Because sometimes, there’s just not enough time for four paragraphs per game.
Today, we’ll be doing something a little bit different. In order to showcase more games in less time, reviews for the last two days of SAGE will come in these big “review slew” bundles. Not only is it easier on me (sometimes you just can’t think of what to write fir four paragraphs, you know?), but it’s easier on you, the reader, as well – rather than sit through two long reviews per day, you get around four shorter (but still just as insightful) reviews every single day! How can you lose? Hypothesis: You can’t.
One of the few games I’ve seen at the show to try and replicate the Sonic Advance series of games directly, Sonic Fusion offers two levels – one where you play as Sonic, and one where you play as Knuckles. Knuckles plays everybody’s “favorite” gametype of hot-and-cold, as you are tasked with hunting out Master Emerald shards. Sonic’s game takes you through a twisting, turning level called Sparkling Complex. Visually it’s all pretty pleasing, but the controls are kind of set up weird – I kept finding myself trying to use Sonic’s jump dash to attack enemies, but that only results in you taking damage. Sections where the game locks you inside a room full of enemies was something I wasn’t terribly crazy about in Sonic Rush, and here it’s made worse because most enemies take multiple hits to defeat, making these sections take an obnoxiously large amount of time to clear. Sonic also feels too slow, oddly – though his speed is more in line with the Sega Genesis games, Sonic Fusion is styled like the Sonic Advance games, which were much, much faster. Still, if you like the Gameboy Advance Sonic games, this may be your cup of tea.
E02: Sonic Mettrix
More tech demo than anything else, E02 is one of the many (though probably also the original) Open-Source generalized Sonic game “engines” designed specifically for the purpose of you making your own Sonic games in them. Packaged with it is an E02 port of Green Hill Zone, a Sonic 1-styled Special Stage, a Test Level, and the first stage from Stealth’s fangame, “Sonic Mettrix”, which probably qualifies as one of the oldest Sonic Fangames at SAGE this year. The engine itself is extremely solid, replicating the Sega Genesis Sonic physics about as close as anybody will ever get without directly porting over the Sonic movement code (which, hey, maybe that’s just what Stealth did). Though I myself have not taken a look at the level editor yet, there are already a number of custom levels created for E02, some of which port even more levels from Sonic Mettrix if the unchanged levels from a 10+ year old fangame are your thing. To be fair to Stealth, though, the levels made for Mettrix are not that bad, honestly, and with some spit polish in the graphics department they could be easily brought up to speed with modern-day fangames.
Sonic Rebirth attempts something a little different than most fangames: rather than create an unofficial sequel to the franchise, Sonic Rebirth attempts to remake the original Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis in a more modern style. This means updated, high-color graphics, redesigned enemies, a new Sonic Advance-inspired sprite for Sonic, and most triumphantly, cutscenes. Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that if you are going to do something like this, you should do it right – and Sonic Rebirth fudges a lot stuff. Sonic’s physics don’t feel quite right, for example, and the redesigned enemies are simply weird looking sprite edits of the existing Sonic 1 enemies to look more like they came from Sonic Heroes. And when you go so far as to port entire level designs from the Sega Genesis games, tile-for-tile, actively ignoring elements of the original game (such as crumbling platforms) seems silly. Let’s not even get in to the boss fight with Doctor Eggman at the end of Act 3, either. In all, this just ends up being a clunky, inferior remake of Sonic the Hedgehog. Thanks, but no thanks.
As SAGE has gone on over the years, the number of 3D Fangames has continually grown larger. This year, we have at least four, and of the ones I’ve played, I think Sonic Bastardized has the most promising future. However, I may be bias – Cyborg_ar has said he based the controls for Sonic Bastardized off a post I made on SFGHQ regarding a pool of ideas I had for how Sonic should function in 3D. However, it should be noted that Cyborg_ar didn’t quite take all the ideas I put forth, only a handful of them – either way, I feel Sonic Bastardized is probably the most solid 3D fangame made in Blender. Its level design could use a lot of work, and the controls are a little questionable (if you get running too fast, Sonic’s controls actually reverse so that pressing left will make you turn to the right), but Sonic’s animations are great and the physics the game runs on are solid. 3D fangaming still has some distance to go, but this is a step in the right direction.
The poster child for Sonic ROM hacks, Sonic MegaMix shows the final version of the hack, Version 3.0. The changes between Version 2.0 are too numerous to list them all, but just know that Sonic MegaMix is the most comprehensive Sonic the Hedgehog 1 hack ever, with tons of new levels, new graphics, 5 playable characters (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Shadow, and Mighty), a brand new boss to fight, tons of new gameplay features like the homing attack, and a fully featured sound test. Admittedly, the level design can be kind of mean sometimes, but I totally suck at the original Sonic the Hedgehog and I managed to play through MegaMix just fine. However, I did encounter a game stopping bug in City Outskirts Zone that prevented me from continuing – Sonic would always get stuck in a wall, without question, every single time. There are a number of other, smaller bugs in this release that present their own set of problems as well, but if you can get around them, this is triple A stuff, folks. It doesn’t get much more real than actual software you can play on your Sega CD.
Note: It has come to our attention that E02 is not in fact open source. In retrospective, it was poor wording on my part. Sorry!