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.