Sonic Zero, Ashura Dark Reign, and More!
The final day of SAGE is coming to a close. But no worries! Our SAGE game reviews will continue for as long as we have games to review. And speaking of games to review…
Sonic Zero: Remastered
It’s weird, when you think about it. There are Sonic fangames out there that are getting old enough to deserve their own remakes nowadays, and that’s exactly the idea behind Sonic Zero Remastered. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough really here to make any kind of judgement on. To say it’s a short demo is an understatement, as you can run through the level in under 40 seconds – and that’s when you’re taking your time. It would not surprise me if speed-runners could beat the demo in under 20 seconds. To make matters worse, the level is relatively featureless – its your typical “introductory” Sonic level, set in a checkerboarded tropical paradise. Viewing it from the perspective of being the first level in a longer game, this works fine as an area to ease the player in to the game’s controls and mechanics. But, as a demo posted at SAGE… there’s not enough meat on these bones to really make any sort of judgement call outside of “that’s a nice Sonic sprite” and “these enemy designs could probably use some work”. I really hope it’s of something a little more unique waiting for us in the full game.
Ashura: Dark Reign
Another day, another 3D Sonic fangame – except in the case of Dark Reign, what we have on our hands here is actually pretty impressive. Rather than pick a crusty old engine like DooM or Build, Dark Reign sets its sights on the considerably newer Unreal Tournament 2004 engine, and as a result, probably has the highest visual fidelity out of pretty much all 3D Sonic fangames today. If all it had to worry about was graphics, that would be fine – but Sonic in 3D is a difficult subject to tackle. Perhaps it’s my fault, then, that I played Dark Reign with a gamepad, because I found the controls to be a little weird. They’re somewhere halfway inbetween Sonic Heroes and Sonic the Hedgehog 3, with Sonic being a little too heavily effected by momentum for my tastes. The game can feel like it’s borderlining on uncontrollable, and the level design demands a degree of precision that I had a difficult time managing. There should also be something said about the tone of the game – Sonic bleeds red blood when he takes damage and casually uses the F-word when you let him stand around long enough. Other elements hint at the fact that this may be a darker type of Sonic game, and that makes me a bit wary of direction Dark Reign is going. Sonic games have tried to be “dark” and “mature” before, and I’ve always found the end result more laughably pathetic than it is epic. That’s not an example fangames should be following.
Though I’ve been around him for a long time, I’ve never been one for Gerbilsoft’s sense of humor. In my experience, there are generally two pillars in Gerbilsoft’s hall of comedy: The first pillar is that of the really obvious joke; something you can see coming a mile away and visibly groan at when the punchline is delivered – Gerbilsoft pounces on every single piece of “low-hanging fruit” like a man who hasn’t eaten a meal in a week. The second pillar is that of the internet meme; Gerbilsoft loves internet memes, especially well-worn ones – the Rickroll is his bible. Thus, perhaps it’s that I don’t “get” Sonic WTFlame – it is a ROM hack in which every item monitor in Sonic the Hedgehog is replaced with one that recounts forum drama from the Sonic Retro message boards. If you break any item monitor, it is, essentially, an instant game-over. This also goes for special stage entrances. And that’s it, basically. I’m sure there’s somebody out there who’s laughing so hard they’re in tears over this concept (it may be Gerbilsoft himself) but it’s just not “for” me. The novelty means nothing and the game rides very heavily on a “You had to be there” vibe – and I most certainly was not present for the large majority of what is contained in this hack.
Shadow the Hedgehog 2
Like Sonic Zero, this is a remarkably short, one act demo that can be completed in less than a minute. There’s not really much else to say about it beyond that – it’s a Shadow the Hedgehog fangame using the Sonic Worlds code-base. It’s a generic level set in a now-ruined “Circus Park”, a returning location from the original Shadow the Hedgehog game. Outside of rail grinding and the homing attack, there is absolutely nothing to set this apart from all the other Sonic-Worlds-powered fangames out there in terms of gameplay features. It’s not particularly difficult to complete, though having explosive balloons as enemies is a bit contradictory to pretty much every representation of balloons in all videogames ever made, especially when the game forces you in to a large group of balloons and you aren’t aware that they are going to damage you if you touch them. Besides that, unless you’re a fan of Shadow the Hedgehog, I don’t really think this is worth checking out until they show something that can make its levels interesting to play through.
Super Sonic Knockout
As I mentioned in my previous SAGE 09 review slew, all I can really remember about GBA psuedo-3D brawler Sonic Battle is that the difficulty spikes pretty dramatically about halfway through the game – you reach a fight where the CPU players go from “competant but fair fight” difficulty straight to “you have to play dirty in order to win”. Super Sonic Knockout, on the other hand, starts at “you have to play dirty in order to win” and goes from there. Well, okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but after selecting Story Mode and diving in as Sonic, my first opponent promptly pinned me to a wall and spammed the same move over and over again for 15-hit combo from which I could not escape. That was, basically, how every subsiquent match went: the CPU opponent would push me in to a corner and spam a juggle attack. Characters move very quickly but attack very slowly and I had a tough time getting a handle on how, exactly, I could deal more than just wimpy chip damage, because the instant my opponent would have a higher priority attack it was back to the corner for me. Maybe if I spent more time with it I would enjoy it more, but it certainly made a rough first impression.