Member No.: 8
Joined: 17-May 11
So I've been playing more games than usual lately. Actually getting really into them. And there's one in particular that I've been playing like crazy, getting pretty damn good at, even playing online with Eric on a regular basis and having a great time. That game is
Now. Hold on. Before you click that Back button. Bear with me. This will surprise you the more I talk about it.
SO. It's no secret that I grew up as a Sonic fan and an internet lurker. So naturally I went through a phase in my life where I would play lots of fangames, because they're free and some of them can be really well-made. When I was about eleven or twelve, I found this one. At the time, it was neat (really neat) but not too substantial, so I moved on for a while. But recently, for some reason that I honestly cannot remember, I rediscovered it only to find it has been... updated. And now it is substantial. Incredibly substantial.
Okay fine fuck it I'll actually try talking about it. BUT FIRST, to still build it up, let me give a bit of its history!
So this all began with Sonic Robo Blast, which was arguably one of the very very first Sonic fangames. It was actually, uh.. a really shitty game. Made by a twelve-year-old in, like, 1997 or 8. With sprites done in MSPaint.
Yeah. Look at that. It's fucking hilarious. But it was also oddly popular, because even for its shittiness it was actually of substantial length and filled with tons of secret levels so it had replay value. So the creator started planning a sequel. That didn't go too far before the creator of a different fangame (Sonic Doom, basically just Doom but with Sonic sprites) suggested teaming up and making SRB2 on the Doom engine. The early demos were mostly just proof of concept, which is mostly what I grew up with. But over the course of the seventeen-year development, they've, uh..
..they've made the greatest free game imaginable.
So yes. On the surface, this is a Sonic fangame attempting to replicate, in 3D, the experience of the original 2D platformers in the Doom engine. Sounds like it would never work. I mean, the Doom engine? What, we're dealing with first-person shooting? Well. No. The Doom engine is famous for its modification capabilities. SRB2 is in the third-person, it is primarily a platformer, it supports 3D and 2D (and 2.5D) gameplay equally, and its physics are exact and momentum-based. The thing that still boggles me to this day is the fact that you can jump in it. Having grown up with DOOM, my mind cannot compute that. (And as for the speed that Sonic is known for, have you seen how fast you run in the original DOOM?)
Even after seventeen years of development, SRB2 is still unfinished. The single-player campaign is missing a few later levels and a number of secrets, and there's likely some other stuff that needs ironing out, BUT OVERALL it's on version 2.1.14 and closer to "complete" than not.
SO. Okay. After all that garbage, how about I give you a tour of the game?
THE STORY yeah who cares, basically Eggman is committing his usual animal genocide only this time he's built a sci-fi battlestation on a fucking meteor and he's gonna pretty much blow up the Earth unless you can go through his many fortifications and strongholds and whatever else is waiting for you. Best part is, there's no dialogue and no fucking around with cutscenes, besides the one that starts the game but that's skippable and you don't even notice it.
THE CHARACTERS You can play as Sonic (pretty much Hard Mode, the levels are built to fuck Sonic over big-time hardstyle, but dammit if you can get used to Sonic then he is the best character for most stages)! You can play as Tails (pretty much Easy Mode, as Tails can temporarily fly over shit)! You can play as Knuckles (pretty much Normal Mode-- Knuckles can glide and climb over most things so a lot of it is easier than Tails, but the later levels are wise to these tricks and give you challenges that get insane big-time hardstyle on you)! Or you can play as Sonic and Tails (complete with Tails's AI, or if you have a friend your friend can be Tails but who needs that when the actual multiplayer options are way more versatile?)! ..and also Eggman is a character too, just not playable. As the Sonic Heroes instruction manual tells us, Eggman is a genius and a feminist. I am not kidding. I have no idea what we're supposed to make of that, but I for one think Eggman is the best character in the whole franchise so I consider it a compliment. Though Eggman isn't really doing much in the way of gender equality protests here. He's just building robots and factories and castles and fucking space stations and leaving all these goal posts for you to spin. BUT WATCH OUT BECAUSE RUMOUR HAS IT THAT METAL SONIC IS A non-player CHARACTER TOO SOMEWHERE IN THIS THING. (By which I mean yes he is. And Metal Sonic will fuck your shit big-time hardstyle. I hope you're cool with running away in fear, 'cause you will do that a lot.)
THE LEVELS (the main levels) Ah, this is the best part. So in typical Sonic fashion, the levels are Zones, and each Zone is split up into three Acts (like a misinformed screenwriter's idea of a story!). First Act is always a sort of introductory level, second Act is where shit gets real interesting, third Act is the boss battle.
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/wp-content/uploads/21-gfz1.png) GREENFLOWER ZONE: Naturally, still in typical Sonic fashion, we start off with a boring green place. But hey, you've gotta have a chance to get used to the mechanics! Your enemies here are Crawlas (they crawl like tanks and don't actually attack) and Generic Robot Fish (they jump out of water and don't attack either), really easy and not much of a worry at all. The first Act is super short and a little pretty here and there, the second Act is a bigger valley and has some very early examples of vistas for you to gaze at in wonder at the powers of the Doom engine. The third Act has Eggman in his floating thing, shooting stuff at you. Pretty easy boss and introduces you to the mechanic of "run away while he attacks, run at him to attack, repeat."
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/wp-content/uploads/21-thz1.png) TECHNO HILL ZONE This is the level where Eggman's turned a pretty landscape into a toxic waste dump for his big ol' factory! Caution: The slime here is remarkably fun and you will waste a few hours playing in it. Your enemies are the Spring Shells (jump on their backs for portable springs! useful for shortcuts and secrets!), Buzzes (flying easy things), Turrets (can't kill these things by ordinary means!) and Detons (RUN.). Act 1 puts you trying to enter Eggman's factory, Act 2 lets you wander the enormous place itself and have a lot of fun doing so. And then Act 3 has an Eggman who flies around in circles spitting painful things at you, still easy bosses here. (This was the Zone where Eric first realized "Maybe Jordan didn't ask me to play this just for the sheer novelty; this is actually really fun.")
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/images/zone3_1.png) DEEP SEA ZONE You've stumbled upon some underground ruins! This is generally the first level that really throws people off (the game can't all be easy), but once you get used to the patience required in underwater sections, you can start to appreciate how beautiful this place is. Only enemies here are Jet Jaws (slow fish) and Skims ("FUCK OFF YOU PONDSKATER ASSHOLES" -me), with the occasional underwater mine. Act 1 will stagger you with its sheer size, giving lots of labyrinthine ruins and even some Gargoyle puzzles! Act 2 is a bit more fast-paced, with many water slides and jumps in the spacious caverns. Act 3, well, I hope you're getting used to the jumping physics-- I don't recommend falling in the water.
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/wp-content/uploads/21-cez2.png) CASTLE EGGMAN ZONE Ooh, you adventurous cad, you're storming the forest and chasing Eggman back to his castle stronghold! Be prepared for big levels, challenges of steadily increasing difficulty, and a Knuckles path that finally shows you how big-time hardstyle the game can be! Enemies this time around are the Egg Guard (not much of a threat, unless you run into his shield), the Robo-Hood (archery!), and the CastleBot FaceStabber (contrary to the amusing name, these big guys are actually really easy). Act 1 has many bottomless pits in a forest of considerable scale, whereas Act 2 is a gauntlet of adventure throughout the castle itself! Then Act 3, unless you're Sonic, is a walk in the park-- but either way a very creative boss battle in a big stadium!
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/wp-content/uploads/21-acz1.png) ARID CANYON ZONE A lot of people's favourite level, here's a landscape definitely inspired by Roadrunner cartoons. You'll have more fun traversing the landscape here if you like wide-open spaces and steep cliffs. Enemies are the Green Snapper (jump on the turtle!), the Minus (digging digging digging), and the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (these babies break the sound barrier, and if they hit you you'll know why they're called the BASH!). Unfortunately, at the present point, SRB2 only has Arid Canyon Act 1-- but even that act is really freaking fun. Multi-layered paths, mines that are ready to cave in on you, cliffside vistas reminiscent of Half-Life, this has got it all.
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/images/zone6_1.png) RED VOLCANO ZONE Out of the canyon and into the fire! C'mon, you know exactly what to expect here. You'll be surprised to see what these guys managed to pull off on this engine. The only enemy here is the Unidus (after he's thrown his spikes at you, he's defenceless!). And, like the last Zone, at the moment there's only Red Volcano Act 1. But do prepare yourself for careful jumping, watch your step!
(later releases intend to have Acts 2 and 3 for those Zones, and hopefully even one or two more Zones filling in this space right here)
(IMG:https://www.srb2.org/images/zone_q.png) EGG ROCK ZONE This is it. The meteor itself. I don't want to spoil much for you, but expect a killer soundtrack, killer enemies, an aesthetic that doesn't waste any time in telling you your chances of survival, and gauntlets of challenges that will weed out the skilled players from those who are not ready for final levels. There's three Acts. The first is filled with traps. The second is massive. The third is a boss to remember, and about the only time where you actually have to go fast. But is it the end of the game?
I can't speak for everyone, but by the time I finally beat SRB2 (as Knuckles), I felt very satisfied. There's a lot of content, and the high standards for level design mean you feel like you've earned your victory.
THE SOUNDTRACK SRB2 has a custom soundtrack by many talented musicians (fun fact: One of those, RedXVI, his real name is Malcolm Brown. He's that Malcolm Brown, of Homestuck soundtrack fame). The game takes after Sonic 3 & Knuckles in that each Act has a different song based on the Zone's central theme. It makes a bigger difference than it sounds, makes each act feel that much more memorable and distinct. Plus a lot of these songs are earworms, which helps you want to play through over and over to try and unlock all those secrets!
THE LEVELS (Part 2: Secrets!) Still trying my best not to spoil things, I can point you in the right directions. Naturally, there are Special Stages in this game (and the Special Stages play like NiGHTS into Dreams!), and if you get all seven chaos emeralds then beat the final boss, there are rewards. (And the rewards are some of my favourite fucking things ever conceived of.) Furthermore, there are 160 emblems hidden throughout the game. Most of these are stuffed into hidden areas of levels, waiting for you to find them. Many are rewarded to you for getting good enough at Time Attack/Score Attack/Record Attack. The more you get, the more rewards are given to you. There's. There's really a lot of content.
Finally, THE MULTIPLAYER This being the Doom engine, there is your typical Match game, Capture the Flag, Tag/Hide and Seek, and other such things all with custom levels specifically for these modes. There's also Race and Co-op for the regular levels, and Eric and I like to play Co-op an awful lot. Hamachi works very well with this game for those of you who are not wizards capable of port forwarding (a black magic not even I can perform).
The game supports any control scheme you want, including Arrow Keys, or Mouse + WASD, or gamepad (I play with an Xbox 360 controller and the analog support is crazy good). And best of all, thanks to the engine being what it is, SRB2 fully supports modification itself! There are hordes of custom levels, socs, character wads, lua scripts, even full-fledged game-changing mods! The best modders tend to be roped into the vanilla game's dev team, which generally explains how this game is even still a thing. (Eric's and my favourite mod to play together is Mystic Realm, designed by the guy who is now the lead developer for SRB2 as a whole, and with a soundtrack entirely made by Malcolm Brown. Most of those songs, thankfully, were incorporated into the vanilla game too as Special Stage music.)
So. I think that covers it all. Look, basically I am obsessed with this game all over again. I think it is incredible, considering its nonexistent budget and fangame status. I happen to even think it is currently the best 3D Sonic game out there and that, when completed, it will be better than the original 2D platformers. It is completely free to play, so I highly recommend downloading it and giving it a play-through yourself (download link is here). Being the Doom engine, the game does not have a large filesize, and it generally performs well on most computers. Maybe we can even play together, if our collective internets will allow it.
SO. ..THAT'S IT. WHY DON'T WE ALL ENJOY SONIC THE WAY HE WAS MEANT TO BE ENJOYED A NOT-TALKING CHARACTER WHO DOES NOT "GOTTA GO FAST" BUT INSTEAD HAS TO BE CAREFUL WITH CHALLENGES, SPEED BEING ONLY A REWARD FOR GETTING GOOD ENOUGH AT THE GAME TO KEEP THAT SPEED UP OR LET'S ALL JUST BE KNUCKLES BECAUSE KNUCKLES IS BEST
Member No.: 8
Joined: 17-May 11
Captain's log, stardate 2020201 I have been fortifying my skills as a Sonicateer, storming the Egg tyrant's castles, recycling his factories, braving the toughest corners of deep space all in search of a new catalyst: The hidden meaning of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. I played the old trilogy in hopes of deconstructing a reading out of them; this gave me the faintest of suspicions, which a replay of SRB2 somehow managed to confirm for me:
Sonic the Hedgehog is a modern retelling of Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias" poem. Eggman is the newest patriarch slowly coming to terms with the fleeting state of his empire. Sonic represents the mighty winds of change. Together, they perform an opera in duet, with the architecture as dialogue. Tails represents the eternal youth of nature itself. Knuckles represents the red menace Tails and Knuckles form the greater natural change trinity, as it were, with the blur blur. Take a look at how, in even the very first Sonic the Hedgehog game, there is evidence (in Marble Zone and arguably Labyrinth Zone) of ancient cultures who designed their structures very similarly to Doctor Eggman's. What does this imply other than that Sonic, or some greater essence that he represents, has always existed, always sung a duo with the dominant empire? And what does Sonic do but transform the synthetic into the organic, even if with a cartoony distinctive 'poof' and the running-away of some Flicky or chipmunk? It is a return of all into dust, and then into the nature that spawns from it. It is a grand cycle. And Eggman, having always retreated away from Sonic, always meeting Sonic at the end of the Zone, inevitably saw all of these ancient ruins for himself, must have noticed the similarities. Perhaps he embraces the change and plays along only because it is expected of him by conventions-- video game, or social.
In short: Does Doctor Eggman really want to stop Sonic? Or does he, too, gotta go fast?
...also, having now beaten SRB2 as Sonic, I can confirm that oh my god it is even better than I'd described. My personal #1 moment of pure gaming meditation goes to the "Hyper Level" that you unlock for beating the game with all seven emeralds. I will not spoil a single detail of it, only that if you wish to see my standards for platforming level design, that is the level to visit. (If you can beat it without losing a single life, as I can, then I will shake your hand).