Another year rolls around and like clockwork, it’s time for another Summer of Sonic – my 4th and the event’s 5th. With not just a new venue this year but an entirely new town in Brighton, and with all the tickets selling out in the space of around 5 minutes, the show was even more hotly anticipated than last year. So, what’s the skinny, you ask? Well, dear audience, please read on.
I arrived the day before the event – though there was no pre-party this year I really didn’t want to faff about in the morning at stupid-o-clock when the doors opened at 10. After checking into my hotel, I wandered over to the Hove venue to confirm where it was – this was just about when the Twitter announcement was made about the venue change. The team, who had been partially outside due to the evacuation, were called back in to start moving things over to the new venue back in the main part of Brighton. A venue change at the last minute is a logistical nightmare, but the staff pulled it off without any hitches – kudos, guys! The only real change to the activities of the day was that the Art Classes had to be cancelled due to the new venue not having the relevant equipment for doing this – all things considered, it could have been much worse.
So the next day dawned and I joined the queue for the grand opening, slowly joined by other members of Retro; until the doors of the (air conditioned!) venue finally opened and we all swarmed in, being handed our goodie bags as we did so. Naturally, Retro’s immediate priority was to play Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, so we joined the queue for that, and I leafed through the bag to see what we’d got. The usual Archie comic & program aside, a stick of seaside rock was present to go with the Brighton theme of the event, but a complete surprise was the fact that everyone who went got a download code to get Sonic Generations on PC absolutely free! Though I dare-say many in the hall already have the game so will be re-gifting the codes to their friends, this was really generous of Sega.
11am arrived, and the show started – a last minute interruption from Dr Robotnik on the screens being foiled by Marine & Tails Doll, making their traditional appearance. Svend and Rory were this year’s hosts, kicking the show off as we started exploring the hall. The Sonic Merchandise website had their own stand this year, selling items from the website, as well as some old standbys like the artist signings area, the drawing tables and the display cabinet with some examples of rare merch all filling up the two rooms of the show (the first time the show has had more than one main room).
The events of the day started proper with the Nevermind the Buzzbombers quiz, during which time Takashi Iizuka was doing his first signing session of the day, so I headed to the back of the room to get my Jun Senoue-signed SA1 manual joined with his, entering the queue (Hi Kellie! =P). The signing sessions this year were much better than they’ve been in years past – the new one-item-only restriction made the lines move so much faster and I don’t think I spent more than 15 minutes in any signing queue for the entire day. As something that the crew has historically struggled with, it’s very nice to see they seem to have finally cracked it.
Our first signings complete, we then moved a bit closer to the centre of the hall for the Jam with Jun session, where Jun treated the crowd to a rendition of a few of the tracks he’s done – starting from Sonic 4 Episode 2, with Sylvania Castle Act 1, White Park Act 2 and the Metal Sonic theme, we moved through a few more tracks (including a surprise inclusion of Station Square from Sonic Adventure); before the two singers previously announced through the Summer of Sonic website came on to do Believe in Myself (SA1) & It Doesn’t Matter (SA2) with Jun, followed by a duet between Jun and a guy with a violin; and then finally Retro’s own PsychoSk8r (who you may recall proposed live on stage last year) joined Jun on-stage with his own guitar as the two did a duet of Metal Harbour.
The Sumo Digital Q&A was up next, though with the first Crush 40 signing coming up we drifted to the back of the hall to get that done – again, a short queue. This time, as Johnny Gioeli speaks English, I was able to have more of a chat with him – the item I got signed by Jun & Johnny was a US SA2 soundtrack CD that I found in a second-hand shop in South Wales by sheer luck. Johnny noted it was a US soundtrack as Jun passed him the item – I then told him the story of how I got it, and he agreed that it was quite the lucky find. He then asked “Out of interest, how much did you pay for it?” “Uhm… £2.” The laugh and face-palm as he turned to Jun was priceless. =P While we were in the queue for this though, Steve Lycett at the front was doing a bit of crowd participation – he said they wanted a recording of a cheer for a race winner, and got the audience to do so. He then mused on how he’d always wanted to record a mass “SEGA” for a game, but had never had an audience big enough to do so – until now. 3 mass-shouts of the SEGA sound later, Sumo had the material, if they’re able to use it. They also revealed for the first time that NiGHTS and Reala are both going to be in All-Stars Racing Transformed, as well as showing a video of the two, being ridden by Nightopians, flying around Spring Valley & Gillwing’s Lair.
At this point the cosplay competition’s initial round was taking front and centre, so we took the opportunity to duck out for lunch – we did see the eventual winner (the Werehog cosplay) around the venue at different points of the day and indeed a lot of effort had gone into it. We got back into the hall for the Ask Iizuka section, which though we did miss bits of due to a couple of quiet mics we did glean some interesting bits and pieces – Retro’s Jen asked about an early rumoured one-eyed version of Shadow, to which Iizuka noted they’d had several different designs for Shadow before moving forward with the eventual one (presumably that particular incarnation was viewed as too dark).
We then headed to the back of the hall again one more time for the final set of signings for the day, with the Sumo Digital team – as I noted to Steve Lycett as I was getting my ASR manual cover signed, it’s nice to see a British games developer still going and doing well, considering how few of them there are left after the booming scene the country had during the 1980s and early 1990s. With our final signings completed, we ducked out of the madness of the halls for a little while to the stairwell area, where we took a chance to take stock & rest – including a bit less hectic Streetpass clearings than the ones we’d been doing in the hall itself during the day – like last year, Jun’s Mii was once again floating about, and I took the chance to get my representative Mii of Top Gear’s James May to say Retro’s URL to him.
We rejoined the hall just before the final item started – the Crush 40 gig. Johnny and Jun belted out a load of hits, past and present – including a couple from their new soundtrack CD, and even a version of their cover of Sonic Boom from Sonic CD, which I don’t think any of us were expecting at all, a really nice surprise. Concluding with Open Your Heart, Live & Learn, and What I’m Made Of, it marked a triumphant end to another successful show. Shoutouts to all the Retro forumers at the show, particularly Cinossu, Jen, NikTheGreek, Nova, Orengefox (thanks for some of the article photos!), Psychosk8r & Stiv. Special thanks go out to Dreadknux, Roarey, T-Bird & all the cast & crew at SoS, for another amazing show; and I hope to do it all again next year!