21 September 2011

SAGE 2011 Reviews (Part III)

It's hardly a secret that I'm not too fond of modern Sonic. I haven't loved anything of the Sonic brand released after 1996, and haven't even liked anything since Sonic Adventure 2 (short segments of Sonic Rush Adventure excepted). Yeah, I'm a grinch. But I'm gonna try to be fair at least to my fellow Sonic fangamers who do like modern Sonic and use those kinds of elements in their projects.

Sonic Inferno

Sonic Inferno is a demo of a single (rather short) act, but there are several characters to choose from: Sonic, Knuckles, and Shadow. (Tails and Chaos are present in the select screen, but inaccessible. One assumes they'll be ready in the next demo quite soon.)

The single act is called "Engine Base", which sets one's expectations up for an original (if a little generic) zone, but those are let down when the title card sweeps away to reveal this:

...It's Route 99, from Sonic Advance 3. Yes, it has a different layout, but c'mon, guys. When we made the Scrap Brain demo for Sonic Time Twisted, at least we had the decency to advertise it as such!

But I digress. Sonic Inferno's engine is robust and quite a few features are implemented - magnet shield, homing attack, Knuckles' climbing/gliding, Advance-style attacks on a secondary button, etc. It's really quite nice overall.

But considering how there's hardly anything new (and I use that "hardly" out of charity) and it's shorter than Sonic after touching the shrink laser from Metallic Madness Zone, there's not a whole lot of reason to play this one unless you're already following the project and are interested to see how the it's progressing. For pure entertainment value, look elsewhere.

Sonic Fusion

I reviewed Sonic Fusion at last year's SAGE, and was impressed, but was plagued by some control incompatibilities that prevented me from accessing all the features. For some reason it thought the Down button was continually pressed or something, making it impossible to select Knuckles on the character select screen or even perform the Spin Dash.

All of that's in the past now, I'm relieved to say, and I was able to fully enjoy this year's demo. And there's a lot to enjoy - 8 zones, 3 fully implemented characters, a mission mode, and even online multiplayer.

The story mode is really cool, and feels like playing a 2D entry in the Sonic Adventure series. The zones themselves are expertly crafted and a joy to play, and as I said last year they equal or top the Sonic Advance series.

Unfortunately the similarity with the Dimps developed titles extends to the physics as well, with a floaty jump and rolling that slows you down instead of speeding you up. Fortunately, while I would prefer classic physics, there's never a moment in Sonic Fusion where these things become a problem. The levels always play smoothly and there's nothing that feels cheap or unfair.

This game just has so much polish, so much heart, and so many cool elements all brought together with one of the best overall presentations I've seen in a Sonic fangame. You can tell it's a labour of love, and I urge you to try it out. If this is just the demo, we can all expect the finished game to be one of the coolest ever.

Sonic NXT

Last year, Sonic NXT was hardly more fun to play with than a rabid wolverine juggling poison chainsaws. Since then it has an impressive amount of progress, becoming a respectable engine with a lot of the modern trappings: homing attack targets, combo scoring, boost attack, etc.

However, it runs with a system-mangling amount of slowdown on my machine so I can't evaluate it all that well. My impression, though, is that there's nothing really that exciting or new, and that it is bogged down with a heapin' helpin' of unnecessaries. I always raise a critical eyebrow when I unzip the archive to find several megabytes of physics DLLs spilling out like so many packing peanuts. If you can't make a 2D Sonic game without relying on PhysXCore, maybe you're in the wrong line of business.

I guess for this one I'll just go with "no comment".

Next time I'll go on about Sonic Worlds Level Collab, Sonic 2 Retro Remix, and whatever odds and ends I can scrape together.

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