Sonic Mania: The Twitter Experience

While Sonic Mania is taking many gamers back in time to the nineties, much about the Sonic hype experience is very different to that enjoyed some twenty-plus years ago. One of the biggest changes to the gaming experience has been the emergence of social media, which allows developers, critics and fans to react and interact in a way that simply did not exist back when Sonic was rocking in 16-bit.

As the reception of Sonic Mania has been nothing short of phenomenal, we thought we’d take some choice posts from Twitter as a roundup –  we hope you enjoy!

Needless to say, this post will have some spoilers from the game.

First up, a collection of tweets from Sonic Mania’s developers, including former Sonic Stadium staffer and Sonic Mania’s level designer Brad Flick:

Naturally, some former Archie Sonic artists and writers had some things to say about the game. Artist Jon Gray (who worked as an artist on Archie Sonic, as well as much behind the scenes until his departure a few years ago) and Ian Flynn (Archie Sonic’s primary writer for over a decade, and the man who first put Bean, Bark and Nack/Fang together as a trio), also commented on the game’s release:

It is no secret that online games media hasn’t exactly had many kind words to say about Sonic over the last decade and a half. While many games have generally received reasonable scores, they’ve tended to focus on the poorer offerings. Here, I’ll be highlighting some tweets from both general gaming media as well as Sonic/SEGA news people and websites. The reaction to Mania’s release has ranged from glowing to downright perplexing, from the controversial “Sonic games have never been good” sentiments to some funny observations.

While I’ve enjoyed highlighting some tweets from Sonic creatives and games media people, the true highlight of my Sonic Mania twitter experience has definitely been the fan reactions – often the hardest demographic to please when it comes to Sonic games. I’ve also gone ahead and included some artists who posted their gorgeous fan art:

Do you have any favorite twitter reactions to Sonic Mania? Let us know in the comments!

The Spin: Sonic Maniacs In The Making

In more than ten years of writing for The Sonic Stadium, this article has by far consumed the most time, and required the most revisions. I guess this is because sometimes it’s hard to really convey what you mean when you’re in love, and I can say without a doubt that I am already in love with Sonic Mania. Continue reading The Spin: Sonic Maniacs In The Making

TSS Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (iOS)

unnamedI’m sure I am not alone when I say I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve purchased Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in various incarnations, be it through a port to a 7th gen console or a compilation release over the last decade. Yet, SEGA keep coming back to these classic titles in order to capitalise on those still reminiscing of a golden age, and indeed I keep coming back to these epitomes of gaming on the Megadrive. I might have been apprehensive in purchasing this game once more, had it not been for the involvement of the now legendary Taxman and Stealth in this port, and going off their incredible rebuilds of Sonic 1 and Sonic CD for iOS and Android I couldn’t resist.

Indeed, even after playing for a few minutes, it is obvious that there was no misplaced faith. The Retro Engine lends itself perfectly to the title, with Emerald Hill looking crisp from the get-go. Once you pop into the special stages though, your eyes are in for the real treat; gone is the old frame-by-frame half-pipe, now replaced by a glorious gliding 3D environment that is so silky smooth it’s almost hypnotic. It’s impressive that even the busiest screens don’t show any break in frame rate, which really helps maintain the pace; even when other iOS applications are throwing update after update at you.

I’ve never been fond of the touchscreen interface with mobile ports, but one thing that has made these titles much more bearable is playing them on one of the larger devices, specifically the iPad; the larger footprint of the D-pad makes for a much more pleasant experience than on the iPhone counterpart (or maybe it’s just my fat thumbs). That said there were some experiences where precision was required and my thumbs missed the control, resulting in my hurtling down the level after failing to avoid an Asteron explosion.

Sonic2-BossFightControls aside, what will really sell this to the veteran Sonic fans is the new inclusions to the game, namely the much talked about Hidden Palace Zone, which until now only existed as screenshots from the Beta version, an unused track in the sound test and years of speculation on forums. Should you be fortunate enough to find the new stage (as its name suggests, it’s hidden, and hidden in the most ingenious place), you’ll discover a level that has been built from the ground up by Taxman and Stealth. Without spoiling the mystique for those who are yet to play through, the stage feels like it’s been part of the game forever; alternative routes, Badniks and obstacles unique to the environment are some of the highlights of the stage, along with the most original and refreshing boss fight I have played though in many, many years. The Hidden Palace Zone music from the original has not been utilised to accompany the stage, but instead has been replaced with the 2-player stage theme to fit the pace of the level; a wise choice in my opinion.

On the subject of the two player mode, the feature has been completely revamped in order to open it up to the competitive arena of the internet, bringing in elements such as randomised item boxes and the shields from Sonic 3 / S&K, making for a much different experience from previous incarnations. While not an element of gameplay I generally garner the most pleasure from, many will find the ability to drop in and out of the multiplayer mode a huge attraction, even if the odd disconnection and lag occurs from time-to-time; this seems to be symptomatic of networks rather than a flaw in the game itself. The various time attack modes available also offer an extra dimension of re-playability that will extend the game’s interest long after completion of the main game.

I’m unsure whether it was intentional or not, but in both play through with Sonic and Tails I failed to encounter the Hill Top Zone boss. The first time through, the change only builds anticipation of the additional zone, however, many will be disappointed that this boss has been left out the final version, or only appears in certain circumstances. [UPDATE: Apparently the omission of the boss was a glitch, and the new update fixes this – T].

Flaws aside, and smalls flaws at that, this game makes for the hat-trick of classic ports that have regenerated the titles universally thought to be virtually perfect. The title is a testament and an example of a game in a franchise where those working behind the scenes have a great passion for what they are creating. Taxman and Stealth should once again be proud of their magnificent endeavor, and I only hope SEGA are now negotiating their work on a fourth title. If you own an mobile device, this is a must have purchase regardless of your level of dedication to the franchise. Even if you have defeated Sonic the Hedgehog 2 a hundred times, you’ll want to revisit it at least once more through the mobile port; it makes for a strangely new, yet nostalgic experience.

You’ll Love:

+ Three playable characters from the get-go for three different game experiences

+ A brand new level, faithful to the world of Sonic the Hedgehog 2

+ Boss and stage time attack modes

+ A rejuvenated multiplayer mode with online play

You’ll Hate:

– Some frustrating moments with connection issues

– Using the touch screen controls in vital situations

– Putting the game down

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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 Megamix Un-Canceled

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Sonic Megamix, the most well known Sonic ROM hack, has returned to the public spotlight with a post by, community oldbie, Stealth at Sonic Retro. Stealth revealed that the drama that resulted in the project’s cancellation months ago was a complete misunderstanding. Therefore, it was only canceled for three days and the once Genesis, now Sega CD project has had work done on it since being resurrected. When Stealth finally revealed that Megamix was not dead a few days ago, he and other team members brought videos with them to show the amount of progress that they have made in private.

Despite publicly announcing Megamix’s return, Stealth did lay some ground rules that I certainly approve of.

With that said, you know how I feel about my projects, and this is no exception. It never has been, less of Tweaker’s over-zealous promotion. I am protective, and I will remain so. We will do what we please with this project, and on a time-table of our own choosing. Requests and questions about release dates are annoying and pointless. There will be no further demos, or even “private” beta-tests. Fact is, Megamix was supposed to end development with “version 4″ (at a later point in time), until this mess happened. There is no way we can possibly make another non-final release and keep it substantially fresh. Trust me – you’ll thank us when you have much more to play with all at once than one level at the end of the game and a couple of menu text changes

(…)

Finally, and this is important, we reserve the right to halt completely at any time. We owe a debt to no-one, and we don’t have to publicize any newer builds. All we ask for is some decency and respect. Don’t launch into actual complaints about how we choose to handle our business. Don’t rip us off solely for the sake of riding off Megamix fame. Also, don’t go asking for or looking for things that don’t belong to you. If we hear about the leaked material, or see it being spread/used, that’s it. If you want to do our jobs for us, we just won’t, and when you can’t handle it, you’ll only have yourselves to blame.

The videos below showcases Megamix’s progress since its move to the Sega CD. The game is not only “Sonic CD” smooth, but now has CD audio, composed by DM Ashura of DDR fame. Megamix’s design continues to, in my opinion, bridge the old and new styles of Sonic. In addition to the classic Genesis presentation, new moves, such as the homing attack, and a higher emphasis on speed make their mark.

Now, if only the level design wasn’t so masochistic.

Visit the official Megamix thread at Sonic Retro.