Towards the summer’s end, I walked into class and took a seat next to a man whose face was so deep into his art tablet that you’d think he was stuck in a trance. Upon further inspection, I noticed his desktop full of Sonic icons, an Angel Island wallpaper, and a Hill Top Zone drawing he was working on.
After introducing myself, I was ecstatic to find out that he too was a fan of the blue blur. We discussed the series for a bit, until he eventually expressed his disappointment in the recent delay of a certain Sonic game for PC. Luckily I had my Switch on me, so I pulled it out and let him try the masterpiece that was Sonic Mania for the first time. Eight months later, and that man is hard at work on one of the largest and most ambitious mods this game has seen to date. That man is known as AeroArtwork, a talented artist, animator, and my personal friend.
Throughout this past two week’s crazy rush of reception towards his Sonic Gaiden announcement, I managed to sit down with Aero and discuss the origins of his craft, as well as what to expect out of the mod moving forward. You can read all that and more after the jump.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Let’s start with an easy one. What exactly is Sonic Gaiden?
Sonic Gaiden is essentially a Sonic fan game built off of Sonic Mania – a large scale mod that plans to bring 10 new original zones, a whole new soundtrack, 32 new special stages and more. We are also planning a small animated film to go along with the mod. Nothing extremely long though, as it’ll be presented as if it were a collection of cutscenes.
How did the concept for Gaiden initially come to fruition?
Sonic Gaiden is pretty much the result of almost ten years of wanting to make a Sonic fan game. I never had any programming smarts, so when user friendly tools for modding Mania came about, after some trial and error I had a way of making my own levels.
I’ve always been a stickler for creating original content, (ironic considering I’m working on a Sonic fan game) but I figured I would need some practice in areas such as programming, artwork, teamwork and more before I tackled my own original work. Seeing Mania turn into something reminiscent of the dark days of Sonic 1 modding was not fun to look at, whereas 95% of the mods were Green Hill Zone recolor #345678. I did not want to see the same thing happen to Mania. It was ether go big, or go home.
In addition to Gaiden, you’re also both an artist and an animator. How did your passion in those fields originate, and for how long?
Drawing and animating has pretty much been my entire life. I don’t know what I would be without those skills. I’ve been drawing ever since I could pick up a pencil, and ever since my early days with a computer I’ve started my animation career with MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker. Obviously I later evolved, but I got a lot of animation practice form Nintendo’s FlipNote Studio.
I’ve only been seriously animating for about two and a half years at this point. My interest in animation was sparked mainly by Sonic and Dragon Ball, as well as the various fan animations circulating the internet in the early 2000’s. Chakra X’s Nazo Unleashed, Super Mario Bros Z, and Dragon Ball all inspired my way of animating. I like my stuff to be very bouncy, action packed, and as smooth as possible.
It’s my understanding that Gaiden isn’t the only project you’re working on – what else can fans find you involved with?
I like to think of myself as some sort of freelancer. Sometimes I work for myself, while other times I work for commissions. I do a lot of things, but right now I’m helping a couple of friends out with their projects. I’m also currently doing some work for Sonic Paradox, such as animation on Sonic Shorts and Sonic Seconds, as well as help on their new fancomic Sonic Legacy.
When it comes to modding, what have you found to be most difficult about transforming Sonic Mania into Sonic Gaiden?
The hardest thing would definitely be working within the limitations right now. Mania Modding is less than a year old at this point, so all of us in the community are still cracking away at the game and breaking it down to the best of our ability. But that really isn’t my job – my job is more to push the tools and what we can do with them, along with the help of some others. We can do small things, like make custom enemies, but it’s more of a new visual aesthetic or something borrowed from an already existing zone that’s put into another. Same thing goes for bosses; they’re pretty much the same, if not slightly remixed in ways.
However, Mania is a huge game, so we have a large pool of things to play around with and see how we can repurpose them into something awesome. We’re aiming for it to at least be above average, and although we have limitations, the new zones are at least more than just Green Hill recolors. Who knows – those concerns might not even be an issue in the future, so we’ll see how things go. For now, don’t go expecting anything like Mania 2, but as I mentioned, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to bring the audience something great. We’re trying to make a good game here.
That about wraps things up. Thanks again Aero for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. Are there any final words you’d like to close off with?
For now, I can leave the audience with an exclusive sneak peak at one of the levels I’m currently reworking. I’m excited to work on this as much as I can. With all the attention, it’s honestly been a tad nerve-racking what with all the expectations we’ve gotta try and meet – but that won’t stop us. Gaiden is a passion project that we’re creating to give people a fun mod with a new story, and plenty more. Stay tuned!
You can keep up to date with Aero and his projects on Twitter and Youtube, as well as follow Gaiden’s development on Twitter and Discord. We’d also like to give a special shoutout to TsunamiCoRyan for the fantastic artwork featured in this week’s header.
As always, we’re on the hunt for fan work to spotlight, so if you have a project you’d like to share, be sure to send us a link at firstname.lastname@example.org!