21 October 2011

Hidden Palace Conclusion

Now that the Sonic 1&2 Soundtrack has been released and I've heard it, we can see if it resolves any of my questions about Hidden Palace's BGM. And guess what? Not only is the song not titled Hidden Palace on the soundtrack (it's called "Unused") but it actually has an ending unlike the original game. That goes a long way to confirming my theory that the song was not composed as a zone music. I'd say more, but I'm using a phone to post this. =)

03 October 2011

Hack Attack (Part III)

And now for the comparison of my trophy nominations with the official winners. Why? I... I have no idea.

Hidden Palace Trophy – 1st Place
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals

I had nominated S Factor as well.

Wood Zone Trophy – 2nd Place
Sonic VR by ColinC10

For 2nd Place I had nominated Sonic 2 Heroes. Sonic VR got no nomination from me, even though I liked it, because the demo was so limited. I had said "I can't in good conscience let it get high marks for what I'm hoping it will become; it must stand and fall based on what's actually been submitted this year".

Dust Hill Trophy – 3rd Place
Sonic 2 Heroes by Flamewing

For 3rd Place I nominated Sonic ERaZor.

Green Hill Trophy – Hack that plays most like a Sonic game
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals

This was my choice as well.

Windy Valley Trophy – Best Art
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals

Again, the same. Chaotic Street in particular blew me away.

D.A. Garden Trophy – Best Music
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals
HONOURABLE MENTION – 30 Day Project: Revisited by PsychoSk8r

For this I nominated Sonic VR for it's fitting sample music, and gave 30 Day Project the runner up's position.

Palmtree Panic Trophy – Best Layouts
Untitled Sonic 2 Hack by D.A. Garden

I gave this to S Factor.

Genocide City Trophy – Most Difficult Hack
Sonic 1 Lunacy by The Masochistic Maniacs (Destructiox, SonicVaan, MarkeyJester, Selbi, Spanner)

Nothing else could have possibly gotten this trophy!

11000101 Trophy – Best Technical Hack
Sonic 2 Heroes by Flamewing

I chose Sonic 2 Heroes as well.

Knuckles Trophy – Best New Character
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals – Sonia the Hedgehog

I nominated Sonia, too. I'm glad to see she won, despite the Sonic Underground hate that goes around.

Fang Trophy – Best new/modified enemies in a hack submitted
Sonic ERaZor by Selbi

This trophy matches my nomination, too.

Eggman Trophy – Best new bosses/minibosses in a hack submitted
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals – Team Metallix

Again, the same.

Spindash Trophy – Best New Ability
The S Factor: Sonia and Silver by Aquaslash & Pals – Silver’s Telekinesis

I had chosen Sonia's ability to break Spikes. I found Silver to be a bit clunky.

Carnival Night Trophy – Most Innovative Feature
Sonic 2 Heroes by Flamewing – 3 Players at Once

Once more, the same.

Emerald Trophy – Best Special Stage
Sonic ERaZor by Selbi

I nominated this, too. I'm really pleased to see it win. S Factor has gorgeous Special Stages, too, but this one was SO MUCH FUN.

Robotnik’s Revenge Trophy – New Concept based on Existing Concepts
Sonic 2 Heroes by Flamewing

I had picked Sonic VR for this. Really, Sonic 2 Heroes nabbed enough awards and this should have been ColinC10's. Sonic VR is the exemplar of finding new life out of old concepts.

Casinopolis Trophy – Most Entertaining/Fun Hack
Sonic VR by ColinC10

I gave this one to Sonic 2 Heroes, because it literally did entertain me the most. The official results give it to Sonic VR, saying this: "Forty challenges await you in this year’s submission from Colin. How long will it take for you to complete them all – if you can do that." A little unfair, considering that all 40 were not implemented in the build evaluated by the contest judges!

Vector Trophy – Most Humourous Hack
Yeth by Banoon
HONOURABLE MENTION – Chip McCallihan in Sonic 1 by MainMemory

I gave this to Yeth, also. The writing in the manual pushed it over the edge for me.

WTF?! Trophy – Most Unique Hacks Submitted
Sonic the Ghosthog by Hanoch AND Sonic 1 Misadventure by Arctic Leopard


Twinkle Park Trophy – Best 3D Hack
Mushroom Zone by Dude

I didn't judge any 3D hacks.

Crystal Egg Trophy – Best 8-Bit Hack
Sonic Chaotic by Ravenfreak

This was the only 8-bit entry, winning by default.

Christmas Present Trophy – The hack that nobody saw coming
Sonic VR by ColinC10


Tails Trophy – Best Improved Hack from Last Year
Sonic ERaZor by Selbi


OH GOD WHY Trophy – Why was this submitted?
Sonic 1 Reinvented by Watsonman

I must have missed this trophy somehow, because I have no nomination for it. Sonic 1 Reinvented has zero going for it, so it certainly deserves it.

Big Trophy – Worst Hack
Latios in Sonic 3 & Knuckles by Scott4

I had picked Red the Hedgehog, with Latios as the runner up. In retrospect, it's probably better not to give Dandaman the satisfaction. =P Latios is more legitimately horrible.

That's it for now. Back into the deep I sink!

01 October 2011

Hack Attack (Part II)

This is the second part in a three part series of my reviews of the hacks submitted to the Sonic the Hedgehog Hacking Contest.

30 Day Project: Revisited

Hack of Sonic 1 by PsychoSk8r

To fully detail all the changes made to Sonic 1 for this hack would be a whole blog post in itself - the changelog provided with the hack is nearly 700 lines long!

The hack is so named because PsychoSk8r set a challenge for himself - make as many changes as possible in a 30-day period. Because of this, there's not much focus or coherency, but a bunch of the changes are cool and fun to play around with.

The art mods are a bit uneven - Marble fares much better than Green Hill - but are certainly more creative than most and I appreciate the humorous "easter eggs" strewn throughout.

The music mods are one of the strengths of the hack. There are original remixes for each of the 3 acts (for the zones that are modified in this demo, anyway), and the Sound Test includes a treasure trove of ports and conversions that are extremely well done. It's probably worth the download for the soundtrack alone.

As far as programming mods go, there's a slew of those, too. There are a couple of dash moves and a double jump for Sonic (none of which are really necessary to progress), and you're required to find a Chaos Emerald monitor in each Act in order to gain access to the next - a concept which I obviously like, though I do wish they were hidden a little better.

There are also some fun effects like time of day changes and weather, which may not be terribly impressive at this point in the history of hacking, but I liked the atmosphere they created.

Overall I'd like to see this hack given more of a point, but I do like the work that's been done on it.

Sonic ERaZor

Hack of Sonic 1 by Selbi

Sonic ERaZor was submitted to last year's contest, as well. When I played it then, I wasn't too fond of it. Something about it felt too edgy and confrontational to be truly enjoyable.

This year, though, I found that I liked it a lot. I don't know if that's entirely because it improved (though of course it has made a bunch of progress), or because I've just gotten over any hangups I might have had with it.

Either way, this time I really liked the tone and the "Sonic's having a really weird day" storyline. The challenge level was just right and the concepts for each level, while quite disparate, somehow gelled to create a whole.

Particularly standout was the Special Stage, which I adore. I like it far more than the original Sonic 1 stage, and I'd gladly play many more - even if they get progressively harder. Bring it!

So I'd recommend ERaZor. I was playing it again while writing this review, and even after the novelty wears off it's still fun.

Sonic 1 Lunacy

Hack of Sonic 1 by The Masochistic Maniacs

"Lunacy" and "Masochistic Maniacs" are incredibly apt terms when it comes to this hack. An example? Everything is out to kill Sonic, even his own jump - pressing the button again while in the air will cause instant death. This game, in Lunacy Mode, must be played extremely carefully!

The idea, as far as I can tell from this demo, is to make Sonic 1 not just harder, but a lot harder. While there are Normal and Hard modes, it looks to me like Lunacy Mode is the meat of the game. Since the title card for Green Hill is replaced with "Cherry Blossom" I'm assuming that future releases will be using custom art, which I look forward to (especially knowing that MarkeyJester is on the team).

I'm afraid I don't quite have the stomach for Lunacy Mode, though, and had to battle my through it using savestates. It's not the kind of fair challenge I enjoy that Sonic VR is such a beautiful example of. However the game does tease us with things like this:

...so when it's finished it might be worth self-flagellating to see all the content. As it stands, though, it's mostly Green Hill and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're already following the project.

The S Factor: Sonia and Silver

Hack of Sonic 1 by Aquaslash & Pals

Believe it or not, I'm a member of that rarefied species - a Sonic Underground fan. (Just this morning, I had to fend off a cryptozoologist who wanted to stuff and mount me.) So I - unlike others - have no quibble whatsoever with playing as Sonia. In fact, I tend to think of this game as "The S Factor: Sonia" because I couldn't care less for Silver. =P (Scourge and Shadow are not complete as of this release, but even if they were I don't find the prospect of playing as them very appealing, either.)

Excepting the less-than-interesting supporting cast, everything about this game - it feels inadequate to call it a "hack" - is brilliant. I've been following it's development as a fan for what seems like years now, and it hasn't disappointed me yet. The hacking contest build was no exception - the new levels were beautiful and won my heart immediately.

It surely deserved all the trophies it won this year and it was certainly my favourite overall submission. But I've got to stop talking about it now, or I'll wind up killing the rest of the evening playing it again. =)

Untitled Sonic 3 Hack

Hack of Sonic 3&K by D.A. Garden

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to step into a bizarro world where Sonic Team had made different level layouts for Sonic 3 & Knuckles, this is the hack for you. The overall game is intact, but the levels are now completely new while remaining strangely authentic. Keep in mind, though, that the hack is not finished so this is true of some levels more than others.

Sadly the palettes have also been changed, and they're hella ugly.

There's nothing else to say, really. It's not going to hold anyone's interest for long. D.A. Garden deserves props for making nearly spot-on level layouts, but the Untitled Sonic 2 Hack (that I reviewed in Part I) had more going for it, I think.

Sonic 2 Heroes

Hack of Sonic 2 by Flamewing

When I first heard of this hack, I was very wary of it. The last thing I want is some of Sonic Heroes' poison rubbing off on a classic like Sonic 2.

Fortunately those fears were unfounded, and only the good elements, i.e. the ability to play Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails at once, switching leader on the fly, have been ported over. There's no nonsense like floating rainbow question marks, character switching gates, or conversions of the Seaside Hill BGM.

In fact Sonic 2 Heroes reminds me of a time when I was a little kid (and you can be sure I was an adorable one) playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles. When Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are all present in the Hidden Palace/Sky Sanctuary cutscenes, I would ache for the ability to run around in all the rest of the zones with the complete and total "Team Sonic", having adventures like the glorious second part of the OVA where Knuckles joins the fray.

Flamewing has not only fulfilled that boyhood dream, but gone above and beyond the call of duty to polish the project to a level of shine that forces Knuckles to don his shades.

Not only is there the yearned-for 3-player mode, but there's also every possible combination of 2- and 1-player modes. Sonic and Knuckles, Knuckles and Tails, Tails and Sonic... And all of this is fully compatible with letting a friend pick up the second controller!

In addition to the "Heroes" mechanic and cool combo moves like Tails being able to carry Sonic and Knuckles around, there is a plethora of other goodies to make one swoon. All the elemental shields are here, and with their complete function set, as well, down to repelling projectiles (and one can hardly exaggerate how cool it is to be able to wear a Bubble Shield when playing the "tricky bit" in Chemical Plant Act 2!).

Bits of polish Sonic 2 has always needed, such as the underwater distortion effect and victory poses at Act's end, are added in. Sonic has his Insta-Shield and Super Peel Out (yes yes yes!), Tails can fly, and Knuckles' jump height isn't unfairly nerfed. You can even perform aerial actions, such as gliding and flying, from a drop or a spring, rather than just a jump - something the series has always needed!

Everything, from the in-game text to the Sega screen to the Special Stage, are all modified to match the triple character dynamic. Nothing is shoddily done or overlooked.

Seriously, this hack is like winning the lottery. It tempts one to delete their vanilla Sonic 2 ROMs and never look back. I'm in love.

Note that I did not review any of the 3D hacks. This is because of my computer's prodigious aptitude for failing to run such things. I will be upgrading soon, so this won't hold me back in future contests.

Stay tuned for Part III!