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August 2011

Site News

Monday Links: The One Before Labor Day Edition

So, between last weekend’s PAX shenanigans, more details on Sonic CD’s re-release and some weird trailer for SAGE that was released, we’ve got a lot to cover this week. Let’s go!

Sonic Retro News

  • This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise at this point, but Sonic CD is coming to XBLA, PSN and a bevvy of mobile devices. Oh, and it’s being ported by Retro’s Own (TM) Taxman. Also, it’s pretty awesome. [ Sonic CD coming to everything except Nintendo systems ]
  • Bgvanbur has been researching Cinepak on the Sega CD, which needless to say, isn’t the best-documented codec. So why not make a technical demo with…Nyan Cat? I’m sensing a trend here with hackers and that cat. [ Demystifying Cinepak for Sega ]
  • The KKM linked a very odd video on the forums looking for an explanation behind it. Personally, I don’t have one, but it still needs to be seen for its sheer weirdness. That, and maybe one of you actually do know its origins. [ A weird video in the Supreme Topic ]

Sega/Sonic News

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Game News

Corrections; Video Interview with Ken Balough on Sonic CD, Sonic 4

A little real talk first before business goes on. We earlier reported that Sega staff member Patrick Riley was interviewed by forum member Shade Vortex. It looks like he might have been a little starstruck as he was actually not speaking to Patrick Riley at all, but Sonic Digital Brand Manager Ken Balough. Patrick Riley had no involvement with the previous interview and we wish to offer our apologies to the two gentlemen and to you, our readers who put up with us, for the confusion. For future reference:

This is Patrick Riley.

This is Ken Balough, as you truly imagined him. Please beat us over the head if this happens again.

Let’s move on to the video interview goodness after the jump. Continue Reading

Game News, Miscellaneous

PAX Show Floor Hands-On Preview of Sonic CD on Xbox Live Arcade

Sega’s latest classic title up for download services proves to be an important stepping stone for the company. Not only is it a port of a rare Mega/Sega CD title, the collaboration behind the project showcases the 10+ year old game running with optimizations and slight changes that help solidify Sonic CD’s place among the previous games. Not since Street Fighter has a game seen this level of work, both for those who prefer games to stay as true to the original as possible as well as please those who are looking for optimizations to solidify the functionality between the Sonic games. What was shown off in the PAX demo was the entirety of Palmtree Panic, with two special stages that would be randomly chosen for each playthrough for the sake of the demonstration. Honorable mention goes to our good buddy Ken Balough who was also there at the Xbox Live Arcade booth to help fill in the gaps of what to expect.

No doubt the most promising feature is the ability to change between two different spindash types for the game. However, the demo available only allowed for players to utilize the Sonic 2 & 3 Spindash feature. While the sound effects were still similar to the original version of the game, the spindash execution itself was much more streamlined compared to the original Sonic CD. You still have to charge up Sonic before he goes blasting off, but it is much easier to access places that would normally be more difficult to reach because of this optimization. Because of the new spindash feature, the screen does not pan in front of the player as it did in the original. In the final game, the screen will pan if the legacy spindash feature is turned on.

The gameplay otherwise feels exactly as it did in the original game. Load times are quicker for sure, enemies move as you expect, the stage gimmicks, such as Sonic going through the giant 360 degree loop, are also in place. Some additions including the 16:9 widescreen presentation that properly fills the screen in both regular and special stages help with the viewing area even without the camera panning in front of Sonic. The only real oddity I came across was the stage boss in Act 3; during the part where Eggman falls from the sky, the player can still damage the boss before he begins his attack movement.

The special stages in this version take advantage of the modern hardware, well, as modern as a flat “Mode 7-like” plane with UFOs flying around can get. The 3D plane turns much more smoothly as the UFOs scale properly in the 3D space. Item UFOs are much easier to identify; Light blue represents ones with shoes, and the darker bluer ones represent rings. Of course, the time bonus UFOs are still the same light blue with red bars and will appear when 20 seconds are left on the clock. The smoothness of which Sonic runs around, (or if he gets bounced around,) makes it easier to tell Sonic’s trajectory as he travels. Despite the upgrade in presentation, control is still fully digital, (i.e. no analog,) when turning Sonic left and right.

Another feature unique to this version is a filter effect for the graphics that blur the pixels for a more smoothed, anti-aliased look. Similar to Super 2xSai or Super Eagle filters that work on all the objects on screen. The filter works by applying them per object, however the effect seemed a bit blurry, and the smaller details of some sprites became a bit tough to make out. Ken did state that the feature was still being worked out as it was thrown in shortly before the PAX showing. For purists, players can easily turn the filter off and enjoy the original look of the game. In the demo the filter feature’s switch was mapped to the Left and Right Bumper buttons of the Xbox controller, which are likely to change into a menu function in the final build.

Despite the low volume of the TV, one could determine that the music was without a doubt the Japanese soundtrack. Unfortunately, Ken confirmed that the US soundtrack would sadly not be available in the final version. (Sidebar from me: You can use the Xbox 360’s built in music player to blare your rare Sonic Boom! Music CDs.) What Ken stated on the matter is that they are still working to see what would need to happen on the legal side of things to get the US soundtrack in the final game. While DLC is a possibility, he’d much rather try to include the music for free, whether they can get it in the final or added in through a patch.

While the game was being shown on the 360, Ken did state that the game is coming out on a host of platforms including PS3, Android, iOS devices and on the PC through Steam. A WiiWare version is currently not planned. The game is on track for a release later this year, and already looks very promising. Alas, no disc based version of the game will go on sale.

Finally, on a side note. Those of you who are at PAX make sure to go check out the booth. Last few times I checked over at Microsofts booth, Sonic CD was literally untouched. Go be a bro, check it out and say ‘hi’ to Ken. I bet he’s quite lonely!

Game News

UPDATE: Sega Staffer Speaks Sonic CD Details; Revised as Sonic 4 ‘Prequel’

[UPDATE: Sega’s Ken Balough offers more clarification on the jumbled mess that is the timeline. Read the full quote at the bottom.]

Brace yourselves one more time. This could be a bumpy ride.

The start of PAX today in Seattle allowed attendees to get a first taste of Sonic CD on the Retro Engine before making its way to consoles, computers, and mobile devices, running through the entirety of Palmtree Panic Zone. Initial reactions from the crowd are fairly positive.

While trying out the game, forum member Shade Vortex got to speak to Patrick Riley, a staff member at Sega of America, [UPDATE: Ken Balough, Sonic Digital Brand Manager,] about the game. A few of the details revealed by Retro Engine creator Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead might have been a little premature.

Continue Reading

Game News

UPDATE: Dodge Emerald Coast’s Orca in Generations 3DS


UPDATE: Also a first look at Generations 3DS’ Casino Night Zone.

With one move, all bets are off. Found in the dirty recesses of Sega’s servers and joining Green Hill Zone and Mushroom Hill Zone comes Sonic Adventure‘s iconic first stage Emerald Coast, including the famous whale chase scene.

I almost want to say it could even Sonic 2006‘s Wave Ocean, but it’s basically just Emerald Coast in HD with worse controls. What are the odds that Classic Sonic gets a recycled version of Sonic Advance‘s Neo Green Hill Zone for his Emerald Coast stage, given the track record with his stages so far?

Also found is what looks to be the first shot of the opening cutscene with Sonic’s closest friends celebrating the Blue Blur’s birthday. Noticeably absent is Shadow, who may have been too much of a downer to be invited to the “cool kids” party.

Game News

Sonic CD Can Do Anything to Several Platforms, First Trailer

Ready for a blast to the past?

Sega is bringing the well-loved Sega CD time-traveling Sonic adventure to nearly every platform under the sun including PSN, Xbox Live Arcade, ‘PC Digital Distribution (likely Steam and other services), iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7. The title isn’t the usual port job with the ugly blue borders seen in Sega’s Vintage Collection series, including true widescreen support thanks to community member The Taxman’s Retro Engine.

It goes without saying (but will be said anyway) that achievements will be supported, in case you want to show off your massive Sonic CD skills to the world. Additional features, according to The Taxman, include a soundtrack that loops properly along with the option to choose if you want the original style Sonic CD Spin Dash or one closer to Sonic 2‘s spin dash. Choose wisely as it also affects the behavior of the camera in-game.

The trailer further brings an additional surprise that the International soundtrack (read: the soundtrack the U.S. didn’t get) will be included in the release. It’s currently unknown if you can choose which soundtrack plays during the game. The game is due out during the Holidays later this year.

Game News

Sonic 4: Episode 2 in 2012, Episode 3 Unlikely

Sonic’s 20th Anniversary affair is remaining for Sonic Generations and Mario and Sonic 2012, as Sonic 4‘s second episode has been bumped back to 2012, according to Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka in an interview with Eurogamer.

“This year, 2011, is the anniversary, so we’re focusing on the celebration title, but moving forward to 2012, Sonic will still be going, so I’d hope to provide Episode 2 then.”

Given the usual nature of episodic games, where titles are released very quickly in multiple installments, it’s strange that its taken Sonic Team nearly more than a year to churn out the second episode. Iizuka reassured that things are going according to plan.

“It was always the plan,” said Iizuka. “We knew about the anniversary year, and Generations was planned way in advance. It was always our plan to release Episode 2 after Generations.”

However, when it came time to determine if Sonic 4 would stretch on toward a third episode, that same sense of confidence faded away, leaving the fate of the installment uncertain.

“We can’t say if there’s going to be Episode 3 or not,” Iizuka said.

No other details about Episode 2 were revealed, so keep your torches and pitchforks down. For now, Sega is letting Sonic Generations keep the dance floor all to herself.