It’s that time of year again! SAGE 2014 Act 1 has begun, the central hub for fangame developers to show off their work to the Sonic community. From February 23rd to March 1st, you can head on over to the SAGE website and try out a ton of fangames. This year has a plethora of titles to try including the Sonic CD-esque Sonic Time Twisted, the 3D Sonic Lost Adventure, and a game by a member of our community, Shirou Emiya, Digimon Heroic Battle Spirit – yep, it’s not just limited to Sonic titles!
Normally, I do big reviews for the better titles and round-up reviews for everything else at SAGE, but I don’t have the time to do that anymore. I’m a busy guy. Plus, there are a lot of turds at this year’s SAGE (more than usual). I really don’t want to have to rail on 10+ projects. That said, I’m going to give you a run-down of what games you should check out before the show ends today. Hey, I’ll even provide a link to the projects’ websites, so you can download them long after the show is over!
I have five, truly amazing projects that I will review in detail below. Afterward, you can check out snippets of the projects that are above-average, but failed to captivate me like these top-five could.
Sonic 1: The Retro Channel
If you only get the opportunity to see one thing at SAGE, please make it this project. “Retro Channel” is the new hotness by Cinossu/Hapi-San that merges Sonic games with an online database at Sonic Retro. Imagine if our current world of online leaderboards and achievements existed during the Genesis era. Well, in a nutshell, that’s what this project is doing.
The first “Retro Channel” enabled hack is for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. You log into the game with your username and password for the Sonic Retro forums. Once connected, your scores, times, achievements and other miscellaneous play data will be transferred to leaderboards on the official Retro Channel website. You can play each act one-by-one or tackle the entire game like it were 1991.
The game’s new HUD keeps track of your score, time and rings, as usual, but also counts up badnik kills and player damage. Now, you can prove to your friends that you beat Scrap Brain without getting hit! If you press start in the hub world, you can see your achievements. These achievements are very clever and sometimes difficult to obtain (unlike those super lame SEGA ones)! Achievements range from quick enemy kills to exploiting game glitches!
Other features include a boss attack mode and the ability to insert your own music for a completely custom soundtrack. Retro Channel is for the fans, by the fans!
When you head over to the Retro Channel website, make sure you download the right package. You need to have the latest Gens emulator with the MDP plugin. Check out the action in the video below.
When hacks started showing up to SAGE about three years ago, I was ecstatic. Firstly, it was the merger of two great communities, SFGHQ and Sonic Retro. Secondly, there are some really talented hackers out there who can create original experiences within the groundwork of the Genesis games. Hacks like Sonic 2: Retro Remix give you those perfect Genesis physics and something new to look at.
However, just because you’re in the Genesis hardware, it doesn’t mean that you have to make a game akin to Sonics 1 through 3. Sonic 2 Retro Remix feels more like the modern, two-dimensional outings of the blue blur and less like the original Sonic 2. Homing attack, wall jumping, that mid-air spin attack from the Advance games and tons of speed are the gameplay hallmarks in this hack, which can be exciting and frustrating all at the same time.
The homing attack works great. I’ve never been an advocate against the homing attack in the second dimension, but rather SEGA/Dimps’ abuse of forcing you to use it to cross pits or reach new areas instead of platforming. Here, it’s to your benefit only. If you so choose, you can play the game without using it, which is fantastic. The wall jump, unfortunately, has to be used and it is clunky as hell. You have to hold onto the wall with the Genesis “A” button, then jump with “C” and the direction you wish to go. I’ve said this before in SAGE reviews: the wall jump should be mapped to only one button, not two. I reset the game when I was forced into a wall-jump section. I simply couldn’t do it. Again, I’m not against wall jumping, but shit… at least make it usable if you’re going to force me to use it.
The level design is way too reliant on loops. Loops are cool and all, but they lose their luster the ump-teenth consecutive time. Otherwise, the layout and stage gimmicks lend themselves to extreme speed and little chunks of platforming. It’s clearly designed to be more of a “modern Sonic” game from its level design. That comment would be a knock against this hack if it had the terrible physics that plague the official games. Since it’s built upon the Sonic 2 engine, it’s a great rush (see what I did there?).
I had a fun time with this hack. After I tooled around with the main game, I dicked around in the “Adventure” mode, where you run around and hunt for emeralds. If you ever wanted B-Boy Knuckles’ 3D gameplay to go 2D, this mode is for you.
One-level demos (hell, sometimes one act demos) are all too prevalent at SAGE every year. Sonic Axiom is different. It has more content than a couple of SAGE demos put together, featuring five zones. Axiom also manages to not suck on many levels.
What will stand out to you first is the graphical style of the game. Yes, all of the graphics are recycled from previous games, but I’ve never seen such seemless and creative mixing-and-matching of tiles before! These levels are gorgeous (except for the cave level; that one is ugly). There were moments where I was caught thinking that all of the art was original. There were a few background objects that looked out of place, but they didn’t show up often. Thumbs up in that department.
The game stays with the tried and true Genesis gameplay, built within Multimedia Fusion. The “Sonic Worlds” engine that Damizean developed for Sonic Fan Games HQ is mostly accurate, but you will encounter a few weird spots here and there (you can only do so much with Multimedia Fusion). Sonic Worlds is, and always has been, a solid foundation for fangamers and Sonic Axiom really takes advantage of that fact. I rarely encountered issues with it.
Aside from the art and engine, the level layouts are well above-average for a Sonic fangame and feature some clever sections of platforming, something that most fangame creators cannot grasp. I had a blast romping around the large level layouts of Axiom. The music was assisting in said blast, providing some fun, yet sometimes ethereal, tunes. While the music isn’t original, it’s a well-selected soundtrack of recognizable and rarely-heard tunes. I managed to recognize Neon Night Zone’s theme, as it was from Socket, an infamous Sonic clone on the Genesis. I smiled when I heard it.
This game is almost complete. I’m excited at the prospect of the Sonic Worlds engine being apart of a finished project. It’s what my friend Damizean has always wanted.
Nothing much has changed from last year’s release. Just minor improvements to the engine. If you want a rundown of the spectacular E:02 engine, check out Dreadknux’s review from last year. E:02 is one of the best engines out there!
Be the Bullet, also known as “Sonic-‘Em-Up,” is a retro-styled, Sonic SHMUP. I don’t have much to say about this game, aside from that it’s a fun little ditty that you should definitely check out. It’s one of the few games at SAGE that isn’t a traditional Sonic game, so it earns a lot of points for uniqueness.
You run along as Sonic, using the spindash to blast through hoards of enemies. The platforming elements are translated into this Gradius-like environment in the form of pits and spiked bridges. While firing, you can adjust your position on screen. In order to cross a pit, you have to fire and move your return point, represented by an arrow, to the other side. This functionality adds a little more depth to your average, fan-made SHMUP and helps translate Sonic into this new gameplay setting.
The NES feel with the graphics, music and gameplay is fantastic. I can’t get enough of Be The Bullet. I hope Steven M, the game’s creator, keeps working on it in the future and sees it to completion. Be The Bullet is solid from top to bottom.
The following games were above average, but did not “wow” me like the above projects. If you have the time to check out more games, please give these a look.
Sonic Time Twisted
If you’ve been reading thissite for the past few years or follow the fangame scene, you might be shocked as to why I’ve put this game here and not in the list up above. The graphics and music are superb, the level design is true to its source (Sonic CD‘s Tidal Tempest Zone) and the engine is fine, for the most part. Here’s why I didn’t particularly like this year’s release: there’s too much water.
I released a demo for Sonic Nexus with only a water level in it in 2007. That was a risk, as people hate water levels. I can respect a creator taking a risk with a non-green zone for their SAGE demo, but the level still has to be fun. I saw an abundance of parallels between that demo and this Time Twisted demo, the good and the bad. Perplex Puzzle Zone, featured in this demo, is not fun. It’s too submerged in water. I learned from studying Sonic water levels and learning from my Pristine Palisade mistakes that you need to provide more above-water gameplay than what’s given here in Perplex Puzzle. Otherwise, it’s slow, mind-numbingly tedious platforming.
Spending a zone entirely underwater also allowed engine flaws to rear their ugly head. It needs improvement. Luckily, Overbound, the game’s creator, is upgrading to Mercury’s GM engine. This project will still be in my upper-echelon of fangames. It just hit a major speedbump.
Yeah, you guys probably hate this hack. It’s making fun of Dimps’ Sonic games and most of you guys are hyper-sensitive to any criticism regarding the current state of Sonic (cue: paragraphs of bullshit about a “broken fanbase”). There are many people who enjoy this concept, however. If you’ve got a sense of humor or want to see Dimps get ripped on, then this hack is for you… kind of.
Why “kind of?” Well, this parody hack doesn’t go far enough. There are also a few jokes that just fall flat. What’s good in this parody hack is the intentionally bad music, sound design and dumbed-down physics. Sonic’s acceleration is out-of-whack and he can’t jump as high, just like a Dimps game. These physics changes are the setup for mocking speed boosters. Dimps’ use of speed boosters is primarily a way to hide their less than perfect physics and pre-determined curves. If you hit curves with anything less than a running speed, you’ll probably just stand there on the side of a wall. The boosters in this hack are placed accordingly to mimic that design choice or to exaggerate the boosters’ placement with overkill. It’s funny to hit a booster going into a curve and then another booster mid-curve.
What doesn’t work is that the speed boosters create this jerky motion. Chemical Plant Zone uses these speed boosters and they are very smooth. Why aren’t these parody boosters like that? From my experiences with Dimps Sonic games, the boosters do not create this jerky motion.
The homing attack is there and it works as it should. There are segments of the game where you have to use the homing attack to cross pits, instead of using platforms. Platforms were even taken out of the level design to make way for this boring, button-mash-a-thon. I laughed as the string of enemies went on and on.
The jokes fall flat sometimes due to Sonic 2‘s level design. Sonic 2 wasn’t designed for speed boosters and other bullshit. If SOTI, the game’s creator, really wants these jokes to land, then the level design has to be tweaked accordingly.
This parody hack has everything going for it. It just has to go more over-the-top and fix a lot of issues that arise as a result of the jokes its trying to make. If this interview with “Ken Balough” is any indication, we’re in for a fun time in the near future.
Both are games in the Sonic Worlds engine and both are one-level, green zone demos. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them. Both are solid games with good graphics, physics and level design, but they suffer from what I just mentioned; they’re short, they’re green, they’re decent. If you’ve got a moment, you can give these two a shot. Just don’t prepare to be wowed.
I’m exhausted. This concludes my run-down of almost everything at SAGE 2010. If I didn’t mention your fangame, I apologize. I can only write-up so much. There’s also a lot of shit out there on the show floor, but I don’t feel like being entirely negative today. You probably wouldn’t have liked what I had to say anyway.
So, that’s it! Get out there and enjoy some fangames and hacks, knuckleheads.
Sonic Nebulous will most likely go down in history as one of the first ever fully completed fangames at a SAGE event. But there’s a lot to be excited about here too besides such accolades, as Nebulous brings its own quirks and innovations to a game that otherwise is inspired by the roots of the classic Sonic games.
One of the most impressive things about this game is that the graphics are entirely customised sprites. All of the backgrounds, foregrounds and characters have been crafted from scratch, and the additional scenery and easy-to-follow storyline helps bring a very moody atmosphere to Mobius. It really feels like you’re battling for the planet’s freedom here.
The main innovation in Nebulous is the screen rotation, that kicks in when you’re at a point where a wall links up to a roof. The screen rotates to sit exactly along the wall or roof you’re on, so there’s no over or under-rotation. A notable point about this is how well-programmed this feature is – the camera snaps back to position if you jump back onto the ground from the roof.
All of the individual characters have their own special abilities and play styles, showing off the abilities of the game engine, and with 30 characters to choose from it’s amazing to think that Pink Ninja Monkey Studios have thought of all the possibilities for each one while still keeping true to their personalities.
The game so far is great – I only found a couple of problems with it. For example, as Fang I seemed to miss some rings when running into them as if their “action point” was set a fraction too high, and another thing I miss is there being checkpoints in the middle of levels. This however is covered with the levels not being too long to do in one run (even if it is after a couple of tries).
With a unique design style, thirty characters offering tons of replayability and an interesting story to boot, Nebulous is definitely one of the more ambitious and playable titles at SAGE. Give it a go at their booth here.
It’s a strange time to be in the Sonic community at the moment, particularly if you run a fansite. For years, we’ve been able to post – as webmasters on TSS, Retro, SFGHQ, CulT or any other site – our thoughts and feelings of being Sonic fans, and not have to worry about possible tabloid ramifications in doing so. Running a website such as this is a hobby, nothing more, so personal feelings are surely going to be thrown into the mix. But these days there’s less of a feeling of community due to nobody talking to one another – perhaps as a result of such prejudicial fear.
It’s been harder for the poor guys behind the Sonic Amateur Games Expo this year, who are now the new targets of such unwanted gossip. With festivities kicking off tomorrow, there have been fangame creators who have had some trouble in getting demos online, or in other cases pulling out of the show entirely. Such activity isn’t new; as a dedicated (and at times, official) coverage-provider of the SAGE event, I know that such bad situations are part and parcel of a hobby activity that dedicated fans undertake in their spare time. Sometimes work gets you down, you have a kid, money’s tight, or some social event happens in your life, and you just need to put your fan project on hold for a bit. With such trivial matters being highlighted as headline news though, it’s even less fun for those fangame creators involved.
This next week is all about celebrating Sonic fangames, and the people behind those projects who put their free time into it all. They don’t owe us anything. They’re hardly obligated to even finish their games (and many who set out to make a fangame seldom do). SAGE was created to be a structured exposition on the year’s best fangames, but again it’s not an obligation to show your game. Fangames aren’t a business, it’s a hobby. Some of can forget that we’re only in this community to have some fun.
So when SAGE opens, people should all just kick back and enjoy that hobby, whether those people be the creators showing off screens, videos and demos of their labours of love; or the visitors that play, watch and get impressed with the work that one or two people at home are capable of achieving.
Tomorrow, TSS will be covering SAGE, and we’ll be in it to have some fun. Come and join us, or play the games yourself when the site opens at http://www.sagexpo.org/
There are always short demos on the show floor, so I’m combining them into one post here. Today, I’ll be reviewing a few of the lesser known titles at the show, in order to give them some exposure. The bigger games you already know about and will be getting larger reviews, like Fated Hour, later this year. I’m holding those off, as they always update with bug fixes and stuff throughout the expo.
The following, arbitrary scoring system will be used for these review round-ups:
Sucks: Avoid at all costs
Kinda Sucks: You might like it, but probably not
Meh: Doesn’t suck, but isn’t cool either
Interesting: Worth your time
Way Past Cool: Must see!
SONIC PANIC – Meh
Spike has had this game running for nearly 3 years now and this year, we get new content and a brand new name. Formerly named, “Sonic the Hedgehog 4,” Sonic Panic follows Sonic as he chases Robotnik across various galaxies and planets. The demo features the Planet Mech level of Rail Road, which is a Genesis revamp of Sunset Park from Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble on the Game Gear. I am a complete sucker for Game Gear levels, so I went into the demo with modest expectations.
First off, you will notice that the music is awful. The instrumentation is simply horrific and you will be cursing FL Studio for having such poor guitar samples. Once you get past that, your attention will be directed towards the “close, but not quite” physics of the game, which are decent enough. Jumping could use some improving and the spindash is extremely weak, but otherwise, the whole gameplay experience is serviceable and is hardly game-breaking in the slightest.
As a Genesis-styled game, the level design features branching paths and “awesome secret walkthough wall shit.” While it is nice to have many places to go, there is simply not much to do. The whole level is devoid of any activity, mostly due to the lack of badniks, as I only encountered a couple. There are a few industrial-themed gimmicks in there to tide you over in spots, however.
Augmenting the demo’s emptiness has to be the graphics. Essentially everything is black and any variety the foreground tries to offer is thrown out the window. There is the occasional yellow, construction stripe, but that is about it. The background is nice, with the sunset and all, but the black silhouettes of the towers in the background have no contrast to the foreground, thus adding to the black attack. Continue reading [SAGE ’08 Review] Review Round-Up #1
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE SOME EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE OF SOME SELECT TITLES COMING TO SAGE? OOOKAY!!!
This 3-minute video ran at the Summer of Sonic during the day, but if you didn’t go, catch a glimpse of Sonic Nexus’ new engine and animated cutscenes, the action of Sonic: Time Twisted, the beauty of Emerald Ties: Crossing Fates, and more!
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO SEE THE SCHEDULE! ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN STANDARD.
Pink slots are workshops, red slots are SAGEcasts, skin-tone (wtf color is that) slots are interviews in the chat room, and baby blue slots are concerts. Other colors are just random events.
Well, now we can finally confirm the first SAGE workshop, as Chris Senn, the developer of Sonic X-Treme, has agreed to hold a workshop on game design on Monday, August 18th at 6 PM EST!His regular interview time in the SAGE chat room has been changed from the last post. He is now appearing at 6 PM EST on Thursday, August 21st.Continue reading Current SAGE Schedule released, confirms times and more
Mike Pollock, the voice of Dr. Eggman for 4kids, is going to be a SAGE chat guest along with the aforementioned Ryan Drummond, Chris Senn, and Richard Jacques. Chris Senn’s appearance now has a time and date confirmed. This show just keeps getting bigger and bigger! Here’s the entire rundown of what is brand spanking new as of today:
Sonic GEDA – a game that pays tribute to Sonic CD by emulating its play style
Sonic Fusion – no idea what this game is, but it’s coming
Mike Pollock – time and date have yet to be determined
Chris Senn – confirmed to be in the chat room at 9 PM EST on Thursday, August 21st.
Slingerland’s Super Sonic Super Trvia Game Super Show – there will be a trivia bot in the SAGE chat room, just like there is every year. However, now it will keep track of rankings! The top few people will meet head to head in a live SAGEcast that tests their Sonic knowledge. I am hosting and I will probably be as ridiculous as possible.
That’s all for today, folks! Oh, you want a source for this information? Well, it is not in any SAGE threads yet, but let’s just say that I have my methods (and that would be…talking to the director -easy enough).
Check back for more SAGE updates and check this story out later today at TSSZ when it is copy pasted over there (ouch).
Ugh, it’s 3 AM on Monday…no wait…it’s Tuesday now. I am slaving away on my demo, but for the sake of procrastination, I am going to fill you in on more SAGE game confirmations. With the first day of registration over, the following games were confirmed to show up at SAGE 2008:
ProSonic – Developed by saxman, this Sonic development kit is being hailed to be the “perfect” Sonic fangame creation tool, allowing users to replicate the original games “to the letter.”
Emerald Ties: Crossing Fates – This game has been in and out for years now, sitting on the border of obscurity, but it we are finally going to get to see some new content from this famous Sonic fangame.
Mecha Madness – When it comes to unique experiences, SFGHQ member Streak Thunderstorm has the bases covered. A simple, yet intuitive, combat system, an impressive array of elemental shields, and tried & true Sonic gameplay meets luscious production design to create a can’t miss SAGE experience. Continue reading More SAGE game confirmations!
RICHARD JACQUES – the composer from Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic R comes to chat with SAGE visitors. A time has yet to be determined.
CHRIS SENN – designer of Sonic X-Treme. A time has yet to be determined
MORE CONFIRMED EVENTS
LIVE CONCERTS – concerts will be airing over the SAGEcast channel! Three bands are confirmed: Riker Out (featuring Hunter Bridges, the composer of Sonic Nexus’ soundtrack), The Polites (headed by The Taxman, creator of Retro Sonic), and Dom (live requests and the all around Sonic jukebox).
Stay tuned for even more SAGE 2008 confirmations! A SAGE news thread has now appeared at TSS in the Sonic the Hedgehog forum as a sticky. Check it out here!