Sure, it released two weeks after SAGE, but I’m still going to review it. Find out why!
All throughout SAGE, I was notoriously hard on a lot of fangames. A number of people on a few communities called me out for holding fangames to the same standards I hold real retail games. That is, most likely, because I also review retail games, but it’s also in part because of fangames like Sonic Nexus.
Perhaps its hypocritical of me to mention how generic a fangame like Sonic GEDA is and then turn around and say that Sonic Nexus is amazing, but there is something that sets Sonic Nexus apart from most Sonic fangames. The graphics are tight and cohesive – though made up of bits and pieces of other Sonic levels, every tile is just new enough so that it feels fresh and original. Level design is perhaps some of the most solid level design I’ve ever seen in a Sonic fangame, with the newest Nexus demo offering up two massive acts of the Sunset Shores level. Even when struggling to finish quickly in order to place in the Time Trial Youtube Contest, each act would take me roughly two minutes each. For those daring enough to explore a bit, you can expect times closer to five or ten minutes for each act. That’s incredible. Equally as impressive is how “right” the levels feel – never too cramped, never too empty, never too short and never too long. This ranks up there with official Sonic game level design. Music deserves a special mention, not just for being originally composed, but for sounding pretty good, too. The game has its own unique theme music, and each level has original tunes. Speaking personally, the music in Nexus makes me think of what Sonic CD would sound like if Richard Jacques (Musician Sonic 3D Blast on the Saturn and Sonic R) composed it. Also of special mention is the game’s animated intro sequence, which, while feeling a bit simple visually (the flash roots are showing a bit), is still far beyond anything most fangames usually do.
The typically awkward fangame enemy design still technically exists here. Enemies aren’t quite on par with offical Sonic game enemies, but this is probably as close as anybody has gotten without just re-using old Sonic enemies verbatim. Enemy placement is a little bit suspect, as more than a few times the game threw me in to an obstacle with very little warning; that being said, though, the game’s creators have already acknowledged this and have said they are working to fix it for future releases of the game, so it’s probably not even worth mentioning. The only other problem I have with the level is with the “hang glider” gimmick introduced – more often than not, it’s positioned in places where you think it would work, but more often than not, I seem to grab it at the wrong times; in a few places, I’ll be going so fast I’ll overshoot the hang glider by a considerable distance and have to walk back to use it (as there are times where you have to use it to continue). Other times, I’ll get thrown in to the glider at the wrong time and it’ll end up breaking my flow. I’m not entirely sure, though, if this is a problem even worth fixing, as all it takes is a little memorization before you know where most of the glider locations are. At the same time, though, the hang glider segments in Mushroom Hill from Sonic & Knuckles were always set up so it was almost impossible to “miss” the glider, and you were always going slow enough to notice it before grabbing on to it. Regardless, this isn’t anything that even comes close to ruining anything about this fangame, and I am firmly entrenched in nitpick territory right now.
Which brings us to the verdict: Sonic Nexus is one of the finest examples of a Sonic fangame from the community. Outside of a ROM hack like Sonic 1 Megamix, this is one of the few games that comes really close to replicating the look, feel, and sound of the classic Sonic games. You would have to be incredibly jaded and cynical to deny yourself the enjoyment of playing this game. Do not miss Sonic Nexus.