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Sonic Amateur Games Expo 2009: Games Reviews Part 4

Sonic Rebirth (review based on version uploaded 30/07/2009)

A full game! That doesn’t happen often in the fan-gaming world and when it does, they tend to be a rushed mess of a game. So what category does Sonic Rebirth fall into? Well, a bit of both.

Sonic Rebirth is essentially a complete remake of the original Sonic the Hedgehog for SEGA Mega Drive. Every stage has been lovingly recreated with some truly fantastic graphics that have a slight watercolour effect. They are absolutely amazing to watch in action. All the original graphics have been modified and all the original sprites have been redrawn to a wonderfully detailed standard. Some small cut scenes have also been added to allow the game to follow and story. They are beautifully drawn and bring another great aesthetic to the game. Enough can’t be said for how stunning Rebirth looks.

However, gameplay is a bit of a mix. The engine the game uses is remarkably responsive and allows for everything in the original to be included (loops, crumbling scenery etc). Sonic (and Tails, nice inclusion) are superb to control and never feel too fast or too drifty and are simple to manoeuvre during platforming sections. There are also a tonne of extra missions to partake in once each stage is completed. Doing so adds to your Emblem Counter which will unlock bonus stages from the 8 bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog. The content available in Rebirth seems endless. We also loved the remake of the 8 bit special stage (in exchange for the 16 bit one). It’s a wonderfully nostalgic romp that looks gorgeous in the game’s new graphics.

Unfortunately there are some things that were overlooked which ruin the experience to an extent. Sonic is centered on screen which means it’s very difficult to judge upcoming enemies. The inclusion of Sonic CD’s smart-cam would have greatly helped this. Also, not every enemy is included from the original game. We noticed caterkillers missing in Marble Zone as well as the deadly lava flows from above. Also, some enemies have been altered to make them impossible to avoid. The Orbinauts in the Labyrinth Zone don’t always through their projectiles at you meaning that in a tight space you have to literally run into them and be hurt just to get past. This can be incredibly frustrating when you’re attempting to savour your rings so you can enter the special stage.

With a little more attention to detail this game could be brilliant. Luckily, the creator has withdrawn this demo at the time of writing as is addressing these issues for the next, imminent release.


Super Sonic Knockout

Super Sonic Knockout strays away from the traditional Sonic gameplay we know and love and is trying something unique with the 2D formula. This game is a 2D take on the Sonic Battle gameplay mechanic with some interesting features that really make it stand out.

First up is the presentation. Because the game is using the Advance-styled Sonic Battle sprites it has decided to keep its’ aesthetic in the Advance world. Normally, I’d hate this sort of plagiarism but in Knockout, it just works. The graphics are great to look at, are (most importantly) functional and they even come with some great menus and beautifully animated cut-scenes.

Again, gameplay unfortunately spoils the atmosphere. While the characters control well enough and are very responsive to move, fighting doesn’t work so great. The main reason for this is because the combos are just too slow. Because you stand still to attack, fighting is generally just a case of hitting the attack keys and hoping for the best. However, the AI is not going to play ball with that strategy as the computer-controlled characters are almost impossible to beat. They’re cheap, they move quicker than you and they attack faster. Once you’re stuck in their combos it’s very difficult to escape, especially when they’ve got you pinned against a wall.

However, the Streets of Rage, beat-em-up stages are a lot more enjoyable despite the control errors. The developer should do a lot more to include this gameplay over the one-on-one fighting and perhaps even move that out of the single player gameplay altogether and use it as a multiplayer feature. The enemies in these stages are a lot more forgiving and the engine’s awesome platforming gets to come out of its’ shell. The slow combos still don’t help this experience but it’s certainly a lot better than the one-one-one fights.


Sonic Universe Adventure

We don’t go out of our way to ridicule people’s hard work but everything about Sonic Universe Adventure is wrong. If we’re going to say anything positive about the game, we’ll have to say that the graphics are at an acceptable standard. Nothing special but they work and allow the game to function.

The rest of it, is an ill-advised nightmare. The first thing you’ll notice is the game is ridiculously fast. Too fast. Reacting to whatever change in the environment the game throws at you is near impossible because of the game’s speed.

It’s lucky then, that the environment hardly changes and that you could pretty much complete the demo hardly having to jump and just pressing right. There’s almost no enemies to attack you either making this demo a simple, visceral speed-rush and little else. To top it off, you have to play the game in full-screen which we’re sick of being forced to do.


Yet Another Sonic Minigame

It’s nice to see a bit of honesty now and again. Yet Another Sonic Minigame does exactly what it says on the tin. Guide Sonic around a flat, chequered surface in order to collect all the Chaos Emeralds without touching any spikes. Simple.

It’s also a bit dull with only the later stages showing any real challenge and even then the spikes become so frequent that you’ll inevitable run into them thanks to the fixed camera angle. The concept is decent enough and it would make a great special stage in a much larger game but then again, that’s not the point to this.

A minigame should expand on its’ simplicity by getting the player addicted to the frantic (if slightly uninspired) gameplay. But simplicity does not always result in the most engaging gaming experience as we can see here. With some small tweaks to the camera angle, like having it fixed in a third person angle behind Sonic (similar in style to the Blue Sphere special stages), this would have been a lot easier to play and it would have been more fun because of it.

We did enjoy the SEGA Saturn era Sonic models that the game uses. They all look very Sonic R in execution in gives the game a cute appearance. The scenery is a bit bland but then again, there’s not a lot you can do with the scenery with a game like this.

The final stage is easily the most exciting as Sonic becomes Super Sonic and most fly into the awesome Death Egg model repeatedly to defeat it. The Death Egg also fires a set of spikes at Sonic which he most avoid by moving left to right. This certainly provided the most frantic and interesting gameplay experience the game had to offer and it was greatly enhanced by the game’s original soundtrack (which is superb throughout).


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