Friday, July 24, 2009

Sonic 10th Anniversary Booklet

So, before I get things started, I gotta give a shout out to the GagaMan(n) over at SEGA Memories for linking back to us. And I didn't even ask him! I meant to... I just didn't get around to it. I was just browsing SEGA Memories and just happened to notice we are now in their links section! That just brought a smile to my face and put me on a bit of a high. What? Yes, I'm that pathetic and it's a clear indication I need to get out for more than just running down to the local comic book shop to buy the latest issue of Sonic Universe and whatever graphic novel that catches my eye at the time. But, hey, I'm happy, so who cares? We're nothing special yet, and I can't really promise that I can send back a ton of traffic to SEGA Memories yet, but we appreciate the plug in the sidebar, man(n)!

And now, back to your regular scheduled blog post...

Remember back in 2001 when SEGA was building up Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast and Sonic's 10th Anniversary? SEGA struck a deal with SOAP, a shoe company famous for making shoes that allow one to grind on rails (SA2 was the first game to feature this ability and it's been a staple ever since), and gave the blue blur a new pair of kicks for his 10th birthday. It also introduced a dark hedgehog, who we've all come to know and love (or, for some, loathe) as Shadow the Hedgehog. It was also Sonic's LAST appearance on a SEGA console and would later be relaunched a year later on the Nintendo Gamecube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

Sonic sporting his 10th anniversary SOAP shoes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

AMV: Rewriting SEGA

OK, I know, this is a total filler post, but I swear I'll lay off linking to YouTube videos after this and get back to putting proper content onto this blog, but, for now...

Rave had linked to this video on the Find the Computer Room forums the other day and I was blown away when I saw it. Amazing editing and a great story. Using the amazing Fullmetal Alchemist theme "Rewrite" by Asian Kung-Fu Generation, editor mtarzaim has put together a great video about SEGA and their iconic mascot, Sonic.

The translated lyrics work so perfectly in telling the story of SEGA's rise, subsequent fall and the eventual revival of Sonic (credited in this video largely to Nintendo) and the SEGA brand altogether. Even the ending song's lyrics (T.M. Revolution's "Heart of Sword" of Rurouni Kenshin fame) work on some level when you apply what they say to Sonic himself. The only thing wrong with this video was that it came out before Sonic Unleashed was first leaked/announced; I would have loved to see some footage from the first trailers in this thing. Ah well. Nitpick, nitpick, nitpick. The whole video is kind of a crash course on the history of video games, with a focus on SEGA and Sonic, along with a bit of Mario/Nintendo thrown into the mix (just before the chorus we see Sonic overtaking Mario and ultimately the two former rivals running side-by-side). This video just made me smile.

This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite AMVs I've seen in a long time. I haven't kept up with AMVs in YEARS and stopped making them a long time ago partially because I didn't have the proper equipment and started losing interest as a result. That's not to say a little film doesn't play out in my head when I hear certain songs, but it's sure been a long while since I've really played with any video editing software...

Anyway... I need to start putting together more content (and probably get in contact with Rave...) for this blog. Hopefully more interesting stuff will be coming this way before the summer ends.

Friday, July 10, 2009

4Kids Redeems Themselves...

Wow. Who saw that coming? I spotted this bit of news over on AnimeOnDVD's forums. Well, I was surprised, I can tell you that much.

It seems that 4Kids is currently working on releasing Sonic X UNCUT finally. To prove they're not just pulling people's legs and watching as they cling to false hope, they put up the above clip in Japanese, with English subtitles. It would seem that these episodes will be streaming online, either on YouTube or on 4Kids' website (or both). I don't know if this means that uncut DVDs will also be released in the near future, but keep your fingers crossed Sonic X fans. As of right now, there's no word on when they will start streaming the episodes. The clip they posted is described as a "work in progress" but I think we can expect something by the end of the year.

Also, as of right now, there is no word on whether or not an "uncut" dub will be produced (similar to the canceled Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh! Uncut projects from several years back). If you're wondering why I would say "uncut" I mean to say "more true to the original Japanese script". If the show does get a new DVD release, maybe FUNimation (4Kids' distributor) will produce a new dub, just as they did with Shaman King and Yu-Gi-Oh! Uncut. That's just speculation though; when more information comes in you'll see a new post about it.

I have a few things to say about the show, but I'll leave that for another post. Enjoy this teaser in the mean time.

EDIT: According to Sonic Stadium, fans outside the US are blocked, for some odd reason, from seeing any of 4Kids' Sonic X videos (probably others too).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou... Mighty?

A rumor I've seen here and there (I really wish I knew where the hell this originated from*) that makes absolutely no sense to me is that the reason Mighty the Armadillo will not be returning to the Sonic is games is because his creator left SEGA and took the rights with him.

*If anybody has ANY clue where this started, let us know!

... what? Is it just me or is this just total bull?

I call BS for the simple reason that Mighty is still a regular character appearing in Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic. Really, what other reason do you need? Archie's comic is a LICENSED SEGA PRODUCT with every issue put under review by SEGA before seeing publication. If SEGA really no longer held the rights to the character, they would have had him wall-kick his way out of the comic for good. Since this hasn't happened, it safe to say that Mighty the Armadillo is 100% © SEGA.

Now that that's out of the way, a short little history lesson about everyone's (all three of you ) favorite armadillo. Jokes about obscurity aside, Mighty is practically unknown, if not almost completely defunct character. His only exposure following his last game appearance (in 1995, Knuckles' Chaotix) is probably through fan art and the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to say about him.

Mighty first appeared in 1993 in a little known arcade game called SegaSonic the Hedgehog. He is one of the playable characters, starring alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and Ray the Squirrel, another one-off character that only appears in the comics now. The arcade game was released in Japan and saw extremely limited release in the West (as far as I know).

A flyer for the arcade game from Japan, complete with Engrish. From Sonic Retro.

In the game, Sonic, Mighty and Ray are captured by Dr. Eggman and taken to his island, where they bust out of Eggman's prison and traverse the island to escape. The game is controlled with a trackball for movement (meaning it is the first Sonic game to feature an isometric perspective, not Sonic 3D Blast) and one button used to jump. It was originally slated to be released on the Sonic Gems Collection (Gamecube, PS2 [in Japan and Europe only]), a compilation of obscure, "rare" Sonic games, but was left out because of issues emulating the trackball control scheme (why the joystick wouldn't have made a good substitute I'll never know).

Mighty's next and, as of right now, final game appearance was the only 32X Sonic title, Knuckles' Chaotix. In this game, he is again captured by Dr. Eggman, but is one of the playable characters that can be set free from the "Combi Catcher" (a UFO Catcher used to select partner characters). He joins Knuckles the Echidna, Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee as they try to put a stop to Eggman's world conquering schemes. Due to the fact that artwork for the game is featured in Sonic Gems Collection, it's possible Knuckles' Chaotix was meant to be included... but was left out for some unknown and, dare I say, stupid reason. It was a great platformer, and sort of lives on, in spirit, with the Gameboy Advance game Sonic Advance 3, but that's it. Personally, I'm still waiting for Chaotix to hit the Wii's Virtual Console. Yo SEGA! What's the damn hold up?!

In 2004, Sonic Heroes (Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox) was released and the Chaotix came back from obscurity, appearing as a private detective agency. Team Chaotix was made up of Espio (speed), Vector (power) and Charmy (flying). Whoa, wait, what?! Where's Mighty?! Unlike his teammates, it would seem he was not so lucky. But since Sonic Heroes features teams of three, it would be redundant (as if Heroes isn't redundant enough) for there to be either two speed or two power characters on the same team, just to have all four together. Also, the player already plays through the game four times (once for each team) anyway, and since there isn't a whole lot of variation in levels or gameplay, it would just be forcing the player to play the same game again on another difficulty setting. Unfortunately, Mighty just had no place. And that still seems to be the case as Mighty and his buddy Ray the Squirrel have yet to make any more appearances in the games.

Luckily, the good folks at Archie still remember these unsung heroes as they regularly appear in the Sonic comic. Mighty and Ray are members of the Chaotix, Knuckles' version of Sonic's Freedom Fighters. There was even a three-part backup story in issues 26-28 of the long since dead Knuckles the Echidna solo series showing the story of the arcade game in a series of flashbacks while Mighty goes looking for Ray on Robotnik's abandoned island prison (with Nack the Weasel's sister, Nic... don't ask).
Mighty (bottom right) and Ray (top left) fighting alongside the Chaotix and Freedom Fighters. From issue 177 of the Archie comic. Art by Tracy Yardley!

Other obscure SEGA characters like the fanged sniper, Nack the Weasel, Bark the Polar Bear and Bean the Dynamite (from Sonic the Fighters, an arcade fighter featured on the Gems Collection) also make somewhat regular apperances in the comic. Nack as a bounty hunter for hire who often manages to be a nuisance to Sonic and any of his other targets. Bark and Bean are mercenaries, currently on Mammoth Mogul's pay roll (Mogul is an Archie exclusive villain who might actually be a bigger threat than Robotnik himself!).

It's great to know that these characters have, at the very least, not been forgotten and still show up in current Sonic media, even if they don't get to share the spotlight in the games themselves. Maybe one day they will, or maybe they'll stay on as Archie exclusives. Who knows? The possibilites are never ending...

With that, I must bring this rather long winded, if not poorly written article to a close. I leave you with a great piece of fan art I found on Deviant Art, modelled by Chris "Artguy/Supernerd" Phyffer:

Chris does some great work, 3D AND 2D. He also did this amazing 3D remake of Sonic 2's ending! Yes, I know, both of these works are old as hell, but I'm still using "we just started a week ago" as my excuse until it's no longer allowed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

IIZ Trax Select #1: Green Hill Zone

I hope this isn't considered a "filler post" or anything, but in all honesty, this is sort of a "feature," if you will, that I thought I'd do should I ever get this blog thing up and running (because we all know how difficult that is [/sarcasm]).

I like music. Plain and simple. Funny that seven years ago I'd be saying the exact opposite. But, to be honest, I never really hated music. I just didn't listen to the radio or "real music." My favorite way of listening to music was always sitting down and playing a video game. Or, better yet, plugging in a game and going to the sound test menu (when it was available) and just selecting which song I'd like to listen to and let it play for as long as I wanted. I finally started listening to "real music" sophomore year of high school, as it provided some sort of escape from boredom during the school day.

With that said, I kinda wanted to do a "favorite game tracks" sort of thing with this blog, in addition to talking about all the other stuff Rave and I are likely to talk about. So I present to whoever is actually reading this: "IIZ Trax Select," our way of celebrating the music of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. I've spelled it as "Trax" as a sort of nod to all the "Vocal Trax" albums that have been made for the games since Sonic Adventure (though they started spelling it that way with Sonic Heroes and on).

So here's the first pick (thanks to YouTuber TrueSonic1 for uploading; I'll be uploading all songs personally from now on):

I was wondering what song to kick this off with, and I ultimately decided "Why not start from the beginning?" and picked the classic Green Hill Zone tune for the first pick. Cliche? Yes. But even with that in mind, it's still one of the most memorable and infectious songs of the franchise. I love loading up Sonic 1 and just zipping along the first three acts of the game and whistling along to this tune. Everytime. Can't hate. Don't hate.

I'll be honest though, Sonic 2 was my first Sonic game, so looking back, I don't think the original Sonic the Hedgehog is the absolute best of the Genesis games. It was a great start, and set the foundation for a run many thought would last forever. Has Sonic lost some speed these days? That's really a matter of opinion. For me, the franchise has never really hit rock bottom. Many will say that Sonic '06 and Shadow the Hedgehog are the lowest of the low points the franchise has seen, and I'd agree with the former to a degree, but I haven't actually played it. I've seen enough to be able to say with certainty that it actually looks awful. And I'm a Sonic nut, so for even a mainstream Sonic game to look unappealing to me in almost every way is just crazy (the music was sick though). Though, who knows? I might actually manage to squeeze some fun out of it, even with my predisposition that it probably is every bit as bad as people say. Shadow on the other hand is a spin off, and it's a decent game (I've played it A LOT), and while I hardly think it's the best of the 3D games, it's really hard for me to walk away hating it (I honestly think critics were extra harsh on Shadow).

Putting that aside though, there are some Sonic games with a less than memorable score, and the franchise has plenty of stand out tracks that easily outweigh all the weaker ones, but I think Green Hill Zone will always be the song most associated with everyone's favorite Hedgehog.

EDIT: As a bonus, I'm including the remix of the Green Hill Zone theme that was featured in Sonic Adventure 2 for the Dreamcast and Gamecube.

It's a great throwback to the original. Sonic Adventure 2 was the 10th Anniversary Sonic game, so it's actually rather appropriate that the classic Green Hill Zone level was included as an extra. Never mind it was a supreme pain to unlock, it was a great first attempt at turning a classic level into a modern 3D level. Unfortunately, the camera didn't work particualrly well, but it was still a nice extra and pretty fun. It's a shame we haven't seen any more classic levels remade in more of the modern games yet, but hopefully we'll see some in the future.