Chronicles Impressions and more
Saturday, 1st November 2008, 12:40pm (UTC), 9 Comments
Not to worry, I'm not dead. Just busy. Unfortunately juggling a full time job and work on the big Zone: 0 reinvigoration that finds itself falling further and further behind schedule, is not easy, especially when your job is looking at a computer screen all day anyway. Still, progress has nonetheless been fairly consistent, and to recap, I'm planning a massive revamp to the whole site. Although the actual writing will receive only minor amendments, based on the suggestions that visitors have helpfully sprinkled across the pages (so if you've suggested something good months ago that I haven't done yet, don't worry, it is probably coming!), and the overall layout and organisation of the site will remain the same, all of the underlying code has basically been completely rewritten in order to offer fully dynamic content, with lots of new features. It may still be two or three months off at least (and there will therefore be no more updates until that time), but hopefully it'll be worth the wait. Right now I'm working on a new, very comprehensive admin system for me to control the layout of the pages, and I'm almost done, so it'll make the whole process so much easier from here on out, and hopefully I'll be able to bash out several dynamic versions of old levels and pages in a matter of days. Visually, the new design is already there and it's a vast improvement and I'd like to think that the whole thing will help Zone: 0 become more and more recognised in the Sonic community as I continue to add new pages of content. It's just unfortunate that the place has to sit quietly in suspended animation for the moment, and I can see my visitor stats decreasing as a result.

Before I talk about Sonic Chronicles and Sonic Unleashed, was I the only UK-based Sonic die-hard to be crushed in disappointment while leaving the Video Games Live event in London last Friday? Don't get me wrong, it was a great show, but after 3 or so years of wanting to go, and after all the excitement of finally getting to see the excellent compositions of Sonic 1 performed by a live orchestra against the background of a history of Sonic game clips, they chose not to include the Sonic segment this time around. I don't mind telling you, I was mighty pissed off. If you don't know, Video Games Live is a world wide tour of game music from across the generations performed by a live orchestra, and with over 50 segments each dedicated to a particular game, I suppose it's not surprising that they only have time to include 20 or so in each show. I suppose it was my own fault for not realising this beforehand, but according to their FAQ on the site, favourites like Mario and Zelda are performed almost every night. You would think, given that Sonic is listed as seventh in their list of 50 titles, that he would be included among that elite group as well. I would try and go again next year, but how will I know if I'm not to be disappointed again? Posting up a list of the segments planned for each event beforehand would be helpful.

My, rather belated, two cents on Sonic Chronicles then. I've played, I'm guessing, past the half way point now, into what I would assume is the so-called second act of the game, and I must say, I'm really impressed by it, and I'm not sure I was necessarily expecting to be either. Sure, the prospect of a Sonic RPG from Bioware sounded great at first, but I soon found the eventual cascade of videos and behind the scenes documentaries to be not-that-riveting, under the mighty shadow of Sonic Unleashed anyway. Still, it's a game that needs to be played for quite a while before you can form a valid opinion of it, and initially I was a bit put off by a certain quality about its comic-book style cut scenes and opening sequence that, while subtle, was at the same time jarringly un-SEGA-like. Indeed, the game starts off a bit slow and boring, with limited attacks to use and at first there's little immediately outstanding dialogue, as everyone said there would be. Before you know it though, a change happens quite quickly and if you're anything like me, you'll start to love it as new characters, moves, strategies, enemies, puzzles and plots emerge. I'm no big turn-based RPG fan, in fact the only one I've really played in full is Pokemon, and generally I can't be arsed with the more strategic approach to a video game battle, but despite this being a Sonic game, which generally insists on a more care-free style of play, Bioware have somehow managed to take those characters and let you use them in an environment where levelling up, buying moves and employing particular strategies for attack and defence against various enemies actually works. All of which are things that have largely failed in past Sonic games, such as Secret Rings, in my opinion.

In Sonic Chronicles, I'm not in the mood to rush through scenery and get on with things as fast as possible anymore, I want to explore, to hone my skills and spend time finding out more about the story, and for Bioware to pull that off where others have failed, to successfully stretch Sonic rather than stretching the properties of an RPG, is actually quite an achievement in itself. Further kudos to them for finally focusing back on the story of the echidnas and Angel Island (although it does present some continuity errors, seemingly mistaking the large piece of land capable of holding several levels - and the Death Egg - that it actually is, for the often mistaken tiny piece of land shown in Sonic Adventure that is actually just an internal plateau used to hold just the Master Emerald). It's nice to see this story, undoubtedly the best ongoing arc they've ever come up with, brought back again after Sonic Team have seemingly forgotten about it entirely, leaving Knuckles as little more than a second sidekick to Sonic, and whose exploits with Angel Island and the Master Emerald usually appear only in his instruction manual bios.

One thing I'm really not big on though is the music. Most of the tunes come straight from Sonic 3D, largely the PC/Saturn soundtrack by Richard Jacques (often hyped up, but I personally prefer the Mega Drive alternative), though it's not that that bothers me, in fact that moment where you match up a tune in a new game, unexpectedly with a track from a previous game is always one of those somewhat rare joys in Sonicdom. No, it's the incredibly minimalistic and uninspiring technical translations of these tunes to the DS hardware, which I thought was capable of a lot more, as the superb soundtrack of Sonic Rush Adventure certainly proves. It's all very slow, thin and low quality techno-sounding, the likes of which you'd probably expect more from the Gameboy Advance and I really don't know if I want any of it in my personal Sonic music collection, despite the links to past tracks. I can see what they're going for with the more subtle approach in levels that you tend to spend more time in than in platformers, but it really feels like they've just slapped on the soundtrack at the last minute as an afterthought (and the re-used tunes actually add some weight to that argument methinks), and Sonic music should NEVER be an afterthought.

Although the game feels a bit rough around the edges in places in terms of its presentation, the fantastic drawn area maps give it a real unique graphical touch, and although before playing I had concerns that there wasn't going to be much of a puzzle element to the game, which I suppose is still true, it doesn't really matter that much, as the battles, story and missions requiring you to explore the maps are enough to keep you hooked. Most maps do have one puzzle each however, where you use the characters to press certain buttons at certain times in order to interact with the puzzle presented to you. Such tasks include recognising patterns that are within a grid of squares and avoiding ones that aren't and the good old match-a-tune-by-hitting-buttons-in-order chestnut. Although thinking about it, this statement isn't saying a lot, as I can't really think of a non-platformer in the Sonic series that really ranks up there with the best platformers, but I would go so far as to say that Sonic Chronicles is probably the best Sonic spinoff game yet.

Meanwhile, Sonic Unleashed is really getting to the point now where I'm seriously in danger of seeing too much before I play the game, with, frankly ridiculous amounts of new trailers coming out that are spoiling specific level contents for me and official websites that threaten to reveal all the level locations and names! Disaster! This happens every time, I end up seeing bits of virtually every level in the game, thus degrading, to various extents, the thrill of exploring brand new environments. It's a simple thrill, but one that's important to me, so I really need to employ more self control and keep my eyes away from these tempting morsels. From the amount of new media and info that's been flooding in over the last couple of weeks, you wouldn't think that we still have a whole month to wait! I saw four new movies last night for crying out loud! Still, I've managed to stay away from anything in the official sites, and there remains at least three, perhaps four levels that I'm yet to see anything for and I'd really like to keep it that way. I'm going to have to try and ban myself from taking in any new information for what will be an extremely long month now.

I must say I'm finding it difficult to match my enthusiasm for the Wii version with that of the 360. I plan on getting both, as they're clearly quite radically different from each other in terms of levels, which make the game as far as I'm concerned, so they may very well be classifiable as separate games in their own right. It's just difficult to truly accept the low end graphics when the 360's look so gorgeous, but the endless, unnecessarily wide and empty roads seen all too much in the Wii footage don't do it any favours for me either. Looks more like courses in a racing game in some places.

My hopes are really high for the title in general though. I'm sure it won't get amazing reviews, largely down to the Werehog, but it seems to be on course to at least inspire hope in the disillusioned. One of the reasons that the failure of the last primary platformer, Sonic the Hedgehog, came as such a surprise was, I think, due to the lack of decent information about how it all played out in the months leading up to release. I remember looking for previews in the latter weeks, and finding only a foreign one that seemed positive, though the translations were hard to make out, and that's about it. There was no warning - any other, earlier previews neglected details about poor frame-rates and dodgy controls etc, and we were lead to believe the demo was based on a much older build, which of course turned out to not be so different from the final release. This time however, there have been loads of previews that haven't been afraid to give us the full story, poor frame-rates and all, and the good news is that the previews have generally been getting more and more positive the further on the development gets. Check out IGN UK's opinions on several level's worth of a near final build. They report minimal technical issues and what's more, fun gameplay on both sides of the coin, and this comes from generally one of the biggest Sonic critics out there as far as I'm aware. I think the final proof will be all down to how the whole story mode plays out in full, but it's all certainly looking very positive. Exactly how good the game needs to be in order to win over some people into thinking that Sonic still has it remains to be seen. It doesn't bear thinking about if we end up facing another critical failure.

Sorry my blog posts have to be so few and far between for the moment, but my free time is fairly minimal so I need to devote most of it to rebuilding the site, and blogs always take much longer than you expect them to. I'll probably return to discuss the Sonic Unleashed demo whenever that decides to pop up, if indeed it precedes the actual release. Fingers crossed! And I'll certainly be offering a highly thorough verdict on the final game too.
Comments   9 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Monday, 3rd November 2008, 1:10am
That inconsistency about the nature of Angel Island bothered me, too, but it reminds me of something that has always bothered me about Sonic 3 & Knuckles. So I figure I'll ask a certified Sonicologist about it. :)

In the beginning of Sonic 3, Sonic and Tails are seen flying the Tornado in for a landing on what is assumed to be Angel Island. However, they pass over what appears to be a traditional beach, not the edge of a floating island. Now, this could easily be construed to be an inland lake of Angel Island, and not the ocean at all, but you'd think if Sonic Team wanted to emphasise their magical floating island they'd make it look like one. So perhaps Angel Island is actually in the sea at the time Sonic and Tails arrive? When playing Angel Island as Knuckles, the background is different (only sky is seen above the treeline, rather than a sea with other islands), perhaps adding evidence for this - when you play it as Sonic, the island is down, when you play it as Knuckles, the island is up. In fact, the Japanese Manual for the game states that the Death Egg's crash forced Angel Island down to the sea, so apparently the mystical floating island the entire game is predicated on doesn't float at all during either game when you play as Sonic. Am I the only one who finds that a little odd?

When the Death Egg crashes at the end of Launch Base, it (and you) are seen as falling down into Mushroom Hill. The Japanese Manual states that Mushroom Hill is indeed on Angel Island. But in Hidden Palace, a transporter takes you high into the sky, into Sky Sanctuary. In Knuckles' game, in the background of Sky Sanctuary, Angel Island can be seen. The transporter Knuckles takes in Hidden Palace very clearly sends him straight upward, so how can Angel Island be seen in the background? If Knuckles was just there a moment ago, in the volcano, did the transporter send him sideways? Are there two floating areas? It makes my head hurt. Any thoughts?

(and also, what the heck is a carnival doing on Angel Island? Did the Echidnas build it, or did Robotnik? And when?)
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 3rd November 2008, 7:37pm
Haha, there are certainly many little things that do need clarification about the story, despite its overall brilliance. As I recall, I do go into these issues in the S3&K guides a little bit (which you'll all see someday, I hope!), and I've wrestled with all of those questions before, but I think I can answer most of them as far as logic is concerned, although we'll probably never really know for certain.

The Japanese manual does indeed state that the Death Egg forces the island down into the sea (I don't have the translation to hand right now, but I'm sure it suggests that Angel Island does not stay afloat in the air while supporting the Death Egg), so that would make sense for Sonic and Tails to cross water in order to get to it.

About the Knuckles issue, there are several clues to suggest that, although you can choose to play as Knuckles from the start, his game appears to take place entirely after Sonic's story has finished, making it somewhat less epic. First of all it explains why we never see Sonic pop up in his story, and as you said, why the sea isn't visible in Angel Island Zone. The Death Egg's face is also no longer sitting in the Volcano when you go to the end of Lava Reef Act 2. I believe that it's basically a big clean up operation, as Knuckles rids the island of badniks, and then eventually takes the Master Emerald back from Mecha Sonic (if that is indeed his official name, I'm not sure to be honest).

I've always thought of Sky Sanctuary as being just a collection of floating ruins suspended separately from the rest of the island, but still held up by the Master Emerald. I guess the transporter's trick of sending Knuckles upwards, and then he appears to the side of Angel Island, is just the best that could be done to illustrate the peryl of an ever slanty Angel Island, with the 2 dimensional resources they had at the time. It is odd that they finally give players the chance to play as Knuckles, a very popular character at the time, and then he seems to get quite a rushed and incoherent story that's very much a side dish to the main course that is Sonic's story.

And as for Carnival Night, I can only think that Eggman had a spare carnival lying around that he had shipped directly onto the island (if you had enough helicopters you could probably do it - The abundance of Eggman's machinery seems to know no limits anyway, so why not?), probably without the permission of Knuckles, and perhaps to make money by opening up a tourist attraction as a side project, while also restoring the Death Egg. Far-fetched explanation, but it is a far-fetched concept anyway.

Oh well, food for thought I suppose. Are these the sorts of storyline issues you're tackling with your big remake project of the Mega Drive titles you mentioned before?
#3. Comment posted by mercury on Monday, 3rd November 2008, 9:05pm
That's brilliant - Robotnik has to fund his exploits somehow, so why not with a carnival? Although, he'd probably have better luck airdropping in prefab Wal-Marts staffed with Badniks. XD

Yes, these are the very things I've had to sort out for my remake, although I take a bit more creative licence than something like, say, Sonic Chronicles. I think it's more important to match the spirit of the original, than the actual resultant cartridge, especially since we now know Sonic 3 & K were rushed, and not initially meant to be released separately. For instance, I try to consolidate some of the Death Egg sequences so it doesn't feel like a bad yo-yo, being launched and crashed and launched and crashed.

However, a lot of my restructuring of the Sonic universe is selfish, really. When I first played these games at 7 or 8 years old, I didn't have the benefit of translated manuals. Furthermore, I was thoroughly confused by the TV series, OVA, and comic books. How I envisioned the Sonic universe was therefore different than any one iteration of it, and certainly nothing like the original Sonic Team's vision. So, when remaking the games I adhere more strictly to my own impressions of the characters and world more than anything else, though I do love trying to combine them wherever possible. Because I had some of the ideas that will eventually shape the game so long ago, it could be said that it's been in development for over a decade. In a way, I've never stopped working on it.

I'm aiming for a 2011 launch date, which seems interminable, I know. But I just finished making accurate 360 degree loop motion, and floating platforms, two of the hardest things about any Sonic engine. I've also studied the physics of the Mega Drive Sonic games, using debuggers, so that I know all of the true velocities used in the originals. You gotta know the rules to break them, after all. I'm now at the point where, if that's what I wanted to do, I could emulate the entirety of each of the games in Game Maker, and a heck of a lot more indistinguishably than Sonic Genesis for the GBA. If only I wasn't so ambitious... Anyway, I'm hoping that the wealth of information I gather can also benefit other Sonic game creators, helping them have more accurate Sonic engines, because, let's face it - most Sonic fan games have a lot of trouble with these things. It's not like making a Mario game.

My other great interest besides Sonic and music is science, and I grew up reading the likes of Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. When hearing them describe physics so engagingly, I always wished that I could have been like Isaac Newton, discovering the properties of light and motion and countless other things. But calculus has been invented, and we already have Euclidian geometry. All the fun stuff has been figured out, and you need to be a string theorist to be in physics today, it seems. That and I probably don't have the brains for it, anyway. So it comes as a great source of enjoyment for me that my love of Sonic can somehow result in my having an experience akin to those old scientists. I may not be able to study real physics, but I can study Sonic physics, and the discoveries I make on that front can actually benefit my "generation". Sonicology is a rewarding field, even if it won't someday result in FTL travel.

I've been rambling again... Anyway, thanks a bunch for the answer, I appreciate it.
#4. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Friday, 7th November 2008, 12:34pm
Sounds like an awesome project! Ramble away, by all means, that's what this site is all about afterall!

No matter how long it takes, you certainly sound committed to your game. It seems we only ever see as much as a few demos from most Sonic fangamers before the game is eventually scrapped, often in favour of a whole other Sonic project that is largely pretty similar anyway. A Sonic engine is certainly a lot more complicated than it looks - I tried my hand at a Sonic fangame many years ago for the Game Maker, before I really knew how to program at all, and my abilities couldn't match those high expectations of a Sonic engine. I'd never share it, but I do look back at it fondly however. It's interesting to see that even back then I had a pretty good grasp of what good level design was about, as there were tonnes of multiple routes and hidden areas etc. It's a different scene now, as there are lots of good, ready made engines out there such as yours, and I'd really love to one day use one of them to build my own ultimate levels, completely original graphics and ideas from top to bottom.

It's interesting that you talk about Sonic allowing you to expand other interests such as Science. I'm experiencing a similar sort of thing with this site. At first it was all about Sonic, before I even knew how to program PHP and use databases etc, but now that I do, it's just as much about building the best site and content management system I can, and expanding my knowledge of programming and web technlogy. I could just build it all in static html, but I want the luxury of creating text and image boxes by merely filling in a few form fields, and my new admin system with which to do that is now practically done. I guess the best thrill is creating stuff that figures things out for itself and creates the tired and tedious html for me.

Now I'm rambling, but I guess my point is how much Sonic seems to be a way of life for some of us, as a conduit to other passions. Fascinating!
#5. Comment posted by mercury on Monday, 10th November 2008, 10:19am
Hey, that's cool, I was thinking about asking you if you'd ever tried your hand at making a Sonic fangame. Now I find not only that you have, but you were using the same programme I am now. If you ever finish one and feel it's up to public scrutiny, I, for one, would love to play it. Good Zones are the most important thing about a Sonic game, after all. Too bad naming them is so hard. ;)

Sonic Extractor 3&K mix is around a fortnight from completion. While working on it, I've discovered some ways to improve the CD mix version, as well, so there might be an update in the near future. Don't worry, though, it'll still be compatible with any work you may have already done. One of the improvements is the ability to enter the Layout without any wait time at all!

Instead of posting the links to each of the things I release to Rapidshare independently, I've made a permanent Rapidshare folder. Now, all anyone needs is a link to this folder, and they can check it periodically for updates, new releases, and anything else (such as Sonic Physics FAQ's, and eventually my game proper). This way I don't have to keep posting links in comments every time I do something new.

The url is

You could even put the link to this folder on Zone 0, on a sort of links page, as a way to advertise Sonic Extractor. If this is asking too much, however, I would understand.
#6. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 10th November 2008, 10:07pm
Oh, by all means! Linking to your folder is the very least I could to as gratitude for the many hours your programs are sure to save me! I do plan on adding a links section, on the main page most likely, and perhaps a designated links page too. Fantastic to hear that the S3&K Extractor is so close! Can't wait to give it a spin - I'll be sure to keep an eye on your folder.
#7. Comment posted by mercury on Thursday, 13th November 2008, 7:52am
Thanks! I'm in the middle of adding the objects to Hydrocity right now. I've added the ability to import and export different palettes (in Tile Layer Pro format), so that maps can have more accurate depiction of underwater areas (since Sonic 3 has so many). I've also made a small, separate tool that makes creating palettes as easy as "eye-droppering" them right off the screen. I'll be uploading it, soon, too. And finally, I've made progress on the Sonic CD special stage mapping front, so that should be in the update to the CD mix version, also.

On another note, have you seen the "Night of the Werehog" short trailer? And if so, what do you think of it? I can't tell what it has to with Sonic Unleashed, but it does make me wonder what a full-length Sonic Unleashed CGI film would be like, especially with Hashimoto comparing the new visual style of Sonic with things like Pixar's Ratatouille. I wonder if Sega will ever try to make a full-length Sonic feature.
#8. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Saturday, 15th November 2008, 6:36pm
I thought it looked pretty cool, but ultimately I felt somewhat indifferent to it - didn't really have that much of an impact on me and I do wonder what it's all for really. To promote the game, obviously, but considering the short is apparently ten minutes in length, it seems quite an expensive and elaborate way of doing so - I would rather they have put that ten minutes worth of CG work into the game somewhere, where it wouldn't have been done in CGI otherwise.

However, I liked reading that the full thing has no voice overs necessary, and all looks very cartoony. This smash bros style approach is something that I think would work really well for a Sonic game. Not because I don't like the VA's, they're alright, but I just think a lighter, more comical approach would be quite nice. We are talking about a big blue hedgehog afterall, it doesn't all have to be serious, epic battles with monsters that live at the center of the earth.

That said, I must admit I do occasionally daydream of a full blown, CGI movie as a mainstream blockbuster, reminding everyone else of Sonic's existence, along the lines of what TMNT did for the Turtles fairly recently. But of course, videogames to movies are never the most popular of translations, especially for the fans of the series in question. I think if Sonic regains more mainstream popularity, and Sega get more money to spend, it may well be a possibility for them to consider.
#9. Comment posted by mercury on Wednesday, 3rd December 2008, 10:18am
It took a little longer than I expected, but I finished Sonic Extractor 3&K Mix, and it's now up at my LinkList. I hope you find it useful.

I've also got a gmail account, now, so feel free to send me any feedback or suggestions you may have about the programmes.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Sonic Unleashed level organisation: My speculations
Wednesday, 3rd September 2008, 7:57pm (UTC), 3 Comments
A mere two months or so away from Sonic Unleashed, the whole community is waiting with bated breath to see if this is the one that gets it right, or at least does well enough to retrieve the respect that Sonic deserves. As always, I'm most interested in the levels that we'll be getting, and I'm particularly intruiged by how they'll be organised. We've been told they'll be sorted in a new way, unlike the Zone-Act system, so I've been thinking about how that might be, and I thought I'd share with you my main ideas. In a few months from now, I'll look back on this and either gloat as I get it bang on, or, more likely, shudder at my huge miscalculations.

Note that I'll be using the word "level" to describe a whole, well.. level, and the word "stage" to describe sub-parts of that level, e.g day and night. To avoid confusion.

We know the main elements, every level will have a Sonic stage, a Werehog stage, and there will be small hub "village" areas that allow access to these stages. The most interesting interview that throws a new twist in all this though is this E3 one from Joystiq with Patrick Riley, the game's producer. He claims...

"Certain parts of the action stages are built for both day and night gameplay. When in these areas and when in the villages, in-game time will pass and Sonic will transform. However, we're making sure that the player won't be "stuck" in a form they don't want and it will be easy to automatically advance the clock. Other parts of the action stages are built specifically for day or night gameplay. While Sonic is in these areas, in-game time will not pass."

Although this is about the only thing I can find that talks about this aspect, it does correspond with these incriminating images of the African jungle stage at both daytime and sunset, and also in this gallery from the Japanese official site, you'll find what looks to me like a more hilly region of the Mykonos level, at sunset. So, unless they pull another Sonic '06 and ditch the changing day (don't you dare guys, I've waited too long for this feature!), we'll be able to see the effects of time gradually shifting across the day in certain Sonic levels. If we're to take the above quote literally, it'll take place in certain parts of individual action stages, meaning those parts will be built to accomodate both Hedgehog and Werehog, but other parts are stuck in a set time period. These could, I supposed, be strictly divided as separated parts much like Sonic 06 levels, but that would make all the levels pretty long, and a pain to restart if you lose all of your lives. In Gamespot's E3 showcase video, Ken Balough seems to make it clear that the stages we know best will be separate to each form of Sonic, tailor made for the appropriate playing style, and each stage in Mykonos was accessed separately from the demo's menu.

I believe that Patrick was referring to this spectrum occuring over several sub-stages within a whole level, rather than in single action stages as we would know them. So we know about day-only and night-only stages, but I would suggest that there is a third stage to each level, possibly set around a similar, but slightly different location (like S3&K variations between acts) where this transition will take place throughout its duration, and you'll be able to play as either form in layouts that are hopefully largely platform-based; not too fast to exclude the werehog, and not too open to ruin the streamlining of Sonic's style, although there would ideally be several routes and areas only accessible to a particular form. Potential examples linked above would be the more serene hillsides of Mykonos, where there are fewer houses, and the African jungle - as opposed to the African city which would be the main area of that level (I'm yet to see a single screenshot that features both environments together, so there's nothing to say for sure that they're part of the same, long-ish stage). Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but this would allow the developers to be more careful and considerate with their level design, so as to make sure it runs smoothly no matter which form you're in, and they could make them more complex, with hidden areas - an idea I thought might be good would be to hide the Chaos Emeralds in these stages, much like in 8-bit Sonic 1. It's already been stated in the Gamespot video that Sonic is on the hunt for the emeralds, to bring them back to inidvidual temples, restoring power to each. We haven't heard anything about Special Stages, so perhaps this is a way to include them as an extra challenge, as opposed to something that happens automatically.

Presumably, this is the first major 3D Sonic game that will be one long story, as opposed to multiple character stories that you chop and change between at will. There are seven emeralds, which suggests seven different levels, three stages each, which makes 21, plus villages and bosses. Roughly the right amount of gameplay that you would expect from such a game these days, although as many as nine whole levels have been suggested by different sources such as previews, but not directly from Sega as far as I'm aware, so I don't see that as being confirmed. Seven different locations seems more likely to me, if you consider how detailed the currently known stages actually are. That takes time and effort. I reckon there will be a small village per level (and that screenshots that depict this area are subtle reveals of the African one - Sonic is always shown to be walking through). So typical progress through a level could be as follows:

Wander around the village in the day, find entrance to day stage.
Play day stage as Sonic.
Return to village at night, transform, find entrance to night stage.
Play night stage as Werehog.
Return to village, which now operates on a free time scale.
Find entrance to Boss, beat boss and go to next level
Find entrance to the "freestyle stage" and hunt down a Chaos Emerald maybe? You can come back later and do this, so freestyle stages could essentially be optional.

When entering the freestyle stage, the time of day at which you enter will carry on into the stage. I'm not sure what this method of fast forwarding time will be, perhaps just an option to automatically wait for 12 hours or something. Bosses, we've only seen as regular Sonic, but I'm sure there'll be one per level and possibly some will be Sonic only, some Werehog. I doubt they'll make a different version of each boss. In the villages, I'm sure some side quests will be there, as indicated in interviews, but I don't know what completing them will offer, just emblems to collect or something. Perhaps some are necessary to open up the entrances to the stages, thus increasing the story mode's lifespan.

Now, levels. These different level environments we know from screenshots and videos:

- Mykonos (now believed to be called Windmill Isle)
- Europe (possibly the rumoured Spanish Villa stage)
- Africa (city and jungle areas)
- China
POSSIBLE: Egypt (included in the first Wii screens)

The following are suggested from interviews:

- New York (It's been in more than one report, I recall, but here's one anyway)
- London ("Sonic will be running on the hands of Big Ben in London", although the full translated text doesn't seem to be available.)


- Arctic level (As far as I'm aware, this only exists as part of this initial leak, way back when the first details and media were revealed on the EspioKaos forum).
- Brazil (I don't really put much stock in this one. It's from this Brazillian article and if the translation is reliable, I would suggest that it is in fact merely the director admitting that Brazil would make a good Sonic Unleashed level).

Egypt bothers me a bit. There we were, happy enough with, seemingly, two African stages when a third suddenly pops up out of nowhere. However, in that same, first batch of Wii screens and more recent ones, we can see what looks like a slightly alternate version of Europe. It surely can't be a whole new stage to both, so I believe it's just the Wii's version of Europe. So, is Egypt the Wii's reinterpretation of the African city? Look closely at the screens, and you do start to see city aspects, like walls and gates and possibly houses, slightly similar to what you might also find in the 360's African "sand castle" city. Either that or the African jungle and city are in fact one and the same level, and Egypt is the freestyle variation.

With that in mind, this is me officially making my bet regarding what levels will make the cut and in what order and we'll see how close I get..

#1 Mykonos aka Windmill Isle
"Freestyle" stage will be the area shown in the hilly sunset screens.

#2 Europe aka "High Europe" aka Spanish Villa
The rumoured Spanish stage is, I reckon, the Europe one we're all familiar with. Granted, I've never been to Spain, so I may be completely wrong about their architecture, but google image searches suggest something that isn't a million miles away. Also note that Europe is supposedly the fourth stage, supporting my theory of three Mykonos stages.

#3 Africa
Sandcastle city (360/PS3) / Egypt ruins (Wii/PS2) for main area, jungle for freestyle. OR Sancastle city and jungle for main area / Egypt for freestyle.

#4 China
Mountain levels are always in the middle of a game, although perhaps more conventionally swapped around with the next level type, this order seems to flow better to me.

#5 Arctic
Although it's a mere rumour, I think it's a likely stage type to fit in, if only because it's different from all the others. I think going down the abstract route, like the African city, wouldn't be a bad idea here as it'll be a bit plain otherwise. Just go all out and make a big elaborate ice palace guys, no one would mind.

#6 New York

#7 London
Add thunder and lightning for climactic drama. Sonic racing down the Thames would be an awesome sight to me, not least of all because I now live and work in the city.

Nine levels is always a possibility, and it would indeed be great, especially if they go with my freestyle stage idea too. But then, although we would probably find a home for the Egypt level (and that supposed Brazil one, for that matter), if there's going to be nine, one day and one night stage each might well be enough anyway, thus ruining my whole big theory. Oh well, 7 x 3 is my official prediction and I'm sticking to it until proven wrong. In any case, that shifting daytime stuff has to fit in somewhere.
Comments   3 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Friday, 5th September 2008, 8:46am
It's a little strange that there isn't a level set in Japan, but I guess since the game is developed there, it's not exotic enough for them, maybe. I think a Tokyo zone would be pretty cool, though - they don't have enough big city levels with a bunch of splash and dash like they used to. It would be especially cool at night.

I'm definitely still chugging along on Sonic Extractor 3&K Mix. It'd be great to see you meet your goal of having Sonic CD, 3 & K up within a year's time. I just saw some scans of a really old Sonic 1 player's guide from Japan, and the level maps were hand drawn. No matter how complicated all the coding and screen capturing becomes, I still don't envy those poor folks making game guides in the days before emulators and the internet!
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Friday, 5th September 2008, 10:03pm
Yeah, Tokyo would be a good choice - never know, could still happen. Although I'd like them to get away a bit from the cities, I'm slightly concerned they'll all be a bit samey, as impressive a sight they are.

I've heard of that hand drawn strategy guide. As I recall, the secret route along the top of Labyrinth Zone Act 1 was apparently labelled, what can be translated as, "we don't know how to get here". Any chance those scans are available online anywhere?
#3. Comment posted by mercury on Friday, 5th September 2008, 10:35pm
Yes, I saw them at
Sonic 2 Complete!
Sunday, 31st August 2008, 2:56pm (UTC), 0 Comments
Update: Miscellaneous page added to the Sonic 2 section, completing all content for that game!
The misc page is up to round off Sonic 2 once and for all. Convenient timing, as today also happens to mark four years since I decided to sit down and start writing my first piece of content for this place (although checking my log, that may actually have been yesterday.. damn). Although I haven't quite managed to create the definitive collection of all Sonic game information that I had envisioned I would by now, I think it's quite an achievement just to still be as passionate about it now as I was then. As always, real life gets in the way though - I've spent the last month moving to London and starting a new job, and any spare time I've had I've put towards the new site design, so apologies that this final Sonic 2 page has come much later than it should have.

Well, it's good to have two whole games under my belt now, even if they have progressed at the rate of roughly one game per year, and that's even after I've already written most of the content. Hmm, that's not great is it? Thanks to the work of user Mercury, Sonic CD and hopefully then Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles won't take nearly as long, as I won't need to painstakingly place objects in all of the maps, which has proved the most time consuming element. With this in mind then, I hope to have Sonic CD, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles all up and running by this time next year. Tall order? Possibly, although after that I'll be returning to Uni for my final year, where updates will no doubt be thin on the ground, so I want to get as much done as possible by then, while juggling other stuff in my life.

Before any of that though, the next thing is the site redesign, which I want done by the time the Sonic Stadium's Site Awards comes around again, which should be soon. It's done, it's looking rosy, I just need to finish converting it into PHP code so that it can read all of the existing database content, which I'll need to tweak, and convert the older Sonic 1 pages to a dynamic form, as well as adding minor alterations along the way (of which I am keeping a list, so any suggestions and errors any of you have pointed out, chances are, they're on there and will be dealt with!). I need a new home page and blog system too, but after that it'll be good to go live. I can worry about my own new admin system afterwards, and just use phpMyAdmin in the meantime I reckon. No idea if anyone bothering to read this is savvy to these sorts of things at all but what the hell, my blog, my waffle.

Oh and by the by, this is an awesome interpretation of my very favourite Sonic tune.
No comments have been posted in response to this Blog post.
Other Modes
Thursday, 31st July 2008, 9:04pm (UTC), 1 Comment
Update: Other Modes page added to the Sonic 2 section
Those who have been desperate for Special Stage advice in Sonic 2, or perhaps just juicy details about the options menu (oooh!) need look no further than the Other Modes page of the Sonic 2 section. Rather plumper than the corresponding page of Sonic 1, it also contains everything you need to know about Super Sonic, the 2-player mode and even Knuckles in Sonic 2. I originally kept the latter to the Sonic & Knuckles game guide, but as that's obviously a while away yet, I've imported it in. You may not see anything wrong with the page, but compared to the new design I'm working on, the current layout for the info pages all look very plain and disorderly to me. I'm afraid it'll have to do for now though until I can implement the new look, within the next two or three months, but when I do, you'll be blown away! Or, you may not be that bothered, I don't know. I'm pretty sure you'll say "ooh, this looks different" though.

Only one more page to go now before we can finally call Sonic 2 all present and accounted for; the Miscellaneous page, where, among a couple of other matters, I will be looking briefly at Sonic 2 Beta and things that didn't make the cut. A subject that many Sonic fans are fascinated by, but I want you to bear in mind that it's not really what Zone: 0 is about, so I won't be going into great details, and certainly not really technical ones. Perhaps one day Zone: 0 will grow to encompass all details on Sonic that have ever existed, both general and very geeky, but for now I'd rather keep it a reference and strategy guide to the finished games, with particular emphasis on level design. So don't expect everything that we know about the beta version and all the other various pre-releases to be contained within it, as it's really a different subject as far as I'm concerned. Expect more of an introductory overview to the topic, with links to where you can find out more about the research. I thought I'd get that out of the way now, as I know I've had at least a couple of comments from people looking forward to this section.
Comments   1 Comment has been posted.
#1. Comment posted by supersonicsmash on Friday, 19th February 2010, 11:16pm
First to coment whooo a left the codes on Hydrocity zone coments the stages and story thing not the brief info.
YOUR suggestions for "Zone: 0.1"!
Wednesday, 23rd July 2008, 10:24pm (UTC), 6 Comments
Update: Gameplay page added to the Sonic 2 section
That's right, Zone: 0 is currently undergoing a BIG redesign, as you might already be aware, in fact it'll be its proper launch (until now, the site's design has technically been in a temporary WIP state), so you could call the update Zone: 0 v1 (or Zone: 0.1?). If you're already pretty familiar with the site and its contents, I'd very much like to hear any suggestions you might have to improve things!

In terms of what's already in the pipeline, you can expect to see a much better and more stylish overall layout, with graphics that I'm really rather proud of. The actual contents and structure of the pages won't be changing much, but you can expect an improved comments feature in which you'll be able to view and add notes to each individual section of a level or page in a little drop down box. Hopefully captions for images will be improved, with universal formatting across every browser and there should also be a full-size feature in place, allowing you to see the full screenshot for each of the cropped images on the page. I have plans to make more files available for download too, beyond just maps, and including manual scans, artwork and music perhaps. Subject to bandwidth I guess. The door will also be opening for the articles feature of the site, which I'll eventually be using to suggest some methods for ordering and classifying the games and levels of the series, and hopefully Palmtree Panic will be included to kick off Sonic CD too.

So I suppose I'm looking for more handy little features like that. Rather larger ideas like the addition of video guides and a google maps-like interface for viewing the level maps would be very cool, but not particularly practical over the next few months. So if anything's occured to you lately, go ahead and leave a message and I'll see what I think! If you do happen to have a bigger idea that might be very cool, do feel free to mention it too, I just may have to put it in the back of my mind for a while. In that vein, I'd be particularly interested if anyone would rather fancy a Zone: 0 forum for highly interesting discussions of Sonic level and game designs.

It'll be great if I can launch it in sync with the whole project's fourth year anniversay on 31st August, but there's no guarantees on that, as my back-end admin system also needs a complete rebuild and I still need to convert most of the existing pages to a dynamic form. I definitely want it done by the time the Sonic Site Awards start this year though, after being respectfully nominated for three awards last year - I think the improvements, and the site's increased notoriety since then might just give it that extra nudge.
Comments   6 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Thursday, 24th July 2008, 1:56am
Hmm... how about an RSS feed to alert us of updates?

I can't wait to see the new design, and the Articles sound like they'll be a blast, too.
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 24th July 2008, 9:18am
Oh yeah, RSS will probably be there too! That was a suggestion from a while back so I'll definitely see what I can do about that.
#3. Comment posted by Reckoner on Saturday, 26th July 2008, 5:25am
Here is one suggestion that I have: use PNG instead of GIF. As long as it is properly compressed, a PNG will generally always be smaller than a GIF, and it is supported by all the major browsers (see for a comparison). And note that, while IE 6 and below can't handle alpha channels, they can still do single color transparency like GIFs.

For best compression, I recommend a tool from Ken Silverman, called PNGOUT. It's a freeware command-line program for converting images to PNG format (and optimizing existing PNGs). It produces file sizes smaller than just about any other program I know of, and its compression is completely lossless. You can find it at I used it to re-compress some of the images on the site and got some nice results; for example, the first summary image in the Sonic 2 Aquatic Ruin page, s2-arz-summaryimg1.gif, was reduced from 23.5 kB to 11.1 kB in PNG format, which is less than half of the original size. It seems you can also shave about 9-10% off of your maps, just by re-compressing them.

And about those maps, I was wondering if it might be possible to reduce their colors enough to fit into a palette-based PNG. The Genesis can normally only display 64 colors at a time, and this is doubled with a single mid-frame palette change (such as the switch to the underwater palette to render the below-water portion of a Sonic level), so that gives a total of 128 colors in any given stage (and thus a theoretical maximum of 128 colors for a plain, unedited map, though 40-50 is more typical). Naturally, since you reduce the maps to about half of their original size, you must apply some type of filtering so that they still look pretty and that will add additional variations in color. Combined with the little markings, arrows, and the map legend, many more unique colors are added, but I still think you could take the existing maps and reduce them to a palette-based image in Photoshop without much loss of quality, but with a huge decrease in size.

Just as an example, I took your Metropolis Zone Act 3 map, which was nearly four and a half megabytes, with over 160,000 distinct colors, and reduced it to an 8-bit palette-based PNG, and the resulting image was only 842 KB (a reduction of nearly 82%!), with very little noticeable decrease in quality (I can email you the image if you'd like, so that you can evaluate the quality yourself). Getting those maps down to a reasonable size would not only make your users' downloads faster, but it'd also help with your bandwidth.
#4. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Saturday, 26th July 2008, 10:41am
Thank you Reckoner, your suggestions intrigue me. While bandwidth isn't a problem right now, it's likely to be a big issue as the site gets more popular and I add more maps and other files. If it'll save me the cost of having to buy more, not to mention having to turn away visitors because I've run out of bandwidth that month, then it's definitely worth looking at. I'll check out the program you've suggested and in the meantime if you could email me that Metropolis zone map (just click on my name at the start of this post), I'll have a look at that too, thanks!
#5. Comment posted by Rachel on Saturday, 26th July 2008, 2:27pm
You could make a blue backround.
#6. Comment posted by supersonicsmash on Monday, 8th February 2010, 10:01pm
I just wanna say this: don't change the logo. That's a beautiful picture of Sonic.
Sonic and the Never Ending Gimmicks
Monday, 21st July 2008, 10:43pm (UTC), 2 Comments
If you haven't heard, Sonic and the Black Knight is, now, an official new entry in the series, announced today and hinted at yesterday with a leaked Nintendo Power cover of Sonic with a knight's glove and sword. Just the other day I was thinking that it was unusual to have only two Sonic games in this current 2008 'batch', and surprise surprise, here comes another one. Sega made a press release that doesn't really add much more info other than what could be assumed from the name and the image, but confirms that it is essentially the sequel to Secret Rings, this time set in a medieval storybook as opposed to an Arabian one. I know a lot of uproar against the sword idea has been expressed and I'm not saying I particularly like the concept, but I'm going to reserve my judgement until I know more about it. Evenso, it's hard to envision a game that merges standard Sonic, and presumably Secret Rings-esque gameplay with swordplay that won't drastically change it in any way that is really worth doing at all. The best that anyone determined for Sonic to keep new ideas to an absolute minimum could hope for is that the sword simply offers a few new moves while you're running about the place, but somehow I suspect it'll be a little more complex than that.

Although personally not a big fan of Secret Rings myself, I quite liked the idea of giving the game a whole new theme, and indeed a sub-series of these "Sonic and the.." specially themed games is fine by me, and I suppose they've got the chance to perfect the system that only partly worked well for the original, in my opinion. But then, the best of that system (running fast and dodging obstacles from a behind view) is already being employed in Sonic Unleashed with the added precision of not having to automatically run, allowing for superior platforming, so I wonder if we really need this game at all? Maybe I don't, but anyway, too early to say at the moment.

I just worry about the effect this wacky new idea and Sonic Unleashed's Werehog concept, which is clearly rubbing some people up the wrong way already, will have on the overall public and critical opinion of the series, which, for the last year or so has been building up to a gradual comeback to a state of reasonable respect again. It's almost an ongoing struggle between critics who just want Sonic to be purely Sonic like they knew from the nineties (and don't get me wrong, they do have a point at times), and Sega, who know damn well that they can't just keep churning out modern Sonic 1 clones because the series just won't last. In a way, they're prolonging its life by keeping people in constant hope of a classic style game, instead of just giving them one, then a series until it quickly dries up and everyone's sick of Sonic altogether, as opposed to being sick of Sonic doing new things. I think Sega are damned if they do, and damned if they don't, as they're trying to meet the needs of so many different people, while keeping their most successful franchise alive and well. It's no wonder that Sonic Unleashed is, as IGN put it, like two different games stapled together.

Whereas Mario seems to be built for doing anything from traditional platforming to baseball and golf, etc, Sonic has always had a much more narrow range regarding what people would be happy to see him do, perhaps because of his "attitude" and slightly more serious and action-oriented content, which has always been there, but has evolved moreso down that path, as opposed to one where Sonic doesn't take himself too seriously. I do wonder if the average person who is fairly familiar with playing Sonic in their youth but hasn't really paid much attention since, will see a picture of Sonic with a sword or Sonic as a werewolf beast and think "OMG, that's not the Sonic I know and love! What are they doing??" or will they just simply think "Huh, Sonic as a werewolf.. cool". In other words, do they see Sonic as a more versatile character who can get away with these sorts of ideas, and we're all just too close to the subject matter, or would they agree with the critics and old skool fanboys? It'll vary, but I suspect one of the reasons Sonic still sells well is because of all those people who only pick up a Sonic title once in a blue moon because of old memories, and I think we need to think a little more about the opinions of those people regarding new ideas.

As far as where I stand on new ideas, I just think that we Sonic fans are extremely lucky. We're coming up to 50 Sonic games now, and I think only Mario and probably MegaMan can really top that figure, and over half of them are platformers. That's well over 200 levels, so no matter what happens, we've got 17 years worth of Sonic gaming to entertain ourselves with, and that's partly what this site is all about - a place to celebrate and catalogue that as a shrine and resource to the multi-faceted video game empire that is Sonic the Hedgehog. It just makes you wonder how important it really needs to be to us that every new Sonic game be true to the original concept and avoid all deviation and transformation into other things. That's evolution and after all this history, how can it not happen?

Anyway, what I wanted to talk more about was Sonic Unleashed, now that everything from E3 appears to have emerged and we can sum things up a bit more clearly now. I think by far the most useful piece was Gamespot's exclusive coverage of the game being played live, which answered quite a few questions/concerns about certain gameplay specifics...

I don't know about you, but I felt quite a bit better about the Werehog side of the coin while watching him in action. Sure, I'd prefer the platforming aspect to be a bit more emphasised over the combat than it probably will be, but I really like the stretchy arms with regard to grabbing onto ledges and shimmying across them and I think that mechanic has some great platforming potential, the likes of which are probably nothing new to the genre, but is something that's fresh to the series. Meanwhile, in combat, he does look like he has a number of different moves at his disposal, apparently around 30, and I must say it does look quite fun, at least initially, but may get tiring. On the other hand though, the Subspace Emissary in Smash Bros Brawl is full of hand in hand button-bashing brawling and platforming, and a word against that game is practically unheard of. I particularly enjoyed Streets of Rage in my early gaming days, so to describe the actually fairly comprehensive Werehog combat system as "mindless", as I've heard, is, I think more a problem with its inclusion in a Sonic game more than the actual idea itself. There are any number of equally "mindless" games out there at the moment, particularly among the 105 generic shoot-em-ups released every year these days.

It's a shame we didn't get to see more of the standard Sonic gameplay in the video (and we had to see most of the werehog's stuff twice!), but my biggest concern was settled - Sonic isn't automatically set on a forward run at any point, and the control seems fairly tight, although I think we'll need more proof to be sure. I'm wondering how the mechanics of running fast and being able to turn will play out, in this case. When you're on a full blown, boost-powered run down a long road with the camera behind you, presumably you have to hold forward to accelerate, but what if you turn to the top left on the analogue stick? Does Sonic strafe a bit, or does his whole direction shift and just the shoulder buttons are used for strafing? Does this limit the accuracy of the strafe? It seems like at some points Sonic doesn't shift with the road as it turns, and instead runs along the edge at the wrong angle a little bit, and this even seems to be the cause of the second death suffered by the player. Yet on other, slower occasions such as the infamous rotating, multi-floored platforms, Sonic appears to control more or less exactly in the same way he already has in 3D in the past. It all seems to mesh really well together in motion, but I just wonder how it all actually works and shifts from section to section. I thought that restricting your movement to 2 dimensions at any one time would simplify things and therefore reduce the possibility of unforseen glitches occuring, but perhaps things won't be that straightforward.

I'm very confident that I'll enjoy Sonic's sections in particular, it seems like the level designs allow for a very smoothly flowing experience and there's evidence of plenty of variety, I just worry a lot about what would happen if the game isn't the success it really needs to be. I suppose if it at least manages to be relatively glitch-free and all reasonably well designed, it'll be a step in the right direction for most, who will then allow for a similar but more improved experience next time, but I've a feeling the werehog aspect will play a big part in the game's overall success. There will be people who just won't come round to the idea, no matter how well made it is, but also others who are willing to give it a chance. It does seem somewhat unfair to me though to give the game a bad score purely because it contains a mode that the reviewer feels is "un-Sonic-like", especially if they'd be happier playing it in a non-Sonic game. My view is that without the werewolf mode, I think there would be a sense that the game would lack real "meat" to it, I suppose. Straightfoward running fast all the time is fine for smaller games like Sonic Rush, which is clearly a heavy influence on this title, but modern primary Sonic games do seem to require some more substantial variety in gameplay styles and things to do. Speeding through levels without a care in the world is brilliant, but I suspect the slower werehog sections will make the first playthrough much longer and deeper. We shall see, come November.
Comments   2 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 22nd July 2008, 12:42am
This all brings up an interesting point: What is the Sonic name/brand trying to sell?

There is no attempt at a canonical storyline, and the characters, especially Sonic, are given no more than the most basic rudiments of personality. And there isn't even a consensus on the planet or world in which the games take place. So no one buys a Sonic game to "see what happens next", like they would buy Halo to "finish the fight" (or whatever).

The creative forces behind the games aren't consistent, either. There are few, if any, original team members left from the Mega Drive era. So no one buys a Sonic game for that reason either. It's not like buying a Zelda game that you know Miyamoto was definitely behind.

And in recent years, the Sonic brand can't even be taken as a symbol of quality.
Thus, I would conclude that the name "Sonic" is supposed to sell the gameplay. You can always rest assured when you buy a Sonic game, that the speedy, platforming gameplay, will be intact.

Or can you? Ever since Sonic Adventure, Sega has almost comically chucked in countless other gameplay styles to make Sonic more interesting. Many of them are the direct antithesis of speedy platform gameplay. Fishing, digital pet raising, adventuring, clomping around in a mech and shooting stuff, sailing a boat, searching for emeralds with ear-splitting radar, and now this - Werewolf combat.

The question isn't whether the new gameplay is any good - much of it is. I enjoyed raising Chao and sailing pirate ships as much as the next guy. But what all these extraneous play styles seem to suggest is that good old school Sonic gameplay isn't good enough to sell a game anymore. They as much as said flat out that the inclusion of Chao in Sonic Adventure was because the game was too hard and they wanted something for younger players to be able to do with the disc if they got the stuck in the main story.

But it's all bollocks. Not once has Sega released twenty-five Sonic games in a row with classic gameplay and watched their sales slowly sink. In fact, the most classic style games, such as Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush, garner the best reviews. The old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", comes to mind. Why does Sega think Sonic needs other types of gameplay? Are they not confident in the gameplay that sold the Mega Drive, won them the 16-bit console wars, and made their character more recognisable than Mickey Mouse? I don't mind if they have creative ideas and try to install them in their flagship series - but I'm afraid that's not why they include all these gimmicks. I think it's because they don't think Sonic is good enough to stand against other modern games without some sort of crutch.

Well, they're wrong. There are hundreds of games where I can lumber around and smack enemies around. But there's only one Sonic. Putting all this unnecessary stuff in each new Sonic game is like putting catsup on ice cream.

That said, I'm still looking forward to all the new games, and will probably enjoy them. But I don't think Sonic will truly have his fabled "comeback" until someone starts to take the series seriously and stops treating Sonic like a mascot who can just be injected into mediocre environments and stories largely borrowed from other things. Someone might consider putting Sonic in Arabian Nights or Arthurian Legend to be an "original concept", but really, that's not original - it's stepping on someone else's ideas to make your game seem cooler. Suddenly they don't have to do any work to make Sonic cool - cos King Arthur already is!

I guess I'm really rambling now, but I can't help it. One look at any Zone from Sonic CD is all it takes to see what Sonic needs. Not even today, with all their polygons and processor power, can they match the fantastic worlds of Mega Drive Sonic. I played Stardust Speedway when I was 7 years old, and it blew my mind and changed my life. I'm doing what I'm doing today because of those games, and I've never seen anything to match them. I can only hope that this is a temporary state of affairs.

#2. Comment posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, 22nd July 2008, 3:18am
What are they thinking they will achieve with the Dark Knight game ezcept nothing?
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We've finally done it! The Zone: 0 guides have reached their last big update. Owner LiQuidShade has new projects on the horizon, but this site will always remain in his heart.