Transparency: I’m a member of the Sonic Retro site and forums. I was a producer for Ashura: Dark Reign (See some earlier posts of mine) in its days of origin. I’ve dabbled in game maker, multimedia fusion, and the games factory. I’ve been watching Sonic fan projects come, go, and expand for a long, long time. The part where I’m a member of Sonic Retro is important here, because it means I’ve been watching the Sonic Fan Remix, along with everyone else on that site, develop since early this year. This project has gained incredible amounts of coverage from various video game sites, and made headway on the net as the ‘Sonic 4 Killer’, or “What Sonic 4 should be.”.
And now, at long last, after much mouth-breathing and salivation, Pelikan13 has graced us with a demo of his astounding project. I, of course, immediately went to give it a download. And by that, I mean I waited a day, because I was on the college computer when I first discovered it had been released, and the servers were smashed when I got back home.
Well, guess what, it’s amazing. Here’s the thing, though. I refuse to analyze and praise this project in contrast to Sonic 4 as everyone seems hellbent on doing. I like Sonic 4, first of all, second of all, this game isn’t trying to be Sonic 4, and third, I believe judging this game against Sonic 4 does it a disservice by not letting it stand on its own merits. I’m not going to let this be “This puts SEGA to shame” or “THIS IS HOW SONIC 4 SHOULD LOOK”, because this is a project that deserves to stand alone, in its own spot light. Not with the shadow of other projects.
Youtube footage thanks to Jerphunter. I uploaded my own, but this looks way better, and you can watch it in HD.
I don’t need to tell you this is a good looking demo, but I’ll tell you anyway; this is a god damn gorgeous game. Pelikan has brought the classic Emerald Hill (Props for not just rehashing vanilla Green Hill Zone) into HD in beautiful form. The surreal and curvy palmtrees, oversized totem pole tikis, sparkling water in the background, and Eggman flags interspersed here and there take this beyond “This is how I remember this looking” in to a realm of “This is how I wanted this to look back in 1992”. Classic Sonic himself makes a surprisingly smooth transition into 3D model form, with all the charm you’d expect from the rounded, stubby hedgehog of yesteryear. I particularly appreciate the little touches of detail like the Eggman mech in the background, the Orca towards the end of Act 1, and the developing ROBOLAND sign in the background through all three acts. There’s a passage of time here that’s quite neat and works well, thematically. Now all we need is a boss act that takes place with a twinkling night sky and the beginnings of a robotic city in the background.
This comes at a cost, though. If you have a decent rig, you should be fine to run the game. If you have a slightly older machine (Or a shitty laptop like mine), you’ll have to dial the graphics down to fastest and run the game at a lower resolution. It’s a small price to pay, the game still looks phenomenal on low settings.
Of course, the physics of a Sonic game, which have now literally been condensed in to a science by my fellow Sonic Retro members (Personally, I preferred when Sonic ran fast and you just kind of accepted that fact.), are often harped upon in any sort of interactive media featuring the character. Well, as far as ‘classic’ Sonic physics go, SFR is spot-fucking-on. This is in large part thanks to Retro member Mercury, who created a ‘Physics Guide’ for Sonic on the site, and has been instrumental in Pelikan13’s nailing the feel of the Genesis classics. Everything flows well and feels sharp. This might be the first 3D fan project, or 3D project ever, to hit that 16 bit pinball physics feel, and it feels good.
The music is a joy to listen to. There were pages of deliberation on Retro about who should be gone to for music (well, pages of suggestions, really, since only a few people have any real hand in SFR’s development.), and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s just a reworked version of older songs, but it’s fitting. Sound design in general, really, is well done. The sound effects are all back in classic form, but some more atmospheric sounds (rushing water, etc) have been added to the zones to make them feel much more like actual locations and not just static things to run on.
Of course, this is only a demo, and I’ve already managed to extrapolate this much. I wouldn’t expect a finished product any time in the near future, unless Pelikan hand picks several people to help him speed the process, but it’s an astounding proof of concept that I hope to see more from soon.
You can find the official SFR website Here, downloads of the demo Here and Here, and the thread on Sonic Retro Here.