SAGE 2014: Sonic The Hedgehog: Game Gear/Master System Remake Developer Renhoek Interviewby Michael Westgarth February 25, 2014
It goes without saying that a good proportion of SAGE entries are heavily influenced by Sonic’s classic, 16-bit adventures — while at the same time Sonic’s escapades on the master System and Game Gear are often overlooked.
Sonic The Hedgehog: Game Gear/Master System Remake is the best of both worlds — offering levels from the first Sonic the Hedgehog for the Master system and Game Gear, remade and remixed in a more familiar, 16-bit setting.
TSSZ caught up with the game’s creator, the Australian based “Renhoek”, to chat about SAGE 2014, modern Sonic games and, of course, Sonic The Hedgehog: Game Gear/Master System Remake. Check it out below:
TSSZ: The first question is for TSSZ readers who aren’t familiar with you. So, who is Renhoek and what do you do?
Renhoek: I’m a fangame, map and graphic maker, though I tend to create a lot of fangames which is why it takes me forever to finish projects.
I normally interact on the forum Stabyourself.net – don’t let the name scare you – and to find most of my work I’d recommend looking up my Youtube channel as it the place I make announcements for all my projects that are public.
TSSZ: Renhoek is a Ren & Stimpy reference, right?
Renhoek: Not intentionally. It was just a random name that I went by at one point and I really grew attached to the name so I stuck with it. Before this I went by the name segendo which is just the fused name of Sega and Nintendo – I think I was 12 when I came up with that name.
TSSZ: What’s your goal with your current project, Sonic The Hedgehog: Game Gear/Master System Remake?
Renhoek: Well the goal is to recreate everything from the original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Gear and Master System as though it were made for the Mega Drive – Genesis in America.
But I don’t want to stop there – I want to make it the definitive version too so I’m adding extras such as more characters and an extra level set that redesigns the levels to feel more like the Mega Drive version of Sonic the Hedgehog.
TSSZ: How long have you been working on GG/MS Remake?
Renhoek: Not that long actually, I started near the end of 2013 – sometime in December – and I’m hoping I can complete it before 2015.
TSSZ: So does the SAGE ’14 demo of GG/MS Remake mark a significant step in the game’s development?
Renhoek: Yes, actually. I’ve spent so many years trying to pick up a Sonic fangame and I’ve gone through about 6-12 projects before deciding to do something that I could create casually. So this is the first Sonic fangame I’ve had success releasing to the public.
TSSZ: I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I played the Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog, and I’ve yet to have a crack at the Game Gear version. What are the differences between the two 8-bit versions and, in your opinion, what are the the major differences between the 8-bit versions and the 16-bit version?
Renhoek: Well you’re not missing out on much in the Master System version as it’s just a bigger version of the Game Gear one, aside from a handful of level section changes.
I’m assuming you’re talking about the original Sonic The Hedgehog for Mega Drive but there’s a huge difference in levels, levels such as Marble Zone, Spring Yard Zone, and Starlight Zone have all been removed from the game and replaced with the levels Bridge Zone, Jungle Zone, and Sky Fortress Zone.
TSSZ: Do you think there’s any differences level-design wise?
Renhoek: The remaining levels may be the same but the level designs are completely different. For example, the loops and “S tubes” in Green Hill Zone were completely removed, I believe this is due to time constraints as future games brought these back – I put these elements back in the Remix set of levels.
TSSZ: It’s funny you should mention your Remix levels as I wanted to ask: What was it about the games’ original level design that made you want to modify them?
Renhoek: I felt there were to many moments in the original where you didn’t have enough time to react to a jump, spike or spring. And like I said earlier, Remix mode brings back elements from the Mega Drive version of Sonic The Hedgehog.
TSSZ: It felt as though the levels were far “smoother” in your remixed levels and somewhat easier as a result. Was this intentional?
Renhoek: I couldn’t find a way around this. I may try and ramp the difficulty up a bit in the next demo, but in my opinion it’s more about making an experience than making a challenge.
TSSZ: Tails and Knuckles are also playable, complete with flying and gliding. Aren’t you worried that the inclusion of these two and their abilities would ruin the flow of gameplay?
Renhoek: Well, the other inspiration for this project was the 2013 re release of Sonic the Hedgehog [iOS/ Android] which also contained Tails and Knuckles in the game. As such I’ll be giving them alternate paths like the 2013 release but there’s plenty of segments where you could just fly over the level, but you’re also taking a risk since there’s a chance that when you’re done flying you’ll get hit on your way back to the ground. I believe this is what goes through peoples head when playing and from all the play testing I’ve done the idea has never appeared in my head.
TSSZ: What did you think of the recent Sonic 2 re-release and the Hidden Palace zone?
Renhoek: I’ve enjoyed the release – I especially enjoyed the updated multiplayer and updated movesets. The only thing I’ve been upset about was that there’s no other way to play it other than owning a iOS device.
I found it mind blowing when I saw Hidden Palace Zone, especially the part when the original level layout pops in. I’d love to add a removed zone to the game but from my knowledge and research no zone was removed aside from the originals.
That being said, however, I may consider adding the original zones in a future version [of GG/MS Remake] as I’ve recently discovered that there’s unused music for Marble Zone in the original Game Gear/ Master System titles.
TSSZ: Obviously, the assets from the 16-bit Green Hill Zone were used to build the first level of GG/MS Remake, but where did the art assets for Bridge Zone come from?
Renhoek: I made them myself. I took a Mega Drive palette and limited the amount of colours to match the originals limitations. I’ve had it in my head to do a hack of Sonic The Hedgehog to show that it would work on a Mega Drive.
TSSZ: Are you doing similar things for the other 8-bit exclusive stages?
Renhoek: Yes I’ve already started work on Jungle Zone and I’m about 45% done with the set. I just need to finish the vines tiles, backgrounds and animated tiles.
TSSZ: And a ROM, playable on an actual Mega Drive, is a possibility in the future?
Renhoek: It’s just an idea in my head at the moment. I already have plans for tackling the sequels to the original. But before I attempt either I’m going to finish this first.
TSSZ: So a similar remake of the 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog 2 games is a possibility as well?
Renhoek: Yep. Funilly enough I did attempt to remake Sonic The Hedgehog 2 as a bonus in one of the prototype fan games I mentioned earlier.
TSSZ: Do you remember which one?
Renhoek: Actually I did upload a video of the game. [The Sonic 2 8-bit remake shows up around the 3:40 mark]
TSSZ: Sonic Lost World has become a divisive title among Sonic fans. Have you played it, and what are your thoughts on its gameplay and tone?
Renhoek: Yes I have played Sonic Lost World. Unlike most Sonic games I haven’t had any desire to return to the game after I beat it the first time around. Like most people I’m going to pick up the game again once the next DLC comes out and most likely never touch it again.
TSSZ: Is it because it’s a bad game, or just not memorable enough?
Renhoek: It’s mediocre and the level themes really don’t feel right. Most Sonic games have always tried to have different level themes instead of the level themes from more traditional games. And when the game’s not putting much of an effort in to keep me interested, I just stop playing.
TSSZ: A lot of Sonic fans currently have Sonic Boom on their minds. What are your thoughts on the new character redesigns and the whole Sonic Boom TV/videogame project in general?
Renhoek: I think it’s good they’re going for a new design as “Modern” Sonic’s been in some of [the series’] worst titles and a new design is a good way to try and step away from [those]. I’m aware that this isn’t canon, but I think a real new design would be good for the franchise – less sport tape please and shorten those legs!
As for the TV show, I thought it was okay. I thought the humor was decent and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
I’ve been looking into the game more than I have the show, and it’s looking pretty impressive. Though I wasn’t too positive the first time I saw it, it started to grow on me and I’ve found out that one of the developers was one of the first members of Naughty Dog, so this piece of information has really raised my hopes for the game.
TSSZ: What else are you up to that TSSZ readers might be interested in?
Renhoek: Well I have no real other information regarding Sonic fangames, but for the next demo of my game I plan on releasing Jungle Zone and Labyrinth Zone.
TSSZ: Where can TSSZ readers find you?
Many thanks to Renhoek for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to check out the new Sonic The Hedgehog: Game Gear/Master System Remake demo and check out the rest of our SAGE 2014 Act 1 developer interviews!