Wednesday 28 March 2012

Sonic 2 HD

A Sonic the Hedgehog game which completely fills my screen, yet doesn't make me wish it didn't. Yep it's the alpha version of the fan-created Sonic 2 HD - what joy.

I've followed this project since birth and have even attempted to contribute in the past, but these days I'm very much at odds with Sonic 2 HD. My views on high-res hedgehogs have changed dramatically over the last two years, mainly due to a change in ideals witnessed a year or two ago. Once it was a open source fan project developed by the Sonic community as a collective, now it is closed source and maintained by a small group of friends.

Sonic 2 HD annoys me because it stopped being a fan of democracy along the road, the mentality being that indecision was holding the project back too much. And thus began many months of silence, where criticism of finer details was ignored in fear of derailing the schedule. And it would probably be a justified response had behind-the-scenes engine troubles not derailed it anyway. I feel it could have been better if others were allowed to be involved.

Instead the impression I got was that it was now a pet project living off someone else's bandwidth and traffic, while offering nothing in return. It's a community project which went out of its way to scrap the "community" aspect, which is something to this day I don't really understand. That being said, I'm not too sure if I care either. Had I been in charge of Sonic Retro it's doubtful I'd have given it the time of day, but I suppose it's also doubtful that I'd be mentally stable.

Sonic 2 HD is a higher definition remake of Sonic 2, except with a certain amount of artistic license to make it better in some places (or perhaps "different" is a more appropriate word). A proof of concept build suggesting Sonic fans more know about the franchise than Sega (which at this point is probably true), Sonic 2 HD retains all the physics and elements which made the series great, though at the same time taking the hedgehog out of the confines of twenty-four year old Sega Mega Drive hardware in favour of more modern computers.

In a technical sense, it succeeds, though from an artistic point of view... I'm less sure (though kudos on the title screen). For me, Sonic the Hedgehog is the sort of game that can only be done well by the founding fathers of the franchise, as they're the only people who can adequately translate a two-decade old game to the big screen. Others are merely guessing about what Sonic and his environments are meant to look and sound like, and whereas the Sonic 2 HD team have made a fairly good approximation overall, it's not the same result my opinions would produce.

And so I can't help but question some of these design decisions, such as the different notes in Emerald Hill Zone's theme, the lighter skies and less prominent background flowers. I'm apathetic about providing constructive criticism because there's very little chance it will be taken on board (hello Blogger and the new layout you forced on me today), and the fact it's taken several years to deliver the first of eleven zones tends to suggest Sonic 2 HD will never reach the finishing line anyway. I admire the skill shown by all team members, but I feel it may have been misplaced - with the release of Sonic Generations and other promising fan games, Sonic 2 HD doesn't look as pretty (or as necessary) as it once did.

But I don't want to sound like a cynic here. Of all the levels in Sonic the Hedeghog 2, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more awkward one to reinvent than Emerald Hill Zone. It was never a level built with HD remakes in mind, and I don't think it helps shine Sonic 2 HD in a good light. When we start witnessing the Mystic Caves and Aquatic Ruins of this world, I imagine Sonic 2 HD will start to come into its own.

So yes, though it's a fairly nice release forgive me if I'm not ecstatic about his one. The download is 85MB if you want to give it a go (note it can cause anti-virus software to throw false positives). Alternatively just watch a video since it's only two levels long.

1 comment:

  1. I would have to say that dropping the community part of a community game can be useful.

    MFGGs Community Fangame project was literately either dead or dieing when everyone was "working on it".

    Now though it thrives with about 2 or 3 people putting in the serious time it calls for. (although they do tend to accept contributions, so it keeps the community thing sorta kinda)

    On the other hand the SSB game at The spriters resource, has been worked on for a very very long time and is no where near being done.

    Of course there are other reasons for it talking a long time, but I believe part of it is having to much talk about how something could/should be instead of actually doing it.
    A problem that tends to exist less with a smaller group.