SAGE 2021 Review Slew: Traditional Sonic Fan Games

Old-school and faithful, these fast-paced platformers invoke the heart and spirit of official 2D games.

Hi, Noah Copeland here. SAGE is here and this time I will be focusing on Sonic fan games that aim at creating a traditional Sonic experience.

Old-school and faithful, these fast-paced platformers invoke the heart and spirit of official 2D games. As someone making a faithful 2D Sonic fan game, I feel I’ve learned a thing or two about how to achieve that.

Since a big part of SAGE is getting feedback and learning to be a better designer, I’d like to help these fan devs with constructive tips on making a better Sonic experience. These are not “bashing sessions” as we all know these are hobbyist projects. Instead, these articles contain my personal game design tips from the me to the developers. The developers are free take them or leave them as they see fit. I think if one person makes their game better, that’s a win for the entire Sonic community. 

Sonic Eclipse

This game might be quick to write off but I think it shows a lot of effort from the developer. This appears to be a solo-developed game from someone young using available assets and the pre-made Flicky framework to their advantage. And that’s awesome! This game has one act per zone, which keeps the pace quick and varied. This is likely this one of the developers first games and it has a lot of promise! 

My advice:

  • Reduce the number of enemies overall. Enemies often feel cluttered.
  • Place rings in patterns that are commonly used in the Genesis games. Often in sets of three/four. 
  • Don’t be afraid to give levels some space for the player to just run. 

Sonic 2 Time Quest

This game imagines what Sonic 2 would look like if early/prototype concepts were fully realized. Except without the silly bump-into-walls mechanic. 

The demo features a very accurate recreation of prototype Emerald Hill Act 1 and new desert stage Sand Showers (the name of which is taken from Sonic 2 concept art). I have very high praise for the level design, which specifically feels exactly like Sonic 2. Excellent work to Josh and his team! 

My advice:

  • People will except Tails to be able fly, even though he couldn’t in Sonic 2. While less accurate, people will be much happier if Tails flies. 

Sonic Illusion

Another traditional Sonic title using Flicky/Gmate framework (which I’m very familiar with, having used it for my game Sonic Triple Trouble 16-bit). Despite using a pre-made framework, there are some great examples of custom programming displayed with unique boss fights. This games strength is its willing to try new ideas. 

My advice:

  • Levels could use more open stretches. More room for cathartic speed sections. I often felt boxed in while playing. Take a look some of your favorite Sonic zones and take note of speed sections, ending in ramps on springs.
  • The miniboss could stand to visually communicate the mechanics more clearly. Consider using color and size to highlight important things. The lead monkey and his coconuts could be a different color to make him stand-out and more readable. 
  • The pushable palm tree mechanic is great, but does not feel properly introduced to the player. I spent a lot of time wondering what was I supposed to be doing. Consider making an intro section in which the player is required to learn the mechanic in order to progress. See Mania‘s Chemical Plant Act 2 for an example, as it does with the bouncing chemical jelly. 
  • The Metal Sonic boss is quite intense and inventive with lots of phases. However, some of the attacks could use a more obvious telegraph. It was quite difficult to dodge without a lot of anticipation on the player’s part. Consider reducing the number of hits as the fight’s length can be fatiguing to some players. 

Sonic Hoshi

I don’t have any advice left for this as I have spoke with this developer, NicoSwitch, before SAGE to provide my feedback. I still want to highlight the game because I think it is flying a little under the radar. It’s a solid entry with good flow in its level design. It has original boss fights that are well balanced and are not overly long. Sonic has a unique move in this game that works similar to the dash from Celeste. This soundtrack has original Genesis YM2612 compositions that are very good! If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for YM2612 tunes.

Stay tuned for more SAGE 2021 reviews!

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