Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Tails" of Archie: A Brief History of Solo Stories, Spinoffs and Adaptations

I'm running late with this (big surprise), but here we are!

The original intention was to do an issue-by-issue summary and commentary for the Tails Adventure arc of Sonic Universe. However, as I began writing this post, I started getting knee-deep into some of the Archie comic history about adaptations and Tails' earlier solo outings. Instead of trimming it down and getting to what I was supposed to write about... I decided to go in this direction and talk a bit of history instead. Just thank your lucky stars I'm not covering Knuckles... yet.

Anyway, without further delay, hit the jump and let's get things rolling!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Sonic! IIZ Turns One!

(If you can't tell by the title, I've been watching one too many episodes of DBZ lately...)

Art by MRi of Deviant Art.

So, technically, I'm three days late. But on the other hand I'm also about a month early. Why? Because on July 26th, 1991 Sonic sped his way into Japanese homes with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog for the SEGA Mega Drive (aka the Genesis)! Yes, Western gamers, we got Sonic first! So happy belated/early birthday, Sonic!

Truth be told, outside of silently acknowledging the day, I didn't really go out of my way to celebrate. In fact, I didn't even boot up one of the old Genesis games until today (Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in case you were wondering).

However, SEGA appears to be celebrating in style, by giving fans a chance to win a trip to Tokyo. Check out the details here.

Since I don't have much else to say, and with E3 finally complete, it's time to get back to the grind. If you want some kind of retrospective, hit the archives and check out what I wrote the day the blog launched (June 23, 2009) and then check out the superior Gametap retrospective posted on the same day. Also, Rave joined just hours after everything was posted and launched. So, happy belated anniversary to the IIZ! Hopefully we can keep this going for another year (and for that matter, we can continue beyond that). With many of the changes already underway and a new design already in place, we haven't anything new to really spring on you, the readers, at this time. However, be sure to check back next week for the very first comic review!

Until next time, later!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sonic Colors @ E3

So E3's in full swing and I'm feeling a little lightheaded from all the excitement of Nintendo's conference, but this is a Sonic blog, so I won't get into that. SEGA has just released another teaser for Sonic Colors, which shows more of what I assume is the opening animation. They have also released some new assets to their Flickr accounts, includng promotional artwork and screenshots for the both the DS and Wii versions. Check it all out after the jump!

If you haven't guessed by now, we just love using this shot every chance we get.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Colorful Commentary: Now in High-Quality!

Hey guys, Rave here. Welcome to Part 2 of Arun & Rave's Isolated Commentary on Sonic Colors, brought to you by Nintendo Power--"It's So Bad."

Today we'll be presenting our observations of Nintendo Power's 6-page Sonic Color feature, written by Steve Thomason and including a 2-page interview with Takashi Iizuka. The July 2010 issue arrived at New York's Nintendo World store at Rockefeller Plaza a full week in advance of it's June 8th release date. We have Metroidfan19 of NGG (and Diogenes of The Sonic Stadium for finding his find), Doctor Eggman of The Sonic Stadium, and Hero of Legend of Find the Computer Room to thank for the high-quality scans.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Colorful Commentary

So the Internet's been abuzz today with news and promises of Sonic Colors scans being on the horizon. Over on the Find the Computer Room forums, fellow member shadowthehedgehog entered the fandom limelight by giving a few tidbits from the upcoming issue of Nintendo Power, which has a cover feature on the newly announced Sonic outing. Now that the first images, blurry as they may be, have hit the tubes, it's time for us to throw in our five-cents. That's right, we're splurging on this one.

Take it away, Rave!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Questions on Sonic Colo(u)rs...

Today, on the Sonic City Blognik, the development teams for Sonic Colors were revealed. Sonic Team will be developing the Wii version of the game while the DS version is being handled by Sonic Team in association with Dimps. I can't say I'm too surprised, after all, these two groups seem to always be involved in modern Sonic productions (at least since SEGA went third-party anyway). Why or if anyone would expect anything differently, I don't know, but hey, it's something, right?

Anyway, after reading this announcement I wanted to ask a couple questions about the development and direction. 1) What division of Sonic Team is working on the Wii version? Is it the Storybook team or the same team that developed Unleashed? ...or are they the same and was I the only one who didn't get the memo? 2) Since the boost gauge is making another appearance, how will that be handled? Will it be easy to abuse a la Rush and Unleashed? Or will it be used more sparingly, like in Black Knight?

Next month Nintendo Power is doing a feature on the game, so we'll either get some scans of the article... or wait for somebody else to scan it in and "borrow" them later (hey, don't worry, we'll give credit). I'm sure we'll have more questions once more is revealed about the game. I'm not exactly sure how to feel just yet, mostly because I feel I need to contain my excitement, before I let the "fans" ruin it for me again. But I must say that the game has certainly piqued my interest, if only because of what a (admittedly, pleasant) surprise the announcement was. After all, SEGA and the Sonic franchise in particular seem to have a history of leaks, it's nice to see SEGA announce something when they're ready for once.

Well, that's enough out of me. Until next time, later!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sonic Colors!



Well, what else can I say? It looks pretty. It sounds pretty. It's got Sonic and Tails hopefully in some swappable co-op deal. Details are details, and you can check them out through this dandy old-timey advertisement:

Color me cautiously interested. I'm still expecting Sonic 4 Episode I to underperform until further evidence to the contrary is provided. It's delay might be a blessing in disguise, and I hope to be pleasantly distracted by this new game for the holiday. It really better not suck. The color-coded powers idea sounds like a winner, but I'm particularly wary about the return of the freaking boost gauge. Seriously, no one cares about going that fast. I haven't played Sonic Rush or Rush Adventure at all since I beat them. Sonic sucks when all he has to his name are going really really fast and having bad or overrated mediocre games. Let's hope Sonic Colors can give him the kind of redefined experience he needs to be critically competent again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Brief Sonic 4 Recap and Some Spotlights (UPDATED)

So, just to recap on the current Sonic 4 news:
  • Guerilla-style footage of every Sonic 4 Episode 1 level (including the ending and cliffhanger) has been leaked by a guy called infinity on Sonic Retro and have been taken down pretty much everywhere
  • The soundtrack has been leaked as well, and then taken down
  • Chaos ensues as usual, since people have already downloaded them all and are no doubt using them as talking points
After deep exposure to the radioactive fan fallout, I found myself with only one sentiment to express.

And now, a picture for the theme:


In other way-past cool news, a number of remixed soundtrack tunes have been featured on the Sonic City Blognik, due to sounding awesome. You can find more on YouTube and the Sonic 4 thread on Sonic--actually now it's SEGA--no, wait, it's back to Sonic Retro again. April Fools is trippy. On that note, Happy April Fools and Happy Easter.

Speaking of Sonic Retro, I thought I'd spotlight some of their Sonic projects filed under Engineering/Reverse Engineering, as well as one other from YouTube. First up is Sonic 4 Genesis Edition, which promises to be even closer to the classic Genesis gameplay than Sonic 4 does. The video below shows music remixed by Tweaker and concept images done by Chimpo of Sonic Retro:

Looks all-right so far. The new art style is an interesting choice. It reminds me a lot of an upscaled Sonic Pocket Adventure, which is actually a complement, but it still leaves me wondering how it'll affect the game's overall retro-impression if at all. Judging from all the criticisms Sonic 4 is getting now, I'd anticipate the team would make drastic changes to the level design seen from the leaks. If honest criticism and unmet expectations prompt this kind of fan response more often, I might regard the negative criticisms with less disdain, seeing as how more time would be spent making a game and less time debating about it. Oh, how sweet that would be right now.

Next is Sonic Classic, a truly ambitious looking homage to the classic trilogy brought to you by Hez, otherwise known as HezMan2000 on YouTube. You've got all original zones with redone classic music, some new tunes, and an overall Sonic CD influence in the menus and sound effects (also Super Peel-Out). Judging from the time attack video, there are 7 original zones starting with Hazel Hill and ending with Cyber City (totally Sonic CD alliterated), as well as time attack trials for all of Sonic 1's zones. Check out more at the Sonic the Hedgehog Classic thread, which has a number of development screenshots, 5 or so video samples, and a downloadable demo.

Up next is Sonic CD 2, which is being headed by StephenUK @ Sonic Retro. Not too much to say about this one, other than he's thinking of implementing a dynamic season device into the game a la Mega Man Zero 4 and/or the Oracle of Seasons. Best of luck to his project, as I'd be very interested in playing it.

Now we're talking. This is Sonic Boom, and it's a fan-game that'll blast your balls off. Right away, you're greeted with a gritty YM2612 remake of the game's namesake, followed by some totally radical Duke music to accompany your supped-up Sonic running, fly-kicking, double-jumping, and ground-pounding through a dark metallic factory. By the way, when I say fly-kicking, I mean to say the devs behind the game actually retooled the standard homing attack to be a snazzy mid-air flying kick, and if that's not enough awesome to rock your ass, the next two acts feature fully Genesis-remade tunes from the Mega Man X games. Holy shit, you just crapped your pants, because you know that's the coolest thing you've ever heard. The game is remarkably fast, but the controls are so tight, you're fully immersed into the experience, and the level design is pretty much yours to dominate. Check out the official thread here.

Okay, now this last one isn't based in Sonic Retro, but rather on YouTube, and it's being worked on by a fellow fan from Brazil: LtheHedgehog. The story with this particular fan-game is that it used to be a rather standard, albeit promising 2D Sonic game using graphics from the Advance games and various techniques and stage gimmicks from the 3D games, like Unleashed: ground-pounding through crates, body-diving through a chasm to collect rings, and locking on to pulleys and manuevering in mid-air using the homing attack. All in all, it looked pretty promising, as he made some interesting design choices in some of the levels. Then, after many months, came the update video you see above, followed by some more videos showcasing 3D models cast in 2D as well as a brand-new theme song. The song was great, and it was one of the strongest grabs for me by the project as it stands now. It sounds that awesome, and there's supposed to be a better-sounding version coming soon (but really, what sounds better than retro music done right?). Also, the cel-shaded model for Sonic looks clean and beautiful.

There are many more ambitious fan projects to check out, but I'll be here all night doing features on them, so I encourage you guys to find some really good ones for yourselves and post them in the comments section below. Try searching for Needlemouse: The Emerald Hills for starters.

NEWSFLASH: This whole leak business appears to be coming to a head. PartnerNET, the game development service provided by Microsoft for their Xbox360 platform, has been shut down. This is where the leaks have been coming from, although now it seems the game in its current form is also available to PS3 developers on PSN. Seems SEGA has decided to finally nip the problem in the bud already.

Speaking of which, in a rather belated move to preserve company-fanbase relations, Sonic Retro admins have removed the Sonic 4 discussion thread and will reward any further discussion of the game with a permanent ban. Says Scarred Sun on the matter, "Don't fucking test us," and "You fuckers fucked up BAD." Tweaker says some words about how valuable their relationship with SEGA is and why they decided not to act sooner on the leaks within the forum.

So, basically you decided to act now to stem the rabid fandom and leaking over this game? Geebus Christus, you guys took your damn time. Was it too much to restrict the posting of leaked videos at least? It's not like there weren't already over 600 pages of discussion on the game without the help of condoning released footage of the game. I can understand Tristan posting it all, since he takes it upon himself to report on every little thing that happens as editor of TSSZNews, but Sonic Retro? Seriously? You'd think you could've done more earlier to prevent this sort of thing from happening, like banning the user infinity from posting illegal PartnerNET footage. Sure, he could've taken it somewhere else, but at least it wouldn't be fucking Sonic Retro.

God. It's like they ask for it until the limit has been breached, and THEN the shit has hit the fan. Good job, Retro admins. Way to have your priorities straight. I'll give you guys some credit, though, since you actually took time to do something about it (after the fact).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Word to the Fans

(WARNING: This post contains language that may not be appropriate for younger readers or the over-sensitive. If you are one these, leave now or continue at your own risk. We here at the Isolated Island Zone are not responsible for any physical or emotional damage incurred as a result of reading our blog. If you don't like it, don't read. Simple as that. Good day.)

You know, I'm a fan of many things. I don't even hide my fandom. Case in point, I have this blog. I have my real name on it. I link to it in my profile. I've drawn Sonic in my sketchbook every now and again (I've been ridiculed for it too, but it's not like it makes up much of my sketchbook, so I don't care). Like I said, I'm perfectly comfortable with my own fandom. Want to know what I really have a problem with though? The Sonic fanbase. You see, I'm not embarrassed about liking Sonic. I'm embarrassed at the thought of being associated with a bunch of morons made up of people who either: A) Can't think for themselves and blindly buy every with Sonic's face on it; or B) The jaded, can't be pleased, classic fan-brats who bitch before they've even played the damned games.

I don't know about anyone else who actually reads this blog (all three of you), but I know I was excited to see the Sonic 4 announcement. The trailer, for what little I got to see of the actual game in it, is still exciting to watch. Just as exciting as when Sonic was announced as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. You know what's better than that? SEGA actually following through on all their "return to roots" promise they keep going on and on and on about release after release after release. Sonic '06 was promised as a reboot to the franchise. We all know how that turned out. Sonic Unleashed? As good as it was, it wasn't really THE revival the series was looking for (it did show that SEGA could craft a good 3D adventure at least). So, now SEGA sits down and decides to give something the fans have been clamoring for for the last 16 years. And here comes Sonic 4.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Condolences for a Young Boy

I was searching YouTube for some general Sonic pictures in preparation for a blog post I wanted to do. They were mostly Sonic & Mario pictures, but I'll get to that later. I came across this picture of Sonic holding a Wiimote and Mario standing next to him; the quintessential game industry rivals.

But they're not who I want to talk about now. No, I want to talk about little boy named Hunter Addison Vongphrachanh, a talented hardcore videogamer and avid fan of the Italian plumber in blue overalls (and quite a lady's man, too!). He was born in the year 2000 to Tamara Vongphrachanh and a loving family with two siblings, Casey and Alexis (I don't think the father's name was listed). He was the cutest little lady's man this side of the US, and when he wasn't whispering sweet-nothings into the ears of captive chicas, he was beating 15-year old kids at videogames. Yeah. If you can't guess from the picture, he's six years old in that. He was five when he achieved victory. What a champ.

Hunter passed away four years ago under undisclosed circumstances. His mother made a memorial page for her beloved son, and many friends and family contributed to the page their condolences and images representing what he loved best: Mario, Sonic, videogames, and Dr. Thunder cola. Man, with a name like that, I'd drink it. Dr. Thunder sounds so much more awesome than that Dr. Pepper junk.

Normally I would've went my way looking for other images, but I decided to stop and read the page on a whim, and much of what I read simply touched my heart. I'm just a young guy going to college, relaxing at home when I'm not studying, and spending most of my time talking with people on the internet about mostly trivial stuff, but stuff I love nonetheless. Other times I'm working out, playing videogames, or making pizza with my brother on the weekends. I spend most of my time at home, and I'm no saint, not really religious, and not exactly the best guy around; no one special. But all I had to do was stop for a moment to develop a soft spot for this kid and their family's horrible loss. I can only barely imagine the pain they've had to suffer, but I know if it happened to me, I would never be the same.

What really got me were the mother's poems, and they remind me of my own mother and how much she cares about me and my brother. They're a clear, honest expression of how she can never be happy without her son. A parent should never have to suffer the death of their children. That is the most crushing sorrow a human being can experience, and my heart goes out to her and her family. There's nothing anyone can say to comfort her except that we hear her grief and that we're with her. She's not alone, and neither is her family.

Now, why I am posting this here of all places? Make no mistake, I'm not doing this as some sort of high-and-mighty display of piety meant to shame everyone who dared going looking on the internet for stuff about videogames or Sonic the Hedgehog. That would be asinine and annoying. Rather, I'm doing this because I simply happened to find the page by blind chance, and so I wanted to write about it. If anything more than that, it's to appeal to everyone's empathic side for a moment, putting aside things we normally gripe about or take for granted, like every single petty rant, diatribe, and flame war that's been had over characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, Star Fox, and Master Chief over the many years that have passed. The people we argue with, agree with, ridicule, hate, love, or simply can't stand are as much people doing the same thing you're doing: spending time on the internet talking about what you want to or engaging in sporty debate. More to the point, some of those people, no matter how much they get on your nerves, are probably kids like Hunter.

Well, ok, frankly I'd put Hunter a step higher judging from his memorial page information. Some kids are just spoiled rotten, and even I've been guilty of that behavior sometimes. Embarrassing.

So, all I'm asking is that you take some time to think about your own parents, your siblings, and all those kids that are "ruining Sonic the Hedgehog", and remember Hunter. It won't make people stop debating or arguing, but then that was never my intention in the first place. Free speech is everyone's right, and a powerful tool of communication. I just thought I'd use it at least once to acknowledge this family and encourage other people to offer their condolences and keep this kid's family in their minds and hearts, as well as others who've suffered like they have. Thanks for the time, guys, and stay tuned for more Sonic news and news-musings in the future. Peace.

Here's the memorial page:

PS: Sorry if I bummed you guys out, but that's life. Stay tuned for more enjoyable buffoonery as the story of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 develops.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Refreshing Return to Form (And Whining)

I haven't been this elated since when they first announced the game. TL;DR, it just looks great.

But you know you want to read more, right? This is my first post in like, what, 6 months now? Longer? (Sawwy Arun; I been vewy bad)


Anyways, enough of that. On to the news of the howa!

(Man, I'm really likin' those wubbayous)

So Arun's already got you guys up to date with the latest, but I'd like to recap exactly what we know so far about the game, and what to expect from here on out. First thing's first, though:

(Pssst. The image leads to Destructoid)


Geez, I mean seriously. We've seen not five seconds of actual gameplay footage, and people have already managed to eternally damn any prospects of the game being worth a damn. What for? Green eyes. A lot are crying that it's not black. In fact, most are pretty much crying that the 3D Sonic model is the worst thing since sin, mostly on the basis that SEGA promised a Genesis game with most all the fixings of retro Sonic games.

Oh, what? Beautiful multi-layered scrolling backgrounds aren't enough? How about confirmed for Wii and iPhone? Smooth motion? No, SEGA's obviously ruined everything, even the power sneakers they said they would include in the game, which we haven't seen since Sonic Adventure 2. Totally ruined. FOREVER.

I swear, I was physically exhausted after spending so much time at the SEGA Sonic 4 subforum. It was mostly a bunch of paranoid fans whining and getting all griefy over the apparent possibility that Sonic definitely won't have that red spinny running motion or the figure eight from Smash Bros and CD. Yeah, I'll be fair and admit that excluding those visual staples would actually be stupid of Sonic Team, but that's also why I think it is, in fact, in the game already. We just didn't see it. And even if it isn't, who's to say that it never will, even if it doesn't appear at first? That's the same argument I pose when people complain about the ferschliggin Sonic model. Really, ask yourself: what's to stop SEGA from even considering offering the skin as optional DLC? Hell, it might not even be that. Maybe Sonic will temporarily regress in age and turn back into the chubby Sonic we all know and love as part of a plot device, but all of that is besides the point. We're getting Sonic the Hedgehog 4, so quit bitching.

Then there are those who still remain understandably cautious about getting excited for disappointment. That's about all I'll say about them: it's understandable. But it's still not worth ignoring the events of last year till today concerning SEGA's marketing of this game. SEGA have clearly taken this project more than seriously. They've done so much to connect to the fans via their American blog site, the forums, Twitter, Facebook, you name it (actually I think that's all of them). They've gone back to badniks, to momentum-based speed you have to earn, to strictly 2D-perspective gameplay, and even to Mega Drive chiptune-esque music. They understand what we want. They also understand what kind of a fanbase they're dealing with: anywhere from kids to teens to young adults. The kids recognize the new-model Sonic for the most part, so it only makes it easier for them to take the trip back to the past with all the jaded and old school fans as long as they're not to pricky about it.

Don't get me wrong, though. SEGA's not magically become the model third-party company because of a great and sincere marketing campaign. They still have their history, and I'm not particularly thrilled about their association with Zone40. It just seems like now they're doing something about fixing their tarnished image, and that's a great thing. And they're done it in the most gutsiest move I've seen them do since their original guerilla advertising for Sonic 1: by working on Sonic the Hedgehog 4 across downloadable episodes that are just about as big as your regular Genesis game. Just think about that a moment. Everyone's been asking for that, whether they are jaded Sonic/SEGA fans or not. Also, that's probably going to be a big package, perhaps even bigger and more epic than Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and that's my favorite Sonic game of all time.

So, what do we know about the game, and what can we expect? Well, we know it's going to be released on all major consoles and iPhone as downloadable episodes. We know Sonic is going to be the only playable character (yet another major concession to the fans), but there likely will be other NPCs like Tails and Knuckles. We know he's going to fight Robotnik exclusively, unless they wanna throw in a new robot or upgrade one of Sonic's metal iterations. We know the first zone will be called Splash Hill Zone (last I heard), and it looks much better than I ever expected. So far, it's totally faithful to the Genesis visual style and stage mechanics, most likely. We know that Sonic 4 will appropriately leave right off from where Sonic 3 & Knuckles left off, which may or may not indicate the function of the game as retconning other games like 3D Blast or the early handheld games. Finally, we know there's going to be power sneakers, spin-dashing, and the homing attack, which I'd be interested in seeing how they incorporate it into the dominantly Genesis-themed Sonic 4. Anything else we'll be finding out from here till June or July.

My only hopes for this game, besides it being totally awesome and fun? Hope it isn't much like Sonic Rush.

And It's Official...

Today is a good day to be a Sonic fan. Why? Well, look above. That's right, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, otherwise known as "Project Needlemouse," is on its way! I'm also excited because all fears can finally be put to rest, Wii users! Despite all the talk of "HD this" and "HD that," SEGA hasn't forgotten us (yet)!

The trailer doesn't offer much, beyond teasing a portion of what appears to be the first level and a look at Sonic himself. Which is all good in my book. I'm looking forward to what else SEGA plans to reveal in the coming months. One thing to note, that the game is indeed a downloadable. ...Why, I'm not sure, but according to Ken Ballough in an interview with Gamespot:
It's also a promise to Sonic fans. We're going to deliver a Genesis-era Sonic game as if it were created today that goes to the core of what classic Sonic fans desire. This means [the fan] gets to judge us on our work each step of the way, and we plan on delivering that goal in a big way.
The episodic approach does still strike me as strange, but this is probably SEGA's way of not making a downloadable ridiculously expensive (also, they're vaguely following the logic that Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were one game split, why not do it here? ...I have no comment for that one). But, it also shows that SEGA does, in fact, care. Hopefully THIS will be THE game to bring back Sonic's mass-appeal he held in the 90's. This shouldn't just be for the gamers who grew up with Sonic, nor should newer fans feel excluded. Yes, I said it. What I care about, mainly, is that SEGA can finally shut up some fanboys and return Sonic to full glory. ...Also, I'm hoping that the care and love they promise that is going into this game, will rub off onto future entries in the series (come on, SEGA, you can make a good 3D game!).

And, with that said, here's the trailer:

The game takes place after the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, so I'm interested in seeing where this fits into the larger Sonic (game) canon and what this means for everything that came after Sonic 3. Check out some concept art and keep watch of everything that's going on by checking out SEGA's blogs and the OFFICIAL Sonic the Hedgehog 4 website.

Until next time, later!
Speed is something that is not given; but rather earned through dedication. Speed is not found by simply pushing a boost button, but by building momentum. It is the reward for skill in the face of difficult challenges – this kind of speed is the most exhilarating, not only because it is fast, but because of the pure perfection such speed exemplifies. This is the truth of the original Sonic games – and this is the truth of Project Needlemouse.
~From SEGA's blog.