old school, it’s also available on the Saturn. There was also a sequel released for the Wii version called Journey of Dreams, but that isn’t really as good and shares flaws with many of Sonic Team’s modern Sonic games.

ristarmetronome-e1390449340655

Ristar

Though it doesn’t bear the Sonic Team name, many Sonic Team alumni apparently worked on the game. In fact, this was character designer Yuji Uekawa’s first game. He would soon go on to become the character designer for the Sonic games starting with Sonic R in 1997.

Ristar itself is considerably slower than your standard Sonic game, but features the kind of cute character design, creative level design and unique character abilities Sonic Team was once known for. Ristar is all about swinging and bouncing around stages and adapting to the unique gimmicks each stage throws at you. One musical stage has you carrying around metronomes and bringing them to song birds that, when activated, add their voice to the stage’s background music, which slowly becomes more elaborate over the course of the stage. Another has you springing traps meant for you by throwing miniature Ristar models. Even the boss fights are varied, and can range from a cute little snow ball fight with a small child to an epic confrontation with a giant robotic mole during a freefall.

If you want to know more, you can check out the content I wrote for Ristar Week, which I ran for SEGAbits earlier this year. Ristar itself can be played on the Wii and Wii U through the Wii’s Virtual Console service. It can also be found on numerous compilations including the SEGA Genesis Collection, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and Sonic Mega Collection (as an unlockable). The original game can be played on the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive.
I’ll be back later with more recommendations, so stay tuned!

Sum-Up Sunday: The Week That Was E3 2014

E3-logo

 

E3 2014 has come to a close, and what a week it was for our blue hedgehog. In case you missed anything, Sum-Up Sunday is here to catch you up on all the big headlines that you might have missed.  Tons of new footage from Sonic Boom, plenty of interviews, a trio of new trailers, and even a movie announcement. Check it all out below:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

And that’s all for this week – so much stuff happened! Phew. Tell us what you thought was the most exciting development of the week in the comments, and what you’re looking forward to most now you’ve seen more from Sonic Boom – the Wii U version, the 3DS version, or the TV show. Until next year and a new Sonic title, E3!

TSS@E3 – Hands-on: Sonic Boom Rise of Lyric

Sonic "Hey look! No Shadow!" Knuckles "The Hedgehog?" Sonic "No. On the ground."
Sonic: “Hey look! No Shadow!” Knuckles: “The Hedgehog?” Sonic: “No. On the ground.”

After your done reading, get a second opinion from Nuckles87 over at SEGAbits!

Big Red Button’s Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is an odd duck. It’s a Sonic game that feels NOTHING like a Sonic game in almost every sense. At it’s core, it’s an adventure-based brawler with platforming and puzzle elements similar to other adventure games such as Tomb Raider, Ratchet and Clank or Uncharted and relies heavily on co-op. A Sonic game that’s not very Sonic-like in any way.

The E3 demo I played has four different levels. A mining level with Sonic and Knuckles, an underground toxic waste level with Sonic and Amy, a speed traverse level with all four and finally, a boss fight with Eggman. These levels are meant to show you samples of the gameplay you can expect from the game, but when put out of context like this, it kind of gives you a poor idea of what the full game is like.

The speed level is fairly simple with some boosting areas, simple jumps and places where you can grab with your enerbeam to swing around. I did go an alternate path from what was shown in previous videos and found an area with a fair amount of obstacles to dodge. It’s no Sonic Generations, but at least it’s something fun to do when going between worlds. Sadly the level was very short and stopped before we got to our destination.

"Well, we solved that! Now lets stagger around until we find some more switches to move this cart around and MAN! I'm already bored."
“Well, we solved that! Now let’s stagger around until we find some more switches to move this cart around and MAN! I’m already bored.”

Now, here’s where things get very different. I played as Sonic and Knuckles  as we traversed an old mining facility. There were robots and snakes around (at which point Knuckles does a bad Indiana Jones imitation) I couldn’t figure out how the gate opened, but fortunately, Sonic chimed in “maybe we need to use that mine cart up there!” So, I found a switch to drop the mine cart and had Knuckles push it to the gate by way of punching) and used the jump boost on top of the mine cart to get over the gate. During the level, I was constantly having to stop and figure out what to do next. Some of which was done by using each characters unique abilities. Sonic has a spindash that boosts him up into hard to reach places, while Knuckles can burrow or climb certain ledges. At one point, we used our enerbeams to lock on and pull the cart over to another path. That’s right, Sonic and Knuckles have “lock-on cart” technology.

…..Oh, come on! That was funny and you know it.

However, constantly having to stop and figure out another puzzle made the whole thing (up to getting to the mining robot) a real drag. At one point, Sonic sees Tails and Amy up above. They are talking about how what a blast they are having in this upper path. “Well, at least they’re having fun” Sonic quips. Too bad I’m not. I found this to be the most boring level in the entire demo.

"Run away much slower than the speed you normally can go!!"
“Run away much slower than the speed you normally can go!!”

The third demo was with Sonic and Amy in an underground toxic waste dump. At times they are being chased by a giant guardian robot while being assisted by a helper robot. There are a few chase scenes reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot. It seems odd that Sonic can barely run fast enough to get out of it’s way. He basically runs the same speed as Amy. Maybe he’s just slowing down to make sure she’s safe? Speaking of Amy, her gameplay is actually pretty good here. She’s acrobatic and can traverse thin pipes and does some difficult platforming along with swinging from bar to bar. I found using her to be much more fun than Sonic or Knuckles. Also, she sounds a lot more like her old Sonic X self rather than Minnie Mouse.

The final level is a boss fight with Dr. Eggman. He’s using an ancient machine and it isn’t going too well (the Eggmobile doesn’t fit quite right and keeps falling over). He’s also using old, used missiles that don’t hit the gang, but just drop to the ground. You can then grab the missiles with the enerbeam to throw them back at Eggman until he falls over and you can attack him head on. There’s plenty of teamwork going on here and the quips are pretty funny. That’s one thing I really gotta hand this game. The dialog doesn’t constantly repeat itself (except in some casual fights) and is pretty funny while moving the story along. It’s a refreshing pace from the poor dialog we got in games like Sonic Heroes. That’s good for those of you who love some Sonic games for their story.

"GAAH! No fair! What'd I ever do to y-oh yeah. All that stuff."
“GAAH! No fair! What’d I ever do to y-oh yeah. All that stuff.”

Sadly, that’s the best compliment I can give the game so far. The game just demos bad. Having it cut into chunks like this really doesn’t give you a full understanding of how the full game really is and instead gives you these dull puzzle sections that make the Werehog levels in Sonic Unleashed seem like a thrill ride in comparison. Also, if this is a co-op game, why are there no two-player demos out on the E3 floor? As I said though, it’s really hard to judge in the format it’s in here. However if I only had a choice between the Wii U version and the 3DS version (Hands-on coming soon), I’d definitely pick the 3DS version as it has more of what makes a fun Sonic game. This one seems to be more focused on telling a story rather than making a really fun experience.

Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric will be out this November and hopefully, we can get a better example of the full game’s experience before then.

 

 

 

Sonic on the Go: Sonic Blast

Sonic Blast

This article is the second part of the Sonic on the Go series. You can find the first part here.

If Sonic Triple Trouble was the apex of Sonic’s Game Gear titles, its successor Sonic Blast was arguably the nadir. Aside from a few lousy spin off titles like Sonic Labyrinth and Spinball, no Sonic game on the system failed quite so hard as Sonic Blast did. Don’t get me wrong though, I still think Blast was a fun game personally. For all the hate I’ve seen the game get from retro fans, I don’t really think Blast is all that bad. Still, even if the game isn’t awful it was a huge step back for Sonic’s handheld adventures.

The game is slow and kind of ugly. Though the technically impressive pre-rendered sprites look pretty good, the levels themselves are almost completely devoid of charm or color. The level lay out is simplistic and dull, lacking multiple hidden paths and areas that made the stages in Triple Trouble so fun to explore. Finally, the game just moves too slowly, even for an 8-bit Sonic game.

Triple Trouble managed to blow this game out of the water in almost every way imaginable, which a huge disappointment given that this game was Sonic’s swan song on the system. It’s a shame that developer Aspect threw away everything they had learned about Sonic game design and the Game Gear’s limitations to create was is effectively a tech demo.

To Blast’s credit, though, it is an impressive tech demo. As the Game Gear counterpart to the Genesis’ technically impressive Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Blast was tasked with accomplishing something similarly impressive on SEGA’s aging 8-bit hardware. In this regard Aspect was reasonably successful, creating the one and only Game Gear game that utilized pre-rendered sprites by pushing the Game Gear’s color capabilities to their max. Unfortunately this game at the expense of the game design, but it’s still nice to see the Game Gear was capable of such a feat.

Blast also gave Knuckles his first handheld adventure. As a major fan of the character at the time, Knuckles’ inclusion instantly made Blast one of the most played games on my system. This game doesn’t disappoint either: Knuckles plays exactly as he should, complete with his gliding and climbing abilities. The bland level design does hold Knuckles back somewhat, but he does play well at least, and he’s a heck of a lot better than Sonic, who has lost his cool power ups from Triple Trouble and only got a double jump in return. After Triple Trouble constantly enticed me with the character’s presence, it was nice to finally play as Knuckles in the car in Sonic Blast.

In hindsight, I do have to acknowledge that Sonic Blast wasn’t all that good, but it doesn’t negate all the fun I’ve had with it over the years. So if you’ve got the money to spare and want another Sonic game to play, I think you should check out Sonic Blast. On the Game Gear it’s an interesting tech demo that demonstrates abilities no one thought the system had. On the 3DS it’s a mediocre Sonic game that can help kill an afternoon. Sonic has definitely done worse, both on and off the Game Gear. Even in terms of portable games, Sonic Blast would be followed up by what is arguably the worst Sonic game ever made: Sonic Jam on the Tiger Game.com.

Sonic List: The Most Overrated Sonic Games

Ahhh nostalgia! You make things so much better than they actually were.
Ahhh nostalgia! You’re so good at lying to my brain.

Remember when I did those lists like “My guilty pleasures” or “Defending the lesser loved characters”? Lists that made you feel good about your Hedgehog hobby? Yeah, this is not one of those lists. Sorry. This time, I’m gonna tear apart some of the most beloved and critically acclaimed Sonic titles for the brilliant but flawed games that they really are. Games that got far more praise than they deserved. Even games I happen to love myself that have some bad design choices. Get ready! It’s time to take off the rose-tinted nostalgia goggles and find the lumps of coal inside these diamonds!

Sonic The Hedgehog 1991 (Sega Genesis)

"Riding blocks in lava. Some much more fun than oh, running super fast and rolling through loop-de-loops."
“Riding blocks in lava. Some much more fun than oh, running super fast and rolling through loop-de-loops.”

Now this is a hell of a way to start a list! The one that started it all. The classic game that first introduced us to the speedy hedgehog. Notice what almost every new remake of the game added? The spindash. Why? Because outside of the Green Hill Zone (and one or two other zones), this game is SLOOOOW!

It was a fantastic game for its time, but when you play other classic Sonic games with great pacing and flow like Sonic 2 or 3, you’re BEGGING for more speed. Especially when you go from a speedy fun-filled world like Green Hill and then get dropped into the dull, drab world of the Marble Zone. I go from loop-de-loops rolling super fast down hills to the point where you can’t even see me toooo…..pushing a block into lava and riding it very, very slowly. Oh look, the lava pushed the block up. Whee.

Let’s be honest here, if you were forced to lose a classic Sonic game out of the original trilogy, this would be the first one to go. It’s still a great game, but it’s not quite as fun or fast-paced as the other two.

Sonic Rush

"Whooo that was tricky! But now I got a nice, safe parachute anLAZER!!"
“Whooo that was tricky! But now I got a nice, safe parachute anLAZER!!”

Ohhhh this is painful as it’s one of my favorites. Sonic Rush has Blaze the Cat, incredible speed and a wonderful soundtrack by Hideki Naguma (Jet Set Radio). I absolutely love this game and have played through it several times. However…..

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. DIMPS is really good on a TECHNICAL level. They can do the graphics, physics and the engine of a game just fine but when it comes to actual level design, they tend to suck. Sadly Sonic Rush is no different. This is the first Sonic game to use the boost mechanic and it does so to the point where there’s barely any actual platforming to be had. “Boost to win” became a meme due to this game, but that’’s still not so bad as it gives the game a great sense of speed. What is bad is that when you finally get to a point where jumping from platform to platform is important, it does so when you’re highest in the air and any wrong step can kill you. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had Altitude Limit push them to their limits of patience.

All in all Sonic Rush is still a wonderful game IMO, But still, it’s far from flawless.

Sonic CD

 

"Oh Wacky Workbench! You're so wacky and...horrifically awful!"
“Oh Wacky Workbench! You’re so wacky and…horrifically awful!”

Now, if you wanna see an over-praised game with REALLY bad level design, here you go. Sonic CD has AWESOME music, great graphics, Metal Sonic, Amy and….some anime stuff at the beginning and end. That said the level design makes it one of the poorer 2-D Sonic games out there. Sorry, but it’s true. First off, the time traveling is a HUGE pain in the ass. “Oh, you wanna go to the past? Here, hit this sign and get enough speed and a good place to run at full speed for ten seconds. Whoops! You hit a ramp at a wrong angle. Too bad! Try again. Whoops you hit a future sign just as you got to full speed! Have fun in your ugly, bad future!”

Seriously, who though have to run for so long in these levels that are far more vertically inclined was a good idea? If you’re trying to make a good future it’s a horrible, hair-pulling chore that ends up being no fun at all. Even if you don’t care about that stuff and want to just play straight through can be either good, or awful thanks to really poor level design that either bounces you high into the air and gets you lost and stuck in parts. Wacky Workbench itself may go down as one of the worst 2-D Sonic levels ever not to mention those “Super FX” 3-D bonus levels where you can’t quite judge if you’re about to land on road or time sucking water.

If you go into Sonic CD for great music, cool boss fights and just play straight through, you’ll have a pretty good time. If you’re a completionist who wants to have the best ending, be prepared to scream in frustration.

Sonic Adventure 2

"I'll save you if you just stop staring at my ass!"
“I’ll save you if you just stop staring at my ass!”

Please note that I’m not including “Battle” because the multiplayer does make the game a fair amount better.

Oooohoho! This is by far number one on my overrated list. “Why don’t they make good 3-D Sonic game like Sonic Adventure 2?!” “Remember how good Sonic games USED to be like Adventure 2?” Time to take off your nostalgia glasses boys and girls because in my humble and always correct opinion SONIC ADVENTURE 2 SUCKS!! It is SO undeserving of it’s praise. It is so far from perfect and really shows where Sonic Team was starting to go downhill.

I know you’re gonna go into the comment section about how wrong I am and what a great game this is but let me ask you a question. If they re-tooled this game and took all the admittedly great Sonic and Shadow levels out, would there be ANYTHING good to say about what’s left? Not much, if any.

All those fond memories of the game are pretty much anchored to the Sonic and Shadow levels. They are fast, cool and very well done. The rest of the game however, goes from boring to frustrating garbage. The Tails/Eggman shooter levels are just bland and far too slow paced for a Sonic game while the Knuckles/Rouge levels take the “meh” Emerald Hunting from the first Sonic Adventure and somehow screwed it all up by forcing the radar to only react to one emerald shard at a time leading to a frustrating, controller-throwing mess. I’ve literally stood next to an emerald shard and the radar did NOTHING!

And it’s not like the first Sonic Adventure where you can choose any character at any time so you can skip the stuff you don’t like. No, no, no. You gotta wade through all this crap just to get to the good stuff. Let me play as only Sonic or Shadow and I’d be a lot happier. Then there’s the story. It’s admittedly fairly well written I don’t mind a Sonic story getting a little more mature, but gunning down a little girl? A Big-Breasted bat? A moody, violent anti-hero? This is like, Penders/Bollers late 90’s Archie Sonic stuff here and I don’t care for it personally.

People crap all over Sonic Unleashed for the Werehog and they’re right in doing so because those levels are far too long. However, I’ll take a Werehog level any day of the week over any Rouge/Knuckles levels in Sonic Adventure 2. To me, it’s very undeserving of its praise.

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section below. Just please, keep it civil.

Jason says to please give all your hate mail to Hogfather @ sonicstadium.com 😉

(Don’t, please. I’m just kidding.)

 

Pointlessly cool thing of the day: Sonic Adventure on a USSR 1970s Portable TV!

and_now_its_time_for_something_completely_different

 

Let’s set the scene here quickly. It’s 1979, you’re out on the road, taking a rest stop and need to kill some time… The only thing you have is that brand new portable television set that you imported from Russia, and that new-fangled ‘dreamcast’ box thing that wandering time traveller left you with before going off on his merry way (bear with us here). So you hook up your spare car battery, power up the T.V set, and manage to hook up the system… and what do you know! You’re playing Sonic Adventure in black and white on a screen no wider than 7 inches…

Ok, so hardly any of that actually happened, but it got your attention I hope!

Anyway, my father has this really, really old portable television (portable in the sense that it weighs 5kg/11lb and is larger than your average cinder brick, and to use it ‘portably’ you need to power the thing with a car battery) and we only just got it working again. With no analogue television signal to test it, why not hook up a Dreamcast to it? To cut the long story short, it worked. Very well! There’s a small, but fairly clear picture, and the sound quality is excellent!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/xh_o_emWki0[/youtube]

PORTABLEDREAMCASTOMG

Could this possibly be the oldest television a Dreamcast has ever run on? Maybe, unless the readers know anything older!

The Sonic List: My Guilty Pleasures

"....You like what?!"
“….You like what?!”

Given that this is the Sonic fanbase, it should surprise no one that there is a lot of product out there that many feel is…..below average. The mid-2,000s is still an era that Sonic is recovering from in terms of brand image. Basically, there’s a lot of “crap” out there and to be honest, many of us enjoy some of that crap. Many things that are downright hated by most in the fanbase. There are Sonic Underground fans, Shadow the Hedgehog (game) fans, Sonic Rivals fans…..even people who like Sonic ’06! They do exist.

And hey, I’m not gonna bash on someone for what they like or tell you that you have poor taste. This is the Sonic fanbase, a little poor taste comes with the territory. (I’m just kidding! Don’t hurt me!) Even I got some choices that tend to be frowned upon that I genuinely enjoy. Here’s my list of guilty pleasures in the Sonic franchise.

The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic's love of drag goes too far.
Sonic’s love of drag goes too far.

Okay, this one’s low on the list because there’s still a good chunk of the fanbase who’ve enjoyed it . That said, you gotta admit that for the most part, it’s still pretty awful. The comedy is almost strictly for young children and the characters and stories are just too goofy even for someone like me who really enjoyed Sonic Colors. Sonic and Tails come off as bad Looney Tunes wannabes and tend to be bland. So why do I still enjoy the show? Two Words. Doctor Robotnik.

Truly the only way to really enjoy the show is NOT through Sonic and Tails, but by enjoying the ridiculousness of Dr. Robotnik himself. He comes off as the worst, most ineffectual villain, but the way he’s designed and the constant abuse he takes from both his stupid lackeys and his hilarious, overbearing mother (who has the same moustache as him) make Dr. Robotnik the reason to watch the show. This is punctuated by the late Long Jon Baldry’s voice which was perfect for the role. I’ll even admit that there are some episodes that are actually genuinely good. The main one being the four part time travel story which also had the best animation of the whole series.

The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Not good enough to be considered a quality show, but just barely bad enough to be a guilty pleasure.

Sonic 4: Episodes 1 and 2

"....WHY DID I THINK THIS WOULD WORK A SECOND TIME?!!"
“….WHY DID I THINK THIS WOULD WORK A SECOND TIME?!!”

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait a minute Jason! Wasn’t this in your list of WORST Sonic games in the past generation?!!” Well yeah, as a game that dares to call itself SONIC 4, it comes nowhere near living up to that lofty goal. However, let’s look past the title. What if this game was called…I dunno “Sonic’s digital arcade adventure” or “Sonic the Portable” as some background images have hinted at and it was just a simple, arcade downloadable without having to live up to that huge legacy? Well then, it’s actually a pretty good set of games. There I said it.

Even a fair amount of critics looked past the number and had fun with the title. IGN stated “Sonic is back, baby!” while the very critical Jim Sterling actually lambasted against the Sonic fans who were hating on it. Episode 1 may have had poor, robot-like physics and had its levels clearly based on classic Sonic games. But I thought the level design was decent and it had a good pace and flow to the game that I hadn’t really seen since Sonic 2. What I mean by “flow” is that the game keeps you moving along and giving you platform and enemy challenges without the need to constantly stop you and slow you down (except for that damn torch puzzle).

Torch Puzzle
“Why am I carrying a torch? The Olympics are over!”

This “flow” however, wasn’t quite there for Episode 2. While the physics were redefined and made a whole lot better and the graphics were improved greatly, to me, it didn’t quite have the proper pacing and flow in the level design that the first one did. I mean really, a water level in the first zone? That said, I’d say it’s still about equal to Episode 1 and some levels are pretty dang good. I’ll even go as far as to say this. I…..like Sonic 4 episodes 1 and 2 better than Sonic 1. Don’t kill me!

Sonic R

"Got places to go. Gonna follow my rainbow!"
“Got places to go. Gonna follow my rainbow!”

Let’s just put it out there, Sonic R is a bad racing game. It only has five tracks plus five more mirrored, the drifting is horrible and takes forever to get used to and you can probably beat and unlock everything in under 3 hours. So why is it so appealing to me? This is why.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8Tid2htBlE&list=PL9F64DA808270DC84[/youtube]

The soundtrack by the brilliant Richard Jacques and singing by the lovely TJ Davis is just wonderful and just puts me in such a mellow and happy mood that I could give a crap how short the main game is and I just sit back and play. I get a handle on the drifting and the game becomes easier and easier. I just sit back and start unlocking stuff while my ears are being gently caressed by these smooth tunes. By the time I’m done, I’m just totally chill. Sonic R. It’s like the gaming equivalent of weed. Ah man, that hit the spot. I need more Richard Jacques, so here’s the next on my list.

Sonic 3-D Blast

"I'm having a blast! Heh, heh. Get it? Cuz.....nevermind."
“I’m having a blast! Heh, heh. Get it? Cuz…..nevermind.”

I don’t think anyone disagrees that Sonic 3-D Blast was far superior on Saturn than on Genesis. However, many would disagree whether it’s a good game or not and that’s understandable.  It’s not a great game by any means but that doesn’t mean it’s without its charm. The game is on an isometric plane in which you have to bop badniks to free the flickies only this time, the flickies follow you to a warp ring of safety. Only problem is that they will scatter in several directions if Sonic is hit by anything. Then, it becomes an annoying fetch quest of grabbing them all again. The other problem is that the isometric angle makes it hard to get you precise location to hit an enemy. I will say that it does have a decent exploration aspect due to its “3-D-ness” and it’s at least something different from what was the usual norm of Sonic game at the time.

The main reason I enjoy this game is due to both the Saturn’s major upgrade in the visuals, but once again we get a smooth-jazz soundtrack from the great Richard Jacques.  No disrespect to Jun Sunoue who did a great job himself on the Genesis version, but I always loved Jacques Saturn compositions and this one is no exception. The best one and the biggest difference between the two games is in the bonus levels. Click here to see the Saturn version. Now click here to see the Genesis version. The Genesis version just has some bland, rickety bridge while the Saturn version not only does a great job bringing back the Sonic 2 style bonus stages, but has such awesome music that I go out of my way to collect enough coins just to go back to those stages.

Sonic 3-D Blast on Saturn may be just an okay game to some, but its improvements over its Genesis brother makes it seem sooo much better than it actually is that I can’t help but enjoy it.

Sonic Unleashed (HD)

"It's either me or Big the Cat in Sonic Adventure 1. Take your pick."
“It’s either me or Big the Cat in Sonic Adventure 1. Take your pick.”

Screw all the critics, I LOVED this game! Yes, the Werehog is a silly concept (as is a super-fast blue hedgehog), the Werehog levels are WAY too long and the medal collecting gets REAL annoying later in the game not to mention Eggmanla-OKAY! OKAY! This game has its problems but not really any more than the other 3-D Sonics did. Frankly, I’d still rather play through a Werehog level than one of those horrible Rouge/Knuckles levels from Sonic Adventure 2.

What I love about the game is not only those breathtaking, high-speed Sonic daytime levels, but the atmosphere it brings. While others scoff at the hub worlds and find them boring, I loved looking around the villages with their beautiful backgrounds and great detail. I even enjoyed talking to the local townsfolk who FINALLY looked like they fit in a Sonic game for the first time in history. This is mainly thanks to the designs by the Gurihiru duo who also still work on Marvel Comics including Power Pack. I think Japan had it right by calling it “Sonic World Adventure” because that’s what it really felt like to me, a world tour.

You can disagree that the Sonic Unleashed opening is the greatest thing ever, but you'd be disagreeing with fact.
You can disagree that the Sonic Unleashed opening is the greatest thing ever, but you’d be disagreeing with fact.

Then there’s that AWESOME opening animation! Easily the most impressive piece of Sonic animation ever shown and still gives me goosebumps just watching it. Plus, it just had such a quality feel to it. Even if you didn’t like it’s design at times, it felt polished. While I think Unleashed is Far from perfect, I don’t believe it’s the disaster some make it out to be.

So what Sonic game, cartoon or whatever do you love that’s not exactly popular? Let us know in the comments. I might do another one of these “guilty pleasure” lists sometime in the future.

Jason’s guiltiest pleasure is being the president of the Tommy Turtle fan club.

Who’s at Big Red Button? Part 2 – SuperBots are invading, we need reinforcements!

Big Red Button Entertainment Logo

For Part 1, look here!

It’s that time again! I’ve been busy doing more research on who’s at Big Red Button and working on the Wii U version of Sonic Boom.

Well my findings sort of come in almost two categories; the most common is the mass amount of former SuperBot Entertainment folks, the team behind PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, aka, Sony Smash Bros. Which by the way while it was never going to dethrone Smash, it looked like a very polished game from what I’ve seen, and Metacritic is pretty kind to it (only one reviewer gave it a horrendous 20/100 as the only score below 50, the game clearly is not shit).

The second category is held by one person, and it’s actually most deserving to be the highlight, more on that in a bit. 😉

Let’s start with a brief look at SuperBot. The team was formed in 2009 by a former Sony Santa Monica person (creators of God of War), and they were in fact, a 1st-Party developer of Sony, just as Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, Sony Santa Monica, etc, are.

Well that changed, after All-Stars didn’t sell well (I don’t remember the numbers), Sony cut ties with them, and they were hit HARD, many thought they had closed but they confirmed in April 2013 that they were still active.

Well it seems a lot of them went to Big Red Button, now let’s see who’s there!

Let’s start with Niles Tucker, who was an Environment Artist at SuperBot, is now the same at Big Red Button.

Next is Kevin Hsu, who was a Senior Level Designer at SuperBot, is now a Combat Designer at Big Red Button.

Then we have Johnathan Nielsen, who was a UI (User Interface) Programmer at SuperBot, is now a Programmer at Big Red Button.

Fourth is  Carl-Henrik Skårstedt, who was Lead Software Engineer at, you guessed it, SuperBot, is now a Senior Programmer at, right again, Big Red Button!

Yet again, we have Daniel Ramirez, who was a Senior Character Artist at SuperBot, is now a Lead Character Artist at Big Red Button.

Here we have Mark Vernon, Combat AI Designer at SuperBot, is now Combat Designer at Big Red Button.

Next is Lisa Kapitsas, who was a Producer at SuperBot. Now she’s a Producer at Big Red Button.

What’s that? No more? Wow, I thought this wouldn’t end! XD Seven SuperBot folks, holy cow. This is looking more like a SuperBot-based company than a Naughty Dog or Insomniac one don’t it?

There are a few extras before we get to the big bit, they are the following:

First is Greg Prior, who worked at Sony Santa Monica as a Junior Environment Artist, specifically on God of War: Ascension. He’s now an Environment Artist at Big Red Button.

Second is Dannie Carlone, who also worked at Sony Santa Monica, this time as an Environment Artist, again on God of War: Ascension, is now also an Environment Artist at Big Red Button.

Next is Ben Strickland, this time having been a Junior Designer at High Impact Games (I covered a few HIG folks in the first part), is now a Game Designer at Big Red Button.

Finally we have David Nam, who was an Animator at High Impact Games (but only for a few months, he actually was an Animator for a few years at Wayforward, who makes Shantae, Mighty Switch Force, etc), is now Junior Animator at Big Red Button.

But wait, this person also worked at Disney, as he says specifically:

Created hand drawn animations under the mentorship of Anthony DeRosa, and animated on several scenes for “Winnie the Pooh”

This is leading up to my favorite of the pack, saving the best for last, allow me to introduce Todd Ammons, this guys’ resume will blow your mind. He worked at Disney for many years during the 90’s and early 2000’s as Assistant Animator on MANY Disney Renaissance Era films like Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Tarzan, Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc as he shows on his site! He also worked on animating in the film Barnyard, and actually worked at Insomniac for a year and a half as Senior Animator, animating in Ratchet Deadlocked and Resistance: Fall of Man. He worked on numerous games at Heavy Iron Studios including Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Spongebob: Truth or Square.

And he has an animation demo!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE1–ka5_BE

Here you’ll find clips of Ratchet, Barnyard, Ratatouille, Spongebob (oh my god this is my fav bit), a tiny clip of Home on the Range with Alameda Slim (the villain), among others.Guys, I think we’re in for a TREAT! He’s now Senior Animator at Big Red Button, and here’s his description of the position:

Responsible for development of Cinematic,Character,Camera and Game Animation for the main actors and enemies. Influential in creating a Combat style and adding personality to the heros

That wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed this, as I certainly have!

Freak-Out Friday: Sonic 06 – The Musical

I just don’t understand why people like Sonic 06

How could a game that gives you so many horrible experiences…

…be good?

Like a Disney film itself, these were the words which began something special over on the SSMB forums. As a debate rages on in our Sonic 06 topic, member Indigo Rush appeared to spin a musical tale of just why he couldn’t understand anybody who would enjoy the game. Then, it escalated further as another member, Discoid, decided he would sing the song… and now, the world has this wonderful creation. Open your ears and listen well. Lyrics are below the video.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eht54FIcCdM[/youtube]

Look at this game
Doesn’t it suck?
Wouldn’t you rather be hit by a truck?
What would you think of a game
A game that just
Really stinks

Look at this game
Glitches untold
How many problems can one game disc hold?
Looking around and you think
Sure
This game really stinks

It’s got glitches and plot holes aplenty
It’s got lame villains and bad design galore
You want loading screens? They’ve got 20
But who cares, no big deal
They’ve got moooooooore

I wanna see
Wanna see Silver fight
I wanna see
Sonic get trapped by a wall
Slamming back into his – what do you call ’em?
Oh – rings!

Touching your controller you don’t get too far
Automated segments are required for moving quickly
Running along down a – what’s that word again?
…Mach speed section!

Up where they crash, up where they fall
Up where they glitch all day with those balls
Loading a screen, for eternity,
In Sonic o’siiiiiiiiix

What would I give, if I could drown in 1 feet waters…
What would I pay to spend a day, stuck on a wall…
Bet’cha in 4, can’t fall through floors
But you can
Stand up on the ceiling
Scripted loops here
Tails is poop here
Ready to gliiiiiiiitch

I’m ready to know what the people know
Ask them some questions and get some missions
What’s an Iblis Trigger, and why does it – what’s the word
Buuuuuuuuuurn

When’s it my turn?
Wouldn’t I love, love to explore the empty hub worlds up above?
Out of this plot
Wish I could rot
In Sonic O’siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiix

The Sonic List: Why Sonic Boom Will Be Awesome (And Why There’s Still Room For Concern).

Sonic Boom Logo

 

I truly believe Sonic Boom will be great. While the game trailer left me more confused than excited, you cannot deny the legacy of the developers working on the game. While Knuckles design has been incredibly controversial, one look at a scene from the show or listening to the recording sessions convinced me that the show is not only going to be very funny, but heading in the right direction. Yes, Sonic Boom has left some fans divided about its quality, but I don’t think there’s no denying that it’s looking better than originally anticipated. That said, if there’s one thing you should ALWAYS have with any Sonic media (except the comics) is caution. If there’s one thing Sonic Lost World taught us, is just because something looks great, doesn’t mean it will be. (I’m not saying SLW was bad, just…disappointing.)

That said, here is my list of reasons why Sonic Boom will be awesome and why you might still need to be cautiously optimistic.

"We're surround by Playstation developers!........Cool!"
“We’re surround by Playstation developers!……..Cool!”

The Game Developer’s Background

Why it’s awesome! – You’ve got former developers and art directors from Naughty Dog, High Impact Games and Chris Sean (the cancelled Sonic X-Treme) all working together to make Sonic Boom happen. There’s some solid talent here including Bob Rafei who was with Naughty dog from its very beginnings such as the Crash series, all of Jak and Daxter and up to the first Uncharted. Not only that, but there are several other Naughty Dog founders here along with staff from High Impact who worked on Ratchet and Clank and J&D games on PSP. It’s like seeing Sonic if he was developed for Playstation! This is their first big break though game under this new company so they know they can’t afford to mess it up. Not only that, but you have the uber-talented guys at Sanzaru games (Sly Cooper 4) working on the 3DS version. I could go on all day, but if you want to know more about these guys, just look at this article.

Why you should be cautious – All that Jak and Daxter talent seems to be leaking into the game itself. Just looking at the trailer, if you removed Sonic and the gang and replaced them with Jak and Daxter, it would seem almost MORE fitting (that “desert-punk” look reminds me a bit of Jak 2). There’s no doubt this team has the talents to make a great game, but do they have the talent to make a great Sonic game? Outside of that, there are some mediocre games in their back catalog including the fairly weak Secret Agent Clank. Still, it’s GOLD compared to some of the stuff Sonic Team’s put out.

"Knuckles is right. That upper-body work really pays off!"
“Knuckles is right. That upper-body work really pays off!”

The Cartoon Show

Why it’s awesome! – There’s been plenty of Sonic Cartoons over the years, but very little of good quality. Sonic SATAM is almost universally loved for its strong dramatic storytelling, Adventures had it’s good moments and watching Robotnik act goofy was always a treat, Sonic X while not that great, was fairly faithful to the games and brought in a new generation of fans and Sonic Underground was liked by a few because………I have no clue.

So many were worried about how Sonic would be represented in an 11 minute comedy-based CGI cartoon. Thankfully, we not only got one 3–minute scene from the show, but a behind the scenes moment of their voice recordings and I’m very happy with what I’ve seen and heard so far. While the jokes aren’t hilarious, the delivery by such superb voice actors as Mike Pollock and Roger Craig Smith help to deliver a very funny performance. Just a few of those moments were funnier than almost all of Adventures of Sonic. As a fan of the very silly Sonic X comic and of the writing in Sonic Colors, I’m very happy with this direction for the show.

Why you should be cautious – Because you’re all into dark drama and hate fun. XP

Okay, kidding aside, there were a few small concerns. Knuckles looks like he’s going to be the big, goofy dumb brute again and his “funny” dialogue sounded like stuff you’d hear on a bad Disney Channel comedy. Also, just from the small sample shown it’s obvious Amy Rose is still channeling her inner Minnie Mouse. “SIGH!” Speaking of…

"C'mon, you Ratchet and Clank reject!"
“C’mon, you Ratchet and Clank reject!”

Amy’s Character Change

Why it’s awesome! – For the longest time, Amy was just a one note character. Following and pining over Sonic with not enough development and growth. This changed over time and she became a little more strong and independent. This was in part thanks to having Cream the Rabbit as a sidekick (albeit that was really shown more in Sonic X and the comics).

With Sonic Boom, we no longer get a boy chaser in a frilly dress, but an athletic, gymnastic and stronger Amy Rose than before. Someone Sonic may be chasing after, rather than the other way around. Someone with less flaws, who’s smart, gymnastic and…..uh-oh. Uuuuhhhh-oooooh!

Because perfection is boring.
Because perfection is boring.

Why you should be cautious – This is part of the problem. Amy was already becoming tougher and more independent while still keeping her character flaws that made her a fun personality. What I definitely DON’T wanna see is Amy Rose become Sally “little miss perfect” Acorn. Sally has become the super-ultra, self-sacrificing, Christ-like Mary Sue of Mary Sues whose only flaw is caring too much and I really can’t stand her!! (Gee Jason, tell us how you really feel. Also, you covered this three weeks ago you idiot.)

In short, it’s cool for Amy to be tougher and more independent, as long as it doesn’t go overboard.

Go home Amy, you're drunk.
Go home Amy, you’re drunk.

“Finally, something interesting!” AKA The New World/Designs

Why it’s awesome! – By now, we’ve all seen the new designs and we all have our opinions on them. Buffles, the sports tape, blue arms, extra quills, you either love it or you hate it but you know what? At least it’s something different. We really haven’t had anything quite this unique and new in the Sonic franchise since “Sonic X” and even that was based mostly off the Sonic Adventure series of games. We’ve got a new design, new lands, new characters, new villains and more!  With all that newness on the horizon, what’s not be excited about? Plus if it doesn’t meet up to your expectations, you don’t have to worry about it replacing your favorite Sonic as it’s just its own thing. “A branch of the Sonic Franchise”.

Why you should be cautious – At best, Sonic Boom could re-ignite the Sonic franchise in a big way. At worst, we could have another Sonic ’06 that ruins the franchise further and we get more stupid “LOL Sonic-Cycle!” posts. Personally, I don’t believe it will go that way at all but you never know.

Also, just look at how ridiculous Knuckles looks. What with those tiny noodle arms attached to giant boxing gloves and don’t get me started on those Lego shoes. Wait, which Knuckles were we talking about?

Jason Berry wraps himself up every night in sports tape for……personal reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

Freak-Out Friday: The True Origins of Sonic the Hedgehog

TRUEORIGIN

In this week’s Freak-Out Friday, we have the special treat for all Sonic fans out there. BEASTS have finally uncovered the true origins of Sonic the Hedgehog’s conception and have shared their findings for the world to see. I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty amazing to see first hand. Be warned, there’s a bit of language involved in such a passionate and heated moment!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtg_QHQxy9s[/youtube]

Who is at Big Red Button? What is their long quiet history? Let’s have a look and see…

Big Red Button Entertainment Logo

So as my first own created post where I don’t just post big news, I decided to make it about the results of my research about the developer of the Wii U version of Sonic Boom; Big Red Button Entertainment.

Most may have never heard of them before, and you’d be right to not have, because they were formed in 2008, and have not put out a SINGLE title under their name, Sonic Boom will be their first. What on Earth was going on for the last 6 years you ask?

I have some answers, which is why I made this post. 😉 As you may know from the recent interviews, Big Red Button was co-formed by Bob Rafei, who was a AAA veteran from Naughty Dog, so much so he was actually their first employee, how about that?

He joined NDI in early ’95 as its first employee while in the visual development stage of Crash Bandicoot. He played a key role in establishing the look of this series; touching on all aspects of production, from back ground modeling, lighting, texturing, to character rigging and animation.

He worked on all of their Crash Bandicoot games, all of their Jak & Daxter games, and the original Uncharted (that’s where Sonic got his new scarf from you know).

He is also seemingly credited for the art design of Daxter himself:

He was part of the team who earned Best New Character of the Year for his art design of Daxter in the Jak series.

So that’s enough about Bob Rafei, he isn’t the only pebble on the beach. 😉 So who else is there?

Well E. Daniel Arey was the other founder of the company, and he was ALSO a Naughty Dog member. I am having trouble at the moment finding his exact positions in the company. He’s credited with scripts and cutscenes for Daxter on PSP, Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier on PSP and PS2, and the original Uncharted. IN FACT, he and Bob worked on The Lost Frontier as part of Big Red Button.

Remember I said Sonic Boom is their first proper game? That’s still true, because The Lost Frontier actually was developed by High Impact Games who earlier worked on Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters on PSP and PS2 and Secret Agent Clank for PSP (Sazaru Games who’s behind Sonic Boom 3DS actually ported Secret Agent Clank to PS2 later on). Big Red Button only have two sneaked in credits through the involvement of the two founders alone.

Where’s E. Daniel Arey now? Well he’s now Senior World Designer II at Blizzard Entertainment.

Next on the employee list is a 3rd Naughty Dog veteran, named Eric Iwasaki, who began with Crash 2 and ended at Uncharted 2. He is more of a tech person, working on models and engines. At Big Red Button as the Lead Technical Artist, he’s tasked with getting CryEngine 3 just right for Sonic Boom on Wii U:

Currently lighting, creating FX, authoring tools, and customizing CryEngine 3’s shaders and rendering tech for SEGA’s Sonic Boom™

Next, we’ll move on to an Insomniac person; Victor Murillo, who was an Environment Artist there, but again worked more on realizing 2D concepts into 3D. He began on Ratchet 2/Going Commando and ended at Resistance 3. Now he’s Senior Environment Artist at Big Red Button.

Now we’ll move on to a group of folks while they weren’t at Naughty Dog or Insomniac, they worked at their “Junior” versions so to speak, most specifically High Impact Games (that one’s most known from Insomniac), the three are Justin Rasch, who’s a Lead Animator, Adam Yeager, an Environment Artist, and Shiva Adloori, an Animator. All three worked on at least one of the Ratchet and Jak spin-offs at High Impact (the 3rd person just on Lost Frontier). MobyGames claims Justin was a stunt person in Uncharted 2, but it doesn’t fit with his other work so I’m curious if it’s a different person or not. Hey, could always have been the same person.

Finally as far as employees are concerned, is neither a Naughty Dog, nor an Insomniac veteran, but someone most of the Sonic fandom know very well.

That person is Chris Senn, who many know was basically the man behind Sonic X-Treme. Well he’s now at Big Red Button as Lead Level Implementer. He actually did work on one game that key Insomniac folks worked on previous but it’s questionable how much of his influence remained since this was way before it was even unveiled; Spyborgs for Wii as Design Director. Spyborgs was developed by Bionic Games, which was really a different label for High Impact Games, since most ended up working under High Impact Games on their output afterwards such as Phineas & Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension for Wii and PS3.

So you’re asking “great, we know the names, what the hell did they do for 6 years? Tap their fingers?”, NO! The following as an astounding find by a talented research group who apparently is part of Kotaku called Superannuation. Superannuation ran their own website and they’d uncover stuff you wouldn’t believe, from canned games to who’s at where, etc. The site closed years ago and now mostly run their twitter account. They were a common source for neat finds. Shame they sort of stopped or at least went low.

So about what they found, well back a year ago Superannuation at Kotaku posted this fascinating article about various finds, including what on Earth Big Red Button was up to, and the bold reveals some juicy tidbits:

Big Red Button Entertainment is something of a rarity: a studio that has existed for five years and operated under the radar without having shipped a single game.

Founded in early 2008 by two Naughty Dog veterans—art director Bob Rafei and creative director E. Daniel Arey—Big Red Button had ambitions to become “the United Artists of games.” The duo wanted to use Big Red Button as a vehicle to AAA games that were genuinely accessible and solve the one of the major issues of contemporary games: players not necessarily completing the games they buy.

Arey seems to have left the company several years back to join Blizzard, and he currently appears nowhere on the studio’s list of employees. Curiously, a since-removed page of “Advisors & Consultants” listed him as a “Creative Consultant” alongside Doug Church, who apparently served as a “Creative Advisor” to Big Red Button prior to joining Valve.

Big Red Button spent the first few years of its existence creating a portfolio of original IP, and secured an alternative financing arrangement contingent on the signing of a publisher or similar partner. They briefly worked with the now-defunct Jerry Bruckheimer Games on an IP called “Ten Minute Man.” (The relationship between the two companies actually led a Jerry Bruckheimer Games production assistant to jump ship to Big Red Button.)

As of mid-2010, Big Red Button was pitching IP “to publishers such as Sony, Konami, and Activision.” By spring of the following year, Big Red Button landed an “unannounced major project with third-party publisher,” which seems to be the title they are presently working on.

Big Red Button’s recruitment copy describes the project as a “next-gen landmark AAA console project,” and job openings hint at a cross-generation “character driven, 3rd person action” title with co-op gameplay and some sort of mobile integration. The Big Red Button copy also mentions the company is keen on “delivering authentic gaming experiences that are as fun to watch as they are to play,” so perhaps the game is not too far removed from a cinematic action-adventure title like Uncharted?

Finally, a producer at the studio says the project has a “$19.9 million budget” with an estimated “34-month” production cycle and a present studio headcount of 28 people. Also, the domains itsasnowday.com and monstersurgeon.com—both registered in fall 2011—redirect to Big Red Button’s site, though neither of those quite sounds like a name of a AAA action title

So there you have it, we might know what the budget potentially was for Sonic Boom (granted said info could certainly have changed) and Sonic Boom may have been a cross-gen (meaning released on PS360 as well as Wii U, PS4, and Xbox One for instance), plus it was confirmed the game was multi-platform at one point.

And that’s that! For now. I may create a Part 2 if I find any more information about who may be at the company, there’s still so much to do, so much to see! Thank you very much for reading, hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

TSS Discuss: Sonic Boom

boom

It’s been a little while since Sonic Boom’s initial unveiling, which fans were surprised with a totally new branch of the Sonic franchise, boasting new character designs, a new video game, television show and merchandise. If you missed anything important this week, be sure to check out our Sum-Up Sunday where all the important stuff is noted down in one handy dandy article. Now as avid Sonic fans ourselves, some of the writing team of The Sonic Stadium wanted to weigh in on our own initial thoughts regarding this brand new, re-imagined Sonic, as well as the possibilities the future may hold for this brand of the franchise we know and love.

HoL

So, what do I think of all this? Well, let’s go back to the teaser last year. When they showed the silhouettes last year, I was really confused and concerned. Knuckles was the biggest concern with how he had a radically different shape then ever before. Sonic was also a bit concerning with the extra spikes, but Tails and Amy had pretty much no different changes, just different clothes, so that was fine to me. Also the news of the show made me worry it was going to be some cheap flash cartoon akin to My Little Pony, and I’m not crazy about modern flash cartoons, they just feel like a cop out and cheap work-around versus the traditional cel animation of old.

But I realized they indeed meant it was going to be CGI, so my imagination turned more towards Sonic’s peer Pac-Man who was also rebooted in the same way, and I’ll say this right now; I adore Pac-Man & the Ghostly Adventures, there I said it! Hey, it has Canadian voice actors (many of whom were in the old DiC Sonic cartoons, bet you didn’t know that!) and it’s written by Ken Pontac, go figure, he rocks in this show, not as much in the recent Sonic games.

So fast forward to the present and… I’m super excited! When we first got our taste via the leaked Sonic and Knuckles designs, I was really impressed, they looked closer to the modern designs than I expected, I was worried we were going to get Nickelodeon-esc designs.

So then finally the full unveiling came via the leaked trailer, and it indeed is the 3rd Nintendo exclusive! And I’ll say this right now also, that just makes it even more exciting to me, the fact that Sega’s putting what is arguably Sonic’s biggest evolution since Sonic Adventure 100% on Nintendo is just effing incredible. Kudos Sega, kudos.

I’m a diehard Nintendo fan and only play on Nintendo’s systems (I was introduced to Sonic most specifically with Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on GameCube), and I always appreciate any exclusives that are designed from the ground-up, fully tailored to the strengths of Nintendo’s hardware, because lord knows virtually every port ever on Nintendo systems is gimped as hell.

And crazier still is that Sonic Boom is being shaped by none other than key members from Naughty Dog, who created Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. The founder is Bob Rafei, who was the big art director and character designer on both! And the 3DS version is by the same folks who took over from Sucker Punch and made Sly 4: Thieves in Time, just wow. I hope they use their experience and make the 3DS version their own and not a copy of the Wii U version. Make it cel-shaded!

I can’t finish without talking about the TV show clip now can’t I? I was very impressed, while the dialogue didn’t really have much to it, the delivery (especially by Mike Pollock as Egghead I MEAN Eggman) was really great. And the animation is fantastic! It’s at least direct to DVD quality, which is a good thing.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m super excited for this and can’t wait to see more! I hope you liked my opinion piece. 🙂

DMK

I think it’s fair to say SEGA certainly weren’t kidding when they hailed 2014 as a year to remember for Sonic the Hedgehog. As the announcements trickled out from New York on Thursday, I was perhaps one of the lucky ones, away from my computer and missing the inevitable explosion of immediate reactions. But that’s not to say I was completely calm and collected about the scenario – when I caught my first glimpse of the new character designs, I was absolutely ready to toll the death knell and proclaim “Sonic Doom!”. What had they done to my beloved series? Why was Sonic covered in tape? And what on earth had Knuckles been taking to get those muscles?

But the more I read up on things, and the more I analysed the TV and game trailers… the more I liked what I saw. My knee-jerk reaction to the new look was undoubtedly out of shock and fear of change – after all, let’s face it, Sonic’s not exactly had the best reputation when it comes to reinventions – but once the dust had settled and I collected my thoughts, Sonic Boom actually sounded like a rather appealing proposition. A well animated CG cartoon with top notch voice work and some decent writing? Hell yeah! A brand new teamwork-based game giving each character individual abilities and being developed by some of the industry’s finest in the genre? Shut up and take my rings! I’m very intrigued to see what this new take on the franchise has in store, and whether it manages to reach its full potential will be a key factor in deciding just how good a decision SEGA have made in revitalising their mascot.

To put it simply – Sonic Boom, you’re growing on me. Well, everything but Knuckles, anyway. Sorry Knuckles.

Jono

The hit of new information when all the details about Sonic Boom were revealed initially left me feeling alienated as a fan. It seemed like the Sonic I’d known for so many years was gone, and that those who may have seen themselves as veterans of the series now had no place in the new territory that the hedgehog would be moving into. More details came about, and now that I’ve had time to reflect, I’m actually eagerly anticipating the direction that this new canon can go.

I almost think that the best thing SEGA have done is how they’ve handled Sonic Boom’s reveal. In a way, showing the silhouettes off such a long time ahead of this reveal was probably the best decision they had at their fingertips. It gave the fan base some kind of expectation on what we would be seeing, and I dread to think what the reaction would have been like if these designs and universe suddenly came as a bolt from the blue.

As far as the game goes, it still looks a little ways to go before it’s ready. Character models and animations etc definitely need tightening up, and we haven’t yet been shown any real idea of how the game will play. That will come to light when the time comes, though. The main thing I’m excited about is the TV series. The teaser that’s been shown is a joy to watch and has remained consistently so on all my subsequent re-viewings. It’s witty, full of action and it keeps the Sonic most of us know intact.

As far as Sonic Boom goes, I think that Sonic’s audience focus is definitely shifting now. I’m sure many readers of TSS are those who grew up loving either Sonic’s classic era or his recent outings. I think a lot of people forget that yet another new generation of fans are also getting into the series, and SEGA would be wise to tap into this new wave of fans that may be discovering Sonic for the first time.

Basically… GIMME MORE!

Hogfather

Cartoon: Looks awesome, except for when Sonic runs in his scarf.

Game: Filter out all the PR stuff and talk about how ‘we completely understand the characters…’ this is what you get.

Battles with normal enemies take place inside arenas, 2 player co-op mandatory, Sonic uses a whip to attack certain enemies, no chaos emeralds so no Super Sonic, which is kinda ok with me since it’s a very overused mechanic that lost any special value years ago… though watch there be some kind of super form through whatever Deus Ex Machina device is thrown into this one.

Daddy Longlegs Sonic with that scarf which looks cool in the concept art, but looks ridiculous in motion.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad, but you can call it a new branch of the franchise as much as you like, some people will still go into this thinking ‘Sonic game’ and end up being disappointed when they find out it’s not one. A lot of this reminds me about other instances where it feels like a new IP is trying to use an old IP to try and sell an idea instead of trying to make an original game that would have been a perfectly strong series on its own.
At the moment, my expectations and hopes are low for this. There are a bunch of glaring problems such as ingame character models looking awful, barren stages and why does Tails look like a zombified flying chimp in ‘that one screenshot?’

When we actually get details on the gameplay, see it in action instead of being told what the characters act like (seriously, this is a Sonic game, everyone knows what the characters are like). Then maybe everyone will be in a much better position to make judgements. But right now, do not expect a Sonic game, because this isn’t one. Give us more details before anyone can decide if it’s a good game or not.

P.S. Stop complaining about how Knuckles looks, yes he has become a giant. But if you read his bio on the official website, for once he actually sounds like a decent character.

vedjf

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t gone through the song and dance of redesigns before. Also being a Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Rayman fan, I’ve seen my fair share of drastic changes within my favourite franchises. And…in none of the cases was it ever particularly too bad. Sure, I pretty much lost interest in Rayman with Origins, but that was because I was brought up on Rayman 2 and the franchise went to the gameplay style of Rayman 1. Crash I stuck with, and for the most part turned out fine (I have a few gripes with Coco for personality, but the others were okay and I prefer new Tiny to old) and would have loved one of the redesigns planned in 2010 before it was cancelled. Spyro I stuck with, and while the Legend series was too dark for me (literally; I couldn’t see what was happening on-screen which is why I haven’t done New Beginning or Eternal Night), Skylanders has been enjoyable if not really pricey, and the series takes more and more cues from the classics with each instalment.

So, how is Sonic Boom shaping up compared to those reboots? Pretty tame actually. The characters don’t look that unrelated if not for a few design quirks. And the personalities we’ve seen are pretty much what they were in Colours onwards. My main gripe with what we’ve seen so far is that I didn’t particularly enjoy the humour in the clip of the show, but that’s all down to taste. I don’t think I’ve seen enough of the game to make a comment on it too specifically.

And that’s generally the attitude I’m taking with Sonic Boom right now; I want to wait until more information comes to light before I make a more solid opinion on what is being offered with this so-called renaissance. Since I’m very much a character fan, I’ll be keeping an eye on whether other Sonic characters return (moreso for the show than the game since the game is set-up) and how their dynamics play in the new branch, as well as seeing what the inevitable new cast bring to the table. I’ve held back like this in the past and have been pleasantly surprised at the other end (Dino-Rang the fruit kebab fiend is adorable!), but who knows if this will end up being as well-liked. If not, I have the option of ignoring Sonic Boom and sticking to SEGA Sonic unlike the other redesigns which is a nice cushion to have. It’ll be like the Mega Man franchise where there’s more than one series you can be a fan of!

I also hold some reservations over the success of the push on a broader scope, but that’s neither here or there…

Sym

When I applied for the writing job on The Sonic Stadium, I wrote a blog post which expressed my desire to see Sonic establish himself more uniquely and become more relevant, fearing he wouldn’t be around much longer if he didn’t. And then, 2014 comes around and we’re greeted with this. A whole new, re-imagined Sonic the Hedgehog. I was surprised to see Sonic Boom be greeted by such positivity overall by the fanbase, including myself.

From what I’ve seen so far, I feel that Sonic Boom has some huge possibilities resting on its shoulders. Boom stands as a potentially huge success story for our blue hero – one that can capture the hearts of a whole new generation of fans and re-engage fans of old. Its desire to be new without hesitation feels refreshing. Whilst games in the past few years have, to me, felt the need to rely on older mechanics and nostalgia to keep fans engaged, or take too much inspiration from existing successful franchises *ahem*, Boom strives to separate itself from his Japanese counterpart and truly try to craft a whole new 3D Sonic experience. The fact Boom will be launching with four main characters, which are all playable, cements this idea of confident reinvention to me.

The only thing that I fear for with Sonic Boom is the chance that the developers strive too much to be different from traditional Sonic and lose sight on what once made the franchise special to begin with. But from what I’ve seen from the show and game so far, it doesn’t feel like I have reason to fear yet. This goes for the show especially. With its seriously wonderful looking CG animation, top notch voice acting and spot on writing which feels more faithful to these character’s personalities than ever, I have a feeling it could be the best on-screen adaptation Sonic has had yet. I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of the game yet to lay down proper judgement, but I do hope those character models are worked on, since the rest of the visuals and art direction looks beautiful.

Overall, I am truly looking forward to seeing where Boom takes us. Let’s hope it’s onward and upward!

There we go! You’ve heard what we think so far – but we wanna hear your thoughts too. What do you think of Sonic Boom? Are you worried or are you excited? A little bit of both? Are we doomed forever because of blue armed Sonic? Sound off in the comments below and let us know! We’ll be sitting at our writer’s roundtable waiting patiently for your responses.

(Psst – also, don’t forget! You can also check out the new Sonic Show Podcast which Sonic Boom is also the topic for discussion. Enjoy!)

Sonic List: The Top Official/Semi-Official Sonic Pairings (Valentine’s Special)

SX16

 

I hate you Google Image. I put two Sonic characters in your search bar and you provide me with these horrifying images of Sonic couples. The safe search, it does nothing! Why are they inflated?! Why are they centaurs?! Why are those things a fetish?! GAAAAAH!

Anyway, it’s Valentine’s day, love (or some other foul stench) is in the air and it’s the perfect time to talk about everyone’s favorite Sonic relationships. While I’m sure there are many of you who like to ship their own fictional Sonic couples be it straight, gay or “call the police”, I wanted to focus on the ones that have been made official or even semi-official through the games, comics or cartoons be they full blown couples or just one-sided love interests. I’m not much of a shipper myself, but I wanted to look at them from a writer’s perspective to see what works about them. So in no particular order, here’s my list of what I personally think are the best couples in the Sonic Universe.

Continue reading Sonic List: The Top Official/Semi-Official Sonic Pairings (Valentine’s Special)

The Sonic List: Predictions for 2014

OracleofDerpus
“EEESH! And here I thought the other fate was bad!”

Well, 2013 is behind us, the first month is almost over and Hedgehog day is drawing near. The year 2014 is here and it’s time to look towards the future and see what possibly lies ahead of us. Yes, it’s time for me to make up some crap to act like I know what I’m talking about and make my personal predictions as it pertains to Sonic this year. Let’s see if I’ll be able to say “I told you so!”. Remember, these are all opinions so repeat to yourself “it’s just an article. I should really just relax!”

Continue reading The Sonic List: Predictions for 2014

The Sonic List: Defending the Less Loved Characters

Even Sonic can't stand some of them.
Even Sonic can’t stand some of them.

The Friday Five is gone. Welcome to the Sonic list! Why the change? Well, for one, I was unintentionally stepping on the toes of one of my co-workers at Segabits who has one of their own top five lists on Fridays. Also, I wanted to not limit myself to exactly five at any time. I realized as I was thinking of some topics that I had up to 8 and as little as 3 subjects on some lists. Also, while I’m still planning to be Bi-Weekly, I don’t have to update on a certain day. Anyway, onto the topic for this week.

“Sonic’s shi**y friends” they’re called. Characters that have not only annoyed some, but have single-handedly made a game WORSE with their presence. Some, only liked by the most die-hard of fans were hated the moment they were introduced. They’re annoying, they bring nothing to the franchise and they have no reason to exist.

Or do they?

I want to give you more die-hard fans some fuel for the characters I feel get a little too much disrespect. Yes, I’ll start by why I feel they’re disliked by others, but I also want to show why you should give them a chance. To slightly misquote Charlie Brown “It’s not such a bad little character, it just needs some tender loving care.” Or was that Linus? I forget. Who cares? Let’s get on with it!

Continue reading The Sonic List: Defending the Less Loved Characters

Friday Five: Reasons it sucks to be Charmy Bee

 BeeTrippin'

 

Let’s be (or “bee”) honest here….nobody cares for Charmy Bee much (and yes, I’m sure that there are some who’d say otherwise and like my head on a platter. All three of them).

What is he good for? What does he even do at the Chaotix? Is he their secretary? Vector’s youthful ward? Does that helmet thing even come off of his head? What?! He hasn’t been a playable character since Sonic Heroes and even then he was just one of three you controlled at the same time. He has no real personality so you can’t even relate to him in any way. Look at the other kids. Tails? Young super genius. Cream? Polite little girl who tends to have the strongest morals. Marine? Immature, bratty little girl who annoys people because she’s probably lonely and seeks attention. Charmy? Little boy. That’s it. (Not counting Sonic X where he at least had a Bart Simpson-like “prankster” personality.) Frankly, just listening to him gives me the hives.

At least the comics give you a reason to feel sorry for him. Lots of reasons. This poor little bastard’s life has been absolute hell. Read on to see why life as a bee can totally suck. But beeware honey, his tale is so tragic it may sting your eyes.

Continue reading Friday Five: Reasons it sucks to be Charmy Bee

Friday Five: Worst Sonic games of the past generation

"I wonder how hard it is to get vomit stains off of quills?"
“I wonder how hard it is to get vomit stains off of quills?”

Surprisingly, as hard as it was coming up with five good games from the past generation, it was even harder to come up with five bad ones!….With one exception of course and you all know what that one is and yes, it’s #1. In fact, some of the games on this list are actually fairly enjoyable. So I took off the “No spinoffs” rule this time and had to go with more “disappointing” or “blah” than outright “bad”. This does help show that Sonic’s been more on an upswing since the horrible 2002-2006 era, but it also shows were Sonic has fallen back.

Remember folks, these are just my personal opinions and yours may vary. Also remember that the previous generation is only Wii, 360, PS3, PSP and DS. Enjoy!

Continue reading Friday Five: Worst Sonic games of the past generation

Friday Five: Best Sonic Games of the Past Generation

sonic_generations_cityescape2

While we’ve had the Wii U for a full year now, the PS4 and X-Box One have made their debut. Since Sonic Lost World is part of the new generation of systems, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back on the best Sonic games of this past Generation. It was a hard list to make, not because there was a ton of great Sonic games to choose from but because there were so few to be brutally honest. Also, I have one rule to this list, no spinoffs. This means no Mario and Sonic or All-Stars Racing. (I should have been stricter with the staff pics and added no remakes or fan games but too little too late.) I wanted this to focus solely on Sonic. This means there’s a game in here that wouldn’t normally make any top five list. So prepare for the good, the great and the…..meh.

NOTE: This is an opinionated article and everyone’s gonna have their favorites, so if your list is different from mine that’s fine but let’s make a huge fuss over it okay?

Continue reading Friday Five: Best Sonic Games of the Past Generation

Freak-Out Friday: Robotnik’s Weird Adventures

Gentlemen, behold! A trio of flash animation shorts from members of the Sonic Paradox community via the ParadoxPowerPlays channel, featuring the bold, the illustrious, the great Dr. Robotnik!

Feast your eyes… or your soul!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnDyIDOCow8

Continue reading Freak-Out Friday: Robotnik’s Weird Adventures

Sonic is Faster than The Flash & Deadpool

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V9R4beYFdY

Update: It would appear that later into the race, Deadpool joined in… only to then be taken out by Sonic… today has been amazing. Hit the read more link for the vid.

Original Story: And now for something I didn’t expect to see today. Over at New York Comic Con, two cosplayer’s took part in a race in what I assume was to determine supreme champion of the universe who was the fastest. Cheered on by the crowd, Sonic and The Flash took to E Hall in a sprint to answer a question that has bugged nerd-kind for years. Who is faster? Sonic? Or the Flash?

Continue reading Sonic is Faster than The Flash & Deadpool

Shadzter’s Summer of Sonic 2010 Experience

With Summer of Sonic 2010 wrapped up and us staff having recovered (at least a little bit), I thought it time I put my thoughts about the convention out there and share some photos (sorry for crappy DSi quality).

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing World Championship Tournament

I was staffing the Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing tournament with Sonic Wrecks’ Blake Draco.  Things went O.K. during time trial qualifiers, despite him and I having difficulty monitoring two pods each out of a total of four to make sure everyone kept to the three lap limit, didn’t cheat and helped new players/owners of other console versions to learn the XBOX 360 versions controls.

The 32-player knockout round was a mess since only about half the people showed up but it was more than likely because people had got stuck in queue for other things going on. We didn’t take this into consideration when planning the tournament and I deeply apologise to those who did show up that had to wait while we tried to find your opponents and sort out what to do from this point. The last thing we wanted to do was keep participants standing there wondering what the hell was going on and what you’re doing next.

I also apologize to the few that turned up later and/or didn’t catch our shout outs for you and then had to be disqualified. I felt so bad for you guys having to miss out and wish there was something we could have done.

Despite all of these problems with the tournament, we got our winner and runner-up crowned and their trophies given to them on stage to an applause from the huge crowd of attendees, which made the stress and difficulties all worth it.

The Days Events, Games and Guests

It goes without saying that this year has been bigger and better than ever, with so much to do and see there was plenty to keep any Sonic fan occupied. We had a Cosplay Contest, an Art Contest, a Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing tournament, a comics table where Sonic the Comic’s Nigel Dobbyn was present, a merchandise store,
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, Sonic Colours (both Wii and DS), plenty of other game pods, many on-stage events including Nevermind the Buzzbombers, The Wrecks Factor Live, the one and only Crush 40 and more.  Now that is a lot of activities and entertainment.  All for a whole day and all for free.

The People of Summer of Sonic

The Summer of Sonic couldn’t be what it is without the people behind the scenes who pull it all together voluntarily and the special guests who give up their time to attend. There is a huge team of us staff who work hard for this event and don’t get paid.  They give up their free time, money and risk their sanity and health for the love of one spiny blue speedster and his community of fans.

Many of the Summer of Sonic’s guests and activities all come from the event’s main organisers.  ArchangelUK, Dreadknux and T-Bird who deserve the highest respect and thanks for their huge efforts. Without these three guys, there was no way we could have had all of the special things we had and no way we would have gotten through the day.

All of the other staff at the event such as Vger, Flyboy Fox, JayZeach, DiscoPonies, Bmn, Roareye Black, Roarey Raccoon, Echo Hawk, Jemnezmy, Blake Draco, Urtheart, Nemain, Turbo, Iceman Etika, Gnasher and others deserve huge praise, too. This is what the true super power of teamwork has made: a large convention for the community and by the community.

The Heart of the Convention

The heart of Summer of Sonic is what keeps people coming back every year and makes the event really some thing special.  The heart is within the community who attend this convention every year and it really shows. From every inch of the convention, you can see people socializing and making new friends, sharing each others experiences in their time in the fandom and even their creations in areas like the art tables. I myself got to see a good friend I’ve made in the community outside of the staff here, Doctor MK, who is the founder of the charity event Sonic Relief that I help out with. I also got to meet other folks, too, like Skai5er (on the left of the photo). To see a room full of love, friendship and spirit for our favourite blue dude with ‘tude is why we staff volunteer our energy and souls to this event.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed myself!  It was good to see familiar and new faces, make new friends and a pleasure to work with my fellow staff. I didn’t get to take part in many of the days events since I was staffing, but it’s worth it to bring you guys the goods. I’m glad all of us, attendees and staff alike, got to enjoy the Crush 40 concert at the end.  That’s an experience I’ll always remember and treasure. Johnny and Jun were fantastic!  The way they interacted with the crowd who love them so much was absolutely fantastic. I’m sure the rest of the fandom are so grateful to them for coming down to see us all.

All in all, Summer of Sonic 2010 was a blast and I look forward to next years event for Sonic’s big 20th Anniversary. A massive thanks to my fellow staff and thanks to everyone in the community who have supported us. See you all next year!

Check out more photos of the event below –