TSS SAGE 2020 Roundtable: Some Other Games We Played

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

Continue reading TSS SAGE 2020 Roundtable: Some Other Games We Played

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAGE 2020: Sonic and the Mayhem Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAGE 2020: Mania Mods Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No single area has just one path through it.

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

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

You can do tricks too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This damn bird was a pain in my rear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonic GT can be downloaded here or here.

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

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

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

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

SAGE 2020 Starts Today!

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

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

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

SAGE 2020: Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit is Looking to be a Quality Remake of a Portable 8-bit Classic

Out of all of Sonic’s 90s offerings, Sonic Triple Trouble is probably the most under-appreciated. Featuring some of the best levels, bosses, and music outside of the series’ core offerings, Triple Trouble is the apex of Sonic’s 8-bit entries. It built on the unique quirks of those games, while also coming the closest out of all of them to matching Sonic’s 16-bit releases. This makes it all the more frustrating that the game hasn’t seen an accessible re-release since it hit the 3DS eShop 8 years ago. Hopefully, this will be corrected soon, but until then, we’re set to get something much better: Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit.

Continue reading SAGE 2020: Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit is Looking to be a Quality Remake of a Portable 8-bit Classic

Popular Fangame Stirs Minor Controversy After Changing It’s Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready, Set, Submit! Deadlines and Guidelines For SAGE 2020 Are Live!

SAGE 2020 is just a few months away, and it’s time for creators to submit their fan games. The SAGE team have officially released this year’s deadlines and guidelines for the event. Compared to last year, there have been some changes, especially in regards to the method of submitting your project.

Continue reading Ready, Set, Submit! Deadlines and Guidelines For SAGE 2020 Are Live!

SAGE 2020 Coming September 5th

A lot of annual events may be getting canceled this year, but there’s at least one we can still look forward to: the Sonic Amateur Games Expo. The expo, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, will launch on September 5th and run until the 12th. As usual, you will be able to check out lots of fan projects, both new and ongoing, as well as some original projects.

SAGE will have more details on booth submissions, streams, and trailers soon. Until then, you can check out this year’s logo:

And while its running, be sure to check out our coverage of the event!

via Twitter

SAGE 2019 Review: Sonic Smackdown

Sonic Smackdown was one of the many games featured at this year’s SAGE event, and probably one of the more notable. The game pays homage to the Capcom style of fighting games, drawing it’s inspiration from the Marvel series of beat ’em ups.

Continue reading SAGE 2019 Review: Sonic Smackdown

SAGE 2018: Petit Hedgehog

Petit Hedgehog is probably one of the more notable entries at this year’s SAGE, with a refined version from last year’s expo being showcased for 2018. Created by Chengi, Petit draws upon influences from the Sonic Advance era, as well as translating elements from the Sonic Adventure formula into a 2D environment. Continue reading SAGE 2018: Petit Hedgehog

Sonic Amateur Games Expo 2018 Trailer Released

The annual Sonic Amateur Games Expo (SAGE) is set to make its return this year on August 25th, with a jam-packed lineup including Sonic Z-Treme, Sonic the Hedgehog PC and Sonic Advance Revamped among many other titles you can check out in their launch trailer above.

The event is still accepting submissions to be featured at the event all the way up until August 18th – details on how to submit your fan game can be found here.

You can find further details on the event in general over at Sonic Retro.

The Sonic Amateur Games Expo Returns Next Saturday

The Sonic Amateur Games Expo—or SAGE—is finally returning for another round this year, as novice and aspiring developers from all over the web come together and share their efforts with the Sonic community at large. It is at SAGE where people enjoyed a wide variety of fan-made games and ROM hacks, such as Sonic: Before the Sequel, Sonic Time Twisted, and Sonic 2: Dimps Edition, or some intentionally awful and crudely put-together monstrosities at RAGE (Really Amateur Games Expo), which is also hinted to return.

Among this year’s lineup is the open-world 3D fan-game Green Hill Paradise which took the Internet by storm over the past summer, a 2.5D sidescroller with Sonic Incursion, and a Smash Bros. clone with a Sonic Boom coat of paint called Sonic Boom and the Smash Crew. There are too many promising gems to namedrop all at once, but you can check out the SAGE 2016 trailer below to see more fan-games in action!

Continue reading The Sonic Amateur Games Expo Returns Next Saturday

SAGE Round Up Discussion

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESfrFleRwRA[/youtube] or download the mp3 from here.

The Sonic Amateur Gaming Expo has once again come to a close, so what better time to discuss our favourite games. And who better to join the discussion than Lewis aka SonicYoda, reviewer and affiliate of this years SAGE event. Continue reading SAGE Round Up Discussion

Sonic Amateur Games Expo 2014 is a go!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVzyVkAf_A8[/youtube]

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!

You can head over to the SAGE website now to try these and tons more – plus, members of the SAGE team are doing a livestream showcasing the various entries to the expo this year. What’re you waiting for? Go go go!

SAGE Spotlight: Sonic Robo Blast 2

Review by Kain of SFGHQ, Submitted to TSS

As a preface to this review, I will say that I am being particularly harsh in my criticisms of this game, because I feel no need to patronize this team or treat the game as “just a fangame,” mostly because of its enormous size, publicity, and history.  I’m also sore because I get motion sickness from playing jerky 3D games and am being doing it for spite from all the physical pain it put me through.  On to the review…Sonic Robo Blast 2 is a project that has been in development for over a decade and it shows.  In the eyes of many fangamers, including this one, it’s in a class of its own.  The volume of content and detail in this game is incredible.  It is and it feels like a full game.  However, it’s far from feeling like a complete game, as there are a large number of truly unfortunate glaring flaws with this game which keep me from really enjoying it. Continue reading SAGE Spotlight: Sonic Robo Blast 2

SAGE Spotlight: Time Twisted

tttitle

Last year, I reviewed a game that I’ve been following for quite some time, Sonic: Time Twisted.  While I was happy with prior versions, the 2008 demo was surprisingly mediocre and annoying.  Overbound (Bryce Stock), the game’s creator surely took notice at the comments and reviews left by the community and gave Time Twisted a much needed, and appreciated, make-over.  With one full zone of this new hotness available to play, there are many improvements to see.

dispotdriveGone is the game’s original first zone, City Edge.  In its place, we get “Dispot Drive.”  At first glace, I was somewhat shaky about the quality of this demo solely based on the use of the non-existant word “dispot” in the zone’s name.  Within the first thirty seconds of playing, however, my doubts were cast aside and the game looked, felt, and sounded like a drastic improvement over previous builds.

Time Twisted is designed to be a spiritual successor to Sonic CD, so with that connection comes the “bulgy-polygonal-pattern” foreground.  The yellow diamond foreground is much better than the strange pattern that City Edge, but shades on the side of “too bulgy.”  The foreground can sometimes be a bother on the eyes for always bulging out and providing few opportunities for flat or caved-in tiling.  Otherwise, the graphics are consistent, clean, and one of the best out there in Sonic fangaming.

ddzpastThe slippery controls of previous builds have been left in the past, as the game feels tighter and a bit more like Sonic CD.  While not perfect Sonic physics, they are not game-breaking in the slightest and are tight enough to get you through the experience.  I just wish that jump was mapped to a different key, because the space bar is slightly uncomfortable to me.

One thing that hasn’t improved is time travel.  The means of how you leap through time is now different than Sonic CD‘s, but there’s still no point to it.  I will pose the same question as I did last year: What purpose is there to go back in time?  I need a reason to travel, like destroying a roboticizer or something, or else the mechanic is just a gimmick that would eventually wear on me if the demo was longer.  Everything needs a purpose and time travel still does not have one.

metalsonicTime Travel also becomes aggravating due to the aforementioned new method of activating it.  Rather than hitting a post and hitting high speeds for a set amount of time, Time Twisted throws you into the past/future once you hit a timepost.  There’s no option, like Sonic CD, to time travel.  As a result, the game stops to send you back in time with each time-post that you pass and all you will hear is the first ten to twenty seconds of each time period’s music.

Speaking of the music, it’s still great.  LarkSS, the game’s composer, has created past/present tunes that complement each other nicely, like the Sonic CD soundtracks.  Sound effects wise, the game did away with the “click” sound for when Sonic lands on his feet and that makes the experience leagues better.

Everybody can learn a lesson from Overbound.  He is a guy who had his project assailed with harsh criticism, got upset, but still managed to get up and come back stronger the following year.  It can only get better from here, so keep up the good work, Overbound.

VISIT TIME TWISTED’S SAGE BOOTH AND PLAY FOR YOURSELF!

SAGE Spotlight: Project Mettrix

Perhaps a beacon of hope, glory and good times for many, Sonic the Hedgehog: Project Mettrix has been in the fangaming headlines for quite some time, and with good reason. While many fangames before it have tried to recreate the classic 2D Sonic experience and provide a brand new adventure out of it, Mettrix is the first from-scratch build that, even in its early state, is truly succeeding.

In the new tech demo, codenamed E02, we’re given a tour of four different stages in the updated code. The first is a test level purely for demonstration purposes, but it was real fun bouncing around in this dummy stage using all the contours and springs to our advantage. It seems that Stealth and co are onto a good thing here – focusing on physics-based speed is just what the doctor ordered.

mettrix-siz

Although introduced in an earlier version – E01 – first stage Shining Island Zone seems to pale in comparison to the Test stage in terms of level design. Granted, the former is practically a playground to trial moves and gimmicks, but you can’t hep but feel that not enough of those curves and loops have been used in the tropical paradise level. The graphics are also showing their age, with block browns and somewhat jarring chequered scenery contrasting the blue skies badly. Luckily, this zone is due for a refit anyway according to Stealth, so we should see it in a much more contemporary state later.

As well as a Special Stage (that works exactly like those from the original Sonic the Hedgehog) and a recreation of Green Hill Zone to demonstrate the E02 engine’s capability to reproduce the Sonic experience to the letter, we were treated to a new stage called Bronze Lake Zone. Created for Knuckles, but as with any stage in this demo you can play as Sonic or Tails too, all to exact Sonic 3 & Knuckles specifications with no odd side effects.

blz-example

Bronze Lake itself is very nicely designed, and is actually quite a sizeable Zone. Taking cues from past water levels such as Aquatic Ruins, it consists of two huge, differing paths – one leading you underwater and through the depths of the Lake; the other going high into the skies, complete with dinosaur-esque Badniks to boot. Some great attention to detail is used in the scenery and gimmicks as well, such as the leaves on the trees.

Perhaps the greatest asset to Mettrix however, is its Source engine itself. For a player, it’s the perfect recreation for some classic 2D platforming action. The physics and object collisions are all present and correct, just as if you really were playing a sequel to Sonic’s finest outing. For a developer and fan modder however, this engine is a wet dream, for you can don your coding hat and start creating your own Sonic levels using Mettrix as a base! There’s a list of fan-created addons for the game already available on Mettrix’s website and as the engine gets further in development there’s no question that more complex things can be achieved on it.

Overall, Mettrix provides a very enticing prospect for the fangaming community – on the surface, an enjoyable replication of a 2D classic. Under the skin, a complex yet accessible coding base that can be used to create your very own levels in the same vein. Check out Mettrix’s tech demo E02 at their SAGE booth.

SAGE Spotlight: Sonic Nebulous

By JJ4eva

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.

nebulous3

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.

nebulous1 nebulous2

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.

Spencer Nilsen, US Sonic CD Composer, Chatting at SAGE

At 2 PM EST this Thursday, July 30th, visitors of the SAGE 2009 chat room will have the opportunity to talk to esteemed video game and movie composer Spencer Nilsen.

Spencer is famous for his SEGA CD soundtracks for Jurassic Park and Batman Returns, but most noted for his work on the US version of the Sonic CD soundtrack.

Join the SAGE chat room with the client provided on the site.  Alternatively, you can use a chat client and join “irc.rizon.net #sagexpo.”

Project Mettrix Becomes First Sonic Fangame On Wii

blz-exampleStealth is the master of bomb-dropping.  To list a few, he has ported Tweaker’s Sonic 1 Megamix hack to the SEGA CD, tricked morons with news tips, and released a port of Sonic 1 for the Game Boy Advance that doesn’t suck.  At this year’s SAGE though, Stealth has outdone himself.  His long-time project, Sonic: Project Mettrix, has been successfully been ported to the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation Portable.

Project Mettrix uses Stealth’s “E02 Engine,” a multi-platform game development tool for 2D games.  Mettrix has been around for quite some time, but it is really flourishing with the E02 treatment.  Now, you can play and create custom levels for Mettrix on your Wii and PSP.

Those with homebrew enabled Wiis should download this game right away and experience this momentous occasion.

VISIT E02’s BOOTH AT SAGE 2009!

Sonic Amateur Games Expo 2009 Now Open!

sage_inviteThe 2009 Sonic Amateur Games Expo is celebrating its 14th showing and does not disappoint yet again with 40+ fangames for you to play.  InstantSonic, KTZ, and the members of Sonic Fan Games HQ have been working for months to put this annual event on for all of you, so head on over there and have some fun!

Aside from the fangames, there are many cool events to check out.  The SAGE chat room is always happenin’ and ridiculous.  An awesome chat client is provided on the site, but can be accessed through programs like mIRC (irc.rizon.net, #sagexpo).  In the chat room, you will be able to talk to Mike Pollock, the voice of Doctor Eggman, and Tom Payne, the level artist for Sonic 2.  Check the “Events” tab to see when they pop in the chat room.

Also, the ever-entertaining SAGEcasts are broadcast from a flash player on the site.  Sonic community members from all over will be broadcasting their music, thoughts, and sketches throughout the week.

The biggest online Sonic community event is waiting for you to come on over and enjoy yourself!  It runs from July 25th through the 31st.

ENTER SAGE 2009

Get Your Hands On “Sonic Robo Blast 2,” Version 2.0

srb2

Sonic Robo Blast 2 has been in development for 11 years.  To think that we’d be playing a “version 2.0” makes me feel old, despite me only recently turning 22 years old.  A day before the 2009 Sonic Amateur Games Expo opens, Sonic Team Jr., the game’s developers, have released this new version, three years after the last demo.

Version 2.0 has a completable, polished, yet unfinished single player campaign.  The team’s leader, AJ Freda, has assured that there are so many improvements to the game that “to list them would be exhausting.”  With this release, however, AJ will be leaving the team and turning over control to his other members.  He is expecting a child soon, so we in the community wish him well on fatherhood and his future endeavors.  It certainly is the end of an era.

Download the SRB2 v2.0 Torrent

Visit the SRB2 Homepage

Summer Fun With SAGE This Weekend

sage14
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/

SAGE Sneak Peak: “Sonic Attitude!”

sonicattitude

Above is a screenshot of a game coming to SAGE ’09 in 2 weeks, called Sonic Attitude by SFGHQer Endri Lauson.  The game is a 2D sidescroller in full 3D.  LOOK AT THE PRETTY.  LOOK AT IT.

Endri originally designed Attitude for the Nintendo DS, but the recent screenshots that have been coming in have been for the PC version.  Endri built the PC version from the ground up in his own custom software development kit:

One thing that I would like to note is that I redefined the engine for the PC version. The PC version will now feature a brand new engine entirely customized by me myself. I like to call it, “Attitude Engine”. It’s an entire SDK for developing Sonic games for PC. In fact, you can you it to develop other types games but Sonic games, but the main sources included are for Sonic in general.  The main features in the engine I belive is SSAO and almost-with-no-pre-calculations-at-all Global Illumination.

To play the 2008 tech demo of Sonic Attitude, check out Endri’s website (translated from Portuguese) and follow the progress Endri makes on the game at the official thread at Sonic Fan Games HQ.

SAGE Sneak Peak: “Sonic: Time Twisted”

Sonic: Time Twisted has been a mainstay at SAGE since 2006 and, if you remember my review of it on the Stadium front page last summer, I was let down by how little of it had changed over the years and how the awkward design choices ruined the experience.  Well, it looks like Overbound, the game’s creator, has addressed all the issues with his project and is looking to deliver at SAGE 2009.  Below is a video of the new hotness:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK0bkBilQ2M[/youtube]

The 2009 Sonic Amateur Games Expo runs July 25th through the 31st at “http://sagexpo.org.”  It is the biggest online community event that showcases the best Sonic fan projects around.

UPDATE: Since people decided to be silly and troll the comments box with “NEW SKOOL RULZ,” Overbound has now made sure to cater to your audience.  You can thank him later:

SAGE ’09: Submit Awful Sonic Fanfics for Musical

Last year, during a SAGE radio broadcast (SAGEcast), video game music man, DOM (in his “Andross” voice filter), and other expo goers teamed up to do a dramatic performance of one of the worst Sonic fan-fictions ever, “Jurassic Park and the Sonic Crew.”  This year, they’re doing it again and they need your help.  Find or write an awful Sonic fan-fiction and submit it to InstantSonic, the director of SAGE ’09.

This show is hilarious and it will be again.  Trust me.  If you have a terrible idea, write it down and submit.

Submit an abomination of fiction to “sageradiomania AT gmail DOT com.”

Listen to last year’s “Jurassic Park and the Sonic Crew” recording.

Exclusive: 14th Annual Sonic Amateur Games Expo DATED!

A long-standing community tradition run by Sonic Fan Games HQ, the Sonic Amateur Games Expo is an online showcase of the dozens of Sonic fan projects in the works.  This year’s event will be run by community oldbie, InstantSonic, along with KTZ.  The show will be a week-long celebration from July 25th through the 31st. With the show a little over three months away, that gives prospective participators enough time to whip up a project and a booth (website).

Submit all booth registrations to sageboothmania@gmail.com, along with a game demo to be displayed in a SAGE Attraction video.

Submit all SAGEcast radio show concepts to sageradiomania@gmail.com. If you DO NOT send InstantSonic a concept of what your show will be called and what it will be about, you will not be able to broadcast. Also, try to limit all broadcasts to 30 minutes to an hour.

The show will feature regulars like Sonic: The Fated Hour, Sonic Nexus, Emerald Ties: Crossing Fates, Sonic Nebulous, and much more!  I am truly optimistic for this year’s show.

Read up on the last few years of the expo at Sonic Retro’s Wiki. Ah, 2007… so many memories for me as director…

Sonic Stadium is your place for all kinds of positive, community happenings.  Stick with us and you’ll find more fun things to do with that blue hedgehog who happens to run fast.

Play Sonic Nexus

Yeah, the demo is here. Once we missed SAGE, we took our dear sweet time, but now it is here to make your Labor Day even more awesome. You can play two acts of Sunset Shore and that’s about it. However, the level is sprawling with branching paths, so it warrants a few playthroughs for you to see everything. Nexus truly illustrates what a person can do in the brand new Retro-Sonic interface, so we hope it is a clear too you indication that this summer was a long, time-consuming process on making a brand new iteration of the engine. We also felt that we should take our time in creating our ideal product, as a hasty release definitely will piss people off (see: ProSonic). It was time well spent.

Secondly, you can record your best time with screen capture software and upload it to YouTube for a chance win $15. Yes! All you have to do is post your time attack run as a video response to the contest “hub” video, WHICH IS RIGHT HERE!

Finally, I encourage everybody to read our Nexus website and development blog, as the team and I will be updating it frequently, Smash Bros. Dojo style! You’ll see new screenshots, features, gameplay videos, and updates at least once a week, if not more. New music will be added to the on-site player periodically, as well. The community has always been left in the dark when it comes to Nexus’ development, as I only have been shedding light on details around SAGE time, but now, you can read about it year round. The website is essentially the game’s manual, so it will have all the goods. The first feature on the site is “Meet That Badnik,” where we go in-depth on one of Robotnik’s mechanical mercenaries. You can expect articles of similar quality coming down the pipe.

So, without further adieu…

HEAD ON OVER TO THE NEXUS WEBSITE AND DOWNLOAD THE LABOR DAY DEMO!

SAGE 08: Sonic Frenzy Adventure

Sonic Frenzy Adventure is one of those games that started a long long time ago and was never quite finished. Unlike most projects which ended up being canned though, SFA has stuck with it and is here to prove that ambitious fangames can be seen through from beginning to end. The question is though, is it still relevant in today’s fangaming scene, with Sonic Nexus and Retro Sonic ushering us into a new, exciting era of the hobby?

What it does, it does pretty well and in an entertaining fashion. You’re not going to walk away from the latest Frenzy Adventure demo thinking it’s a poor excuse for a fangame. Clearly a lot of detail and attention has gone into this game so far, with a stonking 16 Zones promised plus a Chao raising minigame. The presentation for each Zone is impressive, and BlueFrenzy has thrown some good gimmicks and ideas into each one. Continue reading SAGE 08: Sonic Frenzy Adventure

SAGE ’08: Sonic – Time Twisted

Time Twisted and I have a history together. The game debuted during the same SAGE as my project and we have made an appearance at the show for three years running now. It is always a good sight to see that a project is still alive. Secondly, we both chose the path of emulating Sonic CD, which is a plus, in my book. It remains a highlight of the show for anybody looking for a demo with more content than most (three zones here, broskis). Nonetheless, personally, I am gradually more and more disappointed with each subsequent release.

When it came down to gameplay, the physics are similar to Sonic Panic, in that they are manageable and are not intrusive to the action. A much needed improvement that I noticed this year was the beefed-up spin-dash. It only takes one touch of the space bar to power up Sonic to full speed and that is a godsend, in my opinion. The core gameplay experience does not twist the fun, but there are a few questionable gameplay choices that will. For example, ring loss is, apparently, absent. Sure, it happens, but I cannot collect any rings. None.

Time Twisted, as stated earlier, takes after Sonic CD and its time travel element. In previous years, I did not think there was a reason for the time travel, as Overbound, the creator, might not have thought of a purpose for it at the time. That said, now that development is three years in, there should be a reason why I should even bother going back to the past. I had to destroy something in the past levels of Sonic CD, so there was a reward for keeping my speed up in the present. Here, I am simply unmotivated to brave the journey through time. Time Twisted treats this feature like a novelty and it feels phoned in for the sake of having time travel while other fangames do not. Continue reading SAGE ’08: Sonic – Time Twisted